i homeschool so they can grow-min

Free Poetry Unit for Elementary Students

Poetry is often underappreciated but its compelling brevity is exactly why it is perfect for teaching common literary devices to young children.

free poetry unit

I have been teaching my own children about poetry with these lessons for several years and have even taught it at our homeschool co-op. I enjoy it because the lessons are engaging and active and only require students to sit still in short bursts. It introduces poetry from several well-known authors like Emily Dickenson, Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Frost. Children go outside, blow bubbles, imagine themselves as a stegosaurus. In other words, they simply play with a litte bit of purpose. Then they come back to share their discoveries while you write down their ideas, help them organize it and add a line yourself to help tie their masterpiece together.

And what poetry unit is complete without a poetry journal? I make these beautiful journals with scraps of scrapbooking paper for all of my poetry students, whether or not they are related to me. In class, I print off the definitions and previous week’s poem for them to glue in while they provide illustrations. For my own children, I just take the dictation directly into their journal unless they are old enough to copy it themselves (or write their own poetry while the younger ones work with me!) The book drill she is using is tres cool (Grace is the reason I bought one myself and love it) but you can also use a simple hole punch and a wider yarn or ribbon.

You can see most of a sample lesson I shared earlier this year in my post, Bringing Beauty Into Your Home Through Poetry. And if you would like all twelve lessons, simply subscribe to our mailing list! You can choose to receive our weekly newsletter or to only be notified when special offers like these are available. (If you are already a subscriber, a link will be going out in the newsletter today. If you don’t see it, contact me.)

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i homeschool so they can grow-min

I homeschool so they can fail

Yes, I want my children to be able to fail.

fail-min

If you’ve ever watched gymnasts train, especially young gymnasts, you might have noticed the foam pit at the end of a long track. This pit is not just for safety. Sure, it ensures a soft landing so that no matter how the gymnast crashes to the ground, she is unlikely to be hurt. But it is there for another purpose as well. When they are starting out, young gymnasts will practice falling backward into the pit. It’s like a trust fall, but with no one to catch you. Because you have to lose your fear of falling backward before you can leap, twisting and turning, into the air.

I think life is the same way. To be successful, you have to be willing to fail. You have to trust that you can hop back up, dust yourself off and get back on the mat.

Embracing failure isn’t just about perserverance and pushing through the let-downs.

It isn’t just about the lessons learned through failure, which often are more valuable long term than our successes.

It is about losing the fear of failing so that we go out and try something new. Something outside our comfort zones. Something with risk attached.

The fear of failure is probably the strongest force holding people back from their potential. It’s not talent, or ambition, or ideas that stops budding entrepreneurs. It’s fear that can stop people dead in their tracks. And it’s stopped countless great businesses before they even begin. ~Business Insider

So when my children come up with crazy ideas, I try not to give them too much of my seasoned advice (even if it obviously isn’t going to work). When they fail, I tell them stories about my failures.

Like when I froze in the final round of a national speech competition and couldn’t think of one thing to say on the topic. I stood there silently for three whole minutes. And I didn’t derive any great lessons out of that. In fact, it made it impossible for me to compete in impromptu speaking the following season because I was so afraid of repeating that performance that I froze Every. Single. Time.

But you know what? My life didn’t end. Now it is just a funny story. And if you think about it, all the best stories involve our failures. When people share their failures, it makes us laugh and share our own stories. We admire success, but we connect with failure. Partly, I think, because we are afraid of it.

And I don’t want my children to be afraid of it. At least not so much that they never risk anything for their passions. I want them to step outside themselves and know that all those failures represent dreams they reached for.

So I try to create an environment like that foam pit above, where they learn to let go of some of that fear of failure so they can begin to learn to soar.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure

(Image used via creative commons license. Original may be found here.)

i homeschool so they can grow-min

I Homeschool Because Every Day Is Worth It

I homeschool because every day is worth it.

reasons to homeschoolThe good ones.

The bad ones.

The in between ones.

When they cry out, “NO!” in unison because I close the read aloud and they want to know what happens next.

When I recommend a book I loved as a child and they devour it and ask for more.

The days when they are grouchy and overtired and fighting me every step of the way.

When they seem to have forgotten every thing they’ve learned.

