More than Credits: High School Philosophy, Morals, and Ethics

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The high school years offer a season to celebrate the people our young adults are becoming. Part of that transformation is coming to understand how thoughts influence words and behavior as well as how to productively evaluate thoughts and the thought process.

Along that journey, there will be moments of confidence, clarity, and productivity, but there will also be times of disagreement,miscommunication, and debate. Our high schoolers are learning how to think and then communicate those thoughts while expanding their problem solving abilities and processing their mistakes, all in the light of what they believe to be true.


In this season, young people continue to learn details about who they are and what value they bring to their spheres of influence.


It’s philosophy; discovering a clearer picture of what one believes when compared to other’s thoughts and how those beliefs affect actions and words. It’s the wrestling with and expressing of morals, values, and ethics. It matters, and it can count for high school credit.

As you embark on the adventure, one of the first questions you may encounter is what content to include in a philosophy-type course. You aren’t the only one asking this question. In fact, many parents face this question, and usually haven’t had any idea where to start.

I’ve been in that place, too.

In fact, it’s why I decided to offer suggestions and a framework for a philosophy-based course in More than Credits! The content will empower and encourage you, offering selections for

  • high-interest reading materials,

  • suggestions for writing assignments, and

  • practical hands-on experiences which will impact the young adult as well as the lives of others.

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Intentional.Real. Relational.

More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Ethics, the moral principles which undergird the standards by which individuals respond to important life questions, develop as we face life circumstances and choices. In those moments, we decide what we believe, why it matters, and where we will place our time and attention. Our high schoolers are no different. They face daily decisions amid a myriad of worldviews and philosophies.


What they believe about God, themselves, and the situations in the world, matters. Home can provide a safe place to investigate truths, dialogue thoughts, and ponder choices.


A course which involves the development of philosophy, morals, and ethics gives high school learners opportunities to earn credit for wrestling with their thoughts, discovering what their faith means to them, and applying those thoughts to their life choices and their relationship with God.
— Cheryl Bastian, More than Credits: Skills High Schoolers Need for Life

Most importantly, a young adult’s moral and ethical thoughts influence the decisions they make. Essentially, the content cultivates the “why” behind what an individual believes as well as why certain things are valued over certain other things. All of this encompasses an individual’s belief system and influences his or her spiritual growth and personal development beyond simply mimicking, borrowing, or living out the faith of his or her parents.

One of our learners grew to love C. S. Lewis. He had read the Narnia series earlier in his homeschooling years, but as a high schooler selected A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works (HarperCollins Publishers, 2003) from our home library shelves. I had no idea he had such an appreciation for the author. I marveled how the devotional motivated him to read a handful of other classic Lewis writings. Amazingly, content developed because of his newly discovered curiosity for C. S. Lewis’s thoughts and the course began to take form without any planning on my part. I simply (albeit battling fear he would learn enough!) fostered his vested interest. Realizing the impact of self-selected reading, not just philosophical material but other resources as well, we adopted a motto in our home:

“Read the book and I will award credit for your accomplishment.”

Ultimately, one book led to an independent study, which we combined with other activities and great conversations! Seeing our son’s continued interest Lewis and then other great thinkers, Mike and I decided to read the books he was reading. Mike asked if he wanted to spend time each week talking about what we were learning, all of us. Without much direction about where our discussions might lead, we began to meet, ponder, and converse. Hearing each person express his or her opinions or interpretations about what was read and how those thoughts could be applied to current circumstances provided a venue to process viewpoints—the Socratic method, family-style.

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We couldn’t possibly comprehend the fullness or richness of our first steps. Our dialogue through one book fueled more reading and before we knew it a weekly forum took shape. Best of all, something greater resulted: our relationships with one another deepened. We gained respect for one another and realized we could learn together. We weren’t just teaching our son. He taught us!

A few years into meeting consistently, our son commented, “I wish everyone had the opportunity to be in a community like this.” Years later, when we talked about the depth of our conversations, he commented, “Those years are the main reasons why I lead a small group at church today, so others can have the same opportunity I did!”

Wow! That’s philosophy credit with future implications.

Philosophy courses continue to fade from high school curriculum guides. Thankfully, our homeschooling freedoms allow for this essential course to remain a feasible choice for young adults. In fact, conversational group setting provides one of the most beneficial venues to process and ponder the philosophical thought which undergird and permeate life. Consider gathering your family or your young adult and his or her friends to ponder life together.

Conversations, heart connections with our young adults, provided some of the most meaningful experiences of our family’s high school years. Some of the most treasured, thought-provoking discussions happened over half-price milkshakes pondering a life-truth or a plate of nachos after losing a baseball game.

When we paused our days, looked one another in the eyes, and listened, family members knew their ideas and thoughts mattered.

And, philosophical, moral, and ethical thoughts and beliefs formed all the while.

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The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part I

What about elective credits?

Mike and I field this question often. 

The short response?  

There are endless possibilities to potential elective credits. 

If your high school student is enrolled in a public or private school, be sure to check the school's offerings. Choices vary for each school. 

If you are home educating the high school journey, know your state statute and graduation requirements as well as how they apply to home educated students. Find out if your state allows parents the freedom and responsibility to create core or elective courses. This is important because some states require home educated students to take only courses offered in the state. Other states give parents the ability to oversee the child's education, hence the creation and oversight of classes, should the family choose that path. Your state statute requirements will provide what is required of the parent and student and therefore shed light upon the possibilities available to the family.

For those who are home educating and have the ability to choose elective credits, consider:

The life-goals (if known) of your learner. For some high schoolers, they will have a clear understanding and direction for what they will pursue after high school graduation. Other young adults will be exploring their interests and therefore, getting a better idea of what they might do after they turn the tassel. The good news is there is no right time for a learner to decide next steps after graduation.

If there isn't a clear path, prepare for the broadest possibilities.  Be careful not to short change the young adult. 

For learners who have an inkling of what they want to do post high school, they will move forward in that direction. As you help process their ideas, keep an open perspective. Be ready for change. An interest one semester may transform into a niche the following semester.  

One of our high school learners became interested in veterinarian medicine. She even considered this as a possible career path for a few months. We felt our next right step was talking with professionals in the field and preparing for a job shadowing experience or volunteer opportunity should either become available to her. In our brainstorming process, we considered several venues: a vet's office, a local clinic, and the county animal shelter. As part of our conversations, we came up with what questions which would be helpful should an opportunity to talk with a veterinarian present itself. Our questions included:

  • What universities are considered optimal for this profession?
  • What are the potential degree and career paths for this profession?
  • What classes or experiences were most helpful in the education process? 
  • What are the specialty ares of this field of study?
  • What would you, as a professional, recommend for a young adult pursuing this career?

While present at on-site opportunities—job shadowing, volunteering, or internships—our high schoolers are encouraged to be mindful and open to how they can bring value to the host while present. This might include offering to fold clean towels or empty trash cans. We also encourage our young adults to observe office etiquette and practices (real-life learning at its best). Along these lines, we suggest visiting several venues within the same niche as well as any which are closely related or dependent upon the specialty. In the case of veterinary medicine, specialties may include veterinary oncology or ophthalmology. From the varied experiences, the learner is able to compare office practices and evaluate care from a broader perspective. Ultimately, these experiences may allow the learner to narrow his or her potential field of study while earning high school electives.

Experiential learning in high school is as valuable as in the elementary and middle school years. 

When thinking about elective credits, parents and learners can take into account the acquisition of life skills while also considering the academic admission requirements of the learner’s top choice universities. This consideration is—from our experience—extremely important and often overlooked. Colleges of interest frequently get deleted from the list of potentials for many reasons. Sometimes it’s the test scores which make the choice seem out of reach. Other times it’s the foreign language requirement. There are a plethora of other reasons, too. However, perhaps the most common reason parents tell us they eliminated a university from the list of possibilities is the belief that the cost of the education is beyond the financial reach of the family. Mike and I encourage parents and young adults to keep every potential school on the list of consideration, even if attendance seems out of reach for some reason. In doing so, students will be prepared academically for admission to all their choice colleges come application season. We know learners who desired to attend private, out-of-state schools who eventually were awarded full room and board for four years based on academic merit, community service, or in one situation, a drawing at a college fair! 

