Our children are born learning. At first it’s how to eat, they discover the movement of their hands, they learn to recognize mom and dad’s faces, familiar voices and songs. The first year alone is chalk full of learning; from feeding themselves, walking, to imitating sounds, and so much more. Babies don’t have to go to school to learn these things. It comes naturally. Learning isn’t limited to just books; you can educate your children long before they are ready for school.
Learning is innate. But it is a process that requires time and what is often referred to as “scaffolding” in the education profession. Scaffolding refers to how, just like a building is constructed from the ground up, learning starts with a foundation. The brain builds more connections and pathways over time. The more these pathways are used, and connections are made, the more information is retained. For example, for a student to learn about marine animals, it’s important to have some sort of prior knowledge or experience with beaches or oceans. I have read stories of inner-city kids who have never seen a beach, or a field of grass before. How are those student’s supposed to comprehend the vast size of the ocean? Or a lion’s ability to hide in the prairie as it stalks its prey? Prior experiences build foundations upon which learning can be built. This is what the early years are for!
Reading to your child, beginning in infancy, is a great way to expose them to different lands, people, cultures, and animals. Reading is one of the primary foundations for schooling. Reading increases vocabulary, and an understanding of how language works.
Zoos and museums are an infinite source of wonderful sights, new ideas, and exploration. Don’t worry about how many times you have been to the same place. Remember those neural pathways our brains create? Repetition in information creates well-worn pathways that increase retention. So, visit the zoo and look at the same animals twenty five times, or read the same books 9,458,553 times.
Nature is a fantastic place to learn and grow! Walk through the woods and notice all the different types of plants, trees, birds, and animals. Do this through every season to learn about the changes that take place.
Play is one of the biggest building blocks to a successful education. The development of imagination and creativity help build strong critical thinking and observations skills. Allow your child plenty of unstructured playtimes. The more simple the entertainment, the better! I have watched my kids have more fun with sticks and a rope, than their expensive toys. Ingenuity is born out of necessity. Let your kids develop their own games and worlds. Play at parks, play at the beach; play in the mountains, a garden, and your backyard. Each of these environments has something different to offer.
My advice is to not get caught up with the “early is better” frenzy when it comes to formal schooling. Early is not always better; but a nurturing environment filled with books, explorations, and play-time will prepare your child for school better than any work-book, or curriculum can. When they have experiences with a variety of things, they will make faster and stronger connections to new information they gather in school. These connections will develop into pathways. Those pathways will serve them all through their school years if rooted in sound and meaningful experiences.
Words are one of our most powerful weapons. It is no mistake that even our constitution protects our ability to speak our mind. Our words have power over our children. We have the power to build up, and to tear down. We can inspire, or discourage. Sometimes we are unaware of how we are discouraging our children, and the things we say with good intentions, have the opposite effect. Praise and encouragement may sound like the same thing to you, but let me show you the difference, as well as their significance.
Praise is “the act of expressing approval or admiration.” When we praise our child for doing something, we are expressing our approval of them. You might be wondering what is so wrong with that? Over time this creates a child who does things just to please you. Eventually, they will transfer the desire to please you, with the desire to please their peers, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or others in their life. This can cause them to steer away from your values and make choices you will no longer praise. Praise is also focused on the end product, rather than the effort. When it comes to school, not every child is an “A” student. For some, earning a “B” in math is a huge accomplishment and that needs to be recognized. Praise is a short-term, extrinsic motivator. We want to build an intrinsic motivator in our children that drives them towards working hard, and making improvements.
One of the most common mistakes made by teachers and parents is to tell students, “You’re so smart!” It may seem like an innocent enough comment, but what does it mean when they fail the next test? Are they still smart, or have they lost that valuable label? If students are afraid of failing, they are less willing to try. When their value remains the same regardless of performance, students are more likely to put in effort to learn new things and try challenging tasks. Labels can be easily changed from positive to negative, so you want to avoid placing labels on your child or student.
So, how do we strengthen that intrinsic motivation and avoid labeling? We do it through encouragement; the word that means “the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope.” We want to instill courage in our students; courage to try new things, work harder, hope for more, and even to fail! When we encourage our children we are focusing on the effort and improvement, rather than the end product. This simple act will build up an internal guide that empowers them to make better choices and work to accomplish their goals.
