Diana's Homeschool Blog

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!

Teaching Tip 12 — Following the Rabbit Trail

What fascinates your child?

Many years ago, we had a basset hound named Max (think sleepy dog, drooping eyes, and s-l-o-w motion). There were only two things that got Max’s attention and caused him to hustle—food and the scent of a rabbit. At that point, we lived in a somewhat rural area, with wooded acres to explore. Normally, Max stayed close to home and the food bowl, but there were times we would hear his distinctive, “Ah-woo-woo,” and the crashing sounds of a rather large dog running for all he was worth.

I don’t think he ever caught one. . .but he never got tired of following the rabbit’s trail.

Now, let’s talk about kids. Specifically, let’s talk about kids when it comes to learning math, science, literature, and history. Do you ever notice a marked decline in their enthusiasm? Do their eyes start to droop when you bring out the books? Do they drag through the day UNTIL school is done?

If so, then a rabbit trail is just what you need.

First, we need to define just what constitutes a rabbit trail.  What was it that propelled Max out of his lethargy and got him bounding excitedly down the path? There was something hardwired into this dog that found the scent of a rabbit fascinating. It made him want to run (unlike his normal approach to life), it caused him to shout for joy (Ah-woo-woo), and he didn’t even notice how much physical exercise it demanded.

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Top 5 Reasons to Use The Library Teaching Tip #11

Top 5 Reasons to Use the Library

Homeschoolers have traditionally used the library. However, so much has changed in the digital world that you may be wondering if it's worth the hassle to pack up the kids, drive to the library, and then deal with all of the books that flood into your home!

I think the answer is YES!!! To explain why, here are my top five reasons to use the library.

Reason #1: Free

I don’t know about you, but free is always a price I can afford. It is there, open and available, for anyone with a library card—regardless of your financial situation. And, unlike a bookstore, it is the same price whether we walk out with one book or ten!

For budget-savvy homeschoolers, the library is one of your BEST resources!

Reason #2: Treasure

Have you ever strolled through the library, searching the stacks for a particular title or subject, when, suddenly, you come across a book you’ve never heard of, on a topic you’ve never studied—and it looks intriguing? Going to the library is a real treasure hunt, with all the excitement and drama of unexpected riches!

For engaging your children’s hunger to learn, the library is a WONDERFUL ally!

Reason #3: Pleasure

One of the most precious elements of childhood is the freedom to read for pleasure. And having a stack of library books, chosen because they look fun to read, introduces a delightful richness to our children’s knowledge base and imagination.

The sheer PLEASURE of reading is enhanced by regular trips to the library!

Reason #4: Skill

The rich environment for delving into topics on one’s own and developing skills to do research in an increasingly thorough manner are enhanced when there is a vast selection of books from which to choose. If this begins in childhood, it becomes a normal aspect of life and learning. The library, including the option to order books from an even wider group of libraries, is one of the best places to learn the skill of looking things up and doing research.

The library can help your child excel in research—a valuable skill for most careers!

Reason #5: Available

Some of the best books I have ever read are out of print! And, when I looked for them online, the asking price is way beyond reasonable. So, the only way to actually read them is to check them out of the library. Did I mention that it’s free?

Some of the best books are only available through the library!

World Empires Student Manual For those using my History Revealed curriculum, you will find Resources for Digging Deeper at the end of Phase One. If you have a student who loves to read, this will be a great opportunity to get as many books from the library as are interesting, giving him or her a chance to dive into fascinating folks and exciting events! If, on the other hand, you have a student who does not enjoy reading, let that one choose a few books out of the list that look interesting (or use the Dewey Decimal numbers provided to find your own). Let them read to their heart’s content (whether many or few).

And, remember, stay relational!

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Teaching Tip 10 — Talk Together

Teaching Tip 10 — Talk Together

Let’s talk about talking, shall we?

Have you noticed that some people are “natural” talkers? They effortlessly put together words and ideas whenever the opportunity arises. For these people, whether young or old, discussion is easy, free-flowing, and not always deeply considered. They simply say whatever comes into their minds

There are others who find it harder to talk at the drop of a hat. They need time to process their thoughts, consider the issues, ponder the possibilities. Though they do not speak up as quickly in a discussion, when they do eventually engage, it is often with profound insights and reasoned thoughts.

Two Different Approaches

You probably have both types in your home—and it may have been challenging for you. If you find it easy to talk on any subject, it may seem like your less verbal child is not trying—not engaging—when it comes to discussion. And it’s frustrating! If, on the other hand, you need time to think before you speak, it may be difficult to enjoy the chatterbox in your home. Either way, you may be tempted to “fix” your child to make them more like you.

I know I did.

As one who is endowed not only with the gift of gab, but with a need to process things verbally, I struggled when some of my children required more time to consider their answers. Why couldn’t they all just jump into the discussion at hand? Talking is easy, right??

