Thursday, May 31, 2012

Homeschool Curriculum Reviews



homeschool curriculum and resources are so varied these days. Some folks use an elementary online curriculum, some use traditional boxed curriculum, some use a mix of both, some folks use charter schools, while some choose to use a mix of their own tools married with resources such as local Veritas classes. The trick is finding what works for you and your children. Each has their own merits, but not all work for every family.  Reviews and forums are helpful in making decisions about curriculum and resources, but keep in mind the person is basing their opinion solely upon THEIR situation and feeling, not yours. What one person likes or dislikes might not apply to your situation. Sometimes what someone else describes as a “dud” might fit your family quite nicely.

Homeschool curriculum reviews and word-of-mouth definitely have their place, just read with an open mind. Take notes about the pros and cons each person lists about a resource you are interested in learning more about. What seems to show up consistently in the reviews? If something is listed as a con, try to figure out why it was a con. Perhaps thier con is your pro or vice versa. You must apply the positive and negative features of resources to your family in order to make a solid decision.

Go to the main website for the resource you are considering. See if the company offers a free trial of the resource. What about free samples? Do they have a money back guarantee? Is there a long term contract you must sign? How well does the resource fit the needs of all of your children? Does it provide challenging material and resources for the child who needs a little extra help? Involve your kids in the decision making process because it helps build ownership and paves the way toward future success.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School’s Out For the Summer

Just a short reminder this week to keep the kids in the swing of things (school things that is) this summer without going overboard.

For those of who school year round, this is no biggie, but for those of you who take a break, try engaging your child academically for very short periods of time once or maybe twice a day. The point is to keep things fresh and fun. Summer is supposed to be relaxing for those who take a break. It is not time to cram new lessons in. Keep the “focused” learning to short bursts.

Kids can play online logic games like sentence match;  read books; write poems, songs, or short stories; draw a picture of their favorite activity of the day; design a new robot or celestial city with Legos; play hink-pink or hig-pig word games; write a letter to grandma or their favorite actor/actress; make up the dinner menu; sort your coupons by category; take apart old broken alarm clocks and such to see how they work, or to make a new invention…

Leave a comment about your favorite things for your kids to do in the  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Word Match Games

What do oceans, Harry Potter, soccer, science, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Goodnight Moon, dinosaurs, Wuthering Heights, The Black Stallion, the 10 largest U.S. States, space, Canterbury Tales, sound a-likes…have in common? Give up? They are all word match games your child can play to boost logic and reasoning skills. Your child is required to select the best word through a process of elimination. Sentence match games are fun to play. They are excellent for building vocabulary skills. Kids can play the games online or as a printable worksheet at VocabularySpellingCity.

If you have a visual spatial learner, this site is great. There is so much to do and kids seem to retain what they are learning because they are having fun as they learn. The site is free to use, but they also offer a Premium membership that is very cheap.

                   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Homeschooling Responsibly

 

I clearly remember applying for my first credit card when I was still in college. I couldn’t believe they gave me one! Rather than being super excited, I was terrified. I understood that charging something simply delayed the payment. I knew it was easy to charge, but hard to pay. I realize my “fear” was actually responsibility coming out in me. Mom raised me right. Responsibility must be taught, and it begins at home. Thanks, Mom!

Kids must witness responsibility in the everyday lives of their parents. If your kids can’t see you being responsible in your daily life, your attempts to teach them responsibility will be in vain. It’s fake. Kids of all ages grow up and repeat what they saw at home. If you modeled good decision making skills to your child, they will have the ability to make good decisions as an adult. If you were a spendthrift, your child will most likely be an adult spendthrift. 

                        

Homeschooling responsibly includes thinking about what goals you have for your child. Academics are certainly important, but so are life skills, manners, loyalty, fairness, honesty, responsibility, empathy, ability to reason and so much more. I am not attempting to tell you how to homeschool, that is a journey you and your child will take together. .I am merely suggesting you expose your child to more than book knowledge along the journey.

