Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Homeschooling Tips, Part Three

(Should I apologize for the sorry title to this post? Nah. My creativity dissipated about noon, and refuses to make a comeback, even for a good cause like you!)

Maybe it's my advanced age, added to the number of loads of laundry I do per day - then multiplied by the pairs of shoes in my mudroom, divided by the maturity level of household inhabitants - but most of my homeschooling tips don't have that warm, fuzzy, can-do feeling I wish they did.

I've thought about adding in a few perfunctory tips about edible play dough or make-your-own jigsaw puzzles (both of which I've made x 11), but I'm a Reality Blogger. I don't sugar-coat. I tell it like it is, sisters. Homeschooling isn't for cream puffs and unfortunately for my blog popularity, neither is this series on Homeschooling Tips. 

I guess the truth is I've been at this long enough to know that your children will never grow in wisdom and knowledge until you do, and they will only learn and blossom as they see you daily doing the same. Shucks, huh?

I sure wish I could offer you Ten Easy Steps to an Educated Kiddo, but I don't know any shortcuts. All the paths seem to run straight through the middle of the mother's heart, soul, and adrenal glands. They learn much more from watching you than they ever will from a textbook. They don't tell you that in the Calvert catalog, do they?

I have a new friend who just started homeschooling her three children this year. When we met yesterday, she was so excited to meet a real, live (partially sane) veteran. And then someone mentioned my "series" on homeschooling, and she truly thought she'd hit the jackpot (or did she say crackpot?...) but after about 30 minutes of her rifling me with how-to questions, I had to go ahead and give her the bad news. I told her that teaching several children at home will only be perfected after extensive practice, with plenty of mistakes. My best, most permanent, lessons have been learned through what DIDN'T work. So, I told her to get back with me after she'd failed at a few things. I'm sure she was just so encouraged and empowered by my wise words!

The worst part is that my new friend seems a lot like me - Capable, Enterprising, Decisive - in other words, she's a control freak.
And she's going to find out that if you try to control the show too strongly, you'll not only alienate your children, you'll also miss the whole point of home schooling. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

However, I did lure my friend to my blog with the promise of some can't-miss tips, so I better throw a couple in here so she doesn't hunt me down on the playground for false advertising.

 - A normal day for elementary children should consist of two major parts - work in arithmetic and reading for content. Those are the main areas that must be mastered before the child is about 12-13 and ready for middle school. Aim for getting your child to a place where he can read with complete ease most anything put before him, including magazines, newspapers, periodicals or fiction. History and science can be used for reading. His oral reading should be pleasant to listen to.

- If your child struggles with reading aloud, have him read the same passage aloud to you until it sounds perfect. This might need to be done over a few days. Some children have never heard themselves read with proficiency and elocution, but once they've read the same thing over and over, they can read the material without stumbling over words, punctuation, or pacing, and once they surprise even themselves, they are on their way to being a professional audio book reader- or at least being able to read aloud without causing their listeners to grimace and roll their eyes (and claim bathroom emergencies to get out of earshot.)

- The easiest way to teach diligence, which makes everything in school so much easier, is to do school every day. Some days you may need to pare it down to the essentials, but pick the days you plan to be "in class" and then be there. Every day. 

- Optimal learning depends on the energy of the students as much as the teacher. In fact, if your students are tired or uninspired, it will weary the teacher very quickly. The remedy for this begins the night before with consistent bedtimes and nightly routines. Even with older children, it's good to have a definitive time when things wind down and the house becomes quiet. Then in the morning, put on some praise music, wake them up, and welcome them to the day you have prepared for them (or at least pretend to be prepared....)

Next time we meet (and it may not be this week...School is taking it's toll on my computer time!), I want to talk to you about Table Time.  It's what I use to sneak all kinds of enrichment learning into our day (like art appreciation and poetry and all the stuff that makes your in-laws brag on your kids) - and it's the best way I've found to promote unity between the varying grade levels in our family.

Intrigued? I hope so. And I also hope you'll consider signing up to follow my blog (see sidebar) so you'll be notified when I update. It makes me feel less guilty when I go days (weeks, or months) between posts. 


Dayna said...

This is great! I love your sense of humor about life.

busymomof10 said...

Looks like I get to be the first to leave a comment! :) fun!

These were all great tips, Debbie. I always enjoy your humor and transparency .. . but , maybe you gave your new friend a slightly too large a dose of reality! Is she still homeschooling after telling her to come back after she failed at something??? LOL

I liked this statement:

"In fact, if your students are tired or uninspired, it will weary the teacher very quickly."

My first thought was that the opposite is also true!!! it is easy for us veteran moms to become weary and uninspired, isn't it?

Would you believe I pulled out wisdom booklet #1 yesterday and started going through it with my youngest 5?? I just feel like they are missing out on so much of the wisdom and rich learning that their older brothers and sisters were privileged to receive. I'm not saying I'm going to make it as good as I did the first time around . . . but with the direction our country is headed in and the likelihood that our children will have to suffer for their faith, I feel burdened to make sure I'm giving them more than academics. And one thing about those wisdom booklets -- they teach you to THINK.

I am looking forward to your next post on Table Time!


busymomof10 said...

Oops! It took me too long to write that comment! Now I see that someone else beat me to the honor of being the first to comment! :)

Cheaper by the Baker's Dozen said...

Elizabeth, you get bonus points for commenting twice (which makes up for lack of speed LOL).
Yes, my friend is going to keep homeschooling. I didn't post all of our conversation, and I did leave her with many, many reasons to persevere.
Good for you for doing WBs again! Those were good days for me. I'd love to hear back from you to see if you think they're making a difference in your children's lives. I'm never sure if our previous success was largely due to the WB content, or because I had more of a single-minded purpose back then. In some ways, I know too much to go back to them - and in some ways, I'm more confused than ever :)

Amy Ellen said...

I recently found your blog through Jonesville... and boy, I'm glad I did! Well, it really wasn't my doing, but Jonsey's... so boy, I'm glad *she* did.

Anyways. I really needed your encouragement and humor today. Thank the Lord for *His* leading! It was a hard, messy, and painful (when the toddler fell from the bunk bed) day. It is refreshing to read your words of wisdom.

Can't wait to read more!

Jamie said...

Hi Debbie!

This is Jamie from Pursuing The Old Paths. I'm so glad you stopped by today and thank you for the encouraging words.

Gena sent me an e-mail about your blog and I did read your first post about homeschooling. I can't wait to read your other posts as well. You give such wise advice. I have been meaning to introduce myself I just hadn't gotten around to it until now.

Gena had told me about you a while back and how you adopted 6 children. I admire you so much. My husband and I are in the process of becoming foster parents in hopes of adopting. I would love to hear more about your adoption experience.

Thanks for passing on your homeschooling knowledge. We have four boys ages 8, 6, 4, and 2(and praying for more :)). This will be our 5th year of homeschooling.

P.S. I guess we are kind of related!:)

Bobbie-Jo said...

I should print some of these out im point form. I'm restructuring our school this year and this kind of direction is just what I need. Thanks

Lande said...

Hi! I'm trying to obtain the contact information for the owner of this blog, I want to discuss an opportunity. Can you e-mail me at lande@lifefilmentertainment.com? Thanks SO MUCH! :-)

Laura said...

I'm looking forward to your Table Time post. Other things are coming along, but we could certainly use some refreshers on unity among the different ages.

Kristy@life-simplicitas said...

I agree. Trying to control absolutely everything misses the point of homeschooling entirely.