Saturday, April 1, 2017

Homeschool Journal: Helping Kids Love Learning

Homeschool is on crunch time since my dad announced he has cancer, prompting me to start plotting and planning my trip 1200 miles east to help out after surgery in late April.  Phone is always on the ready, waiting to hear of the latest test results as each pre-op appointment is completed.

Yet, despite our defunct fall schedule which fizzled and flopped for almost a month and a half, we may actually manage an early out this year on most subjects (Contrary to a previous announcement, I'm hoping to just leave the kids with some history reading and writing as well as some science research).

In the midst of the Big Push to wrap up all other areas of study in a punctuated time frame I have been blessed by GREAT attitudes from my kids'.  If anything, I have caught them moaning over missing out on some of those non-essentials!  True story.  Upon reflecting I recognized it wasn't a fluke... they are genuinely excited about their homeschool high school experience.

Please, don't think I am trying to paint a rosy picture of every day spinning through beautiful mountain-top fields singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music...."  If only every moment of every day were that spectacular!  HA! No. What I am talking about is overall contentment.  Maybe it stems from that deep-down knowing that school is necessary and, like it or not, it will get done and we might as well like it!  Maybe it is something else.  Whatever the source of this good attitude, what I do know is; I have always tried to foster an attitude of love for learning.

How do you help your kiddos like, or even love, learning?

First off, there is no magic formula... sorry!  Every kid is different.  Some will tackle schoolwork with exuberance while others will drag and whine.  Another hard fact of life!  However, I believe there is hope:

Younger years
One thing I have observed over the years with four very different learners under my roof is, while the younger years may be easier by way of simple materiel and loaded with more hands-on "fun" projects, children in this stage tend to make less of an association with the value of education: whether homeschool or public school.  All they know is that their favorite toy is beckoning them in one direction while you are calling them in another.

I know, that is not helpful... but perhaps it can be hopeful.  I seem to remember battling more whining and complaining in elementary school then I have in middle and high school.  I may not have been able to impress upon them, in those early years, how important their education was... but I could regularly remind them that it was with a plea of 'trust me, mom knows' and then; I could make it fun!

Ultimately, I have learned, while some text learning is imperative like spelling and math and the mechanics of writing, much learning can be done solely or supplementally through hands-on activities.  Engaging children in the process of learning and giving them choices in some of their activities, will plant the seeds to empower them as self-learners. It will also water them with the possibility of at least tolerating (if not loving) the learning process.

Another aspect during this stage is helping children feel successful.  It can be discouraging when you just can't get something... or worse, when you think you have got it only to find out you failed.  I'm not saying sugar coat the truth, that won't solve anything.  However, encouragement, taking a break when a child is overwhelmed, slipping in easier problems here and there, or tackling the work from another angle are all options to help them taste some success.

It also helps to know what kind of learner your child is
  • Visual Learners: Prefer to see info and to visualize the relationships between ideas
  • Auditory Learners: Prefer to heat info rather than reading or seeing it displayed visually
  • Reading/Writing Learners: Learn best when reading and writing!  Interacting with text is more powerful for them than hearing or seeing images
  • Kinesthetic Learners: Hands-on, experiential learners, they learn best by doing
If you are trying to teach a visual learner by only giving them books to read and worksheets to do, you are fighting an uphill battle.  You may have a great idea of how you want to teach something but if it doesn't fit with your child's learning style, both of you will be miserable with your homeschooling experience. 

The web is full of resources for determining your child's learning type and tips for how to teach to it.... it is also good to know YOUR learning style because it directly affects your teaching style.  Don't feel like you and your child HAVE TO have compatible learning styles in order for you to teach them.  Again, resources are available to help you understand how to help your child best. 

Later years
As children hit around 7th grade and on, I feel it is important to bring them on board with choosing curriculum and listening to them express interests in how they would like to pursue the material.  As homeschoolers we have a great deal of luxury here and I do recognize public school really only allows a student to select class subjects but not content.  However, let's be realistic... our students aren't going to public school and the potential next step for them is college, where you do actually have a great deal of choice.  You not only choose your courses, but you can also choose instructors based on their teaching style and many college homework projects leave a great deal of room for personal pursuit in the topics.  So why wouldn't we prepare our kids for that?

Yes, some testing and subject lay-out has to come from us, as their instructor.  However, the more opportunities your budding pupil has to be a part of his or her learning experience plans, the more excited they will be about their education.

Not only should we encourage them to voice ideas on curriculum, but we should also have good discussions about routine and schedule.  Agreeing on a 4-day school week verses a 5-day school week.  Planning lessons year round or with summers off.  How often to take breaks (days or weeks off).  Even what time to start school work for the day and if subjects should go in specific order.

