Homeschool Fruit: Sharing…& More

One of the best things — a true fruit — of homeschooling, to me, is being able to glean information from other homeschoolers about how they are doing things, how they have overcome problems, and how they have gotten their kids excited about learning. We have a community that seems to be inherently supportive, and generally homeschoolers are eager to share what has worked well for them.

The “& More” in the title is about something I’d like to share with you, so we’ll veer from general sharing to a specific topic. I have several homeschooling friends who have talked to me about how their kids have problems writing essays, how they seem to freeze and their minds go blank. This really resounds with me. I’ve been a writer and editor for more than 30 years, but I am NOT a creative writer. It just doesn’t flow naturally. And, probably not surprisingly, neither is my son. I have a nifty little formula and writing style, though, for those of us who are a little more at ease with reporting straightforward facts, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you have a hesitant writer, introduce them to newswriting and the “Inverted Pyramid.” This is probably the most basic, building-blocks part of journalism taught in college, and yet it is also very graspable for a young writer — particularly middle-school age and up. The inverted pyramid is merely writing/reporting your story with the most important facts at the top, narrowing to the least important at the bottom. And, it is easy to start off with five basic questions.

Let’s create a scenario that you could work through with your child. Say you ask them to write a report on the church service this coming Sabbath. But wait…

SIDENOTE: Does it seem odd to have an assignment that incorporates the Sabbath? Think about the last time you read your local Union Conference magazine. Did you notice interesting articles about a special children’s service at one church? Or maybe a Sabbath outreach mission? Or possibly a Sabbath concert offered to the community? Somebody who attended wrote those. I see multiple benefits to a Sabbath report for our kids, including better listening and observation skills in church, and maybe even the planting of tiny seeds of interest for future communication work within the Adventist Church. Back to the report…

Besides making sure they take their notepad and pen to church, have them write down the 5Ws the day before:
Who … was involved?
What … happened?
Where … did it happen?
Why … did it happen?
When … did it happen?

Now they have a ready-made list of things to look for. They will probably want to take a church bulletin for themselves to help glean information, including the name of your church, address, time of service, and participants. You could also have them listen carefully to the sermon, and make notes about the main point and primary Bible text used.

They might also look around to see if there are things they think might be interesting. Is the sanctuary decorated especially for Easter? Are there any kids in attendance? Was there a special part of the program aimed at kids? Were there guests present? Any special music? How about a potluck after church?

Young writers will not necessarily think of all those things, but you can help them come up with a list during the preceding week, and have them jot down things they will look for to incorporate in their story.

Another useful thing is to add a quote from someone who was there. Maybe they’d like to interview their best friend to find out what their favorite part of the service was. Remind your child to write it down word for word, and include their name and age. Or, maybe after the service they could tell the pastor what they are doing (the pastor will probably think this is fantastic, by the way), and ask how the pastor picked the sermon subject. There again, they can carefully write down the response, as well as the pastor’s name and title.

Your pastor would probably be delighted to answer a question or two for your child. Kids showing active engagement in church is good news!

Now you can take your sheet of facts home to work on later. It’s easier to write when the event is fresh in your memory, so consider having your child  start in on Saturday night or Sunday, and take some time off during the regular school week.

First, have them organize the facts into three groups:

  • those that they will definitely include in the article (i.e., 5Ws, sermon title or theme, etc.),
  • those that are interesting but not terribly important (i.e., the special music performer was visiting from another church),
  • and those that are related but not necessary (i.e., there were four casseroles at potluck).

Create an article outline. Your outline (and, next, your article) will follow the inverted pyramid. Put the most important information is at the top. Since you’ve already organized the facts, this will be easy.

Time to write!

  • Start with a strong leading sentence.
  • Give all the important details. These are the from the first group of facts in their “organize the facts” list.
  • Follow up main facts with additional information. These draw from the second group of facts.
  • Finish your article. Leave the reader with an interesting point, or maybe an invitation to attend an upcoming event at the church.

Here’s a very short sample article, but one that a middle-school age student could easily put together. It might give you ideas for an easy writing assignment for your child.

Sample Article:

“Reaching Up, Reaching Out” was the theme for a special community outreach planning day at Mount Bountiful Adventist Church, 123 Happiness Lane, in Somewhere, Alaska, Saturday, March 12, 2017. Members gathered to discuss ways to share God with the surrounding community. (See the 5Ws in the first paragraph?)