Maybe you are thinking about homeschooling. You  believe the benefit of one-on-one learning and a curriculum that matches their learning style will take them to the next level.Maybe you see the need to impart more responsibility or some of the skills listed in the paragraph above. Maybe you feel homeschooling will allow you to do just that. Weigh the pros and cons of homeschooling first. Write down your reasons for wanting to homeschool. Are they valid? If you want to homeschool because you are tired of getting up early to get the kids on the bus, you might be headed in the wrong direction. List the cons. If you list a con as not being able to teach because you are not a certified teacher, just go ahead and scratch that one off. You ARE most certainly qualified to teach your child. What have you done their whole life…teach them!

Living responsibly breeds responsible kids, and who doesn’t want a responsible kid around?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Context Clues: A Schoolish Game

Here a clue, there a clue, everywhere are context clues. “What is this sentence saying, Mom? I don’t understand what the story is talking about. I don’t know what this word means, Mom.” Have you heard this before?

Sometimes kids have problems figuring out hard or unexpected words in their reading. The first thing we do is either tell the meaning (lost opportunity for them), or tell them to look the word up. Looking the word up can be boring and a drag to many kids…very schoolish, isn't it? Understanding context clues is as vital to reading comprehension as is spelling and vocabulary.

Do your kids get tired of playing the same old spelling games over and over? If you marry context clues with spelling or vocabulary practice, you will have a whole new game for them to play. And we all know playing games is more fun than just looking up a word in a dictionary, plus, retention is much higher. Give online games a shot.

Your kids can practice using context clues to identify spelling and vocabulary words as they improve their reading comprehension. Sometimes kids have to dig a little deeper to understand what an author is saying. If they become more aware of the words around the difficult words they encounter in their reading, they will save themselves (and you) many trips to the dictionary. Your goal is to teach them how to find answers on their own, and their goal is to make very good logical guesses about the meanings of many different words.

If you or your kids need a little more background on context clues, this site does a great job explaining things.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teaching Writing

I clearly remember middle school and writing assignments. Back in the day, the teacher assigned a certain number of words for a writing assignment. I do not ever remember being taught the basic mechanics of writing. I do not ever remember being taught about the different styles of writing, how to brainstorm, how to construct a great topic sentence or thesis statement, how to write a teaser, how to tie everything together in a culminating paragraph, how to paint pictures with a story, how to draw a reader in, voice, flow… Do you?

I do remember counting every word and figuring out how many more and, but, so…I needed to push me closer to the finish line. I didn’t dare waste time focusing on what my story was about, or even if it was any good. I just knew I had better have all the words needed because that was stressed as being the most important aspect of the assignment. What a waste of my time. I wish my teacher had spent time coaching me in the fine art of story writing and the importance of correct structure and grammar. I was left with a distaste for writing, however with time, I taught myself about writing and began to enjoy the art. I seriously doubt very many kids today enjoy writing. I imagine they see it as torture, which is quite sad.

Writing is a very important skill for everyone, especially today. Writing is used in most all jobs in one form or another. Kids deserve to be taught how to effectively write, and they deserve to be allowed to discover the fun writing brings.

           

Do you flinch when it comes to teaching your child how to write? What about it causes anxiety? Is it sentence structure, paragraph writing, SAT essay writing skills, advanced essays, or something else? Some parents are just not comfortable teaching writing because they feel they were never properly taught how to write. A writing tutor can be helpful. But, if you are willing, you and your child can learn to write together. You might want to start by learning about the different styles of writing: narrative, expository, argumentative, persuasive, comparative, literary, and so on. Next, explore ways of organizing and making a rough draft. Move into editing and finally to the final copy. The five paragraph essay is a great next move since most kids will have to complete a writing portion on whatever standardized test they take. If grammar is a little shaky, brush up on sentence structure, paragraphs, usage, and mechanics first. Remember, this is not a race, so go slow and enjoy the process.