Even Homeschoolers Can Benefit From a Tutor’s Assistance

So we are at the end of the first semester according to some school calendars. Whether you closely adhere to such a calendar or just do your own thing, you have some idea where your child could be struggling by now.

I think homeschoolers are sometimes hesitant to engage a tutor because they feel it reflects poorly on their ability to teach. But the fact is, NO ONE is an expert in every subject at every grade level. It just isn’t possible.  There are several other reasons a tutor might be helpful.

  • Your child may have a learning disability that you are not able to address on your own.
  • Your child may get easily frustrated and may work better with someone who is not so focused on their success. Not that a tutor doesn’t care about the student’s success, they just don’t have an emotional attachment to the child the way a parent does. Sometimes the stress of the parent wanting them to succeed so badly puts pressure on the student. This can cause a disconnect between the parent and the student. A tutor is a neutral party and can focus just on the subject or subjects she is addressing and leave all the other areas to the parent.
  • There may be many students for one parent to work with and having a tutor for specific areas eases the load a bit so each child can get the attention they need.
  • Perhaps a parent is also trying to work outside the home and just doesn’t have the time and energy to address something more challenging right now.

No matter the reason, there is evidence that having a tutor for a season is of great benefit.

What makes tutoring a successful investment?

  • Consistent sessions – usually an hour long and no less than once per week.
  • One-on-one rather than group sessions.
  • Working on processes and skill building rather than “studying” information. In other words, teaching the student how to study effectively, not spending a lot of time helping them study for specific exams.
  • Not giving up too soon. Learning takes time. Bad habits that have formed need time to be relearned in a more productive way.

There are several ways to set up a tutoring relationship. I personally do much of my tutoring at my home. It sets the mood to learning for the student because it isn’t the comfort of home with all the distractions. I also sometimes work with a student at a library. With the ability to do sessions over the internet, there is also that option and online tutoring can be much easier to schedule. It’s still a one-on-one relationship and can have great benefit to the student in an easier format for the parent. All you need is a quiet room and a computer that will run Skype.

Here is an article to check out as you consider whether tutoring is a good addition to your homeschool.

Does Your Child Need a Tutor?

My latest experience was with an elementary student who was bringing home Ds and Fs on his language arts papers. We began working together and after a couple of months, he brought home these two papers. He was so proud of his improvement!

A tutoring relationship can be a short-term activity. Usually, a student just needs help to get beyond a specific skill challenge. Sometimes a more long-term plan is good, especially in the case of a student with special needs. Working closely with your child’s tutor can help direct you as you make the best decisions for your child.

If you would like to discuss your situation on a personal level please contact me.

Sometimes Unconventional Learning Works Best

What do I mean by unconventional?  I mean anything other than textbooks. Most of us were brought up to believe that the only way to teach is with a textbook that you assign to the student, they study it and then they take a test to see how much they’ve learned.

But is this the way we learn as adults? Not me. When I’m interested in learning about a new topic the first thing I do is go to the library and find out what books they have on the subject. Now I know, some of you are already thinking that I’m behind the times. Many of you would be quick to point out that the Internet is a far better resource than the public library. Call me old-fashioned, I am a reader and would rather have a book in my hands than stare at a screen. But since you brought up the Internet, there are lots of ways to gain information there too!

Some homeschoolers are uneasy with a truly unschooling method. This is where you allow the student to completely control their learning environment and the topics they choose to explore.  I am not necessarily saying that to go unconventional, you have to go completely unschooled. There are many degrees of learning between conventional schooling and unschooling.

I’ve collected a selection of resources that might help you feel more comfortable with a less structured learning model.

Carschooling – when you have to spend a lot of time in your vehicle and can’t seem to get any schoolwork done, here are some ideas to make the time profitable.

 

 

Project Based Learning – Choosing projects that help your child explore their interests in depth. The possibilities are endless. What is your child interested in?

Notebooking – Creating notebooks to collect information as the student learns about a topic.