The special Sabbath program included music, praise, worship, and a chance for members to share ideas for reaching out to their neighbors. Joe Schmoe, pastor, said that he was excited to see nearly every member present, and appreciated how important outreach is to the small church.

The Juniors and Earliteen Sabbath School classes joined to present a skit about helping children in the neighborhood. “It was pretty neat to think of ways to help,” said Janey Doe, age 12. “I hope that we can help some other kids.”

After church the members enjoyed a potluck, and discussed how they might use food and nutrition to reach the community.

Everyone is invited to attend a follow-up planning session for outreach, Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m. in the fellowship hall.
————

Newswriting is factual and tends to be chronological. It also helps young writers start to decipher what is fact versus what is opinion, and what is important versus what is “fluff.” And, it helps them develop organized thought. It is a skill which you can help your child develop, which might ease the fear of “coming up with something to write about.”

There are many other types of writing — creative, essay, research, etc. — which may be developed in the future, but newswriting could be a good place to start.

Thanks for letting me share!

~

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered,” Proverbs 11:25 ESV.

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

Homeschool Fruits: Freedom

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study...

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study…

I just love freedom! I love the freedom to make my own decisions. (I especially love nobody telling me what to do. Ha!) I love living in a country that operates, for better or worse, on the principle of freedom. I love serving a God who gives me the freedom to choose Him or not — no coercion.

I love the freedom of homeschooling, too. In fact, when we chose our official homeschool name this year, we picked a name based partially on freedom. I asked my son to tell me his very favorite things about homeschooling, and his top two were “freedom” and “doing my own thing.” Hence…Freedom Solus Academy.

Since my son and I are on the same basic wavelength, it gives extra freedom to our homeschooling. If he seriously dislikes something, he tells me. Then we either discuss why he should keep doing it the same way, or, more frequently, change it to something that works well for him. Likewise, if I’m not pleased with how a certain subject is going, I feel free to research other possibilities with his input, and change directions immediately.

An example of homeschooling freedom for us this year was my 7th-grader’s history. We signed up for a free online program, and he started in. Boring. Seriously boring. How many of us sat comatose through history classes when we were in school? If there’s one thing I really wanted to make come alive for my child via homeschooling, it was history.

So, I took their basic daily outline as a guide; substituted an awesome history series I found, produced by public television but available on YouTube; and supplemented with an interesting book of children’s literature set in that time period.

This semester is nearly over, and he recently finished that unit. Rather than go back to a provided program, though, homeschooling freedom combined with this semester’s success gave me the courage to do my own thing. (Wait! Wasn’t “my own thing” one of his favorite things about homeschooling too?!? Genetics, temperament, parental programming…? LOL.)

We have the coolest encyclopedia of ancient history. Each page also includes many links to interesting maps and videos and projects. Between that and a couple books a friend gave us on Greece and Egypt, I’ve created a semester plan on ancient worlds. Here’s what’s so awesome: It looks so cool and interesting that I want to learn it all, too! No more “history coma” for me or my child. Truthfully, it did take a little longer to prepare than the boxed curriculum — but, oh, the freedom…

Homeschooling offers us the fruit of freedom. If you still feel a little bit afraid to branch out and create your own curriculum, or to go from more structured to less structured for less stress, or to go from less structured to more structured if that’s what your child needs, or to simply change course midstream if something isn’t working — that’s totally okay. Relax and pray. Let that fruit of freedom ripen a little more within you, and you might be surprised and gratified at where it leads.

~

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV.

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

Fun at the Library: The Flexible Homeschool

Have you ever gone to the library with a well-researched book list, only to discover that they don’t have 75 percent of the books on your list? I’ll still do this on occasion, but today I’d like to share another method I’ve been using to find books at the library in a non-conventional but semi-organized way. Think highly flexible, fun, and rewarding!

Here it is, very simple, though not scientific in any way:

  1. Go to the kids’ picture book or easy reader section of the library.
  2. Choose one small section, say two or three short shelves.
  3. Find a step-stool to sit on.
  4. Browse through this section thoroughly, choosing books that meet your criteria for good literature for kids. I don’t ask my kids which books they want. Sometimes they wander by and chime in.
  5. Check them out and enjoy reading together.
  6. When you find a gem, turn it into a project.
  7. Repeat on the next visit, moving to the next section. Our library organizes children’s picture books alphabetically by author. We started with the A’s and are working through. Sometimes I go to the Z’s and work backwards.

With this simple method we find some wonderful books, and I’m never disappointed because a book isn’t available.

