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!

Demystifying Education, Part One

Demystifying Education, Part One

In our quest to educate our children, sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.

You know what I mean.  There you are, trying to manueuver three children (or 1 or 6 or 12) through math (or lit or science or history), and it doesn't look anything like school.  Instead, it is much closer to herding cats—which is next to impossible.  Why did it seem so easy when you listened to that speaker, or read about it in that homeschooling book, or watched that neighbor do it? 

Well, here's the deal.  Math, lit, science, history are all trees.  They are part of your children's education, but if you don't know the size and shape of the forest, you might feel lost.  If only you had a map, or someone who knew the forest well enough to help you make it safely through!  Wouldn't that make all the difference?

With that in mind, can you and I have the talk that I wish someone had had with me when I began my homeschooling journey?  You just might find a whole lot more joy in your homeschooling—enjoying those massive trees—than you knew was possible.

Ready?  Here we go.

Demystifier Number One:

Children are always learning.

They may not be learning what you had hoped, like the date of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. It may be that they have just learned how to appear as if they were studying diligently while they enjoy a bout of daydreaming. Or, perhaps, instead of learning that 3x3=9, they learn that math is something to be dreaded because Mom gets upset if they don't finish on time. But they are learning something, either way.

The truth is that people -- young and old -- are wired to learn. Learners range from people eagerly scanning the morning newspaper for the latest football scores to a con artist learning a new way to do an online scam. It could be a microbiologist looking for a new virus or a surfer looking for a better beach. Learning happens. We are all constantly learning something we want or need to know.

So, the question is not, "How do I get my kids to learn?" but "How do I get my kids to learn the things that will benefit them?"

8 Kinds of Smart & Learning Styles

Two of the most powerful answers to that question are 8 Kinds of Smart and Learning Styles. When we begin to discover some of the unique ways our children are wired to learn, we can offer educational opportunities that are right up their alley. A basic understanding of the 8 Kinds of Smart and the 4 Learning Styles will become invaluable tools you can use to choose curriculum and adapt the curriculum you already have.

For instance, if you have (as I did) a child who is constantly moving, fidgeting, twisting, jumping, running, etc., and it is time to teach multiplication, then offer that one the opportunity to MOVE while learning 3x3=9. When my son was offered the chance to do jumping jacks while learning multiplication tables, his eyes lit up, and his body literally jumped for joy. He was not only jumping, however, he was learning. In a much shorter amount of time than I would have thought possible, this Body Smart learner memorized his times tables. (Also, check here for the Sensor Learning Style.)

Or, ask yourself, "Do my children love to be around others, play games together, dialogue and discuss?" If so, then provide educational opportunities for these People Smart learners to be with people while they are learning. This might be at a co-op, at a learning party you host, on a field trip, with a neighbor. . .the possibilities are nearly endless, as long as there are people within shouting distance, especially yourself. It can make all the difference for these kinds of learners! (And, check here for the Feeler Learning Style.)

On the other hand, do they prefer books, numbers, orderly schedules, and knowing exactly what is expected of them? If that is the case, your Logic Smart (also called Number Smart) learner will enjoy a well-planned lesson assignment—where they can see from start to finish what will happen and what is expected. This kind of organization will assure them, and can set them free to love learning.  (This also corresponds to aspects of the Thinker Learning Style.)

Or, do you have a child who is always coming up with new ideas about how to get the job done? This is the Intuitor Learning Style, which could show in any of the 8 Kinds of Smart. . . For instance, your child might suddenly decide to put on roller skates in order to take the trash out, or they might figure out how to spell "encyclopedia" by composing their own rhythmic melody. Invite these creative learners to be part of the process of deciding what educational opportunities might fit your family. If State history is on your schedule, your Intuitor student might brainstorm this plan: first, read aloud a library book on the pioneers of your state, and, next, to make a board game called Wagons Ho!—with miniature horses as the game pieces. It might seem impractical to you, but if you set these learners free to intuit their way through learning, the result will be delight and motivation to learn more.

Whatever you do, make it your quest to teach them in such a way that they can love learning.

Remember, stay relational!