The interests of your learner. I find it ironic that elementary-aged children are often encouraged to explore their interests, yet as the middle and high school years loom on the horizon, the tune changes. When it does, students, parents, and educators tend to concentrate on core courses (with good reason) while pushing strengths and giftings to the side. Yet, often those strengths and giftings are the very elements which learners need to be successful adults--not to mention reduce the stress of some tougher core courses. Wouldn't it be wonderful if--during the middle and high school years--students, parents, and teachers could find ways for learners to complete required courses while also engaging in and exploring interests and strengths? 

As home education evaluators and consultants, Mike and I have seen AMAZING outcomes for young adults who have had opportunities to complete required core courses (and therefore be eligible for college admission at schools of their choice) while also delving into areas of interest.

While studying algebra, history, and biology, our third high schooler continued to build the business she started in middle school. In doing so, she was able to complete core courses while also learning important small business skills: purchasing and crafting inventory, budgeting and filing taxes, investigating advertising, setting up a website, and showcasing inventory at craft shows and expos. Her income allowed her to purchase her own clothing, save money, and tithe to church. To manage her income and expenses, she created a spreadsheet where she recorded her finances. Personal Finance found its way on the transcript that year, right under the algebra, American history, and biology.

The current life season of your family. When my grandmother was terminally ill, we spent four months visiting and researching facilities--navigating pros and cons of each--as Gram's needs changed. In addition, we visited Grammy three times a week, caring for her and connecting with her "friends" in each facility. We talked with care workers about what they did and how they obtained their education and professional licensing. As evaluation time rolled around, I couldn't even begin to remember all we did. But, my high schooler did! In fact, she asked whether all she had taken part in and learned could be used for credit. GREAT question! And after discussing all she learned and researching high school and college course equivalent to what she completed, I titled the course Cares and Concerns of the Elderly. Definitely an eye-catcher on her transcript. You can read more about how this course came about in this blog post. 

What situations are upon your family? How can those normal, every day opportunities become credit? For example, if you're painting your house, your learners are learning how to calculate the amount of paint needed, research paint types, buy good tools (good quality tools make the job go well), use and care for tools properly, run a pressure washer, trim paint small areas, roll on paint, clean rollers and brushes, and store tools so they can be in good condition for the next project. The list is endless. As we tackle painting the outside of our home this week, I stepped up our ladder thinking, this is real-life home economics (though in the past I titled the course home maintenance and repair). If you need to tackle a home project and don't know where to begin, model for your children how to find an expert in the field (read more about this here) or search for an online tutorial. These are important research skills your learners will need in life. 

What are the elective possibilities for your young adult? Begin observing what the learner is already doing? Where are the areas to which he or she gravitates? Are there real-life activities and opportunities in which he or she is participating? Considering interests, strengths, and aspirations as well as the admission requirements of the high schooler’s top college choices will return great rewards as the high school years come to a close.

A last note for consideration...

What about excessive credits? 

As Mike and I have worked with families over the past twenty-three years, there have been a few cases in which a student has earned excessive credits--more than 35 credits! In other words, the reader of the transcript would wonder if the learner ever slept. However, this has been only a few scenarios. In those situations, parents were able to include content from one course into another already existing course without being accused of credit inflation. It is possible for homeschooled students to earn more credits than the average student. This is acceptable if indeed the credit is not inflated. 

For more information on documenting elective course work, check out part 3.

Needing ideas for elective course titles? Click on over to Part 2. 

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. 

This refreshed post was originally published December 2016.

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!  

High School Credit for Work Experience

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“Can I count my high schooler’s work experience for credit?”

In the course of a week, three parents asked me this question. One in particular came through the Celebrate High School Facebook community.

The answer is multi-faceted, unique to state requirements and learner’s educational and career path.

First, parents must know and understand their responsibilities and freedoms under their state home education statute.

Find out

  • Are home educated students in your state required to meet state graduation requirements?
  • Does your state statute allow parents to oversee coursework and determine course credit?
  • Are parents given the freedom to create titles for courses or must the state DOE titles be used (as is the case with some private schools)?

The answers to those questions will contribute to your decision making process.


The second step in the process of deciding whether or not to award credit for work experience is to determine what the high schooler gained from his or her employment. Life skills? Knowledge? Personal development? The gains vary greatly dependent upon the high schooler's motivation, work ethic, job title, and employment requirements. Again, this is highly individual. 

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Determine Gains

Conversation with your high schooler is essential in the process of determining the gains. Why? Likely, as with most parents, you are not on the job with your learner to see and hear what he or she encounters or discovers. Engage in discussion. Ask questions. Listen for the young adult's passions, likes, and dislikes without condemnation. Often as young adults process, they need someone to mirror back or clarify what they expressed. I find it helpful to remind myself that when my middle and high schoolers share feelings, they are processing, perhaps sharing thoughts for the first time. The thoughts and feelings shared matter to them and when I ask clarifying questions, they often come to a better understanding of the situation. As you walk the journey with your middle or high schooler, not only will the gains of the current job become known, but the relationship between you and your teen will have great potential for growth as well. 

To help determine what skills and knowledge were acquired by the employment--the experiential learning opportunity--consider asking your high schooler:

What skills he or she feels were learned as a result of the work experience?

This is one of those occasions when I encourage parents to make a bullet-point list of skills and content the high schooler learned. Seeing the visual list often clarifies gains and aids in determining a course title which is specific and accurate to the experience. Examples may include Equine Science (barn assistant who interacts with equine professionals, observes or oversees equine care and nutrition), Nutrition and Wellness (assistant to a personal trainer), or String Ensemble (member of string quartet playing for weddings and special events).

Are the skills focused on a specific content area or are the skills broad, focused toward soft skill and personal growth development?

Looking over the content acquired, determine whether the skills were specific to an area of study (paid position at a zoological park) or broad, general and related to successful movement to adulthood (time management, personal growth, and communication skills). The difference may be titling the course Zoological Studies or Personal and Career Development.

Did the high schooler earn accolades, awards, or hold specific leadership roles (positional or managerial titles) associated with the experience? 

For example, if your young adult is a shift manager there are likely managerial and leadership skills involved in what he or she does while on site. Perhaps a course title like Managerial Leadership, Leadership Strategies and Techniques, or Exploration in Culinary Management might be suitable. 

Our daughter became a self-employed, small business owner in middle school. She continued to build her business through the high school years. Not only did she create and keep track of inventory, she registered her business with the state, filed quarterly sales tax, figured profit and loss statements, kept a running log of sales and inventory, opened a checking account, built a website, handled emails, filled orders, and participated in craft venues. She earned money, but she also gained knowledge and work experience. With integrity, I awarded her one credit in Business and Entrepreneurial Principles.

Our journey of awarding credit for paid work experience hasn’t come without criticism. Yours won’t either. In fact, you may have been told you can’t double dip —count paid work experience as high school credit. 

"You can't double dip!"

This happened to me. A well-meaning veteran homeschool mom informed me I couldn’t use work experience for credit. I listened. Yet, as a Mom who has the freedom to oversee our children’s education, knowing the life lessons and knowledge my young adults were gaining in their paid employment opportunities, I set out to research. It just didn't seem right not to be able to obtain credit from such rich, valuable life experience. 

