Entries Tagged 'Homeschooling' ↓

Homeschool writing centers from Pinterest

Looking for a fun homeschool writing center? Pinterest has lots of ideas for permanent & portable writing centers to fit your teaching space

This article contains affiliate links for products we think your family will love!

A designated writing center in your home not only invites your kids to write and create, it provides a space to corral all the writing supplies so they’re handy and available whenever the muse (or the assignment!) strikes. Large or small, a writing center is just one feature of your homeschooling space. Below, I’ve gathered ideas for writing centers from Pinterest that fit every home, whether you have a sprawling schoolroom or no room to spare.

1. Over-the-Door Pocket Writing Center

Handy yet space-saving, a see-through shoe organizer that hangs on the back of a door makes a great place to stash writing supplies. Some, like this one, have a couple of larger pockets to accommodate paper too. I love how A Bowl Full of Lemons has organized this vinyl organizer.

This over-the-door writing center from A Bowl Full of Lemons is one of many homeschool writing center ideas from Pinterest

A Bowl Full of Lemons

2. Writing Center in a Bag

My friend Maureen at Spell Outloud organizes writing supplies in a portable tote. This Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty-One Gifts, is sturdy enough to hold teacher’s manuals, paper, and folders. Side pockets hold pens, pencils, and more. If you’re using WriteShop Junior Book D or Book E, this is a fabulous way to keep everything you need at the ready.

This portable writing center from Spell Outloud is one of many homeschool writing center ideas from Pinterest

Spell Outloud

3. Writing Center for Primary Ages

Here are tons of ideas that especially cater to young writers in kindergarten to third grade. You’ll find storage solutions of all kinds along with ideas for stocking your writing center with brainstorming and writing supplies, reference books, and creative publishing tools.

Ideas for primary kids' writing spaces - just one of many ways homeschool writing centers from Pinterest

In Our Write Minds

4. High School Writing Center

When your kids enter high school, they’ll trade fancy paper and markers for slightly more sophisticated writing tools. Here’s a list of supplies you may want to consider for your teen’s writing center.

This high school writing center from Following in HIs Steps is one of many homeschool writing center ideas from Pinterest

Following in His Footsteps

5. Writing Nook

A tabletop (or similar surface) paired with rolling storage work together to create a writing, notebooking, and lapbooking center. This one is part of a larger schoolroom that took over the family dining room, but it can also find a home in any available corner of your home.

This writing center from Home Schoolroom is one of many homeschool writing center ideas from Pinterest

Home Schoolroom

6. Mobile or Dedicated Writing Center Ideas

If you’re not sure what sort of writing center will work for you, check out this post. You’ll find suggestions for establishing and stocking both permanent and portable centers, along with ideas for younger children and teens.

Different ideas for creating both portable and permanent homeschool writing centers

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

SPECIALTY WRITING CENTERS

You might want to create a specialty writing center! Whether it’s a little cubby for your preschooler’s writing supplies, a super-portable tin or box that takes up no room at all, or a temporary writing center devoted to a special area of study, one of these ideas may be just the ticket.

1. Mini Writing Center in a Box

Fill a tin or small box with paper, stationery, envelopes, stickers, and writing tools that your younger children can call their own, such as this one:

This portable writing center from Adventures in Mommydom is one of many homeschool writing center ideas from Pinterest

Adventures in Mommydom

2. Subject-Specific Writing Station

Here’s a brilliant idea! Create a temporary writing center dedicated to a topic you’re going to be studying for several weeks or a month. This birds writing station invites children to explore and write about birds. It includes writing prompt cards, bird fact cards, bird booklets, and bird-themed lined paper. You could make similar writing stations devoted to sharks, flowers, Japan—whatever! What are you studying about? The possibilities are endless.

Birds Writing Center from Spell Outloud - one of many homeschool writing center ideas from Pinterest

Spell Outloud

3. Portable LEGO Story Folder

Do you have a LEGO lover? Boys can be prone to reluctance when it comes to writing, but this LEGO-themed writing folder may turn his crank! It may not be a traditional “writing center,” but because it’s slim and portable, he can take elements for his stories wherever he goes! As an added bonus, you’ll find printable LEGO story pages here too.