Next week, we'll talk about the 2nd element in demystifying education.

 

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Little by Little

You know the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?”  Well, thank heavens, I’m not a dog.  Though this tired cliché is often used to describe what we can NOT do, I’m here to tell you that there are specific pathways we can walk in order to love learning, whether little tykes or old fogies.



So, to illustrate this point, let me share a little story.



Some months ago, my dear friend, Bernadette, contacted me from Australia to ask if I might enjoy taking art lessons with her via Skype.  She knew that I was in a season of resting, and thought it might be therapeutic.  Isn’t that amazing?  Don’t you love friends??



There was a bit of a problem with this scenario, however.  For the past 57 years, I’ve been an absolute klutz when it comes to drawing, painting, or anything requiring more than your basic stick figures.  It was more than a little daunting to think of having art lessons with a professional artist, but, since she was so positive about the idea, I thought it was at least worth trying.



So, on the first lesson, once we worked through a few technical computer difficulties, Bernie announced to me that we were going to approach my art lessons in a non-traditional manner.  Though most beginning art students spend a lot of time learning how to draw, she thought that I would be much more motivated if I could do things with color.  So, to my astonishment, she said that we would start watercolor painting in the next lesson.



Gulp.  I assumed that Bernie had missed the memo that said I am not an artist, not a painter, not talented artistically.  But, on the other hand, she was absolutely right about how excited I suddenly became when I found that I would get to play with color!



Our next few lessons focused on painting apples and feathers, in addition to looking at some beautiful art masterpieces, and talking about line, tone and color.  But, in the midst of explaining a bit about color, she happened to show me something she was doing with another class.  It was a half-finished painting of a rainbow lorikeet.



If you haven’t been to Australia, you might not be familiar with this absolutely gloriously-colored bird.  It is so common in Australia that I think most folks there don’t even recognize what a show-stopper this bird is!



Here’s a photo of a rainbow lorikeet, so you can see for yourself.



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When I saw Bernie’s painting, I squealed, “Oh, can I do a rainbow lorikeet, too????”  Though I am sure it was not originally the next step in her lesson plan for me, she recognized that my enthusiasm would motivate me and carry me much further into watercolor.  And, bravely, she said, “Why, YES!”



As we were working together on painting this lorikeet a few nights ago, Bernie told me something revolutionary—at least, it seemed radically new to me.  Painting the feathers of the bird, Bernie said:



“Diana, you know, if you’re in a hurry, you can just drop a bunch of pigment onto the paper.  It’s not as nice, but you can do it.  However, if you want to get a beautiful effect, just take your time.  Take a little bit of pigment and paint a bit, then let it dry.  After awhile, come back to that same spot and add a little bit more pigment.  In this way, as you create the painting, little by little, layer upon layer, it will result in a luminescence and a reality that is not possible when you’re in a hurry.”



As I was considering today’s blog, I realized that Bernie’s brilliant approach to teaching illustrates some of the most powerful pathways for learning, regardless of the subject or the age of the student.  So, let’s consider what they are:



First, Bernie knows me.  She knows my passion for color, though we are on opposite sides of the world and quite different in our expression of color.  (She creates exquisite pieces of art that are nearly white on white, while I delight in strong colors.)  She also knows that I was feeling hopelessly inept as an art student.



Second, because of this knowledge, she modified the traditional art curriculum in order to ignite my enthusiasm and engage me in painting.  Working with my strength (a love of color) helped me to get past the obstacle of thinking I could not learn this subject.



Third, Bernie was flexible in her lesson plan.  When she saw my excitement over painting a lorikeet, she was willing to change her plans because she knew that it was an opportunity to captivate me with the subject.



Fourth, Bernie taught me to do things little by little.  Rather than requiring me to create a painting in one session, she encouraged me to work on it a bit, come back and do some more, and to take as much time as I needed.



What is the take-away from this little story?



More than any teacher on the planet, you know your kids.  You have insight into what they are passionate about, and what makes them feel inept.



More than any other teacher on the planet, you have the freedom to modify the curriculum in order to work with the specific interests of your students.  Do they love dance?  Then incorporate dance into their studies.  For instance, let them interpret what they’ve learned in history through a bit of choreography.



