Learning from Life: Hurricanes and Drills

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Hurricanes. Cordless drills. Pop.

This is what’s in our world this week.

This is what’s on the mind of my middle schooler.

Real and relational learning.

Connection and application.

Motivation and retention.

The past week has found our family face-to-face with Hurricane Dorian preparation. There’s been forecasts and projections. Models and movement. It’s in our world and it matters to our children (even if we intentionally keep the television off to lessen possibilities of news overload).

What matters, sticks.

Enter Pop with a bag of drills he brought over in case we needed to board up. Our middle schooler bounced to the foyer. Not only because she admires her grandpa, but because he had something of interest. Drills!

Pop sensed her curiosity (one of the things we love about him). He immediately bent down, unzipped the bag and began telling her stories. As he pulled out each drill, he told her what he appreciated about the functions of the model and mentioned a few jobs it could complete. He talked about his bits and offered explanations of why each might be useful. Oh, and he mentioned the model big brother owned.

Real-life show and tell happened in my foyer.

It was real and relational.

Drills. They’ve been on her mind from the first mention of boards going on the windows. It’s been over for over 72 hours and she’s still pondering, researching, planning. Her learning journey included opportunities to

  • navigate the internet safely to find information

  • ponder other information resources (enter two uncles—each with construction expertise—and more relational moments)

  • conduct impromptu, informal interviews with uncles and more conversations with Pop at family dinner

  • build reading comprehension, skimming, and scanning skills

  • compare costs of drills (and the value of the accessories in combination sets)

  • compare the specifications and applications for drills, hammer drills, and mixers

  • research differences in voltage

  • review and compare measurements as related to bits (1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, and 3/4)

  • build vocabulary: lumens, mortar, thinset, ratchet, lithium, warranty, stud, joist, asset and torque (great Scrabble word!)

  • spell words related to her searches (there’s been a lot of “Mom, how do you spell?”)

  • use computation skills to figure out what’s in her savings and what she spent over the past months

  • predict what she may make in the future

  • ponder ways to gain needed income

Drills. They’re in my middle schooler’s world. They’re real and relational. She’s diving in and digging deep.

Her interest matters!

What’s in the world of your children or teens?

What matters to them?

Take time to ponder, observe, and listen.

Likely there’s learning—rich meaningful, memorable learning taking place. Don’t let it go unnoticed.

Every. Moment. Matters.

Planning 9th Grade with YOUR Freshman in Mind

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Four home graduates. One current high schooler.

Five unique ninth grade years.

As I finished adding the grades for the ninth-grade year of the transcript for our fifth high schooler, the proverbial light bulb illuminated my thinking.

I double-checked, looked over each transcript of our five learners.

Indeed, EACH of our high schoolers had a unique and individualized ninth grade year—distinctive of their gifts and strengths. I knew each of our children were different, yet I hadn’t set out their transcripts side-by-side to compare the courses they had completed in the freshman year. Yes, some had earned credit in the same course, but even the content of those courses varied according to the bents and interests of the learner. Same title, different content. Each learner had individualized educational paths, courses tweaked by interests and strengths, goals and aspirations.

As it should be with homeschooling.

Every learner—gifted—different.

None better than the other.

What were the ninth grade courses on our five high schooler’s transcripts?

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One of our learners dug into a variety of interests, from academics to sports to music. This learner also extroverted high schooler wanted to take Spanish earlier in the high school plan so that it could be completed with an older sibling. Further observation lead me to realize this learner was the only one who completed two years of foreign language by the end of ninth grade—making time for other studies; a big WIN as far as she was concerned. These ninth grade course choices were right for this learner and provided distinctive advantages in regards to having time for opportunities which were still to come in the later high school years.

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One of our other learners enrolled in high school level courses prior to ninth grade, hence completing Algebra 1 and moving to Algebra 2 in ninth. The same was true for science which paved the way for chemistry to be the logical next step for the freshman year. No other learner took Algebra 2 or chemistry in the freshman year.

This learner was also the only one who completed world history in ninth grade due in most part from having studied history independently—and passionately with much depth—in previous years. We didn’t want freshman year to be a repeat of past content so we allowed this student to continue to study history through travel, historical documents, biographies and other non-fiction resources. This high schooler was also the only sibling who completed economics in the freshman year—again due to personal interest and independent study. This course provided additional fuel business-minded young adult.

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This learner was a mover, a kinesthetic.Learning was experiential and hands-on, even through high school. Athletics played a major role in this learner’s life, hence all the PE credits in the freshman year (as well as years to follow). For this learner we chose to split American history into two years—Early American (up to the Civil War) and Modern American (after Civil War) allowing time to add experiential learning to a text and provide extended time to other subjects of interest.

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This introverted learner loved people—understanding how they thought and were motivated—and was eager to have people live their best lives—hence the bent toward sign language. Interestingly, this young adult’s ninth grade year was also the year our sweet great-grandmother was very ill and in and out of facilities (which the learner requested to tour and research because of the love for Grammy). This learner asked to be a part of the process and dialogued (summarization, recall, and interpersonal communication) with me (and her grandmother) about what was being learned through this heartbreaking journey. This high schooler was also an entrepreneur and a creative—owned a small business—hence the business and creative arts electives. Different learner. Different interests. Different courses.

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Another introverted creative, this learner set up a work studio where endless handmade cards were made with numerous types of media and by various techniques. Hours were spent learning technique, researching skills, and experimenting creatively. Hence, this high schooler earned credit in courses not considered by our others—Foundations in Interior Design, Stamp and Stationary Art Design, and Survey of American Musicals. This learner, like several siblings, earned credit for personal fitness, yet her content was very different from the content of athletes who spent hours on the field or in the weight room. This high schooler chose her own relaxing, peaceful blend of aerobics, stretching, and strengthening—using personally-selected workout videos.

Five freshman years each with unique content and character—personalized to the interests of the learner earning the credit.

Personalization doesn’t have to end in ninth grade! In fact, it can continue throughout the high school years in order to help our young adults learn who they are, what they were created for, and how they can bring value to the community in their spheres of influence—at home, across the nation, and throughout the world.

Need guidance in the journey to make high school matter beyond the turning of the tassel?

My NEW BOOK, More than Credits: Life Skills High Schoolers Need for Life, offers frameworks (think practical skill acquisition from real-life, project-based learning, experiential opportunities, related literature and writing assignments, and meaningful decision topics and questions) for FIVE elective courses:

  • Nutrition and Wellness

  • Personal Fitness

  • Personal Awareness and Career Exploration

  • Philosophy, and

  • Personal Finance

The contents of each class are not just boxes to check, but ideas meant to be tweaked and adjusted for each learner based on what they may already be doing.