 

There is also a website called, “Lifestyle of Learning Association of Christian Home Educators” (LOLACHE). The founder is Marilyn Howshall. I read several of her books on homeschooling about 20 years ago. If you can find them, they are very helpful for a more relaxed homeschool experience. They are out of print but if you go to Marilyn Howshall on Amazon you can see what is available used. I bought the 4 book set.

Delight Directed Homeschooling – a method of learning that follows the child’s interests but is more structured than unschooling.

There are also many classes that you can sign up for at your local library or community center. Check for co-ops in your area for group experiences for your students too.

Life After Homeschooling

I’m not sure I actually remember our first day of homeschooling. I guess I can ask for a little grace in that department. After all, it was 1991 and we’ve had quite a few first days since then. Twenty-six to be exact.

But this year is different. As I saw many friends posting pictures of their cute little scholars getting ready for school I got a little sentimental.  It’s the first year I have no student starting a new season of learning. They are all finished. All 7 have gone on to other things. Hopefully, I succeeded in instilling a love for learning in each of them and that will never end. But the days of working at the table with a little boy whose eyes lit up when he completed his math assignment with no mistakes are long gone.

Actually, I haven’t had any of those moments for a long time. High schoolers don’t normally get too excited about assignments! Sometimes I wish I knew at the beginning what I know now. If I had it to do over again, I would be less concerned about performance and focus much more on character building. I think we got better at that towards the end but even so, I still felt pressure to aim for some man-made standard.

I have realized how much time and energy we put into competing with others to see how we measure up and it’s just not worth it. In the end, you just do your best and keep moving. The things I remember worrying about with my boys, the areas of learning where they seemed to be struggling, caused so much stress at the time. And now, looking back, I can say that all those times of striving for something more have had no visible impact on my boys’ success in life. They are all doing just fine.

How do you measure success anyway? Isn’t it simply about setting goals for yourself and working toward meeting them? At this point, none of my boys have bachelor’s degrees. None have letters after their names. So what? They each have found their sweet spot. They are pursuing what interests them and doing it well. And…most of them have no school debt! I couldn’t be happier for them.

And for me? How do I embrace this next season?  Right now I am looking for ways to share what I’ve learned. First is this blog. Hopefully, I will continue to share insight that will help other homeschoolers. Also, I have taken on some students to tutor. I am looking at ways to tutor online as well. I see myself as a homeschool coach that can offer strength and encouragement to other moms who may be at the beginning of their homeschool journey.

But it’s also a season to dust off the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Quilting, genealogy, reading the zillions of books I’ve been wanting to read, and writing.  And I get to spend time with my grandchildren which gives me great joy.

If you are in need of someone to come alongside you as you travel this homeschooling path, contact me and we can discuss how I can help you. I know it was a great help to me when I was just starting out to spend time with veteran homeschoolers. It made the journey less daunting to see those who had survived!

How Not to Be a Smothering Parent

As a homeschooler, I have always been very aware of the cultural trend toward keeping children overly supervised “for their own good.” Because of this, I found myself becoming concerned about letting my kids outside while others were in school. What would people think? Would my kids be in trouble for having such freedom? But then I would think, “how will they ever be independent if I keep them tied so close to me?” It brought to mind that saying we used to hear about being “tied to your mother’s apron strings.” It was considered a negative observation.

I finally decided that I was going to let them grow up. Let them be individuals. But as I watched people around me, not just homeschoolers, but all parents, I saw something unsettling.

The cord between parent and child is getting shorter instead of longer. It used to be that the parenting model was to gradually give your children more and more responsibility and freedom with their own lives. Now it seems that a parent becomes negligent if they so much as let their child walk around the corner out of sight for a split second.

I’ve read many articles lately that discuss the challenges that parents are facing from the general public as well as the legal system concerning what is seen as responsible parenting and what is not. I am a baby boomer and my generation remembers well the freedom that we had as children.

I remember my summers as times to take off on my bike and ride anywhere I pleased in our small college town. I could ride to the local swimming pool six blocks from home, stay for hours, and then ride home on my own. As long as I was home for dinner and then again before the street lights came on, I was fine. I walked to school with just the neighborhood kids, or sometimes by myself when I was in the first grade. No big deal. I suspect that the very idea of sending a first grader several blocks to school alone horrifies a young parent today.