When we say things like, “Wow, you worked really hard on that project, you must be proud!” we are recognizing the effort put into the work. “That’s a tough one, but I know you can do it” instills confidence in their abilities. “It might not have worked perfectly this time, but you worked hard. What did you learn that can help you next time?” makes it safe to “fail” because it wasn’t wasted time or effort. “I see you love art” encourages them to enjoy what they are doing, regardless of skill or outcome.
When you are at a loss for how to use encouraging words rather than praise, consider this guide (adapted from Positive Parenting Solutions):
Describe what you see and feel- I can see you really enjoy_________; you did a really thorough job on__________; look at those bright colors!
Sum up it up in a word- You really persevered; That shows leadership, creativity, friendship, etc.
Recognize effort and improvement- You really put a lot of time into that! That took a lot of effort!
Show confidence- I believe in your abilities, you’re right on track, you’ve got this, etc.
This subtle shift in our focus and words can make a really big difference in our children! We love them for who they are, it’s time to show that through our words of encouragement.
Positive Parenting Solutions online course (www.positiveparentingsolutions.com) was a huge resource for writing this article. They also recommend a few other resources for further reading on this topic:
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber & Mazlish
Mind-set, the New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
Dictionary definitions from www.dictionary.com
One of the reasons I have seen students excel in a homeschool setting is related to the anxiety that they had developed in a public school classroom. You might even suspect that your homeschooled child is suffering from anxiety. This article will not diagnose, or reccomend medication for anxiety. There is certainly a time and place for that, but sometimes anxiety can stem from the environment. By restoring students to a place of confidence and peace, we can transform their schooling into a successful and enjoyable (not to mention more effective) experience.
Anxiety can manifest itself in many different ways, and look different in each student. But for some children the stress of leaving their parents, taking tests, meeting new kids, being away from home, and many more things is enough to cause anxiety and effectively interfere with learning. If you would like more information on identifying anxiety in your child, this article from the Child Mind Institute is an excellent resource.
It’s important that you identify the source of anxiety in your child. Without knowing the source, it is difficult to make the right plan of action. Also, avoiding all stressors or triggers is not the way that anxiety is treated properly. We want to sensitively help the child overcome the anxiety.
Here are some practical things to do to help create a peaceful and safe learning environment for your child.
Avoid using praise when your student performs well. This is an extrinsic motivator that can contribute to performance-related anxiety. Praise, such as “I am so proud of you!” or “You’re so smart” create labels that the student will strive to maintain, and may be worried about losing if they don’t preform to your liking. This can create an extrinsic motivation that drives the student to perform for your sake, rather than to work for his own satisfaction and to the best of his abilities. Use encouraging phrases instead; be their cheerleader. “I see you put a lot of time and effort into this project.” “You must be so proud!” “You worked hard to solve that problem!”
Along with using encouraging phrases, focus on the process instead of the end result. As I stated in my article about praise vs. encouragement, not every student is an “A+” student. For some, receiving a “B” in math is a huge accomplishment or improvement. If the student is putting in the time and effort to be successful, acknowledge and encourage this work. If the student is stuck on an assignment, don’t rush in to save them. This is part of facing the anxiety and over-coming it with the right set of skills. Empower your student to be a problem-solver. Ask open ended-questions, provide additional resources, and be a sounding board for them. It is important to make sure that they have the right set of academic skills to complete the assignment. It could be that they aren’t ready for that level of reading, or that long of an essay and the anxiety is stemming from an inability to do the work. We want to set our students up for success. We want them willing to take a risk, and even “fail,” knowing that they are safe to do so, and will have learned much in the process (which is the whole point of school!).
Accommodating learning styles and student interests will help your child feel accepted as they are. We want our children comfortable in their own skin. This validation of who they are will build confidence, and confidence aids the learning process.
Yoga, exercise, fresh air, music, and art are all great stress relievers, and one or more of these should be incorporated into your day. It is important that you begin to identify when you see your child beginning to shut down or get anxious. This is when it is time for a break (my students and I call them “mental health breaks”) and/or a change of activity. It is best when you can help your child identify when they feel this mental shift happening. Like I said, we don’t want to run from all stressors, but we want to actively support the student during the process. The more self-aware they become, the more independent they can become in helping themselves.
