Monday, June 18, 2007

Testing, testing...

In states where yearly testing isn't required, many home school parents come to the question; "Should we have our child tested?" This is a brief explanation of why we had our first grader tested this year.

First, my husband, though he is supportive of our homeschooling adventure wanted some sort of proof that Keller was really learning all he needed to know. I know he was kind of uneasy when he found out how little time was actually devoted to academics (3 hrs. max). He wondered how Keller could possibly be learning what he needed to in that amount of time when the public schools apparently needed so much more of our child's time to do the same. Also, we would skip a day here or there or sometimes even a week during the holidays, or when someone wasn't feeling well. He kept asking me, "Do you think he's learning everything?" I kept saying "yes", but he kept asking. Finally I asked him if it would make him feel more at ease if I gave Keller a standardized national test. This turned out to be an easy process. I ordered the test from Family Learning Organization, administered the test over about a week, and sent it in for scoring. The scores came back about a week later, and that was the end of "Do you think he's really learning everything? How do you think he compares with other kids his age?" In The Well Trained Mind it is quoted "Test results demand respect." I've found this to be true. I must say, it put my fears to rest, too. Even if the test results had been different, at least we could have seen where we needed to fill in the holes.

The second reason why it seemed like a good idea to have him tested was just to get him used to the experience of taking tests. Sooner or later he will have to take one, and if it's not a new experience, hopefully it will involve less anxiety for him. That's it.

I know there are other ways in which to gauge how much a child knows, but as a tool for capitulating any homeschool naysayers, testing still seems to be the gold standard.

Until later,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Guidelines for Homeschool Success

Yes, I know that we've only been at it for a year, but here are some things that I've learned along the way. These are my top tips for a successful homeschool.

1. School happens every day. No ifs ands or buts. I have found time and again that if I slack of for even one day, then I will hear about it for at least a week in the form of whining and complaining. When the kids know that chores and school need to be done before anything else, the complaining magically goes away. Your consistency is absolutely necessary if you want cheerful obedience when it's time to crack the books.

2. Get up before your kids! If I make it a point to get up before my kids, I'm so much more ahead. I can get the dishes unloaded and a load of laundry put in and be showered before I need to respond to requests for matching pants, and new hair do's.

3. Be cheerful. If you approach school with a smile on your face and some excitement in your voice, it will be contagious. If you get to the school room use a bored voice and a "we have to get this done" attitude, once again, your kids will catch that attitude too. Come to school as if it's an adventure (which it is), and you'll have excited kids, ready to learn.

4. Choose good materials. It's possible to wrestle an education out of black and white science books from the 1960's that you found at a garage sale, but I prefer to use the exciting homeschool materials that are being produced today. The majority of these are excellent teaching tools with little or no preparation required from the mom. Using the most excellent teaching materials you can afford makes a huge difference in you child's learning. If a program or curriculum isn't working for you, SWITCH IT! That's the beauty of homeschooling, the freedom to choose what is best for your children and you!

5. Throw in some flair now and then. One week this year, the kids were lagging and seemed really bored. In a moment of desperation, I thought up "the school candle". I lit the school candle whenever we started school and blew it out when we were done. I don't know why, but the kids absolutely loved this. Sometimes, my son gets disenchanted with one of his subjects. I find that taking a few days and playing math games instead of doing his Singapore workbook will infuse some life into the subject. When he got bored with writing and spelling, I taught him a few cursive letters and he ate it up! Try to make things fresh every now and then. Sometimes all it takes is lighting a candle!

Happy homeschooling,

Happy homeschooling,

Monday, June 11, 2007

In Favor of Schooling Through the Summer!

It is so tempting to break for the summer like everyone else! Here, a few reasons why you might want to rethink taking an entire summer siesta.
First and most obvious; kids will forget much less if they continue to work through the summer. I have heard others say that the entire first third of the math books deal with math from the previous year so as to bring kids up to speed from the long summer mental sabbatical. It just doesn't make sense to not keep up! It seems to me that if you go on through the summer, your kids will be that much more ahead in their academics.
Second, you don't have to struggle through that difficult first month or so of school in the fall when it seems the kids brains are still asleep and their academic habits have been forgotten. I always notice that when we take a break for the holidays or some other reason, even if it's just for a week, it takes twice the effort to get everybody going again! If they're already used to schoolwork then you can continue seamlessly into the next school year.
Third, it's fun! By about the third day of summer, kids are bored anyway. Why not continue school with it's science experiments and history projects, math games and journal writing? I have found so far that if I keep it fun and loose and have a good attitude myself, my kids get a kick out of learning! Summer is a great time for all those big projects or educational field trips or day trips that you never seem to get to in the colder busier months of the year. Why not take the kids to an abandoned field and let them do an archaeology dig? Have them set up a small business selling things to learn about money and how to run a business-it could even be something as simple as a table and chairs and a pitcher of lemonade to sell.
Summer is a great time of year. Time for daydreaming, swimming, playing with friends, and time for learning! Make sure you allow enough time for the fun things of summer and add a couple of educational projects and your kids won't complain about summer school!
Until later,