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!

Are you using the right learning style?

BooksWhy is it that some kids just "naturally" do well in a school setting? What happens to the ones who approach learning from a different way? And, when we homeschool, HOW do we handle all these different kinds of learners? Though this is based on an aspect of Meyers-Briggs personality types, I use more informal terms to describe four different "learning styles." Understanding this can make a huge difference in our homeschooling!

If you would like to see how this concept of learning styles can easily and naturally work in your homeschool, please check out my History Revealed curriculum.

Essentials Packs - Diana Waring Presents

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Artificial Curriculum? Part 2

Artificial Curriculum? Part 2

Last week, I shared the story of making blueberry muffins two different ways. . . And then compared that to homeschool curriculum. (Read it here.)

Realistically, is it possible for our kids to enjoy an appetizing experience in learning, one that leaves them wanting more? If so, what are the practical steps to take? And, what kind of curriculum assists us in this endeavor?

The analogy

What goes into making blueberry muffins from scratch?

Very few people grow their own wheat, sugar cane, and blueberries, and not many own their own chickens or dairy cow. But, you don't have to be a farmer to make good meals! When I made blueberry muffins from scratch, I used flour, sugar, salt, oil, eggs, milk and blueberries, all of which were available in the grocery store. I read a recipe in a cookbook written by someone else.

Does that make sense? My part was fairly simple: buy the stuff and follow some directions.

When you think about it, though, you might recognize that this is basically the same process as making the artificially flavored, store-bought mix—I bought a box and followed its directions.

The difference

The most important difference is that when I made muffins from scratch, I had the freedom to make better choiceschoices that were not available with the store-bought mix. For better health, I chose whole wheat pastry flour. For better quality, I chose fresh blueberries. For better flavor, I added freshly grated nutmeg (which isn't in my blueberry muffin recipe). Fabulous muffins—created with a reasonable effort—that were eagerly eaten by all.

Homeschool curriculum 

What determines whether our homeschool curriculum is fresh, drawing students into a love of learning, or artificial, ruining their appetite?

Questions to ask about the curriculum:

  1. Is it a pour-out-the-education curriculum—all I add is eight hours per day?
  2. Am I afraid to take a day off for the zoo or a trip to the library—for fear my kids might fall behind?
  3. Does it require my children to spit out prepackaged facts, rather than interacting with the material and asking their own questions?
  4. Do I feel intimidated by what other kids know, regardless of the unique and valuable things my kids DO know?
  5. Does it allow time and opportunity for kids to make their own choices, follow their own rabbit trail, and explore their own interests?
  6. Am I pressured to do everything in the curriculum? Or, can I make choices, make substitutions, to cater to my children's needs and interests?

Choices YOU can make, regardless of your curriculum:

  1. look in education materials—curriculum, books on homeschooling methods, homeschool blogs—to find “recipes" for things like fun ways to learn prepositions;
  2. try something different now and thenwhether a different book, a different activity, a different curriculum, or a different approach.
  3. stock your shelves with good materials—fascinating books, audio CDs, DVDs, art supplies, math manipulatives, curriculum you like—and have a willingness to let mess happen.

Elementary grades requires easy efforts—looking at pictures of butterflies and then visiting a butterfly house, using modeling clay to make colored balls for homemade math manipulatives, or reading one of the Little House books outloud and then making a recipe for one of the dishes described.

High schooled homeschoolers could stretch to moderate efforts—interviewing professionals to better understand possible career choices, working as volunteers at a zoo or garden, making homemade soap from lye, or creating new games based on history. You may find sometimes that you've bitten off more than you can chew because an attempt is too difficult, but even then, your kids are experiencing the fun and the interest of something new.

The enthusiasm generated by trying something new, even if it "fails," will actually provide a large measure of learning for your kids—"Wow, making soap can cause an explosion!" This enthusiasm in learning will carry over into other attempts. (And, yes, I learned from experience that making soap with my high school student can cause an explosion.)

BlueberriesWhen you make healthy choices—where you are free to cater to specific needs and interests, where you are given the freedom to add some of this and change some of that, where you are in control of what actually goes into the mix, when the curriculum is your servant rather than your master—your children will become far more motivated to learn.

They will actually say, "Mom, is it time for school yet?" because, when the muffins taste better, they are eager for seconds.

If this resonates with you, I encourage you to look at my History Revealed world history curriculum, which is designed for all your students to be able to thrive.

LearnMore_BlueButton

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Artificial Homeschool Curriculum?

Artificial Homeschool Curriculum?

 

Here's a homeschool riddle for you: How are a muffin and a curriculum alike?

Answer: Whether or not we devour it!!

The story

Some years ago, I was asked to make muffins in a hurry by my mother, using a store-bought mix she handed to me. Since I enjoy cooking, I was glad to help her out. Unfortunately, I licked the spoon when it was over.

Mistake. The taste was awful!

The contrast

A few days later, I was to speak to a group of homeschoolers, so I decided to create a taste test in order to highlight the connection between muffins and curriculum.

I made a batch of store-bought blueberry muffin mix (with artificial blueberries), and a batch of homemade blueberry muffins (with fresh blueberries). The assembled folks got to sample a bit of each, and were then asked to comment on the flavors. Would you be surprised to hear that they each loved the homemade muffins (eagerly eating every morsel), and wouldn’t even finish half of the artificial-blueberry-store-mix muffin?

Why is that not a surprise? Obviously, nothing can compare with fresh, quality ingredients.

Quality in, quality out.

The same is true in education. To see this for yourself, try this experiment:

Offer a child a worksheet on bears from a textbook you know is boring, and watch his level of enthusiasm. Did it drop like a brick?

