Homeschooling Resources for Every Season of Learning

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Some of the questions I field most frequently involve inquiries about homeschooling and educational resources--the go-tos for the how-tos and what-ifs. Resources can be helpful as we all need boosts of encouragement and fresh ideas for the home education journey.  

When asked, I recommend the resources I've found most beneficial to us in the shifting seasons of our 25 years of homeschooling. Walking alongside a family, I try to offer recommendations which most closely address that family's unique questions and circumstances. Who has time to read through material which isn't applicable? We don't! We are a community of families with full days and many blessings.  

To that end, I compiled this blog of resources into categories. As you read through the list, you'll notice many of the selections incorporate multiple ages or facets of home education. Therefore, recommendations which are broad or could incorporate many seasons are listed in each potentially applicable stage. I hope you find this format beneficial. If you have additional questions, ask in the comments or connect with me via email. 

New to Homeschooling

Homeschooling for Excellence: How to Take Charge of Your Child's Education and Why You Absolutely Must, David and Micki Colfax (Warner, 1988) - one of the first books I read about the possibility and potential of homeschooling; helped me to see education outside the box

Home School Heroes: The Struggle and Triumph of Home Schooling in America, Christopher Klicka (B&H, 2006) historical account (with data) of homeschooling in America

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6; one of the resources I most recommend at evaluations when parents ask for this type of guidance

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie (Classical Academic Press, 2015)

The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight: Managing Your Days through the Homeschool Years, Heidi St. John (Real Life Press, 2012)

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith (Scribner, 2015) - philosophy of education and testing; opened my eyes to the myths I believed

Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling, Diana Waring (Emerald Books, 1996) 

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; fits nicely in a diaper bag for quick reads; highly recommend

Preschool Homeschooling

Spiritual Parenting, Michelle Anthony (David C. Cook, 2010) - parenting with implications for home education; reading this book was confirmation of what Mike and I always believed about parenting and learning

The Three R's: Grades K-3, Ruth Beechick (Mott Media, 2006) - a definite TREASURE in our home

The Five Love Languages of Children, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell (Moody, 1997) - love languages with parenting, learning, and teaching applications

Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home, Raymond and Dorothy Moore (Hewitt Research Foundation, 1981) - one of my all-time FAVORITES; read and reread many times over

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend 

Elementary Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell (Apologia Press, 2009)

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (2012, Jossey-Bass) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend

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Middle School Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey (Franklin Covey Co., 1988) - our teens appreciated this book, too 

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted FAV of ours; highly recommend

High School Homeschooling

Celebrate High School, Cheryl Bastian (Zoe Learning Essentials, 2015)

Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (Gallop, 2001)

And What about College? : How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions at the Best Colleges and Universities, Cafi Cohen (Holt Associates, 2000) one of the first workshops I attended about high school and one of the first resources I read

Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition, Cafi Cohen (Three Rivers Press, 2000) - another one of my first high school reads

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another all-time FAV of ours; highly recommend

Learning Differences 

When the Brain Can't Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder, Terri Bellis (Atria, 2003) - this resource became invaluable in my parent education

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Picture and Living Book Guides

Who Should We Then Read?, Jan Bloom (Jan Bloom, 2000) - volume 1 and 2 are two of my FAVORITE go-to's for Living Books; LOVE author and series information provided in this one-of-a-kind resource

Read for the Heart, Sarah Clarkson (Apologia Educational Ministries, 2009) - annotated and helpful for selecting just the right read

Honey for a Child's Heart, Gladys Hunt (Zondervan, 2002) - one of the first books I read about reading

Give Your Child the World, Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan, 2016) - listed by geographical location with helpful info about the content of each book

Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best in Children's Literature (Revised Edition), Elizabeth Wilson (Crossway, 2002)

Do you have a resource you recommend? Share in the comments so others can be encouraged!

 

What is a Picture Book?

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A picture book is a work which combines literary eloquence with artistic merit--words and illustrations--working together to tell a story. Generally, picture books are written with 200-800 words (depending on the age of the targeted audience) on 28-32 pages. Historically, picture books have been written to the preschool through mid-elementary audience, yet these masterfully crafted gems speak to the hearts of readers of all ages. 

Wordless picture books. A wordless picture book is just that, a book without words. The illustrations alone tell the story, unless, of course, the person holding the book chooses to imagine and craft the text. One of the Bastian's favorite wordless picture books is Jerry Pinkney's extraordinary The Lion and the Mouse, a retelling of Aesop's classic tale. This treasure won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for its illustrative excellence. 

If your younger readers enjoy visual storytelling or prefer to create their own storylines based on provided illustrations, these wordless picture books may add some spark to your morning read-aloud time. 

  • Briggs, Raymond, The Snowman
  • Spier, Peter, Noah's Ark
  • Spier, Peter, Rain

Concept picture books. Little learners devour information, especially if content is presented with a twist of fun or catchy repetitive phrases and rhythmic rhyme. With this engaging, low-stress presentation, picture books can teach age-appropriate concepts (colors, numbers, opposites, and letters) to eager, curious littles. 

Children ages 2-8 enjoy learning concepts through topics of interest, for example, cowboys, insects, or construction vehicles. Concept picture books make this possible and do so through relaxing moments with resources which foster both early learning and literacy.

  • Alakija, Polly, Counting Chickens

  • Carle, Eric, 10 Rubber Ducks

  • Demarest, Chris, The Cowboy ABC

  • Demarest, Chris, Firefighter A to Z

  • Emberley, Barbara, Drummer Hoff

  • Krull, Kathleen, M is for Music

  • Laroche, Giles, If You Lived Here: Houses of the World

  • McMillan, Bruce, Jelly Beans for Sale

  • Pallotta, Jerry, The Icky Bug Alphabet Book

  • Schnur, Steven, Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic

  • Wadsworth, Olive A., Over in the Meadow: A Counting Rhyme

Traditional picture books. I remember the librarian reading Blueberries for Sal as I sat imagining the smell of fresh muffins cooling in the kitchen. Through the unfolding plot of the the book, I could feel the fear Sal felt as she wandered off in the field and could no longer see her mom. Sal became my friend. I hoped she would find her mom, cheered her on as she met a mama bear. This is just one of the classics I associate with read-aloud time and school library visits. As a young mom, I couldn't wait to introduce my children to my literary pal, Sal.

Traditional picture books invite readers into the story, into the lives of the characters. While reading, listeners develop empathy and understanding of others' feelings and circumstances, almost without knowing the transformation is taking place. For this reason, picture books become a child's first experience with the power of story. Together as a family, we've jumped into the plots of Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, and Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.

