Archive for the ‘Homeschool Advice’ Category

Homeschooling is Lonely

Homeschooling is Lonely

Lonely thoughts: am I doing it right? Doing enough? What if I fail?

Lonely days: you and your kids slogging through, no one entering your house to give you relief, no one else planning a lesson or setting up the art project or supervising PE while you take a break in the teacher’s lounge.

Lonely outings: a field trip of 5—you and your three kids—in a sea of school children and teachers, or alternatively, the only person with kids in tow while people wonder what they’re doing “out of school.”

Lonely self: wanting friends, not sure who will be your friend, wondering how to find them, make them, keep them, coordinate with them, manage the interactions between your kids and theirs, how to fit in when you don’t have the same philosophy or religion or educating style.

It’s a creeping need—at first, the joy of choosing to spend all day every day with your kids is rewarding, fulfilling, and need-meeting. Over time, the craving for adult contact and affirmation becomes profound, powerful, necessary.

The Internet helps—online conversations can tie us together and give us a place to gather—our own water cooler.

Co-ops help—offering a place for parents to chat while kids get instruction you didn’t have to prepare.

Yet it’s more than that.

Underneath the loneliness is this:
a craving to be understood, to be accepted.

Can we say our truths, our worries, our different opinions and still be accepted and known by the other homeschoolers? Can we share about our philosophy of education without it raising suspicion or creating rifts?

And what if you are not in the majority homeschooling community? What if you come from a different faith or no faith? How do you find friends then?

The hardest part of homeschooling for me was the feeling that I had to qualify to be a member of a given group. The rejection, scrutiny, and exclusion I’ve experienced while homeschooling was excruciating and not unique to me. I know homeschoolers who gave up home education because they literally had no options for community involvement.

If homeschooling is going to thrive, it has to expand and include.

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If you are a human being, your beliefs will shift over a lifetime. It’s impossible to guarantee that what you believe is true now will remain in the same configuration for the rest of your life. If you home educate, you are examining those beliefs daily (because you are studying, reading, and discussing ideas all day every day).

When we form groups around beliefs, we teach people to pretend. We say that you must deny the part of yourself that is curious or disturbed or doubts in order to retain membership in the community. That kind of group fosters vigilance to uphold a single perspective, where suspicion becomes a mode of operation rather than support and kindness. Suddenly the strictures of the group become more important than building supportive relationships around home education.

The best homeschool friendships weather change—create space to revise, grow, experiment, and explore—in education models, in religious affiliation, in non-religious affiliation, in various political beliefs, in parenting-styles.

The weakest friendships are built around reinforcing the party-line—and avoiding the discomfort of difference.

The greatest suffering occurs when someone fails to live up to the group’s stated beliefs and is kicked out or shunned or rejected (or is told that their family is now dangerous to others—that one hurt me the most).

We can cure loneliness in homeschool. We do it by building communities that welcome people committed to the daring adventure of bringing education to life for their children. That’s the ground floor of friendship.

Everything else? Fodder for rich conversations over brunch and mimosas at Mimi’s.

Love one another.


The Homeschool Alliance

How to Find Quality New Books for Kids

How to find new and quality books for kids

Finding quality literature for children can be a challenge. Yes, there are the old classic mainstays, and there’s nothing wrong with those and they can certainly be enriching for children to read. But books are an important part of building your child’s cultural literacy and kids lit (or children’s literature) today is brimming with excellent and imaginative new titles.

Cultural literacy is important for kids. It builds a common vocabulary with their peers using cultural “touchstones” which hone their abilities to communicate effectively. In other words, to understand and be understood broadly.

But how to find good kids lit? As with all genres, there’s going to be a lot that you or your kids don’t jive with for whatever reasons. Trying to find new fiction that is current and exciting, but also appropriate for your family, can be daunting and sometimes it feels much easier to simply fall back on tried and true classic titles. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, don’t get us wrong, but it can mean your kids are missing out on the richness, diversity, and cultural experience of contemporary works.

Know your terms.

Middle Grade typically refers to books intended for readers between the ages of 8-12.