This LEGO story folder from Homegrown Learners is one of many homeschool writing center ideas from Pinterest

Home Grown Learners

More ideas

Do you use a dedicated writing center in your homeschool? Linking up to the 2014 “Not” Back-to-School Blog Hop.

Permission obtained from original sources to use each of the above photos.

So you feel like a failure? Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

If you feel like a homeschooling failure, remember that the spiritual battle is already won!

By Daniella Dautrich

This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.

HOW often we try to measure our homeschooling success by home organization, our outward appearance, or our children’s approval. In truth, the victory that matters is in our hearts, hidden with Christ Jesus.

C.S. Lewis reminded believers that “we battle not against flesh and blood” in his classic The Screwtape Letters. Inspired by his writings, we offer this, the third in a series of Screwtape Letters for the Homeschool Mom. May you be encouraged and blessed on your homeschool journey!

My dear Wormwood,

I was delighted to hear that your patient renewed some desirable acquaintances over the Christmas holidays. Her second cousins are just the sort of people we want her to know—rich, superficial, and skeptical of anything they cannot see with their own eyes. Encourage her to care about what these relatives think. Even if spotless houses and $150 jeans and private schools are not important to her, shame her into hiding her real thoughts and personality.

Has she entered the January doldrums, now that Christmas joy is past? Does she move through the house slowly, in a dull, despondent mood? We must take advantage of the situation. Lose no time making her believe that she is a failure who ought to quit homeschooling altogether.

The Prison of the Senses

Imprison the patient’s mind in the world of the five senses. Let her see her house for what it really is: a dining room table covered with crumbs and playdough, a china cabinet overflowing with bills, and a yard that looks nothing like the tidy school playground down the street.

Take her upstairs, and let her count more children than bedrooms. Let her hear a baby crying; make her watch a preschooler litter the floor with toys and clothes. Whisper to her that it’s her own fault: she never earned a teaching credential or degree in child-rearing. What right has she to trust her own abilities?

Perhaps she feels like giving up now. Perhaps she still hopes to understand and control the situation. In either case, your task is to keep her thoughts and activities in the physical realm. By all possible means, distract her from all invisible aid, and keep her ignorant of the spiritual root of her problems.

Dark Clouds of Guilt

By now, she has probably made a lavishly long list of confident resolutions, of promises to the Enemy and to herself. Encourage this promise-making (for of course she cannot keep them!). When she realizes her failure, overwhelm her with guilt. Let the guilt drive her to more and more busyness.

Guilt is a desirable state, because it may lead the patient to neglect her marriage, her sleep, and even her sanity. Most importantly, a cloud of guilt will make her dread her prayers. Soon, she may open her arms to you, begging for any small distraction to postpone the awful duty of prayer.

Paralyzing Fear

Has the mother allowed you to creep into her thought life with visions of fear? Press your advantage, and remember that gratitude looks to the past and love to the present—but fear looks to the future.

The stronghold of fear is paralyzing. She will never be able to clean her house and purge things, in fear that she may need the stuff in the future. She will be unable to discipline her children during the school day, in fear that they will hate her in the future.

Remember, the Enemy wants her to live in the present: loving her children, keeping them safe, meeting their needs, and training their hearts. We want her to be hag-ridden by the future: haunted by visions of angry, illiterate creatures that she failed to properly raise and educate.

Disguise the Troughs

Continually plant and water the idea that her life is an endless uphill battle. Don’t let her expose herself to the Enemy’s mantra that “the battle is already won.”

You see, Wormwood, as distasteful as it seems to us, the Enemy really does love them. We want to feed upon and consume homeschooling mothers, when He wants to give of Himself and fill them up. He allows them to experience spiritual troughs and peaks, because the troughs help them become the creatures He wants them to be. If they will only attempt to walk through the dark valleys, He is pleased—even with their stumbles.