Earn credit for what matters…not just today, but beyond.







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!

 

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! 

Field Trip Learning with Multiple Ages

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Dad's first day of Spring Break invited us all--six learners ages 2-20 and two parents--into an educational extravaganza. We visited the Lego exhibit at Leu Gardens. 

Learning surrounds us. It's part of life. Gathered around the kitchen table working math problems, we often forget the rich learning which takes place when we venture out, walk through life together and learn.

Last Friday,  as we marveled at Lego creations and smelled Sweet Alyssum, I remembered how much littles (and bigs) need field trips, time out and about to learn together.

While on our Lego garden adventure, 

  • the youngest learners instinctively balanced on the curbs and looked for rabbits. We didn't stop to run or roll down the hills, though it would have benefited their vestibular development. On another visit, we will definitely leave time to run and roll! 
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  • the elementary learners compared the number of bricks in each sculpture. This allowed for practical comparison of place value and oral practice of reading and saying numbers over ten thousand. 
  • the learners, together, marveled at the patterns in the Lego sculptures. While we oohed and ahhed, we deepened our appreciation for one another and the things each considers beautiful. 
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  • the learners worked together to navigate the map to find the places they wanted to visit. When they had a question, we encouraged them to consult an older sibling. While navigating, heading to the north forest, we heard owls hooting above our heads. We stopped, looked in between branches and gazed at these magnificent birds. We watched as two owls called out their territory and then had a brief altercation with their talons right above our heads! The youngest learners asked great questions as their curiosity was sparked. I am glad we took time to look up! 
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  • the middle schooler with a current interest in horticulture, stopped to read signage which explained foliage. She took pictures of plants she wanted to incorporate into our yard. 
  • the high schooler and college student enjoyed taking pictures of the amazing blooms, chatting about life as they walked along. I loved watching them spend time together and marveling at the wonder their siblings were taking in. 

While visiting the gardens, I was also reminded me that children often tell us what they need. The key is listening (and not having an agenda--ouch!). After walking about an hour, the littlest--map still in hand and spying a nice shady hill--interjected her thoughts,

"I think we need a picnic!"

She articulated her need to stop, sit, and enjoy a snack. Honestly, we all benefited from the refreshing break. Snacks eaten, we headed out for the second part of the self-guided tour. 

After walking and enjoying the outdoors for three hours, we headed to the car. The youngest cried. We instantly thought, "She's ready to go home!" Instead, when I asked about her sadness she said, "I didn't see any rabbits!" Dad decided we should stop at the library on the way home and check out some rabbit books. Tears disappeared and a smile returned to her face. 

A stop at the library was a perfect way to close out our day together. 

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What learning adventures await your family today? Maybe nature walks? Maybe puddles? Perhaps something which will come about spontaneously.

Whatever that learning adventure is, may it be one which is memorable for your family. 

Every. Moment. Matters!  

Portfolio Possibilities: What to Include

To keep track of the volumes of work samples for four learners, I am trying something new this year. Well, it isn't really new. I tried it before, but unsuccessfully. 

I decided to give it another try. 

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Different season. It's working...so far! 

In our state, statute requires parents to keep work samples for their children. With four learners, the pile of completed work on my kitchen table grows daily. Books read. Papers completed. Field trip brochures.

If I don't tame the pile, it can get the best of me. 

This year, I am keeping my log of activities (another statutory requirement for our state) on the kitchen table where I can log conveniently. After logging, I place the samples in a plastic tote. Then, sometime over Christmas break, we will have a family sorting party. Each child will receive a binder for their samples. I pass out plastic sleeves for odd-shaped treasures. At the end of the sorting party, each child's portfolio begins to take shape. To lessen the stress, second semester work is placed directly in the binder after it's been logged. The end result will be a portfolio ready for our annual evaluation. 

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What is a sample? 

Samples. Every family interprets the meaning of samples differently. In 24 years of doing home education annual evaluations for other families, we've seen the full range of freedom in terms of samples. One family will bring 5 work samples for each subject while another family brings every.single.paper for every.single.subject. That's the freedom of the law. Parents decide what is needed for their family.

Sample examples. Traditional math lessons come to mind for many. It is what we remember from our school days. Yet, when considering other subjects in light of the variety of educational philosophies held by parents, the possibilities for samples grows. For families with a Charlotte Mason philosophy, there will be book lists and sketches, maybe a nature journal. For traditional textbook families, there will be notebooks of answers and solutions and lists of spelling practice. And those who learn on the road? They may have photos and travel brochures to attest to their learning highlights. 

Over the years, parents we've evaluated saved: 

  • math lessons and scratch work
  • writing or poetry samples
  • journal
  • research papers
  • article critiques
  • reading lists
  • magazine subscription listing
  • book reports or summaries
  • primary source document listing
  • documentary listing
  • lab reports
  • dissection reports and sketches
  • nature notebook
  • sketches
  • theater tickets 
  • movie reviews
  • photography
  • video clips
  • graphic arts samples
  • sports stats
  • sports videos
  • recipes
  • URLs from independent studies
  • community service hours
  • achievement award certificates

Some families happily eliminate paper, capturing everything digitally. In recent years during evaluations, we've swiped I-pads to view scanned work and flipped through PowerPoint presentations of field trips. Other families design digital scrapbooks. In our digital society, portfolio possibilities continue to grow. Be creative! If your family is learning on the go or on the road, consider how you might take advantage of digital technology. 

What about high school portfolios? 

I get this question often, especially since families come back to us year-after-year. As those families move into the high school years, they begin to feel the pressure of credits and college admission. To ease the pressure, I remind them that the types of work samples saved really doesn't change. The point of the portfolio is to show that the learner has made progress at a level commensurate to the ability (at least in our state).

Though the work samples saved during the high school years is generally the same as the elementary and middle school years, I do encourage parents to take special care to log titles and authors of books (in a digital document for easy interfacing to other documents) as well as community service hours (documented on company letterhead). Doing so can save time in the late junior and early senior year when families begin gathering college application documents.  

Taming paper trails doesn't have to be a full time job. I found doing a little bit each week helps keep my long-term sanity. I know you can tame yours as well. Perhaps keeping work samples in one place is a next right step in the positive direction. 

Bringing Physics to Life

My soon-to-be high schooler loves science, always has. She builds, creates, designs. Tape, staples, duct tape disappear overnight. There are springs from pens and spare flashlight bulbs stored in a tackle box, in case they're needed. 