It is what I shall call the broccoli or green bean theory: you need to cook a vegetable with dinner and they have to eat it so let them pick which one.... the same goes for homeschooling.  Know what YOU are able to do both curriculum and schedule wise.  Jot down some notes of options you are prepared to bring to the table, then, open up the discussion.  Be flexible for good ideas they may think of as well.  Discuss pros and cons to the various options and finally, make your decisions as a family, compromising if necessary.  Teens benefit long-term from learning this kind of diplomacy and logic behind planning.

No Matter the Age or Grade
Above all:  pray and make God and His Word the center of your homeschool. 

Pray for their love of learning... pray for wisdom as you teach and wisdom for them as they learn... pray for peace in the rough patches.  Pray together over each school day.  Pray together over decisions.  Prayer is the power which fuels a blessed homeschool!

As Charles Spurgen wisely said:
"When the home is ruled according to God's Word, Angels might be asked to stay with us, and they would not find themselves out of their element."

Our Homeschool This Week...

It is hard to believe, as we wrap up this week, but I only have 2 weeks of school left with them before I start packing leave.  I bought my ticket this past weekend and I leave in THREE Wednesdays.  It will be here FAST.

I'm excited we were able to hit the Civil War right-on-schedule and will wrap-up our PACE text in plenty of time.  We are all reading Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt.  It is a page-turner if you haven't already read it.  Turns out the stories are based on ones the author's grandfather shared with her from growing up!  Makes it even more exciting.  Both the kids are LOVING it.  We plan to have a book discussion on it at the end of our Civil War studies.

Our Chemistry unit is just about complete.  I was nervous about teaching it because I always remember Chemistry being a dry subject in high school... however, we have all pleasantly enjoyed it.  I plan to share next week how POSTERS pay off in homeschooling, because of this unit!
Last week we did an experiment on diffusion, I love these beakers I found at the annual homeschool used book sale last year!

Algebra is coming along great as well. I was stuck on a particular topic in Linear Equations because it has been quite a while since I last taught/used it - if I have one complaint about ABeka, it is the lack of clear instruction in some areas.  However, a quick search on YouTube kicked out an extraordinary video and we were working problems like pros! We are set to start roots and get more done in that unit then I originally anticipated.  I do wish we could have taken more time with the text so far, and so do the kids, but I know a lot of the topics we are skimming through will come back in Geometry and Trigonometry.

 My birthday was Tuesday.  Yes, I'm 43... that may either seem like a big number to you or a small one, but to me... it's just a number!  Every day I get to walk with Christ and glorify Him here is a blessing.... someday I will worship him and stand in his presence there.  Oh, Glory Day♥ The above is from Brooke.
 This picture came out of Brenden's brain, through his pencil and onto a piece of paper just for me.  He amazes me.
 The girls put together this ditty!  Ashley baked, Brooke decorated.  Hubby said they couldn't put 43 candles on the cake because it was a fire hazard!  Where is his sense of adventure?!  Ha!
He also encouraged some left-over cake to be done-up a bit differently.  To his chagrin, Brenden labeled it "Dad's Cake"... as if my per-diabetic husband needed it!  It was all good fun though.  More on these two beauties in my upcoming Menu Monday post.

Speaking of wild and crazy ideas... what about this hair?!  The man-child needs a haircut and things keep coming up before I can get him in!  Brooke and I couldn't stop giggling on Tuesday during "class" discussion and he couldn't understand why, so I snapped a shot and showed him the results of his nonchalant fingers-through-the-hair stretch mid-discussion!

On a classier note, Brooke was dressed for youth group and wanted to do a mini-photo-shoot.  I still hope she starts that teens fashion blog someday!

And finally, super excited about these.  Every year a church down the road from us does a HUGE book sale - no exaggeration - 50,000+ books.  I thought I heard all the funds go towards missions.  I stashed some cash for the kick-off, on my birthday no-less.  Got 3 complete literature sets and a bunch of other awesome finds including a book with prints on Norman Rockwell.  And all of these goodies totaled out at (drum roll please.....) $19 flat.  Seriously.  I was super excited, especially considering some of these volumes were going to be needed for Brooke's Junior year literature class and a good number of them are sturdy antiques!

What have you been up to this week?



  1. Love the box of books. Sounds like some great finds!

    Prayers for your father.

  2. I cannot tell you how jealous I am with your book haul!!!! OMgoodness!!!

    1. I felt super blessed with such finds! Hope you can find a book sale like it by you!

  3. Praying for your dad. Enjoyed seeing the pictures from your week, and reading your thoughts about making learning fun. Often my kids would start off complaining about the schoolwork I was making them do, only to find themselves interested in things and having a good time almost against their will! It didn't always work out that way, but overall I think they'd all say their homeschool experience was very enjoyable and that they did indeed have a lot of fun along the way.

    1. Thank you Kym. I think we have our good days and our not-so-good days in homeschooling but in the end, I feel like most kids would say it was still the best experience. There will always be subjects/lessons they probably hope we will change our mind on 'making' them do but in the end, as they get older, I think they appreciate the collective knowledge all those lessons (both easy and hard) taught!