Then offer the same child a trip to the zoo to see bears. What happens to enthusiasm in the second scenario? It skyrockets, doesn’t it? 

"Mom!! Those are BEARS!! Look at them!!! Wow, they are AMAZING!!"

I know what you’re thinking:

“No way!  I can’t entertain my kids all day long.”

“No one taught me that way, and I did pretty well.”

“The real world isn’t like that, and they better learn now that life is boring.”

“How on earth would I keep up that kind of schedule?“

"How on earth would I teach all the subjects?”

“How on earth would we get anything else (like laundry) done?”

Did I miss your comment??? Though most of you wish that it were possible to give your kids fresh, quality ingredients in their education, you may have resigned yourselves to the necessity of an artificial, boring, standard curriculum.

But—what if it were possible?

Suspend your arguments for a moment and ask, “How much more would my kids enjoy learning if it were fresh and interesting (like making muffins with real blueberries)?"

Then ask yourself, “Could my kids enjoy learning if we tailored it to their particular tastes and interests (like making muffins with apples instead of blueberries)?"

If you are willing—for the sake of a satisfying educational experience—to break out of the box, then join me next time for Part 2, where I'll offer some guidelines and suggestions on how to evaluate whether your homeschool curriculum is artificial or fresh.

Slight adjustments, not major overhauls.

Btw, I don't subscribe to the you-have-to-do-it-all-by-yourself style of homeschooling—where you need three Ph.D’s to create detailed lesson plans for self-designed curriculum for every child, printed on your own printing press with paper you made yourself—in order to give them a “fresh” quality in their learning. Instead, I am talking about making some slight adjustments that could have your children eagerly asking, “Mom, is it time for school yet?”

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Actively Engage Learning. . .

Actively Engage Learning. . .

In the last five blogs, we have considered these things:

But what does this mean in real life?  How do we move from theory to experience?

Well, I would like to draw upon the world of athletics to help us at this point.

First, analyze these two pictures.  What differences do you notice?baseballWhat are some terms you could use to describe the two groups of people in these photos?

In the top photo, how active are the folks involved in that game of tug-of-war?

In contrast, how active are the folks who are sitting in the stadium?

Not to insult your intelligence, but which group is more athletically engaged?

Of course.  All the folks involved in tug-of-war are fully engaged in the experience. The folks in the stadium may be interested, or, then again, maybe not. We have no idea of monitoring the involvement of the spectators, but I can promise you that they are not nearly as engaged as the players on the field OR the people pulling the rope.

And that is what we're after in education.  We want our children to have the opportunity to fully participate in the learning experience, not watch it pass by as a mildly involved spectator. We want them pulling in information, hitting a home-run in learning math facts or reading fluently or understanding WWII!

And, dear friends, there are a number of tried-and-true ways to do this.

No kidding.

I have to warn you, though, it's not going to look like education-as-usual.  It will probably look a whole lot more like the top photo—having a lot of fun, playing outside, working as a team, and putting your whole heart into it!

If that sounds intriguing, we are going to look next at some of the unique ways we are wired to learn—and how tapping into that can engage your kids in ways you would never have anticipated. That's when homeschooling gets exciting!!

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The Power of Laughter in Learning

The Power of Laughter in Learning

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine.  Terry Small is "The Brain Guy"—and one of the most engaging speakers on the planet!  He talks about learning and about the brain—how dry is that, right? But I have watched him hold an audience in the palm of his hand for more than two hours, which is nearly impossible. . . How does Terry do it?  He utilizes all that he has learned about the brain in order to communicate effectively to us about OUR brains.

One of the most important "techniques" Terry employs is laughter.  He says and does funny things during his presentations—which instantly engages the brains of everyone in the audience. He not only does it to help them stay tuned in, but he also teaches us to do it with our students when we are wanting them to stay tuned in.  You see, Terry teaches that we are wired to perk up, to listen more attentively, to engage, to remember when laughter is involved.

In fact, this is one of the amazing discoveries that have been made by researchers studying the brain.  Check it out on Terry's website, in his Brain Bulletin #15. (While you're there, I'd encourage you to sign up for his monthly Brain Bulletin—free!)

Where else have we heard this idea of the value of laughter making things easier to do, easier to learn?

Spoonful of sugar Well, if you don't mind me fudging a bit, I'd like to draw from that fount of wisdom, Mary Poppins.  After all, she is the one who taught us, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down—in a most delightful way!"

A spoonful of laughter surely does help the learning go down. . . deep into the brain's long-term memory storage.

Which leads us to the real source of wisdom.  Proverbs 17:22 tells us, "A merry heart does good, like medicine." 

I know you may have thought about this proverb in connection with physical health.  That's great!  But will you consider this in light of what you have just learned about your brain's health?

Brain

With this in mind, I will write a prescription—a homeschool prescription—for you and your children.

      • Laugh.  Intentionally find things to tickle the funny bone in your family.
      • Laugh often. Read about funny animals, read funny jokes, play funny games—include it in your daily schedule.
      • Laugh gently. Laugh about things that everyone finds funny, rather than jokes told at someone else's expense.
      • Laugh humbly. Laugh at your own mistakes, not at the mistakes of others.
      • Laugh joyfully. Laugh with delight at the humor you find in the universe—like cleaner fish and platypus and river otters.

You know, this was such an important part of our own homeschooling journey that I've been talking about it for years.  In fact, when it came time to write the History Revealed curriculum, we made sure that there were many opportunities for laughter and healthy humor!

Remember, stay relational!

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