When their eyes light up and they become inspired to read or write or learn just a little more.

When they create an intricate map of an imaginary world for a story they are writing.

When they tear apart the house, forget where the laundry goes, leave dishes wherever they happened to be.

When they fight and fuss and whine.

When one thing after another goes wrong and the day is derailed.

When I see their passion and that focused energy that means their entire mind and body is set on a single goal.

When they make me a cup of luke warm coffee that is too strong and has too much sugar, but still I drink it and enjoy if, if only for their proud smiles.

Every day is worth it because every day we are learning, laughing and loving. Every day is worth it because every day we are together.

This is part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge, where I am sharing some homeschool encouragement, from A to Z! Check out what I’ve written so far!

A is for Adventure
B is for Boredom
C is for Christ
D is for Daydreaming
E is for Every day
F is for Failure

i homeschool so they can grow-min

The Choices in Education Act: Why Not Just Reject the Money?

Last week, I wrote about why I object to the Choices in Education Act as it is currently written. Commenter Katie asked,

“Would homeschoolers be required to use the vouchers? Or could they just opt out altogether and not accept any money whatsoever to offset their costs of education . . . ?”

choices in education act

It’s a good question. Why not just reject the money?

First, the law requires a reporting sytem that does not currently exist. Eleven states do not require any reporting at all. Homeschoolers who have worked to maintain their freedom from any state control will have this taken away in one stroke. The relationships they have built with their state legislatures and with their state homeschooling groups will not matter. Their state education agencies’ hands will be tied by federal law.

And no state currently has to report information to the federal government about homeschoolers. The US Department of Education is hungry for data on students. The system they are putting in place is wide reaching, including the basic demographic information you would expect on any government form as well as things like political affiliation, problems at home and affective and behavioral components that may be gathered by teachers or directly through the sensors in computer-based learning programs.

While this certainly would not immediately affect homeschoolers whether or not they took the voucher money, it is the kind of information the DOE wants on every student in America. Every step the federal government takes into our homeschools will inevitably lead toward including our data into their data mining schemes as well.

Second, what will be done with this data? Why does the government even need it? The information currently being collected is being analyzed to develop a predictive model of which students will and will not succeed in an educational setting.

“One goal is to provide consumers with user-friendly information that will help them select education and employment programs that best suit their needs. Another key goal–and the focus of this brief–is to make available timely information that can be used to help program providers and education and workforce systems overall improve their performance.”  ~Using Data to Promote Continuous Improvement of Workforce Programs (p. 1)

Meaning this data will be shared with schools, government and private employers. It will shape education goals and potentially be used to “track” students according to their tested ability toward different fields, possibly determining at a young age whether or not a student will be put on a course of study that includes college or immediate placement in the workplace. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity and education is one of the keys to that opportunity. Now we may be closing doors to students based on data collected through their school years, giving them few, if any, second chances. I am envisioning an America where we no longer ask children what they want to be when they grow up but instead ask them what their testing says they are going to be.

Does not taking the money protect us from this? Possibly. At least in the short term. But this law puts the system in place for reporting data on homeschoolers to the federal government. And their desire for information is almost limitless.

Third, we already have a strong push toward a federalized education system, with national standards and a national curriculum. We already have a system moving toward computer based learning, with tools to measure the affective domain and which includes behavioral and psychological measures as part of the standards. This push toward national standards has already affected private schools, thanks to the pressure from state governments and the funding structures already in place, never mind the potential of vouchers bringing even more money into the current system. Families are already feeling the need to leave even private, religious institutions in favor of homeschooling in order to escape the Common Core mandates they feel are distracting to the spiritual, emotional and academic growth of their children due to the undo focus on testing and performance.

The current administration may or may not view vouchers as a “back door” approach to bringing homeschoolers in line with national standards. But whatever policies are put into place now will be used (and abused) by future administrations to further direct education from the federal level. A significant number of homeschoolers likely will be drawn into the system, weakening our current organizations. But once the system is set up with a national exit exam as the only gateway to college and career, that test will affect teaching in every learning environment whether or not we directly signed on for it or not.