Do not let your patient suspect any of this. Convince her that the trough is permanent, that Heaven is silent, and that her stumbles can never be wiped clean or forgotten.

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE

Related Posts

Photo: edillalo, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom @writeshop

By Daniella Dautrich

YOUR calling as a homeschooling mom flows out of your calling to live a life hidden in Christ Jesus (Colossians 3:3). If you experience homeschool doubts at some point this school year, don’t try to overcome them on your own strength, feelings, or goodness. Recognize the spiritual battle that is being waged for your child’s soul, get on your knees, and pray!

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis wrote about our sometimes-invisible but ever-present struggle in his classic The Screwtape Letters. Thirty-one fictional letters from the elder demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood describe the process of tempting human “patients” and foiling their efforts to live the Christian life.

If you are unfamiliar with this literary gem, find a copy and read it for yourself! Until then, enjoy this modern-day “Screwtape Letter” for the homeschool mom, adapted from the second, third, and fourth letters in Lewis’s book.

I leave you with Lewis’s own caution from his preface:

“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”

My dear Wormwood,

I see with great displeasure that your patient has become a homeschooler. There is no need to despair; hundreds of these well-meaning mothers have been recovered after just a few months of school. Meanwhile, we must make the best of the situation.

Our greatest ally at the present moment is the homeschooled child itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the high-achieving youngsters your patient reads about in magazines, or the eager, tidy, and respectful children raised by her veteran homeschool friends. 

I mean her real child, that stubborn and noisy human being who worries and interrupts his mother at every waking hour. When your patient corrects a lesson, she finds deliciously scribbled and misspelled words. When she begins to teach, the child cries and argues. Take advantage of this by leaning heavily on those foolish mistakes and childish tears.  

Bait Her with Perfection

At this stage, you see, your patient holds to an ideal of “homeschooling” that she believes to be practical but which, in fact, is merely a fabrication. Look no further than Pinterest if you have any doubts on this useful subject of comparison traps.

I get positively giddy when other homeschool moms make her feel badThe patient’s mind entertains visions of a violin prodigy, picture-perfect schoolroom, and future college scholarships. The fact that her awkward, left-handed child can’t read or write yet is a real—though not verbally acknowledged—difficulty to her.

Here lies our opportunity. Work hard on the cloud of disappointment which will certainly descend on your patient. This anticlimax will fuel her homeschool doubts.

Keep Her Mind on Academics

Always keep the patient’s mind on her flashcards and worksheets. Remind her to dwell on multiplication tables and spelling tests. She thinks homeschooling is something “academic,” and her attention is therefore focused on lesson plans and physical curriculum. (If the textbooks were expensive, so much the better.)

Keep her mind off the most elementary teaching tools—conversation and parent modeling—and direct her mind to the more prestigious academic duties of the homeschool mother. Fill her day with such busyness that there is no time to reflect on the Enemy. If home life becomes strained, let her think that her talents are unappreciated and could be put to more profitable use elsewhere.

Distract and Mislead Her

Do not forget that the best thing, whenever possible, is to keep the patient from serious prayer. Whenever she listens to the Enemy Himself, we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing this. Simply turn her gaze away from Him towards herself.

When she kneels to pray for wisdom or gentleness, let her really try to reassure herself that she is wise compared to other parents, and far more gentle than her misbehaving child deserves.

Train her to estimate the value of a prayer by its success in producing these desired feelings. By no means let her suspect that this kind of success will often depend on whether she is well or ill, fresh or tired, at that particular moment. This is where you want her.

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE

Related Post - You Can’t Write: Screwtape Letter for the Homeschool Mom

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This post contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy.

Photo: Ian.Kobylanski, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Homeschooling, copyright, and consumable workbooks

homeschool copyright, copyright, consumable workbooks, worksheets, legal, frugal, photocopy

IT’S NOT easy navigating the muddy waters of copyright. For instance:

  • When is it legal to photocopy a workbook?
  • Is it okay to use an acetate overlay in order to keep workbook pages pristine?
  • Can I resell a workbook that my child used but didn’t actually write in?