Should you be a time and life season where you are building your home library, here are some must-have picture books to brighten up your shelves. 

  • Ackerman, Karen, Song and Dance Man

  • Brett, Jan, Town Mouse and Country Mouse

  • Brown, Marcia, Stone Soup

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, Katy and the Big Snow

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, The Little House

  • Cooney, Barbara, Miss Rumphius

  • Estes, Eleanor, The Hundred Dresses

  • Galdone, Paul, The Gingerbread Boy

  • Gramatky, Hardie, Little Toot

  • Hoban, Russell and Lillian, Bread and Jam for Frances

  • Keats, Ezra Jack, The Snowy Day

  • Keats, Ezra Jack, Whistle for Willie

  • Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed

  • LaMarche, Jim, The Raft

  • McCloskey, Robert, Lentil

  • Newberry, Clare Turlay, Barkis

  • Swift, Hildegarde, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

  • Ward, Helen, Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop’s Fables

  • Ward, Lynd, The Biggest Bear

  • Yolan, Jane, Owl Moon

Biographical picture books. Our older picture book readers (which includes mom!) enjoy reading about real people who solve real problems. With biographical picture books, young readers don't have to wait until they can read chapter books to read about and meet some of the world's most significant history changers. Our favorites have included

  • Dooling, Michael, Young Thomas Edison

  • Moses, Will, Mary and Her Little Lamb

  • Martin, Jacqueline Briggs, Snowflake Bentley

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Every child ought to know the pleasure of words so well chosen that they awaken sensibility, great emotions, and understanding of truth.
— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart, Zondervan, 2002, p. 18

What is a picture book?

A picture book invites readers into learning and into the stories of others, gently, peacefully, and purposefully. There will be pondering. There will be wonder. There will heart-changing impact, sometimes so subtly it will go unnoticed for a bit of time. 

Some of our most treasured family read-aloud moments and discussions have come from the pages we've turned together. With each book selected, read, placed on our shelves, and the read again, a legacy formed. That legacy is sweet, precious, unique to our family, as it will be yours. That story legacy is a gift, a gift which will continue to span generations. It is just one benefit of keeping learning real and relational. 

Every. Moment. Matters. 

I recently presented Picture Book Treasures at the 2018 FPEA Convention. If you would like more information on picture books and building a home library, the MP3 can be purchased in the FPEA store

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When Curriculum Looks Different

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People often ask what we use for curriculum.

The short answer? We use anything which will help our children learn what it is they are trying to learn. And, if it involves real life, even better.

Sometimes our curriculum looks traditional, like a math textbook.

Other times our curriculum is a stack of Living Books.

A few months ago, my middle schooler initiated a flower bed renovation project. She wanted a flower garden to call her own, a place she could eventually grow cut flowers. A few visits to the clearance section of the local garden shop and she had rescued several very nice—but wilting—flowers (aka curriculum). With a little research in a field guide and a how-to online tutorial (more curriculum), the plants were thriving.

Today we added a few more resources to the curriculum—a collection of solar garden lights. Before placing them in the bed, we experimented with them in a dark room. So fun! The littlest learners were enthralled!

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“Flashlights without batteries!” one shouted.

Curriculum incorporates all that a learner uses to learn the content of a specific subject. Though we are often tempted to stay within the means of what we know or have experienced as curriculum, in real-life the definition of curriculum broadens to include any materials used to foster a student’s understanding.

The possibilities are endless.

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Consider broadening your sense of what curriculum includes. Maybe it’s

When learning is real, relational and intentional it's remembered! 

Every. Moment. Matters.

REAL-LIFE Spelling

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I had a hard time spelling when I was a child. It was hard. Red marks plagued my weekly tests. 

Though I understand the reasoning behind word families and traditional methods--I learned the pedagogy as an educator--I've been reminded that theory and practice are not always instant friends. Like any teaching means or method, nothing works for every child. 

It didn't work for me. It hasn't worked for all my children. 

Several of my children and I learned to spell by seeing correctly spelled words--and using the correctly spelled words in written context--over and over.

In other words,

repetition in real-life context returned the greatest retention. 

Perhaps you have a child who learns best by experiencing the written word in real life, in context in the environment.This post is for YOU! 

Yesterday as I prepared to visit the grocery store, a young learner asked to make my shopping list. I accepted the offer. She made the list and later spelled a few several times in her spelling book. The list provided access and practice to high-frequency (used often), real-life words, words which would be used over and over in her lifetime. The result? Spelling for the day. And, it mattered. 

Learning wasn't just a list, it was life! 

Today my daughter asked for more grocery words. I stopped what I was doing and quickly looked for a grocery ad to help us develop a list of words she thought were important. Her perception of what words mattered or would be helpful to her later in life fueled her desire to learn. Ultimately, she realized the words would one day help her make lists for shopping visits and the correct spelling would be important. She had taken ownership of her learning. 

A desire to help + real-life need = learning with purpose

Grocery words may not interest your child. Instead, words of interest may be might be tied to simple machines, clothing, computers, or art. Start with an interest to discover learning with purpose. 

If food words are of interest to your learner, here's a leveled list we created. 

Grocery spelling for beginning spellers

  • pie
  • tea
  • bag
  • pea
  • ham
  • nuts
  • can
  • corn
  • apple
  • fish
  • leek
  • beef
  • beet
  • salt
  • ice
  • rice
  • pork
  • meat
  • milk
  • beans
  • pita
  • cake
  • roll
  • egg
  • oil
  • dip

Grocery spelling for intermediate spellers

  • blueberry
  • strawberry
  • banana
  • pumpkin
  • ketchup
  • sushi
  • fruit
  • water
  • yogurt
  • celery
  • peanut
  • dairy
  • butter
  • cream
  • juice
  • sauce
  • pasta
  • grain
  • cereal
  • olive
  • carrot
  • apple
  • squash
  • grapes
  • orange
  • juice
  • lemon
  • pepper
  • coffee
  • muffin
  • cookie
  • cheese
  • bacon
  • steak
  • roast
  • mango
  • salad
  • lettuce
  • crackers
  • onion
  • pudding
  • pizza
  • biscuit
  • turkey
  • chicken
  • lentil

Grocery spelling for advanced spellers

  • fillet
  • burrito
  • lasagna
  • mushroom
  • cucumber
  • pierogi
  • detergent
  • charcoal
  • sandwich
  • pastry
  • salami
  • cheesecake
  • mozzarella
  • grapefruit
  • asparagus
  • raspberry, raspberries
  • avocado
  • pineapple
  • potato, potatoes
  • tomato, potatoes
  • broccoli
  • sausage
  • salmon
  • tilapia
  • shrimp
  • tenderloin
  • margarine
  • edamame
  • vegetables
  • batteries
  • sirloin
  • bakery
  • expresso
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Extended Learning

  • Use a weekly grocery ad to make a list of foods needed for three meals a day, for seven days. 
  • Write words on index cards. Choose ten of greatest interest and copy those on a white or chalkboard, twice a day. Younger learners may enjoy writing the words with chalk on the driveway or with a finger in a sand tray. 
  • Make a word search. There are word search generators online. 
  • Play grocery Scrabble. Only food or grocery words are eligible for play and the weekly grocery ad may be used during play. 
  • Take a behind the scenes tour of your local grocery store. 
  • Take a factory tour of a milk product processing plant near you. Our local grocery store has a processing plant an hour and a half from our home. It is amazing! 
  • Visit a U-Pick farm. 