Then we found this treasure in the new book section of the library. 

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After reading The Physics of Everyday Things, I understood the workings of items I see used every day.

Physics came to life! 

I wish physics made sense to every learner. 

In fact, I think it can. 

Two of my three graduates have completed middle and high school physics. As with other subjects, we endeavored to bring physics to life with Living Books. This learning season, we found yet another living physics gem!

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Reading The Physics of Everyday Things started a learning frenzy. Within a few days of checking out the book, my learner needed more books. I began the search. 

  • Albert Einstein, Pamela Zanin Bradbury (Messner biography)
  • Electrical Genius, Nikola Tesla, Arthur J. Beckhard (Messner biography)
  • Electronics Pioneer, Lee DeForest, I.E. Levine (Messner biography)
  • Isaac Newton, Harry Sootin (Messner biography)
  • Rocket Boys: A Memoir, Homer Hickam (adult biography section of the library)
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • The Discoverer of the X-Ray, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen, Arnulf K. Esterer (Messner biography)
  • The Story of Benjamin Franklin, Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft (Signature series)
  • The Story of Madame Curie, Alice Thorne (Signature series)
  • The Wright Brothers, David McCullough (adult biography section of the library)

These books really did add practical application to the physics concepts, concepts which were once words on a textbook pages--difficult to grasp--now had real life meaning and application. In addition, we watched the movie October Sky as a family. The movie is based on the book Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam. (The movie should be previewed by adults, first)

For those of you have multiple children spanning the ages, there are books for younger learners which can fuel an interest in all things science and inventions. Our favorites are from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. These may be helpful to your family. They were for ours! 

  • Eli Whitney, Boy Mechanic, Dorothea J. Snow (COFA)
  • George Westinghouse, Young Inventor, Montrew Dunham (COFA)
  • Harvey S. Firestone, Young Rubber Pioneer, Adrian Paradis (COFA)
  • Lee DeForest, Electronics Boy, Lavinia Dobler (COFA)
  • Robert Fulton and the Steamboat, Ralph Nading Hill (Landmark series)
  • Robert Fulton, Boy Craftsman, Marguerite Henry (COFA)
  • Robert Goddard, Pioneer Rocket Boy, Clyde B. Moore (COFA)
  • The Story of Atomic Energy, Laura Fermi (Landmark)
  • The Story of Submarines, George Weller (Landmark)
  • The Wright Brothers, Quentin Reynolds (Landmark)
  • Tom Edison, Young Inventor, Sue Guthridge (COFA)
  • Wilbur and Orville Wright, Young Fliers, Augusta Stevenson (COFA)

Trusting Children with Little, Leads to Much

Children entrusted with little will one day be able to be trusted with much. 

What is your child able to be trusted with today, right now? 

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It's hard, isn't it, to say yes--to trust, to risk. 

When I was a young mom, I held on more tightly, regulated and controlled what I could, fearing the worst, yet longing to raise children who would one day to be independent. As my oldest children grew, I realized I was doing them a disservice. They wouldn't become responsible, and one day independent, if I waited until the day before I expected them to launch. I had to change my thinking. 

If one day I wanted them to be trusted with much, I needed to begin trusting them with little. 

It would be a process. 

  • A receipt from the grocery store. My two-and-a-half-year-old always wants to carry the receipt, along with the spare change. When I give her the handful--all of it--she feels empowered, trusted. And, she is mindful of what she's doing, like she is guarding a million dollars! 
  • The keys to the house. When we pull in the driveway, my six-year-old always asks for the keys as soon as I pull them from the ignition. She wants to carry the keys and unlock the front door. In doing so, she feels capable, able to help the family enter the home. 
  • My cell phone. A few weeks ago, Mike and two middle girls took a road trip to the softball World Series. When I called to check in, one of the girls answered the phone. The proud voice on the other end exclaimed that Dad let her be the secretary, especially when he was driving. She felt important, able to meet a need.
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The empowerment to independence was indeed a process. When the day came for each child to sit in the driver's seat of our car for his or her first solo ride, babysit, or travel alone, I knew he or she was ready. Each of the children had had a multitude of opportunities to prove responsibility and trustworthiness. 

On our second son's wedding day, I remember reflecting on his readiness to not only be responsible for himself but also to consider the well-being of another person into his days. One day he was entrusted with bringing in his bike from the rain, another day to was instructed with how to use grandfather's fishing pole. A year or so later, he was given command of a canoe of younger scouts. Not too long after, he asked for the keys to our car, and then, a few years later, he waited at the end of an aisle for his bride. Trusting him with a little grew to trusting him with much. 

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It was a process, one which took time. And, looking back, the years flew faster than I ever imagined they would. 

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

25 Intentional Moments with Your Teens and Young Adults

"Mom, can we go on a date?"

It starts when they are little, but it doesn't have to end there. 

Teens and young adults LOVE intentional moments with their parents, too. 

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A wise, older mom once encouraged me to foster a relationship with my children when they were young. I have to admit, it wasn't always easy to be excited to watch ants make a hill, walk around the lake hunting for tadpoles, or play Candyland for a second or third time as laundry hollered to be loaded and dinner shouted to be started. There were seasons of new babies and illnesses. 

But, I listened to my friend's her sage wisdom, what she had learned from her experiences.

The purpose, she said,

"If you want a relationship with your young adults, start when they are little and never stop!"

Twenty-seven years into this parenting thing, I can say I was intentional about putting my best foot forward to engage in my children's lives.

But, I will be honest. I wasn't always happy about setting aside my ideas or my activities. 

There were moments I complained. There were days I was tired, but persevered anyway. My children saw my intentions. 

What I learned from that older mom?

My efforts mattered--all of them, even the ones that were not picture perfect.

Fast forward. 

What do we do when children get older, when dates are more than playing a game (though some older children still enjoy games), stopping by the playground, or catching butterflies?

Or, what if life circumstances kept us from spending as much time with our children as we would have liked? Do we throw in the towel and assume a relationship with our teens can't be fostered? 

We start with where we are now--parent and child, parent and young adult.

No one outgrows the need for relationship and time spent on relationships is never wasted. 

So, where do we start (or continue) with our older children? 

Start with what they enjoy, what they like. 

With five very different teens, young adults, and adult children, the times we spend together varies.

Sometimes I initiate time together. Other times a child asks will ask to spend time together. Some of my ideas are really creative, others met a daily need, or accomplished a  task. Our favorite times include:

1. Sipping hot chocolate. Outside on the patio or sitting cross-legged on the couch, just the two (or three) of us.

2. Taking a walk. This is a favorite for one of my health and fitness-minded young adults. 

3. Going to the thrift store. Often there's a goal for our adventures at our local thrift store's half-price Wednesday. We most always arrive home feeling great about the time we spent together and the bargains we find.

