How We Do Homeschool History

February 16, 2009 | 2 Comments

I didn’t used to enjoy history at all when I was in school. But I enjoy doing history with my homeschool kids.

The way we do it is really simple too, and easy. Instead of each individual kid doing their own history curriculum, we all sit down together and learn history - including me!. One reason I do this is because when you’re homeschooling multiple children, you don’t have time for everyone to do their own thing all the time. Math they obviously have to do alone because they are at very different skill levels, but some subjects (like science and history) lend themselves well to group study.

We use Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World books. Susan Wise Bauer has written several excellent books about education and even has a couple of books on history for adults. She is a proponent of the Classical homeschool. While I’m not following a Classical style curriculum, I still like these books for a number of reasons. homeschool history with story of the world

One, they teach history chronologically.

That is the only way to do history that makes any sense at all to me. Why do kids in public school learn about United States history first? As if that’s the most important thing? How do they understand the people and the situations that led to the “founding” of this country if they don’t understand all the stuff that came before?

Second, the books are written from a Christian perspective which I consider a plus, but they don’t teach doctrine. Teaching doctrine is my job. :)

Third, I find the books are written in simple, clear language so that I can teach history to the 6 year old, 8 year old and 10 year old without anyone getting bored or it being too difficult.

I figure that traditionally, history was taught orally, passed down from one generation to the other. So when we sit down to do history, we read a section of the book together, then discuss it.

I highlight any vocabulary words and ask the kids what the meaning is, which they’re almost always able to tell me, from the context of the story.

The Story of the World series also has activity books available that you can use if you wish. These would be great for older kids who might want more challenge. I think it would be very easy to supplement the books with extra activities of your own design. For example when doing the chapter on the First Nomads from

homeschool history book

Volume One, you could check out books from the library and read more about nomads. You could eat a paleo diet for a week, relying on foods that are in season or that you can kill locally. (Hey why not?!)

My oldest has already completed the first book: The Story of the World: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor and has started on Volume Two: The Middle Ages. But he sits in on the lessons in Volume 1 with his siblings for a review.

He really enjoys these books and will sit and read them for bedtime stories without any prompting from me. That is a good sign, no? :)

How do you do homeschool history?

Socialization Skills Can Be Taught at Home

January 1, 2009 | 5 Comments

One of the concern that people have about home schooling is the socialization aspect. Will the children get to interact with other kids? This topic has been blown way out of proportion.I’m going to share my thoughts on the socialization issue and tell you how my kids are being socialized.


First of all, What is socialization?

Warning: Unsocialized Homeschoolers Ahead

(For fun, you can download this Free Unsocialized Homeschoolers danger sign)

Kids interacting and learning to work with others (”plays nicely with others” “shares”, etc) on a daily basis is one part. Learning to take turns, learning how to not interrupt - these are the social skills we want our kids to learn.

Let’s be honest. In schools, there are bullies, unstable people, teachers with issues of their own, and a lot of other behavior problems that children will be subject to. Socialization in the public school can become a nightmare because of discipline issues. My VERY brief stint as a substitute teacher provided plenty of evidence of this.

Putting 30+ kids of the same age in a room together doesn’t seem the ideal way to teach them socially appropriate behaviors. It seems to me that kids will learn this stuff by observing the people who (hopefully) have mastered these skills - their parents.

Kids are naturally social creatures - we all are. Unless we teach them to be otherwise, they will gravitate towards other kids they don’t know simply out of curiosity. School is not the only place to find new friends.

Home schooled children can participate in the same after school and weekend programs as public and private school children. Programs like 4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts, YMCA, and church groups offer chances to interact with other people. There is no shortage of opportunities to see other kids their age. My kids play with the neighbors, play with other kids at the gym, have friends over, etc. They interact with kids on homeschool field trips and spend time with other kids that we worship with. Just yesterday, they had friends over to play for most of the morning and afternoon. Then they played with some kids at the park, then at the gym.

When I was a teen and homeschooled, it was great because my best friend was also homeschooled, so we could do sleepovers in the middle of the week and do our work together. It was great! I also had many friends all over the state who were also homeschooled - some I got together with on the weekends, some were penpals I saw infrequently, but I certainly never lacked for a social life.

