Archive for the ‘Homeschool Advice’ Category

The Curriculum Treasure Hunt

Monday, October 5th, 2015

The Curriculum Treasure Hunt

In the hunt for curriculum, I remember being sidetracked by the pretty colors, the enthusiastic endorsements of fellow homeschoolers, and the reviews written by experts. It’s not that those things weren’t valuable components to making curriculum purchasing decisions. Rather, when I didn’t have a firm vision of what I wanted my home to feel like, I would sometimes purchase a program that undermined the kind of environment I was hoping to establish!

Worse, my lack of confidence sometimes meant I would abandon my intuition, thinking someone else knew better for me than I did for my own family.

There are seven principles that I used in my own life to help me not only determine which programs were worth my financial investment, but also how to get the most benefit from materials I already owned! I talk about them in the Scope Replay posted below. For quick review, here they are:

The Myth of “Open and Go”

All curricula benefits from reading enough about it to understand its philosophy and practice before you begin. Don’t be so quick to expect a book to “self-teach.” Invest up front, and then the program may work easily for you and your kids.

Use Real Time for Self-Education about the Program

It’s okay to read the directions about the program right smack dab in the middle of the day. Use the part of the day when your brain is fresh. Allow your kids to watch a movie or play nearby while you take the time (real time) to understand what you are planning to implement. Everyone will enjoy the program so much more when you do.

Give the Program the “Ole College Try”

Before you ditch a product you were motivated enough to buy, use it for at least 3-4 weeks. Give it time to take root, for your kids to get comfortable.

Introduce One Program at a Time

Don’t try to get all the plates spinning at once. It’s okay to focus on a new math program for a whole day or week without spending a minute reading books or using your language arts programs. Allow you and your kids to investigate, to solve problems, and to become comfortable before introducing another new program.

Ask Your Kids

Involve your children in the curriculum selection and application. Their reactions count and matter.

Boredom is a Valid Reason for Ditching a Program

If you and/or your kids are bored by a curriculum, it is not required that you finish it. You have one life, one limited passage of time with your children. Don’t waste time on a program you or they don’t like.

Use a Variety of Delivery Systems

Make sure you are not only using one style of learning (all workbooks, all online classes, all kinesthetic). Make sure you explore a variety of ways to share lessons with your children.

PRO-TIP: You Control Your Curriculum. It Doesn’t Control You!

Modify it, adjust it, skip chapters in it, end it before the end of the book, take breaks. You get to do what works for YOU.

If you are ready to check out Brave Writer’s materials, take advantage of our “Oops! I Forgot Something” sale in October. Take $15.00 off any purchase over $50.00 for Brave Writer curricula.

Also, for a more in depth look at the 7 Principles for the Curriculum Hunt, check out our Periscope talk below!

Image by Scott Akerman (cc cropped, text added)

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Brain-Based Learning: Part Two

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Brain-Based Learning: Part Two

Home education is a free fall of faith into a kind of learning, more than a set of objectives. We are trusting that the connections our children make between academics and snuggles, gaming and the three R’s will yield such a good overall education, our children will be prepared for the adult world—taking their place as fully qualified adults. We may move between home education and co-ops, public and private schools, tutoring and online courses to achieve our ultimate goals. Yet no matter how the homeschool is configured and no matter which aids we supply to our efforts, the belief is that the foundations we lay in the home as a family will result in both academic and social success—long term.

Yet what happens for most of us is that we flail! We can’t tell if we are making the right kind of progress. We doubt ourselves nearly every step of the way. We front load lots of scheduled academic work, then we back off in favor of delight-directed learning…until one child never leaves the computer for a 24 hour period and we freak out again and go back to daily work pages.

Then we wonder: What works? What am I doing right? If anything? Worse—What am I doing wrong? Everything?

To calm the anxious heart of an educator, it helps to take a bird’s eye look at what it means to learn. That’s the crux of our quest—the horcrux of our quest, really! If we could understand that learning was actually happening, we could relax a little, trust a little, take a few risks with less of the “freak-out” factor.

In last week’s Periscopes, I suggested that we would understand learning better if we looked at the research about the brain—examining what it means to learn. Part One of the Brain-Based Learning Scope has been viewed over 800 times in less than a week. I think it must be resonating! Part Two picks up where Part One left off. Be sure to watch it first.