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Credit Worthy

I discovered my state provides the right for me--as a registered home educator--to oversee the education of my children. In that freedom, I am able to decide what can be deemed credit worthy and I can title mastered content accordingly. I could not ignore the fact that my high schoolers were engaged in learning while on the job. And, with the valuable conversations Mike and I were having with our high schoolers, we knew they were learning content not taught in a traditional textbooks or acquired through lecture. The skills and content they were learning required experience--opportunity to do, decide, make mistakes, and to try again--often under the guidance of a mentor or the supervision of a professional in a career area. In addition, I observed our high schoolers applying what they learned in the work setting to other areas of their lives. They would summarize what they learned on any given day, share their thoughts about what they experienced, and ask questions about things that intrigued them. Our discussions led to discovering deeper life truths as well the building of grit, growth mindset, and personal emotional intelligence—some of the most valuable assets to adulthood and future employment.


What our learners were gaining on the job was credit worthy. 


In my mind, the experiences—the content learned while on the job interfacing with professionals—was credit worthy, regardless of whether or not the high schooler was paid. Essentially, the learner was paid to learn!

If life is learning and learning is life-long, it made sense to me that I could confer credit.

Our second son was invited to apply for a summer job as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool. I knew the Director and many of the teachers who worked at the school. In fact, I had worked there as a high schooler and my experience became a catalyst for my choice to pursue early childhood education. Knowing the value of my personal experience, I encouraged our son to apply for the position. Yes, he would earn a paycheck, but he would be mentored by knowledgeable staff who knew the developmental needs of young children.

Art camp began and indeed our son came home each day recounting his experiences. He commented on the conversations teachers had with students, how they listened and responded with open ended questions. He observed as teachers fostered curiosity and intentionally planned activities to promote wonder. His understandings of the developmental stages of art came from comparing preschooler's line drawings and seeing beaming smiles of accomplishment. Learning was experiences, not just memorized facts. In addition, he was learned about classroom management, developmentally appropriate art experiences, and the profession of early childhood education.

The summer came to a close and he was invited to remain on staff for the next school year. He would be the outside assistant--the preschool physical education overseer. He accepted. This change in position brought opportunities to observe the stages of motor development in real life. He watched children progress from running to galloping, from climbing stairs one foot at a time to alternating feet. He knelt down beside children who poured sand in funnels and floated boats in water tables. We talked about discoveries he watched children make and asked me about my experiences with children on the spectrum. The knowledge he gained through his experiences at the preschool were some of the very same things I studied in my college early childhood college courses.

At that moment, I realized the fifteen hours a week he was working at the preschool was preparing him with life skills of time management, communication skills, and workplace etiquette, but it was also equipping him with a foundation of knowledge in the area of early childhood development. In his junior year, I awarded him one credit in Introduction to Early Childhood Education.

Where is your learner employed? Maybe it is the local hardware store where knowledge of tools and home repair are prerequisite for employment. Maybe your high schooler was hired as a shift manager at a local eatery, managing and overseeing a team of co-workers. No matter where your young adult is employed, consider the skills being acquired, the career-related vocabulary being obtained, the decision making involved as part of the job, the conversations being had between coworkers and employers, and subject content being mastered through the opportunity. No doubt much more is being learned than you or your student imagined! 

Titles Speak Volumes

Generally high schools title work experience Executive Internship or Work Study. These are broad brush titles which say nothing about the student or content. However, if the home educating parent has the freedom to title courses, course titling can be strategic, mirroring the student’s interest and the content knowledge gained. Here is a small sampling of title examples. 

Arts

Creative Photography

Studio Arts

Printmaking

Dance Technique

Dance Performance

Dance Kinesiology

Choreography

Eurhythmics

Music Performance (use specific instrument in titles if appropriate)

Music Ensemble 

Jazz Ensemble

Chamber Orchestra

Music Internship

Music Composition and Arrangement

Musical Theater and Production

Music Technology and Sound Engineering

Theater Production

Cinematography

Technical Theater

Set Production

Acting

Theater Management

Print and Broadcast Media

Library Media Services

Journalism

Digital Art Imaging

Digital Media Design

Video Production

Visual Technology

Computer Sciences

Applied Computer and Information Technology

Information Technology

Business and Entrepreneurial

Business Principles

Marketing Strategies

Marketing Principles

Managerial Principles

Health Sciences

Nutrition and Wellness

Food Service

Human Growth and Development

Introduction to Early Childhood Education

Personal and Career Development

Capstone or Cornerstone Projects

Capstone Seminar

Capstone Research

Consider the course titles provided in this blog post about electives. 

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. 

 

High School Photography Elective

Several years ago, our daughter became interested in photography.

A real interest, one she thought about every day and one that did not go away!

She spent time researching and talking through her ideas about what she wanted to learn. Home educating, I knew she had the freedom to explore her interest as part of her day—every day—if she desired to do so.

Though I enjoy photography and have a "creative" bent, I had no idea what concepts and skills would be included in a high school level photography course. Therefore, when she asked me what areas I thought would be included in a photography course, I knew I would have to join in the learning. 

First, I searched the Internet for syllabi of high school level photography courses. Reading, I discovered common threads. This was a starting point.

Second, my daughter and I brainstormed additional content she wanted to learn. For example, she wanted to upgrade her camera. Researching the pros and cons of brands and features was definitely something she could include in her course.

Third, we talked about what real-life experiences could be added: job shadowing, taking pictures of family members, learning and using editing programs, and shooting seconds for a professional photographer.

Clearly, my daughter’s interest drove the learning. I simply had to be open to the ideas and be ready to encourage her progress.

Before we knew it we had accumulated not only content but resources.

Here is a snapshot of the content we developed. 

Course Content

I. History of photography

  • the pinhole camera, daguerreotype, Kodak Brownie camera, film development, darkrooms, Polaroid cameras, flash cubes, and flash bars

II. People of Influence

  • Joseph Nicephore Niepce, Loius Daguerre, R.L. Maddox, George Eastman

III. Types of Photography

  • portrait, children, pets, landscapes, macro, food, nature, architectural, forensic, sport, science, 

IV. Parts of a Camera

V. How Cameras Work

VI. Lighting, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Depth of field

VII. Composition, Color, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, and Special Techniques

VIII. Photo Editing

IX. Analyzing and Critiquing Photography

X. Documentary and Photojournalism 

XI. Famous Photographers and Photojournalists 

XII. Mounting and Displaying Photography 

  • enter photography in contests or county fairs

XIII. Digital Photography

XIV. Photography Careers

  • portrait photography, commercial photography, fine art photography, wedding photography, scientific photography, sports photography, medical photography, forensic photography, nature photography, aerial photography, photojournalism

XV. Photography Licenses

  • royalty free, rights managed, stock photography

XVI. Legal, Ethical and Copyright

  • fair use, buildings protected by copyright, difference between photography for personal use or commercial use, model/copyright releases, editorial photography as a profession in regards to rights and fair use

The outline above was the jumping off point. Once we had the major areas of study--at least a plan--we could adjust as we went along. 


We added experiential learning. Our list of considerations were

  • Job shadowing a photographer or interning as a photographer's assistant

  • Working in a camera store

  • Setting up a darkroom

  • Creating a yearbook for a school or co-op

  • Working with a blogger to communicate content visually

  • Learning mounting techniques.

For learners who appreciate the power of a story, these Living Books may be just the ingredient to bring additional life to the course. 

  • Cameras and Courage, Margaret Bourke-White by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

  • Joseph Pulitzer, Front Page Pioneer by Iris Noble, Julian Messner biography

My daughter's interest led to elective credits, not one but TWO! When she finished these studies, she decided to take an online course. 

Once the interest is sparked, there is no limit to where the learning path may lead. Sometimes it is an elective. Other times the study leads to employment. The possibilities of high school electives is endless! 

If you will be attending Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) conference May 25-27, you may be interested in the two high school workshops I have been invited to share: Keeping High School ALIVE with Living Books and High School: Mission Possible. In addition, my husband Mike will join me at the podium to share The Real-Life Influence of Family Conversation and my oldest son and I will present an encouraging session, Thank You, Mom!

FPEA is always a highlight of our speaking calendar. Can't wait to see you there! 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

When Holidays Bring Sensory Challenges and Worries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Possibilities of Elective Credits: Part II

In Part 1, I offered helpful tips about finding and recording elective credits. 