Here are two sample projects we loved:

Book: What’s Alive? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld.
Subject: The difference between living and non-living things.
Project: Cut out pictures of living and non-living things in magazines and paste on categorized paper.

img_6840

whats-alive-collages

 

Book: If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche.
Subject: Different kinds of houses people in various places live in.
Project: Choose one of the houses in the book and make a collage home.

log-house

pueblo

 

I love “school” ideas that are simple, flexible, fun, and educational. Do you have any tips for utilizing the library in a fun and simple way? Share in the comments below.

 

Passionate Rewards

My youngest son, LMB, has a tendency to develop obsessions with some things. Lego Movie, Lego, Angry Birds, Hot Wheels, Star Wars, etc. Currently, his obsession is Pokemon Go. Every child finds something different that they become passionate about.

pokemon_go_logo

LMB has been a late reader. He struggled hard to learn how to read and has finally succeeded, much to his delight — and mine! To encourage him to branch out and explore reading more, to discover the real world of books, I plan to use Pokemon Go to inspire and reward him. I found pictures of the various Pokemon characters, and printed and laminated them. For every small book he reads, or for every chapter in a chapter book, he will earn a Pokemon picture to post on a bulletin board. When he’s earned ten, he’ll be able to trade them in for a larger reward…we haven’t decided on what yet, but he’s bargaining for cash.

bulletin_board

While he’s excited about reading now, he’s still uncertain of his abilities, he’s still lacking in esteem in this area. He is excited about earning the Pokemon characters and the possibility of a greater reward as he collects them.

bigstock-reading-boy-6044165-small-556x400

When we can find the things our children are already interested in and utilize them to encourage them and excite them to pursue learning, we both gain an advantage! When he’s excited to learn, there is less of a battle to get his work done. When he has a reason beyond “because I told you to,” he’s more willing to cheerfully get it done.

I’m blessed with LMB, he truly enjoys learning, but even then he sometimes needs a little more incentive. I guess you could call this is our personal “Reading Plan.” It could be developed to be used with any area that a child needs encouragement in — Scripture memorization, math skills, spelling words, etc. Finding the “currency” in your child’s passion helps. Help them use that passion to collect larger rewards and see how they find their own incentives, their own passion for learning.

rewards

Exploring Homeschool Methods for the Early Learner | An Introduction

Early Learning Choices

If you’re like me, one of the most exciting things about becoming a parent is homeschool. Maybe you don’t share my sentiment, but want to get an early start on home education. Maybe you are just curious or overwhelmed. Whatever the motivation, there are many reasons to start looking into homeschooling with a very little one in tow.

At first it’s exciting. You talk to one person who shares her successes and the best curriculum or approach ever. You jump on board and are ready to go…until you run into the next person who raves about a different approach or method. Charlotte Mason, SonLight, unschooling, unit studies, My Father’s World, Abeka, school at home…ARGHH!! Stop already! You just want the best approach for your child and your family. There’s too much information!

All of the options and approaches can be overwhelming — especially when you’re looking at materials for preschool through second or third grade. Often people want hands-on and engaging materials. No scientific research supports giving children of this age worksheets and having them sit at desks for hours on end. So, what do you do? How do you navigate these tricky waters?

I wrote a post earlier about the younger years providing a fantastic opportunity to experiment and have fun, and find the right fit for your family. I, personally, prefer an eclectic style. I like to take my favorite pieces (notice how I say “my favorite” here, not “the best,” as what’s best for one person isn’t always the best for another) from various schools of thought, curriculums, and resources, and piece them together in a way that works well for us. You may want something that’s a bit more put together, and that’s fine too.

Over the next few months I’m going to give you a chance to explore various philosophies and techniques for our littlest learners. I challenge you to look at each one and think about what parts you like and want to incorporate and work into your daily lives, and what parts you want to let go or what methodologies you want to pass on altogether. Throughout this series you may find one philosophy that resonates with you completely, and you want to fall full into it. Great! I will also provide you with links to some more information, as well as some of the most popular curriculums that follow the particular method we are exploring. The early childhood homeschool methods I will be exploring include Charlotte Mason, unschooling, unit studies, the Moore Formula, Montessori, and more. However, if there is something you are interested in, please let me know in the comments below. I am most interested in exploring what will be useful to you.

My hope is that you can use these blog posts as a way to rise above the noise, pace yourself as you learn about homeschool and the young child, and grant yourself permission to sit back, experiment, and have fun with your little ones as you look for a learning path that works well for your family.