Last fall, Practical Homeschooling magazine published a piece I wrote: When Frugal is Illegal. Recently, they added the article to their website, and it has created a flurry of controversy!

When Frugal Is Illegal: Avoiding the Copyright Trap

As a whole, homeschoolers are a thrifty bunch. Feeding, clothing, and educating a family—usually on one income—presents challenges, and prudent moms are always searching for ways to save.

To cut curriculum costs, homeschoolers share e-books, scour used curriculum sales, or copy fill-in-the-blank workbooks. Confused by copyrights, they’re often unaware that some of these activities are legal . . . and some are not.

The Issue of Ownership

In our world, the concept of ownership goes something like this: I bought it. It’s mine. Therefore, I can use it any way I want. However, there are laws that supersede personal ownership. For example:

  • It’s illegal to park next to a fire hydrant even when you own the car.
  • Though you’re the owner, your homeowner’s association can forbid you to paint your house blue.

We understand these laws. We may not like them, but we typically obey. Why, then, is it so hard to wrap our heads around copyright?

Maybe because we’re dealing with something intangible: creations of the mind known as intellectual property . . .

(Take the copyright quiz and read the complete article here.)

Let’s talk! Do you tend to respect or ignore copyrights?

I realize copyright is one of those hot-button topics that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers and stir up some passion. So please, let’s keep the discussion civil.

Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

3 ways to spice up post-field trip assignments

Field Trips, Word Banks, Writing StoriesSPRING is just around the corner, and with it the joy of finally stepping outside for hands-on learning. Like many moms, you probably look forward to a new season of field trips. But if you always assign the five paragraph “What I Learned on my Field Trip” report the moment your family returns home, your kids may not quite share your excitement.

If you already use a writing program, an extra report can be overwhelming to an elementary child. Reports can also frustrate a student who spent so much time enjoying her outing that she forgot to take notes. Why not follow up your field trip with a writing activity that appeals to your squirmy son, imaginative daughter, or inquisitive preteen?

Make a Word Bank 

After a fun but tiring excursion and a long drive home, your child might be overwhelmed at the thought of writing a report the next day. He can easily show some of the things he learned simply by making lists or word banks!

First, encourage your child to think of one or two things that stood out to him. Was your third grader especially fascinated by the jellyfish at the aquarium? Help him make a list of adjectives, nouns, and verbs that remind him of this awesome creature. Perhaps you’ll want to do this together (out loud at the dinner table?). Or, set your kids loose in the backyard with sidewalk chalk, and take a picture of the word lists they create.

Field Trip, Word Bank

Example: Jellyfish

graceful, terrifying

umbrella, tentacles

sting, drifting

saltwater, ocean

Write a Story

Perhaps your book-loving daughter has just waltzed through the halls of a Victorian home or romped through the fields and cabins of a living history farm. She’s already aglow with dreams of adventure in other times and places. Why not encourage her to write a short story inspired by her day?

Structure the assignment to keep it manageable. Ask her to introduce the main character and the character’s main problem in the first paragraph. The middle paragraphs should show the character attempting to fix the problem. The final paragraph should provide some kind of resolution or closure.

The story might follow a wealthy man attempting to send an urgent message in the days before telephones. Or, it might revolve around a farm girl who wants to make her mother a present for Christmas. Whatever the story, make sure your child includes historical details learned on the field trip, such as the clothing, inventions, or entertainment of the time.

Super Sleuth Research

Field Trips, Word Banks, Writing Stories

If your student displays a scientific bent, a trip to the science museum is merely the first step in feeding his ever-growing curiosity. Instead of asking him to rehash what he just learned in a post-field trip report, consider assigning a series of questions and answers—all prepared by the student himself, of course.

