Category Archives: Musings

Education is a mindset

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Not sure where this train of thought will take me…but I woke up today and immediately got on Facebook, as I always do, and got into a conversation on Facebook that made me think…

The conversation content isn’t entirely relevant because my thinking went into a different direction, as often happens, and got me thinking about why I have the opinions that I have about education. I have been exposed to a fair bit of “alternative” education…first in college at the child development programs on campus where our classes were combined with actual preschool programs to put our learning right into action…then at Harmony Day School, a private preK-3 child-centered learning program (seriously the BEST school that ever existed! I was devastated when it had to shut down.) and finally at SCICON Outdoor School where I taught hands-on trails out in nature about all sorts of science topics, and locally at The Discovery Center, where I taught more science classes and worked on some neat programs off and on for years. 

All these experiences helped build my educational philosophy and showed me how bad the public schools are doing things, because I know, first-hand, what education COULD look like! 

All that experience really built my views on education…And then, of course, my experience substitute teaching in many Fresno area public schools for a few months just cinched it for me. 

You couldn’t pay me to put my kids in any Fresno school.  Yes, it was that bad, in my mind. Not horrifically bad, send the news crew in, bad….but made me want to cry, watching what children go through in ANY public school environment…and how this system systematically destroys kids’ love of learning.

There are exceptions, of course, I know that. I have had friends over the years that taught and still do teach in public schools…but good teachers can only do so much with a broken system. And it’s hit or miss, mostly miss, on getting them!

So, back to the topic of this post….what do I mean that education is a mindset???

Well, even among homeschoolers, I find myself in a minority in my thinking…I strongly believe bringing the public school home is at best, a bad idea, at worst, disastrous!!

Traditional homeschooling…the default for every homeschooler unless they happened upon something like Waldorf or Montessori or unschooling first…is essentially the same educational philosophy as the public schools. It’s the mindset that learning is all about getting as much info into children’s heads as you can before they leave home. The idea being that that will make them more prepared for life and hence, more successful.

NO. That just makes them fed up with stuff being forced on them and as a result, most end up hating learning and everything related to “education.”

You can’t prepare your kids for everything life is going to throw at them. Best get that in your head right now.

What you CAN do is teach them how to deal with life in a healthy, productive way, and one of the most important aspects of that is they need to know HOW to learn and even more importantly: they NEED TO LOVE LEARNING!!

Because learning is THE only thing they really need, education, academic-wise. 

If they know HOW to learn, and do not shy away from learning….and are GOOD AT learning….then they can do ANYTHING!! 

Because EVERYTHING is on the Internet, people! It’s easy to learn pretty much anything nowadays!! It’s all just a Google search away. 

Of course, I still believe kids need a foundation of learning….they need to know how to read, first and foremost…

They need to know basic arithmetic. And luckily there’s tons of creative ways to learn that these days…dry curriculum should never be tolerated. 

And there’s a zillion topics in science and history and geography and the arts that can and should be learned in childhood…as a foundation to build upon….NOT in a cram-as-much-into-them-as-we-can way….but here’s a thought: 

Use these important topics to teach that whole “love of learning” thing and the HOW to learning.

Instead of seeing science, history, art, etc as subjects to pour into your kids…to fill them with as much as you can while you have them….see them as a MEANS to the final end (love of learning)….See them not as a list of topics to check off that you’ve exposed your kids to (and HOPE they remember)…see them as the ingredients needed to show your kids the HOW and WHY of learning.

The recipe is as follows:

To make 1 ADEPT, LEARNING-LOVING Child, ready for the world….

Ingredients:

  • 1 child which you adore 
  • 1 loving, open-minded parent to dedicate their time to the above child’s learning
  • 1 loving and enriching home environment
  • 1 library card
  • 1 computer with access to the Internet (can use the library’s, if necessary)
  • A steady stream of interesting topics to explore, both virtually and physically, found via library and Internet.

That’s it! So long as the guiding adult shows excitement for learning and instructs the child how to find information…and keeps the environment full of enriching activities and resources (which DON’T have to cost a lot of money…in fact much doesn’t cost anything at all!) …and just keep pursuing things that interest the child, sprinkled in with introduced topics they might not have stumbled upon themselves (this is where I differ from unschooling, which tends to entirely follow the child…I’m a firm believer in introducing topics to kids because they don’t know what they don’t know!)

It’s truly not that complicated. The actual method you land upon to deliver the above ideas will depend on you and your kids…but just know that this is not rocket science. I think we, as homeschool parents, tend to make things much more complicated than we need to.

Now, what does this actually look like on a day to day basis? I’m still working on that. But I wanted to have a sort of mission to fall back on to refer to when my resolve is waning or I am flailing at providing that enriching environment.

