Monday, January 28, 2013

Art resources for your homeschool

37 FREE Online Art and Music Resources by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Homeschool Without Traditional Art by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Draw What? by TechWife@A Playground of Words

Flower Pony Tail Holders - Beginning Sewing Projects by Julie @
Highhill Education

Seeking Beauty- Virtual Curriculum Fair by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me

Creating an Artsy Homeschool, even if you're not by Erin @ Delighting
in His Richness

Living with an Artsy Boy by Annette @ A Net In Time

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Creating an Artsy Homeschool, even if you're not

My daughters have amazing abilities in the arena of arts and crafts. I do not.

See the cute duct tape outfit for Miss Build-a-Bear? I had nothing to do with that.

I tried knitting, making crafts, painting, and more, but they all either bore me or show my extreme incapabilities. These aren't core school subjects, but they should have some place at some point in a well rounded education, so what was I to do?

Here is how we filled my artistic void.

Outsource. Crochet at co-op, knitting from one grandma, sewing from the other. My girls are amazing, and no thanks to me. See Bob? A few crochet classes and Paige took off with her skills. A knowledgeable neighbor, a class at the library, relatives -- skilled teachers are hidden all around you.

YouTube! After a good start with a real live person, YouTube has taught the next steps. How to do various techniques, inspiration for new projects, and ideas galore. Obviously there is plenty of junk on there, but careful searches can uncover lots of helpful clips.

Curriculum. Whatever you want to learn, someone has written a book or course for it. We have really enjoyed See The Light! art DVDs. It will take your child through a whole year or more of solid art teaching.

Just do it. Last year we spent each Tuesday outside sketching, weather permitting. Everyone got a little better over the year. No real teaching, just spending time with pencil in hand, drawing whatever caught our eye that day. I loved this relaxing break in our week, and painless art integration.

Independent exploration. I try to make sure that each week or so my kids have time to choose their activity. Some use it better than others, but many of them have found something that they wanted to learn about or discover on their own. Skills and hobbies need to bubble over from personal interest. We can take an art class and never use it. Or, we can find a book on rocks and suddenly discover the best thing in the world.

Letting kids pursue their interests and hooking them up with the resources, books, and skilled teachers to help them excel are all part of a healthy homeschool atmosphere. I may not bring the art, but I know where to find it.

Check out other art resources at the Virtual Curriculum Fair:

37 FREE Online Art and Music Resources by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Homeschool Without Traditional Art by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Draw What? by TechWife@A Playground of Words

Flower Pony Tail Holders - Beginning Sewing Projects by Julie @
Highhill Education

Seeking Beauty- Virtual Curriculum Fair by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me

Creating an Artsy Homeschool, even if you're not by Erin @ Delighting
in His Richness

Living with an Artsy Boy by Annette @ A Net In Time

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Math for the Natural

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Virtual Curriculum Fair Button
Teaching a subject to a child who seems to naturally acquire knowledge in that area without underchallenging them can prove difficult.

My children clearly have inherited my husband's mind for all things mathematical. Logic comes natural to them, numbers made sense from early on, and my sophomore is now racing beyond my knowledge and ability in the subject.

The individuality of homeschooling means that they don't have to stifle their natural gifting in this area to remain at level with 28 other kids. But, how do you let a child soar most effectively when walking is clearly easier to teach?

In our own homeschool we have applied these principles to math, but many will carry over to other areas where you might see advanced skills.

Don't hold them back. Stating the obvious, I know. I often hear parents talk about the kids reading chapter books at a young age or delighting them with advanced artisitic abilities. Wouldn't if be ridiculous to tell a child, "You can't paint that you should just be scribbling at your age." or "Don't read that book, in first grade you should still be learning phonics. Put that book down so we can work through the material." For some reason, in math we tend to follow the book and might ignore early signs that our child is ready for much more mathematically.

