Home and Family, Homeschooling, other, Parenting

Thoughts on teaching

Have you ever attended  a class or workshop which left you “flat” while all around you people raved about the teacher, and you wondered what you missed that they did not?  Maybe it isn’t what you missed.  Have  you ever taught information you were excited about, but didn’t feel the others caught your vision?

Sometimes presenters teach others they way they would want things presented; when we are the presenter, we need to be aware of others’ learning styles or the end result can be that people who learn the way we learn tell us what a wonderful job we have done, and yet others can be left largely uninspired.  If you regularly teach groups of people, whether children or adults, it can make such a difference to keep in mind the different ways folks learn.  In order to engage those around you, use varied methods of presentation so that everyone has a chance to catch at least something.

  • Chalkboards/whiteboards are great IF you are a visual learner, but not so great for kinesthetic folks UNLESS you allow them to write on the board. They can scribe for you, or write answers to questions you’ve asked.
  • Try adding music, pictures, maps, and interactive activities to whatever you are teaching.  It is an invitation to others to join in the fun.
  • Invite a guest speaker to help.
  • Spend time writing well-thought-out questions.  Give them something about which to think, and give them time to quietly write before they need to answer.  There is nothing wrong with a little quiet before you get a response!
  • One of my favorite ways to involve those who seem bored or tuned out is to bring flannel board story figures and script, and have them retell the story you’re discussing.
  • Make a meal, or learn to say basic sentences in the language of the country you are studying for geography.
  • Draw outside pictures on the sidewalk that apply to what you did during the class.
  • Pass out paper and other supplies, and ask them to draw or paint illustrations for your newly-finished chapter or even reference book.  What did they learn?  (You can do this with adults; watch ’em cringe.)
  • Write a review or an advertisement for the class.
  • Create new words based on the information given, and put together a class dictionary.  Let them know ahead of time that this will be happening, so that they can be looking for ideas!
  • Break class members into pairs or small groups and allow some discussion.
  • Go on field trips, or bring relevant visuals and hands-on activities to the class.
  • Create a game to reinforce the principles or information taught.

Giving up some of the control in a classroom setting can be frightening.  I get that.  You start class with a plan.  You have material you want to cover.  But if the point of teaching is not simply the dissemination of information, but the learning of it, you MUST involve those around you.  It makes all the difference in the world.

And it’s more fun!

Home and Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Help them see what is right!

When was the last time you marveled at the antics of a nine-month old?  Or laughed at the silliness of a three-year old?  Or cheered on the nine-year old at sports, or scouts, or piano?  Children come to us ready to explore, learn, and utilize every ounce of enthusiasm they possess in everything they do.  They are joyful, or distraught, or anxious, but whatever they are, they are that thing ALL THE WAY!  They learn and grow and lose some of that….and that’s sad.

When was the last time you lost your patience at a small child for being a small child?  Why do we expect them to be big when they’re little?  And why, in heaven’s name, do we teach them to look for what they did wrong, rather than what they did right?  If they are struggling with learning to tie their shoes, do we remember how freeing it was when they could finally dress themselves?  If they got 90% correct on a spelling test, that means they got 9 out of 10 correct!  When they want to shoot baskets rather than practice piano, do we encourage their love of sports and praise them for not being couch potatoes?  Perhaps they can shoot baskets and THEN practice. If they love spending time with people, and struggle with studying in a quiet room, okay.  Put them in the middle of the action and see if it improves their spirits and scholarship.  Finger-spell their spelling lists.  Create games to help them review.  Run laps while you drill “boring facts.”  Match their studies to the way they learn best.

So the next time your child shows you a nearly-perfect paper, hug them.  Smile.  Throw a “nearly-perfect” party!  Let’s celebrate what they do well, and spend less time worrying about the rest.  Give them the gift of being “enough.”  That is all we can be, after all.


Home and Family, Homeschooling

Are you a people person? Or not so much?

As I have been preparing for a workshop I am giving on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, I am also running across the terms “introvert” and “extrovert.”  They aren’t new lables; most people have at least heard them, or even used them to describe themselves or someone else.  I have.  But I have been so thoroughly intrigued, I have veered my study off-course slightly to investigate.  Fascinating.  The more I learn, the more I realize we need to stop trying to “fix” people to fit them into our comfort zones.  We need to embrace each others’ hard-wiring and move forward together.