Begin by asking him to write one, two, or three genuine questions based on his new knowledge. Which exhibit in the museum left him wanting to know more? Which train of thought did the docent leave unexplored? Questions should focus on hows and whys that require explanation, rather than simple when or where questions that can be answered with a single phrase. For example: Why had no one invented a practical light bulb before Thomas Edison? How do scientists agree on carbon dating?

After you approve the questions, set your student free to conduct research. Then, ask him to write one (or all) of his answers in paragraph form. When finished, have him check his own work for organization, clarity, and proper grammar!

*  *  *

Your home may be the training ground for budding artists, novelists, and scientists alike. By combining the hands-on learning of field trips with customized follow-up assignments, you are teaching your kids that writing is not only relevant, but fun!

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

Photos: F. Delventhal, NBphotostream, and Stevan Sheets, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Writing ideas for the unstructured homeschool classroom

profondeur des champs / depth of fields

WHENEVER I talk to parents who homeschool, I’m surprised at how many still treat the experience as if their children were in a traditional, structured classroom.

As a homeschooled child myself, I remember my folks being pretty adamant about making the process one of fairly unstructured personal and academic discovery. In terms of writing, my mother took full advantage of the fact that we didn’t have to be glued to our desks while attending class!

No matter your homeschool style, try these four dynamic writing prompts to inspire your kids as they learn the basics of writing and expressing themselves in a perhaps less-than-traditional way:

Have your child pretend she’s a reporter by interviewing people in the community.

It’s important for children to learn early on that the process of writing is deeply connected not just with their own thoughts, but with the opinions of other people. The best way to learn this is by talking to others about a specific topic or issue.

For example, ask your students to interview older neighbors about what life was like when they were children, or talk with a community worker about his or her job, and them compile these interviews into an article, story, or essay.

Go on an outdoor adventure, and then have children write a descriptive essay about what they saw and felt.

Inexperienced writers can forget to include descriptions of scene and setting in their work, often because they’re stuck indoors where they must rely on their own imagination.

To ameliorate this problem, consider taking them to a local park, zoo, or wildlife sanctuary. Have them take notes about their surroundings, and then later write a short essay or story containing details about what they saw, smell, heard, and felt.

Allow kids to choose their own books and write reports or reviews about them.

Too often, kids become disenchanted with writing because they can’t really pick what they’d like to write about. The same goes for reading. While most standard reading curricula are well intentioned, they can’t account for young readers’ diverse tastes.

Qiqi EGR Public Library December 31, 20097Put the ball in their court by encouraging them to pick their own books and write summaries, reviews, or book reports about their selections. If a particular child needs boundaries, you might give him three books from which to choose the one he wants.

Invite children to write a short play and perform it together.

Whether they’re young or old, it can be very difficult for writers to master an ear for spoken language. To improve this specific skill in a fun way, have your kids write and act out a short, five- or ten-minute play.

When they can hear out loud what they’ve written on paper, they start to understand how to make their writing sound more natural and conversational. It’s a great way to improve your students’ speaking abilities as well.

When you aren’t stuck in a traditional classroom, the sky is the limit as far as learning goes. Take advantage of the opportunities afforded by homeschooling, and think of as many different, off-the-beaten-path learning methods as you can!

This guest post is contributed by Barbara Jolie, who enjoys writing about trends in the academic world. Even when she’s not blogging, Barbara is always contemplating and considering issues concerning education and modern society. You can reach her at barbara.jolie876@gmail.com.

Photos: Olivier Bacquet and Steven Depolo, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Of homeschool blogs and conferences

When I was a young homeschool mom (back in the days of dinosaurs, and just before the Model T and home computers), I had limited sources for support and resources:

  1. A close-knit circle of homeschooling friends
  2. My homeschool support group
  3. Our annual homeschool convention
  4. A small handful of local curriculum stores and catalog companies
  5. The public library

Today’s homeschoolers have so much more at their disposal! With the advent of the Internet, the world has become a smaller place. Now, with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger, homeschool moms can access articles, experts, discussion forums, online stores, virtual conventions, product reviews, e-books, apps, and printable downloads.