Read Grocery-Related Picture and Non-Fiction Books

Hearing grocery-related words spoken and used in context--builds knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structure as well as provides a means by which math, science, and history content can be gained in a relaxed setting. Hearing content in context often keeps curiosity engaged and wonder active. 

  • Milk: From Cow to Carton, Aliki
  • From Milk to Cheese, Roberta Basel
  • From Tomato to Ketchup, Roberta Basel
  • Eating the Alphabet, Lois Ehlert
  • Growing Vegetable Soup, Lois Ehlert
  • The Fruits We Eat, Gail Gibbons
  • The Milk Makers, Gail Gibbons
  • The Vegetables We Eat, Gail Gibbons
  • From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons
  • Bread and Jam for Frances, Russell Hoban
  • Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey
  • The Vegetable Alphabet Book, Jerry Pallotta 
  • Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens

If the interest in everyday food words grows to an interest in farming, check out this post on our favorite farm books

Spelling can be real, relational, and intentional.

It matters! 

Transferring AP, Dual Enrollment, and CLEP Credits

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Accelerated credit—earning early college credit while in high school—is often referred to as advanced credit or credit exemption. The most common accelerated learning options include dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP), and College Level Examination Program (CLEP).

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment allows learners to earn high school and college credits simultaneously, before graduating from high school. Although dual enrollment can be a great option, it is not the best option for all learners.

Credit Exemption Options

Credit exemption by means of testing is another acceleration mechanism. Examples include AP and CLEP.  Parents and students should be aware that colleges and universities adopt institution specific guidelines for accepting accelerated credit by exam and often post test score and course exemptions on their websites. Knowing what will and will not be accepted can save time and money. 

  • Advanced Placement (AP) equates to college credit if the student takes the corresponding AP exam and scores well. Acceptable scores and the college credit earned with those scores varies from university to university. For example, Stetson University offers a chart stating scores, credits earned, and courses which may be substituted for the earned scores. 
  • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) is sponsored by the College Board. Though some colleges and universities accept all CLEP exam credits--there are 33 tests available--others have specific guidelines as to which exams they will honor. Again, it is helpful to search a university's website to find out the details. 

To find out whether a learner's college of choice accepts dual enrollment, AP, or CLEP, search for a universitiy's transfer of credits statement on the school's website. Most universities devote a whole page to transfer of credit guidelines with links specific to their campus. 

This list may help get you started in your quest. 

Bellhaven University

Clemson University - AP

Florida State University

Georgia State University - AP

Georgia State University - CLEP

Harvard College

Iowa State - AP

Iowa State - CLEP

Kansas State

Kansas University - AP

Kennesaw State University

Louisiana State university

Miami-Dade College - AP

Miami-Dade - CLEP

Miami University of Ohio

Michigan State University

Millersville University -AP

Penn State University - CLEP

Purdue University - AP

Purdue University - CLEP

Rollins College

Seton Hall University

Stetson University

Texas A&M - CLEP

Thomas Edison State University

University of Alabama

University of Florida - AP 

University of Florida - Credit by Examination

University of Florida - Transfer Statement

University of Kentucky - CLEP

University of Maryland - CLEP

University of Massachusetts - CLEP

University of Minnesota - CLEP

University of Montana - CLEP

University of Nebraska - CLEP

University of North Florida

University of Oklahoma

University of Oklahoma - CLEP

University of Tennessee

Wheaton College

Wofford College - AP

Looking for the home education admission requirements for colleges and universities? Check out this blog post. 

Just one more reason why

EVERY. MOMENT. MATTERS. 

even in the high school years!

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

Dual Enrollment? Not So Fast

Dual enrollment offers learners opportunity to earn high school and college credits--simultaneously--before graduating from high school.

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It's a great option for some students.

But, it isn't the best option for all students.

Yes, sign me up! (the Pros)

  • Free or reduced tuition for college-level courses.
  • Experience campus life.
  • Offers student opportunity to learn course content in the student's area of interest.
  • Student's enrolled get to learn what goes into completing college work.
  • Allows colleges and universities to validate a student ready and capable of handling college-level material.
  • May improve a student's weighted GPA. 
  • May equate to graduating from college early. 
  • Evaluation (grade and credit) based on the entire course, not on single test performance. 

Not so fast! (the Cons)

  • While there's money to save, there may not be savings in the long run. Be sure to research what courses are needed for a degree and if credits will transfer. 
  • Not all learners are ready to walk on campus alongside older students. Perhaps, inquire about online options.
  • Not all admission advisors are versed in the prerequisites for specific college majors, hence some courses may be taken and "wasted". Parents should stand ready to know the requirements of a learner's four-year degree (or possible majors) and double check advisor guidance. 
  • Not all credits may be accepted; some courses in the major area may be required to be completed where degree will be earned. Check transfer policies like this one for UNF. 
  • Excess hours may be costly
  • Some colleges won't accept all dual enrolled courses. Research and ask questions to avoid unnecessary surprises. 
  • Grades earned become part of a permanent college transcript. 

Some of the biggest mistakes we have seen families make are:

Not knowing degree requirements. We know students who weren't sure of future major take an introductory science course (generally without a lab and worth three college credits)--Introduction to Biological Sciences, for example--thinking it would be easier, only to find out once the major was declared the lab science was required. The student sat through another science--Biology in most of the cases we know--again.

Starting dual enrollment too early. It is wise that parents remember DE grades become a permanent part of the college transcript. We personally know quite a few families wishing they had waited to dual enroll their students--especially for foreign language--because doing so compromised their learner's GPA. And, in some cases, being on the President's list (with a 4.0) each semester of the AA has earned students merit scholarship when transferring to an institution to complete the Bachelor's.