YA (or Young Adult) is meant for readers between the ages of 12-18, and typically features protagonists in adolescence or early adulthood, and can sometimes include more mature subject matter. Check out this Brief History of YA YouTube video from Epic Reads for some more information and background on YA literature.

There is some crossover between these categories (sometimes you’ll see a Middle Grade novel in the YA section, as well as the other way around), but for the most part these categories can be extremely helpful to know when you’re searching for new books. You probably wouldn’t want to get a YA book for an 11-year-old, but on the flip side your 15-year-old might roll their eyes if you hand them a Middle Grade book.

Own Voices is a term that has been popularized recently. Put simply, Own Voices stories are when the author of the story belongs to the group or experience they are writing about, particularly when those groups and experiences are marginalized.

For example, a book with an Asian American main character written by an Asian American would be Own Voices, but if the story were written by someone who is not Asian American it would not be Own Voices. Although diverse books that are not Own Voices can still have value, it is good to keep in mind where the stories your family consumes are coming from and how accurate their representation is.

Know where to look.

GoodReads is a great resource for finding books and they even provide lists that will tell you, for example, what the hot new Middle Grade titles are. You can be as general or specific in your searches as you want. Keep in mind that book reviews are user generated content and unfortunately aren’t always kid-friendly.

Amazon also has a feature that allows you to search for books by age and you can obviously read the reviews there as well.

Once you’ve found some books that look promising, you can also look them up on Common Sense Media to help gauge what kind of content will be in them. Their book section is not the most extensive but if the titles are newer and popular they will usually be included.

If you’re looking for multicultural kids lit, Scholastic has a great resource for finding diverse titles and how to spot good books for kids that avoid stereotypes. Although it’s written for teachers in a traditional classroom, this criteria can still be broadly applicable for use in your homeschool.

And lastly, finding more recent quality releases can literally be as simple as visiting your local bookstore or library. Sometimes just browsing through shelves, or asking an assistant or librarian for their recommendations, will introduce you to titles you never knew existed. And, thanks to Smart Phones, it’s pretty easy to Google a book or an author on the spot to get more information.

Resources in this post

Goodreads

Common Sense Media

Amazon book search by age

How to Choose Outstanding Multicultural Books – Scholastic

A Brief History of YA – YouTube video from Epic Reads

The Arrow language arts program

Partnering with Your Child in Writing

How to be your child's partner in writing

In school, a teacher usually has somewhere between 20-30 children whose writing she has to evaluate. She’s not partnering with the child. She is expecting that child to show his or her level of competence so she can evaluate the child and only the child. She worries that if the parent gets involved in that writing process, somehow she won’t be evaluating a child; she’ll be evaluating an adult showing up in the child’s writing.

Now, I get that. She doesn’t have conversations, one-on-one, all day long with 20 or 30 kids. She isn’t sitting next to the child while he’s struggling with his pen to write at home. All she sees is the final result of effort.

I want to share with you a story from my own childhood, because I think it’s illustrative of the failure of this system of requiring children to write without help.

My mother is a freelance author, she has written 85 books, she has been in professional publishing her entire adult life, and she has taught writing to professionals for her whole adult life.

So, when I was coming up through the ranks as a child, my mom was very interested in my writing. She provided me with all kinds of tools. I have an All About Me book and I wrote my very first story, in cursive, in that book. She bought me little journals; she jotted down things I said. My mom loved literature. We went to the library every single week. She read aloud to us and I read to myself.

This was the early rich language life.

She took us to plays, to movies; she was very interested in us having a great literature and language experience.

Partnering with Your Child in Writing

As I got into school over the years, I was assigned writing projects. I remember distinctly, in 4th grade, being told that I needed to produce this report with no help. Now, I had this massive resource in my mother, but I took what the teacher said seriously and I told my mother, “You can’t help me with this report.”

I wrote a report on Queen Elizabeth. I had a red file folder. I decided to make it beautiful, so I used a blank sheet of white paper, no lines. I wrote it in very light pencil first, I went through and corrected all my mistakes, and then I traced over it in better pen so that it would be perfect. I used our World Book Encyclopedias for my research. And I finished it without any help from my mother.

