Posts in Homeschooling

How Do You Homeschool?

November 12th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

Veteran homeschoolers are frequently asked two questions. Those who tend to object to homeschooling ask, “What about socialization,” while those thinking of homeschooling want to know, “What curriculum do you use?”

I want to focus on the second question. I often hear it expressed in a yearning tone. Parents who are unhappy with their children’s schooling or reluctant to send their little one off to school seem to be saying, “I want to do this so please tell me what to do.” To quote Shakespeare, “Aye, there’s the rub.” Most of the time, homeschooling is a dance that each mother (it is usually, though not always, the mom) and individual child do. When it is done best, it isn’t a matter of memorizing and executing steps, but of being completely in touch with one’s partner and sensitive to the unique personalities, interests and styles of both mother and child.

Since most homeschooling families are teaching more than one child, that dance takes place on a crowded dance floor. Furthermore, much of the time, especially for young ones, one lone mother is everyone’s primary partner. No wonder people contemplating homeschooling wish that there was an off-the-shelf package that will set everyone elegantly twirling.

What happens if we turn the question around? Jewish tradition encourages teachers to see their responsibility to their students as if they were each one’s parent. Outstanding teachers do so even when they have twenty or more pupils in a class. From that perspective, loving and guiding four or six or even ten of your own children seems much simpler.

There are families I know who do base homeschooling around one curriculum and use that program for many children and many years. Invariably, those lessons form a solid base that then leaves hours of the day and week for each child to spend on developing his or her own interests. Many other families combine different options that may change yearly (or more frequently) depending on family and individual dynamics.

What curriculum do we or anyone else use? That question is largely irrelevant for anything other than the early steps of gathering information. You are not me; your children aren’t my children; your goals are not my goals. Homeschooling is the opposite of a finding a shortcut to education. The process of discovering what makes you and your family dance may look clumsy at times, but it can lead to a master performance.

Book Recommendation: The War that Saved My Life

October 28th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

When looking for books for my children, I used to peruse the Newbery Honor books (and, yes, until I started writing this piece, I thought it was Newberry). Since I care about morals as well as language, I admit to favoring books that were chosen for the award in earlier decades. With that in mind, I am delighted to recommend a recent honoree, The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

This book and its sequel, The War I Finally Won, tell the story of Ada, a ten-year-old British evacuee from London during World War II. I appreciated the depiction of England during wartime including rationing, bombing, the death of so many soldiers and the real fear of invasion. But the story is deeper than a historical fiction sketch of England in the 1930s and 1940s.

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Growing with Nancy

October 22nd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 4 comments

In addition to what I recently wrote, Sarah Mackenzie makes another important point in her book, The Read-Aloud Family. When we read to older children we expand their vocabulary. While a child might get frustrated  reading a book too much above his or her comfortable reading level, children begin to decipher unfamiliar words in context when a parent is reading.

Even when a child is reading at an advanced level, reading aloud has an added benefit. I think every homeschool parent of committed readers has been amused when their children mispronounce words that they have only met through printed matter. Reading aloud gives children a chance to hear new vocabulary words as well as see them.

Thinking so much about reading aloud reminded me of a Musing from a few years back. I hope you enjoy this reprint:

Superman comic books may not generally be considered advanced literary material, but the childhood hours I spent reading them did help me do well on my SATs.  While I didn’t read the comics for vocabulary lessons, years later the spurious documents that one criminal used served me admirably when I needed to pick the correct multiple choice synonym for that word.

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Read Aloud – Please

October 22nd, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 6 comments

One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling is time. Not having to rush out of the house in the morning or spend time on homework in the evening puts you in control (as much as possible) of your family’s hours. You gain all those hours that are otherwise spent on parent/teacher nights and working on projects that may not have anything to do with what you think is important.

Reading aloud was one of our family’s favorite ways to use the expanse of time at our disposal. Like many moms, I read voraciously to my toddlers and younger children. But we read aloud well after our children were themselves proficient readers. We regularly read at our Shabbat table, to the point that some of our regular guests were miffed if there was a week they weren’t invited. While they could have picked up Swallows and Amazons or The Microbe Hunters on their own, they enjoyed following along with us. Sometimes we read to the children as a group, an activity that strengthened family bonds. Other times reading was a one-on-one experience. Some of my fondest memories are sitting in front of a fireplace with my sixteen-year-old son, reading A Tale of Two Cities together. 