4. Working out together. This is a HUGE stretch for me (no pun intended!) but makes my young adults chuckle. Yes, we've had some laughs at my expense! Laughter is part of relationship building.

5. Painting the bedroom. At some point in the teen years, most young adults desire to freshen up their room. Spending a weekend choosing a color and applying the new coat of freshness can make memories, for sure.

6. Designing a website. My entrepreneur asked if I'd help her figure out how to build a free site. A few days later, we were able to say, "I couldn't have done that without you!"

7. Going shopping. My children know shopping is not something I really enjoy. I like bargains, but I have other things I would rather do. And, with eight children, it seems someone always needs a new shirt, underwear, or a larger size sneakers!  And, often the request doesn't come at an ideal time. However, if one of my children needs something and asks me to go along, I'm there. In fact, one of my favorite mommy heart moments was when my adult child set up his first apartment and asked me to go with him to give my opinion on a couch. I was honored and accepted the invitation with a warm heart. I will never forget that day!

8. Eating a plateful of nachos. While my boys were playing high school baseball, they would often arrive home starving and needing to process the action of the game. It was often hard to keep my tired eyes open--and I rarely remembered the fine details of every inning--but those late evenings were more than worth the sleep I lost. I will admit these late night dates made maintaining weight a challenge. 

9. Reading a book. One of our young adults loved to read and then engage in conversation, pondering thoughts with someone else. Often Mike or I was that someone else. What an honor and a privilege! Perhaps your young adult might enjoy this type of time together. 

10.  Sharing an appetizer. Sharing an afternoon appetizer at a local restaurant may be just the change of scenery your young adult needs. Often restaurants offer afternoon specials to encourage patrons. Research the deals in your area. It may be just the renewal a relationship needs. 

11.  Solving a jigsaw puzzle. Though this hasn't been a terribly frequent choice, when we did engage in this challenge we were able to say, "We accomplished a task together."

12. Making greeting cards. From the very early years of our marriage there hasn't been a lot of extra cash in the budget for cards. Creating cards to make someone smile, has definitely been heart-warming. Making several to keep some on hand for needs that arise may be a great way to spend time with your creative. 

13. Visiting a museum. One of our young adults enjoyed visiting museums, especially art and history. Interestingly, I became quite interested in both art and history, neither of which were natural interests of mine. I love when the interests of one family member rub off on another. 

14. Volunteering together. When my high schoolers began to need community service hours, we were always looking for venues to serve. Though it would have been easier to drop off and go, when invited to stay, we accepted. As it turned out the experienced blessed several family members for several years. 

15. Enjoying free coffee. I have a young adult who is very frugal...and loves coffee. This has definitely been a favorite date, especially National Coffee Day rolls on September 29.

16. Using a coupon. In a large family where money can be tight, we have gotten creative and in the process have enjoyed great times together, frugally. Honestly, once they got the hang of it, my teens and young adults came up with amazingly great deals and ideas to send time together.

17. Riding bikes. Whether biking for the sake of staying fit or enjoying time outside, this has been a favorite in all stages of life. 

18. Doing a DYI project. If you have an innovator or a creative, this can be a fun way to spend the afternoon. I have learned fun DIY ideas from my young adults. 

19. Enjoying nachos, AGAIN!  WHEW! The high school ball nights turned into freshman year of college--seemingly overnight! My oldest--then a college freshman--invited me to share his nachos, a little later in that season of life...at 1 AM. I said YES! And, I never regretted it. He continued to ask and I gained what I call the Mom Freshmen Fifteen!

20. Going BOGO. One of the favorite date requests for our youngers and olders is BOGO shakes at the local Steak N' Shake. The waitresses know us well!

21. Sharing a tradition. Some of our dates were a vehicle for generational sharing. Consider the traditions of your family and how you might share those with yet another generation--shopping for sibling Christmas presents, coffee with Grandma, attending Memorial Day veteran celebrations have been among our favs.

22. Learning a new skill. Learning is life-long. We parents can model this by inviting a young adult to learn a new skill alongside us or we can offer to help a young adult learn a new skill, perhaps one he or she has desired to learn for awhile. Together, my young adults and I have learned how to make lollipops, plant a garden, paint window shutters, and sew aprons. What new skills may await the relationship with your teen?

23. Opening a bank account. Sometimes life's seasons bring amazing date opportunities. Embracing these times, we have with our young adults matters. Often we grab an ice cream or coffee on the way home!

24. Cashing in on rewards. I wasn't a big coffee fan. However, when one of my young adults wanted to join a reward program so we could date and earn rewards, I was all in! And, we've both enjoyed the time together and the freebies!

25. Sharing life! Moments with your teens and young adults don't have to fancy or elaborate. The important point of cultivating a relationship with your children is being intentional about taking time to share life together. In doing so, the parent-child-young adult relationship is built and fostered.

Every. Moment. Matters. 

 

 

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. 

Winter Fun for FREE Plus Extras!

We all need mid-year boosts--teachers, parents, and learners! 

Celebrate Simple is all about encouraging and equipping parents and families; adding spring in your winter steps! 

We have created several winter-themed, inter-related learning resources for your family--all ages preschool to adult. The contents of each resource is related but nothing is duplicated. 

Our first FREE winter resource is FREE to subscribers! If you are a current subscriber, you will receive this resource in the next newsletter. If you haven't yet subscribed, please do! We would love for you to have this handy, practical winter-themed unit. The contents are related to all of our NEW winter items listed below. The content of Simple Winter Family Fun includes

  • conversation starters for family members of all ages,
  • winter-themed book lists for preschool through high school, 
  • practical ideas for family team building,
  • learning activities for Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (different from those included in Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes),
  • a four-year plan worksheet for families walking the home education high school journey, 
  • winter-related spelling words with fun spelling practice ideas, and
  • math practice for patterning, counting by fives, and solving word problems.

Our second FREE winter resource can be found in our FREE RESOURCES tab. Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Snowflakes is a shorter math study similar to Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Parks and Math Adventures: Experiencing Math in Nature. Click on FREE RESOURCES to download your copy!

Our third winter resource is intended to extend the learning in the above units.  The snowflake blank book and foam snowflakes are available in the store. The self-adhesive snowflakes can be use for sorting, counting, adding, and multiplication. When littles are finished sorting and counting, the snowflakes can be used to make a counting or addition book.

