Archive for the ‘One Thing’ Category

Our “One Thing” Brave Writer day

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 Julie-

I just had to share the glowing success of our “One Thing” Brave Writer day to thank you for the inspiration. I also wanted to encourage other homeschool moms to “go for it” and not put off trying it. It’s really not that hard and the rewards you will reap far outweigh anything I could have dreamed.

Inspired by re-listening to your podcast about “One Thing” and also your blog post from August 27 (blog roundup where the family did a day of working on mysteries), I created a Mystery Day for us.

I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but somehow it all clicked after hearing the podcast. I prepared (looked up some references about elements of mysteries, which really took no time at all), chose a day (today Friday, September 5), then told my children a few days ago to keep myself accountable. We are starting back to homeschooling next week, and I thought this would be a great way to start the year off right!

I made our day workshop style. All my children were included, from my 19 year old homeschool graduate who starts a Physical Therapy Assistant program later this month, 17 year old daughter who is a senior, 15 year old special needs (Asperger’s/ADHD) son, 10 year old daughter, 7 year old son and 4 year old son.

I got out our large dry erase board and colored markers and we brainstormed about the essential elements that can or should be in a mystery, we talked about favorite mysteries we had read, watched (don’t forget Blue’s Clues for the younger crowd) or listened to (such as some from Adventures in Odyssey). An important thing to note is that mysteries do not have to involve foul play or actual crime (we don’t read or watch those). Then I set the timer and everyone wrote for 10 minutes to come up with some ideas for protagonists, whether amateur or professional detectives. I did the “jotting down” for my 7 year old, and he wrote a whole story! My special needs son he found his niche by “jotting down”and typing out my 4 year old’s stories, since it was too stressful for him to come up with something of his own. We reconvened then discussed what we came up with. Then I set the timer again for 20 minutes to try to come up with a plot, working backwards from the resolution.

The rest of the day was spent by my children in avidly working on their stories. None of them are completed yet, and that’s okay. They have been inspired and this has gotten their creative juices flowing. We even talked about how, many years ago, when the older children were young, I started writing my own mystery story (they were amazed)…someday when they are all grown, I just might finish it!

The One Thing principle has energized the atmosphere in our home, especially for me as a veteran (15th year) homeschooler. This is something so bonding and encouraging about working together on a project like this that I’ve been meaning to do, but never got around to.

This was so successful that I plan to do a full month’s focus on mysteries, reading them, talking about them, watching them. Everyone is thrilled.

And I definitely want to plan for a One Thing Day each month!


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You feel better when you get stuff done

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

The number one way to improve your homeschool experience is to do it.

Do stuff.

Do something every day.

Sometimes your kids will have the best ideas or questions:

“Let’s catch tadpoles in the creek!”

“I want to write a letter to Aunt Anna in Germany!”

“Can we watch Frozen while we eat lunch?”

“How much money do I need to save to buy an American Girl doll and how can I get it?”

“I want to see the moon through a telescope.”

“I can skip count while I jump rope. Wanna see?”

Sometimes you’ll have the best ideas:

“Let’s learn measurements by making cupcakes and pies.”

“It’s a gorgeous day—let’s take the math books out to a blanket in the backyard.”

“I heard the zoo has a discount for kids. Want to go today?”

“How about building a fort with these blankets while I read to you from the history book?”

“Want to play dress up and act out the Boston Tea Party?”

“Let’s call Myra and ask her kids to help us make a Pony Express with bikes.”

Even without inspiration, if you simply do ONE thing each day, you will make progress and pacify the guilt gremlins.

Here are the “ones” that help:

Read aloud one chapter.

Do one math page.

Handwrite one sentence.

Paint one picture.

Build one Lego set.

Eat one healthy meal.

Take one neighborhood walk.

Identify one bird at the feeder.

Make one historical reference.

Have one meaningful conversation with one child.

So here’s your chance! Get to it.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Don’t put it off

Monday, March 10th, 2014

The nagging issue that you keep avoiding in your homeschool? Go ahead and tackle it tomorrow. You don’t have to do it perfectly. You don’t even need to purchase curriculum.

Get online tonight or early tomorrow morning, and figure out how you might address the one area that’s bothering you a little bit tomorrow.

You might feel you’ve completely forgotten to teach the Pledge of Allegiance, or the names of the states, or your address to your youngest children.

Perhaps one of your kids doesn’t know how to spell her complicated last name and she’s already 9!

Maybe you want to show your kids the continents and you haven’t bought a globe yet. Enter the Internet!

