Asking Why

3kidstreelarge“Why do I have to do this English page, Mom?”

Why do you teach your children Language Arts? What are you hoping to accomplish? What is the goal, the end of the road?

It is so essential for me to keep that end-of-the-road milepost in constant remembrance! Without it, we quickly get side-tracked into reflexive pronouns, antecedents, inverted sentence order and more. For me, the goal I hope to accomplish by teaching my children Language Arts is that they can express themselves clearly in the spoken and written word, so that they may influence others for good. It is a simple goal, and keeping it foremost in my mind helps me avoid detours.

I am not saying that knowing English terms is to be avoided. But the point of Language Arts is communication, not mastery of terms so you can score on a test. Something happened for the worse when the USA took on the concept of meeting National Education Standards in each subject. It seemed to reduce learning to the act of inhaling terms and exhaling them on demand, without ever truly learning to communicate in a way that can influence others.

The constant teaching of, learning and testing of terms seems to be justified by the reasoning, “you have to know it to get into college”. Let’s not forget that a college degree is not the end goal, it is just a stepping stone to a goal.

When my son Nathan went to the university, he would have rather been inventing and studying intensely about the things he wanted to invent. In fact, he often stayed up in the night, after studying for college, so he could really learn what he wanted and needed to know about science! Having to study for and attend college classes felt like a detour, and often prevented him from learning what he was anxiously yearning to know. A college degree was the means to get a job in which he could be paid for inventing, his chosen occupation. Without the college degree, he was a “tinkerer”. With the college degree, he would be paid for his creative genius. The college degree was a stepping stone to his dream career. Not the end goal.

Always ask “why?” It is the thing that keeps education on track. It is the question that helps homeschoolers maintain vision. If you can’t answer the question “why?” with a valid reason, then why make your kids do it? (“So you can get into college” is not a valid reason!)

“Why do I have to do this English page, Mom?”

Because the pen is mightier than the sword! If you can learn to speak well and to write well, you will be mightier than the strongest warrior and able to influence others for good!”

 

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Keep on Schedule or Let ’em Fly?

Question:

I just started homeschooling my 5 year old boy who loves math. I bought the Calvert Kindergarten curriculum because I had no idea what I was doing and thought I needed a lot of structure (which is what I got). It seems to be too slow for him and sometimes boring. He already knows how to do simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication in his head because he is always asking us math questions (especially related to money). He carries around a calculator all day and comes to tell me what 572 plus 12 is. He wants to know about millions and billions and beyond. We have never done addition or beyond on paper but it seems he is ready for that. Should I continue on with these lesson plans as they are outlined or let him go on ahead as he wants to do?

Answer:

What a wonderful situation you are in! You have a 5 year old who wants to fly—so let him!

Your question brings back memories of my own son, Mark (who graduated from a university in Political Science), when he was just a little boy attending kindergarten public school (back in the days before I homeschooled!) A few weeks after school began, I got a phone call from the teacher. Mark was in trouble! It turned out that he was guilty of “sneaking ahead” in his math book. I had to stifle a chuckle as the teacher explained his crime! He was so interested in math that he couldn’t stay with the slow-moving class, going laboriously over things that he already had figured out. He wanted to fly! I solved the problem my taking him out of school and bringing him and his math book home, where I told him to do all the pages he wanted! It only took him a week to finish the book and beg for more. I bought math manipulatives, math games, math toys and he soared! He loved math and loved the freedom to satiate his curiosity!

I can think of no quicker way to kill a natural love of learning that to enforce a slow-moving schedule on an interested learner. Think about how it feels to us adults to sit in a class where the teacher answers your eager, pertinent questions with: “we’ll get to that later in the course.” It doesn’t take long before apathy sets in, simply out of frustration.

thumbnailThere are so many wonderful math resources to satisfy your son’s anxious desire to learn. If you choose to use a different textbook, I highly recommend Singapore Math. It moves quickly and caters to children with its bright pictures and visual representations of the math formulas. You can give him a free placement test (online) to see where he needs to start.

A good place to learn about big, big numbers is this website: Math Cats: Really Big Numbers.   In fact, the whole website, is excellent for young ones yearning to learn more and more about math. Here are my favorite math resources too—you can find them in my store:

image-2Math It

Foam Dice Set

Calc-U-Draw

Addition Wrap-Ups

Multiplication Songs CD

 

What could be more fun than a child who is eager, eager to learn?!  Have fun together!

 

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Tomorrow

homeschooling_louisa cakeI think as moms we often live in the zone of “tomorrow”. There is just so much to do today and we are getting tired.  Tomorrow is always there, promising more time and new energy.  Like Annie, it seems we bank our hopes that the “sun will come out tomorrow”.

The bad news is that tomorrow just keeps hopping ahead one more day, and some very important things keep getting scheduled for “tomorrow”.

Louisa had asked for cooking lessons for several YEARS!  (Gosh, it hurt me to write that!  Could I really have put her off for years?!)

I had some grandiose ideas:

  • -recipe cards in a cute flip-top recipe box
  • -little 3-ring-binder that we add one recipe at a time as she learned to cook
  • -vocabulary terms
  • -discussion of cooking utensils and equipment
  • -healthy treat recipes that we invented together
  • -a syllabus and a plan with weekly hour lessons where we focus on quick breads, then soups, salads, breakfast foods, etc.
  • -fun, hands-on nutrition lessons
  • -a cooking class with friends

. . . ah, need I go on?

Dreaming, dreaming!

Better to do a little than nothing at all. If we wait to pull things together and do them up right, then very often NOTHING happens.  It is scheduled for that ever-fleeting “tomorrow”.

So, one day when she was 10, I called Louisa in from play and said, “I want you to follow the recipe and make Cabbage Banana Salad for dinner.  I’ll help you if you need me to.”  Nothing grandiose.  No organization or cute recipe cards needed.  Just spur-of-the-moment, practical stuff.

She didn’t feel confident but the salad got done and a little bonus is that the other family members gave her some kudos for it.  And another bonus is that I got a direly needed reminder to myself that it doesn’t have to be done exactly right as long as it is generally edible.  She felt good about her effort!  Next day I had her make Broccoli Tree Salad.  And the following, it was Spinach Salad. Eventually I assigned her a weekly “dinner night” in which she planned the entire meal and had it ready on time.

These were not the cooking lessons I dreamed of giving her. . . boo hoo!  But my spur-of-the-moment hands-on lesson was realistic, I could manage it right then.  Little by little, day by day, she learned and made the metamorphosis into the capable cook she is today!

Don’t wait for that elusive tomorrow.  Let the sun come out . . .today!

 
May I recommend:

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