Don't let their developmental ability hinder them. My kids did not like writing (still don't), in part due to some issues with dyslexia and dysgraphia. No problem, math can easily be done orally. If they had to write all the answers to their assignments they dragged through it. Orally we could plow through two lessons in 15 minutes. Let them fly rather than clipping their wings so they stay in the fence. By third grade I would require that they completely wrote out the answers to their tests, and we gradually phased out most of the oral "homework" by 5th grade.

Part B to that, start "formal" math when it's right for the child. I know some buck formal math until double digits, but I think it can be introduced gently and even with rigor long before then. My 4 year olds always want to do real school like their older siblings, so we jump right into the 1st grade math book at whatever pace they desire. Often they are done with first grade before first grade age and we move on from there. We make it light and fun and integrate it with real life, but I don't wait until the "right" age to begin.

Skip what they already know. This is probably the second biggest reason my kids are way ahead of where they should be in math. Most curriculums begin with LOTS of review. If you compare the lessons to the previous year the first 20-30 lessons are just catching up the "class" to the same spot and reviewing what kids might have forgotten over a summer break. I begin where I know my child needs to begin.

Here's how this looks in our routine. We review about 10 lessons a day for 2-3 days when first starting a new math book. When it seems like we are hitting some potentially challenging material I have them take the test that we had worked our way up to. As long as they do well on the test (A or maybe a high B) we start there. Sometimes we might still do a couple lessons a day for a few more days, or if they struggled with the test we will back up a bit.

Reward their success. Even gifted kids will sometimes hit a roadblock and even feel dumb. Rewarding their success, bragging on them (not to the annoyance of others, hopefully), and encouraging their hard work will help them see their skills. I don't know how often I have to tell some of my kids that they are brilliant at math and they still go through spells of questioning it now and then when they struggle with a new concept. Eventually it sinks in. Some might find benefit from the "proof" in a standardized test. Whatever it takes, let your child know they are smart and give God the glory for making them in that way.

Don't test them to death. Speed drills definitely have value to cement basic math facts, but many math curriculums have tests every week! I don't need my child to take a test that often. We do every other test and I still sometimes feel like they are testing too often.

Toss the calendar. Schooling at least somewhat year round will help them not have to waste so much time on review. We take breaks here and there and school fewer days a week in the summer, but when they finish a book, they get a week off, and then start the next grade level. This is easier for us since we have always homeschooled and most of our good friends homeschool, so we don't have the pressure to conform to the school calendar (other than our human desire to be lazy now and then).

Thinking outside the box will help your child learn to truly put their wings to good use.This can be done with any curriculum or educational philosophy. It's all about knowing your child and praying for wisdom as to how to capitalize on their strengths.

Check out the rest of the Virtual Curriculum Fair for more math ideas and thoughts.
Delight Directed Middle School Science?  by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

The Hardest Part of Math by Kristi @ The Potter's Hand Academy

A Tour Through Our Math and Science Life by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

What Works for Us…Math by Piwi Mum @ Learning & Growing the Piwi Way

Math Art – Geometry by Julie @ Highhill Education

It's Math-magical by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Fun and Games with Math by Tonia @ The Sunny Patch

Discovering Patterns by Lisa @ The Golden Grasses

Math for the Natural by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness

Virtual Curriculum Fair~ Discovering Patterns by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me

Too Many Math Programs or Not by Linda B @ Homeschooling6

Virtual Curriculum Fair:  Math and More!  by April @ Coffee, Cobwebs,
and Curriculum

The post where I admit I was wrong by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

High School Math - Beyond the Textbook by TechWife @ A Playground of Words

Discovering a World of Logic and Order by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair- Discovering Patterns: Mathematics,
Logic, and Science by Leah C @ As We Walk Along the Road

The Plans of Mice and Math (My Math in Focus review) by Chelli @ The
Planted Trees

Rightstart Math is right for us! by Leann  @ Montessori Tidbits

Our Favorite Homeschool Math Curriculums by Wendy @ Homeschooling Blessings

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Formula for Reading

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Virtual Curriculum Fair Button
The story behind our choice . . .