And blogs. Blog upon wonderful blog.

There’s really nothing quite like the homeschool blogging community, “which puts so much inspiration and so many great ideas right at your fingertips, without ever leaving the comfort of your home.” ~Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

The homeschool-mom blogosphere has exploded.

2:1 Conference ButtonNot only are there tons of amazing blogs, both established and emerging, there are now blogging conferences such as Relevant and the 2:1 Conference.

These conferences refresh, inspire, challenge, and equip women to become more successful bloggers as they tell their stories and share their journeys, lives, and faith.

Though next month marks the 4th anniversary of my own blog—In Our Write Minds, I’m excited to dip my toes in some new water as WriteShop helps sponsor three sweet bloggers who will be attending the 2:1 Conference in April.

Want to meet them?

Maureen of Spell Outloud homeschools her six children. I love her blog! It’s loaded with ideas and projects, free printables, helpful articles, loads of activities for preschoolers, and curriculum reviews and giveaways.

Bowmania

 

Stephanie blogs at Bowmania. She’s mama to five kiddos, including a new baby. She blogs about family, homeschooling, and life in the trenches (her family lost their house to a fire last year). Stephanie also does book reviews and giveaways.

Wonderfully Chaotic

You’ll find Shay blogging at Wonderfully Chaotic. A mom of two with diverse talents and interests that range from homeschooling to home birthing, Shay writes with refreshing honesty.

Please visit their blogs! I pray that the 2:1 Conference meets each of these women in a specific and fresh way. I’m excited to watch them continue to grow as writers, and I know I’ll learn a thing or two from them as well.

~Kim

4 ways to promote reading at home

Mariana Ashley joins me today as a guest blogger here at In Our Write Minds. 

books, Homeschooling, readingHaving homeschooled from age seven until about fifteen, I can say without reservation that the most important thing I gained during my homeschooling years was a love of reading. And I’m convinced that had I not been homeschooled, I would not possess the enthusiasm for reading that I have now.

Here are some tips based on my personal experiences reading at home:

1. Create a book culture at home.

You’ve heard the age-old saying “charity begins at home”? Actually, any life-long habit is always first established among your closest kin—the people you live and learn with every single day. As such, if you want your children to learn to love reading, they will have to see you reading often, too.

If you have a book collection in storage, take everything out and display your books properly. This sends a message that books are valuable and worthwhile! And when children are surrounded by books, you increase the chances that they’ll want to eventually read them.

2. Start by suggesting books based on movies.

I know, I know. The book is always better. But if your child is already familiar with a character or plot after having seen the movie, her interest will be more greatly piqued. This is especially helpful for children who find reading boring or whose attention span is so short they have trouble getting through a book.

3. Make oral reading a tradition in your household.

For many families, story time ends when children reach age five or six; when they don’t have trouble falling asleep anymore; or when other forms of technology begin to entertain them. First, don’t stop reading aloud! That rich bonding time continues to send the message that reading—in all its forms—is held in high esteem in your home. Keeping that oral tradition alive is also important for further developing reading, writing, and comprehension skills.

And don’t forget to include other oral activities. When I was homeschooled, my parents had us memorize poems and short prose pieces, which we’d recite out loud. This is a great tool for helping young children acquire an ear for good writing, and it gives students of all ages a chance to “marinate” in passages of great literature and poetry.

4. Turn it into a game.

Many schools offer reading incentive programs or competitions in which children earn “points” for reading books. You can set up a similar game yourself. For example, my parents assigned points based on book length. Books that were longer or of greater difficulty earned us more points. Whoever had the most points at the end of the month got to spend a day out with mom and dad for pizza and ice cream. Even better, why not set a “points goal” based on age and reading ability? This way, every child who reaches her personal goal can earn the special treat.

Picking up good reading habits can help your child in other ways too. For example, the verbal section on the SAT was so much easier for me because I’d been an avid reader since I was seven. Reading also helps lengthen attention span and generally improves cognitive skills. Reading and writing often go hand-in-hand, and while reading alone won’t turn your kid into the perfect writer, it will surely go far.