Also, check out these two websites (they are easy to read and understand):


Caine Learning

I also reference a specific 12 point model that can be found here.

If you step back from the curriculum hunt and understand the objectives of what you are really about—connections in the mind, cognitive development—you can look at what is happening in your home differently. You will focus less on whether you are “covering” the right stuff and more on whether it is taking root, catalyzing investigation, creating those important interconnections, and so on.

P.S. Received this fun comment from Brave Writer mom Venessa:


Thanks for giving these talks on Periscope. I followed at your link so I couldn’t respond but I wanted to share with you that my 11 year old daughter was in the room working and in her peripheral perception was following your talk. She said more than once “See!!!?! She’s right!” Especially for points 7,9, and 11! :)

Thanks again!

Enjoy the Scope, Brain-Based Learning: Part Two!

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The hidden side effects of “not liking writing”

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Why not hating writing is important

One of the hidden side effects of “not liking writing” is “not liking self.” We don’t talk about it much. We think that resistance to writing is a resistance to school or hard work. We tend to believe our kids are being disobedient or lazy.

To “hate” writing as a child usually means the young person has not yet made the connection that what is going on inside is worthy of the page! Heck, many adults have yet to make that connection! The pervasive critique of mechanics and raw thought makes many would-be writers withdraw from public scrutiny.

When we accept the idea that children “hate writing,” we unwittingly turn off the tap to joy in learning. Writing is the chief expression of self in academic life. Even higher math requires explanation and proofs in writing.

Children want to be seen as successful, bright, and capable. If they risk their private thoughts, ideas, and flights of imagination and are met with judgment, they decide that learning itself is not worth the effort. By high school, some stuck writers have checked out of traditional education all together!

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The writing life lives inside your young writers right now—no matter how poor their punctuation, spelling, handwriting, and grammar.

The writing life lives inside your young writers now—no matter
how poor their punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

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They need to know that the writer inside is alive and well—that the mechanics of writing are a necessary challenge to be mastered over time, but not a referendum on the child’s success as a learner or writer.

You can do this for your child every time you value the writing risk. Hold the writing in your palm tenderly, with a look of love. Yes, even the writing that says, “I hate writing” and “This is dumb.”

Underneath those objections is a quieter cry: “What if what I put on paper makes your face look worried or disappointed? What will I do then?”

Start early—value the writing risk, love the child’s self expression, get as much of it to paper as possible, hold it as a sacred crystal vase—sturdy, beautiful, fragile. See the light refracted through it.

Work on mechanics as “no big deal” and “we all get there eventually” and “you don’t have to be a good speller to be a GREAT writer.”

Children raised this way see learning as open to them, and education as satisfying.

This is the gift you can give your children if you protect them from hating writing.

You can do this!

Image by Brave Writer mom Melissa

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Show and Tell: 17 years of great successes and epic fails!

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Show and Tell: 17 years of great homeschool successes and epic fails!

It’s easy to get turned around by all the various strategies for managing this unruly beast: the two horned monster of homeschool and child-rearing. Like most homeschoolers, I meandered between a variety of programs, plans, and philosophies, trying them out. When my kids were small, I plunged into the curricular zeitgeist of the day: KONOS. It was a kinesthetic curriculum that focused on developing character as it taught academics. Tall order for my little rascals! We loved it, though. From the start, we immersed ourselves in activities paired with school subjects. We made a model of an ear canal using a turkey baster, cookie sheets, and rubber hoses. We held a Japanese luncheon for neighbors making tempura, sitting on cushions at a low table, and putting chopsticks in our hair buns!

The pattern of making our learning hand’s on was firmly established. It became my primary objective: to see if I could coax a school subject into an activity or set of activities. For instance, I remember when we read Farmer Boy, we served pie for breakfast alongside both ham AND bacon. Eggs and pancakes too. It was a feast of yumminess followed by a food coma which sent the morning’s math lesson out the window.

Provide emotional safety for educational risks.

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When Johannah fell in love with American Girl Dolls, she started a club with her best homeschooling friends. Each one picked a doll and each family hosted a party with foods, dress-ups, crafts, and games suited to the doll and period in history. When we fell in love with the night sky, my best friends and my family created a solar system teatime after dark—complete with star cut-outs of cheese and crescent moon apple slices. The oldest daughter from the other family came dressed up as Jupiter, bearing a painted red eye. We read poetry and sang songs.