Homeschooling parents fiind that there are many opportunities to teach their kids social skills in the course of the week. I almost always have them with me when I am shopping, banking, running errands, etc. This provides an opportunity for me to teach them appropriate behaviors, such as looking at an adult when they’re spoken to and answering politely. (I don’t require my children to answer personal questions addressed to them by adults who don’t have any business knowing the answer, that’s just rude and I will point that out to my kids later.)

Typically, they get compliments on their behavior when we go out. When I remember to do so, it helps when I remind them of what kind of behavior I expect from them before we go into the situation.

Home schooled kids don’t spend all day, every day in the house. Finding friends is not any more of a concern for them than it is for any other kids, regardless of how they’re educated.

The more I think about it, the sillier the entire unsocialized homeschooler myth seems. Since school as we do it today is such a modern invention, and people seem to get ruder and less well mannered as time goes on… hmm, maybe there’s a connection?

School Kills Creativity?

December 6, 2008 | 1 Comment

Oh, man.

I could get lost on this site for hours. I mentioned on this other blog post about an unlikely unschooling advocate.

Here is another awesome video by a big thinker. Even if you don’t agree, watch anyway and I promise you’ll enjoy it. This guy is hilarious!

The topic of the talk is how our education system kills creativity. How it overvalues certain skills and intelligences and completely ignores and devalues others, to our society’s detriment.

Great quotes from the talk:

We are educating people out of their creativity.”

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”

– Picasso

How Do You Homeschool Multiple Children?

October 22, 2008 | 1 Comment

One of the questions people ask when they come across homeschooling parents is how they manage to teach their kids when they have more than one. Since so many homeschooling families seem to have larger families, it can certainly be done and it’s not as difficult as some might think. In fact, there are certain advantages to homeschooling when you have several kids.

For parents making the decision to homeschool, the fact that they have more than one child may concern them. They might fear that they won’t have enough time to focus on each child’s education enough.

Here are some tips to help you juggle your various children’s needs while you teach your kids at home.

Homeschooling With Babies and Toddlers  Morgan Boys in a Tree

Creative Commons License photo credit: Beau B

Homeschooling the older kids when you have babies and toddlers in the house is probably the most challenging time. With a baby or tot small enough to be held a lot, you can use a sling to keep your youngest close and happy and meet his needs while you read to or work with older children.

Use feeding times for study periods and read aloud time.

Since you’ll likely be sitting down to feed your baby anyway, have your other child(ren) read to you or sit them on your other side and read aloud to them. Your baby will benefit too from hearing words read aloud. They will learn that reading is a pleasurable activity, and hearing all those words spoken will improve their own vocabulary and reading skills later on.

Create and enforce quiet time/nap time.

When your baby or toddler is napping is an ideal time for more focused attention on the schoolwork, but what if nobody is still napping? Create and enforce quiet time. This is a good time for you to regroup and rest or catch up a struggling reader or child who needs some extra attention with school.

Keep little ones busy.

Toddlers and preschoolers can “do school” in the same area when older children are doing seatwork. Keep them stocked with appropriate arts and crafts activities to do. Likely they’ll pick up on much of the discussion going on during school time.

If this doesn’t work well for your kids and you need to separate them, try moving around the house a little. Perhaps the older child(ren) can sit at the dining room table for a bit and the younger ones use the floor or coffee table in the living room. Or an older child can do schoolwork at a desk in their room or a parent’s office.

If you have older children, let them take turns taking care of the baby/toddler in the house for short periods. This allows you to spend some one on one time with each child during the day.

Creative Commons License photo credit: vanRijn

Older Kids

If your children are older (and certainly once they’re all reading well!), things are a little easier. They no longer need much supervision. Most older homeschooled kids are pretty accustomed to figuring things out on their own and coming to you when they get stuck and need some help or to get more information. And for trips to the library!

With older kids, you can definitely use their size and maturity to help you get things done around the house, increasing the time you have available for homeschooling projects and field trips.