Stepping foot onto my very first vendor hall visit at my very first homeschool convention, I toted child #3 in my belly and a little fear of failure in my heart as my oldest entered kindergarten in the fall with me as his teacher.

Kindergarten didn't really scare me so much. I'd done that before with dozens of kids at varieties of levels. Instead, I was already worrying about high school graduation. Would my child know how to read well? How to write an educated essay? Fill out an application? Impress anyone outside of his family? What made me think I could really homeschool a child from the beginning? I knew virtually nothing about homeschooling.

So, I started where lots of well-meaning, but insecure homeschool parents start, with a boxed curriculum. As a chronic money-saver, I couldn't actually buy the whole set, but I did buy first and second grade reading and math and a smattering of other books. It turns out it was a decent place to start.

Having successfully taught five of my six kids to read, our methods have morphed a bit, and I wanted to share the plan of attack I will again use in hopes of having a perfect record, six for six, as my youngest approaches school age.

One little household complication . . .
Learning to read was a lot of work for my first few kids. Yes, we made a game out of it and we read constantly and I didn't stress too much since the homeschool conventions said, "Better late than early."

However, my over-commitment to tweak in any way needed for them to learn (and repeat as often as necessary, and love on and have fun with my kids in the process) and their brilliant minds in other areas masked something I had easily helped spot red flags on in other kids -- dyselxia. 

In fact, It wasn't until less than two year ago (with my oldest starting high school) that I went to a seminar and put all the mental pieces together. I finally knew why reading, writing, and spelling had been such a struggle for all those years! By God's grace, He led me where I didn't even know I needed to go. He taught me so I could teach them. He guided my steps, my choices, my purchases so they could learn in spite of this learning difference that was hard-wired into them.

All that to say, these tools will likely work in many different homes, and quite possibly with greater ease and less repetition than required in ours. They worked not because they were the perfect tools, but because we were committed to making it work.

I see so many hints of God's hand on the process now that I understand more of why certain things work and don't work for the dyslexic learner. Now I see more clearly, but all I needed then was something to get started with and a lot of faith and perseverance.

The materials we use:
- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
- A Beka readers for Grade 1 (and 2) especially the Handbook for Reading
- Games for Reading
- All About Spelling (for spelling, but also for its phonics reinforcement)
- Every printed thing in the world - signs, cereal boxes, the newspaper, library books, bedtime stories, etc.

The how . . .

As soon as my child has any interest in learning to read we pull out the Teach Your Child to Read book and spend 15 minutes a day going through the lessons together. We're on our third copy as we have already worn through two of them. They seem to last for about 2 1/2 children in our house.

Each lesson is scripted and helps in learning the focused sounds of each letter. They are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic all rolled into one. Not flashy, but always something to look at. A quiet one-on-one time on the couch snuggle for us.

As we did these I found that for most of my kids the writing at the end of each lesson was really laborious and I ended up skipping it. It isn't much, and I realize now that was the dyslexia talking. For typical kids writing is great reinforcement. For dyslexics writing is often a brand new form of torture and will only cement their knowledge of how much they hate to write.

One other adjustment I needed to make was that we always reached a point, usually a month or month and a half in when they were forgetting some of the letter sounds. So, we had to review every sound everyday. And, we often did the same lesson 2 days in a row to help them remember. Again, this fits quite naturally with typical dyslexic struggles, I just didn't know that at the time.

After they were reading simple words and knew many of their sounds we added a second component to their reading lessons -- A Beka readers. They would read a couple pages each day to start and it helped add some variety to their reading time.

After we finished the 100 Easy Lessons we spent more time in the readers and would look at the corresponding lesson pages in Handbook for Reading. That book in itself is a great tool in learning to read.

