One of the strengths of Trail Guide to Learning is the fact that it is so well laid-out and organized—everything is basically done for you! With that being said, no curriculum will be a perfect fit and we should never be slaves to a curriculum.
Just like the chill that sets in during winter, there is a concern that can set in on homeschoolers at this time of year. After the holidays are over and it’s time to go back to school, homeschoolers can start feeling jittery. Looking at the students who may not be thrilled about getting back into the routine and thinking about all you need to cover before the end of the year can produce a sort of panic... one that is easy to fall in to, but hard to get out of! It is the kind of panic that can cause you to throw away the methodology you love (and you know works) in favor of something more traditional, more productive looking, something with more paperwork. In your heart you know it isn’t the best way to learn, but what else can you do to address the rising sense of fear that you won’t get everything done?
The best way to back down this lurking fear beast is to speak educational truth to it. What do we know about the way children learn, and really anyone for that matter? We know that a variety of types of activities are most effective. If you have ever sat through a college class of three hours of lecture, you know that there is a limit to what you absorb. Some lecture, or instruction is good. Too much can be numbing! So, like a good meal, set a nice educational plate of variety. Incorporate discussion, reading, writing, and activity into your school day.
How do children best remember what they learn? By attaching meaning to it! Learning by rote is best left to doing household chores, your address and the birthdays of your family members. When something that is learned is paired with activity and application it is much more likely to be remembered. The fact or piece of information is now attached to an experience and not just the ability to memorize. That’s why linking literature to content areas like history, science, and geography make so much sense. A memorable character or story connect concepts with content in a way that can seem effortless.
Next, remember where you came from. Perspective is so important in learning. Without seeing the progress you have made since the beginning of the school year, you can forget what has been accomplished. Start your lessons after any extended break with plenty of review before you go forward. It will make everyone feel more successful! Once you have reviewed, your students are up to speed and ready to build on the foundation of learning that has already taken place. Now that you see all that has been accomplished, you can rest knowing that more learning will take place.
Lastly, share the positives you see with your children. It is in your face that they see a reflection of how they are doing. While we know as teaching parents that we must adjust and correct our children, how you do that is of great influence in determining how far you will get! Your children are your blessings, not your educational burdens, so try to remind them of that fact daily. Build an atmosphere of encouragement.
Real learning is a result of these simple keys. Our goal is not just a passing test score, but an equipped, interested learner. Incorporate these easy to apply principles and watch the chill of fear fade, replaced by the confidence that what you do with your children will produce lasting learning and and students who can use the skills they have been taught. And remember to put this article somewhere you can find it next February...
Are you organized?
This is one of those questions that can bring an otherwise confident homeschool parent to their knees. I must start this article with a confession. I have never been as organized as I wanted to be. (You can read it aloud and consider it your confession as well!) I have also never been as organized as the people who write or speak about organization. Some of their ideas have helped me, but it was difficult to put into practice those helpful nuggets if I was busy trying to revamp my life and the personality that God gave me into someone more organized! Then there was also trying to bypass the guilt that inevitably followed a conversation with an organized person...
Here's the good news. My children grew up anyway. They finished high school, received scholarships, and got jobs. My lack of organization did not permanently impair them, largely due, I believe, to the mercy of God, which I must gratefully point out is new every morning. So, from that lengthy disclaimer, let me tell you what I think is my best organizational tip—do whatever works for you!
Here's one thing that helped us. The children each had a crate where they kept all their school stuff. About once a month, or every other month if life was crazy, we would clean out the crates, putting finished papers we wanted to keep in an accordian file with a slot for each month. This helped us when we ended our school year, and provided a dandy review of learning. I knew enough about myself to know that I needed their help to do this organizing, so we included these days as part of our schoolwork, rather than it being a mom-only activity.
Find what works for you. Don't come under the idea that you have to become someone else to organize successfully. Find ways for the children to help you. Tell them what you need and then ask them how they would do it. Take school time to accomplish this task, letting your children know that everyone can help do what is needed. You may be pleasantly surprised. There just may be a budding engineer or event coordinator in the house, who can't wait to help you organize! That may just be part of His mercy to you as well.