Get your kids involved in chores and meal preparation.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Learning how to clean up, complete simple handy projects around the house, do laundry and cook is very important real life preparation. In the old days, they called this stuff home economics!

If you have a child who is old enough, teach them how to prepare simple meals on their own without your assistance. A child as young as 7 can be taught how to make toast, eggs, oatmeal, sandwiches, cut vegetables and fruits, etc. After my youngest was born, my oldest son was a huge help to me because he could make snacks and easy meals for me. He was only 7 but he could do a lot around the kitchen. Now at ten, he loves to bake snacks and desserts, bake bread from scratch (no bread machine, he kneads the dough by hand), and help with dinner.

Meal prep isn’t just about eating and helping mom, but also reinforces reading, math and science skills.

A child as young as 3 can take their folded laundry to be put away in their dresser. Older kids can bring you dirty laundry, help fold and put things away when they’re done. Children can operate a vacuum properly from the time they’re around 6. A 5 year old can sweep small messes (like crumbs under the table) with a hand held broom and dustpan.

The reason I mention this is because as a homeschooling family, your house will likely get messier simply due to the fact that the kids are in it more hours of the day!

Forego summer and other lengthy vacations and do school year round.

Teaching through the summer can make up for lost time you experience during the year due to having a baby or illness or other family challenges that come up. Some parents even do a little schoolwork on the weekends. Why should learning be limited to 5 days a week?

One of the best things about homeschooling is the fact that learning can take place anytime, anywhere. Sometimes I even have to urge my kids to stop reading or building or creating and Go.To.Bed. My oldest can often be found reading his Science book at 10 PM (past his bedtime!).

Use your support network.

Can your husband, grandparents, or babysitters help the kids with schoolwork in the evenings and on weekends? Or are their other experiences your family and friends can expose your child to? Does your local homeschool support group offer a co-op? You don’t have to go it alone. Your children will benefit from different people’s perspective.

Avoid the “school at home” mentality.

Contrary to popular belief, homeschooling doesn’t involve sitting across the table from your child for several hours a day doing schoolwork. Most homeschoolers do not follow this model and the ones that do, burn out really quickly and either quit entirely or change their methods. Usually everyone is much happier!

Use curriculum that isn’t instructor intensive.

This means that you won’t have to spend a lot of time in prep work each day/week. The kids will be able to dig right in to their work, saving time. If the curriculum you’ve chosen requires you to spend a lot of time preparing lesson plans, it might not work for your family situation. That’s ok. Choose another!

On the other hand, unit studies, which do require more advance planning on the part of the parent, can allow children of different ages to learn together since everyone can do activities on their skill level. Try it out and see what works best for your situation. You don’t have to find the “perfect” solution right away.

Encourage working together.

Older kids can help younger kids with their schoolwork when you can’t be available. This reinforces the older child’s skills - the best way to learn something is to teach it! It can also increase goodwill among children.

You might want to forgo a traditional preschool curriculum for 3 to 5 year olds and let the younger kids learn alongside the older ones.

Encourage independence.

Allow older kids leeway in their school schedule. You may even want to let them choose their own curriculum or how they learn various subjects.

And finally, don’t set yourself up for failure with a rigid schedule. Adding pregnancy, a new baby, toddlers, and preschoolers to the mix can be challenging for any parent, and if you’re homeschooling, you especially need to be realistic about what you can accomplish. You might want to adopt an eclectic homeschooling style or even unschool for a period (or permanently).

If you ever doubt that your children are getting a good education because of homeschooling during their various ages and stages, think about what school was like for many people in this country a hundred years ago. Schoolkids of all ages were put in one room together with one teacher and this system produced a generation of Americans that were far more literate than modern generations!

WintersmithPark_06Aug2008_ 030
Creative Commons License photo credit: Small Town OK

Finally here is a book recommendation. Homeschooling More Than One Child: A Practical Guide for Families is a wonderful book that has hundreds of tips and bits of advice for families. The author is a homeschooling mom of 4 who also founded a homeschool support group in her state.