More than any other teacher on the planet, you can be flexible with your lesson plan and schedule.  If you see a sudden interest arising in your student, then make it a priority, change your schedule, and allow it in your lesson plan.  (Before you run away screaming, “Not another thing in my lesson plan!!!!,” let me assure you that I am going to take each one of these points over the next few blogs and flesh them out for you, so you can see that you will not be overwhelmed or have more added to your plate.  If anything, you will probably find new space in your schedule as you toss some things that haven’t been working!)



Finally, more than any other teacher on the planet, you can give your students the glorious liberty of doing things little by little.  Rather than huge blobs of multiplication tables or phonics or chemistry (which can be daunting for anyone), you can allow them to take things slowly and in increments.  This removes the huge burden of having to do things perfectly, of having to learn things instantly, or of trying to master something when you’re a newbie and overwhelmed.



Believe me, once a student gets excited, then little by little, anything is possible!



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Here's my first painting of a rainbow lorikeet, thanks to Bernie's brilliant instruction. . .


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Taking the Charlotte Mason approach

 



“The question is not, -- how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education -- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” 

Charlotte Mason



Ever thought of that before?  What exactly is the end goal of education?  Where do you want your child to be in the end, and are the methods you are using achieving that?



Its important to stop on a regular basis and reconsider our approach to homeschooling.   Are we allowing our children to grow to their full capacity, or are we holding them back with our methods? 



Through the years, there have been some very influential people who have taken the time to reconsider the very foundations of education and to offer helpful tips that can guide us along the way. 



One of those women is Charlotte Mason. 





Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived during the mid 1800's and devoted her life to improving the quality of education for children.  



She was an only child, born in Bangor, and educated at home by her parents.  When she was only 16 she lost her mother, and her father died the following year.  



Left alone, she enrolled in the Home and Colonial Society where she trained to become a teacher and actually earned the First Class Certificate.  For more than 10 years she taught school and it was during this season that she began to develop her vision for a "liberal education for all."  Her definition of "liberal" was a generous and broad education that was available for every single child, not only  those of the upper class.  



“...my object is to show that the chief function of the child--his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life--is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses...” 

   Charlotte Mason



Over the years, Charlotte Mason developed an entire education approach.  Her method was based on a three part model of education.  She believed Education was an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.  



Charlotte defined “Atmosphere,” as the surroundings in which the child grows up. According to her one-third of the child's education was drawn from his learning environment.  



She defined “Discipline,” as the practice of good habits.  Charlotte said another third of a child's education was comprised of the useful habits that they formed at an early age.  



Lastly, Charlotte defined "life" in terms of academics.  Charlotte believed it was important to provide children with living thoughts and ideas rather than isolated facts. 



You may have heard of the term "living books."  In contrast to dry, boring textbooks, living books are books that are full of living color and details, that engage the reader, and draw him into the story. 



The heart of the Charlotte Mason approach is making learning a part of every day life and encouraging children to discover things for themselves in a way that is fun and meaningful!  



Our curriculum, History Revealed, is similarly designed to make learning purposeful, engaging, and enjoyable!



Due to these shared goals, it is quite possible to combine the Charlotte Mason approach to education with our History Revealed curriculum.  We asked our friend Catherine Levison to create an explanation for us of how the two could work together.  She kindly created a weekly schedule to demonstrate how two can intertwine.  



According to Catherine Levison: " Both the Charlotte Mason method and Diana’s approach incorporate chronological order, original eye witness accounts, art, field trips, plays and costume making, student illustrations, time lines, map work and the always important “spring-boarding” to literary books. Both approaches use hands-on learning, avoid boredom and bring history alive. Charlotte Mason parents will immediately recognize compatibility in many elements with which they are already familiar. The schedule (to view the pdf, 4-Phase schedule, CLICK HERE) shows how directly the Charlotte Mason, short lesson approach is incorporated in the History Revealed structure. CM moms ought to love History Revealed!!"



 



To read more about how the Charlotte Mason approach can be integrated with History Revealed click here 


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