My husband and our oldest daughter are extroverts.  Big time.  They can become buddies with folks they met an hour ago.  Come-over-for-dinner buddies. They say hello to every new neighbor as they move in.  They are comfortable welcoming each new face in our church congregation.  They can strike up a conversation with the other person in the same line at the grocery store (especially if that other person is another extrovert).  And they smile for all the world to see.  They are able to seem interested in everyone, and love to spend time with others…working, playing, just visiting, whatever.  I watch them and marvel at their ease.  Parties, meetings, and get-togethers are so invigorating for them.  True story: the vast majority of the decorations for my daughter’s wedding reception, which were lovely and more than we could have put together for her, were loaned to us by a sweet woman who shopped at the store where my daughter worked.  They had struck up numerous conversations, and found commonalities.  When Elly announced her engagement and they got talking about wedding plans, this woman volunteered the decorations (which were in just the right colors).  Then, as we stood in line at her reception, I noticed a familiar face come in the door which I was having a hard time placing.  Who was it?  Turns out Elly had given an invite to the teller at our local credit union.  Of course she did.  Really?  I was flabbergasted! And even more shocked that this gal came.  She greeted us as I would expect an old friend to do, and I realized that this is what she and Elly were.  Two extroverts who saw each other on a regular basis, in other words, friends.

I am an introvert.  While I can enjoy the companionship of others, I recharge most easily by spending time with me.  Alone.  Filling my bucket can involve reading, watching a documentary, listening to music, cooking, or quietly filing papers in the office.  It just needs to be just me.  By choice, I have few close friends (but I know I can depend on them when the chips are down!), a number of people with whom I am friendly, and lots of acquaintances.  I’m not looking to greatly expand my circle; I like it this way.  Needing to make small talk with someone I have never met before is my idea of purgatory.  While I love teaching and presenting ideas and skills I have learned with others, I find that too much time surrounded by others makes me tired.  Edgy, even.  And if I want to send myself into a full-blown fibromyalgia flare, all I need to do is say, “yes” to every request made by every person with whom I rub elbows.  This not is not only hard physically, it wipes out any energy reserves I may have managed to save up.  Our younger daughter is much like me.  She has a few close friends, and a love of quiet, books, and time to think.  We can sit and share opinions, thoughts, memories, and quiet for hours.  Or take a nap.  We’re good at naps.  She and her husband may end up in a cabin in the woods raising cows, pigs, and produce and they’ll be happy as can be.  They’re both introverts.

Extroverts are enlivened by people.  They often find joy in the energy of a crowded room, or the opportunity to welcome a newcomer.  They work well in groups, can be easily distracted and spontaneous, and tend to be easy-going and fun to be around.  New experiences and opportunities are stimulating, exciting even.  Extrovert children need people, group activities, stories about people and adventure, time to ask questions and discuss what they’re learning, and breaks from the norm.

Introverts need solitude to recharge.  People drain them, and while they can be great listeners, they aren’t comfortable listening or sharing of themselves all the time.  While they have been accused of being self-absorbed, they simply want time to think about what they have learned…about others, about themselves, about life.  Joy comes from understanding and exploring the world inside, then they can move outwards.  Introvert children enjoy a distraction-free school experience.  Routine, minimal unplanned adventures, and time to think about what they are learning.

I must admit, I am duly impressed by the extroverts in my life.  (There are quite a few of them.)  They help me want to look up and see what lies over the horizon.  My fellow introverts help keep me centered, and content with where I am now.  We all need a bit of both around us.  I guess that’s why the Lord gave us each other.




Homeschooling, Parenting

No child is broken (rant warning)

The past few weeks have been a flurry of doctor and therapy appointments for a number of my grandchildren.  There has been so much information disseminated, I will be processing it for weeks!  One lesson stands out above the rest though.  No child is broken!  There are adjustments we as adults need to make when working with children, but that is for us to do.  It isn’t their job make our lives easier.  It is our job to find what they need to help them.

Learning styles differ.  (Did you know that dyslexia is a learning style?  More on that in an up-coming post.)  Abilities and perceptions vary from person to person.  Approaches to learning need to be adjusted to meet the needs of different children.  All of that is do-able.  The problems come when we as parents or care-takers want to be “in charge” of things.  NEWS FLASH- we aren’t “in charge” at all! The Lord sent all His children here with a plan…His plan.  Our job is to find out what it is for each of them and follow it.

Children need to use all they were sent here to use.  Muscles need exercise-expect climbing, running, jumping, throwing, and a ton of other movement.  It is not only normal; it is necessary!