Great Homeschool Books for Your Library

September 1, 2008 | 1 Comment

Every homeschooling parent knows that a well stocked library is one of their most important investments. In addition to great works of literature, reference books like dictionaries and encyclopedias, however, there are also wonderful books on the topic of homeschooling itself that I consider must reads.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Open Day 2006 // Law Talks
Creative Commons License photo credit: The University of Adelaide

100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing The Right Curriculum And Approach For Your Child’s Learning Style

One of the most important (and first) decisions you’ll make is finding the best home school curriculum. You want one that matches your educational philosophy and that also works with your child’s learning style. This book makes this process of picking one among the many available choices so much easier. It’s a must read for parents at the start of their homeschool journey or for any homeschooling parent who wants to make a change in their home education.

The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child by Susan Wise Bauer
Susan Wise Bauer is the author of several books on classical homeschooling. Her Story of the World series are well loved by home educators. They help parents create a living history experience for children and I enjoy them too, which is no small thing considering history was my least favorite subject in school! I think I enjoyed going through the first volume more than my son did. The Story of the World books also have companion workbooks for those who wish to use them alongside the volumes, especially for older children.

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling
John Holt has been called the “father of unschooling”. His name is frequently mentioned among homeschooling advocates and pops up on message forums and websites for home educators frequently. As a former public school teacher turned unschooling advocate, Holt has penned several wonderful books on the topic of how children learn and why the public school system is failing.

What I truly love about Holt is how he encourages parents to trust their child’s learning process. Reading Holt gives you confidence that as a homeschooling parent you’re capable of educating your child and preparing them for adult life better than anyone else can.

The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas: 500+ Fun and Creative Learning Activities for Kids Ages 3-12 by Linda Dobson

This one is another favorite among homeschooling parents. One of the ongoing challenges homeschoolers face is how we can teach our kids the most important subjects: reading, writing and math every day without boring ourselves and our children. This book offers hundreds of ideas that will keep things fresh and interesting for you as you teach your kids at home. It will also assist you in meeting your individual children’s needs since they differ in ability and learning style.

The Kingfisher First Books
The Kingfisher First Animal Book and The Kingfisher First Human Body Book are wonderful for preschoolers and young children and could form the basis of early science curriculum. The other titles in the Kingfisher lineup are also excellent resource materials for homeschooling families.

emily & jonah like the red screwdriver best
Creative Commons License photo credit: wmshc_kiwi

The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom by Mary Griffiths
Unschooling, or child directed learning, is practiced by an estimated 10 – 15% of American parents. This book teaches you how to use the “whole world as your child’s curriculum” and is a breath of fresh air to parents who trust their children to learn naturally with minimal outside interference.

There are many other awesome books for homeschooling parents, but these are a few of my personal favorites. Please share some of your favorites in the comments.

Unlikely Unschooling Advocate

August 27, 2008 | Leave a Comment

This is fascinating, but not terribly surprising to homeschooling parents!

(And by the way, if you haven’t discovered Ted, you must check out the site. The videos are interesting and wonderful to share with your kids to stimulate thinking and discussion on a lot of meaningful topics.

This particular video I had to tell you about because it beautifully illustrates how children are capable of teaching themselves without any adult assistance.

According to the site:

“Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiments have shown that, in the absence of supervision or formal teaching, children can teach themselves and each other, if they’re motivated by curiosity and peer interest.”

Sugata repeated the experiment over and over, and found similarly remarkable results each time. In one, a 13 year old boy spent 8 minutes browsing the internet and using the computer (he had never used a computer in his life), yet by the end of the day, 60 kids had been taught by him to do the same.

In another city, a group of kids taught themselves not only how to use the computer and programs, but had learned 200 English words! None of them spoke English previously. They had to learn in order to understand the computer. Amazing. :)

The concluding message?

“Education does not have to be imposed.”

From “Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?”

Homeschooling: What Will Be Different This Year?

August 25, 2008 | 1 Comment

The first book in a series
Creative Commons License photo credit: mia3mom

If you’re a homeschooling veteran, you could meet the new year with either excitement or a sense of dread.

