Category Archives: Parenting

Teens and Homeschool

Now that the teen years are upon many in my social groups, I thought it wise to take time to address the unique challenges that occur when your child’s brain and body are changing rapidly. Some challenges are social while others are educational. When you homeschool, this can present concerns because parents are often both teacher and, of course, family. This can amplify stressful situations, in some cases. How can we homeschool teens while lowering stress?

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Teens may have mood swings or different priorities than parents.

 

Flexibility

Because huge changes occur during adolescence, our children may seem to be in a bad mood or distracted from time to time. While you can try to power through curriculum and lessons, it may be wise to stop and take a break instead. Another option is to provide your teen with a list of activities from which to choose and an adequate time-period in which to complete one or more activities. If possible, give your teen the autonomy to choose topics to explore rather than use a canned curriculum you choose. This is not always possible so check your state homeschool laws before skipping a curriculum.

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No Traps Here

Make sure not to back your child into a figurative corner. Instead, leave room for variation and be patient. Demanding things immediately never pans out with toddlers, why would it work with teens nearing adulthood? It doesn’t. Give options within the necessary boundaries for a situation.

Fear of Failure

Also, offer to help if a task seems boring or difficult. Sometimes students will avoid tasks or complete them quickly, but incorrectly in these cases. Stay nearby if you suspect this is the issue. Gove examples. Offer examples other than yours such as those found on YouTube, SchoolTube, and educational websites.

Enlist Community Involvement or a Mentor

Sometimes our personalities do not mesh well with our children’s personalities. Consider attending local co-ops, partial day schools, or extracurricular classes. Many times, you and your teen can receive relief from stress by taking small breaks from each other during programs like this. You can recharge your batteries and your child can work separately from you with the expectations and help of another adult. If this option doesn’t work for your child, then consider looking for a mentor who can check in from time to time to help with school activities, talk about a pathway to your child’s dream job, and be anally to your child’s success.

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Extracurricular activities can help teens.

Team-building for a Cause

Encourage your child to be part of a team along with you. If your child is interested in animal rights, find ways to help support animals together. If your child is interested in art, consider working together to create a mural at a children’s hospital. Together you can help others and strengthen family bonds.

Look for the Good

Remember to focus on the positive when possible. Don’t let things slide, but don’t forget to find the good even if in small choices or behaviors. As your teen is better able to make choices without your assistance, be thankful and mention how wonderful this is to your child.

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Teens need time with friends.

It may seem difficult one day, then easy the next. Parenting a teenager is not all rainbows and puppies. Then again, they don’t think we parents are always reasonable, either. The key is to be flexible, be patient, try different strategies, and remember that they will become adults who can make wise choices because you are putting in the work now to help them get there.

Ways to Teach Handwriting Without Using a Pencil

Many parents ask me how to help their children who refuse to practice handwriting or who have difficulty forming letter shapes with a pencil. There are several things parents can do to help in this situation. Keep in mind that special needs may affect skill acquisition so if your gut says there is an issue, get it checked out. However, even when dealing with a special need, the following activities may help strengthen your child’s fine motor skills and also letter writing skills.

 

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Use clay to shape letters or for fine motor play.

Use a tray of rice or play sand, from your local home improvement store, to draw letter shapes.

Practice using tweezers to pick up small items such as buttons, pompom balls from the craft store, or beads, then sort them into groups according to color, size, or other characteristics.

Bend pipe cleaners/chenille wires into letter shapes.

Use q-tips, toothpicks, or sticky items like Wikki Stix to form letter shapes.

Use finger paint to draw letter shapes.

Use items from nature to create letters and words. (Sticks can draw in sand, leaves can be fashioned into letters, etc.)

Use a different material such as chalk on a sidewalk, white board, or computer drawing program.

 

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You can also use any of these ideas to draw straight, curved, and diagonal lines as well in order to help children practice making the lines that letter shapes use. The key is to get creative, use your child’s interests, and don’t be afraid to complete the activity with your child. It’s more fun when a caregiver participates. 🙂

Which Homeschool Preschool Curriculum Should I Choose?

Parents often ask how to get their children ahead in time for kindergarten. This is true for families of children in preschool who choose homeschool and those who choose brick and mortar schools. Parents want their children to excel. We want our kids to do better than the best. This is why many homeschool newbies ask which curriculum to use for their toddler and preschool students whose parents plan to homeschool. I see this question asked at least once a week in homeschool forums. Thankfully, I have an answer that will help you no matter who you are or how young your child happens to be.

The good news is that you do not need to purchase a curriculum for your child just yet. Instead, focus on social and academic skills through everyday situations. Don’t push children to recite letter names or count constantly. Do model how to count, how to be kind, and other skills. Model cleaning up after yourself and work as a team to do this. Model how to care for someone who is hurt or sad. In short, play and interact. How easy is that!?