I think it’s time to create a mission statement, people. For now, you can refer to this post for inspiration…but next I’m going to figure out how to create your own homeschool mission statement to hang on the wall and refer to when things are tough.

Keep your eye on that mission, your purpose, your end goal and do not give up! The end result is a wonderful thing: children who love learning, and know how to learn ANYTHING.

I think that makes it all worth it, don’t you?

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

I have crappy days too

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

IMG_3513.JPGI hate blogs that make homeschooling seem like it’s super duper fun and always goes well. Moms who only blog about their good days, I feel, are doing a great disservice to the image of homeschooling.

Yes, homeschooling is a wonderful thing…and yes we do often enjoy the freedom to do what we want…but every day is NOT sunshine and roses. We have crappy days just like the rest of the parents out there. And not talking about those days is like lying.

I get it…homeschooling already gets a bad rap from many people…so bloggers want to present the positive side. Especially since any negatives are seen as a direct result of homeschooling failing…vs just a bad day. Something going wrong in public school does not prompt all public schoolers to yank their kids and ditch the whole system…but for some reason “Then put them in school!” seems to be the immediate response to homeschooling going bad. Like homeschooling is just a silly fancy, and should not be given the full gamut of possible solutions that would be suggested to a public schooler.

This is why homeschoolers are hesitant to share their bad days.

But…I think it’s important to share bad days, and how you’re working through them. If we don’t, it’s like telling newbie homeschoolers that they’re doing something wrong when they have bad days. That couldn’t be further from the truth! We ALL have bad days! Bad weeks or even months sometimes!!

So yesterday I had a bad day. And surprisingly, it really didn’t stem from my kids. At least not primarily. They did have some bickering yesterday that about pushed me over the edge…but I was already in a bad mood.

No, yesterday was a direct result of me and my feelings being just bleh all day. It was one of those days that just felt like I was doing everything wrong, noticing EVERY.SINGLE.THING around here that we have not gotten to…everything that wasn’t going swimmingly.

So it was a day full of doubts. A day full of “I suck”. And “I’m never going to get this right.” And, “I should be doing this better….why is this so hard for me??” A day of doubting my own new system because I’ve fallen off the wagon recently of staying on top of the prep work (which affects the whole system greatly).

BUT. Let me tell you that I managed to make my way through it. And surprisingly, my kids managed to actually get all of their stations done despite me! So there’s that.

Then my hubby came home and I took a trip to the library to return all the books we never got to (because I suck) and were now overdue (because I suck)…and I just needed to get AWAY so I could breathe and regroup.

While there, I did not plug into a book or podcast, like I usually do. I let my brain go and actually managed to feel better about my day because of it.

We were moving into a study of ancient times, but no one got super jazzed at all the books on Ancient Rome, Greece, China, or Egypt that I had brought home a few weeks ago…and I was limited to just 20 min or so to browse since the library was closing….

Then I had an epiphany!

I ended up in the biographies and I thought….”Hey! Why stick with just a certain time period? And why do we need to go chronological? What if I bring home a bunch of biographies on interesting people from all over time and see what piques our interest??

And that’s when my day got better.

A new idea had formed, and I excitedly picked out a bunch of neat books on interesting people (some I had never heard about!) I focused a lot on women, but also pulled out some books on men as well.

And here’s what our “Read” station now looks like:

IMG_3512.JPG

And I’m excited again!! Instead of focusing on the negative of the day, I ended with a fire burning under me to get to these books and learn all about interesting people! Now, hopefully, my enthusiasm will be contagious! My daughter is intrigued my the 18th century female architect book I found! That’s a start!

And then, when I look back on my day, I see it wasn’t ALL bad:

IMG_3507.JPG
My wild boy child partner at mancala

IMG_3501.JPG
My extremely creative daughter working on her latest project during her brother’s drumming class

My whole point of this post? I have crappy days where I feel like I’m completely floundering. The key is to recognize this is a temporary feeling, we all have bad days, and see if you can’t find something to help you turn things around and get fired up again.

Or, heck, just hang in there and make it through the crappy day and tomorrow will most likely be better!

So with that in mind, I’m ready for a better day today!! Wish me luck!

P.S. I wrote this entire blog entry while on our exercise bike. GO ME!!! ūüôā

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Homeschooling Step one: RELAX!

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

IMG_3011.JPGI am a member of a TON of Homeschooling groups on Facebook. A TON. Seriously. I like feeling like I have my finger on the pulse of the homeschooling community.

The common thread, which I literally read in post after post EVERY.SINGLE.DAY (no joke), is the STRESS that we are all feeling.