The Games for Reading book has lots of great ideas for making learning to read more active from painting letters in chocolate pudding on the kitchen table to jumping around on letter sounds as they are called out.

One other source for different learning games that are especially helpful for kids struggling to read I found in the Barton video for tutor screening. It gives some examples of activities you can use to help kids put together and pull apart sounds. Of course, her whole course is geared toward helping kids learning to read, but even just this video can give you some ideas about word attack and dissecting skills. Just be sure not to make it as dry as her videos are. :)

The finishing step -- All About Spelling. This was our most recent addition to our phonics program, and is based on Orton Gillingham research that is a method proven to work for kids with dyslexia (and it's fantastic for kids that aren't as well -- I've used this program with many kids and can't rave enough about it!)

All About Spelling picks up where the readers leave off. We begin with level 1 as time allows and they gradually move up about one and a half to two levels each school year. This is a very interactive and methodical teaching method that makes sure they remember what they have learned and put it into practice. This 7 level course and lots of good real books finishes off our reading program.

So, while dyslexia has tweaked how and what we use, it hasn't been too firm of a hand in the process. My kids can all read well, and most beyond level despite the hard work to get there.

Hope this is helpful in creating your own reading pathway for your homeschool.

This post is part of the Virtual Currirulum Fair

Check out what a number of other bloggers have to share about the language end of their curriculum:

Nurturing Novelists = Building Strong Writers by Susan Anadale @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Building Blocks of Education--Learning to Read  by Kristi Kerr @ The Potter's Hand Academy
Finding Our Way Through Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
How Does a Unit Study Teach Language Arts? by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun 
Our Language Arts Adventure by Linda @ Homeschooling6

2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words:  The Language Arts by Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road
Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me
Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts by Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool
Writing Help in a Critical Thinking book? by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings
Virtual Curriculum Fair: Foreign Language Immersion in the Homeschool by Tonia @ The Sunny Patch
Formula for Reading by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness
Words and Learning by Annette @ A Net In Time
A Custom Designed High School English Credit by Tech Wife @ A Playground of Words
Virtual Curriculum Fair 2013: Still Loving Language Arts by Pam @ Everyday Snapshots
Word Play by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
Loving Language Arts by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Learning Language Arts ~ 2012-2013 School Year by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World

Virtual Curriculum Fair - The Language Arts Department by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Playing with Words:  The Language Arts by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy: The Story of Our Life
Playing with Words:  Language Arts by April @ Coffee, Cobwebs and Curriculum
What Language Arts looks like in our house - Are we doing it right? by Hillary M @ Our Homeschool Studio
Getting lost and finding our way in Language Arts by Piwi Mum @ Learning and growing the Piwi Way

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A fresh list for gratitude

On rosy days thank-you's flow freely.

Cleaning toilets, brewing soothing tea, nursing fevers sometimes creates a different picture, a different attitude.

And yet, as I sit back and reflect on a brief spat with the flu I find new fuel for thanksgiving:

- amazing immune systems as Brooke and Paige remain healthy
- bathroom garbage can liners (so thankful for these)
- sanitizing wipes
- hydrating lotion
- flexible friends
- a tireless husband home for a paid holiday on my sickest day
- kids that are old enough to throw up in more easily cleanable places
- time to rest and rebuild
- quick forced change of schedule (I'd been wanting to get back into an earlier bedtime, and this made it effortless!)
- help with my resolve to avoid sweets as I had no craving of any kind for those sometime challenging first few days
- extra snuggly kids
- homeschooling flexibility (get ahead with the healthy ones now, allowing extra catch up time later with the sick ones)
- 9 year olds that can get the laundry done
- gentle sympathy between siblings
- Nintendo DS (only the flu would have made me say that)
- night lights
- extra mattresses
- Berry Well
- Puffs
- books, picture books, library books, chapter books
- soft pillows
- quiet footsteps
- health

The list could continue, and I realize again that our gratitude should never be blinded by our situation. There is always something new to be thankful for.