Finally, we are offering a winter special which includes all of the above resources AND a Magiscope! This sturdy, metal microscope has been a favorite in our home for twenty-two years and comes with a lifetime warranty! Our scope was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from his gandparents! 

Whether your winter will be spent outdoors making snow forts or indoors wishing it would snow, refresh the mid-year, winter blahs with some fun new ideas and resources. We would love for your family relationships to grow and for this to be your best winter EVER!

Remember, every moment matters when using what is intentional, real, and relational! 

Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

"Mom! I want to go with you!"

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. 

My mind rattled through all the pros and cons.

  • They grow up fast.
  • I need a few quiet moments.
  • It was a chance to spend individual time.
  • I should seize the moment!

"Yes, you can go."

She put on her shoes. We got in the car and talked all the way to the store. We parked and shopped. Paid. My daughter carried the box, proudly, spring in her step--a wide smile beaming across her face. She insisted on holding our purchase all the way home.

She was energized.

After ten minutes of silence, she asked.

"How could I work at that store?"

Followed immediately by, 

"I just love it there! All the electronics, the gadgets, the cables."

How do we help foster strengths and interests in our children (especially when it is not what we had in mind)?

  • Be open. When my daughter announced she wanted to work at an electronics store, my immediate thought was not impressive. I wouldn't have won Mommy Points. Why would you want to work in an electronics store? Stellar, I know. Thankfully, having been in this place before with other children, I learned from mistakes; held my initial thought. Counting to five helped.
  • Avoid a defensive/reactive posture. By waiting, even just a few seconds, I was able to offer an open, positive response. And, being in the car I didn't have to worry about impatiently shifting my weight or a tapping toe, thankfully. I have spoken those unintended messages before.
  • Ask a question. Asking a question keeps conversation and relationship open. This is another hard lesson I've learned. I'm a global-thinking fixer. I see conclusions (sometimes wrong conclusions) and big pictures before the speaker, so waiting for a response or waiting to hear the whole story takes discipline.

"You asked a great question. What skills do you think you would need to work there?"

  • Wait for a response. If the child is processing thoughts, a response may take a few minutes. And likely, he or she hasn't encountered the scenario at hand in the past. When I keep active and engaged while offering patience, the conversation with my child stays alive. When my mind wonders or I feel something else tugging for my attention (and there are many of those!), my daughter knows. 

"I would need to learn about computers, cameras and equipment."

  • Affirm and ask another question. Affirmation keeps the conversation moving forward and also allows children to internalize that their thoughts are worth processing. Remember, the reason the conversation started was to answer a pending question or entertain an important thought. A piece of affirmation and a follow-up question provides motivation toward considering perspectives and ideas which might not be clear, YET!

"Indeed you would need to know about those things. How could you learn more about electronics?"

  • Don't fret. In the process of thinking things out--engaging in dialogue--it is helpful to remember that just because it is said doesn't mean it will happen. Children and young adults (and I would venture to suggest even adults) express ideas which will never come to fruition. This is part of processing thoughts. In other words, if a child or young adult mentions a possibility for employment or the intention of attending an event, it is an opportunity to learn conversation skills and decision making--another opportunity to share and consider. When I short circuit the process of my child or young adult's thought process prematurely, progress halts. I've had to remind myself that my children need opportunities like these to develop soft skills: problem solving, conversational etiquette, consideration of other people, adaptability, time management, and emotional intelligence. If I cut them off, define all the problems and solutions, discourage conversation, I place my children and young adults at a great disservice. Decision making, Interpersonal skills, work ethic, and research skills must be practiced and experienced before my young adults forge out on their own. 
  • Welcome the unexpected. It may be a passing thought. It might never happen. However, when I welcome and am open to the thoughts of my children, there is a greater chance they will come to me when really big things come to the forefront of their mind. Today's thought about working at an electronics store may be tomorrow's thought of whether an entire savings should be used to buy a car. As a parent I've had to keep my hands open. A desire to work in an electronics store isn't the end of the world. In fact, it could be the catalyst needed to deepen a relationship or it could be the gateway to a lucrative career (or a stepping stone to fixing Mom's technology).
  • Brainstorm. What began as a question ended with a wide-open slate of possibilities. Together my daughter and I discovered several ways she could learn more about electronics. As we talked, she became more engaged, more excited, asking if she had to wait until middle and high school to start. Of course not, learning can start immediately! Perhaps there is something you can do or offer today to fuel the excitement in your leaner. 
  • Open to possibilities. As a homeschooled student, my daughter can learn from an array of environments: online tutorials, online certifications, shadowing, volunteering, mentors. And, she has time to do so! JOY! What possibilities wait for your leaner? 
  • How can I help? I am a busy mom with full days. Believe me, it is not easy for me to ask for more to do. However, when my children face a new endeavor or potential change, they usually embrace the chance to have someone walk along side them, cheer them on. I WANT to be that cheerleader. In my twenty-seven years of parenting, I've learned if I don't get excited--walk alongside, ask how I can help--my children will find someone who or some place which will provide for this need. Companionship is something we all need, children, young adults, and adults. 
  • What's the next step? The next step may not be obvious or easy. Even for me as an adult, I'm often not clear about what my next steps might be. It's silly for me to think my children will know, every time, what their next right steps will be. Helping to identify a next steps and then encouragement to follow through offers another opportunity to affirm and build relationships as well as soft skills and life experiences. 

What strengths or interests are your children or young adults asking you to foster? 

Those strengths and interests may begin with a question and end with answers. Or, those strengths and interests may begin with a request to tag-along and end with an opportunity to walk alongside. And even still, those strengths and interests may start with you--the parent--pointing out an area you see your child could excel, something of which he or she may not even be aware.

Potential is ripe, right where you are--your child and you--together. 

Oh, I forgot to mention. 

Within twenty-four hours, my daughter had spent a good bit of time watching online tutorials and how-to videos about building computers, extracting parts, wiring circuits and more. And her interest began with a tag-along opportunity, some engaging conversation, and insight into next steps. 

I wonder what she will do tomorrow? 

I wonder what your learners might discover TODAY!

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. 

 

 

 

 

Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life

We--family and friends--sat around tables at my grandmother's 90th birthday. Most were enjoying cake, punch, and conversation. One woman, sitting alone, attracted our attention. My children and I carried our cake plates over and sat alongside her. She was delighted. 

We introduced ourselves. She told us how she knew Grams. Then I asked, 

"Tell us something about your life."

And she did. 

"I was an Olympic runner with Wilma Rudolph." 

