Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!
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Teaching Tip 3—The Connection

Teaching Tip 3—The Connection

 

Last week in this blog series, we considered the importance of a first impression when introducing our students to an academic subject, or, in this case, a historical era. We looked at how to make this initial introduction through an auditory, visual, and kinesthetic experience, and how this brings a sense of eye-opening FUN to the students.

Today, let’s delve further into this idea of an introduction, and talk about what happens when students begin making connections. . .

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Why engage your child's interests?

Engage a child's interest

A mom recently asked me about the idea of following our kids interests. After reading Why Quit Homeschooling, she wrote, “I ended with the same question that I often do when I read about moms who've 'ditched' the textbook method and are allowing their kids interests to lead in homeschool.  My question is "So how do they make sure that the appropriate math and language arts gets learned by the end of the school year?". . .If I let my kids' interests lead our homeschooling, my 12 yr.old son would play with Legos, do science experiments (with no writing involved), and read G.A. Henty history books (and don't ask him to summarize chapters either!).”

These are excellent questions, and I love her obvious  hunger to give her kids the best.

So, let's consider her statement about: "moms who've 'ditched' the textbook method and are allowing their kids interests to lead in homeschool".

There is one view of homeschooling that marches down that path without flinching, and it's called "Unschooling."  Though there are folks who are devoted to unschooling and its philosophy (pioneered by John Holt), I have never been comfortable with this as an overall approach.  The reason?  Because I also had kids, who, if left to follow their own interests, would have built Legos full-time and never written a paper!

There is another view of homschooling, however, that has a different foundational philosophy.  I call it "Education That's Relational." Rather than simply following a child's interests throughout the day (and hoping they someday want to know about grammar!), education that's relational seeks to engage your child's interest in the course being learned, in each academic subject they are studying. And it works with every age and every grade.

What interests your child?

NOTICE: This second approach requires some initial preparation on your part, but because it helps students to become engaged and self-motivated, it will save you time (and tears) later!

There are three major components:

#1) Be careful to observe. Watch, listen to, and pay attention to your child—to his/her interests, challenges, passions, struggles.  Does she LIGHT UP when you pull out a book?  Or not?  Does he come to life when he gets to go outside?  Or not? Does she struggle with the worksheets that her sibling loved?  Does he shut down when you ask him to tell someone outside your family what he just learned?  All of these things are powerful insights, clues to what makes your child tick.

#2)  Become equipped. Learn about Multiple Intelligences and the four Learning Styles. (I've linked to my DVD that describes this for homeschoolers. There are many other resources available!)  They will be the key to unlock the door to your child's interest in each subject.  So, for instance, if you have a student who is always on the go, always moving, always into things, they have a strong  Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence. When it is time to learn multiplication tables, instead of making Johnny sit quietly to memorize it (good luck!), instead, invite him to practice jumping jacks as he shouts out each part of the times table:  "2 x 2 is 4, YAY!!!" This equipping on your part will make a difference in the ways your children can learn and engage with every subject.

#3) Be flexible. Having a planned schedule is one of the best ways to navigate the demands of both teaching your kids and caring for your family.  The key to being relational, though, is to be flexible. For instance, if you have a plan that Suzie will learn the differences between nouns, verbs and prepositions on Friday, but she is really struggling to understand the concepts, then take a few steps back.  Set your schedule aside temporarily, and take the time to do some hands-on work with these parts of speech.  After a refreshing weekend, you might have Suzie touch the nouns you name (chair, door, shoe), act out the verbs (jump, sit, run), and dance the prepositions (under, over, between).  On Tuesday, have her touch the nouns SHE names, act out the verbs SHE says, and dance the prepositions SHE chooses.  Though the schedule has to be adjusted, Suzie just engaged with her own learning. And, suddenly, it makes sense!

Being educationally relational in these ways will allow your kids to thrive in their learning experience.  And, as an added bonus, your job gets a LOT easier.

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Why quit homeschooling?

Enjoying Everyday Life

If you are a homeschooler, may I ask you an honest question? Here it is:

Have you ever wanted to quit homeschooling? 

I think if we could all sit around a table and talk together, we would be surprised at how much we have in common when it comes to this question!  We would laugh with deep relief as we discovered we weren’t the only ones harboring thoughts of an easier path. . . And, once we felt the freedom that comes from being real, once we knew it was okay to admit we had those thoughts. . .THEN we could think honestly about why we homeschool and if it's worth it to continue.

For me, my decision to homeschool came when I was pregnant with our first child. A friend handed me a book about homeschooling, and I found the whole concept utterly entrancing!  Pictures of perfect days with perfect children danced through my head. . . You probably know how long that image lasted!  Yes, it popped just after a few days of teaching my kindergarten student at home (with two younger ones who kept things hopping).  Though the dreams had been perfect, the somewhat painful reality was that kids learn differently than I expected, they struggled with things I enjoyed and they enjoyed things that were outside my comfort zone.  

And, being a novice homeschooler, I had simply followed the model of school in my head.  We had a desk, an apple, an American flag. I knew when we would have reading, writing and recess. I had all my ducks in a row at the beginning of the school year, but my son wasn’t a duck.  He was a little boy with all kinds of ideas and interests that were outside the kindergarten "curriculum."