For example, several young adults we mentor through annual evaluations decided to complete foreign language credit through dual enrollment. Each of them soared through the first semester, each earning an A. However, the second semester the students didn't fair as well because of the difficulty of the content. In the majority of those learners earned a C, compromising their overall college GPA. 

When our learners hit the high school years, we discussed accelerated credit options with each student. Each had different options to consider due to their varied after high school plans. For our learner who did dual enroll, I am thankful we did not consider foreign language as part of his dual enrollment plans. Why? At the end of earning 60+ hours for his AA, the university to which he was transferring offered him scholarship monies because he transferred to complete his Bachelor's with a 4.0 GPA--hence earning a spot on the President's list every semester. Could he have gotten A's in his foreign language classes at the state college? Possibly. Yet, thankfully we didn't take that gamble. 

Additional resources

If you are a Florida resident, consider this comparison of accelerated learning. 

Parents looking for additional research may want to refer to this article by The National Center for Postsecondary Research.

The decision to dual enroll should not be taken lightly. Each learner is unique in ability and maturity. In addition, some students find it more beneficial to focus their high school years in other directions--perhaps theater, entrepreneurship, or sports. Other learners will need the boost dual enrollment can provide. Dual enrollment is an individual family and learner decision and is worth every moment of research, questioning, and considering. 

YOU can celebrate high school by building and executing a plan unique to the individual learner. 

Just one more reason why

EVERY. MOMENT. MATTERS. 

even in the high school years! 

 

Beating Afternoon Boredom

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Who doesn't battle afternoon boredom?

Let's not take a show of hands. Rest assured, my hand would be raised. 

You know the story. Three o'clock. Children squabbling. A high schooler STILL needs help with Algebra. And dinner? It's frozen on the counter! 

Afternoons can be hard. Yet, after years of beating afternoon boredom, I know the efforts I made toward defeating "I'm bored" syndromes--in myself as well as my children--mattered. In fact, hobbies launched and rediscovered interests became catalysts for entrepreneurial pursuits, high school courses, and career choices.

Beating afternoon boredom is worth every ounce of time and energy we can muster. 

At a recent mom's event, a group of ladies gathered after to ask me how our family beats the afternoon wearies. 

Our strategies varied with life seasons. 

When we had two eager, active boys, we: 

  • spent many afternoons outside. 
  • visited local parks. 
  • had Popsicle and wading pool parties--adding measuring cups, a bucket, and garden hose to change things up--as long as the weather allowed.
  • ran around outside playing with squirt guns.
  • played in the lawn sprinkler. Notice the hose and water trend?
  • read a book together while sitting on a blanket outside or on the couch inside.
  • took an afternoon bath with bubbles and wrote with shaving cream on the walls (great for practicing letter formation).
  • took nature scavenger hunts. 
  • played hopscotch or jumped rope. 
  • created with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. 
  • painted the garage door with water and paint brushes. 
  • tossed bean bags. 
  • bought a basketball hoop and gathered children from the neighborhood to play. 
  • played wiffle ball in the dead end street.
  • created with watercolors.
  • encouraged outdoor adventures and independent studies. 
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When we had lots of littles with a few bigs who needed afternoon help, we:

  • sat on the floor in the hallway across from the bathroom so I could supervise littles in the tub while also helping an older sibling with math or editing papers.
  • spread a blanket under a shade tree for afternoon tutoring while the littles rode bikes around the driveway or played hide-n-seek. 
  • listened to audio books, our favorites being Jim Weiss recordings and Your Story Hour, again while mom worked with the bigs.
  • offered play dough, pattern blocks, old magazines to cut, or watercolor paints. 
  • enjoyed playing in the sandbox while mom and older siblings sat nearby and completed math or mom edited papers. 
  • used masking tape to create a "village roadway" on the carpet so littles could build houses and garages for their toy cars and play "village". 
  • made a masking tape hopscotch on the carpet for littles to be active when weather wouldn't permit us to be outside. 
  • asked bigs to go on a date and take learning to new surroundings. 
  • discussed the plot and characters of a current read while running errands or taking a sibling to practice. 
  • encouraged bigs to work on independent studies. 
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When we had a menagerie of ages, we: 

  • enjoyed front porch read-aloud time. 
  • created with Lite Brite.
  • went to visit great-grandma. 
  • sat together on the couch and read books of interest. Farm study was always a favorite. 
  • took a teen or young adult on a date to talk about things that mattered to them. 
  • used a coupon and bought five pounds of clay at a local craft store. 
  • spent time at a local park or community swimming pool. 
  • made brownies for the elderly neighbor and went to visit. 
  • built a fort outside. 
  • dug a hole in the backyard (not my favorite or my idea, but it was sibling generated and encouraged collaboration and working together). 
  • made impromptu afternoon library runs. 
  • created something yummy in the kitchen, often to "surprise" Dad when he returned from work. 
  • made cards for family member's birthdays.
  • enjoyed spin art. 
  • cared for our porch science projects
  • spent the afternoon creating with watercolor. 
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Go ahead! Beat the afternoon boredom. YOU can do it! It will be worth your time and effort. 

And, in the process, your children and young adults will learn valuable life skills: time management; collaboration; communication and conflict resolution; work ethic; teamwork; working independently; and caring about others ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

Ant Study

Our ants arrived!

It felt like Christmas complete with shouts of hooray and looks of wonder. 

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"Look at them move!"

"How will we get them out of the tube?"

"Let's read the directions!"

Questions. Comments. Ideas. 

Just a week before the ants arrived, we found the ant farm on clearance. Thrilled, the children marveled at the box as I I reminisced about the ant farm my older children experienced years prior. In fact, I had been praying I would find an ant habitat for study.  

Ant farms make learning come alive. 

In the process of getting the habitat set up and becoming acquainted with our new little friends, science intertwined with oral reading (reading the instructions and ant information), reading comprehension (following directions), math (setting a timer to measure duration and measuring water amount), as well as an experiential lesson in patience.


Put the ants in the refrigerator for ten minutes.

 

So much learning in a tiny vial of ants. 

Ants in the fridge, we watched as the timer counted down. When 10 appeared on the screen, we all instinctively began counting down.  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, , 3, 2, 1...

"ZERO! Get the ants!"

"Look at them! They are still."

"They must be sleeping. Time to take them out and put them in!"

Then I worked fast. (Hint: Ants wake up FAST! Be ready to move quickly.)

Once in their new home, the ants got to work. My children were enthralled. 

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The children sat, watching progress, for at least thirty minutes. As they observed, they asked questions. 