What if your child isn’t reading and you haven’t been successful teaching…so worry is your substitute teacher. You let her babysit the child, and you opt out of figuring it out.

Tomorrow, do one thing that moves you closer to reading instruction. Maybe you spend fifteen minutes doing research. Maybe you spend ten minutes talking to the late reader and find out if she’s ready to try again. You ask her to look at reading programs with you. Maybe you try a totally new approach: you read to your daughter putting your finger under the words and never ask her to do anything but follow along. Maybe you make play-doh from scratch and shape the lowercase alphabet and say the sounds as you do.

Whatever you choose, do a tiny bit of it. Tackle some part of the nagging concern.

Skip count in the car all the 7’s until you get to the doctor.

Listen to your son explain the video game to you.

Have poetry teatime in the middle of the mess with your iPad instead of poetry books.

Spend one hour cleaning the family room so that you KNOW where the math books are and you don’t ignore that problem another day.

Schedule the dentist teeth cleanings.

Fill out the FAFSA (yes, that’s mine!). Drat I hate the FAFSA.

Make one healthy salad and eat it for lunch.

Get the analogue clock and spend 45 minutes with everyone learning how to read it. Or tie shoe laces until everyone can tie their own without help (except the really little ones). Or teach everyone 4 feet tall how to do their own laundry.

There are just those things that nag at you, that you wish you could address; tomorrow can be the day you say, “Enough. I start today. I do a little bit toward that goal today.”

Then do it. Congratulate yourself tomorrow night, and pour a glass of wine or eat a half mango with lemon juice or savor a square of your favorite dark chocolate or go for a run!

Do whatever it is that celebrates your commitment to doing that one thing—whatever it is. Let’s make a big long list of what your one thing is and if you need help thinking of a single day’s way to address it, ask! We’ll help you.

Ready? Go!

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“One Thing” Reprise

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

To Do ListQuick, make a list!

For new-to-Brave-Writer friends, I thought it a good idea to send you into your weekend with one of our core ideas: “The One Thing Principle.”

Quick: Grab a pen and write a list of all the stuff you think needs to be done next week with your kids. Doesn’t matter what you use. An old envelope or back of a supermarket receipt will work. Just start writing. List, list, list until you run out. Feel free to include random stuff like “Find Penny’s missing shin guard” and “Remember to buy nail polish remover” because those get in the way of remembering “Study fractions on Tuesday night so I can help Aaron with them on Wednesday morning.”

Your list may include big ideas (Make a plan for writing a year long report on Nebraska) and small ones (Get batteries for the pencil sharpener by Thursday so we can sharpen our new set of Prismacolor pencils in time for the art project that afternoon).

Once you’ve got a list, take a break. Get a cup of coffee or tea. Read a blog or browse the Pinterest newsfeed. Then come back to your list. Before rereading it, add to it. Anything you forgot, anything new that popped into your mind in the interim. Then, reread the whole list and allow it to jog your memory for one more thing. Add it.

Okay—sit back. You’ve got a list! Congratulations.

You’ve likely written a good, long, somewhat exhaustive (and exhausting list!). This weekend, pick one thing to do on that list. Just one. Pick the one that leaps off the page, gets your attention, draws you.

THAT’S the one to do this upcoming week. The other stuff, now that it’s on the list, will circle to your consciousness all week (you’ll be on the alert for that shin guard, you’ll walk by the battery section at the market and remember: pencil sharpener!, Tuesday night will come and you’ll grab the workbook for fractions and take a glance through it before you climb into bed). It’s all there. You can do any of the “lesser” items as they occur to you.

For now, though, pick the one “bigger” thing—the thing that you want to do, that takes preparation to do, that is nagging at you.

This is the week you’ll do it! Focus on that one idea.

Here’s how:

Prepare for it.
Take the time right now to get what you need to do that task. In other words, most activities that we never get to need preparation (supplies, Xeroxed copies, materials). If it means you need to order a book, order the book now. If it means you need to assemble ingredients, get them together and put the missing items on a shopping list you will use today. If it means gathering materials on hand, gather them and put them in a safe place. If this is a task that needs preparation (a step or two must be done ahead of time), create space in your schedule in the early part of the week to get that art of the event completed.

Execute the task.
Once you have what you need, pick a time today (or on the planned day) to follow through and do it. Make sure you protect that time and space from interruptions. That means your laptop is closed, cell phone is on vibrate, and your television is turned off. Don’t answer the door. Text your spouse and tell him or her not to call you during that hour or two. Clear your kitchen table (or your yard or couch or car – wherever this thing is happening). Know that you have a dedicated block of time to do this task and that no other task will crowd it out.