The learning environment can contribute to anxiety in ways you may not realize. A room with too much noise and activity can set some students on edge. For others, if the lights are too bright, or the room is too dark, etc. Let your student select their ideal location for various school activities and observe their choices. Let that information tell you how you can create a space for them that supports their learning process.
The last bit of advice that I have is to not lower expectations or standards. Sometimes accommodations need to be made, but we still want to hold them to a high standard for work and behavior. This standard shows them that they aren’t broken, they can accomplish just as much as anyone else.
Anxiety is a great reason to homeschool your child. You have freedom to create an environment that meets your child’s specific needs. Anxiety doesn’t have to defeat you or your student. You can do this, you can over-come school-related anxiety together!
So, your student has crossed over from elementary, through middle school, and now into high school. A whole new journey awaits you! This article doesn’t cover the various options for high school gradation, but you do need to have your route planned in order to pick the right curriculum.
Selecting the right curriculum in high school is a bit more simple, there aren’t quite as many options as there are for elementary, but still enough to choose from and ways to get creative. Just as you would for any age, begin with setting goals. The most important step is to determine the direction you are headed. If you’re following state credit requirements, your subjects are pretty well decided for you. But you can still, within those parameters, find something that interests your student.
No matter the age, we want to account for the student’s learning style when planning the courses. Much of high school content is covered through reading, but there are still ways to incorporate different learning modalities. Much of the freedom in high school comes not as much through the dissemination of information, but the ways in which the student can demonstrate their learning. This is the shortfall I find in a lot of curriculum – they don’t use a lot of creativity in their assessment options. By high school, students usually have an aptitude one area or another that they would eagerly apply to school if given the option (creative writing, theater, technology, art, etc).
High school is the time when content gets deeper and more complex. You want to look for age appropriate content and skill level. Most publishers will tell you what grade level the curriculum is designed for. Sometimes this is for maturity levels, sometimes it’s because they expect the student to have foundational concepts before covering this material. It’s important to pay attention to the description of the material’s level.
You want to look for content and material that builds on your student’s prior learning, particularly in the areas of math and science. Once you find a math curriculum that suits your student’s level and learning style, I recommend sticking with it so that they don’t get lost in learning different methods, or skipping content. For science, it’s not quite as important to stick with the same publisher every time, but it is important to note the skills and knowledge they are expected to have before starting it.
Subjects such as grammar, spelling, and language are not primary subjects in high school, as they are expected to have a working mastery in those areas. There are books you can find for students that still need improvement in those areas. English is the study of literature and the art of writing. Reading a rich variety of literature, and writing in a variety of genres and for various purposes is important in high school. Writing must be integrated into other subjects for research papers, or other forms of assessment. Reading skills should continue to develop as students learn to read for a variety purposes, and more challenging content.
Occupational education and practical life skills should have highly practical applications. Once again, these don’t have to be learned through books, but can be learned through hands-on, real-life experience. This is the age in which students should be earning some sort of income, and be gaining some practical life skills through work, and home responsibilities. Cooking, managing money, car maintenance, etc. are all great areas in which high school students should become proficient.
PE and health are both a combination of book studying, research projects, and physical activities. There are curricula designed for high schoolers; sports teams, and gyms with PE classes for homeschoolers. These are all great ways to get your student involved in these subjects.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with your high schooler. This is a great time when their capabilities and interests are more likely to match your own. Do this together. Involve them in the planning and listen to their ideas. This is their education after-all! Not all learning comes from books, so don’t be afraid to shake it up and think outside the box.
Selecting the perfect curriculum is a yearly hurdle every homeschool parent must face. Which publisher? What grade level? Do we continue to use the same one as last year, or do we change it up? Not only is it a challenge to find the right one that fits your child, you also have to fit your budget! My goal is to help you make the right decision, considering all those variables.
There are a few things to consider, and a few steps to take before selecting your curriculum. Note: This is information is geared towards elementary grades. For higher grades, look for my article on selecting high school level curricula if you.