I wasn't too sure I believed her--you know, memory care and all. However, after talking, the story became clear and I was convinced. The kids marveled and asked questions--all the important whys, wheres, whens, whats, and hows. After our new friend finished her cake, she insisted we wait at the table while she went to her apartment. 

She had something to show us. 

Fifteen minutes later, she walked in the room with a photo album and an Olympic torch! No kidding! She sat back down at the table, opened up the album and pointed to a yellowed newspaper clipping of her standing alongside Wilma. 

We asked more questions, just like we had in our conversations with Grammy.

These women were living history--memoirs--testimonies of real-life, real moments in time. 


My grandmother celebrated 95 birthdays in her life. In our times together, she shared memories of her childhood, her family, her hobbies, and of times in history she experienced first-hand. She lived through the Great Depression, WWII, the Kennedy Era, the invention of many modern conveniences. She remembers events well, better than most of us on any given day.

She holds within her, a living history, of our world and of our family.

Several years ago, my then seven-year-old daughter questioned the age of her great-grandmother and made an insightful comment as we studied the Great Depression.

“We must ask Grammy about her experiences during the Great Depression. She might be the only person left alive that we can talk to about living during that time.”

Ah, yes child, you understand the importance of passing down stories.

Every person has stories and each of us can be story tellers, story bearers, regardless of our age. Stories connect generations; the stories we long to hear, the stories our hearts need to hear.

When you have opportunity to visit with someone, particularly someone with age and experience, consider the stories they might share. They will likely be eager to share and you may learn something no one else could share. 

Questions to ask:

  • Where and when were you born?
  • Did you have brothers and sisters? Were they younger or older than you?
  • Tell me about the house in which you grew up.
  • What activities did you enjoy as a child?
  • What do you remember about your parents or grandparents?
  • Did you go to church? Tell me about the church you attended.
  • Did you have a favorite book? Who read to you?
  • Tell me about your school.
  • What was your favorite subject in school?
  • Did you have any pets?
  • Did you play a musical instrument?
  • What was your favorite type of music? What were some of your favorite songs?
  • What did you enjoy doing? Did you have any hobbies?
  • Who were your friends? What did you enjoy doing together?
  • What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • What was your favorite food? 
  • How much did a hamburger and fries cost?
  • Did you have a job? At which age did you start working?
  • Tell me about your first car.
  • How much did your first car cost?
  • Did you marry?
  • If so, how did you meet your spouse? What did you enjoy doing together? 
  • Tell me about the proposal.
  • Did you have children? How many? What were their names?
  • Did you travel? Where did you visit?
  • Did you serve in the military? Where and when did you serve? What do you remember about your service?
  • What inventions do you remember and how did they impact your life?
  • Have you ever been to a World's Fair? Which one? What was it like?
  • What historical events do you remember? 
  • Did you belong to any organizations or clubs?
  • Was there someone who strongly impacted or changed your life?

How does what I experienced with that dear Olympic runner, my grandmother, and others impact me and my family? Today, I will purpose to tell at least one personal story to my children, one with which they might better understand their heritage and their world.

History can be intentional, real, and relational. 

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. 

In our twenty-three years of homeschooling, our children have benefited from activities rooted in just about every educational methodology.

As beneficial and pleasurable as these experiences have been, the greatest rewards in retention and relationship have come from incorporating life moments into our days together; discovering God’s creation, serving the needs of others, and engaging in conversations.

In the younger years, we:

  • Watch busy ants carry food to their hills, commenting on their phenomenal strength and work ethic.
  • Till a small garden and sow seeds, watering and weeding with hopes to enjoy the abundant harvest, the fruits of patience, diligence, and perseverance.
  • Build a birdhouse, hanging it in a nearby tree and observing the types of birds that enjoy the shelter.
  • Weed the flower bed, discussing root systems and parts of the plant.
  • Pull out a blanket after the sun goes down and gaze upward, identifying constellations, studying the night sky.
  • Study and sketch the moon each night, pondering its changes.
  • Solve a jigsaw puzzle or play a game, building critical thinking and problem solving skills.
  • Sing together, experimenting with high and low pitches and encouraging vocal giftedness.
  • Sort the laundry, learning the difference between lights and darks while engaging in conversation.
  • Tidy the house, encouraging young helpers to be a part of the family team, doing what they are able.
  • Peel carrots together, strengthening small motor skills while discussing life’s profound questions, like why are bats nocturnal. 
  • Make lunch together, slicing bread into half-inch slices and cutting sandwiches into halves and quarters.
  • Make lemon meringue pie, marveling at how the egg whites change and stiffen.
  • Slice and quarter lemons, stirring in one-half a cup of sugar and filling a pitcher with water to make lemonade.
  • Cuddle on the couch, reading page after page, book after book, traveling to unknown places, meeting extraordinary people.
  • Look through family photo albums, recalling favorite memories and sharing family history.
  • Invite people of varying backgrounds, cultures, and careers into your home, broadening our children’s understanding of the world.
  • Make homemade holiday and birthday cards, sending greetings to those who might need extra cheer.

During the pre-teen, teen and young adult years, we:

  • Discuss theologies, philosophies, and belief systems, expanding our young adult's understanding of how people think and apply knowledge, while building and refreshing our own knowledge base.
  • Learn with our young adults, discerning when to encourage independent study and when to be involved.
  • Embrace our young adult's talents, giftedness, or special interests, offering to help in the discovery and research process.
  • Start a sewing project, learning and creating alongside, shoulder to shoulder.
  • Sweat with our teens, practicing sports and fitness skills, caring for their physical health.
  • Walk briskly around the neighborhood, praying for the neighbors while setting a foundation for life fitness.
  • Complete a task together (cleaning a bedroom, washing a car, mowing the yard), lightening the load of doing it alone and engaging in conversation which may not happen otherwise. 
  • Take our teens on dates (clothes shopping, tea rooms, book cafés, or sports stores), enjoying our alone time together away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life.
  • Read books together, sharing feelings and insights.
  • Sit with our young adults, engaging in conversation, helping them sort through challenges, uncertainties, and frustrations.
  • Strive to be quick to listen, asking questions that help our young adults move through difficult circumstances or relational snags using problem solving and conflict resolution skills.
  • Relax together, watching a movie or discussing a recently read book.
  • Serve at a local shelter, mission, or children’s home, blessing those who need an extra dose of love while encouraging one another to care for the least served.
  • Offer childcare for single moms or moms on bed rest, meeting her practical needs.
  • Go on a mission trips together, experiencing new cultures and serving people whose existence matters despite difficult circumstances. 

