• My affiliate links won't hurt you, but they might help feed my kids. See my full disclosure policy in the main menu.

Marvelous Meandering Homeschool

Here’s what I love about spring:  It never sneaks up like we imagine it will.  It just appears suddenly, right when you think winter will never end.  Last week a foot of snow covered my farm.  Today it is 65 degrees and sunny.  That is the way spring works, like an unexpected package in the mail that comes just when you are feeling like no one cares.

Image result for spring

Spring brings so many changes to our homeschool.  The obvious being the desire to get outside and use the world as our classroom again.  But my favorite part?  The way it invigorates us to learn even when we’re still stuck inside because the yard and meadows are muddy puddles of melted snow.  This morning the sun shined through the classroom window, the sky was a deep, everlasting periwinkle, and our brains felt wide awake for the first time in weeks.

Our Everyday Edit this morning was about Mount Rushmore.  It was a grammar lesson, but when we got to the part that https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Mount_Rushmore_National_Memorial.jpg?resize=252%2C191described whose faces grace the stone hill, the Littles had (of course) studied George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson–my personal fave.  Theodore Roosevelt?  Not so much.  So I told them a bit about our 26th president–his role in the Panama Canal, the Square Deal, and the famous Rough Riders charge on San Juan Hill in Cuba.

Here’s where the meandering came in.  Discussing Cuba led to the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Cold War to Star Wars (the strategy, not the films) to a debate about communism to China to the Middle East to Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope to Henry Hudson and back around to the Panama Canal.

We hadn’t even actually started grammar and the lesson had already lasted almost 45 minutes.  Spring sprang our brains wide open and we had more learning in that winding conversation that we probably did in all our planned lessons.  The Littles were engaged, I was excited (politics and their history being among my favorite topics), and all felt right in the world.

Homeschool offers so many opportunities for meandering learning.  On this beautiful spring day, if you ask me what I like best about homeschooling, I will answer, wholeheartedly, “Being able to discuss anything and everything without worrying about time constraints.”  Of course, if you ask me on another day, my answer may be different–there are so many things to love about homeschooling.

https://i0.wp.com/www.skaveo.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/spring-peter-cottontail-rabbit-bunny-trail.jpg?resize=344%2C233I love spring.  I love its audacity.  I love the way it makes us audacious.  If you are having similar experiences right now, when the whole world–including education–feels brand new, follow that rabbit trail.  Let your littles ask whatever they want and if you don’t know the answer, Google it or break out the encyclopedias.  Engage.  Have fun.  Shake out those snowflake cobwebs.

Sometimes the best education comes from a rabbit trail.  Rabbit trails prepare littles for future lessons or remind them of past lessons.  So meander.  Take a stroll through Cuba, China, and the Middle East.  End up in the Arctic and swoop back down to South America.  I promise, none of you will regret it.

Done any meandering lately?  Feel free to share; I love to hear about your lives.

Love wins,

KT

Reasons Not to Homeschool

Recently a new yet dear friend asked me if I like homeschooling.  She had been to our local public school’s Kindergarten Round-Up that day, and it seemed like she was considering her options.  Of course, I told her I Love homeschooling.  But I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since.  And with my seminar coming up, I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching about what homeschooling really means to me.

The truth is, I do Love homeschooling.  Since I started this journey four years ago, my life has been fuller and richer than it has ever been.  I have not only taught my Littles, I have learned so many things about myself I don’t think I could begin to count them.  Like, I am a natural teacher.  You might think that’s an odd thing to discover After I started homeschooling, especially considering my history in educational employment, but I’m not just talking about teaching my kids here.  I have helped people decide whether or not to homeschool.  I have mentored peers who were looking to improve their homeschool experience.  That discovery led to this blog and to the confidence to submit articles to homeschooling magazines.  I am not ‘bad’ at math and science, as I was convinced I was when I was young.  I have the capacity to learn the things I need to know to teach my Littles what they want to know.  They have changed me, all these discoveries.  They have made me better and stronger.