How did we get here? How did we become so deathly afraid of letting them grow up? I know, everyone immediately jumps to the argument about human trafficking and the dangers that exist for a child in our culture. But why has American culture become so fearful?

I recently read an article titled, From Tokyo to Paris, Parents Tell Americans to Chill, that discussed free-range parenting from an international perspective. It seems we are lagging behind the rest of the world in training our children to be independent. Or perhaps it’s that we used to be better at it and have lost perspective.

If you research the crime statistics over the past fifty years you will find that the number of crimes has steadily decreased. This includes those committed against children. It is actually, statistically safer for kids today than it was when I was growing up in the 60s. So why all the hyped stress?

I think we are more fearful today because we have been trained to fear EVERYTHING. We fear illness, having our identity stolen, mass shootings, being injured in an accident, having our home broken into, and having our children abducted. And the list gets longer every day. We spend more money on safety measures than ever before.

And in the process of being more fearful, we have become smothering parents. Our kids can’t do anything unsupervised. So why are we surprised when 20-somethings are still living at home and expecting their parents to make all their decisions for them?

I think the remedy lies in a few common-sense principles.

First, learn to trust yourself as a parent. You know your kids better than anyone. You can judge when they are ready for an increase in responsibility and freedom. Stop listening to the running commentary about how it’s reckless to allow your kids to learn to think for themselves before they turn eighteen. There will be times when you have to trust your gut. You just know that something is good or bad for your child. It must come from inside you, not from the opinions of others. God gave your child to YOU for a reason. I have said this often to homeschoolers that I’ve coached over the years. You are the person best equipped to parent your child.

Trust your children. They are smart. Probably much smarter than you think. They can figure things out if given time and encouragement. They want to feel successful in their decision making. They want to explore their own interests.

One of the most important things I learned as a homeschooler is to trust my boys to make choices. Sometimes I didn’t agree with them at all. Sometimes they went ahead and did something against my advice. Most times, after a while, they finally came around and realized their mistake. They learned valuable lessons from those times.

Give your children a firm foundation of your values and let them learn from their mistakes. They won’t always get it right. But did you? I’m sure you can instantly think of actions you took when you were young that were less than responsible. Maybe they are even embarrassing to think about now. But you still grew into an adult that can manage your life. They will too.

Finally, trust God with your children. He designed them. He has a plan for them. He placed your children in the right environment to allow that plan to be birthed. He can protect and guide our children much better than we can. But He’s chosen to give us the privilege to participate in the amazing process of raising a child. You can trust yourself and your child all day long but if you don’t entrust that precious one to God, you will always be fretting and worrying about their safety, their choices, and their future.

So try to loosen your hold a little and let your children experience childhood. There are so many opportunities that will encourage them to become independent individuals. But they can’t do it if they are still tied to their mother’s apron strings. Let go and see them fly!

Send Your Perfectionist Packing

BeaIMG_5276I heard a rather bizarre story the other day. A young mom was telling me about another new mom she’d met at an event. They talked about how much of an adventure raising children was. The other mom then proceeded to explain her parenting strategies. She said that she didn’t allow her child who was crawling, to pull up to furniture because she was afraid he’d fall. She didn’t want him to get hurt. She wanted to wait until he learned to balance before she was going to let him begin to pull up and stand on his own.

I tried not to laugh… but my first reaction was “how in the world is he ever going to learn balance if he isn’t allowed to fall?”

Sometimes as parents, and especially as homeschool parents, I think we want out children to learn without having to experience loss, or error or failure. We want them to somehow just absorb what they need to know and then do it perfectly the first time they try. Imagine your child trying to learn to ride a bike without experiencing a tumble or two.

It doesn’t work that way.

Learning is a process of successes AND failures. The famous quote attributed to Thomas Edison says it well. He said, “I did not fail, I found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb.”  If he’d have been a perfectionist he might have stopped after one failure or he might have looked at his odds of succeeding and never tried at all.

I believe that our homeschool environment is the safest place in the world for our children to learn. It is the perfect place for our children to try things out, to fail and to try again. At least it is if we don’t allow our own perfectionism to interfere.