Perhaps that post prompted another question,

"What are some common titles for elective credit in high school?"

Before considering titling, one must understand the difference between core and elective courses. In addition, understand that these are terms used in the educational world. As home educators, it has helpful for us to understand "education-eze" as well as what is and isn't required by our state statutes. It has been equally helpful to know that colleges use "education-eze". Though some colleges and universities are hiring home education admission personnel, some admission advisers at other institutions are not always versed in the statute requirements.

Common terminology includes:

Core courses are courses which must be taken or are required for graduation. Typically, core courses are English, math, social science, and natural sciences. In addition, some schools will require additional credit--in addition to the core content areas--to be taken in world languages, the arts, computer science, and physical education. 

Electives are courses students chose to take. Electives allow a learner to customize his or her education, to build on a strength or interest, or to investigate content not yet studied in other courses. It is the elective courses which often strengthen the high school transcript and round out the student while also telling employers and admissions about the interests and strengths of the learners.

Some educational entities use the term academic electives for admissions. An academic elective is a core course taken above and beyond the required academic courses in that discipline. For example, if a leaner completes the three math courses required for graduation (or admission) in the mathematics core academic area--let's say Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II--but decides to take another academic math course from the core choices--Trigonometry--the fourth course could be considered an academic elective, if the educational venue recognizes academic electives. 

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. For this post, I am pulling potential elective course titles from that 2015 revised list. I am NOT including courses most often considered core academics--for example, Calculus or British Literature--though those core courses could be used as electives--and often are by home educating families. 

English electives (when not considered part of the core content English I, English II, English III, and English IV)

  • Shakespearean Theater
  • Greco-Roman Theater
  • Short Stories
  • Poetry (perhaps of a specific historical era)
  • Writing for Print and Publication
  • Creative Writing
  • Yearbook
  • Digital Publishing
  • Ancient Languages
  • Biblical Studies: Old Testament
  • Biblical Studies: New Testament

Communication electives

  • Speech (this course is often considered a core course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Competitive Speech
  • Impromptu Speech
  • Expository Speech
  • Policy Debate
  • Lincoln Douglas Debate
  • Media Productions

Mathematics electives

  • Personal Finance (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)

Social Science electives

  • Comparative Government
  • Introduction to Law
  • Mock Trial
  • Constitutional Law
  • Independent Study: Foreign Policy
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Psychology (this course is often considered a core course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Family and Consumer Science 
  • Contemporary World Issues
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • Independent Study: The Korean War
  • Medieval History
  • Introduction to Social Work
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • World Religions
  • Theology
  • Church History
  • Internship: Youth Ministry

Natural Science electives

  • Environmental Science
  • Animal and Agricultural Sciences
  • Introduction to Agriscience
  • Equine Science
  • Equine Medicine
  • Introduction to Veterinary Science
  • Introduction to Forestry
  • Botany
  • Entomology
  • Zoology
  • Astronomy
  • Introduction Aerospace Science
  • Forensics
  • Introduction to Health Sciences

Performing/Fine Arts electives

  • Introduction to Drama
  • Musical Theater
  • Art History (perhaps add a historical era)
  • Art Appreciation
  • Choreography
  • Dance Technique (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Competitive Dance
  • Introduction to Ball Room Dance
  • Stagecraft
  • Set Design
  • Theater Production
  • Two-Dimensional Art
  • Three-Dimensional Art
  • Sculpture
  • Ceramics
  • Drawing and Painting
  • Cartooning and Caricature
  • Printmaking
  • Pottery
  • Creative Photography
  • Digital Photography
  • Band
  • Orchestra
  • Symphonic Band
  •  Wind Ensemble
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Keyboard
  • Piano
  • Music Theory (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Music History (perhaps add a historical era)
  • Music Appreciation

Physical Education electives

  • Personal Fitness (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Nutrition and Wellness
  • Physical Education  (this course is often considered a required course for some schools but an elective for others)
  • Aerobics (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Volleyball
  • Competitive Swimming
  • Water Polo
  • Lifesaving
  • Advanced Lifesaving
  • Team Sports
  • Recreational Sports
  • Beginning Weights (consecutive years: Intermediate and Advanced)
  • Weight Training (often accompanies sports training) 
  • Sports Psychology
  • Introduction to Sports Medicine
  • Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries
  • Sports Rehabilitation

Business Education electives

  • Accounting
  • Marketing 
  • Advertising and Sales
  • Principles of Entrepreneurship
  • Banking and Finance
  • Business Principles
  • Foundational Principles of Small Business
  • Business Technology

Computer Science electives

  • Computer Fundamentals
  • Programming (consecutive courses: Programming I, Programming II)
  • Introduction to Computer Systems
  • Computer Construction and Repair
  • Keyboarding
  • Word Processing
  • Graphic Design
  • Digital Design
  • Web Design
  • Digital Arts
  • Computer Gaming 

Home Economics electives

  • Fashion Design
  • Textiles and Fabrics
  • Clothing Construction and Textiles
  • Machine Sewing
  • Quilting and Applique
  • Interior Design
  • Introduction to Early Childhood Education
  • Nutrition
  • Principles in Food Preparation
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Pastry
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Desserts
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Main Courses
  • Principles in Food Preparation: Appetizers
  • Introduction to Culinary Arts
  • Introduction to Pastry
  • Cake Decorating
  • Home and Automotive Repair
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Emergency Preparedness

Vocational electives

  • Cosmetology
  • Cabinet Making
  • Carpentry
  • Trim and Finish Carpentry
  • Masonry
  • Landscaping
  • Horticulture
  • Floral Design
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Building Design and Architecture
  • Drafting
  • Technical Drawing
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Diesel Mechanics
  • Small Engine Repair
  • Electronics and Circuitry 

When our young adults are reading, working on research, studying content, or participating in an experiential opportunity, I search for potential titles in the course codes for our state. If I can't find a title or course content in that resource which is close to what our learners are studying, I search for high school courses (or in some cases college courses) from across the nation. Those resources usually allow me to find a title--or at least give me a springboard--which accurately describes the content being learned. 

Needing to know more about documenting elective credit work for college admission paperwork? Check out part 3. 


 

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. 

 

 

Legacy: Learning Alongside

It's that time again. Time to paint the exterior of our house.

Who is the first person I consult, to find out what needs to happen first, then second, and so on?

My Dad is a carpenter genius.

He can fix anything! 

I remember when I came to this conclusion.

I was an elementary girl, a constant companion alongside my Dad in his wood shop. In that shop, he created from wood, sometimes the wood from trees near our home. He made dining room chairs, grandfather clocks, hutches, and my toy box!  


Our kitchen--the one in which I prepare meals for my family--was crafted in his mind and made with his hands. 


He is my Dad, but he is also a mentor. He is a mentor for me and for my children. We learn from his genius. 

He has helped us with many home projects--roofing, kitchen and bathroom demo and design, home add-ons.

But this time was different.

I am beginning to realize my time, our time with my Dad--the time from which I can soak in all he has to share--might be limited.

I want to soak in all the wisdom I can, and I want my children to have the same opportunity. 

So, last week began our house painting project. It was a PROJECT!


Simple paint and brushes, but a TON of work and perseverance. 


Pressure washing to finish, prep to fill cracks, trim work to be painted, shutters to be covered, and brushes to clean. But we did it as a family--grandpa, parents, and children! Together.

Each person quickly found they were better at one job than another. And, for some there were skills to learn. Some learned to trim paint, others practiced rolling. Some found joy cleaning brushes--I mean, playing in water!  I realized my children were learning alongside my Dad--a legacy--much like when I learned by his side in the wood shop, alongside him when we added-on to our house. I want my children to learn all they can from him. 

Indeed, every child--toddler to adult--learned something this week. Some heard and then imitated my Dad's positive attitude. Others learned how to hang a roller on the side of a paint can. Another observed how Pop angled the brush to paint the mortar joints. 