The stress of getting started and not really knowing what to do…

The stress of getting kids to cooperate and get work done without a fight…

The stress of finding the “right” curriculum for a child or for a family…

The stress of finding time to fit it all in…

The stress of having “gaps” in our children’s education…

The stress of appropriate and frequent socialization…

And most of all the stress of not SCREWING UP OUR KIDS!!

I’m no expert. I wouldn’t even consider myself a “veteran” homeschooler even though I’ve been involved in our local homeschooling community since about 2003, and actively homeschooling since 2006. But one thing I have learned and I like to think I’ve internalized, is that homeschooling should NOT be this stressful!!

Now, I’m not here to tell you it should be all fun and games, sunshine and rainbows, puppies and kittens and unicorns and fairies…like how some bloggers make it seem by never posting about their bad days.

Nope, it’s not an easy ride, no way! Nothing with children…hell, with HUMANS, ever is! But I truly believe that so very many homeschoolers make it FAR MORE STRESSFUL THAN IT NEEDS TO BE!

So my first word of advice is STEP ONE: RELAX!!

Do your research, do the best you can, but don’t freak out!

It’s all good! Worst case scenario?
1. It doesn’t work out and your kids end up in school somewhere.
OR
2. They don’t learn as much as you’d like them to.

For #1–Really, for most of us that’s truly the worst possible outcome. And if you think about that, and realize that you (for the most part) came out fine after school, as do most children every day…then the WORST CASE SCENARIO doesn’t seem so horrid. And maybe you can relax a little, and not let that fear rule your life.

For #2–Just accept that this WILL HAPPEN. It just will! Chances are that you have unreasonably high expectations…most of us do! And there will ALWAYS BE GAPS, no matter what form of education your children get!

Don’t get me wrong, I DON’T WANT my kids in school, nor do I want them to get anything less than a spectacular education from me. I want much more for them. But it is a little comforting knowing that the worst case scenario isn’t so horrible.

And really…chances are…just by the fact that you CARE about their education and are actively doing something about it…your kids are huge steps ahead of many kids out there!

Then you need to remember that everything you do at home with your kids is most likely WORLDS BETTER than anything they’d be doing at school. Even on your worst days.

Because your kids will always prefer spending more time with you than less.

You are giving them, first and foremost, the gift of YOU.

Consider how much time your kids get with you compared to all those kids in school with THEIR parents. That alone, regardless of what activities you do with them, what curriculum you choose, or what gaps you inadvertently give them in their education is PRICELESS!

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone
Curriculum doesn't work for every homeschooler, HomeschoolRealm.com

Curriculum doesn’t work for every homeschooler

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Curriculum doesn't work for every homeschooler, HomeschoolRealm.comAre you like me and you’ve tried a multitude of different homeschool curricula only to have them fail to work for you?

If you are having a difficult time finding something that works for homeschooling your children, you may relate to this….

I have a new plan for the new year. Yes, another one.

We’ve still not had a super successful plan and I’m determined to change that. I’m not giving up! I WILL find a way that works for all of us, if it kills me!

Near the end of last year I finally had to face that curriculum doesn’t appear to work for us. Even excellent curriculum like Pandia Press and Elemental Science create.

I still highly recommend these curricula, for those that do well with curriculum…but my kids just didn’t get into them and I’m done trying and failing at packaged curriculum. (Except math. Math Mammoth, for some reason, seems to work for us.)

I can’t really say exactly why curriculum hasn’t worked for us, but I suspect it’s because my kids, like me, like to be able to follow their own interests each day. And that changes almost daily.

So maybe, picking a curriculum that lays out every day’s or week’s lessons for an entire school year just feels too much like a cage to my kids and I.

And as we fall behind on where we “should” be on the curriculum throughout the year,  as we always do, I feel more and more like a failure.

I’m done feeling like that. There’s nothing WRONG with me. I just do things DIFFERENTLY than the people those curricula are designed for.

I do WISH that I could follow a curriculum. I think every homeschool curriculum that exists is designed for the types of people that can follow a schedule and stick with a plan. It would make homeschooling much easier, I think. But that’s not me.

jilagan_rabbit
stick-abilityI’ve talked about this before…I’m more of a “hare”. I deal better with short bursts of enthusiasm, following my passions and interests in shorter sprints, than with a tortoise’s steady, methodical, marathon pace that curriculum requires. (Read Julie Gilbert’s fantastic, life-changing book Stickability to learn more about tortoises vs hares.)

 

 

Cowgirls-Guide-to-Riding-Wild-DonkeysFrom another fantastic read:  I’m also a wild donkey rider.