How can you make sure that homeschooling keeps on meeting your child’s needs and brings you joy too?

Maybe you need to make some changes in how you do things.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, and your children will feed off of your emotions. If you’re bored and frustrated, they will be too.

What can you do about this situation? Any suggestions?

What will you do differently this year with your homeschoolers?

The Cheapest Homeschool Mom

August 21, 2008 | 3 Comments

Homeschooling has cost me very little. In fact I bet I’ve spent less to homeschool my kids than I would have if they were in public school.
cheap homeschool
Creative Commons License photo credit: mia3mom

Making lunch at home is cheap. I drive less because of homeschooling, saving gas money. I don’t have to buy lists of school supplies. There is no junky overpriced stuff to buy in the name of a “school fundraiser”, and no kids to schlep around town to sell said junk.

I’ll admit - when I crack open some of those homeschooling or educational supply catalogs, my mouth waters! I have intentionally stayed away from the homeschool conferences for this reason too. No reason to tempt myself with things that I probably don’t even need, or could acquire cheaply with a little creativity.

My overall philosophy on learning is that it doesn’t take money to get a good education. Forget what the politicians tell you, they’re trying to buy your vote with propaganda. Research has shown that more money thrown at the education system in this country doesn’t mean a darn thing in terms of the results. (Neither does class size, but that’s another blog post!)

Most of the well educated people we think of throughout history spent almost nothing on their education. For example, legend has it that Abraham Lincoln taught himself math with ONE piece of chalk and a slate. Great thinkers like Mark Twain learned from the people and events going on around them, not from fancy and colorful things sold in catalogs.

I have heard people say that homeschooling is expensive - not homeschoolers themselves, but people thinking about doing it.

They start pricing curriculums that cost hundreds (or more!) out of the box and wonder how they’re going to afford it - they’re also likely thinking of the cost of keeping one parent at home to oversee the child’s schooling.

The following ideas are some of the ways I’ve been able to homeschool on the cheap, and a couple of awesome book recommendations for hundreds more ideas.

Decide On Your Budget
Just like anything else that involves your finances, it’s wise to set a homeschooling budget for the year before you begin purchasing supplies. Just doing this one thing might keep you from buying a lot of unnecessary stuff that will end up in the storage closet or listed on eBay.

homeschool cheap
Creative Commons License photo credit: mia3mom

Know Thyself
Decide on your educational philosophy and be honest about your homeschooling style. This will rule out purchases that won’t work for your child or your family.

If possible, test-drive curriculum and other tools before you start buying. (Ask other homeschooling parents if you can peek at their stuff, or attend one of the homeschooling conferences.)

One of the reasons buying curriculum can be so expensive is because most of the time you’re buying it sight unseen. It may not be right for your child so you end up selling it at a fraction of retail on eBay.

To avoid this problem, get with the other homeschooling parents in your support group. Ask them what they like and dislike about curriculum they’ve purchased and used. Read messages on homeschooling support forums online and do the same. Deciding in advance what your style will be means you can adapt the tools to the method, not the other way around.

If you don’t want to design your own curriculum or go with an eclectic style however, curriculum in a box type programs may be cheaper than obtaining everything piecemeal. Look around at online auctions or other places where homeschoolers are selling their used stuff. You can pick up barely used supplies this way. You can also purchase inexpensive basic curriculum at bookstores for under $30 apiece. For example, the Learn at Home series are around $15, and I’ve seen them for less at warehouse stores.

Of course, the online virtual K-12 schools are a free option for a complete curriculum (I’ve also heard you can get a free computer and internet service provider as part of the deal). Some homeschoolers express concern about this because the child is technically still enrolled in the public school system, and they don’t want the intrusion into their private life. But it is an option for those who are really strapped.

Buy Used
You can find great deals at swap meets organized by homeschooling support groups. Hooking up with your local group also means group discounts on field trips. To find one, check with your local homeschool association – a simple internet search will likely turn up several in your area. In the small rural town I used to live in, there were half a dozen I could choose from! Try joining booking coops too.

