Homeschool Gets More Media Publicity

Okay, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read about homeschooling–ever!

For those of you who have never heard of the Onion, I should probably explain that the incredible, hilarious article about homeschool that I’m about to post here is a comic piece–meant to be funny–but one that hits so close to home that you have to laugh. And oh, how I laughed!!

The Onion’s aim is to help us laugh about current events, and while I don’t endorse them often (because their videos and articles sometimes have expletives and other un-family friendly content), I wholeheartedly endorse this article, giving it a homeschooling mom’s five star rating! 🙂

Here is the article: http://www.theonion.com/articles/increasing-number-of-parents-opting-to-have-childr,17159/

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Raising Readers

You might say that my kids like to read. Check out these pictures!

Hanging out at home:

Alone in their rooms:

Reading with siblings:

Even reading with friends who come over to “play”

So people often ask me–“How do you get your kids to read so much?”

Here’s my secret:

1) Parenting

Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook is a parents’ guide (now being used as a teachers’ textbook by many colleges) that helps turn kids into avid readers, even if they are currently T.V.-addicted or unmotivated! Once we implemented his advice and strategies in our home–from nightly readings and strategic book-placings in the home to the more scientific “how to discuss books with kids in a way that makes them want to read more”–we noticed a huge change in our family as our children gravitated away from the television and towards books!

2) Education

From Bauer’s book The Well-Trained Mind, we learned how children of the past were taught–you know, the kids who devoured books like they were candy, back in the days before television. Whether you are a homeschooler, or just a parent wanting to enhance their child’s public education, the Well-Trained Mind is THE must-have guide for how to instill a love of learning and a passion for books in your child.

3) Activities

If your child struggles with reading comprehension, try using these Writing With Ease worksheets, which help enhance a child’s reading abilities through writing! This ingenious book takes sentences and paragraphs from classic children’s literature and asks students to read, respond to, copy, or put into their own words the things that they read. This easy-to-use program (small, 5-minute exercises!) introduces so many great books to my children that I am constantly driving to the library to feed my daughters’ “hey–I want to read that book, too!” requests after each lesson. I HIGHLY recommend these worksheets to any parent whose child struggles with reading or is not motivated to read.

Kids, Computers, and Entertainment

“Are computers good for learning?”

“Isn’t educational television okay?”

“What about those free online homeschool programs?”

Education guru Susan Wise Bauer said it best: Television and computer learning are PASSIVE LEARNING (your brain goes slack, letting the screen do all the mind-filling), whereas reading is ACTIVE LEARNING (brain is intellectually stimulated as it decodes words and digests new ideas)

Still, computers should NOT be banned! My mother–a volunteer advocate for rape victims–said: “Kids raised without computers are more vulnerable to Internet predators” because so many young girls get lured into predators’ snares (and young men into gaming/porn addictions) when parents refuse them computer access or fail to teach them “cyber street smarts.”

For more information and better advice, you should read what the Lazy Organizer has to say. She’s the EXPERT (and has the successful kids to prove it!)

Our standards with regards to computers, kids, and education are as follows:

  1. TELEVISION: We own a television, but only watch selected movies as a family. We do not have cable or satellite TV–and although this is mostly for practical reasons (I prefer to spend my money on tangible stuff, thank you!), we’ve enjoyed some amazing benefits as a result. Our children read more often, use their free time to be creative, and they don’t ask for tons of toys like the TV-watching kids who are bombarded by commercials all day.
  2. COMPUTER: Computer use is allowed as a supplement to science or history lessons (for research or visuals). But I search online WITH my children, and am quick to point out the stranger danger along the way: “Look at those banners–be careful not to click on them!” I say. “That ad was put their by a stranger who wants you to go see his site. We NEVER visit a stranger’s site!” I also let them send e-mails to grandparents or cousins, so that they will learn responsible e-communication from me (because of what my mother told me about a college-age victim whose “e-mail innocence” led to correspondence with a creepy predator who eventually convinced her that he was her soul mate . . .  ).
  3. GAMES: My kids are allowed to play educational games online at Discovery Kids, National Geographic Kids, or PBS Kids web sites as a RARE TREAT, but I stay close by and watch their every move. I also point out possible dangers as they play (for example: “Look at how they are asking you for your e-mail address. Do you think you should give it to them?”). We also have educational games on CD ROM, games like “Oregon Trail” (history, sociology) and “Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego?” (geography).
  4. VIDEO GAMES? None. I’ve never had a single positive experience as a result of letting my children play non-educational video or computer games. They always flip out when game time is over, crying and screaming for more. This almost instant addiction to recreational gaming is all the proof I need that such games are NOT a good idea for our family. If it isn’t educational, we do not play it, and I am constantly reminding my children why, the same way I remind them that we don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes–because it is too easy to become addicted.