Lesson learned: Never underestimate the power of a good book.

Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.

Photo: David Sifry, courtesy of Creative Commons.

. . . . .

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Should outside classes be part of your homeschool?

Should you enroll your homeschool students in outside classes or co-ops?

I was a hands-on homeschooler. I loved lesson-planning, teaching, and learning alongside my kids. But now and then, and for various reasons, we participated in outside classes.

Often, I was the one who gathered a group of children and taught a four-week art class, a semester of California history, or a year of writing. For several years, we were active in a KONOS co-op. And when my children were in high school, they took an occasional course in biology or chemistry or speech.

True Homeschooling?

I know the value of teaching my children at home. I also appreciate the fresh perspective they gained from experts in various subjects. But I never lost sight of the fact that we were homeschooling, which for the most part meant—and here’s the shocker!—schooling at home.

Don’t get me wrong—co-ops and other classes certainly have their place. But here’s the caveat: They should not become a substitute for teaching one’s own children, nor do they give parents permission to abdicate their role as primary teacher.

Ab·di·cate v. 1.  to relinquish or hand over responsibility.  2. to give up duties.

—Synonyms
1. resign, quit, bail out. 2.  abandon. 3. step down.

Used as a helpful tool, outside courses can be an excellent supplement to your home teaching. However, when one class becomes three, and you’re spending more time in the car than at the schoolroom table, it could be time to question whether you’re actually homeschooling at all.

Falling into the Trap

You are still the primary teacher and the one responsible to oversee the work, so even if your children are taking outside classes, you must know what’s being taught. Believe me, I know it can be a relief to have someone else take over a subject you struggle with, but it’s not the tutor’s or teacher’s job to homeschool your kids; she’s simply in your service.

As a homeschooler, your mantra should always be: I am the parent. I am the primary teacher. But when someone else is instructing your children and assigning homework, projects, or tests, it’s easy to kick back and think: 

  • Ahhhh…I finally get a break. It’s OK to enjoy the time they’re in class, but you’re still the primary teacher.
  • That’s one less subject for me to teach. Someone else may be presenting the material and giving assignments, but you’re still the primary teacher.
  • Julie learns better from other people. Some kids do take direction better from others, but don’t excuse your kids. If they won’t listen to you, it’s not an academic concern, but a character issue. Take the opportunity to work on obedience, respect, teachability, or cooperation. Remember: You’re still the parent AND the primary teacher.
  • Johnny needs to learn to take responsibility for his own assignments. This is true. But whether he succeeds or fails, he must do it under your supervision. You can set schedules and oversee his work, but if he waits till the last minute to write a paper for his class, it doesn’t mean you need to stay up with him till 2 a.m. to finish it. If he gets a poor grade, let it be because you allowed the consequence, not because you were clueless that he was behind. After all, you’re still the parent and the primary teacher.

Availing Yourself of Opportunities

Again, there is nothing wrong with outside classes, so once you accept and embrace your role as primary teacher, you can begin to look around at the many opportunities that exist, including:

  • Homeschool co-ops and classes that teach literature, science, writing, etc.
  • Private tutoring or lessons in art, music, carpentry, etc.
  • Online courses for homeschoolers such as Torrey Academy.
  • Community college for age 16+.

Putting your homeschool students in outside classes can stretch and enrich them, especially when the subject matter is completely foreign to you. Outsourcing:

  • Is ideal when you know you’re weak in a subject.
  • Provides opportunity for group interaction, such as a drama workshop or a speech and debate class.
  • Helps students learn to take instruction from others.

But when choosing an outside course for one or more of your kids, it’s also wise to remember that it shouldn’t become:

  • A substitute for homeschooling.
  • An excuse to get your kids out of the house (or your hair).
  • A purely social experience.
  • The answer to your insecurities about homeschooling.

Keys to Successful Outsourcing

Having made the decision to enroll a student in an outside class, how can you make it work with homeschooling?