It was a PROJECT with lots of real learning, from a man who is leaving a legacy. 


As I painted, I wondered. 

What legacy I will leave with my children.

Will it be the books we read together? Will it be the cheesecakes we baked together? Will it be my positive comments and words of encouragement or the "be a blessing" I spoke as they left the house? Will it be something I couldn't have fathomed, something which has yet to take place? 

I don't know what legacy I will leave with my children. But I do know one thing. The time, effort, sacrifice--the intentionality of my days--will matter. I know so. I learned that from my Dad (and my mom, to be honest)! 

Parents, we will leave a legacy.

What will that legacy be? 

Likely, it will be something you and I did intentionally, with items which are real and personal, with moments which are relational in nature.  

Our moments matter, every one of them.

4 Ways to Keep Holidays Simple

Holidays are fast approaching. I can feel them coming at us full speed. In fact, parades, recitals, concerts, plays, cookie exchanges, and mom's night out are already on the calendar. Children are begging to start holiday baking and decorating. EEK! 

Perhaps you feel like I do as the holidays approach. 

How can the focus of the holidays remain in focus, not crowded by commercialism and comparison? How can days be simplified so relationships are strengthened, not strained? What if really boils down to for our family is,

How can be keep the holidays intentional, real, and relational? 

First. Discuss Priorities. Mike and I set time aside to talk about what the current year's priorities will be. The early years of our marriage found us considering how we would incorporate traditions from both sides of the family. The more recent years have been refreshing as we included children and young adults into the conversation. Their insights and what they felt was important or what they wanted to experience was often different than what Mike and I were considering. In the many seasons of our marriage and family life, the priorities changed slightly, often dependent on whether we welcomed a new baby (we had two December babies), tried to keep active toddlers out of the Christmas cookie dough and decorations, or whether family would travel into town. 

Second. Set Realistic Expectations on the Priorities. Our family has enjoyed making gifts and goodies to give to others. We have also enjoyed serving. However, we have had to consider the ages and stages of our children. If our goal was to bake cookies for the neighbors, I had to decide if I would rather them be a part of the baking--realizing there may be a flour blizzard--or if it might be better to bake while they took a nap. Years when we went to look at Christmas lights with toddlers who didn't particularly like the car, we chose displays closer to home.

Third. Don't Overload the Schedule. WOW! I learned this one the hard way! I am an extrovert who loves people and adventure. I had our family coming and going 24/7. Toddlers missed naps. Children bounced from too much hot chocolate and cookies. Over the years I learned it is better for us to do fewer things well and make great memories than filling every day and night with parties, musical events, and crafts. Children can't enjoy or remember the holidays if they are a whir and blur of hustle and bustle. And, children with tendencies toward sensory or anxiety challenges may crumble before their parents very eyes. It just isn't worth the chaos and stress of overloading the calendar. Lord willing, there will be more years to come.

Fourth. No Guilt Downsizing. There are definitely times in our twenty-seven years of parenting where we had to downsize the holiday and I constantly reminded myself it was okay. There was not harm done if we had to set up a table top tree instead of the eight foot monster. The table top tree kept the toddler out of the tree and I kept my sanity! Mike and I had to decide what was important for our family in any given year and then stand confident to ward off guilt.

It is important to remember, one mom's simple is not another mom's simple. And, simple may look different in different mothering seasons. Define priorities, set realistic goals and expectations, and don't overload the schedule. Do the holidays at your pace, considering life's circumstances and the needs around you. Read a few extra books. Look your children in the eyes, enjoy a conversation, and pull them close for a hug. 

Holidays, like every day, can be intentional, real, and relational. Those are the holidays my children remember, and I am pretty sure yours will, too!

 

Preschooling, Intentionally

Life is learning. Learning and life go hand-in-hand, everyday!

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.

Math

  • Identify colors
  • Understand and demonstrate one-to-one correspondence
  • Make sets of 1 to 5 objects
  • Identify sets of 1 to 5 objects
  • Associate a number with a set of objects
  • Recognize numerals 1 to 10
  • Recognize and draw simple shapes--circle, square, rectangle, and triangle
  • Count to 20 orally
  • Recognize similarities and differences in objects (Comparison is a foundational pre-number skill.)
  • Recognize and identify coins (This is an easy one. I haven't met a little learner who isn't interested in how much money is in his or her piggy bank. Capitalize on this interest by sorting, counting, and identifying.)
  • Identify tools of measure (Tools of measure include thermometers, speedometers, scales, Knowing the purpose of each is important to later math skills.)

Language

  • Recite the alphabet (Why not sing the alphabet song while jumping up and down.)
  • Recognize letters
  • Recognize similarities and difference in letter formation
  • Recognize similarities and differences in sounds
  • Speak in complex sentences
  • Hold a book and track from left to right (One of the best natural ways to learn this skill is by modeling others, doing as they do. As you read aloud, trace a finger under the words, working from left to right, top to bottom.) 
  • Retell a story (This is a foundational skill for reading comprehension and vital for auditory processing.)
  • Follow a two-step direction
  • Hold a pencil with correct grip
  • Write lower and upper case letters (There are so many ways to learn letter formation. Some of our favorites are writing in shaving cream on a bathroom wall while taking a bath, finger painting on easel paper, forming letters in a salt tray, and writing with a stick in the mud. 
  • Spell first name
  • Recognize cause and effect (Offering explanations if every day cause and effect will help your little learner do the same. If we leave the door open, kitty will run out. If we put all the cold groceries together they will help each other stay cold until we get home.)

Science

  • Recite phone number and address (This is a safety life skill. While learning this information we explain to our children why they may need it: emergency, calling 911.)
  • Name basic colors
  • Identify living and non-living
  • Identify parts of a plant: roots, stem, leaf, flower, pedal
  • Make simple predictions
  • Develop observation skills
  • Form questions and find solutions

Social Sciences

  • Order daily activities
  • Locate home state on a United States map
  • State the significance of and the similarities and differences between people who work in the community: police, firefighters, librarians, grocers, etc.
  • Learn left, right, straight, and diagonal (When entering your neighborhood, speak the directions as you drive. For example, we turn right at the stop sign. We will turn left at the corner, and so on. Once you have repeated these directions several times going in and out of the community, ask your child to tell you how to get home using left and right.)
  • Identify basic geographical formations: river, mountain, cliff, ocean, and continent

Physical

  • Draw a person with a recognizable body
  • Use utensils properly
  • Catch a ball
  • Kick a ball
  • Run
  • Gallop
  • Skip
  • Use a scissors (Providing a cutting box, old magazines, or newspaper ads for cutting along lines and curves.)
  • Identify body parts. (Play Simon Says. Simon says touch your nose. Simon says touch your elbow.)
  • Walk a balance beam (Okay, so most of us don't have balance beams in our homes. However, there are curbs and lines to walk. See a line, seize the moment and walk, carefully as a tight rope walker does.)
  • Dress and undress
  • Personal responsibility (Taking care of oneself and the areas in which he or she works and plays. Tidy up the toy room. Use a tooth brushing chart to encourage consistent care.)

In the early years, our homes provide a place--a haven--where our children can gain a foundation for future cognitive, physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual health.

 

Preschooling- Relationally

People were made for relationship. Each of us, no matter the age, has the basic need for relationship--for other people who will care, listen, walk alongside. 

Children are no different.

Relationships are essential to a young child's development and academic success. 

The family provides the venue for this vitally important relational element to life and learning.

Learning together. Children learn best when learning alongside people who care greatest for them. Learning together might include reading a book snuggled on the couch or retelling a story and talking about the character's choices. Learning together can be writing letter or sending an email thank you to a family member or friend. Learning may also be writing numbers in fresh mud after a rain shower, marveling at minnows as they swim around a pond's edge, or listening to baby robins chirp for mama bird. Skills learned together are remembered. 