As homeschooling parents, part of our job is to encourage our children to use their curiosity and imagination to learn. But it’s like that new walker we talked about at the beginning. If we keep them in a padded room with no furniture to pull up on, how are they going to ever learn to walk? If we control our child’s homeschooling experience so that they don’t experience failure, how are they going to learn?

I think every parent at one time or another watches their child struggle with a concept and is tempted to step in and say, “no, here is how it is done.” When instead, we should step back, be patient and watch to see how they figure it out. And it’s the same way with teaching them to do their chores. Yes, the floor would be much cleaner if you swept it yourself but is that your primary goal in teaching your kids to help around the house? If it is, you are missing the point. The goal should be more about them learning to do their best and about not giving up when they don’t do it perfectly the first time. Problem-solving skills come from having a problem. If everything is perfect and there are no problems, how will they learn to problem solve?

The only way for this to work is for us to intentionally tell our perfectionistic selves to take a hike.

And this perfectionistic point of view not only squelches your students, it can also paralyze you! You can end up trying so hard to give your child that perfect education that you cram their days so full of structured activities they never have time to discover things on their own. And you and your student are both exhausted.

The key for all of us is to relax and enjoy the learning that happens every day, usually in spite of us! Relax a little and watch them accomplish more than you ever imagined!

Here are a couple of links that you might find helpful.

http://homeschoolencouragement.com/6-ways-perfectionism-sinks-homeschool-stay-afloat/

http://www.homeschool-your-boys.com/homeschooling-moms.html

 

Homeschooling Boys: 5 Things You Need to Know

IMG_4136Homeschooling boys is an adventure. I’ve been homeschooling my seven sons for 22 years and counting. There are some unique challenges that are part of the process. To be successful isn’t hard if you take these five things into consideration.

Little boys really can’t sit still.  Research has proven that from birth, boys are more active than girls. Baby boys kick and squirm more than baby girls. When they get a little older….little boys still kick and squirm more than little girls. Watch a six-year-old boy sitting at a table. Usually, his legs are in constant motion and if you watch long enough you will see that his bottom doesn’t stay on the seat very well. One of my boys adopted the position that worked best for him when he was trying to do school work at a table. One leg under his bottom on the chair and the other hanging over the edge of the seat. Much of the time he was actually standing and not sitting at all. It was as close as he could come to sitting still. He was at least in contact with the chair most of the time. I found if we took frequent breaks, his wiggles calmed a bit.

Fine motor skills are in no hurry to develop.  Boys tend to develop fine motor skills slower than girls. This means that they are slower in figuring out how to make their pencils and scissors work. They’d much rather throw or pound on something. These actions take gross motor skills which develop much sooner.  They’d rather throw the pencil or tap it on the table than write with it. Give them hands-on activities and be patient with the handwriting lessons.

Boys tend to think in “things” and not words. Boys are more spatial than girls when it comes to language. Girls think in words where boys think in objects. Boys are much quicker to understand directions that involve a demonstration while girls can read or listen through a list of instructions and get it. Again, the hands-on activities will be much more effective with boys.

Boys’ attention spans are shorter. It seems boys much work harder to concentrate on what they are doing. Actually, boys brains have been proven to still be growing until nearly age 30. It just takes longer and more energy for all that growing. They need to change activities often in order to stay engaged.

Boys can be reluctant readers. While this is not true for all boys, many times it’s hard to get a boy to be a willing reader. They would rather do things with their hands. They aren’t so interested in words. They can’t sit still and focus for long periods of time. All the things we just talked about contribute to this problem. One thing you can do is read aloud to your boys. I still read aloud to my boys at times when there is something I believe we need to cover and I know it will be like pulling teeth to get them to read it on their own. Since my youngest is now in high school, we can experience some rich, deep discussion about something we’ve read together. That wouldn’t happen if I handed him the book and expected him to read it on his own.