After a month of strwhyquituggling with increasing difficulties, like making boring textbooks palatable, I was struck by my son's doleful question:  “Mom, do we HAVE to keep doing this?” I realized that I didn't like it any more than he did. So, I quietly put all the kindergarten books away, and discretely went back to doing the things we had been doing before:

reading books, playing with play dough, taking walks, cooking together, playing with music, and enjoying everyday life.

It took three years of trying this start-and-stop approach to homeschool before it dawned on me that he loved learning a LOT more when we quit doing artificial, fill-in-the-blank, desk-bound school.  When he had a chance to really engage with material, to freely ask as many questions as he wanted and dig into answers, and to follow his interests down the rabbit trails, my son loved learning.

Which brings me back to the idea of quitting.  In the three years that I tried to force him into a narrow educational box, I felt like quitting every day. It was hard, it was distasteful, and I was failing miserably as a “teacher.”  But, to my utter surprise, when we finally discovered the freedom to learn in ways that were appealing to my son, homeschool became an adventure and a joy.

And, who wants to quit when you love what you’re doing???

Need more inspiration to keep going?

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Teaching Tip 2—The Introduction

Teaching Tip 2—The Introduction

If you’ve ever watched the Food Network show, Chopped, you know that one of the most important elements the judges consider is presentation. Without that, your tasty dish loses some of its value. And, yet, a tomato tastes like a tomato, regardless of how it looks, right?  So, why go to all the trouble to make it look “just so”? Why does presentation matter?

The truth is that the way it looks will either heighten one’s appreciation or lessen one’s desire for the food on the plate.

It’s not just about food, though.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “dress for success”?  Why do employment books advise this when looking for a job? It’s because “you only get one chance to make a first impression,” and “the first impression is the lasting impression.” Regardless of your skills, your appearance will affect how potential employers consider your job application.

There is something about how we are wired that makes the introduction to a food or a person significant. In fact, it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to being well-received.

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A Child Who Survived the Holocaust

History is far more compelling than any novel

What does it mean to be a survivor?

We use it in many ways: those who beat cancer; those who pull through a life-threatening accident; those who overcome crippling abuse; and, those who go through war atrocities.

As we learn their stories, our hearts are gripped by the real-life drama, and we wonder—from a safe and comfortable distance—how they ever made it through. It can even read like an adventure novel or political thriller, where the author invents twists and turns to capture the audience.

But history is far more compelling than any novel.

Recently, Dr. Jay Wile (read his post here) and I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Inge Auerbacher, honored internationally for her work in reconciliation, and known for her books on her experience as a Jewish child in a Nazi concentration camp.  Her real life story has incredible twists and turns, from her father being a disabled veteran with an Iron Cross medal after WWI (which made a difference with the Gestapo, allowing this Jewish family to be together in a transit camp for three years rather than being sent to an extermination camp), to being hospitalized after arriving in America for TWO YEARS with tuberculosis as a teenager, to being accepted into medical school in Heidelberg but fleeing when she heard them singing Nazi songs, to becoming a chemist for thirty-eight years, to international renown as an author and human rights activist.

Dr. Wile and I sat, quietly stunned, as she shared personal anecdotes and memories of what every day life was like during the Holocaust, living at the Terezin transit camp. There is something so real about a hungry child’s game of imagining mountains of whipped cream to eat, and of sneaking a look at the infamous Eichmann when he visited the camp. (Inge told us that, as a prisoner, you were not allowed to look at the SS, you were required to bow your heads when they came.)  

Inge’s voice trembled a bit as she described that when you went to the camp, virtually everything you owned was taken from you. You had no money, no power, nothing with which to bribe officials. But, somehow, she was able to keep her doll, which survived the concentration camp along with her.  (It now resides at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.)  This blonde, blue-eyed doll, whom Inge named “Marlene,” was made for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and given to her when she was only two years old by her beloved grandmother (who would later die at the hands of the Nazis at Riga).  Her story of how she and her friend, Ruth, would play with their dolls was so typical of young girls.

WeStillHadHopeAnd, that was what struck me me the most. Some of what Inge described sounded as normal as the child next door: imagination, games, play.  She even told us that people in her camp put on actual theater productions from time to time!  And, yet, in the same breath, she talked about how few children her age were still living when the camp was liberated.  She described her best friend, Ruth, being sent on a train—which sounded so desirable to Inge—only to die at Auschwitz. When I asked her what it felt like, to be in the camp as a child, she said, "We still had hope." And that is, perhaps, the most critical component of surviving.

Life and death. Hope and helplessness. Family and forced separation. These were the real life experiences for a child who survived the Holocaust.

“I stand tall and proud, My voice shouts in silence loud: I am a real person still, No one can break my spirit or will: I am a star!” Inge Auberbacher, From her book, “I Am A Star” published by Penguin Putnam Inc.

Homeschoolers at the GHC conferences in Ft. Worth, Greenville, and Ontario will be able to hear her amazing story for themselves.  Don’t miss this incredible opportunity!

 

 

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