Over time, though, I began to recognize that those who took more time before answering often brought a depth of understanding that was far beyond my expectations.  And that helped me gain a deeper appreciation of the value of “internal processing” for these children.

Honoring Both Approaches

So, when it comes time to discuss what is being studied, it is helpful to create a welcoming and appreciate atmosphere that honors both approaches. Teach your kids to not talk over the quieter ones, but to graciously wait for the insights they will bring. And, enjoy the spontaneous talkers in your midst. Both types are incredibly valuable—they will enrich our lives, our homes, our communities, and, eventually, our world!

For those using my History Revealed curriculum, when it comes to the Talk Together section in Phase 1 (after the introductory article and listening to the CDs), give your students the opportunity to look through the discussion questions beforehand. Then, let them choose which question (or questions) they would enjoy discussing together. Good discussion at this point can foster a sense of creativity and wonder as students actively engage their own thoughts and opinions about the time period.

Ground Rules

Here are some ground rules for students in the class discussion: take turns speaking, listen to each other carefully, don’t use sarcasm or demeaning language towards someone with a differing opinion. If we give each other a chance to speak without fear of ridicule, we may hear some treasures! If someone’s idea is not clearly stated, respectfully ask questions until the meaning is understood.

Here are some considerations for parents/teachers as they moderate the class discussion (excerpted from the Teacher’s Guide, Page XVI):

See yourself as the moderator of the discussion, seeking to keep it positive, interesting, and creative; allowing students to interact; encouraging further thought without giving lengthy answers. In pursuing this activity in the Introduction Phase, we are still developing a sense of wonder that will propel the students through the rest of the Unit.

You don't have to have all the answers—neither do they. The point of this exercise is to help students to suddenly realize, "Wow! I've never thought of that before. . . I wonder why. . ." Once they've done that, they will begin to dive into the information, looking for the answers to their own questions!

And that, my friends, is powerful.

 

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Teaching Tip 9—Pause & Play

Teaching Tip 9—Pause & Play

Here’s a question for you: How do we engage our kids’ self-motivation?

Do you remember what it was like to walk into a classroom where you were expected to sit still, listen quietly, take notes, read the chapter, and take a test? It seldom actually engaged your interest or invited your ideas, did it?

However, that’s the model. In order to teach 25 children at a time, particularly now that Common Core is the standard in public schools, teachers follow this institutional formula in order to get the job done. But, is it the best way to learn? Does it nurture hungry-to-learn, passionate-to-know students—ones who are self-motivated?

You and I both know the answer is “No, not a chance!”

So, you changed it up. You homeschool your kids (or you are considering the possibilities).  Good for you!!  Here’s the tricky part, though: it’s easy to see what we don’t want to do, but harder to grasp what we can do in order to engage our students and to fire up their self-motivation.

That’s where today’s Teaching Tip fits in. To explain it, I’d like to tell you a short story. . .

In 1999, my family went to New Zealand to attend a YWAM (Youth With a Mission) school. Our teacher one week was a brilliant educator, Rosalie Pedder, who taught us about the different kinds of learners God had created. Her lectures were filled with facts, but her purpose was not to stuff our heads. Rather, it was to engage our hearts and minds. The way she accomplished this was by providing regular opportunities to pause, consider, and play with what we had just heard.

When we allow students to process in ways they enjoy. . .I remember one day in particular. After a thorough description of the Eight Intelligences, she set up eight different stations around the room. Each station had a way of “playing” with what we had just heard, and she encouraged us to go around to each station and do what it said. She set a timer, and off we went, laughing hysterically at some of the crazy things we were attempting. When we had completed our tour around the room, Rosalie sat us down and explained:

“When you hear something for the first time, it’s important to take a break, to reflect on what you heard, to interact with it, even play with it. This ‘recap’ allows your brain the time to process and review what you have heard. That helps you to understand and retain more of this new information, integrating it with what you already know.

"Some of the stations were easy for you, weren’t they? And, the ones you found hard were easy for someone else. When we allow students (young and old) to process in ways they enjoy, it honors the One who created them.”

So, when I revised the History Revealed curriculum, beginning in 2003, I added a process and review section in the Teacher's Guide—entitled Recap the material with an activity—to each Phase One. Once students have read the articlelistened to the stories on CD, and read the Scriptures, it is time to pause. . . Let them play with what they have just learned using one of the eight intelligence suggestions provided.

NOTE: As homeschoolers, you don’t need to set up all eight stations. Just invite your students to choose which suggestion looks like fun to them. Give them half an hour to do this activity and, then, watch their creative ideas spring to life!

Here is an example, taken from Unit 3—The British Empire & Awakenings— in World Empires, World Missions, World Wars:

Spatial: Either individually or in a small group, create a mind-map of the facts you have learned thus far about the British Empire, including its colonies in Asia, the Americas, the South Pacific, and Africa.