Finally, education should be a state issue. Period. Federal money should not be used, whether given to the states or directly to the parents, to influence the behavior of state agencies or parents. Even in the form of “choice,” it is simply outside the role of our federal government to force these programs on the states. Local school boards and state legislatures are more aware of the needs of their communities and more responsive to parental demands than the federal government. And it is the parent, not the state, that has the right to direct the education of their minor children.

If the sole purpose of this law were to give parents more resources to direct their child’s education, why not simply expand the Child Tax Credit? Or simply lower taxes? Let parents decide if their child is in greater need of a new school or new shoes or a family vacation. Because an increase in income in any good family will ultimately benefit the children in some way.

The argument that “it’s my money” does have some sway. But the natural conclusion is that the government shouldn’t be taking it in the first place.

i homeschool so they can grow-min

So what’s the problem with vouchers?

Betsy DeVos is now our new Secretary of Education.

H.R. 610 and vouchers for homeschools

Some say she is the most unqualified person to fill the position. She was certainly one of the most controversial. All because her vision of education includes options outside the public education system. In her view, charter schools, private schools and homeschooling are all viable alternatives and that is not a position the teacher’s unions are particularly happy with.

That sounds great for homeschoolers.

So why is this is difficult for me? I support freedom in education. I do, after all, homeschool. I think we need more options for families who are stuck in sub-standard schools thanks to their income level. Education is a path out of poverty, but our worst schools are in our poorest areas. Unfortunately, choice in education does not necessarily mean freedom in education.

But there is another problem. A more subtle one. And one that we need to deal with quickly because bill H.R. 610 has already been put before Congress. Namely, what does federal money mean to a private institution? What would it mean for homeschooling?

My first objection to this is simple. Why on earth do I need to give the federal government money in order to have it returned to me via a voucher? We have enough money to support our children. We have enough money to educate our children. To participate in co-op. To sign up for some extra-curricular activities. To send them to camp. We don’t need money from the government to do any of this. How much of my tax dollars are eaten up in the bureaucracy so that I can get a small amount back in the form of a voucher? Why not just let me keep my money to begin with? What is the real reason behind this carrot on a stick?

And that brings me to my second objection. Federal money is about control. Pure and simple. It may or may not begin that way, but in the end, accepting federal money means accepting federal control.

Consider President Bush’s faith-based initiatives. As Os Guinness writes in A Case for Civility (p. 51 – 52),

“…the project {faith-based initiatives] was self-defeating as a concept because the close relationship between government and faith-based groups almost inevitably leads, first to a growing dependency of the faith-based organization on the government, and, eventually, to the effective secularization of the faith-based group. In the words of David Kuo, President George W. Bush’s special assistant for faith-based initatives, ‘Between Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services alone, for example, more than $1.5 billion went to faith-based groups every year. But their activity had come at a spiritual cost. They were, as organizations, largely secular.'”

Or even just consider the title of the book David Kuo wrote after serving with President Bush’s faith-based initiatives: Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction. He did not come away from his service of these programs full of hope about what they could do for America. He came away with a warning about the spiritual cost of mixing federal funds with religious institutions.

In the beginning, the money looks nice. In the beginning, it doesn’t even seem like there are all that many strings. You have to report yourself to the government. That alone accounts for increased regulation in eleven states. The money you receive cannot exceed your actual cost of homeschooling, but how is that determined? Does that mean you then have to keep receipts and turn them in? And how long will it be before only approved curriculum will be accepted?

The law spells out that this money follows the student and is not a grant to the institution, most likely in an attempt to get around directly funding private, religious organizations. But how long will that hold up? Hillsdale College in Michigan received no federal funding directly, but because it accepted students who had federal grants, the Supreme Court ruled against them in an almost decade long battle with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Because accepting a student who has federal money is the same as accepting federal money.

We already have models for what happens when private organizations take federal money. They become increasingly dependent on that money and, worse, they become more and more like government programs through the inevitable regulation that follows. And whether the money goes directly to the school or follows the student, we already have a Supreme Court ruling setting precedent for how much control that gives the government over the operations of otherwise private institutions.

Why would we want to accept that level of control? That’s why I believe we should keep the money out of homeschooling and keep homeschooling free.

And if you’re wondering why we can’t just refuse the money, I wrote more on that here: The Choices in Education Act: Why not just refuse the money?