When someone approaches me with the desire to learn about homeschooling, I am filled with the desire to teach them.  I’ve promised that friend to get together and discuss things with her, but with a new round of heavy snow coming in, we have to postpone.  Because of that, I’m going to give a little advice here.  What do I want to say to people who are considering, even minimally, taking the chance of homeschooling their children?

Go for it.  That’s going to be my answer every time.  There are so many benefits to parent, child, family relationships, that any argument against it becomes powerless.  I read an article once called, “Why Homeschooling Can Be a Bad Idea.”  I kept it because there were no Real arguments in it, and it reminds me of all the reasons I Do homeschool.

Link to College at Home Study

The first reason given was (Captain Obvious, anyone?) the socialization factor.  The article claimed that “Isolating children from the outside world can affect his social skills, or worse, result in phobias and other disorders in social settings.”  WHAT?  What parent who cares enough to devote her life to teaching her children would then proceed to isolate her children from the world?  A study created by College at Home shows that homeschool children test better on Image result for homeschool imagessocialization than public school children by a score of 14.42.  Why?  Because homeschool children aren’t stuck in a classroom for 13 years with 30 other kids their exact age, who are doing the exact same things, and learning to think in the exact same ways.  Homeschool children tend to have friends from all ages and social classes.  I have never known a homeschool child who couldn’t hold his own in conversations with anyone from infancy to elderly.  They are polite, they are thoughtful, they are usually mature far beyond their years.

The second reason the article gave went like this: “Kids may not get education that is well-rounded, and the knowledge learned may be confined to the biases of the parents.  Kids may not able to explore other beliefs and points of view.  This can develop close-mindedness in children, or at worse, bigotry.”   See the above paragraph.  This argument is too absurd to hold any merit.  It barely warrants my response.  It actually seems to come from a place of close-minded ignorance and bigotry.  Considering that they still teach that Christopher Columbus was a hero of the modern world in public school, how can that quote be anything more than ironic?  Yes, homeschooling gives parents a chance to teach their religion to their children without interference, but since we can’t even honor our country in public schools anymore, how is that a bad thing?  A good homeschooling parent teaches their littles a subject from all sides and lets the littles form opinions themselves.  That’s kinda part of the point.

Image result for homeschool images

Third, the article states, “Parents who are not qualified to teach could limit the scope of a child’s knowledge.”  Again, What?  That same study from College at Home shows that homeschool students test higher across the board than public school students.  The difference between those with parents certified to teach and non-certified parents?  1%.  I’m not kidding.  Refer back to the part where I said I’ve learned I don’t suck at math and science.  I never took chemistry in high school or college because I was afraid of it.  But we’re taking it now, and all three of us are excelling! 🙂  The thing is, if we don’t know something our kids need to learn, we’re grown-ups with brains of our own–We Can Learn It Ourselves.  There are too many resources out there to help us along, such as the What Your x-Grader Needs to Know series of books by E.D. Hirsch, Jr., for us to teach with a limited scope.

The fourth reason?  “Homeschoolers may miss the inspiration provided by the occasional great teacher.  How many great men were influenced by mentors other than their parents?”

Does ‘mentors other than their parents’ have to mean public school teachers?  Perhaps that mentor can Be the child’s own parent.  What a crazy idea!  Or maybe it’s their minister, an aunt or uncle, an elderly person they visit at a nursing home, a scout master.  This one pushed my buttons.  Again, coming from a place of ignorance.  Don’t fear that homeschooling will rob your child of the opportunity to have mentors.  If anything, it can give them a more diverse field from which to choose.

Ah! “Homeschooled children miss advantages of learning in a classroom setting.  This involves being challenged and encouraged by fellow students, working within structure and beyond book-learning, such as respecting authority outside of their parents, following orders and procedures, as well as participatory events such as playing in the band or orchestra, or team sports.”