1. Set your goals and content areas. Know what skills your student needs to master this year, and what content you are going to cover in each subject. Involve your student in this process and value their input. The higher interest they have in the content, the more they will learn, and the fewer power struggles you will encounter.
2. Know your student’s learning style. The teaching method the curriculum uses will greatly affect what your student learns and their retention of the material they are covering.
3. Consider their grade level in each subject area. Very few students are in the same level in every subject across the board. Reading, writing, and math are the areas to consider. They may be reading above or below the average for their age/grade; they may be struggling in writing, or they love a good challenge!
4. If you read my article on integrating subjects, you know I highly recommend this method, rather than study each one individually. If you are in Washington State there are eleven core subjects that must be covered for all students eight years old and above (compulsory school age): Reading, writing, spelling, language, history, social studies, science, health, occupational education, math, art and music appreciation. Can you imagine trying to teach each of these subjects individually? Not only would the student be bogged down in endless work, but also the subjects would be disconnected.
5. The pace and depth of the curriculum have a lot to do with your ability to complete the program in your determined amount of time. Some have a very rigorous schedule and are too demanding for your student’s ability and interest. Feel free to adapt a program to suit your schedule and student’s learning pace, if you like the content and activities is uses.
One of the most popular options I see parents select is the “big box” curriculum, where every subject is included. There are many great publishers that offer these programs, but the problem is that they don’t fit every student’s learning style, reading level, or interest. I see a lot of parents go this route so they can use it for the subsequent children. But again, you run into the same problem. What works for one student, may not work for the next. Often you wind up spending a lot of money on curriculum, and then find that it requires supplemental or different materials altogether to meet your student’s needs.
I encourage parents to create an a la carte program based on each subject. Some subjects can be combined, and some of the big box publishers have fantastic curriculum that can be purchased separately. Here’s my guide for selecting curriculum for each subject.
Math is a stand-alone subject most of the time. Choose your curriculum based on your student’s learning style and grade level. There are many great programs out there that approach math from many different angles.
Spelling is also a subject that is based largely on skill (grade) level. Considering learning style is important, but adaptations can be made or creativity added to a solid program. Spelling should be practiced across all subject areas, but should be intentionally taught through curriculum.
History and Social studies are often the core subjects taught throughout the year. It is important that the content is chosen based on the student’s interest. In the elementary years, there are no mandatory content areas, so feel free to tailor it to what captivates your child’s interest. Consider, also, your student’s learning style. This, combined with interest level, will make a program that excites your learner!
Writing should be incorporated into your main subject areas. You will want to find a program that guides you in helping your student develop their writing skills. The genres they are writing in should coincide with what is required in the main subjects (history, social studies, and science). Multiple genres should be explored every year, as should the writing process.
Reading is a multi-faceted subject largely determined by the student’s reading level. This is easily integrated into the main subject areas, but the student should also be allowed to pick books for their own enjoyment. In the lower elementary years, decoding skills are a large focus, as is comprehension. As they become more proficient in their decoding, comprehension will increase. The higher levels of reading programs should introduce deeper reading skills and strategies, such as inference, predictions and making connections. Reading responses should be included, as well as reading a variety of genres. Do not assign work to every book they read, or your student may come to dread reading.
Language includes grammar and vocabulary studies. These can be easily worked into your writing program, and should draw practical applications from writing assignments. Grammar does not need to be a large portion of the day, this is one of those subjects that builds on itself; and requires consistency but not large amounts of time. Vocabulary can be drawn from the science and history, or can be studied through root words, or more traditional word studies. It should have practical application in writing, and does not require a large time commitment.
Occupational education does not necessarily require a curriculum. Occupations can be studied through books, videos, and hands-on experiences. It also includes practical skills such as typing, business skills (running their own babysitting or gardening business), money management, etc.
Art and music appreciation do not require a large time commitment through the year. This can include studies of artists and musicians during the time period covered in history class. It can also tie into science if your student is interested in how musical instruments are made, or how various art mediums are created. This subject has no requirements and can be made an entirely fun and engaging subject.
