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I Homeschool to Avoid the Homework Trap

The first (and only) meeting I ever had with an upset parent was over homework. He didn’t think I assigned enough. And I taught pre-K.

why homework is harmful

 

Homework has become such an ingrained part of our education culture that we not only don’t question it, we have begun to demand it. So much so that even research suggesting homework in the elementary years has no favorable effect on academic performance while at the same time creating extra stress holds little sway for a parent concerned about their five year old’s future success. Much less on a school district obsessed with state testing.

A Vermont school decided to act on the research, however, and instituted a school-wide, no homework policy. Instead, they wanted students to eat with their families, read a book and play outside. The result?

Six months into the experiment, Trifilio says it has been a big success: Students have not fallen back academically and may be doing better, and now they have “time to be creative thinkers at home and follow their passions.”  ~The Washington Post

“Time to be creative thinkers and follow their passions.” Two of the things I think homeschooling provides children. And really, it has to do with simply having time. They have time to get bored. They have time to daydream. They have time to dig deeper into the topics which interest them.

And we do it without homework. That isn’t to say they have no independent work. But I don’t assign the kind of busywork I was assigned in school. You remember those assignments? Book reports designed to prove you had read the book, copying spelling lists 5, 10 or 15 times each and the endless number of math worksheets. And I was in elementary school back when they still thought 15 minutes a night was ideal.

What do they do instead?

They read. They love reading. The library is one of their favorite destinations. They read fiction and nonfiction and check out books on the oddest things I never would have thought they would be interested in, but they saw the book and decided to see what it was about.

They write. Three of my children are working on writing a book . . . four if you count the six year old who is filling a journal with his random letters that he calls his book.

They build. Unfortunately, they lost their fort in a series of storms and a suspected raccoon rampage, but they had a pretty nice one made from scrap they found in the barn for some time.

They garden. Each year, they’ve been allowed to plan a small container garden with flowers for the porch. This year, they are each getting their own raised bed for their own vegetable patch.

In other words, they explore. And almost every pursuit they choose has more value to who they are than any worksheet I could have designed just to keep them busy.

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
G is for Grow
H is for Homework

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Free Holy Week Study: Walking With Jesus His Final Days

As Easter approaches, I am starting to get ready to celebrate the most significant holdiay on the Christian calendar with my children. The final days of Jesus leading from the triumphal entry to the crucifixion tell us so much about the God we serve and how it is we come to salvation. I think it is too important to just slip somewhere in between the other activities of the season. I like to slow it down a little and focus on what each step of what that week looked like. My favorite way to do this is with a little “walk” alongside Jesus his final days. We set up a small garden on the table and add the elements each day as we talk about Jesus’ last days. The hands on activities draw even my youngest children in and the ability to continue to play with the pieces throughout the week help reinforce what we have talked about.

Free unit for holy week

Unfortunately, the planter we have used in the past broke. We are going to set another one up, but we are a hopelessly last minute family. The first time I shared this study, I shared it the day after Palm Sunday which doesn’t give anyone any time to prepare. The number of people arriving here looking for that post, however, tells me that there are some people in the world that prepare things like this BEFORE the holiday starts.

In case that describes you, as well, I thought I better share this now rather than waiting until we have our garden put together! If you want to see how ours progresses, you can peek over at my facebook page. It’s all about lambing at the moment, but I suppose that is rather relevant to the coming Passover season as well. I’ll share pictures of our planter as the children build it and I’d love to see yours if you decide to do this along with us!

I hope you enjoy Walking With Jesus His Final Days. If you find it helpful, please share this link! The more successful these kinds of projects are, the more often I will put them together! This one does not require subscribing to my newsletter, but if you would like to make sure you don’t miss any other offers, you can subscribe to my newsletter or to just be notified of offers when they are available.

I hope you enjoy this little walk through Jesus’ final days!

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I homeschool so they can grow

Whenever a homeschooler wins the Scripps Spelling Bee, the National Geography Bee or  the Olympic Gold Medal, the internet buzzes as we all share what homeschooling is capable of. For a brief moment, these young champions become the poster children for the homeschool movement.

i homeschool so they can grow-min

But seriously, how many spelling bee champions do you know? I was happy when my oldest stopped putting random silent e’s at the ends of words. I could just picture her up there speaking nervously into the microphone:

Gesellschaft. G-E-S-E-L-L-S-C-H-A-F-T-E. Gesellschaft.

Except she never would have gotten that far.

Far. F-A-R-E. Far.

That girl has many talents, but spelling is not one of them.

And that’s OK. Because those headlines we share only tell part of the story — the part where homeschooling doesn’t hold a child back.

But sometimes, they can be a little intimidating, too. They set a high standard. One we can’t always live up to. One we shouldn’t even try to live up to. Because true education is not about reaching the pinnacle of success in any given area. It’s about growing in every area.

The success of homeschooling is based on its ability to meet each child where he or she is at and move forward from there.

There was a time I considered having my oldest tested for learning disabilities. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it would do for her. Being homeschooled, it didn’t necessarily give her any particular advantages to carry that label. It would have opened her up to services through the school, but I knew we probably wouldn’t go that route anyway. She already had an “individualized education plan” of sorts, though it carried no legal weight. It’s just that all my plans revolved around her strengths and weaknesses.

And she grew. She learned to read by the end of second grade. She was reading ahead of grade level by fourth grade. She has never mastered spelling (S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G-E), but she has developed a love of writing and she can tell a pretty good story if someone helps her through the editing. She struggles with basic math facts. In fact, it was sitting with her and the multiplication tables for two years that encouraged me to drop my 100% mastery idea. Back then, I didn’t believe in going forward until a concept was mastered. But that day, sitting at that table, I realized that she and I would be practicing multiplication until she graduated and she’d still probably have to use a calculator.

So I gave her a calculator and we moved on. And she still struggles with math, largely because she doesn’t like it. But she got through algebra and geometry and chemistry and she confessed that geometry is kind of fun as long as she isn’t doing proofs. She works the problems. She understands the formulas. She still has to use her calculator.

And I still can’t quite believe she is graduating this year.

It is easy for me to look back on her weaknesses and feel I’ve failed her. I feel like she should be doing better in these areas, not just “average.” But what if “average” was the best she was going to accomplish in spelling and basic number operations? What if it was our choice to homeschool that allowed her to move beyond that and not be held back by weaknesses that can be overcome by a calculator and spell-check?

She leaves for farrier school in two weeks. She will be gone for two months and has been so diligent in preparing that she has surprised even me, her mother who bore and raised her. Every morning, she gets up early to work through her exercise routine to prepare her for the physical demands of the course. She got the textbook early and filled a sketchbook with diagrams of muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves running through the leg of a horse. She made herself a set of flash cards and is determined to know the anatomy section of the textbook before she even arrives. She went through all her math and science books and marked how much she has to complete each day so that she can graduate on time, even with the two month interruption in her normal studies.

I told her the other day that the diligence she has shown over the last year will get her further in life than anything else she ever learned in school. That work ethic is why she already has an offer from CEF as soon as she is qualified for the position. Because in the end, skills and knowledge can be taught. Character, however, is not such an easy thing to “catch up” on.

As each of our children get older, we are trying to water those same seeds — a strong work ethic, a good character and a love for learning — so they can continue to grow into the young men and women God designed them to be.

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

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Free Poetry Unit for Elementary Students

Blow bubbles, eat gummy bears and write poetry. What better way to introduce young children to this often underappreciated art form?

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.

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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.)