So what they’re saying is, homeschools have no structure and only do book-learning.  How many of you homeschoolers work like that?  I don’t know a single homeschooling parent who teaches exclusively from books and provides no structure to the homeschool day.  Also, what advantage is there to having to raise your hand to express your thoughts? The only advantage there is to the teacher, who would indeed have her hands full if all her students spoke their thoughts without waiting for some kind of prompt.  But that’s not how the real world works, and it shouldn’t be how we teach our youth to operate.  I’ve already said that homeschool kids tend to be more polite and mature, so it follows they have plenty of respect for authority and following procedure.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around what the author imagines homeschool to be like, and I just can’t get there.  If you are considering homeschooling, please don’t worry that your kids will turn out to be lazy sloths who disrespect authority and can’t follow rules.  That is stuff littles are supposed to learn at home, anyway.  Also, the big Disadvantage of the classroom setting–having to share the teacher’s attention with so many other students–far outweighs any advantages.  And I’m honestly not sure I agree that there are any advantages.

Finally, the article states, “Parents have to juggle homeschooling with their own social needs and personal interests, desire to work, and financial needs.”  That is true.  The one true statement about homeschooling in the entire article.  But isn’t it also true of parenting in general?  Don’t we make sacrifices for our children every single day without ever regretting it?  Listen, if your social needs and personal interests are more important than your child’s education, by all means, do not homeschool.  You would not be good at it, anyway.  But if you’re children are truly the most important things in your life, then there’s nothing to be afraid of.  You might have to give up working.  You might have to tighten the budget.  You might not get as much time with your friends or have as much money for entertainment.

But you don’t have to miss a minute of your kids’ lives.  You don’t have to worry about what terrible social skills they may be learning from other kids at school.  You get to be there for them for one-on-one learning Every Day.  They know that you have made them your number one priority and they appreciate the sacrifices you make.  Trust me.  My Littles tell me almost daily how grateful they are to be learning at home.

My advice if you’re considering homeschooling your child?  Go for it.  There’s no reason not to.

Love wins,

KT

Great Grammar!

edit 1I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my favorite grammar tool, but I think it’s time I shared it.  I stumbled across it quite by accident and I have never been so grateful for a homeschooling tool.  Grammar is my thing, always has been, like I was born with an inherent understanding of it.  It causes problems in Little School because that understanding makes it hard for me to teach it.  I find myself having those moments of, “Why don’t you just get it?  It’s obvious.”  (Not that I would Ever say that aloud, but just feeling that way makes it hard for me to explain the fundamentals.)

So I bought an advanced grammar book, and for our first semester this year, we went through it page by page.  It helped me explain the things I have no explanation for.  But still, the Littles–especially Littlest–weren’t quite grasping all of the concepts.  Enter Everyday Edit.

edit 3

Offered by the informative schooling site, Education World, Everyday Edit offers a free paragraph for each day that has ten errors in it:  spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.  The students’ job is to find those errors and correct them.  We started doing them in January.  Though they have the free print-outs to do their own work on, I write the paragraph on the board and we go through them together. At first it took the Littles quite a bit of time to find the errors. Sometimes I had to explain the reasoning behind the errors.  If I couldn’t do it, I would pull out my handy-dandy Everything You Need to Know About English Homework and remind them. When we were working from the more advanced book, this workbook helped make things simpler sometimes.  In just two months, they’ve increased their speed by three times.  It takes me longer to write it on the board than it does for them to find the mistakes.

I honestly believe it is the best way to teach punctuation.  Once students have the rudiments down, this short, daily practice session helps them understand how it all works.  By now, grammar has become easy and painless.  I can’t recommend Everyday Edit enough.  Give it a try; let me know what you think.

Love wins,

KT

Teaching Poetry in Your Homeschool

All you have to do is look at my homepage–at the lovely poem by Hafiz that stands front and center–to know that I love poetry.  It is among my favorite forms of expression.  How else to describe beauty in so few words?  Poetry can have the power of a photograph–depicting a scene so vividly you can see it, simply because of words.  Narrating a story so succinctly that to read it is like watching a film.  Portraying an emotion that overwhelms the reader as if she were feeling it herself.  No wonder the epic poems of Homer, Virgil, and Dante have been handed down for so many hundreds of years.

Teaching poetry in your homeschool can be a daunting challenge, especially if you dislike or are intimidated by poetry yourself.  However, breaking it down into simple, understandable steps can make it easy on you and fun for your students.  Here are some ideas that can help.