Yard sales, thrift stores, eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, “for sale or trade” message forums for homeschoolers online are some more places to find cheap supplies. Public library sales is another place to find inexpensive books to fill out your family’s bookshelves. A homeschooler’s dollars are probably best spent on a solid home library.

Be Creative
When I was a kid, every child I knew who was homeschooling did Calvert. Calvert is a wonderful classical homeschooling program but it’s also quite pricey. Nowadays, many parents are getting creative and opt to design a curriculum. I’ve done this from the start. I don’t want to get stuck in a curriculum that I don’t like or that doesn’t mesh with my child’s learning style.

There are so many options for homeschoolers. You can create unit studies, you can go for a “living books” curriculum by making lists of reading material and getting the books from the library. You can print an almost infinite number of free online worksheets (just search for what you need, for example “free third grade math worksheets” etc).

Math manipulatives can be super cheap. Instead of buying fancy manipulatives from the educational catalogs, use stuff you have around your home to teach the kids math – dried beans, dried macaroni, Lego toys, wooden blocks, measuring spoons and cups can teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and basic geometry.
school supply mountain
Creative Commons License photo credit: evelynishere

Be a Freebie Seeker
Did you know that many office supply stores host teacher appreciation days once a year around August? These are a source of free and discounted items and giveaways.

This month I attended one at Staples and got a free thumb drive for my trouble. (Last year they gave away a free tote bag filled with stuff.) So far I’ve spent less than $10 and have all the paper, pens, pencils, erasers and colored pencils I’ll need for the year.

Staples, CVS, Walgreens and Office Depot have been offering FREE and for a penny school supplies for several weeks now. They’re doing these loss leaders to get people in the store and it’s a goldmine for us homeschoolers.

Many larger bookstores such as Barnes and Noble also offer discounts to teachers throughout the year, including homeschooling parents. You just ask customer service for a discount card. They’ll put you on their email list and invite you to special educator days throughout the year with awesome speakers, giveaways, freebies, even free coffee and refreshments from the Cafe!

I got to meet Ron Clark, an award winning educator and author of The Essential 55 at one of these events. He signed my book for me then when he found out I was a homeschool mom, got out of his chair and bowed to me. LOL! Barnes and Noble also gives away free books in the summer.

Public libraries are a neverending source of free homeschooling materials. From the obvious – unlimited free books - to educational DVDs, great music on CD, music instruction on DVD and CD, arts and crafts activities open to the public, symphony days, storytime, even continuing education for older teens and adults.

These are the things I’ve always done to save money, but lately I’ve read a couple of awesome books that have given me tons more ideas.

Homeschooling on a Shoestring

This book was written by two homeschool moms whose families couldn’t have been more different. The thing they had in common was an intense love of homeschooling and their kids, and a desire not to let small budgets stop them.

What was interesting about this book is that it spends the first few chapters talking not about homeschooling per se, but about making more room in the budget, period. From saving money on groceries and other budget line items to launching home based businesses, it encourages making wiggle room in the family finances, which is helpful information all by itself.

Then the latter chapters focus on specific ways to educate kids for pennies. It covers everything from the basics of designing curriculum cheaply to enrichment activities like the arts, musical training and sports. It also spends a few chapters on teens and college bound homeschool kids.

The sections on teaching math using everyday items and also the information on teaching a second language were especially useful for me.

This book was written in the 90’s so the information on using computers and the Internet are a bit outdated but overall the book is chock full of useful tips and ideas.

One great idea I got from this book is to think more about bartering. I want my kids to have piano lessons but it’s not in the budget at this time. So, I’m looking around for a local piano teacher who needs a website and offer to build her one in exchange for a few lessons for the kids for me. :)

Ditto with Spanish “class”. I want to learn Spanish and I want the kids to learn too. I have a few Spanish speaking friends who are not teachers or tutors and have offered to barter or pay them a small fee for weekly lessons. Still working out the details on that. The ideas in this book have really stimulated my creativity.

Homeschool Your Child for Free

This hefty volume, also written by two homeschooling moms, is another awesome resource. Because it was published in 2000, it has many online tools and websites listed in its pages.