They need your time-as much as you are willing to give them.  They need time to talk, cry, share, learn.  Self-discipline is only developed as the adults around them help them with consistency and follow-through.  If they don’t learn it, it is on us.

Messes follow young ones like day follows night.  That’s okay.  It will give us a chance to experience all those things we wanted to do as children but were stopped because it was “too messy.”  Spend time creating and cleaning together.

Children ask questions-lots of questions.  They aren’t blank slates waiting for someone to write on them; they have opinions, preferences, and interests they came here to express and explore.  Let them pepper you with everything they can come up with through their life.  The joy of discovery is not to be missed!

When we ask them to sit still for long periods of time, be quiet for hours on end, spend hours with a screen (because it is easier than interacting with them ourselves), or do it our way-no questions asked-we are not helping them grow or learn or develop into who they were sent here to become.  Growing up is hard work, and helping it happen can be inconvenient and frustrating, but there is no greater reward than spending time with them and their children…and their children…


A question about helping Dad

I tripped across this file as I was working on my computer.  This is a question emailed to me a little while ago.  Thought is was worth another look.

How can I convince my husband that school doesn’t always have to be on paper?

Okay.  What is his greatest concern?  Does he worry that you aren’t doing anything with them?  That they aren’t learning?  That you’ll miss something?  Or does school on paper fit better with his learning style?  What is he perhaps seeing that you aren’t?  Or does he need a better understanding of the ways children learn?

Perhaps taking pictures of activities or having a written record, just for a while, so that he can see what things are happening would help.  Or have the kids narrate for him, in person or on tape, so that he can hear what they are learning.  Is it an option for him to “do school” with you for a day to get a feel for what you are accomplishing?  Does he understand learning styles and stages?  If not, becoming familiar with that information may help him understand what is most effective for each of your children.

Then again, do you need to do a bit more on paper?  Things don’t ALWAYS need to be on paper; but, even for young ones, you could have copy work, science charts, art work, maps, a group time-line, etc. so that he can see what a great variety of things you are covering.  Children love to have something to show what they have done, and to have the adults in their lives ooh and aah over it.

Have you involved him in your academic planning?  Perhaps seeing what you are currently putting together would allow him input and help the two of you have the same vision of where you are going.  Having a plan allows you to plan a course of action for your family.  It doesn’t have to look like “school-at-home” all day.  You can put together a curriculum full of great literature, hands-on activities, field trips as well as copy work and such.

I would HIGHLY recommend attending classes or talking with other veteran homeschooling parents together.  Sometimes talking things through with a presenter or chatting father-to-father can really help things come into focus in a new way.

Helping your husband find ways to be involved in the important work you do each day with your children can help build a stronger family, and a closer bond between the two of you.  Both of those things are worth the work!





Finances, Homeschooling

Differences in curriculum

Confession: I am homeschool catalog junkie.  As a mom, I created our curriculum each year.  With very limited funds, we used what I could find second-hand or on major markdown, create myself, borrow from the library, and request from Grandma and Grandpa as gifts.  No apologies for what we did.  It worked well.  All my children went to college.  They were offered multiple scholarships, and both daughters graduated with honors.  (My sons have not completed their university educations, but are both at the top of their class and thriving!)  Each of them are contributing adults in the communities in which they live.  I wouldn’t change them for the world!

Now they are beginning their own families, and I am the Grandma.  More catalogs come in the mail than when my children were younger; there are so many more choices now.  I love it!  The games, curriculum options, and diversity of ideas is exciting!  As I watch my grandchildren grow, and work with other moms on curriculum planning, I am discovering these things all over again!  One reality I find most interesting and fascinating to explore is each child needs different things, and any budget can be effective with proper planning and focus.  There is no single perfect curriculum which is ideal for everyone.

Here is a sample of what I have learned.  In our home, we have spelling curriculum from Christian Liberty Press, Rod and Staff Publishers, and a copy of McGuffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book.  While all three are not strictly necessary, there are strengths for each one.  I used the McGuffey…Speller for my children.  It covered K-12, cost me $10, and was effective.  The other two series we have acquired for my grandsons.  Some copies were found second-hand; some we purchased new. I love the Christian Liberty Press books for J, my second grandson who is 5.  He is a dually-exceptional learner and does extremely well with consistent formats and review in logical steps.  Rod and Staff is what the 7 year-old is using.  He is highly gifted and loves that handwriting practice (currently cursive), critical thinking, and spelling are combined in one lesson.  We skip the minimal review sections, test orally, and move on to the next lesson as soon as he is ready.  He is currently in book 3, but will be moving into book 4 shortly.  If we were simply testing his spelling ability he would be in book 5, but because each lesson requires he understand and be able to use each word properly, and encourages a bit of thought, we backed up a bit.