I tend to have wild donkeys (passionate interests) that take me for short, wild rides throughout the year. I never seem to get the slow and steady, more dependable and methodical donkey.

 

Now, I figure it IS possible that there’s a curriculum out there that would work for my kids and I, but I’m not wanting to waste any more time trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will still see if I can pull ideas from the curriculum that I have, but I am hoping that going it freestyle  might be the way to go for us.

I know there’s plenty of ideas for activities and books and videos out there to do this. I’ve found tons!

I am pinning like crazy and getting really excited by what I’m finding!  Filling up my Pinterest boards with all the cool activities I’d like to share with my kiddos.

Screenshot_1

I am using my Pinterest boards as my “red list”, my someday, my brainstorms…Learned this from Julie at Homeschooling-Ideas. LOVE HER! She has a red list/amber list/green list system that is changing my life!! You can read all about it in her free ebook, Planned Spontaneity.

I have been thinking for awhile on how I want to pull all my ideas together for my kids. Of course I want them hit the main subjects:

          • Math
          • Social Studies
          • Language Arts
          • Science
          • The Arts

…But it just didn’t feel right to study each subject separately.  In real life, subjects aren’t segregated. Everything is intermingled in real life. I tend to be more concerned with real world learning…since I’m preparing my kids to live in the real world, I’d rather be teaching them in a way that makes more sense in the real world.

I have believed for awhile that all subjects (though less with math) fold nicely into history topics. I’ve talked about this before…science folds nicely into history by studying the science and scientists of the time period we’re exploring…as does art and music. And once I thought about it, I realized that language arts really is a part of every subject, if I have them reading and writing about what they are studying. So, with that in mind I knew I wanted to build something where it’s all integrated and revolves around the main history topic we are studying at the time.

So then I asked myself: “What exactly do you want them DOING regularly?”

And I realized that
the actual academic subjects were secondary in my mind to the experiences I wanted them to have.

My old child development training, ever present in the back of my mind: It’s the PROCESS, not the product.

So I made a list….In regard to their learning, I want them to regularly:

  • Read something
  • Write something
  • Watch something
  • Listen to something
  • Play something
  • Create something

After thinking on it for awhile, I realized that this would enable them to experience everything with all their senses and hit all learning styles. Of course, it’s possible that learning styles are a myth, as this article discusses.

But that article also says that we should “pluralize” our teaching, by teaching different ways to ALL kids. So I figure my idea works well with this in mind! ūüôā  Apparently all children should have all these experiences: tactile, auditory, visual, etc…because ALL kids, regardless of their primary learning style (if they do exist), benefit from the diversity of experiences.  Good thing because I never could fully pin down my kids’ learning styles.

So here’s my big epiphany:

I realized that this list–  Read something (books, articles…), Write something (journaling, blogging, essay writing, poetry, creative writing….), Watch something (documentaries, educational programs, short educational YouTube videos…), Listen to something (music from the time period we’re studying, podcasts on an educational topic, audiobooks and stories, reading out loud…), Play something (educational board games, dice games, card games, online games…), Create something (art projects, science experiments, stop motion animation, photography…)  could be my framework, instead of structuring everything around the subjects of history, science, language arts, etc etc.

I can still keep the traditional subjects in mind when designing activities, and I should, but that stuff really only matters to me, the adult. The kids could care less what academic subjects they are experiencing, they only care about what they have to DO.

I have come to realize that what I’m looking at creating is a more child-centered approach.

Side note: I don’t feel like what I’m talking about is unschooling. I feel like unschooling is a somewhat different thing, involving trusting that your kids will get what they need, education-wise, without your interference. I don’t agree with this philosophy entirely, and still stay quite involved in my kids learning, as I don’t feel they have the ability to know enough to get a balanced education without some experienced help from an adult. They don’t know what they don’t know. 

I guess you could call this–
Experience based learning vs. Subject based learning
.
Meaning, I am basing their education around their actual experiences, instead of basing it on hitting specific subjects. The subjects are secondary.

So, with all this in mind….this is going to be an interesting year! I have a lot of great ideas and plans for this coming school year, using these stations as my framework. I will write another post specifically on how this is going to work, when I finish sorting it all out.

Homeschool Stations, www.HomeschoolRealm.comBut the gist of it is this:

The kids will work their way through stations throughout the week, with some stations required every day and some only on specific days. I will provide options at each station, so they will still be following their own interests, and have choices. The actual material covered for each station will come from the historical theme we are studying that month. And these themes are being chosen by the kiddos.