Science is a broad subject. You can cover biology, zoology, botany, astronomy, physiology, physics, chemistry; you name it! Find an area of interest for your student and get creative! Science should include hands-on activities, and should not simply come from reading a book. Your curriculum should be selected based on interest, age level, and learning style.
Health is an exploration into nutrition, exercise, and healthy living. This doesn’t require a curriculum on its own if you are comfortable creating a collection of books and resources on your own. Again, this should be determined by your student’s interest, age level, and learning style. This can be a very hands-on and active subject.
Selecting curriculum for the year is a really important process! It takes time and energy, but when done well can make your year smooth and enjoyable. One of the best resources is Cathy Duffy Reviews. There is a wealth of information available on her website and in her books. Facebook groups for homeschoolers are a great place to ask questions, and there are a plethora of blogs and reviews out there that can be utilized. When you find something that works, stick with it! Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to curriculum to meet your student’s needs. Get creative and have some fun!
“What grade is your kid in?” The question dreaded by many homeschool parents! How do you answer that? By reading level? Math book? What about just saying their age? Maybe say what grade equivalency it would be in the public school? In the end it doesn’t matter what you tell the random stranger, what matters is whether your child is working at the right level for her.
I think it is safe to say that one of the big reasons parents are drawn to homeschooling is the flexibility for their child to work at their own level in each subject area, rather than trying to fit into the generic mold of public school. Your child might be nine years old, reading at seventh grade level, doing fifth grade math, and writing only short sentences. So, what grade level is this child at? Do we need do define a grade? The important thing is whether your child is gaining new skills, learning new information, being appropriately challenged, and making progress.
Ideally, we want to see all subject levels around the same. Sometimes seeing how low one skill level is, shows us that we need to spend more time developing that one. Sometimes it’s because a student really excels in one area (often it’s reading), and it makes the other subjects appear to be lacking. Academic skills will advance and develop at different rates. Attention span will also affect the rate at which a child advances. If your child isn’t ready for formal schooling at six, don’t worry. Keep working at their pace, and they will catch up when they are ready.
I recommend taking each subject one at a time. Reading determines a lot of the student’s progress in other subjects. In the first few years of schooling it is normal to have to do the majority of the reading and instruction for the student as they build their reading skills.
As your student moves forward in all subjects, allow her pace and skill to determine the curriculum level. Typically, students are ready to advance just one level at a time. You can work through it quickly, and even skip parts, but don’t skip levels without accurately assessing their knowledge of the content, and skill.
It is important that math levels are not skipped. If the student can demonstrate mastery (90% accuracy or higher) of the content being skipped, then I would go ahead and move forward. If she is not able to test past that level, I would just allow the student to work at an accelerated pace, or to move on quickly.
The level for content-based subjects (history, social studies, science, language, and art and music appreciation) should be determined by the age and maturity level of the student. You may find that even though your eight-year-old student can read at a twelve-year-old level, it doesn’t mean that they are ready for the content of the curriculum.
In the end you want to consider your child’s age, maturity, and skill level. Until you reach high school, you don’t really need to worry about “grade level.” Work where your student is at, and look for consistent progress forward.
Parents often ask me for one thing they can do to improve their homeschool program. As there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there is one important thing many parents can do better: set goals. Improving in this one area can drastically increase the effectiveness of your program. By setting goals you give your program a specific direction, a way to measure improvement, and can help you select the best curriculum for your child.
I break the eleven core subjects that Washington State requires to be taught into three categories: skill-based, and content-based, and the few that over-lap both. Skill-based subjects include: writing, reading, and occupational education. Content-based subjects include: language, science, history, social studies, health, and art and music appreciation. Math and spelling are the two subject that I consider both content and skill-based; I will expand more on that later. The subjects that I have listed as being skill-based are those that can be taught through virtually any subject area. For example, it doesn’t matter much what the student is writing about, so long as they are writing on a regular basis, in a variety of genres. These subjects can be easily integrated into the content-based subjects for practical application. Yes, there is still some amount of content taught in these areas, but they are primarily subjects that must be practiced and applied to master. The content-based subjects are directed by what the student needs to learn, and don’t have a particular demonstration of skill. I consider math and spelling to be both content and skill based because the student cannot advance forward in more content, if they have not mastered the right set of skills. The reason this is important to understand is so that you can set appropriate goals for each subject.