  • Is that ant dead or sleeping? 
  • What is that ant doing with the sand?
  • Why are they piling the sand at the top? 
  • Why do they crawl over one another? 
  • I wonder what they will do while we are sleeping? 
  • Did that ant die already?
  • Do we have a queen? 
  • What does a queen look like? 

Our ant study was just beginning! 


Extended ant learning study for all ages

Read a good book. Experiences help children understand written material and fuel further learning. If a child becomes interested in a topic, place books related to the interest in the home: on end tables, night stands, or book shelves. If a study pops up spontaneously, plan a visit to the library and help the learner find the section containing books about the interest. Some of the ant books we read:

   Fiction

  • One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor J. Pinczes
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper, Amy Lowry Poole

   Non-fiction

  • Are You an Ant, Judy Allen
  • Ant Cities, Arthur Dorros
  • The Life and Times of the Ant, Charles Micucci

Observe ants in their natural habitat. Take learning outdoors. Look for ants. Spend time watching their activities. Take pictures and make your own ant study book or journal. 

Make a sketch. Sketching integrates another learning modality into the experience. In an ant study, learners can go outside and observe real ants, sketching what they see. This will likely lead to wanting to know more about ant anatomy and environments. Add your sketch to your ant study journal. 

Learn and label body parts. Watching the ants made my children curious about the ant's body. From their questions, we researched and learned ant anatomy, drawing and labeling each major part (head, thorax, abdomen) as well as the more specific parts (mandible, antennae, compound eye, legs). Enchanted Learning offers a diagram of the anatomy and ant information.Life Studies site has a page devoted to ant study. Another great addition to an ant study journal. 

Study the lifecycle. Every living creature has a lifecycle. Ants are no different. In fact, one of my children asked if there were eggs in the vial. Enchanted Learning helped us here, too. 

Take a closer look. Magnifying glasses are great tools for looking at live ants. However, the Magiscope is a great way to take an even closer look. Do so with a few dead ants. Otherwise, you may get stung or they may crawl away from the stage. 

Have an older learner, perhaps middle and high schooler? Research myrmecology and entomology. How are these branches of science related? Who are the leading scientists in these areas and what contributions did they make to the field? How did their works impact science and the general population? If opportunities are available--perhaps through a local pest control service, zoo, or college campus--consider interviewing a myrmecologist or entomologist. We discovered how one scientist is studying ants and bees

Helpful sites

Arizona State University School of Life Science, Ask a Biologist page. 

Harvard Forest

Life Studies

We bought our ants through Life Studies

Ready to learn about ants? The process can be one of the most rewarding and remembered events of childhood learning. If you decide to introduce learners to this amazing creature, tell us about your experiences, or leave helpful resources your found, in the comments. 

 

 

 

 

Empower Yourself and Your Children

Things change.

State statutes.

University admission requirements. 

Employment prerequisites. 

I had one of those moments. 

My second son applied to a local state college almost six years ago.

Admission was smooth and relatively easy compared to the essays I had to write for our first son's application to a highly selective university. Though I haven't personally had a student apply to college for several years (I am excited to be doing so again as we graduated another senior this year), I stay in the loop by researching and continuing education because of the privilege Mike and I have of walking along side parents as they help their learners take their unique right next steps. Keeping in the know is what we love and enjoy! 

This week I was reminded of the misinformation which continues to circulate. It happens innocently with the greatest intention being the offering of assistance one person to another. However, though well-intentioned parents (and "experts") may offer their insights and experiences, it is important to remind one another to do our own research and recheck sources. It never hurts to ask more questions.

Requirements change.

For example, when our son applied to the local state college six years ago, the only requirements were a test score (ACT, SAT, or CPT--now the PERT) and a final home-generated transcript or affidavit of high school completion. This week, however, I learned another requirement has been added: a copy of the student's original Letter of Intent filed with the district when the home education program was established. 

A requirement was added since my son applied. I could have easily given parents errant information, unknowingly of course. However, my intention is to always provide families with as accurate and up-to-date information as possible, hence I was prompted to do a bit of research after talking with several parents. Without a refresher--research into current requirements--I could have easily passed along misinformation to other parents based on what I heard instead of what I knew. 

Let's encourage one another to empower ourselves. 

In addition, keeping track of important papers is necessary. As Mike and I are scheduling annual evaluations, often parents mention they "have no idea as to where the learners Letter of Intent has been placed." After learning of the new requirement (at least for this state college), I see the importance of us reminding one another (gently) to be mindful of where we place legal documents. Yes, indeed the county might have a scanned copy to pass along as a replacement, however, personally I feel more comfortable knowing all my documentation is in one place--perhaps a digital file or a paper/accordion file folder. Older children and young adults can learn to keep and organize their records and paperwork as part of this process. 

Let's encourage one another to keep track of necessary documents. 

Our actions impact our children. Having adult children, I understand (with new fervor) the importance of teaching and encouraging my younger children to empower themselves--the hows, wheres, and what fors of finding reliable sources, collecting information, and solving problems. When children are encouraged to empower themselves, and see parents empowering themselves--asking questions, identifying problems, and then seeking out and finding solutions. They've lived and experienced the results of personal empowerment.

Let's encourage one another to empower our children. 

Things change. 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching High School American History and American Literature with Living Books

I am often asked how we teach American History and American Literature in high school. 

Actually, we have used different means and methods with each of our high school learners, dependent on their interests, learning styles, and in some cases, learning challenges. 

This blog post addresses one of those methods; the method we used with our reader who LOVED history. 

With our son's interest in reading and history, we divided American History into Early American (to 1850) and Modern (from 1850 to present) so we could allow time for him to dig deeper. After extensive research (based on my love for education as well as the fear I was doing enough--yes, I have been there!), I developed literature lists for American, British, and World Literature courses. These lists provided my son with reading suggestions to get him started, a springboard of sorts. His desire to learn history prompted him to seek out additional titles. My motto became, 

"You read it, I will give you credit."

For readers interested in the list of works from which we used toward either American History or Survey of American Literature, our reading list (remember it was a springboard from which he could jump in for more) is below. The American, British, and World literature lists are included in my book, Celebrate High School

Please keep in mind as you read through this list, our son was a self-motivated reader with an interest in the subject. Not all young adults will share this interest or learning preference. In addition to his independent reading, we used a textbook as a spine of topics. Though he started the year reading some of the text, by the end of the year he was reading more primary source documents, living history selections, and biographical pieces than text. He also had amazing opportunities to tour many of the Civil War battlefields and visited Washington, D. C., Boston, Plymouth, Philadelphia, and New York City. God provided for his love of history through many experiential opportunities. We realize not all learners will have these experiences but trust there will be other provisions for your family. 