I asked my kids recently what time period they’d like to start with in the new school year, showing them the options in our Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, and they both immediately said “Prehistoric”. So we are starting with the broad theme of Prehistoric Times. And each week we’ll go through the prehistoric section of our Usborne Encycopedia and pick what specific details we’ll be learning about.

With this in mind, I’ll fill each station with activities and materials that fit within the specific subject we are on. At least as much as possible. Similar to a unit study, but with the activities being the prime framework instead of the school subject.

I’m excited to get started!! More details and pics to come!!

 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
POST NOTE: Check out my complete article on “experience-based learning” that I wrote later, once I had more time to hash it out and try it out.

Also come join our very active Facebook group: Homeschooling with Experience-Based Learning!

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

Why education gaps don’t concern me

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone

mindthegap-w-textCC Image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan on Flickr

Gaps in my children’s homeschool education don’t concern me.
I hear homeschoolers express fear over the dreaded “gaps” in their child’s education all the time. It’s all over the internet, particularly rampant among newbie homeschoolers. But veteran homeschoolers are living in this fear as well.

I truly believe it’s causing unnecessary stress, because frankly, there will ALWAYS be gaps, no matter what you do or what form of education you choose for your child. There is simply no way to NOT have gaps. Think about it, there is NO WAY to teach your kids everything! There just isn’t! Here’s an article that explains this more eloquently than I’m capable of: “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Gaps?” And another great article on this topic: “Bridging Your Gap! Facing Your Fear”

I don’t care what curriculum you use or what school you put them in. There is NO WAY they’ll come out without having missed something. Especially nowadays, when new things are being learned every flippin day! But now I can hear the argument…”But Tina, I’m not worried about them learning EVERYTHING. I’m just worried about what they ‘should’ know!” I’ve actually covered that argument at length in my article “Are They Learning What They Should?” that I wrote years ago.

The gist of it is this: ¬† ¬† ¬†Education is subjective. ¬†Meaning that it is¬†based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.” What constitutes a “quality” education depends on who you’re talking to or about.

Just like beauty, education is in the eye of the beholder.

Even among education “experts” there are many conflicting opinions on what children “should” learn at what ages.

There isn’t some magic educational formula of subjects that will produce¬†exactly what every child needs to get the best start in life and be fully prepared for their future. ¬†

It DOESN’T EXIST. Stop stressing yourself out by thinking it does.

Julie at Homeschooling-Ideas says it very well in her article “Education in a Box?”¬†Education can’t be put into a box!

And Mari Beth at The Inappropriate Homeschooler talks more about there not being a “right” way to educate our children in her article: “Homeschooling, Like Motherhood, is Not a Sprint”

The problem with thinking there’s a “right” way or worrying about a “gap” is that you are then making decisions based on fear. And homeschooling out of fear is not a good thing. In fact, this excellent article talks about it being “The Worst Reason to Homeschool”.

So what’s the solution to all this?

(I’m writing the following¬†to myself as much as you. Because *I* need reminders constantly about what it is I am “supposed” to be doing with MY kids….)
You spend your time WITH your kids, being both physically and emotionally WITH them, learning WITH them, enjoying time WITH them, filling both their lives AND yours with a multitude of enriching activities.

Be present.

It’s something that’s damned hard in this day and age with all the distractions. And it’s especially hard if you, as a homeschool parent, are constantly thinking and stressing over¬†what else they “should” be doing, and what is “supposed” to be done next, how far along you “should” be in curriculum x, and what else is on your long list of assignments for them. If you are present with them, enjoy learning WITH them, then you will notice what sparks their interest and what turns their fire for learning ON. And then, only then, can you choose activities and materials to share with your kids that will create their best learning environment.

STOP and think about what you want for your kids. 

What is the end result you are hoping to produce with homeschooling? I think most of us want emotionally healthy children that enjoy life, are successful, and love learning. But we sometimes forget this in our fear of what they might be missing or our constant drive to pour more info into their heads.

filling-pail-watermarked

I’m NOT¬†saying there’s no place¬†for structured learning and curriculum!

But don’t let your fear or your drive to fill your children’s days with the “best” curriculum and your idea of what they “need” to know before they reach a certain age¬†cause you so much work and stress that you cannot enjoy the ride right along with them.

Because your journey, along side them, is every bit as much a part of their homeschool experience as what the children get out of it. And it actually serves 2 purposes: Being present with them in their homeschool experience forces you to pay close attention to what works and doesn’t work for your kids, and it models¬†that learning is a lifelong thing.

What it all boils down to is that…
Gaps will happen…accept that, don’t stress over it.

Remember the most important things in homeschooling:

Be present with your kids
and
Teach them to love learning

Because then¬†they’ll fill in their own gaps.

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrEmail this to someone