So, now that you know what to focus on in each subject, how do you set goals? I start with content-based subjects. What is great about homeschooling in the elementary grades is that there really are no content requirements. As long as you are studying history, it can be any time period or area of interest. Decide what you want them to walk away with. Do you want them to be able to recall important dates and the significance of the events in history? Or do you want them to understand the events that lead up to a significant moment in history? Whatever content you decide to cover, give it a purpose. This is your goal. Decide how you want them to demonstrate their knowledge, and tie it in to the skill-based subjects. If you want your student to write a research paper, then your goal for writing will be to learn how to write a paper. Break it down into small steps so you don’t miss anything important along the way. In this example, reading goals will incorporate how to read non-fiction text and take notes. Spelling and language are both worked in through important terms or vocabulary words the student learns along the way.
If you’re struggling to know what goals to set, consider using the Common Core standards to help. I can hear your audible gasp from here! I agree that the public school system is not the best when it comes to setting developmentally appropriate expectations, or reaching those goals in effective ways. But the basis of the Common Core is quite sound. You don’t have to follow the grade level for the standards, but you can use it give you ideas and set the order of skill building goals. If your child is 7 years old and hasn’t yet mastered what the Common Core lays out for Kindergarten, that’s ok! You can start there and move forward at your child’s pace.
Goal setting can also look like setting a completion date for a program. It can be reading a certain number of books, writing a number of journal entries, typing so many words per minute, or getting your student to work independently on a subject. Goals don’t have to just pertain to academics. They should include life skills and personal accomplishments. Then celebrate the completion of these goals together! Setting goals, making plans, and following through are critical executive function skills. This is the beauty of homeschooling; we can nurture and develop all areas of your child’s development. So, what are your goals?
One of the most common questions I get asked is whether to choose testing or assessing at the end of the year. Washington State Law states that every child eight years old and older must be tested annually, or assessed by a Washington State certified teacher. My answer to the question comes only through knowing the child. I’m hoping I can shed some light on this topic and help you determine the best option for your child.
You may first be asking, “What is the difference between a test and an assessment, anyway?” The test refers to a standardized test such as the California Achievement Test (CAT) or Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), among others. The test asks a variety of questions, with multiple-choice answers. The test scores are compared to other students in the same grade. An assessment (also called non-test assessment), doesn’t involve the student directly. A teacher will take sample work from all subjects and assess the student’s progress through the year, and evaluate their skills and academic level.
A qualified teacher usually administers standardized tests over a 2-3 day period. Each subject is tested separately, and timed. Some students do just fine with the pressure of a timed test. For others, test-taking anxiety interferes with their ability to perform well. Because the test is timed, the student may not be able to complete the test, leaving some questions un-answered. As a result, those answers will be marked as incorrect. All of these factors, and more, affect the accuracy of the test results. This is one reason these tests are not favored by many. However, they can give a glimpse into the approximate grade level the student is working at. Over years, you can also track progress, as well as see the subject areas that need more focus.
A non-test assessment must be completed by a Washington State certified teacher. Every teacher will have their own way of approaching assessments, however the purpose of the assessment remains the same. The teacher will examine work samples from the student, and write a written commentary on the student’s skills, and areas of improvement. This can be very helpful information for parents in planning the next year. The lack of pressure placed on the student to perform makes this a favored option for many homeschool families. One thing to note is that for an accurate assessment to be made, it is important for work throughout the year to be well organized and stored (such as in a portfolio).
In the end, there is no wrong way to meet this state requirement. Based on the personality and experiences of your child, you can decide which option would best meet your needs. There are local and online teachers and websites that offer tests or assessments; you should be able to locate someone in your area and within your budget.
“Summer”: the most beautiful word to every student! Warm sun, free days, and no school mean the best days of the year. For parents the word is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. What do you do with the kids all summer? Do you take time off completely? They earned the break, after-all. But what about the summer slump? Will all that hard work go to waste? How do we know when to work through the summer, and when to take a break? For every family the answer to those questions will look different, so here are some things to consider when making your summer plans.
