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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Meeting another Von Trapp!

Meeting a von Trapp!

Previously, I blogged about my unexpected introduction to Rosemarie, the eldest daughter born to Captain and Maria von Trapp. You can read it here. But, surprisingly, that is not my only experience meeting the von Trapp's.

At a homeschool convention a few years ago, I was presenting History Via the Scenic Route, a workshop about making history come to life using music, geography, science, literature, and more. . . The room was packed out, but, in the midst of all the different faces, I kept noticing this lovely, elderly woman in the back. There was something about her that was striking, and I remember thinking at the time, "She looks like such an interesting woman. . .I wish I could meet her!"

My next presentation would begin only fifteen minutes after History Via the Scenic Route ended, and, because it was in a different room, I had to hurry to get my computer and notes packed up and out the door. As is common, though, lots of folks had questions about the workshop. (Side note: it is not EASY to make sense when you are scrambling!!)

As I was frantically packing the last cord, I heard a warm and cultured voice say, "Oh, you are not leaving yet, are you? I wanted to share something with you!"

I looked up, and there was that charming woman I had noticed earlier. She had such an engaging smile, and I was delighted that she wanted to talk with me—but there was no time. So I asked, "Would you mind chatting as we walk to my next room, as I only have a few minutes to set up for the next workshop?" She graciously complied, and, with her husband, strolled down the hall with me, sharing stories of some of the beautiful things she had seen in Europe—stories that, based on my lecture, she thought I would enjoy.

She had such an engaging smileJust as we got to my next presentation room, as I prepared to reluctantly say goodbye to this marvelous conversationalist, she said, "I have one more thing I would like to tell you, but I am going to whisper it in your ear." This was endearing, and I assumed it was something of an earlier generation's manner.

Imagine my utter surprise when she whispered, "I am one of the von Trapp children. You must not tell anyone here, as there are always publicity hounds in every crowd."

I looked at her with astonishment and delight!

"Oh!!! I met your sister several years ago in Florida!! She was with Bill Anderson, and they came to our hotel room for dinner, stories and singing with my family!!!"

It was HER turn to be astonished. But, yes, she remembered having heard about that meeting a decade prior.

Huge smiles all around. So many things to share, no time left. . .Then, with a quick hug and a gratefully amazed heart, I bid adieu to a second daughter of Captain and Maria von Trapp!!!

Thought you would enjoy that story. . . I cherish the memory!!!

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Let kids MOVE!

Let kids MOVE!

What on earth do we do with those kids who seem to constantly fidget and bounce and doodle and roll and jump and run and dance? Prepare yourself, because this might seem simplistic. The answer to the question of dealing with kids who won’t sit still is: Let Them Move!!

Goodness, why didn’t I think of that?

It took years of having a tree-climbing, hall-running, constantly-in-motion child before I finally realized that trying to force him into the sit-down-and-don’t-move-while-you-study mold was utterly worthless. He didn’t learn, we didn’t enjoy our efforts, and I was weary of trying to hold back the irrepressible energy of youth.

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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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