If you are teaching both boys and girls you will want to take these things into consideration. That way you will be able to adapt your expectations to their developmental stages and strengths. And of course, it is also important to see each student as an individual and leave room for adjustments that take into consideration their unique strengths and weaknesses. Every student can excel at learning in a homeschool environment. It is a custom designed experience that will bring out the very best that they have in them.

additional resources:

http://www.education.com/reference/article/similarities-differences-boys-girls/

http://www.education.com/reference/article/brain-differences-boys-girls/

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov04/vol62/num03/With-Boys-and-Girls-in-Mind.aspx

Ways to Get Dad Involved in Your Homeschool

IMG_5308My husband was all for homeschooling when we started in 1991. He was also trying to get his own business started and trying to help me deal with my mother’s terminal illness. He had his hands full. Very full.

I was the primary teacher from the beginning, partly because I had a degree in education and my husband felt like I would be more qualified to teach than he was. But mostly because of the time constraints already on him. He was interested, but not really participating. I wanted the boys to see that Dad was a part of what we were doing so I found ways that included him when he was able.

Here are some ways you can get Dad involved without overloading him with teaching responsibilities.

 

Show and Tell. Conversation at the dinner table about what was learned is always a great place to start. My boys were excited to talk about what they were learning. Dad was good at asking leading questions to get them talking. And when
Dad traveled, the older ones could send him emails telling him what they were doing. Email was a good tool since my husband traveled a lot for quite a few years. He was able to read and respond when he could focus and the conversations were very rewarding. And today, kids can use things like Skype to make it even more personal.

Involve Dad in well-planned projects.  I was always looking for ways to get the boys some hands-on time with Dad. Since they were all in 4-H it was a great place to get Dad involved in helping with their projects. We also did projects connected to our science and social studies that worked well as a “dad-time” activity. One year we did a unit on architecture and took pictures of different styles and even build some models of homes. Dad helped with this and then we made a big display of all we had learned and invited the grandparents over to take a “tour” of our homes.

Tap into Dad’s favorite activities. My husband is a woodworker. You can be sure that he was always glad to have a young helper in his shop. He spent many hours teaching woodworking skills to our boys. Whether your husband’s interest is in car repair, electronics, motorcycles, cooking, or something else, it is a perfect place to involve your children and create a learning environment with their dad.

Involve Dad in the actual teaching. If your husband really enjoys writing or history, look for ways to include him in those subjects. He could read essays and comment. He could take the kids to a history museum and share his knowledge. He could also take on a particular subject and teach that on a regular basis. Maybe he’s the mathematician and you aren’t. Let math class be Dad’s domain, even if it’s just a couple times a week as he is able. You can fill in when he is unable to teach.IMG_3239

I know there are families where mom and dad can share the teaching responsibilities. The fact is though, that most homeschool families have one parent working and the other home with the responsibility to manage the education for the family. It is primarily, but not always, the mom who is home. But most dads are open and even excited to be involved in the learning process. Sometimes as moms, we try to manage it all alone and Dad feels excluded or even clueless about what goes on every day while he’s at work. Why not find ways to get Dad involved and make it a family adventure? You’ll all be glad you did.

 

Christmas Gift Ideas for Middle Schoolers

gift17I’ve found a few interesting gift ideas for the middle school crowd that don’t involve electronics. They might actually encourage family time as well! So many families are not in a position to afford the many expensive new gadgets advertised. If you are looking for something a little different and easier on the budget, look no further. Here are just a few ideas that might get your kids playing again. Why encourage them to play? because playing is still learning, even for middle school kids.

Ivan’s Hinge

 

 

Ivan’s Hinge -A great compact puzzle that can go in a pocket or backpack. Encourages problem-solving in a creative, fun way for ages 8 and up.

PrismaColor Colored Pencils

PrismaColor colored pencils and Dover Coloring Books – These pencils and coloring books take coloring to a new level. Not the simple pictures you used to color with crayons. These drawings are detailed and beautiful.  And PrismaColor pencils are high quality and work well for this type of coloring. Coloring is for any age!

Dover Coloring Books

There are dozens of coloring books to choose ranging from geometric shape designs to nature and history. Something for everyone.  The Victorian House is my favorite.

