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...
Seen any good movies lately?
Our family enjoys movies. We chose new releases that we wanted to see together, looking forward to the experience. The exchange of opinions and understandings after the film gave everyone a chance to share and hear the reactions of others. Since my children grew up listening to a daily read-aloud, there was a natural transition to movies from the group sharing of an ongoing story. My husband's dramatic reading of The Chronicles of Narnia was always a favorite of our children, plus it built an active approach to listening. You never knew when Daddy might change the story to see who was paying attention! Watching the movie later also gave them a real appreciation for the richness of literature and the impossibility of truly conveying the depths of a great story in a couple of hours.
Not only were movies a source of enjoyment, they were also a great part of school. We read the wonderful classic Swiss Family Robinson aloud, then had Swiss Family Robinson Night where we watched the movie and ate an island dinner of finger food on the floor in the living room. Our meal was complete with candles and coconut! This experience remained a favorite of our family for many years. Connecting literature to this multi-sensory experience made it memorable—and fun!
We continued to incorporate movies into our literary instruction as our children got older. During high school there was not enough time to read all the great books so often we would watch a film to get a taste of a book we didn't have time to read. As with all tools, make movies your servant. Teach your children to select and watch with discernment, following your example. If your family chooses to watch movies, make use of this rich source of ideas for discussion and evaluation, building comprehension as you go. When you do, you may shed a tear, give a shout of victory, become inspired, or travel the world, all from the comfort of your living room. Sounds like homeschooling, doesn't it?
My children's high school years of homeschooling were truly a delight. I was grateful to be such an involved part of their lives, and honored to be considered such good friend material! We charted a path, with Ruth Beechick's help, that allowed us to stay the course of using the unit study approach that had always been so successful for us. We integrated language arts into everything, decreasing the time spent working on isolated subjects, and became skilled observers and recorders of all that we did.While many around us felt they had no recourse but to use textbooks, or prepared courses, we took steps that were truly bold for us. We used the course outlines from our state's educational website, which we kept in a notebook. I would mark off objectives as they were covered, writing the date next to the goal. I kept a folder for each course we claimed credit for, which included lists of materials used, reports, projects, and perhaps photos of field trips or related activities and a summary of what was completed.
Once the course objectives were broken down like this, we were free to use the library or other resources we already had, and to deal with the topics from our family's viewpoint. People became valuable resources as we learned from those who had expertise or experience in the topic area, equipping the children with the ability to come up with a plan to learn just about anything. It also allowed us to customize to fit their particular bends.
When young people become confident learners, where they learn won't matter. They will be successful. Don't be too quick to send your children to learn from others, even in the high school years. There will be plenty of time for that. Cherish the relationships and blessings that come from your time together.