This book claims to have 1,200 resources listed for home educators, and I believe it. While the first book deals mostly in principles, this book has more specific recommendations.

It’s organized into the following sections: Curriculum Scope and Sequence; Education Essentials; Language; Mathematics; Art; History; Music; Social Studies; Humanities; Science; Health and then finally Graduation. This makes it easy to find the specific information you’re looking for.

Homeschool Your Child For Free would be a wonderful addition to any homeschooling parent’s library, a reference to pull off the shelf whenever you’re scratching your head wondering where you can find free information for your child on any particular topic.

For more homeschooling ideas, don’t forget to sign up for the free homeschool tips list!

Children Don’t Have to Be Coerced To Learn

August 11, 2008 | 5 Comments

Frequently when other parents find out I’m homeschooling (because I don’t advertise it) and the topic comes up in conversation (because they ask me questions, not because I’m a homeschooling evangelist), they say things like:

Oh, I could never do that.”

To which I reply,

It’s really not as hard as you think.”

You see, I really don’t like sparking people’s defensiveness, and homeschooling, along with homebirthing, is one of those topics that seems to bring out an emotional reactiveness in people. That’s why I don’t tell people either item unless they ask.

But they usually keep talking, again - to defend themselves. And they say things like:

Little Johnny would just fight me. I tried to teach him once and he just fought with me. He does much better with the teacher.”

I’m not denying what these parents experience. It’s pretty typical kid behavior - they behave better for strangers or other people than they do for us. But the fact that they do kind of tells you that inside, they are afraid. The reason they behave better for strangers is because they don’t know exactly where they stand. With us parents, they are sure of our love for them and therefore they know which boundaries to push and how far to push.

So they push. :)

But I’m getting off the point here. What I wanted to say is that, in my heart of hearts, what I really want to say to these parents, but I don’t say because again, I don’t want them to get defensive, is this:

When you back off, your kids will stop fighting you about learning. Kids do not have to be coerced to learn.

In fact you cannot STOP them from learning.

digging faux dino bonesphoto credit: woodleywonderworksCreative Commons License

This morning I was resting in bed at about 9:30. I had been awake since 6:30 and had cleaned up after breakfast, had a workout and a shower and was a little sore from yesterday’s workout, and so was sitting on my bed for a bit.

I’m usually a bit tired on Mondays after the busy weekend, and had not begun on any schoolwork with the kids yet. I was thinking of the errands I had to run later, and a coaching client who needed my attention, and how I was going to orchestrate my day .

Sadie joined me for a little snuggling. And I picked up my Crackberry to check messages. During this time I was suddenly struck by what my kids were doing. I even told my Twitter friends about it.

My 7 year old had come to me with a Lego structure he had created. He spends a few hours a day playing Legos. It’s probably his favorite activity. He will quietly come up with complicated Lego structures (not the kind with instructions, stuff he’s envisioned in his mind), usually rockets, airplanes, helicopters… he’s into aircraft and space.

I have no idea how this child makes these creations. I couldn’t recreate them for all the tea in China. And all this “child’s play” (really hate how that expression has come to mean a worthless activity, when we know that play is so very important!) has taught him principles of math - things like percentages and fractions, stuff we have barely begin to cover yet in 2nd grade. But he already understands it.

He came to me to show off his latest thing, a space shuttle complete with rocket boosters that fall away to earth after it takes off, a compartment (with windows all around) for the astronauts, fuel tank, a tether that attaches to the astronauts for their moon walks, etc. He couldn’t get the design quite right and expressed a little frustration (he might spend hours getting it just right), which led into a discussion about Thomas Edison, the biggest fail-er and also holder of 1,638 patents. (That put a smile on his face.)

My oldest had been outside for a nature walk or whatever he was doing, and found a large feather. He came inside and showed me, convinced it belonged to an Archaeopteryx or just maybe, a hawk. ;)

So he grabbed a big book on dinosaurs we had on the bookshelf and started reading it. Dissatisfied with that, he got online and started searching for pictures of Archaeopteryx features to compare his find to.