This method worked for our oldest son. I tweak the process for each young adult, asking for their input. Please, don't use what is written here as a comparison for what your student should or shouldn't be doing. Learners are unique and high school is not a one-size-fits-all experience. 

Comparing ourselves or our children to others leads to discouragement and discontent, neither of which are valuable.

Our examples are only intended as encouragement, to give an idea of what worked for us and what you might be able to create (or adjust) for your high schooler. Our young adult was (and still is) a reader, but your young adult may have an opportunity to intern with a local historical site or job shadow a museum curator. Use what God provides for your learner and pray about how he is preparing your young adult for the future plans He has, not for the ones we best intention.

Our American Literature list:

Alcott, Louisa May, Little Men

Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women

Barton, David, Bulletproof George Washington

Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz

Bierce, Ambrose, Civil War Stories

Cather, Willa, My Antonia*

Cather, Willa, O Pioneers!*

Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans*

Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage*    

de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America*

Dewey, John, Democracy and Education*

Douglass, Frederick, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass*

Edwards, Jonathan, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God*

Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury*

Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby*

Franklin, Benjamin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin*

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, The Scarlet Letter

Hemingway, Ernest, A Farewell to Arms*

Hemingway, Ernest, For Whom the Bell Tolls*

Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea*

Hemingway, Ernest, The Sun Also Rises*

Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God*

Irving, Washington, The Legend of Rip Van Winkle

Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life*

Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird

McCullough, David, 1776

McCullough, David, John Adams

McCullough, David, The Wright Brothers

Melville, Herman, Moby Dick

Miller, Arthur, The Crucible

Miller, Arthur, The Death of a Salesman

Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling

O.Henry, The Gift of the Magi

Steinbeck, John, Of Mice and Men*

Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath*

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin*

Thoreau, Henry David, Civil Disobedience*

Thoreau, Henry David, Walden*

Thurber, James, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Twain, Mark, Life on the Mississippi

Washington, Booker T., Up From Slavery

Wilder, Thornton, Our Town*

Williams, Tennessee, The Glass Menagerie*

In addition to this literature list, we use primary source documents including speeches and journals.

Here are some examples. There are plenty of resources available on the internet (which could be a great catalyst for a discussion on reliable sources.

50 Core Documents, Teaching AmericanHistory.org

Primary Source Documents in American History

National Archives

Journals of Lewis and Clark

The Story of A Common Soldier- Kindle ebook

The Journal of James Audubon

Orville Wright's journal entry

This post is based on the experience of our oldest son. It is not intended as legal advice and is written with the knowledge that parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children. 

 

Most Popular Posts of 2016

2016 is marked as significant.

Why? Because every moment of our days mattered--the triumphs and the trials. We lived and learned together being intentional about using what was real and relational--from cradle to shingle--toddler to adult. Thank you for walking that journey alongside us! We are grateful for you, our readers! 

As a recap of our year together, I compiled our top 15 posts of 2016. ENJOY! 

 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by Real-Life for High School Credit: Care and Concerns for the Elderly.


Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by "Let Me Do It!" Helping Little Learners Become Independent


5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Legacy: Learning Alongside


The Possibilities of Elective Credits - Part II

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work.

If the information in this post was helpful, you might want to continue on and read Part III.


32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational 

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

If you are being intentional about keeping learning real and relational, you might also be encouraged by the practical life lessons (and history!) in this post-- Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life


8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Rainy days are natural wonders which intrique little learners. If rain is falling at your house and you are waiting for a safe pause in weather, try this indoor art activity--Torn Paper Rainbows


Grades...In High School

"How do I give grades in high school?"

If designing a transcript is your next step, this post may be helpful--Transcript Matters


Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

If you have middle school learners and are wondering how you can help them manage time, organize belongings, and pursue interests, this post--Magnificent, Make-A-Difference Middle School--might be helpful. 


Preschooling, Intentionally

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

If you are seeking ways to help your little learners do what they can, 3 Things They Can DO on Their Own, might be helpful. 


Living Books and Independent Studies

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

Science--especially animal science--is particularly interesting to little learners. If you have little learners with a zest for all things living, check out the book list in Vintage Science Readers for the WIN! 


Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse into Part of Our Day

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

Looking for a way to learn math outdoors, in nature, where children crave? Check out Math Adventures!


Using Living Books in High School for Credit

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Interested in earning credit for writing college essays? This post--High School Made Simple: College Essays for Credit--might offer some insight. 


SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

Keeping early learning active and fun!

Picture books can encourage learning. Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills lists some of our favorite math picture books. 


Intentional Cursive Handwriting

Oh yes, there is good reason to teach cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.

Interested in hands-on, real-life, spelling activities? This post--What About Spelling?--has lots of practical ideas. 


Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

If this post made you curious about interest-based learning, The Benefits of Interests: Motivating Learners, may answer a few more questions. 

Want to know more about how your days can be intentional, real, and relational? Click below to sign up for the Celebrate Simple Newsletter. 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Tis'  the season for future thinking and college applications.

This season can also be a season of disappointment and frustration.

Seeing Facebook posts of acceptance letters and appointments, I can’t help but think of the high school young adults pondering a future which doesn’t include dorm room decorating and walk-on athletics. These young adults--though they may have worked very hard--may feel unsuccessful, even second-class due to the individuality of their next steps toward the future. Hence this season—a season most people associate with celebrations—can be time of awkwardness and discouragement.

But it doesn't have to be!

possibilities.jpg

When we open our eyes and hearts to other possibilities--alternative, but no less significantly successful high school journeys and culminating celebrations--young adults have innumerable opportunities which may be better suited to their strengths and giftings.

Acceptance letters are not the sole means of successful transition to a young adult's future. 

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

The Scholar. Scholars are not just learners; they are specialists--continually seeking to dig deeper in a specific area of interest. There is an aptitude for learning and time is made for accelerated or advanced degrees. In addition to researching and fulfilling the college entrance requirements for the young adult's top university choices, honors courses, dual enrollment, CLEP/DANTE/AP testing, and discussions or networking with professionals in the field of interests may also be helpful. 