Work together. Children want to be a contributing part of a community. For small children, this begins in the family, working together to accomplish a task--perhaps emptying a dishwasher or making cookies for a sick friend. Working together sends the message, "We can do this together!" When working together in a family unit children come to understand that members--gifted differently--can contribute to a greater cause. In the family unit, children can be invited to join in, to solve problems together, and help a unified cause. Working together might mean raking leaves, pulling weeds, painting a fence, or planting a garden. Often working together also offers opportunity to build life skills and develop muscle strength. For example, wringing out sponges while washing the car not only results in a sparkly clean car, but builds muscle and motor skills. Children feel empowerment when they can contribute. The family is a perfect environment for contribution. 

Play together. Playing together offers natural opportunities to share, to defer to another person, to take turns. Playing with another person, especially one who can model sharing, turn-taking, and deference, invites children to move toward associative and cooperative play. For example, building play dough sculptures together allows for discussion and collaboration--co-laboring to create something new. Bouncing a ball back and forth develops motor skills but also provides opportunity to take turns and share. Some of our favorite play together times include swinging while singing a fun song, working puzzles, and playing board games. 

Eat together. Meal time is gathering time, time to talk about the events of the day, to verbalize the goodness in the moments of the day, together. What were the favorite moments? Which moments were the least favorite? Eating together not only provides for face-to-face conversation but also provides real situations for practicing table manners and deference toward other people.

Worship together. Worshiping together grows spiritual bonds. Singing together also allows children to experiment with their voices--highs, lows, louds and softs--or follow a tune and experiment with musical instruments--real or homemade (nothing like pots and pans). 


As I reflect on the the early years of our now adult children, I smile. Those days we spent reading aloud, observing the life cycles of butterflies, emptying the dishwasher, building block towers, preparing fraction sandwiches, and serving at church....MATTERED! Those moments of intentional interaction while living and learning together built--block by block--the foundation for the relationship my adult children and I enjoy today.  

A strong relational foundation prepares a child for life.

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. 

 

 

 

 

Real-Life for High School Credit- Care and Concerns of the Elderly

Have you ever been through a tough season, a season when you wonder if anyone learned anything?

I have. More than once. 

About three years ago--from January to May--we helped care for and love my grandmother in the last months of her life. I don't regret one day, one minute of how we chose to spend our time. We made wonderful memories with Grams during that time, memories our family relives and smiles over--all of us. But, it wasn't an easy time.

The six months prior, found us spending many hours touring assisted living facilities and government-subsidized care units. There were meetings with social workers and property managers. My high school learner asked if she could be included in the tours and meetings. 

At first, I wondered how she could accompany me and complete her scheduled course work. 

After a few conversations, Mike and I decided there was great value in our high schooler participating in the meetings, discussions, and comparisons. After all, she may be able to add a perspective my mom and I--being very close to the circumstances--might not be able to see. In addition, she was a consumer and might one day be faced with similar decisions. 

I was worried our daughter wouldn't be able to make visits and meetings with us and get her planned work completed. I was fearful and tentative. However, Mike and I decided there was life value to this season. 

Our high schooler would accompany my mom and I. 

Fast forward to the end of May.

After some really difficult months, Grandma passed away. Being the end of May, I was compiling work samples for our year end evaluations and updating my high schooler's transcript. In the process, I asked our daughter to look over the transcript and her portfolio of work samples to determine if I had missed any significant work she had completed--especially independent studies--while my mind was preoccupied with Grandma. 

Her response surprised me. 

"Couldn't I get credit for all I learned while helping with Grammy?"

I answered with a question. 

"What do you think you learned?"

I was astounded by her answers. 

Here are the highlights:

  • Medical care terminology 
  • Implications of elderly care, physically as well as psychologically
  • Family care of the elderly
  • Levels of care matter and costs associated with that care
  • Comparing and contrasting residential services and their differences: nursing facility, assisted living, retirement community, memory care
  • Levels of home care and the services rendered
  • Meal preparation, offerings, presentation, individualization of services in different facilities
  • Physical, emotional and spiritual care concerns at facilities
  • Support care for family, if offered
  • Comparison and contrast of social and group activities in facilities
  • Nursing qualifications at each facility-  RN, LPN, CNA
  • Staff to patient ratios
  • Emergency response systems and their importance
  • Financial options and obligations
  • Hospice and end of life procedures, care, and considerations

We talked for thirty minutes (at least) about all she had learned and experienced, first-hand, experientially. Not only had our daughter interacted with--playing games, conversing, and caring for--Grammy and other residents several times a week for several months, but she had also made visits to seven facilities and compared the offerings, care, staff qualifications, and financial costs of each. She helped us research at home and we brainstormed questions we would ask at each meeting. 

When our daughter visited with us, she asked questions and held conversations with staff, helping us understand the pros and cons of each location. Near the end of Grammy's life our daughter visited three hospice care facilities and listened to three presentations regarding choices we would have to make as a family. In addition, she observed how people processed Grammy's declining health and eventually her passing--from my parents to her youngest siblings--as we visited, asked questions, processed grief together. 

I couldn't believe what our daughter had learned! None of it was planned. And, I almost missed an opportunity to use her interest--a real-life situation--as a catalyst for learning. 

My daughter wanted to be an active participant of this season in our lives, and it was some of the most valuable learning she could have done that year. 

Could she earn credit for all she had learned? 

In our state, that final answer rests with Mike and I. We confer the credit. we sign the transcript. This is not the case for all states, so research is essential in regards to state requirements.

I also had to determine in my mind--really Mike and I together--whether I could feel confident in the credit we were giving. Would I--or my daughter should she be asked to explain her course work in an essay or interview--be able to substantiate what our daughter had learned? Did I feel the content was high school level or higher?

After researching high school courses (there really weren't but one or two) and content of college credit offerings (this was more helpful) as well as asking questions of professionals in the field, we decided to give our daughter one-half credit for her learning and experience. 

For readers with young adults interested in this field, in my research I learned the Red Cross has a family care-giver course. 

To document the content covered, should our daughter need it for college admission, I wrote the following course description of what she learned


Cares and Concerns of the Elderly

This experiential study was initiated by the student as a result of the direct care and concern of her ninety-five year old great-grandmother and her health and care needs during the last nine months of her life. The student interacted with elderly patients at in-patient care centers several times a week. One visit included making and delivering Christmas cards. During the student's visits she served cake and punch at a birthday party, helped residents participate in an Easter egg hunt, escorted patients through a nature garden, played card and board games with patients, and sang Christmas carols with a group of parents and students. As the great-grandmother required complete care, the student researched, visited, and compared nursing care and living accommodations at three local assisted living facilities and three hospice care units, participating in discussions of how to match patient needs with patient care. The student also participated in discussions about blood transfusions, intravenous nutrition, end-of-life care, death, and the grieving process. 


What real-life circumstances is your young adult facing? Do these experiences include internships, community opportunities, or apprenticeships? Do these circumstances or experiences provide high school level (or higher) instruction or content? 

Perhaps your young adult is experiencing something extra-ordinary, something which will impact life--and other people--far beyond the high school years. There may be job shadowing, internships, community opportunities, or apprenticeships involved in the learning. Lives might be changing because of your young adult's learning experience.

Might you consider what those experiences are, how they are impacting lives, and how might they equate to credit? 

 

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. 

When Homeschooling Has to Happen Away from Home

An elderly grandmother needing care. 

An unexpected hospital stay.

A medical emergency.

There have been seasons in our homeschooling journey when we had to take education on the road, away from the house.

Often, those seasons weren't optional or even anticipated like the field trips we eagerly scheduled to local children's museums or park days with friends. And, generally those seasons were unexpected, not planned. 

During one such season, great-grandma had multiple doctor's appointments. Learning looked different. Instead of reviewing math at the kitchen table, we answered word problems in the car or waiting in the doctor's office. And, of course there were life skills like holding the door while Grams pushed her walker through the entrance.