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Some people will ask why so many preschool programs push literacy. The answer is that they are not always developmentally appropriate programs, but they are required to prepare children for a rigorous kindergarten year. In Florida, where I taught kindergarten for nearly a decade, teachers graded preschools based on how incoming kindergarten students did at social and academic skills. This can affect funding of those pre-k programs so they HAVE to be rigorous, too, though this is not appropriate for children.

What should a prekindergarten program look like?

I will blog in depth about this at some point, but for now the things you need to look for include, among other things:

A variety of open-ended activities

No forced reading or pencil and paper activities, though these should be available and used via free choice

Students making decisions and having interpersonal interactions in with watchful teachers who can step in should students be unable to resolve an issue

Teachers who are patient and willing to work with students to find solutions rather than immediately punish or yell

What should a homeschool preschool program look like?

Your preschool or toddler homeschool day should be similar to what is included above for those who run preschool programs. Have a variety of toys, writing utensils, bubbles, gardening options, or any other thing your child can safely use and in which he is interested. Be available to answer questions and interact, but do not take over the activities. Your child may use materials differently than you expect, but unless safety is an issue, let your child go for it and try to do things differently than you might. Work on negotiating, caring for others, and other social skills, too. Use real-life everyday situations to teach rather than making your child sit and listen to you or sit and read during the day. Go on field trips to explore your town or county.

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What about children living with special needs?

It is highly important that children with special needs receive necessary treatments, therapies, and instructions for how to use coping skills. Early intervention is proven to be helpful in these cases. However, this does not mean you ought to force a four-year-old child to read early due to a special need. Honor your child’s developmental level. Offer a variety of activities and model how to do things he cannot yet do. He will eventually want to copy you and you can implement the information your therapists have given you and your child. Yes, you may need to work harder on skills with your child when she is ready, but most children who are younger than six learn best through hands on activities and you modeling how to do things.

How can I get started?

To get started, use what you already have. Lego blocks, bubbles, construction paper, and other items can spark a child’s imagination and create a pathway to learn a multitude of things. Play with your child. Have siblings and friends play as well. Everyone plays a bit differently and different topics will come up along with the chance to practice different skills. Don’t be afraid of mixed age play groups. This can aid in teaching your child without it being “work” or boring.

We don’t want our children to burn out on education before they hit kindergarten. In fact, we want them to be lifelong learners who seek out education from a variety of sources rather than hiding from education because they were forced to do too much, too soon. Remember, some children do read at age three, while others do not read fluently until closer to age seven. Some children are not yet ready for complex math at age 16 while others may be ready when younger than age 12. The goal is to honor each student’s developmental level without forcing them into a curriculum at such an early age that they may become frustrated with school. School should be hands-on, fun, developmentally appropriate, and lead to a lifelong learner lifestyle. Introducing a rigorous curriculum in the preschool years can sabotage this completely.

But we already began a curriculum.

No worries. If you began and your child loves it, great. However, if your sense that your child needs a change, then change things. It really is a luxury to be able to consider an individual learner’s needs at each stage and change when needed.

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For further information

If you would like more information about education or behavior management, sign up for my email list. If you feel that a consultation would benefit you or your family, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to provide advice and behavior plans in order to help your home or classroom work efficiently and in a positive manner. Remember, you can do this. ?

About the Author

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. is a former teacher, behavior coach, and tutor who works with families and students to help them reach their full potential in a peaceful, positive environment. Melissa’s educational experiences paired with real world experience give her a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.  Please contact Melissa with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

Bitsbox Review

When I first heard about Bitsbox, I thought it might not interest my children so I ignored the information. One day I saw a decent price for this product and decided to try it once. As it turns out, my youngest child LOVED Bitsbox. So we ordered again and loved it again. I am excited to tell you about Bitsbox because we love it, and also because they often run a FREE BOX SPECIAL for new customers.

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Each Bitsbox booklet has a theme.

Bitsbox is a way for children to learn to program. I will add that I learned a bit about programming, too. I am not a computer person at all, so this was a very good thing! Now, I will say that though some of the coding was easy to use, other programs had a LOT of lines. Either help young children and inexperienced programmers or pace yourself by using the shorter programs first, then moving to the longer ones. We also found it helpful, especially for my youngest, to work on a program over several days’ time in order to not become stressed out, yet still complete the project.

Some pages in each Bitsbox book have less code and some have more depending on which program is being written.

Some pages in each Bitsbox book have less code and some have more depending on which program is being written.