As I expand the companies with which I am familiar, the need to understand how your children learn, and to have a budget seems more and more crucial.  If you have the need and/or desire, you can create your own plan for minimal expense and give your children the chance to soar.  If you are not comfortable creating your own plan, you can look into the myriad of options out there to meet the needs of your child.  There are strengths, weaknesses, and biases in each written curriculum.  World-views differ.  Some focus on traditional learners, while others are better suited for advanced and gifted learners who tend to require less practice, more information, and are able to infer connections differently than their peers.  Many are book and seat-work based, or you can find one which leans heavily on computer-use, or is focused on tactile learning.  If you hunt, the selections are seemingly endless.

The method of education you choose does not need to be dictated by your pocketbook.  Classical education supplies can be purchased in curriculum sets for hundreds of dollars or you can gather your own for much less.   Whether you lean towards child-led learning, Charlotte Mason, or some other method, you can teach for pennies or spend a ton on curriculum and fun stuff.  It is more important that you understand how your children learn, what their gifts are, and purchase (or create) from there.  Teaching your own just gets more and more exciting as time goes by!

My favorite catalogs are Timberdoodle, Veritas Press, Dover Publishing, and Critical Thinking Company.  What are yours?


Routines vs. schedules, part 2

When my children were at home, I think everyone’s favorite part of the academic day was “group time.”  We would gather for our morning devotional, pledge, and work on as much together as differing ages and such would allow.  Here is a very general outline of what it entailed.

Group time:

Poetry-No big plan.  Just pulled a book of the shelf and read one or two poems.  Sometimes they were nonsense; sometimes they were a more serious work.  Nothing morbid/too deep for early learners.  Not everyone will love poetry, but everyone should be given the chance to hear it.

History reading-A passage from whichever book we are currently using.  This was often accompanied by a book with great illustrations/photographs to help the visual learners.  Often they would color a picture as I read.  (Dover coloring books-doverpublishing.com-were great resources for this.)

Character or ethics study-We would discuss manners, courtesy, heroes, or whatever Mom felt she needed to address in a non-confrontational format.  Sometimes I would use a picture book or fable.  Sometimes we would pull things from the scriptures or history.  A VITAL part of our school day!

Drill-3×5 cards are a must for the way we schooled.  Classical education requires foundational concepts be memorized, and flashcards are one of the easiest ways to do that!  States/capitols, presidents, phonograms, Latin and Greek roots, scientific facts, you name it.  Younger children often memorize more quickly than older ones, so this can be a great time for them to shine!

Memorization work-Poetry, scriptures, music, quotes.  Fill their bucket with the words and images of those who can help them in good times or bad.  What will they sing as they watch the sunrise over the mountain for the first time?  Whose words will come to them as they face the next mountain?

Literature reading-Picture books.  Chapter books.  Great literature is sometimes best shared as a family.  Some books we read for fun (see blog on our favorite read-aloud books).  Some we read as part of our academic studies-and for fun.  If your children have a hard time sitting still as you read, try allowing them to color, or build with legos, or dance.  If they are kinesthetic, they will learn more that way!

Hands-on activities-If you are going to make a mess, you may as well involve everyone!  Try to have something for each child to do so that they can all contribute.

Whatever Mom wants to throw into the mix-The above list is in no way comprehensive.  Add life skills, other academics, or whatever you feel would benefit your own children.  After all, you are the Mom!

Once group time was over, everyone needed to finish their individual lists.  I have included the subjects I assigned for each level.  (For more information on learning levels, check the archives on this blog.)

Individual work for discovery learners:

Penmanship/copy work

Oral narration

Basic grammar study


Hands-on math and science

Science collections

Reading-with Mom or individually

Learning games

Art or music

Scripture study

History, math or science bio

Chores with an older helper

Individual work for analysis learners:

Penmanship book with quotes or poetry



Hands-on activities

Reading for history, science, literature, etc.

Grammar study

Logic study

Vocabulary/syntax study

Current events


Art or music

Scripture study

Latin or other language study


Individual work for application learners:

Upper level mathematics

Continuing logic study

Writing, writing, and more writing

Reading, reading, and more reading

Prep for the SAT/ACT

Great literature

Primary source history

Real-life experience