In those seasons, we schooled out of a canvas tote bag packed intentionally for unexpected moments when learning happened away from home. Included in the bag were

  • review worksheets
  • a family read-aloud
  • plain white drawing paper
  • colored pencils, and
  • educational games

When we weren't on the road, the tote bag remained by the front door, ready to grab should we have to leave quickly. As children mastered concepts, finished independent reads, or bored of games, I replenished the contents. 

There was also a season--years later--when Grammy was nearing the end of her life. Those four months were the most spontaneous of my twenty-three year homeschooling journey. In a moment's notice, we had to be ready to relocate and educate en-route or on-site. There were days when we were gone all day, spending hours in places where we had to be quiet and occupied. Though I re-instated the tote bag routine, often what was packed wasn't sufficient or appropriate for the situation. And, there were times we needed diversion, a change, something to divert attention if even for a few minutes.

During that season in our journey, we: 

  • Counted. For our littlest learners, counting always helped to pass time whether driving or waiting. We would count by ones, twos, fives, tens, and hundreds, depending on the skill level of the learner. I kept scrap paper and handwriting paper in my purse so that if we were in a place where we could write, we would practice forming numbers or writing numbers in sequence. To vary the game, I would say a number and the learner would say the number before and after the given number. 
  • Practiced oral math facts. With multiple ability children riding in the van, I gave the youngest learner an easy addition problem, the next learner a harder addition fact, and the oldest elementary learner a multiplication problem or oral word problem.

In doing so, each learner was able to work at whatever level he or she needed to. The oral review was good for everyone!

  • Played "Starts With". This game was one of those which we could start or stop at any time. For the youngest learners, I would say a letter and ask for each child to say a word which started with the given letter. For example, I would say "F" and she would say "fish". For older learners, I would give a consonant blend (br, sl, sk, ch, bl, st, cr, etc.) or change the request, perhaps asking for a word that ended with a given consonant or consonant blend. 
  • Spelled most frequently misspelled words. I kept a list of words--varied levels because though a word on a list is placed in one grade, it may be placed in another grade on another list--in my tote bag to pull out when needed. To practice, I asked each learner to spell a word at their learning level. I would say the word, use it in a sentence, and then ask the learner to spell the word orally. After the learner spelled the word, I would repeat the correct spelling and ask the next child a different word. This would allow learners who were listening to either learn new words or review silently the spelling of mastered words. This activity helped pass the time in the van, waiting room, or surgery center. Click the button for a free printable of frequently misspelled words. Remember, use this list as a guide, in a manner most helpful to your leaner. A third grade learner might be able to spell fifth grade words and vice versa.

 

  • Rhymed words. For this oral game--which we played in the car and in waiting rooms--I would say a word and whoever was with me at the time would say a word which rhymed with the given word. To change up the activity, we would take turns being the first to give a word. This game could be started or stopped at a moment's notice. 
  • Read and retold. Listening to and then retelling a story in sequence is an activity which is extremely beneficial for developing processing skills. I would read a picture book or a chapter in a chapter book and then ask learners to retell the story. To vary the game, I would start with the first event and then ask a learner to recall the next event. Together we would retell the story event by event.
  • Matched states and capitals. Like the math and spelling drills, I would move around the van offering a new state or capital to each learner. In response, the learner would orally provide the match. Again, I would choose states or capitals based on the level of the child. Younger learners always started with his or her state, a relative's state, or a state we had recently studied. To change up the game, I would offer a state abbreviation and the learner would say the corresponding state. We played this game in the car while riding to great-grandma's assisted living complex. Click the button for a printable list of states and capitals.

 

  • Played "I am Thinking of an Animal", taking turns giving clues and answers. Sometimes I made this game geographically or biome specific. For example, the parameters may have been jungle, rainforest, ocean, forest, etc. This allowed every learner to play, little to big. One of our favorite places to play this game was in the garden gazebo at great-grandma's assisted living center.
  • Listened to audio books. Audio resources--music, books, plays--offered a calming diversion in otherwise disheartening circumstances. In addition, older learners were able to download audio books to a Kindle or reader and take learning with us no matter where we had to be. Our high schooler even used our experiences to earn high school credits (that's another blog post). Audio resources have been a means of continue reading or learning subjects we might not have been able to otherwise.  
  • Played games. Grammy loved games and was able to play up until just weeks before she passed. She loved BINGO (great for number recognition for my littles), UNO, Othello (great for strategy), and Scrabble (spelling!). We played, enjoyed our time together, and learned!
  • Talked. There was much to process after every visit with Grammy: her health, her future, her care, the people we met, on and on. Our children always had questions and it was important to put down the books and talk through concerns and questions. Through conversation, sometimes tears, we process our journey together. The relationships deepened as a result. 

I have to be honest, there were many valuable real-life learning opportunities in our unexpected seasons of education away from home--things we couldn't have learned at home.

During appointments we listened to nurses and doctors explain medical conditions, talked to patients in waiting rooms, opened and held doors for people who couldn't do so for themselves, and asked Grammy questions about her childhood. She was able to tell us about her life during the Great Depression. She remembered man walking on the moon and President Kennedy's assassination. She was a living history book!

When Grammy's health warranted stays in assisted living facilities and we visited several times a week, we made friends with nursing staff and residents. When we visited, we were able to help push resident's wheelchairs, encourage the nursing staff with treats and kind words, and visit and play games with residents who didn't have many visitors. During the holidays, we participated in an egg hunt with residents and made Christmas cards. In addition, we had important conversations about life, death, relationships, and medical care. We learned how to care for people, to extend love to folks who were walking through tough circumstances. Those months were a challenging physically and emotionally. However, relationally those four months were some of the most precious in our family's life together. 

Those days had to be intentional, real, and relational because truly every moment mattered.

We wouldn't have experienced these precious times if we weren't homeschooling. 

Have you had seasons like these, times when home education needed to be portable, moments when real and relational learning far outweighed the paper trail of progress? 

What did you do? Please share in the comments. 


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.

Words are gifts.

Looking back over twenty-seven years of parenting eight children--toddler to adult--there are words I don't regret. Words spoken aptly. Words purposeful to the moment. Words to build up. Words carried through the day...and years. 

I don't regret

"Let's go to the park!" Let me out of here!  This was a common thought in my years with many littles. With a handful of bouncy children, I needed a break. Though I thought this many times a day, I don't regret staying the course and holding my tongue. In fact, replacing "let me out of here" with "let's go to the park" kept difficult moments positive with words that brought life. I don't regret, "Let's go to the park."

"Let's  _____ together!" Fill in the blank. Let's bake together. Let's do a puzzle together. Let's build Legos. Yes, there was flour in the grout. Yes, we were eventually missing pieces (they likely got swept up with the flour and ball field clay).  And, for those wondering, I didn't particularly like Legos. However, as our adult children have spread wings and flown from our home and as my elementary learners seem to grow by the minute, I don't regret accepting their invitation (or extending offers to them) to do our days together. Oh yes, I was tired--still am. But I couldn't have reaped the relationships I have with my children (including my adult children) without sowing "let's ____together" with wild abandon, even when soil was rocky or weeds popped out of no where--meaning I was tempted to give up and quit!

As children have become adults they continue to invite me into their lives: to shop (I am not a shopper but eagerly accept) or to coffee (I didn't enjoy coffee, but now have a coffee rewards card). There are many aspects of family life which could've contributed to our relationship--and likely did--however, I suspect the relationship began to soar with the open invitation to do life together.

Who doesn't appreciate an invitation? 

"Let's take a break." Littles only sit for so long. And, if I am honest, I can only sit for so long. Yesterday, in fact, I spent several hours at the kitchen table rotating learners with questions and explanations. To stay in the game, I had to take short breaks: freshen a glass of water, stretch my legs, step outside to get the mail.