If your child is into video games and other programs, this may be the product for you. I think that both homeschool families and those who go to brick and mortar schools can benefit from Bitsbox. As I noted above, Bitsbox can work for many developmental levels from beginner to more advanced. Some kits even include trading cards with cool graphics on one side and code on the back, along with the Bitsbox book themed to topics like movies or animals!

We LOVE these trading cards. They come with some Bitsbox books.

We LOVE these trading cards. They come with some Bitsbox books.

 

 

Though I may receive credits on my account if people sign up via my link, I am giving a true and honest review of this product. I do find Bitsbox to be educational and useful in my homeschool day.

What Does It Mean To Deschool?

What is deschooling?

When people are new to homeschooling, they often go to groups and ask questions about how to begin. Inevitably, during this type of conversation, the topic of how to deschool comes up. Deschooling occurs when you take the time to relax, realize you are not going to operate your homeschool the way a brick and mortar school is run, and have a chance to recharge your and your child’s energy. Once you are finished deschooling, you and your child should feel energized, renewed, and ready to learn. Many people will not understand this concept of taking a break in order to better utilize future learning. You could explain it as a vacation or mental health break in order to have time to rest and renew interest in learning. Most people understand the idea of a vacation or time off from work due to stress. This is the same concept as deschooling.

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Deschooling can mean reading, playing with toys, or even traveling.

How long does deschooling take?

There is not one way to deschool. Each child or family will do things in their own way. There is no set length of time for deschooling, either. Instead, it is best to take your cues from your child. While you may not let the child make all choices, you can observe behavior and look for signs that he or she is ready to move from deschooling to home or unschooling. I suggest taking at least a week, but possibly several weeks or more depending on the situation. Always be aware of the requirements in your state, but if you are able to choose when your “summer break” is and begin your school year any time during the calendar year, you may choose to begin in a non-traditional month and to take your vacation at a time which is different than when public school students vacation. Again, keep in mind attendance laws and other rules in your state in order to be sure you deschool while leaving enough time to complete what must be done to meet state requirements.

What activities should we do during deschooling?

Many people are concerned about record keeping as well as how to provide an enriching environment while deschooling. This is a hugely important issue to address. Parents want their children to succeed and that is why homeschooling works so well in many cases. My advice is to make sure that you keep a schedule of some sort, for example wake and go to sleep around the same hour each day. Also, leave time during the day to explore toys, activities, documentaries, and play outside or attend local field trips. Do not plan set activities and do not force your child to stick to a rigid school schedule. Instead, leave the time you would normally use for homeschooling open in order to let your child find his or her interests while providing open ended options he or she may choose, if interested. You can, of course, play board games, draw anime, or create movies about your neighborhood if your child is interested in these activities, but they are not graded and have no deadlines. The activities can be completed or left incomplete. The key is to allow the child to have a break from the rigors and forcefulness of some educational models. Do not dictate the activities unless you must limit something, such as screen time, due to behavioral issues.

This is a great opportunity to let your child choose while you observe how the child learns best and, what activities are important to your child. If your child was bullied in school, use this time to work on self-esteem and how to be kind in the face of negativity. If your child found school difficult, work on self-esteem and consider where you may begin once deschooling is complete. Do not stress out if your child wants to watch television or eat junk food all day. If this is an issue again and again, then add a few rules which require outdoor time or the child to play with toys instead of only watch television.

You do not have to move from brick and mortar school directly to a homeschool curriculum. Take time to deschool so that when you do start, you and your child do not begin while being burnt out due to prior stressors. Do observe your child’s interests as well as what is easy or difficult. This will help you to know where to start when homeschooling does begin. Be aware of your state’s laws regarding attendance, work samples, curriculum, and homeschooling. Remember, not everyone has to deschool, but if you feel that you and your child need to take some time to reset your goals, ideas of what school looks like, or other concerns, then deschooling is probably a wise choice for your family.

If you would like more information about deschooling, homeschooling, unschooling, or behavior concerns, please contact me for a consultation. I am happy to put my years of working with students and families to work in order to help your family.

The Value of Alternative Assessments

These days high stakes testing and school accountability mean that teachers, parents, and students have less room to vary lessons, tests, and proof that learning has occurred. While it is important to prevent systematic racism, which is the reason many reformers have historically given when pushing a one size fits all standards and accountability framework, it is also important to recognize that not all students will feel motivated within this framework. This is why it is highly important to provide a variety of options for showing that learning has occurred.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are a student with special needs or a child who is not interested in pencil and paper options which are predictable and somewhat boring in the eyes of some people, then alternative assessment options will be more likely to keep you interested and to show where you have improved as well as where you still need to work on a certain concept.  After all, standardized tests do not often provide immediate information with which to inform instruction in a meaningful and emergent way. By using continuing assessment tools which often have the opportunity to change in presentation, you not only allow students to show their strengths, but a teacher or parent is more likely to quickly see gaps in learning and how to fix these gaps. The goal should be mastery, not passing a test with a C grade or higher. This makes alternative assessment options useful, interesting for the learner, and appropriate in both brick and mortar school and homeschool education models.

