Friday, October 4, 2013

Why Homeschoolers should care about Common Core

I will admit that, until a month ago, Common Core was just a sticker on our math workbooks.  I rolled my eyes at it - true- but I ignored it.  After all: I teach math the way I was taught, and these books give me the examples for my kids to work.  Why do I care what the (admittedly brief) explanations at the top of each page say?

A friend was kind enough to explain to me that there is FAR MORE to this issue than just more sad educational pedagogies.  And I started my research.

The results are awful, and impact ALL of us.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

How I teach science (or: How I really screw up when I teach it)

I won't lie to you. I teach science in the most horrible, convoluted way. I overload my kids- taking 37 years of knowledge on a topic, and raining it down on them in 30 minute segments. I use multimedia (documentaries, short video clips, or slideshows I've created). I am excited about the topic, I talk breathlessly.
Wikipedia image by Misc. CC BY SA 2.0
Oh, I'm not ALWAYS that bad. Occasionally I download a 'grade appropriate' topic or unit from somewhere. These are... slips, though. I rely on them when the topic is a bit too simplistic and I can't think of anything overly exciting to add to what's already out there. So what effect does this... total immersion in a topic have on my kids, you might be wondering? And how does that compare against my 'slip-ups' when I rely on much more age-appropriate material?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Let The Munchkins Lead!

Wikimedia by Scott Smith.  Public Domain.

Last year, the 2012-2013 school year, was an awful year for us.

We had a major change mid year (and to allay fears, no it WASN'T a tornado), and I have to admit that our 'strict' homeschooling came to a screeching halt.  It was my fault: I wasn't doing very well because of the change, and I had an incredibly hard time devising plans and carrying them out.  The little battles with our homeschool- the kid who really doesn't like to apply himself, no matter how bright he is, the child who loves to talk when she should be working- were just too exhausting for me to handle in a manner that my children deserve.  By spring, I felt like a complete failure.  Less than half of what I wanted to get done actually got there, two-day assignments stretched into a week and, sometimes, two. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Diatoms and Street Signs

All rights reserved on this image
Yesterday we went to the beach.  I was under orders NOT to make it educational.  My son thought it was going to be a 'field trip' in the school sense, and therefore did not even want to go, despite the fact that we were taking my mother, neice, and nephew.

At the end of the day, he apparently gives me a C- for the non-educational quality of the trip.  And that's with me trying (really) NOT to teach anything.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Meat: Remediating a 'Good' Reader

Words from the
fourth grade
dolch word list

In my last post I promised to tell you how we remediated our son's reading, but first I think an explanation of 'remediating' is in order.  In this case, it means teaching him skills I felt he already should have known.  These skills were taught as though it was the first time through- expectations for progress were put completely on hold until he completed the program. 

Unlike our daughter, our son was a public schooled student from K through part of 3rd grade, so he had plenty of time to learn their methods.  With the exception of really horrible handwriting, he was an A student through the school system.  It came as quite a shock when he came home and I realized how many pieces were missing from his education.  Both he and I were incredibly frustrated by what seems like a waste of his time in the public school system.  Your experience may be different.

With regard to reading, the issues were varied and seemed unconnected at first: he could read above grade level, but he hated it with a passion and would cry when asked.  His comprehension with fiction was incredibly poor (an example: after reading a sentence like this, "The girl in the red bathing suit went to the pool.", he would get caught up in the color of the bathing suit and forget the rest of the sentence.), although it seemed decent with non-fiction.  He would replace words while reading (saying "hopping" instead of "hoping") and changing the entire context of what he was reading.  He hated recounting stories of any sort because he couldn't remember what he had read, even if he had just read it, and even if the reading assignment was short.

The Meat: Teaching Reading

Today I thought I would change it up a bit and talk about one of the issues we faced as homeschoolers.  Reading has been one of our biggest challenges- not because it has been difficult for the kids to learn, but simply because it is one of the most important skills we need.  I am not content to have kids with an acceptable level of reading skill, I really want my kids to read easily, understand well, and find reading enjoyable. 

For my daughter, reading was a struggle.  Our local public school did some form of teaching involving whole language, but the real translation was this: if you can't learn with sight words, you'll never learn phonics (kids are expected to pick up phonics on their own).  Our daughter was a sight-words failure.

I began working with my daughter before we became homeschoolers, in the spring of her Kindergarten year (when I became aware of the problem).  You might think we were missing the boat here, but truthfully I didn't realize she was repeating the sent-home readers by memory.  I assumed incorrectly that she was reading.  However, after the teacher communicated her concerns to me, I began a 'test' of sorts, and the horrid truth came out: my daughter did not know all her letter sounds.  She did not know to read words from left to right (therefore confusing 'of' and 'for', and similar words, constantly).  She did not have any idea how to sound out words.