After he was satisfied, he headed for the couch and picked up his current read, a chapter book about Electricity and Magnetism.

No worries about homeschool science for the day. ;)

And my 5 year old had been “reading” American Girl books to her baby dolls. She kept asking me over and over what the girl’s name was. “Felicity“, I said. She will sit and tell me, her Grandmother, her baby dolls, whoever will listen stories she has made up and “written” in her book. (Looks like a lot of I’s, O’s, S’s and other letters she knows how to write well. Ask her to read her story to you and she will - hope you have the next 20 minutes free!)

Children love to learn and crave to learn. Just as they learn how to breathe after exiting the womb, learn how to breastfeed, learn how to crawl, learn how to walk, learn how to talk, etc.

The longer I go in this homeschooling journey the more convinced I become that my primary job is to create an environment conducive to learning, limit time sucks like Television and video games, be available to answer questions, point them to resources and helpers, set an example of lifelong learning, and then…

Get the Heck Out of the Way

The longer I go in this homeschooling journey, the less I concern myself with someone else’s timetables. I couldn’t care less whether my kids are “keeping up” with their peers in school.

The other day someone sent me a message asking me if I was worried that my kids were keeping up with their schooled peers. He was an older gentleman, and I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder if he’s worried about keeping up with other 60 year olds?

I don’t mean to sound mean, but there was a misspelling in his message and I chuckled to myself that he wasn’t “keeping up” with me in the spelling department and I’m half his age. ;)

My kids are probably “behind” their peers in some things, and “ahead” of them in others. That doesn’t concern me. Their education is not a race. Besides, how they are educated is almost irrelevant in that conversation because the same phenomenon exists in school.

There is another problem behind this idea that children have to be forced to learn. I think that behind some of that fear is the belief that children are lazy.

I don’t believe that. Just because they don’t always want to do what we want them to do does not make them lazy.

It makes them people with minds of their own.

I’ve seen my kids work very hard, to the point of exhaustion, on something that is important to them.

Right after the dinosaur feather research was done, oldest decided of his own volition that the backyard needed tidying up. So, he rallied the troops (his brother and sister) and with trash bags in hand, headed outside to pick up paper and other trash.

(Am I lazy because I saw no need to clean up the backyard? When I will often stay up until 2 am to work so I can take care of my kids?) ;)

I’ll give you an example of what I mean by backing off and trusting kids to learn.

I’ve mentioned before that my 7 year old struggles with reading. It tires him out completely to read, and he doesn’t seem to enjoy it very much. Unlike my other kids, he never brought me a book and asked me to read it to him.

I can tell this makes other people a bit nervous, but I am not worried about it. I was at one point, though. I have to admit. I’m a big reader and reading is so important to me.

But after seeing his anxiety and stress about it, I realized I was going to make him hate reading if I pushed him. So I backed off.

The last time we went to the library, I showed him where the books were about space, astronomy, astronauts, planes, etc. He picked out several and we took them home. In the past few days, for the first time he has been asking me to read these books to him, and when I finish one, he complains that it was too short. :-)

Today I had him do a little reading and phonics work, and he was not at all resistant about it - probably because I decided to relax. He’ll learn to read well alright, when it’s important to him, and when he realizes that he needs to be able to read well in order to learn the cool stuff he wants to learn (like how to build solar panels, something he’s fascinated by).

And it will happen on his timetable, not mine.

Can you tell I’m reading John Holt again?

Who is Dr. Daisy?

August 5, 2008 | 2 Comments

Who exactly is Dr. Daisy? I will try to keep this brief so as not to bore you. Well, as you gathered my name is Daisy and I am a retired Chiropractor. I retired in order to home school my children. I have 5 children ages 5 to 17 and have been home schooling for over 10 years. I enjoy home schooling and want to be able to share some tips that have worked for me throughout the years. I will be sharing some of my tips here and you can also visit my site at Dr. Mommy Home School Tips for more. If there are any subjects you need suggestions for, feel free to leave a comment here and I will address them for you. My goal is to make teaching and learning fun and hope that my tips will simply the mysteries of home schooling.

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