Flexibility is the beauty of homeschooling. You have the freedom to choose your days throughout the year to suit your family’s schedule. The best time to determine your schedule is at the beginning of the school year. Having a plan ensures that you allow allocate enough time for schoolwork throughout the year. Sometimes it can be hard to know how much time you need. This requires observation and experience to know your individual children, and your curriculum. The beautiful thing is that adjustments can always be made at any time. Once you have determined the amount of time needed, you can decide how you want to spread that out over the course of the year. You can work at a regular pace throughout the summer, take the standard eight to ten week break, or modify the summer vacation with short breaks dispersed throughout the year.
Reading, writing, and math are the three skills that need the most attention throughout the school year. These skills strengthen through time and use. Content is not the main focus when looking at preventing the atrophy of these cognitive muscles. What is important is that the child has consistent time devoted to growing and advancing in these areas throughout the year. So, if you decide to take the standard summer break, include a minimum of 30 minutes of reading per day. The books should be an appropriate reading level, and allow your child to pick ones that captivate their attention. Writing is a little lower on the critical skill scale, but it is simple to incorporate into the day. Daily journaling, letter writing, and creative writing are great ways to engage your child in writing. The writing doesn’t have to be profound, or even edited! The point is just to exercise the writing muscles and keep the mind fresh. Math is a critical skill that should not be over-looked during long breaks. Again, just fifteen to thirty minutes per day practicing math facts, playing math games, or even working through a workbook will help keep those skills sharp. This works out to be an hour or less of “school” work per day. This can be broken up; it does not have to be done all in one sitting. Naturally, the more fun and engaging you make this, the less resistance you will receive. All of these things can be done together and provide opportunities for quality time together.
For those that choose to take their breaks throughout the year, time off is important for preventing burnout for you and your child! Taking a week or two off at a time will not result in great loss of momentum or skill. Free time is just as important for learning, as studying is! I always love to see children so captivated by their books that even on break they don’t want to put them down. Reading for pleasure is a great gift, and a wonderful family activity that can be incorporated into daily life without feeling like work. Allow you and your children guilt-free time away from school. Having a plan in place from the beginning will give you the peace of mind needed to enjoy these short breaks, and put all your energy when it is time to work.
There is no one right answer to the summer break dilemma. Make a plan, follow through, and enjoy the fruits of your labor as you sit back and enjoy your break, whenever you choose to take it!
With all of the schooling options out there, choosing the right course of education can be a confusing and difficult process to navigate. Public school, private school, or charter schools – So, why choose homeschooling?
Homeschooling is an opportunity to choose the content and method in which your child is educated. You are in complete control over which curriculum you choose. With the plethora of publishers out there, it is possible to assemble an entirely customized program for your child. Consider your child’s interests, learning styles, and personality to determine the most effective course. This freedom also allows you to incorporate your faith and family values into your child’s education.
Homeschooling affords you the flexibility to determine your pace and your schedule. Working at your child’s pace allows them to maximize their learning, and reduce performance-related anxiety. Pacing allows your child more time to practice a skill, or to delve deeper into a subject that has captured their interest. Learning doesn’t happen at the same speed for every subject, and this freedom makes homeschooling a truly personalized experience. Creating a daily schedule that works around you will make your day more enjoyable. If you prefer getting work done first thing in the morning, then do it. If you’re not a morning person, that’s ok too! Consistency and routines are key, but you don’t have to restrict yourself to public school hours. You can also choose your vacations and holidays!
Fun. How often is the word “fun” used to describe a schooling experience? While homeschooling, it can be the word used to describe every day! Books are simply one method of learning, but there are many others that are even more effective and enjoyable for both parent and child. Consider how to incorporate all the senses into the day. The options are endless – Games, experiments, music, field trips, and so much more can greatly enrich the learning process. Fun and laughter bring a joy to schooling that relaxes the body, and frees the child up to learning without anxiety or pressure.
For many parents, choosing to homeschool is a necessity. The public school system is a success for many children. But for those who are being left behind, whose needs are not being met, this can have a lasting and devastating impact. Homeschooling a child with special needs means you can create an environment, a program, and a schedule with complete freedom to do what is best for your child!
No matter what your reasons, homeschooling can be an enjoyable and successful experience for you and your child!