Homeschooling does include skill building. There are a gazillion suggestions (official count) from every quarter about how to manage these necessary tasks, particularly in large families. Try them all! See which ones fit. But remember: this year’s solution may lose traction next year. Or, what makes one child feel secure and successful makes another child feel oppressed. And even more baffling: the moment you subdue the loose threads of housekeeping, car trips, and homeschool into your neat binder, it may all unravel due to ticks, the flu, or an unexpected hail storm!

Homeschool Tip: This year’s solution may lose traction next year.

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It’s maddening! And exhilarating. I wouldn’t rob you of the journey and all you will learn on your own.

The truth is: our homeschools wind up looking like us for better or worse. I’d say: for better. It can’t be helped! I have friends who are homeschool parents and both are in the medical field. One is a transcriptionist for a laboratory and the other supervises medical tests for P&G products. Is it shocking that their three kids are now a doctor and two nurses? No. Is it surprising that my kids are into foreign languages, reading, writing, the Internet, and Shakespeare? Um, no.

Indulge what you are good at, right in front of your children, so that they may carry on the family genetic dispositions with even more competence than you had! It’s one of the ways we make the world better. Play with homeschool philosophies the way your kids play with soccer balls—kick them around, aim them for the goal, pass them off between children, bounce them on your knees, and then take a rest and see if you want to do that again.

Play with homeschool philosophies
the way your kids play with soccer balls.

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There’s no formula that works for everyone—every homeschooler or every child. But somewhere in all that investigating and cheerful exploration is your homeschool! Relish it!

Here is yesterday’s periscope talk with an EXCLUSIVE VIEW of my kids’ homeschool products over the years!

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The Enchanted Education

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

The Enchanted Education

What is being learned, exactly, when your kids walk with you on a trail in the woods?

What are they gaining when they lie on their backs on the trampoline, looking at the sky?

What’s educational about visiting Disneyland or the zoo with an annual pass?

Is there educational benefit to meandering through a farmer’s market or picnicking by a pond?

I remember days of enchantment. There was the afternoon my girls made fairies out of fabric and pipe cleaners. They created little houses out of leaves and sticks, and then planted the fairies in their homes in the nooks and crannies of tree branches and bushes.

Our little homeschool brood took trips to the art museum so frequently, each child had a favorite painting. The quiet, the color, the high ceilings, the Chihuly chandelier, the post cards in the gift shop… magical.

In those outings and experiences, time moved molasses slow, deliberately, peacefully (for the most part), with pleasure and focus.

The Enchanted EducationImage by Steven Depolo (cc cropped, tinted)

And yet…were these outings, these experiences ‘educational’?

I’m certainly not the first home educator to strip an event of magic through ‘adding information.’

Fairies? Here’s a book about the history of fairies. The act of making little houses isn’t enough. We need information to legitimize the craft. Let’s read, narrate, and discuss fairies, and then write about it.

The woods? Shouldn’t we pluck wild flowers (by name) or make bark tracings or compare birds to a field guide? We walk quietly, together. Is pleasure and fresh air enough? Surely not! Here—use these binoculars, draw this tree, note the temperature in your notebook.

Sometimes the most sacred moments in our days with our children

show no outward educational value.

We can’t quantify them. Books and records ruin the spirit—the shared purpose, invisible, intangible, yet felt by all.

The Enchanted EducationImage by Steven Depolo (cc cropped, tinted)

The enchanted education.

Collect these moments like treasures.

Set them on a shelf in your heart—the time you all soaked your tennis shoes in the tide pools; the trip to the frozen yogurt stand that led to sitting side-by-side on a wall in the sunshine, licking; the weekly visit to the zoo where the lions and tigers nearly became your family pets.

You can’t say or know what is being learned. You know it by heart, by feel, by love, by pleasure, by shared memory.

These little wisps of attentive focus without an intended program lay the rails for so much learning that is by the book. It’s just that you won’t always see the correlation—because this is a work happening on the interior, person by person, connection to connection, created through peace.

The threads of happiness and opportunity, creativity and exposure in outings and long stretches of focused attention forge connections, invisible to you. Education results.

The Enchanted Education. Trust it.

For more about an Enchanted Education, watch this Periscope Talk given live yesterday:

Top Image by Mikael Leppa (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

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