The Entrepreneur. Ideas. Strategy. Product analysis. These young adults grew up dreaming of starting a business and in fact may have started one or several during the middle or high school years. Young entrepreneurs may benefit from connecting with successful entrepreneurs as well as with other entrepreneurial-minded peers. In addition, these young adults may spend time at the library or online reading current issues of business magazines-- Inc., Entrepreneur, or Fast Company--or reading small business blogs. Consider looking for local opportunities where the entrepreneur might be able to attend small business seminars or entrepreneurial events.  Job shadowing a business owner or two might be another consideration as well as offering time in the day for the young adult to research successful business practices, managerial/leadership qualities, and marketing or growth strategies. Some high school learners find having a mentor helpful. Having had two entrepreneurial/business-minded young adults, these were helpful resources for our learners. Entrepreneurs may or may not decide to pursue post-secondary education. 

The Athlete. Most little leaguers dream of the big leagues--the pinnacle of achievement for athletes. In fact, we've known athletes who played through elementary and travel sports to high school athletics hoping to fulfill this dream. Some athletes indeed did move on to more competitive collegiate play. Others decided to hang up the cleats after their senior year. For young adults who desire to pursue sports after high school graduation, special attention to the new NCAA requirements is a must. Though an athlete may choose a college outside the NCAA, staying up-to-date is wise. Plans change, sometimes last minute and eligibility is dependent on completion of specific courses. Having had three athletes, we never wanted to short change a student-athlete. In fact, all three took different paths; none ended up playing collegiate sports.  In addition to action on the field, we have known learners who read autobiogrpaphies and biographies of athletes they admire for high school credit. Possibilities include A Life Well-Played (Arnold Palmer), Through My Eyes (Tim Tebow), Out of the Blue (Orel Hershiser). One of our athletes enjoyed Between the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By and The Mental Game of Baseball.

The Creative. Creatives see the world differently--in words, colors, graphics, texture, line, or shapes. These young adults think outside the box and craft from incredible minds. Hence, their paths through high school might include preparing a portfolio, building a client list, visiting studios and exhibitions, experimenting with media, shooting thirds for a photographer, writing copy for publication, working at a hobby shop, creating art for a gallery, volunteering time to create graphics for church media or publication, or selling stock photography. All of these experiences may become part of their high school course work, and the contacts them make along the journey may provide avenues for employment after graduation. The Creative may decide to attend an art or music school, open a studio, spend time with a master artisan, or start a business. Many of these experiences make great activities for elective credits. Post-secondary educational experience may or may not be part of the Creative's future. 

The Apprentice. Apprenticeships offer hands-on, experiential options to young adults who need to learn from masters or professionals in a field of interest. Though apprenticeships are not as popular as they were years ago, apprenticeships offer on-the-job training--and often some classroom instruction--for young adults interested in highly skilled work in healthcare professions, engineering, manufacturing, culinary arts, telecommunications, trades (welding, electrical, carpentry, plumbing), and service careers. The apprentice may train under a skilled craftsman, trained healthcare worker, or licensed professional to learn essential skills important to a particular job. Time devoted to apprenticing can vary to up to four years. Some apprenticeships may require certain math and science high school course work or required scores on HSPE (High School Proficiency Exams). 

The Intern. Internships are an excellent means by which young adults can investigate career fields of interest and learn new skills. Internships can be formal or informal, part-time or full time, paid or unpaid, but are generally offered by an employer or institution for a specific amount of time. Most are considered entry level. Although university internships were traditionally offered to undergrad or grad students, there are colleges who open internships to high school students. Research the availability at local universities, as this is a growing trend. For a hands-on, experiential learner, an internship might be an excellent next step. If interning seems like a good fit for your young adult, consider the points made in this US News and World Report article

There is great possibility several paths and means will overlap. For example, the Creative may also be the Intern, learning alongside or assisting a concert musician, graphic artist, or professional photographer. And, the Intern may also be the Scholar, gaining cutting-edge skill in a science or engineering field. 

Remember, these are not the only possibilities for today's young adults. Just as all young adults are unique, so will be their high school paths and future plans. Not every high schooler will follow the same learning route, nor will they have the same next right steps. With a changing economy, growing knowledge base, and evolving ability for satellite employment, there are ever-growing career opportunities. 

I wonder what those will be for our young adults?  

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

When Holidays Bring Sensory Challenges and Worries

Cinnamon scents. Bustling shoppers. Joyous music. Holiday visitors. Schedule changes. Lights blinking.

Holidays can be a sensory, anxiety-ridden nightmare for some children. 

The holidays can be frustrating for children sensitive to sensory stimulation or anxious thoughts. Add holiday spontaneity and change of routine to the mix and there's a potential recipe for outbursts, breakdowns, and tantrums, making for a less than pleasurable holiday season.

Fortunately, there are practical helps parents can use to lessen the stress of a season.

Anticipate. Children can quickly become overwhelmed by the sights, smells, sounds, textures and emotions of holiday festivities. In addition, anxious feelings--the unknown why, how, what, who, and when--may add additional concerns. Pondering the possibilities for your family's holiday activities and schedule may be extremely helpful in preventing holiday meltdowns. Are there events, activities, or food items which could easily be eliminated to make the season less stressful? Could limiting or staggering activities and visits with known triggers be advantageous? Three common elements to anticipate: 

  • Interpersonal interactions. Holiday visiting can be stressful. Some children worry about talking to guests. Others are concerned they won't know the guests and therefore feel uncomfortable. Knowing your child's unique thinking pattern, anticipating his or her concerns, and helping to process feelings associated with those apprehensions are beneficial in beating holiday anxieties. One way to coach a child through interpersonal fears is to prepare ahead of time. Talk about who will or won't be at an event. Processing thoughts and feelings often helps to reduce anxiousness and over time offers children life skills to work toward self-regulation. I know parents who chose to host a holiday party in the child's home where the safety and familiarity of home helps lessen anxiety. Being in the home, the child has the ability retreat to a quiet place for a short time, if needed. This is a great option for some families. Demanding interpersonal communication is generally not the best solution and could actually bring on guilt. Many children who struggle with anxious thoughts are able to conceptualize the cause and effect of not communicating. In fact, they often understand that not talking to or acknowledging a person could have relational consequences. As a result, they may feel guilty about their inability to communicate. And, what about those unexpected visitors? When an unexpected visitor comes to the home, a child who is anxious around people but feels safe knowing the parent will respond if needed, will eventually be able to work through the uncomfortable feelings. As the child experiences his or her ability to regulate his or her anxiety, confidence and resilience grows. In turn, the child becomes better able to regulate through--even predict--anxious times. 
  • Sensory input. The holidays are packed with sensory experiences--sound, texture, smell, taste, and emotions. Knowing which sensory triggers may upset a child can be helpful when planning and scheduling. For example, three hours of light sighting may be too much, while driving by a few houses to and from normal errands might be more enjoyable. 
  • Food sensitivities. Holidays include yummy foods. Monitoring sugar, food dyes, and caffeine--which become stimulants in some children--may  be helpful. In children with heightened sensitives and anxiety, these items can be doubly troublesome. Talking with your children about how these things make them feel--shaky, jittery, nervous, heart-racing--they may be more likely to understand how to make better food choices. Again, this is another step in providing empowerment to children who tend toward anxious thoughts and actions. Pondering daily triggers offers insight to potential holiday obstacles. If your gluten-sensitive child is invited to a Christmas party, consider sending an alternative treat option. If your family has been invited to Grandma's house and you know there will be a vast selection of soda pop, consider bringing a beverage your child enjoys to add to the collection. We have also used these occasions to help our children process options prior to arriving. These conversations include talking about how to choose wisely, offering insight to how a particular food has caused a trigger reaction in the past, and brainstorming solutions to how to react graciously should certain foods be served. 