Experience the task/event.
Be there. Don’t allow your mind to run off to dinner or dentist appointments you forgot to schedule. Don’t resent sitting down and “wasting time” doing what your mind resists. Don’t jump up to change a laundry load because the timer dinged. Do listen, pay attention, dedicate your mind and heart to the moment at hand. Listen to your kids. Feed back to them what you hear. Participate. Become interested and fascinated. Live in this moment and no other.

For example, if you are working on times tables, completely immerse yourself in the experience. Recite the tables, play with them, ask questions, find ways to make two times six interesting. Be there! Allow the connections to come that happen when you are involved and calm.

If you are holding a poetry teatime, relax. Sip tea, observe the facial expressions of your children, take in the color of the placemats and the shape of the scones. Stay in that event as long as it lasts and don’t reprimand yourself for skipping your grammar workbook that day.

Finally, once the event or learning experienced concludes, and you’ve moved on to the next “thing,” allow yourself to fondly remember what worked or was enjoyed. The next hour, or meal, or day, or two days from now, remember the experience you shared with your kids.

Say words like:

“You know, I didn’t realize how often fractions are a part of my day until we spent those two hours on Monday playing with your Cuisinaire rods.”

“I so enjoyed doing copywork with you on Tuesday. Want to read what I wrote? I want to read yours today.”

“Watching “Much Ado About Nothing” reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom took me to plays. What was your favorite part? Mine was…”

“I loved that poem about horses you read during teatime. Can you find it for me again? I’d like to reread it.”

Focus on the experience by honoring it in your memories. Retell the story, relive it a few days later. It will stay anchored in your lives as a touchstone if it becomes worth of your investment, dedication, and memory.

This is how you work through the list. You have all the way until June (and of course, beyond) to get through the list. Do it one thing at a time, and only do the one thing when you know you will really devote yourself to it. Let me know how it goes.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Repeat after me: “Less is more; less is more; less is more…”

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Less is moreImage by othree

I love consulting with moms about their curriculum choices. Not only do I get to hear about their kids (who are all amazing, by the way), but I get to help them scale back their expectations and their purchases. The most important thing you can do for your upcoming school year is to do “one thing at a time.”

You want to be sure that you can spin all those plates you’re busy balancing on the top of the tall skinny poles. If you keep purchasing curricula without considering whether or not you have the time in the day to do it all, you will find yourself frustrated and feeling guilty by October!

The best curriculum is the one you use.

It’s okay to feather in your studies as you go. If it takes a bit of time to get used to the new math program, so be it. Let that take your energy and focus for a week or two or a month. Language arts won’t die. It will simply go dormant, taking a little nap before you return to it.

If you want to launch a new project or tackle a new process, give it your full attention. You can skip everything else that day. Sit down with the guide and read it (don’t skim it). If the kids have to watch a video or play with Legos while you do, they won’t “fall behind the curve” in their educations. Rather, you will be preparing to be the best learning coach they can have. You’ll feel competent and capable because you will know what you’re doing.

Read directions, ensure that you have the right supplies, spend time familiarizing yourself and your kids with the methods or practices necessary for the learning experience. Support the activity as your kids get used to it. Follow through with the lesson or new habit for a bit without rushing, cramming, or sandwiching the work between two other demanding tasks.

If you’ve “stocked up” on curricula because of discounts or bundles or what have you, you aren’t required to use all of it at once, or to learn how to use all of it by __________ (fill in the blank official start date). You get to feather in the materials and new books as you become comfortable with them one at a time. It’s fine to not get started on that Word Origins work book, day one of the new year. In fact, might it not be a pleasure to a student to have something brand new to add to the daily tasks about the time the routine becomes a little old hat? Pulling out a brand new offering can energize your child again. Keep something new hidden at all times. Surprise is your ally in home education.

Lastly, you don’t have to do every page, every problem, or every chapter. You don’t. Your children don’t have to complete all their work in one subject before they are “allowed” to do the next one. There is no set order to how you cover the subjects.

You are at home. (Post that somewhere.) Make the experience homey.

Pay attention to flagging energy, inertia, overwhelm, and boredom.

Give quality efforts, in short bursts of time, to one subject area at a time.

Know the material and method before you begin.

Feel free to delay the introduction of new materials until you’ve found your groove with the first set.

Take it one thing at a time.

Less is more.

Check out this section on the blog for more about the One Thing Principle.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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