I can’t tell you how proud I was of this paper. I turned in my report with all the other 4th graders. Do you know what’s coming?

I got a C on my independently produced report. Do you know what I saw in the stack of reports? Reports written by students who had help from their parents. There were typewritten reports. There were reports that were clearly handwritten perfectly and that had lots of detail.

I just sat down with all the information I knew and I just wrote it out. I didn’t know how to structure it. I didn’t even really know how to paragraph yet. I was in 4th grade! And that C crushed me, and my mom was not pleased. I put in all this heart and effort. She saw me do the research, she saw me be painstaking in my handwriting, but I got a C because other kids had help and the teacher couldn’t tell the difference.

Here’s what you have at home that my 4th grade teacher didn’t have:

A front row seat to your children’s development. You can tell what they’re doing. You can see when you add a sentence or help them think of a vocabulary word. You know what was their effort and what was your combined efforts.

Not only that, when you combine efforts your are mentoring your children into the writing experience.

Want to learn more about partnering with your kids?
Watch the full video on YouTube!


Partnership Writing

My Wish on a Star for Homeschool

My Wish on a Star for Homeschool

The first thing that I wish for the homeschooling movement is freedom.

Freedom to not know.

Freedom to explore.

Freedom to grow.

Do you know what I feel sometimes when I’m in the homeschool context? Shackles. There is this unwitting need to lock down our homeschool experience under some “rules,” some system that somebody else set up for us.

“Oh, everybody has a morning basket. I need to have a morning basket!” Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re the kind of person who sleeps in till 11 everyday and homeschool doesn’t really get off the ground until after you’ve had a good lunch. You get to decide.

If I had one gift I could give every home educator, it’s the freedom to simply be the homeschooler you are.

To grow, to learn, to revise.

To put a whole bunch of ideas together and see if they fit. To say “no” when you’re in a group and they make you feel bad for a choice you’ve made. I want you to feel freedom, first and foremost.

One of the reasons that you signed up to homeschool was so that you didn’t have to fit into the constraints of the local school system. For me, those constraints were:

  • waking up early,
  • making lunches every day,
  • putting my kids on a bus,
  • filling out all that horrible paperwork that school requires you to fill out,
  • supervising a plan that I didn’t create (like homework for things I didn’t understand),
  • showing up for all the PTA meetings I didn’t want to go to.

That’s not what I wanted. So, I liberated myself and I home educated.

I got into the world of homeschooling, but suddenly there’s a whole new set of shackles. People saying you had to have a schedule, maybe you should get up at 9 and make sure the kids start with chores, make sure your kids are learning all the classics before you let them read anything modern. Then there were people who were telling me, “You shouldn’t do any of that. Just let your kids do whatever they want. That’s what will lead to the best education.”

I felt bullied by homeschool philosophies that were every bit as pushy as the local school district. I don’t know about you, but when I envisioned my homeschool experience before I got going, I didn’t know that there would be these controllers out there telling me what it should feel like, look like, be like. What the content “should” be.

So, what’s my number one wish on a star for homeschooling? Freedom.

I wish to see people resisting the temptation to define what homeschool should be for another person. Freedom to change, grow, and learn. That’s number one.


Want to know what numbers two, three, and four are?
Watch the full video here on YouTube.

Top 10 Brave Writer Blog Posts of 2017

Top 10 brave Writer Blog Posts of 2017

Here are the ten most popular Brave Writer Life in Brief blog posts published in 2017.

Enjoy!

  1. Are you New to Brave Writer?
  2. Podcast with Susan Wise Bauer
  3. Take Away Insistence as a Tool
  4. Implementing Brave Writer in Your Homeschool
  5. Which Brave Writer Products?
  6. Reframe Their Resistance
  7. Homeschooling Ebb and Flow with Melissa Wiley
  8. Tea with Julie: Foundations of Home Education
  9. Does Brave Writer Intimidate You?
  10. The Key to Academic Achievement: Talking with Your Kids

Brave Writer Blog Roundup