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Book Recommendation: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

October 14th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

I get a thrill every time I read a book that prods me to grow a bit, makes my day brighter or grants me a portal into a world different from mine. When a book does all three of those things it is a definite winner. It gets bonus point if I can share it with the young people in my life and watch it expand their horizons.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is such a book. Since it came out in 2012, many of you have probably read it already and/or seen the movie version. I was a late-comer to the fan club since I tend towards classics, but I came across it recently and I want to share my delight.

Wonder tells the story of fifth-grader Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a severe craniofacial deformity. Because of health concerns and repeated operations he has never been to school, and now that is about to change. The book is divided into sections that tell of his entrance to school through his own eyes and then through the eyes of his “normal” sister, her boyfriend and her estranged  childhood friend, as well as from the perspectives of some of Auggie’s classmates, whose behaviors range from kind to bullying.

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Our Teacher, the Judge

October 4th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 4 comments

As I wrote in my post, Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom, for many years I had a nagging worry that I might be depriving my children of a truly great teacher such as the one I had in fifth grade. That concern wasn’t enough for me to stop homeschooling. After all, there were many other considerations and the stories I was hearing from friends with children in school reminded me that those teachers were few and far between. Still, the niggling worry lodged in the back of my mind, moving into a more prominent position whenever I was disappointed in my own teaching.

When I had already been teaching for a few years, I received a hug from Heaven reminding me that teachers are found in all sorts of places. My husband returned from a conference and informed us that he had invited a fascinating man he had met there to join us for Shabbat dinner. Our table was rarely without guests and my young crew (aged 1-11) took the news of this new arrival in stride.

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Insecurities of a Homeschooling Mom

September 20th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 6 comments

It is no secret that I love homeschooling. That doesn’t, however, make me opposed to traditional schools. One of my major concerns during sixteen years teaching at home was, “Am I causing my children to miss out on Mrs. Richman?”

Mrs. Richman was my fifth-grade teacher. Our class full of easily bored and, hence, mischievous kids adored her. We worked harder in her class than for any other teacher. She introduced us to Shakespeare, setting us passages to memorize that I still remember. We honed our writing skills and in eighth grade I submitted a composition I had written for my fifth-grade class, and received an ‘A’ on it. She loved Greek mythology which, years later, led me to take classes in Greek and Roman classics in college.

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Making Sense of the World: Unit Studies

August 31st, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting 3 comments

Two of my favorite homeschooling years occurred when I used KONOS as the basis of my curriculum. I heard one of the founders of KONOS speak at a homeschooling convention and loved the slogan she used to describe her perspective (which I’m probably not getting exactly right), “God put the wiggle in children, don’t take it out.”

KONOS was based on the idea of integrated unit studies, a concept that I heartily applaud. Each unit had a theme and what we covered in history, science, literature and Bible studies was chosen to fit into that theme. While KONOS was Christian-based, I found it “easy” to adapt because the themes were built on character traits, in Hebrew, what I would call midot.

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Cyrus, the Unsinkable Sea Serpent

August 27th, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations No Comment yet

I read Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent by Bill Peet half a dozen times over the past week. It is a favorite of a seven-year-old granddaughter and she recommended it to her similarly aged cousin. To my surprise, his two-and-a-half-year-old sister enjoys listening to it as well though I wouldn’t have chosen it just for her.   

Cyrus is one of the many books still on our shelves from our children’s early years. It is what I think of as a transition book; it is more complicated and wordy than early readers like The Cat in the Hat, but still short enough to be read aloud in one sitting. It appeals to children who can read and ideally after listening to it and understanding the tale, they soon want to pick it up and read it themselves.

As I read it over and over, I started asking myself why I like it. The book has danger, threats and violence. I don’t normally gravitate to those features. My seven-year-olds are enraptured by it.

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Up, Down and All Around: A Lesson in Prepositions and Life

August 21st, 2018 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting No Comment yet

It was a brilliant idea. I would introduce prepositional phrases to my children through a visit to the playground. They would have a great time going up the ladder, down the slide, through the tunnel and around the trees. Just about everything they did could be utilized for a fun and memorable grammar lesson.

Or at least, that was the plan. The outing steadily deteriorated via one bee sting, one bleeding knee and multiple squabbles. Another brilliant homeschooling idea hit the dust.

It is ever so much easier to be a wonderful parent before you have children, an inspiring teacher before you have students and an effective politician when you are a candidate, before you have responsibility and authority.

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