As our children move to adulthood and away from home, I often ask what mattered most in their learning and living years at home. By far, the experiences which have impacted them most, shaped their being, are the experiences which involved the real and relational. 

As you move about your day today, embrace the real and relational. Those moments matter and they will impact your family for years to come.

The Benefit of Interests: Motivating Learners

Last Saturday I spoke to a group of parents homeschooling high school (or soon to  be homeschooling high school). During the Q&A at the end of the the workshop, a mom bravely asked, 

"How do you handle learners who always want to default to computer or social media games?"

Tough question. 

I quipped, 

"Do you have a whole day for the answer?"

This is a tough question to answer without any knowledge of the family or of the learner, in my opinion. There are just too many factors which come into play: learner ability, amount of work expected to be accomplished, time of day, social/emotional circumstances and more. In addition, I am not a formula answer kind of gal. There are often no right answers, all the time, for every family, for every learner. 

Tough question. 

I could only share the ah-ha realization from our personal experience as well as the conclusions found by families with whom we've walked the journey. 

When children and young adults have a goal to aspire to, something they want to build, some cause to fight, bottom line, some passion that propels them, there is reason to prioritize the day, reason to manage time. 

Yes, there will be ideas to listen to, questions to ponder, problems to solve, seasons of failure. However, when there is an interest, there is motivation--positive or negative. 

Interestingly, just three days after my weekend workshop, my adult son (who didn't know I was posed with the above question on Saturday), sent me an article. After dinner, my engineer daughter had an idea. 

"Can I have that water jug in the fridge?"

Sure. We emptied the remaining water into a pitcher.

Off she went. Spent several hours trying and retrying.

When there is an interest, a problem to solve, a question to research, a goal to accomplish, there is motivation.

This isn't the first time we've encountered the rewards of interest. In fact, one of our adult children refined his natural strengths and reoccurring interests (meaning interests visited and revisited, refined--passions) and is now using those in his vocation. Thousands of hours practicing, experimenting, refining gifts are now impacting a company, people in his sphere of influence. Another adult child continues to refine his skills and interests in graduate school. His career goal (which uses his passion and care for people) is motivating him through 12-15 hour days of study. 

What problem does your learner want to solve? What question is he or she pondering? Is there something significant to accomplish? 

There, too, will be motivation.

With you on the journey!

 

Living Books and Independent Studies

"Mom, do we have any nurse books?"

That question. 

An interest.

I started with what I knew. My knowledge of nursing minimal at best. 

A Florence Nightingale biography; I knew we had one in our biography section. I  eagerly motioned her over to the shelves. 

A week. She read; late into the evenings. I could tell she was engaged. She had accepted the author's invitation to walk hospital ward halls where Florence served, cared. My daughter experienced the Crimean War, through the pages of that biography.

The final evening, sprawled across the recliner, she closed the book and pulled it close to her chest. A sigh. I inquired. 

"I love that book! I know Florence. She persevered. She solved problems to help others. I know Florence."

My daughter had been invited into a life, into a life that mattered.  

"Do we have any other nurse books?"

That question.

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

I knew it would happen. I just didn't know exactly when or with which book. 

Stories have a way about beckoning us to places, meeting people we would never otherwise meet. While my daughter read the The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton, I heard a whisper, a quiet voice which suggested I build; build resources, other books related to nursing. In answering the call, I searched book lists. Bought used and asked knowledgeable people for ideas. All for a purpose. 

I found books. They were delivered to our door. My daughter read.

About three books into her reading, she started to recognize connections between these often heroic women. At dinner I heard about her ah-ha moments. My daughter commented, sharing stories of how one nurse inspired, trained, or mentored another. 

I was astounded by the understanding she was gaining, truly amazed!

My daughter's independent study began with one Living Book, a book about a real person who recognized a need, saw a problem and then found solutions. That one book led to an independent study, a study I didn't plan. My role was to foster her interest by finding resources--in this case books--and to be willing to listen--to process. There were many discussions, many summaries voluntarily shared because the learning intrigued and mattered. My daughter analyzed, compared, inferred, questioned.

Surprisingly, her independent study began with one book; an invitation into the life of one nurse.

One Living Book. One real story. An independent study.


What were the books?

In addition to The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton (a Signature series biography) the book which started the study, my daughter also enjoyed:

Great Women of Medicine by Ruth Fox Hume, a collective biography

Nurse Around the World: Alice Fitzgerald by Iris Noble, a Messner biography

The Story of Edith Cavell by Iris Vinton. a Signature series biography

First Woman Ambulance Surgeon: Emily Barringer by Iris Noble, borrowed from a friend who knew of my daughter's interest, also a Messner biography

Frontier Nurse: Mary Breckinridge by Katherine E. Wilkie

America's First Trained Nurse: Linda Richards by Rachel Baker, a Messner biography

Remember, some of these books are intended for older learners. My daughter was entering high school when she read these books. What one family deems appropriate may not be considered acceptable for another family. Parents should consider their family's guidelines for reading material, as well as the maturity of their reader, when offering titles for learning. 

 

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. 

College-Ready in Middle School?

At a recent outing, I fielded a common--and becoming more common--question.

"How can I get my middle schooler college-ready?"

I heard the immediacy in the mom's voice.  I also heard the fear. Fear of failure, of not doing enough. This mom was looking for the one right answer, the right formula. I wanted, with all my heart, to give her a solid, tried and true answer. But, I couldn't.

As a mom of past middlers, a mentor of parents who've trod this path and a wife of a twenty-seven year veteran middle school teacher, I could only offer this mom insight to potential considerations; insights from our experiences and the experience of other parents we knew. And, perhaps those insights could set her on the next right step for HER child. 

College was still five years away.

I reminded her changes would take place. Physical development and brain maturation would continue. I told her to seek insight but be wise, discerning, to ponder possibilities, not taking the first opinions or ideas tossed her way. 

I encouraged her to embrace the current season, less she miss it worrying about tomorrows. 

I affirmed middle school is indeed about content and skills, but it is even more about the relationship between parent and young adult, the middle schooler's interests and what captures the middle schoolers heart.

Walking alongside the ingenious, changing person, being present and willing to process ideas and aspiration, helping her middle schooler discover gifts, strengths and areas of growth would impact who her middle schooler would become. 

