Moved!

01/27/2014

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You can now find me at www.growingbydegrees.blogspot.com. See you there.
 
 
The question: does your homeschool nurture or kill creativity?
 
 
It may seem I am doing minimal work here these days. That's sort of true but only because I'm busy moving post by post over to my new Blogspot account. It's painstakingly slow and tedious. So much so that I wanted to quit today, but my taskmaster middle-born prodded me onward. Talk about "what goes around, comes around"!

Why am I moving?

I need a place where all of my posts are on one thread. I love that I can compartmentalize everything here, giving me a tidy and organized site. But unless you look, you won't find new posts. For those who have the site in a reader, you likely see only blog posts which aren't the bulk of what I share. With the new format, you can see it all.

While I'm not big on Pinterest, I've been told by a dear friend that I must be. : )  As she explains it, my posts now are like newspaper articles. People read them once. End of story. With pinning, they can be saved and shared for a long time.
Blogspot will make that easier, although the process of making pictures to pin will take me a long, laborious, agonizing while. (End of whining.)

I will continue to keep this site active for now, but if you would like to watch the building process, feel free to join me over here.


Wherever you visit, would you mind doing me a favor? I tend to be an introvert, but I like a little noise. If you have used a lesson successfully or your student has a piece to share or you have a suggestion, would you please leave a comment?
I'd appreciate it.
 
 
I really have nothing to do with Finding Faith, other than to have taught its author, Rachel Rittenhouse, in an English class last year. I'm proud of the way Rachel wholeheartedly pursues her dreams at age 16, and I wish her the best as she launches this, her first book in a series of three. Visit her website to discover more.
 
 
If you're literally looking for a list of really amazing words to cut from your students' very wordy papers, check out this thing. It's got quite good suggestions. Maybe it's just the stuff you need to help them follow the classic advice from Strunk and White: "omit needless words" (The Elements of Style 23).

No, really. See the ten words you can chop from a student's writing that no one will miss.

Literally.

Thanks, Cynthia, for sending me the link.
 
 
A mother of a six-year-old girl wrote to Julie at Bravewriter.com to detail her experience with homeschooling. The part that struck me--and that I direct you to here--describes the process of working on a fairytale project with her daughter. She does well at showing the writing process, the goals fixed on nurturing her child's voice and building her confidence rather than insisting on correctness. You can find the description here in the fourth paragraph which begins, "I told her we were going to do...."
 
 

I have an idea, and I need a small group of students
in grades 7 to 9 to help me make it a reality.

With my Weebly site, I have the capacity to add classrooms in which students build their own password-protected sites. Ideas abound in my head for how to use this tool with homeschoolers, but I need to flesh them out with real students. Do you have any around your house who are willing?

For this test group, I would like to gather students who
  1. want to build a simple Weebly site.
  2. are willing to participate in a writing community by posting their pieces for review, and commenting on pieces posted by other students.
  3. are flexible and patient, willing to experiment as we seek to figure out what will work best in this forum.

Clearly I will benefit, but students will benefit as well.
  1. They will diffuse the winter blues with a unique project.
  2. They will have a place to display their creativity as they build a site and share their writing.
  3. They will be a part of a small community of students wanting to grow as writers.
  4. They will have a real audience for their writing, giving them purpose for the process.
  5. They will have a qualified teacher giving them guidance and feedback.

The commitment is short: four weeks, from January 6-31, 2014.

It is inexpensive: $35 for the month.

The workload is reasonable. Students will set up a simple site with a Home page and an About Me page. They will go through the writing process for a minimum of two pieces, submitting their drafts by specified deadlines so that their peers and I can give them suggestions for revision. They will also offer revision comments to their peers. Other assignments may be added to make the experience as beneficial as possible, although they will be completed as the student desires.

Space is limited to ten students.


Registration deadline is December 18. Register here.
 
 
Short writing exercises and stand-alone assignments have their place, but when I am looking to foster increased motivation, I daydream about projects. What projects can I suggest that will hook and keep a kid's attention?

Ones that have worked well for me so far are...

Magazines: I love this one because students are free to follow their creativity. You can find an explanation here.

Portfolders (aka lapbooks) - Portfolders kept our family busy for years. You can read why I like them so much and take a peek into some of ours here.

Notebooks - When we were ready to venture beyond portfolders, we headed to notebooks. I show some of them here.

Pen Pal Project - I tried this idea with a group of eighth graders. You can read more about it here.

Coil or spiral bound book - What's better: to have a bunch of writing pieces spread here and there or to have the best ones bound together in a book?  I think the latter. See a post here.

Blog - When my girls were young writers, the four of us started a blog.  It gave them a reason to write and an audience outside of our home. It's old, but it's here. For an AP History class, my oldest daughter made blogs for Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Adams. So many possibilities!

If you're noticing your students plodding through their work, the vision for learning lost, introduce a project centered on a subject they love.

See if the sparkle returns.
 