Copywork

When the Littles were still learning handwriting, we started every morning with copywork.  I would write a seasonal poem on the chalkboard, and they would copy it down.  Once they had copied it, we would go through the poem line by line until they understood it.  Sometimes we used simple poems, like those in Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, sometimes we would copy poems from the greats–Longfellow, Keats, Dickinson.  Robert Frost has several lilting poems that are perfect for the winter months and easy to translate into phrasing young people can understand.

Poetry for Children

Believe it or not, a great way to introduce your children to poetry is through Any of Dr. Seuss’s books.  Green Eggs and Ham provides a child’s first look at rhyme and meter.  My favorite (and in my opinion, the most brilliant) poet for young people is, of course, Shel Silverstein.  What child can resist a poem called “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes?”

If you have to dry the dishes   A-Light-in-The-Attic1-320x480

(Such an awful, boring chore)

If you have to dry the dishes

(‘Stead of going to the store)

If you have to dry the dishes

And you drop one on the floor–

Maybe they won’t let you

Dry the dishes anymore.

Again, a great and entertaining way to learn about meter and rhyme.  And Silverstein’s books are full of such uproarious poems.  The Littles get them out and read them for fun, never realizing that they are learning what a rhyming poem looks like.

Another superb poet for children is Jack Prelutskey.  I love A Cow’s Outside:

 

         A cow’s outside is mainly hide,

        undoubtedly this leather

        retains a cows insides inside,

        and holds a cow together

 

 

Simply having your children read a selection of these poems and then asking them to mimic them is a great introduction to poetry.

 Language

The most important aspect of poetry is language.  The ‘poetic device.’ Poets are limited in the tools they can use.  They have only Words with which to convey an image, idea, or feeling.  So they have to use the right words, every time.  An introduction to this idea might contain lessons on alliteration and assonance–the repeated sounds of consonants or vowels, respectively.  Onomatopoeia–words that sound like their meanings such as tick, hiss, and gurgle–is one of my favorite poetic devices, and one that littles can have a lot of fun with.  Hyperbole (the outrageous exaggeration of something) can provide a lot of laughter, too.  Metaphors and similes are some of the most important and oft-used devices by poets from all eras.  Personification is also a good language activity to get students’ poetic juices flowing: “The vase stood still until I knocked it off the sill.”  Vases don’t stand; that is personifying.  A great web page to get you started is at Education Portal.

Different Types of Poems

The following poems are far from the many various types to be learned.  They are fun, simple ways to start teaching your students to write their own poetry.  You can get into free verse and sonnets later. 🙂

Acrostic–Uses a word going vertically down the page as the first letter in each horizontal line.  For example:

Littles run round my house

Over and under like a mouse

Valiantly battling deadly foes

Ever erasing all my woes

Diamante–This style has seven lines arranged in a certain structure. It starts out describing one thing and ends up describing another.

Picture

Haiku–Haiku consists of 3 lines and 17 syllables.  Lines 1 and 3 have five syllables and line 2 has seven syllables.  They do not have to rhyme, but a fun challenge can be rhyming lines 1 and 3.

The sky is so blue.

The sun is so warm up high.

I love the summer.

Cinquain–This consists of five unrhymed lines, with each line containing a certain number of syllables.

Line 1: 2 syllables

Line 2: 4 syllables

Line 3: 6 syllables

Line 4: 8 syllables

Line 5: 2 syllables

Limerick–This style has 5 lines with lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyming and lines 3 and 4 rhyming.  It usually starts with “There was a…” and ends with a name, place, or person. Lines 1, 2, and 5 should have 7-10 syllables and lines 3 and 4 should have 5-7 syllables.  The last line should be a little farfetched.

There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter, called Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

When you use these tools for learning both reading and writing poetry, the idea of it suddenly becomes much less intimidating.  Breaking it down into simple lessons makes it a pleasurable (even funny) experience your children will truly enjoy.

What about you?  What ways have you introduced poetry into your homeschool?

Love wins,

KT