  • Reflecting upon the young adult's interests. What are the current interests? How does he or she spend free time?  What activities does the young adult find fulfilling? In our experience, these interests helped determine course selection and extra-curricular choices as high school approached and then became reality.
  • Anticipating interests which might still be hidden, yet to be discovered. What does the middle schooler wish to try or experience in the next few years? Mike and I came to realize early in our middle school parenting experience that the lesser known interests were just as important as the obvious talents and strengths. In fact, several of our then middlers found the lesser known to be more influential in planning their next steps toward high school. 
  • Considering how the middle schooler learns best. Does learning happen best outdoors? Is there greater retention in independent study or experiential opportunities? Our middle schoolers have ALL learned differently. Every. Single. One. One needed quiet. Another needed hands-on experiences. Yet another needed creative outlets. How middlers learn best matters.
  • Learning study preferences. These are different than learning preferences. These are things like note taking, skimming and scanning, and study skills. Would 3 x 5 cards with vocabulary words penned opposite side definition work better than an online auditory drill game? Or would the oral input be more beneficial? Is a word web better than outlining because a visual image is saved by the brain? What about taking notes in color? Study preferences become key components of learning when higher learning becomes focused or must be time efficient. 
  • Focusing on the development of soft skills. We have found soft skills were more difficult to acquire and internalize than learning Algebra formulas, but were increasingly more important to our young adults in high school and post-secondary education. Is the student working to be more independent, more able to solve problems independently but also proficient in working with other people in collaborative projects? Was the young adult able to self-govern emotions, choices and attitudes? Parents can only control choices, attitudes and time management for a time. We found our young adults, as well as the young adults we work with, must be academically ready for college but even more importantly, be ready emotionally and spiritually. 
  • Processing tough questions. Middle schoolers face challenges. Hormones. Friends. Disappointment. Middle schoolers need both encouragement and grace to navigate those challenges, as well as plenty of opportunities to make mistakes and regroup. Mike and I have found it essential to be  available to field questions and process possible scenarios. This processing was key to moral and social development of our children.

As my time with my friend came to an end, I knew there was much more that could be said on the subject, and likely ideas I hadn't considered or experienced. I reminded the mom there would be as many opinions as there were options.  

I knew she could find the answers she needed today as well as for the questions of the many tomorrows yet to come, however multi-faceted they might be.

And, with a hug, I told her she was the best mom to find the answers for her middle schooler and that she would find answers by wisely seeking and pondering; though the process may not be easy or comfortable. 

She knew college as on the horizon, but the answers were in the questions of her todays.


I recently shared insights and stories from over 27 years of middle school experiences; how Mike, I and our middle schoolers found answers to the questions we had along the journey. The audio of my workshop Celebrate Middle School: Fostering Ingenuity presented at FPEA in May can be found  here.

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. 


 

 

 

 

Summer Reading List

Summer’s here!

Vacations. Mission trips. Summer evenings reading on the couch.

Summer brings new opportunities, needed refreshment and necessary refueling...and the TIME to do such.

Family members looking for summer reads?

Our summer reading list continues to grow, some titles added this month, others compiled over the years. My lists have been published magazines, state newsletters, Appendix D of  You HAVE to Read This One: Raising a Contagious Reader and Celebrate High School (high school lists categorized American, British, world and ancient).

Parents often ask, "How do we chose books?" 

Choosing a book depends upon many factors, some unique to an individual or circumstances, however the most universal depend upon 

  • a student’s reading ability, age and maturity
  • a family’s values and worldview
  • a whether a book is to be read aloud or read independently.

All these factors, or a combination of these factors, help determine what titles may be appropriate for your children. 

Summer picture books for little learners

  • Arnosky, Jim, All About Turtles
  • Arnosky, Jim,  Deer at the Brook
  • Berkes, Marianne, Over in the Ocean in the Coral Reef
  • Carle, Eric, A House for Hermit Crab
  • Carle, Eric, Mister Seahorse
  • Carle, Eric, Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth
  • Gibbons, Gail, Ducks
  • Gibbons, Gail, The Berry Book
  • Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed
  • Lionni, Leo, Swimmy
  • McCloskey, Robert, Blueberries for Sal
  • McCloskey, Robert, Lentil
  • McCloskey, Robert,  Make Way for Ducklings
  • Zion, Gene, Harry by the Sea

Chapter books for middle elementary to middle school readers

The spectrum of age and maturity of students in grades four through eight is great. As a guide, selections marked (2-4) may be considered acceptable read-aloud titles for grades 2-4. I have marked titles considered more difficult—by vocabulary, sentence structure or content— with (M). Parents may decide to wait until grades 7-8 to introduce these books. As always, if in doubt, read the book first.

  • Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women (M)
  • Bagnold, Enid, National Velvet
  • Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan
  • Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz
  • Beechick, Ruth, Adam and His Kin
  • Brink, Carol Ryrie, Caddie Woodlawn
  • Bulla, Clyde Robert, A Lion to Guard Us (M)
  • Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland (M)
  • Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage (M)
  • D'Angeli, Marguette, The Door in the Wall
  • Dalgliesh, Alice, The Courage of Sarah Noble (2-4)
  • duBois, William Pene, The Twenty-One Balloons (M)
  • Edmunds, Walter D, The Matchlock Gun (2-4)
  • Forbes, Esther, Johnny Tremain (M)
  • Fritz, Jean, The Cabin Faced West (2-4)
  • George, Jean Craighead, My Side of the Mountain
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, The Tale of Troy (M)
  • Henty, G. A., For the Temple (M)
  • Latham, Jean Lee, Carry on Mr. Bowditch (M)
  • Lenski, Lois, Strawberry Girl (2-4)
  • Norton, Mary, The Borrowers (2-4)
  • Sheldon, George, The Cricket in Times Square
  • Swift, Jonathan, Gulliver's Travels (M)
  • White, E. B., Stuart Little

Summer reads for high school young adults

A comprehensive list is included in Celebrate High School.

  • Aristolte, Complete Works
  • Austin, Jane, Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales
  • Chesterton, G. K., Favorite Father Brown Stories
  • Cierco, Orations
  • Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans
  • de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America
  • Dickens, Charles, The Tale of Two Cities
  • Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury
  • Foxe, John, The Book of Martyrs
  • Graves, Robert, Claudius, the God
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, Tales of Ancient Egypt
  • Hamilton, Edith, Mythology
  • Hemmingway, Ernest, Farewell to Arms
  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life
  • Lewis, C. S., The Screwtape Letters
  • Mc Cullough, John Adams
  • Plato, The Republic
  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling
  • Scott, Sir Walter, Ivanhoe
  • Shakespeare, William, Julius Casear
  • Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath
  • Stevenson, Robert Lewis, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Thoreau, Henry David, Walden
  • Verne, Jules, Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Virgil, The Aeneid
  • Washington, Booker T., Up from Slavery

Happy summer reading!