Bodily Kinesthetic: Use as many pipe cleaners as needed to create a representation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, his historic voyage, or the effect his theory had upon the nineteenth century.

Interpersonal: In groups of 3, with one student acting the part of a European colonist in Africa, one acting the part of an African, and one acting the part of a Christian missionary, communicate honestly the struggles each has with one or both of the others.

Musical: In a small group, list four songs, whether secular or Christian, that remind you of some aspect of this Unit.

Linguistic: Imagine and rewrite a different ending to the story of the American Civil War. One option would be to write it from the point of view that a divided America would be the quickest and most sure-fire way to end the American experiment in democracy. Another option would be to write it from the perspective that America was divided into numerous countries, much like Europe.

Math-Logical: Make a prediction of what will occur in Africa if the European nations at the Berlin Congress decide it would not be in their best interests to colonize this continent.

Intrapersonal: In reflecting on the Great Prayer Revival and the stories of God moving among people of many nations and ethnicities, write a journal entry where you ponder what it would mean to you personally, and also to our current culture, should God bring this kind of revival once again.

Naturalist: Choose an Australian animal to represent life in Australia or a New Zealand bird to represent life in New Zealand during this era.  It may represent the indigenous people, the Europeans, daily life in that land or some aspect of being colonized.  Be prepared to explain why this particular animal or bird was chosen.

When we invite our kids to take time to play with what they have been learning (in ways that are fun and interesting to them), it can actually engage their self-motivation. So, go ahead. Give them the opportunity to Pause & Play!

 

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Teaching Tip 8—The Spiritual Focus

Teaching Tip 8—The Spiritual Focus

I love seeing whales and birds in the wild, even though it requires a lot of patience. . .and a good pair of binoculars. But, just being in the right place at the right time with a good pair of binoculars does not necessarily ensure success. Why? Because binoculars have to be in focus.

In Focus

Have you ever tried to use binoculars that are out of focus? It's utterly frustrating. . .until you move the central focusing wheel to change what is blurry to crystal clear. Whew! What a relief!! 

In the same way that the binocular’s central wheel brings nature into focus, prayer and Bible-reading bring our lives—our thoughts, our attitudes, our actions—into focused clarity.

Asking God

I remember speaking at a support group in Chicago one year, talking about the incredible way that praying and asking God for insight can breathe life into what we are learning. In the Q & A that followed, a somewhat skeptical mom asked, “My 8th grade daughter hates learning grammar. Are you telling me that if we PRAY, God will help her start to like it?"

What do you suppose might happen if we invited our kids to pray with us, daily asking God to help us understand why grammar (or any other subject) is important, helping us grasp how we might enjoy studying it? My experience is that, when you bring your questions to God, the sky’s the limit when it comes to His answers!!

The scenario that I shared that day went something like this: 

“Okay, so you and your daughter begin to pray and ask God what the big deal is about grammar. . . You tell Him the truth, that it seems pointless to both of you. But, you also ask for wisdom and insight into why it might be worthwhile and how to enjoy learning it.

“A few weeks after you’ve begun to pray about this, your daughter stumbles across the book, Bruchko, by Bruce Olson. She is captivated by Bruce’s story, discovering that he loved languages, that he actually studied linguistics at university before heading to South America. . . And, suddenly she puts two and two together.

Mom!!!!  I just read this book, and I figured out that grammar is like the structure of a language, and that knowing it helps missionaries figure out what the structure of an unwritten language is. . .And, Mom, I get it now!!  I want to learn this and become a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators!!!"

Wow. Though that is just my little sketch of what might happen when they prayed, God's answer would be even better—since it would be personally suited to that woman and her daughter. Prayer is powerful. Reading the Scriptures is life-changing. And, it can dramatically affect your homeschool and your kids.

Integrating the Spiritual into the Academic

Because it is so pertinent, so relevant, and so life-changing—and because homeschooling allows you to take the time you need—we help you bring the spiritual focus to your children's everyday academics. World history offers wonderful opportunities for studying scripture, so we include appropriate Bible readings in the History Revealed curriculum. We also encourage you to pray with and for your students. To help with that, we offer many “Spiritual Emphasis” icons in each Teacher’s Guide. Each one will provide specific suggestions for prayer and spiritual discussions with your students.

The Icon Key at the beginning of each Teacher’s Guide says this about the “Spiritual Emphasis:”

Since this curriculum seeks to understand history in light of what God has done—tracing the history of redemption—and, since the object of the curriculum is to not only gain knowledge of the content but also an understanding of God’s character and nature, there are opportunities in each Unit to engage your students on a spiritual level. This icon can include areas for prayer and discussion, as well as suggestions for activities with a spiritual purpose.

The undergirding spiritual focus of this curriculum transforms your history studies from a mere learning experience to a life-changing adventure!

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