Taking breaks develops work ethic. There's a body clock in all of us, the one that signals we are about to slide off track. I'm not suggesting children take a break every time they don't like something or begin to feel uncomfortable. Just the opposite. We've all had to work through those tendencies. But if we are honest, there is a point when we become unproductive and need a mind change, if only for a moment. Helping children not only understand what their personal time frame is and then helping them lengthen it (hear attention span-that's another post) is a valuable life skill.

In addition, helping children build a repertoire of positive, productive ways to take breaks is invaluable. 

I will never regret the short breaks we took: walking around the block, skipping to the neighbor's house and back, counting to 20 when frustrated, or standing up to stretch. As our children grew, breaks offered opportunities for intentionality, conversation, and life essentials.

"Your brothers and sisters will be your best friends." Fighting and bickering can get the best of a parent; it's had me often. In fact, hearing myself speak the words "your brothers and sisters will be your best friend" reminded me that my efforts could some day reap rewards. And, they did! I don't regret speaking these words. 

Today, our adult children are intentional about coming to visit younger siblings to play games or bake cookies; to pull littles close, smile into their eyes, to get on their level. These are moments a parent treasures, moments I once dreamed would happen. And they did!

"Let's read a book." Beginning in the young years, I purposed to make books an acceptable, inviting option. With fond memories of personal picture book favorites and daddy's calming read-aloud tone, I wanted to offer the gift of story to my children. Reading several books a day (not always in one sitting) laid a foundation of enjoyment, invitation, wonder. 

I've discovered another gift of story.

When tension rises or bodies grow weary, books offer a restful oasis.

As children matured and moved passed picture books, my comment became "let's read the next chapter". 

I have a multitude of opportunities--daily--to speak words aptly, to bring life. I am sure you do as well. Will you purpose with me to choose those words today? 

For, what we sow today we will reap tomorrow. 

Want to hear more? Cheryl and Mike have added the content of this blog to a NEW workshop for 2017. 

 

Boxes, Creativity, and A Bunch of Imagination

Kids love boxes. 

I know I did. 

Small ones, but especially LARGE ones. 

The other day I returned home from Aldi with groceries and BOXES!

I put away the groceries and sat down to help a high schooler edit some writing. It was mid-afternoon, a perfect time for our children to enjoy exploration, adventure, and independent studies.

From the kitchen, I hear...

"Mom, can we use those boxes to build a phone booth?"

My mind was with my high school learner. I didn't have time to think about mess and such. So, I said yes and kept an ear out for the communications and happenings in the kitchen, you know, like moms do when "creativity" is happening. 

An hour later I walked to the kitchen to get a drink of water, and check on "progress".

My kitchen was littered with cardboard pieces, shreds of paper, plastic inserts from a cookie package, more paper scraps, staples. And the kitchen table? YIKES!

Where would we eat dinner? 

Mike came in the door not ten minutes later. 

"Dad! Look at our phone!"

The phone had the makings of a coin slot, a receiver, and a timer to time calls!

What an afternoon these sisters had!

The kitchen was abuzz with excitement. I decided to allow dinner to take place elsewhere. 

The next morning, math was done and I was working independently with an older learner. The enthusiastic builders were now hard at work in the living room. 

Imagine my surprise when after the lesson with the older I walked into the living room and saw

A PHONE BOOTH!

They continued their learning adventure, making a price list with plastic coins so their sister who couldn't yet add coins could play, too. For the users who could add there were hand-written instructions. 

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Now, I will be honest. I did make a few trips to the living room after the initial booth was up and "bargaining" was taking place about who would use the booth and when it would be used. When negotiations needed navigating, I stepped in to help with problem solving and conflict resolution. 


Two days ago, when my learners asked to make a phone booth, I could never imagined all they would learn and practice in the process: geometry and physics in the construction, math and spelling in the user details, collaboration, problem solving, interpersonal communication skills.

And it all began with some boxes, a question, and a bunch of imagination. 

Are there boxes in your house today?

Wonder what they may be?

 

"Let Me Do It!" - Little Learners Become Independent

Little learners are industrious! They can accomplish much in a short time: unloading cabinets. emptying bags of flour for "snow", unwinding tape rolls. Their industry may not be what we define as true betterment. 

However, in those tough to see times, it is important to understand a little learner's definition of industry is key to developing independence.

Given a task, an important one, one they care about, they will accomplish much and feel incredibly empowered, eager for the next "job".

Mr. Red, the fish we inherited from great-grandma, needed a clean bowl. The water had become a science culture--I am sure, though I didn't test it. Poor Mr. Red!

Sick children needed care. Mr. Red had to wait.

I moved the fish bowl to the kitchen counter, near the sink, grabbed an extra large coffee cup from the cabinet, scooped Mr. Red into the cup, and within seconds our little learner "wanted to help".

"Let me do it, too!"

What toddler doesn't like to play in water?

Mr. Red was swimming happily in the coffee cup I placed out of reach. I dumped the yucky water in the sink, poured and rinsed the ornamental  rocks. Chair pushed to the sink, a smiling eager and confident helper turned on the tap and began cleaning rocks. One squirt of soap. Two squirts of soap. Fine motor muscles were getting a work out. Three squirts, four.  

Thirty minutes later, my assistant had cleaned every rock and placed them back in the bowl. She beamed with pride. She had contributed to the care for our beloved Mr. Red--her pet!

A first step of responsibility. A first step toward independence. 

My little learner knew she could be a productive, contributing member of the family, accomplishing tasks of importance. Her smile spanned ear to ear, dimples dotting each corner, for the next several hours. 

Little learners wants to contribute, to serve, to care. In doing so, each time they take another step toward independence, they catch another glimpse of a much bigger picture, one much bigger than oneself. 

What started as "let me do it!" ended with

"I like being a part of a family!"

You may have little learners, or not so littles, eager to contribute, eager to work alongside. 

How can your child contribute?

How can he or she make a difference and catch a glimpse of a greater community?

Imagine the possibilities!

  • help organize the pantry, cylinder cans on one shelf, rectangular boxes on another. 
  • water the plants, inside or out, with a pump spray bottle (great for fine motor skills)
  • fold washcloths in half and half again
  • match socks
  • sort laundry
  • organize the plastic container cabinet
  • feed pets (with supervision)
  • sort coins- pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters
  • roll coins (get paper rolls at the bank)
  • collect the newspaper from the end of the driveway
  • carry a neighbor's garbage cans to their designated area
  • fill ice cube trays with fresh water
  • make sandwiches (spreading is a great skill)
  • peel carrots or wash potatoes (with supervision)
  • empty bathroom trash cans into the larger garbage can
  • carry hangers to the laundry room
  • make cookies (with supervision)
  • help put seeds in seed beds
  • refill bird feeders
  • help wash the car (and clean out the inside)
  • put library books in the bag to go to the library

Embrace the industrious little learner at your feet! His or her inquisitive energy can be productive, taking one step closer to responsibility and independence. 

Cultivate, then celebrate, the milestone--together! 

Want to learn more about little learners? Join me at my Teaching Preschoolers and Little Learners workshop at FPEA 2016!

 


A New Year to Create, Cultivate and Celebrate

How will you be intentional to create, cultivate and celebrate in your home?

Perhaps...

  • Organize an art corner where ingenious minds can create.
  • Refresh art supplies. Introduce a new medium.
  • Bind last year's art masterpieces creating a portfolio to celebrate progress and change. 
  • Offer new tools to cultivate life learning --protractors, microscopes, compasses, templates, 3-hole punches, staplers, balance scales
  • Use New Year savings offered by digital scrapbook companies to create a family memory book where accomplishments and memorable favorites can be celebrated...TOGETHER!
  • Provide blank books to budding authors and illustrators. Cultivate the need to create! 
  • Say "yes" to requests for household trinkets and treasures. They may just be the next patent in the making. 
  • Purchase a personal bookcase to fit bedside the contagious reader. 
  • Read to the emergent reader eager to build fluency. Celebrate the sentence read and the chapter completed!
  • Post a black-out list where newly mastered multiplication facts can be crossed off.
  • Champion ideas and celebrate milestones. 
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