 
Now that my oldest daughter is in college and my youngest is leaning toward high school, I find myself reflecting on our homeschooling years, specifically the goals that motivated my choices during each stage. Here is my list so far.
My Goals for the Elementary Years
  • Solidify the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic.
  • Breadth
  • Flexibility
  • Integrate subjects (i.e. science, history) with reading and writing.
  • Develop/capitalize on the love of learning.
  • Build a literate environment in the home.
  • Make learning a lifestyle.
  • Read aloud often.
  • Living books
  • Projects
  • Exploration
  • Field trips
  • Limited out-of-the-home commitments
  • Engaging, not tedious
  • Develop an ear for Spanish.
  • Learn to type.
  • Learn to read music.
  • Build a strong foundation.
My Goals for the Middle School Years
  • Increase responsibility and independence.
  • Increase the expectations for writing.
  • Deadlines and time management
  • Stretch reading skills. Nudge toward classic literature.
  • Continue to read aloud.
  • Begin taking outside classes to learn from other teachers.
  • Study Spanish.
My Goals for the High School Years
  • Independence
  • Depth
  • Develop ability to manage time and meet deadlines, preparing for college or work.
  • Lots of classics
  • Learn from other people, primarily through AP classes.
  • Prepare for the SAT. (Take it multiple times.)
  • Volunteer and work outside the home.
  • Study Spanish.
My Goals for All of the Years
  • Know and love Jesus.
  • Serve others.
  • Prepare for the next stage, keeping the end goal in sight.
  • Expect excellence (not perfection) always.
  • Discover strengths and weaknesses. Exercise both.
  • Strong work ethic
  • Responsibility
  • Commitment
  • Learn how to learn; strong study habits
  • Well-rounded kids
The End
When our children are finished with high school, they may not choose to pursue a college education, but  they will be prepared for it--or any other direction God leads them.
 
 
Once upon a time I was a teacher in an eighth grade classroom.

One year a shy girl with illegible handwriting sat in the front desk. She had joined our private Christian school after homeschooling didn’t work for her.

“Sheesh.  Couldn’t the mom even teach the kid handwriting?”

A boy was supposed to be in my class the next year. His sister had been a cherished student; his dad, a colleague. The family decided to homeschool him instead.

“Oh, please; how can parents be so arrogant to think they can be the sole teachers? The mom isn’t even trained!”

After school one day, a bubbly girl, who planned to be homeschooled in high school, babbled on about the successes of homeschoolers, audaciously claiming that colleges pursue them.

“How ignorant! What a silly girl.”

Fast forward several years, soon after my first daughter was born. The details are sketchy, but somehow my husband and I ended up in a lively conversation with my family. He said something positive about homeschooling, insinuating that we might do it someday. I was horrified.

“Me? I will never homeschool.”

Then he did it. I remember standing in my daughters’ room—now we had two girls—next to the bunk beds. He asked me to consider homeschooling. Why there, I do not remember.

I laughed. I said I couldn’t do it. I said I would have to take my foot out of my mouth after all the things I had said about homeschoolers.

But I also agreed to pray about it.

I prayed and I looked for books. I requested a catalog from Bob Jones, the only name I knew associated with homeschooling.

Then some new families began attending our church: homeschooling families. I watched these kids in the youth group, amazed at their maturity, their respect for adults. I decided that if homeschooling could turn out kids like that, I wanted to do it, so I prayed and searched for resources with more resolve, even spending time with one of the mothers, asking her for any help she could give. (And she wasn’t a trained teacher. Gasp!) Foot removal had begun.

A short time later, a family organization offered Debra Bell’s The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling in exchange for a donation. My donation got me more than a book; it got me a mentor. I scoured and marked Debra’s book, eventually researching the list of websites in the back, trying to find the curriculum that best fit me.

Meanwhile, I continued to be the mommy I loved to be, reading piles and piles of books to my girls, visiting the library, doing crafts, playing, drawing, teaching my oldest to read, and including them in almost everything I did. I was giving my girls the richest childhood I could, having no idea that I was already homeschooling.

Eventually, I got to Five in a Row on Bell’s list. A perfect match for four-year-old Michaiah and me. We read the same picture book every day for a week. We did short lessons inspired by the book, one day studying the art, another day the language arts, a third day, the science, etc. It was gentle but rich. Michaiah loved it, so much so that I had to let her know that we needed a break on the weekends.

Oh, but kindergarten was coming. I needed to put on my teacher hat and get serious. It was time for real school.

Once again, I researched, looking for curricula I liked, this time in each subject area.  I found what I wanted, ordered all I needed, and prepared to begin.

It wasn’t long before the eager little learner and her mommy began to wilt. Learning wasn’t as much fun anymore. Before this grand experiment, we would read a chapter book from start to finish, if we chose. Now we were supposed to read a certain number of pages, do a simple activity, and quit that subject for the day. Since I was playing teacher, that was okay with me, until I’d hear Michaiah say, “Read more.  Keep going.  I want to find out what happens next.”

I don’t know how long I tried making school work, but I didn’t like the thought of losing my precocious student to boredom or frustration. I decided to return to what had worked before, pulling out Five in a Row once again. This time, I planned unit studies around Five in a Row books, adding many hands-on activities and portfolder projects to our day. We found our niche!

At first it was scary to tell people we were homeschooling. I didn’t have grand answers for the wary questions, especially about socialization, the one question that intimidated me more than any other. I deflected, saying, “We’re taking it a year at a time.” With each passing year, though, my roots of conviction deepened, giving me confidence that we were doing what was right for our family.

Now, with our oldest daughter successfully navigating life and academics at a state university, I am in awe of all God did to lead us. He truly provided all we needed to prepare her for the rest of her life.

And those crazies in my classroom? Now that I’m one of them, they don’t seem quite so crazy anymore!