If you are looking for help/advice in establishing media boundaries in your home, I recommend you visit the following links:

What’s So Wrong About T.V.?

Can T.V. Help Literacy?

What About Video Games?

What About Educational Computer Programs?

Setting Limits for Responsible Children

Effects of Media on Infants and Toddlers

Teenagers and Television

How TV is Killing Us

The Virtues of T.V.

12 Alternatives to Television

Children Need Time to Create

Charlotte Mason (the renowned educator/founder of Ambleside teacher’s college in England) taught parents and educators that,

“The morning . . . is much the best time for lessons and every sort of mental work; if the whole afternoon cannot be spared for out-of-door recreation, that is the time for mechanical tasks such as [crafts], drawing, practising . . . ” —Home Education, p. 23

While in public school, my children did not have afternoon time to explore the outdoors or to be creative, because they spent their entire evening doing homework!

But in the more natural, organic setting of our home school, all EIGHT subjects are easily completed before lunchtime (because home schools move quickly, due to the lack of crowd control issues), and afterwards, my children are free to explore and create the things that interest them!

Here’s one example–my daughter Prima wants a pony. I told her “no way.” So what did she do? She began to construct one herself, out of old cardboard boxes:

See the pajamas? If I had let her, she would’ve stayed up ALL NIGHT working on this thing. Charlotte Mason was right–afternoon/evening is definitely the time to let children explore their creativity!

I couldn’t believe she was able to design and implement this entire project without any patterns or adult assistance. In school, every project had instructions and a list of requisite supplies. But Prima apparently prefers to create things freehand:

During Prima’s public school days, projects like this were unheard of–she was too busy trying to get all of her homework done before bed.

A few weeks ago, the kids saw me making a pie. This is something they didn’t get to see when they were in public school, because I prefer to bake at midday (while the baby naps). This time, they got to join me:

And while they rolled, cut, and baked, you can bet that I was teaching about the art of pie-making (and its historical roots in the American colonies) which put a tangible (and tasty!) spin on history that led to further discussions of early colonial life. I actually had to get out the history books to answer their questions!

Our discussion became so lively and educational that I found myself wishing I had started inviting the kids to help me out in the kitchen a lot earlier–little Buttercup actually showed more interest in history that day than I ever experienced at her age!

But the best result that day (aside from yummy pies!) was the passion for learning and the feeling of accomplishment that my children experienced that day–proving that education isn’t all about worksheets and standardized tests.

Learning MUST include the feeling of accomplishment that comes from creating something meaningful, while at the same time recognizing one’s place in history!

An Art Historian Writes About Natural (Home) Schooling

Julie at Mental Tesserae, the ever-eloquent art historian/blogger, wrote a very insightful (and art-related) post about the difference between organic, home education and its synthetic public counterpart in the life of her gifted son. Very thought-provoking and neutral (doesn’t bash on public schools), I consider this article a must-read for parents who are looking for alternative learning strategies for gifted and/or special needs children:

http://mentaltesserae.blogspot.com/2008/02/predicate-mom-native.html

Benefit of Natural Learning #1

Natural learning has its benefits–and lack of boredom is one of the best!

It is a direct result of allowing children to explore their own creativity, unhampered by the clanging of a school bell (that would force them to stop working) or the pressure of peers (who might mock some of their more out-of-the-box ideas).

Here’s an example, with photographic proof, of what I mean:

While stranded in a “loaner house” to await the availability of our new home last month, my children had nothing to do! It rained all day, our home school books were still on the moving truck, and I imagine that most parents would resort to television, video games, or psychotropic meds to keep sane while stranded like this all day with five children.

Not me! While we lived in this limbo for an entire week, my daughters started finding things to do.

My oldest–we’ll call her “Prima”–found some scrap paper and an old pair of scissors, and almost immediately went to work, creating artistic designs and life-like shapes with them:

My second oldest–aka “Dizzy,” started writing letters to friends (something we usually do in our home school for writing homework, to make it fun)

And the little ones went outside to gather leaves, which we pressed inside wax paper shapes to make bookmarks (an activity so fun that I forgot to stop and take a picture, alas!). In the meantime, my older daughters gathered different specimens and created an impromptu “nature guide” of our new surroundings:

For the organic educator, being stuck indoors with a large group of children isn’t a headache, it is an adventure! And home-taught children adjust to different environments and situations easily–mine rarely act out or complain that they are “bored.” Instead, they thrive, thanks to the flexibility they’ve developed in an ever-changing learning atmosphere (as opposed to the public school reliance on constant, repetitive activity, requiring children to stay busy at all times, lest they “get into trouble”).