 

 

 

Chronology Board Game

 

 

 

 

Chronology Board Game – This game covers 2000 years of history that players organize into timelines. Each game is a new learning experience. A great family game for two or more players that reinforces the timeline of history. For ages 14 and up, but younger kids can work on a team with an adult or older sibling.

 

Morphology

 

 

 

 

Morphology – Think Pictionary with a twist. In this game, you use a combination of everyday items to create models of objects which team members must guess. Sometimes players are asked to create with one hand, or with their eyes closed adding a hilarious dimension to the game. For ages 13 and up.

 

 

 

 

 

The Science Chef

 

 

The Science Chef Travels Around the World  Fun food experiments and recipes for kids. Combines science, cooking, and cultural studies in one resource that brings fun and learning right into your kitchen. For ages 10 and up.

 

 

Do you have other suggestions that you could share? If so, leave a comment telling us about them.

 

Is the Goal of Education the Process or the Destination?

IMG_0657When we have preschoolers, we can’t wait to see them reading for themselves. When we have elementary aged children, we can’t wait for them to be able to express themselves in their writing. We have similar goals through out our children’s lives. Milestones that tell us that we are indeed progressing in the right direction.

But sometimes education and life itself can become a series of benchmarks that push us along to a destination where we finally feel like we’ve accomplished something important. We’ve “arrived.” But somewhere along the way, we’ve lost something important. We’ve lost the opportunity to enjoy the journey.

Watch this thought-provoking video that compares education to a musical composition.

Homeschooling During the Holiday Season

How does your family manage your schooling schedule around the holidays? We’ve tried different methods over the years. Here are some of them.

Keep the same schedule as the public schools. Take just the few days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day off and keep to a normal schedule the rest of December. It works okay, I guess. But there always seemed to be way more activities that we wanted to experience but just didn’t have time for.

Take the days from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day off. While that sounded great at the time, it really was hard to do. We had to work harder the rest of the year in order to pull it off and we had a hard time getting back to work in January after such a long break with little structure.

Use a more relaxed learning style for the holiday season. This is our current plan and what we have done for many years now. We put the school books aside and instead, use the many seasonal opportunities available as our curriculum. Here are some ideas that have worked well for us.

Math – We get plenty of practice with fractions during all the holiday baking we do. One year we made 140 dozen cookies in 26 varieties to give away as gifts. Lots of math practice there! We also have talked about averages and probability when it comes to whether we’d have a white Christmas. And we’ve worked with budgeting our money as we plan to purchase gifts for friends and family.

Reading51388TDMZWL__SL500_AA300_ There are so many wonderful holiday books available for all ages. We have our favorites that we revisit every year but we’ve always kept our eyes open for new books too. We make time each day to read together and enjoy all the special stories that bring the Christmas season to life.

Some of our favorites are:

Cranberry Christmas

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Mr Willowby’s Christmas Tree

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

The Birds’ Christmas Carol

The Worst Person’s Christmas

Merry Christmas, Festus and Mercury

Look-Alikes Christmas

Christmas Tapestry

Language Arts –  Writing Christmas letters, thank you notes and Christmas cards provide practice with handwriting, spelling, and grammar. We’ve written our own holiday stories, some based on actual experiences and others completely from our imaginations. There are many new words to add to our vocabulary that we only use during the holidays. And cooking and making crafts is a great way to practice following directions.

Social Studies – The study of the history of traditions as well as investigating how other cultures celebrate is an ongoing part of our homeschooling. During the Christmas season, we try to take time to consider how others choose to celebrate. It often involves research skills, map reading, and even crafts and good things to eat.

Science – There is a lot of sIMG_1762cience that can be learned in the kitchen and we spend a lot of time there during the holidays. We also take time to see what we can learn from winter weather. And nature studies focusing on how the animals and plants survive the cold can be a fun part of our school time.

Those are the core subjects, but we can’t forget art and music.   With all these opportunities during the holiday season, we just don’t have time for textbooks and spelling tests. We have so much to learn and only a few weeks each year to take advantage of it. We love our more relaxed holiday season. We never know just what we’re going to learn but we do it as a family, all learning together.

How does your family combine homeschooling with the holidays?