  • Meet the teacher and stay in touch. (You’d be appalled at how many parents NEVER ONCE stepped into my home to meet me face-to-face during an entire year of teaching their kids.)
  • Study the syllabus to understand course expectations.
  • Become familiar with requirements and assignments.
  • Plug assigned reading, writing, and studying into your master homeschool lesson plan book.
  • Go over weekly assignment sheets and other materials the teacher sends home.
  • Discuss assignments with your children.
  • Supervise their writing or other work and help as needed.
  • Give feedback.

As with any curriculum you employ in your homeschooling, outside courses are simply tools you work with to enrich and strengthen your children’s academic foundation. Used judiciously, they can expose kids to new experiences and challenge them academically. But remembering that you’re the parent and primary teacher-–and taking appropriate responsibility as such—will ensure that you’re still on top of things, even if someone else is teaching.

Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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Photo: Vancouver Film School, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Intro to editing and evaluating writing

Ways to give your kids writing feedback, plus tips to help you overcome insecurity and doubt about editing and evaluating their writing lessons.

Grading and commenting on your kids’ writing is one of the most valuable elements of writing instruction. But it also gives the most grief to parents, who often feel unqualified to identify and evaluate written strengths and weaknesses.

Seeds of Doubt

A host of “ins” and “uns” seems to attack parents when it comes to writing, making us doubt our ability to edit and grade objectively. With regard to teaching or evaluating writing, do you ever use any of these words to describe yourself?

  • Insecure
  • Uncertain
  • Incompetent
  • Unsure
  • Inadequate
  • Unequipped

Many of us wear these monikers like millstones around our necks, allowing the weight of our insecurities to immobilize us. At worst, teaching and grading writing don’t happen at all, or at best we’re sporadic, leaving Mom feeling guilty and our children awash in frustration.

It’s not that we don’t think it’s important to give our children input. But don’t we all have excuses?

  • I’m afraid I’ll be too hard on my child.
  • I don’t know how to grade a paper—there’s too much guesswork.
  • What do I know about writing? I’m just a math-science person.

And heaven forbid Mom should set aside her worries and actually make a comment. The smallest hint of suggestion from you and the drama begins.

  • But I like it this way!
  • You’re always so critical.
  • You never like anything I write!

Myths about parent editing

As a parent, perhaps you simply don’t know how to give objective input. So either you don’t give feedback at all—and therefore see no improvement—or you offer suggestions that make your child feel picked on or rejected. To help you renew your perspective, let’s look at three myths about parent editing.

Myth #1 – Editing and grading writing are too subjective.

  • Fact: Learning to edit is a process for both student and parent.
  • Fact: Many aspects of a composition CAN be evaluated objectively.

Myth #2 – It’s too difficult to edit and grade writing.

  • Fact: The more you edit and revise, the easier it will become.
  • Fact: Familiarity produces recognition—you will catch on!
  • Fact: There are tools (rubrics and checklists) to help you.
  • Fact: You don’t have to find every mistake. Even addressing just a few errors can help your child’s writing begin to change course.

Myth #3 – Editing and grading writing is for professionals.

  • Fact: Many parents cannot find mistakes in their children’s writing—but you can improve your skills! If you feel weak in a particular area such as grammar or spelling, take a “crash course” to refresh yourself. Buy a second student workbook and study the subject alongside your kids.  Or, consider a resource like The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation to help you brush up on key rules.
  • Fact: You CAN learn to edit and grade. Programs like WriteShop Primary, WriteShop Junior, and WriteShop I are good examples of homeschooling products that guide and direct parents through the writing and editing process.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll not only gain tips and tools to make editing and grading easier for you, you’ll also learn ways to help your children participate in the process through self-editing and revising.

We’ll start next week with tips for Editing and Evaluating Writing: Grades K-3.

I also know that parents tend to panic more as junior high and high school draw near. So if you have older kids, you’ll be happy to know I’ve got you covered as well. Stay tuned!

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
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