Prepare. Preparation is powerful. Talking with children ahead of time--in the car on the way to an event or offering time for children to share concerns the night before a big day--can help ward off anxiety and and stress. Knowing the schedule of events--for some children--can ward off anxiety. However, if your child can only comprehend small chunks, preparation may be your constant companion. Talking through upcoming events--or events which have passed--models for a child how he or she can begin to learn to self-prepare. With preparation, outbursts from over stimulation may be avoided. 

Observe. When the parent intentionally observes behavior and considers how that behavior may be related to particular situations, the parent is able to help a child not only process and work through the situation but also help the child recognize personal triggers. Knowing the triggers, the parent can further help a child work with those triggers to lower anxious thoughts. 

Limit. Let's face it, all of us--children and adults--have a tipping point, a point when holiday festivities become stressful. Consider the challenges your child faces on a daily basis. Perhaps there is a heightened awareness to smell or lighting. Maybe there is a sensitivity to food dyes or even anxious feelings around strangers. Use those daily challenges as a guide for what might have to be limited during the holiday season and plan accordingly. 

Model (self-regulation, self-control). My children--all of them--have benefited from my purposeful external processing. In other words, when I find myself in a situation which requires self-regulation or control, I process my thinking. For example, if we are visiting another family's home for a holiday dessert, while on the car ride to the home, I might say, "When I arrive at Mrs. Smith's home, I know she will have many yummy desserts to choose from. I will be tempted to sample everything. Instead, I am going to choose the two desserts I would most enjoy. And, I must also remember that nuts give me headaches. So, I probably will not choose anything with nuts, even if it is my favorite." This type of processing allows children opportunities to "hear" how other people process through decisions but also how people regulate or control their choices.

Sleep. It is easy to overload the holidays, staying up late to make the most of the hours in our days. In addition, with the excitement, children--like adults--are often fearful they will miss something should they fall asleep. The results are wide-eyed children awake long after the regular bed time. Being overtired can heighten sensitivities. When looking over the holiday schedule, consider how many late nights your family will be able to handle. Remember, children are not the only ones who will benefit by making sure sleep is a priority. 

We will not be able to ward off every potential challenge for our children. However, creating an environment--even during the holiday season--where children feel safe and listened to will help them overcome low to moderate levels of sensory stimulation or anxiety. When in fact, reality brings an unexpected--or even an anticipated--stressful situation, helping children process through the challenge will allow them to learn how to self-regulate. This learning is not only a welcomed treat during the holiday season, but also a life gift. 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Learning Relevant for Middle and High School

Though summer annual evaluation season ended a few months ago, I continue to post frequently asked questions to help equip and empower parents.

 Knowledge is power in the high school years 

and adds confidence to the journey.

 

One mom asked:

Recently in our area there seems to be limited diversity in learning environments for middle and high schoolers. Many venues provide only traditional classroom settings or online meetings. This is not the best setting for my child. What other opportunities are available and acceptable?

 This is a tremendous question with valid concerns.

 First, check the home education laws in your state

 Second, having some experience with online learning is beneficial. Online education is growing. And, it did prepare our graduates for post-secondary education.

 Those points being said...

Home educated middle and high schoolers have the opportunity to partake in a variety of learning environments; a definite advantage over their public and private schooled peers.

Our middle and high school students learn widely from a variety of environments. One started a business and learned on the job, everywhere from church fellowship hall craft shows to convention trade show floors. Another learned from independent study, volunteering, and conversation from professionals in the field. Still another learn from contractors, field work, job shadowing, and collaboration with peers. Our home education statute allowed us the freedom to utilize these means. We are all grateful we could fit learning with learning style and student interest.

When designing courses or considering courses for middle or high schoolers the learning environment is essential and often dependent on the learning style and strengths of the individual. For example, if the student learns best by observation, perhaps best fit environments would include laboratory settings, field work, internships, job shadowing, or apprenticeship. In these settings, the student can observe to learn. If the student is an auditory learner the best settings may be research laboratories or classroom instruction.

When the course is complete, if our students were applying for a university requesting course descriptions in addition to a transcript, I made sure to be specific about which environments the student used. Often the environments, being different than a typical classroom or online setting, were intriguing.

Yes, the reward was worth the effort. The contents of the course descriptions, transcripts and cumulative folder were the documents which set a solid foundation for resume writing.

 And in the end, as we--student and parent--looked over documents, the accomplishment was a part of our celebration of high school and the ability to finish with excellence.

 As you consider the potential learning environments your learner may have access to, ponder how those opportunities may benefit your young adult. The results can be astounding.

Who's the Author? A Compilation of Children's Author and Illustrator Websites

Pulling one last copy of my now out-of-print Check These Out, I reminisced about the contents, feeling sad the content is no longer available.

The unit study needs a face lift. Check These Out will get the revision in due time. 

Until then, I will be compiling  author and illustrator websites for the authors studied in Check These Out, here.

I know many of my readers access these sites as they introduce their children to the people behind the picture and chapter books so well-loved. Every story written carries the fingerprints of the author. Hence, our family enjoys learning about the people and experiences which influence our  favorite literary treasures. 

For example, did you know E. B. White, author of the beloved Charlotte's Web, lived on a farm? He did!  And, Robert McCloskey, author of Lentil, played the harmonica. Interestingly, the main character, Lentil, played the harmonica. 

Robert McCloskey

Virginia Lee Burton

Patricia Polacco

Jean Craighead George

Beatrix Potter

Cathryn Falwell

Denise Fleming

Lois Ehlert

Eric Carle

Jim Arnosky

Dr, Seuss

Jerry Pinkney

 

Author autobiographies and biographies are two additional means of learning about an author. Watch this book trailer for In the Words of E. B. White.