How do I begin?

Many people ask how to go about moving away from canned lessons and toward flexible assessments. Canned lessons can be good if they allow for flexibility when students need this. However, many times teachers must change lessons quite a bit in order to meet the needs of all learners in their care. If you must use canned lessons, don’t’ worry, you can still use flexible assessment options most of the time. You may already have some of these options written into 504 Plans or IEPs which you currently use for some students.

What does alternative assessment look like?

For example, if a student needs to give an oral report, but has anxiety, allow the student to choose a newscast style report where it is recorded first, a small group presentation, or a large group presentation. Also, give the student the option of a podium and stool in order to help support the student should he or she decide to give a live presentation.

If a student with low muscle tone needs to show you how to add with two digit numbers, don’t focus on the writing component. Instead, allow for the option to type, draw large pictures, have extra time to write numbers, use a stencil, or show using a poster board and objects glued on. This way the child can show understanding of the concept, but not be bogged down with pain in the hand due to low tone.

Sometimes gifted students, and others, become bored with the same routine. They may have a lowered attention span or refuse to complete a task due to being bored. Instead, try asking the student to create a newspaper that offers solutions to math problems like the ones through which you are currently working. Another option is to allow the student to create a physical project, like a science project or photography project, to illustrate the skill he or she must master.

The goal is not to copy the ideas listed here, but rather find options that both test a skill and allow students to do their best work without feeling as if the task is either above or below them. By adding a dash of creativity, a list of options, and allowing students to try something new, you are enabling both learning and constructive criticism which will help them to learn, grow, and succeed.

For further information

If you would like more information about education or behavior management, sign up for my email list. If you feel that a consultation would benefit you or your family, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to provide advice and behavior plans in order to help your home or classroom work efficiently and in a positive manner. Remember, you can do this. 🙂

 

About the author

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. is a former teacher, behavior coach, and tutor who works with families and students to help them reach their full potential in a peaceful, positive environment. Melissa’s educational experiences paired with real world experience give her a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.  Please contact Melissa with questions or to request services.

Phone Number : 407-712-4368

Email : lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com

 

Homeschool Consultation FAQ

Many people wonder what a homeschool consultation is. I provide this service in order to help families navigate curriculum choices, homeschool laws in Florida, and the needs of their children as students. I am happy to help families who are not local to Florida, but you will need to be sure of the homeschool laws in your state before our consultation. Read on to find out the answers to some common questions about homeschool consultations.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How long does a consultation take?

Homeschool consultations take about an hour. You can request ongoing consultations in order to help you work through changes or if you are new to homeschool for a package rate as well. You will give me information in advance which addresses your concerns so that our time can be spent in discussion and problem solving rather than me focusing on research during your paid tie with me. I will research your concerns in advance of the meeting in order to give you the best service possible.

How many children’s education can be discussed during a consultation?

As long as time permits, we may discuss one or more child. If you have a large family, it may be wise to schedule more than one consultation or a two-hour block of time. If this is a concern, please let me know when scheduling so I can work with you on price and time needed for the consultation.

What types of information do you need before our consultation?

I will need to know your child’s age or grade, if there are special needs, how the child feels about school work, your education philosophy, and possibly other information depending on your family’s specific concerns.

Do you provide information about de-schooling and unschooling?

Yes, if you have a reluctant learner who has just recently left another education model, we may need to discuss de-schooling as well as how to get into homeschooling successfully after the de-school period. In addition, unschooling is a valid and fruitful homeschool option for many families. I am happy to discuss your options and how to proceed if you choose unschooling for your child as state laws will apply regardless of your choice of educational model.

Do you meet in person only?

I am available for both in person (in Central Florida) and Skype consultations.

How much does a consultation cost?

Consultation subscription packages are perfect for those who need more than one meeting with me. This option provides monthly allotted time that rolls over into future months if you do not use it. This way, you can call for a couple of questions without paying for a full consultation. For the low price of $35 you are entitled to two half hour phone calls per month for 6 months. Should you not use your monthly phone calls, they roll over to the next month. Subscriptions automatically renew every 6 months.

On the other hand, an hour consultation is $50 for an hour of service and follow up consultations are $40 per hour. This is the perfect option for someone who needs only one or two meetings in order to meet their needs and answer the questions they have.

I reserve the right to add a mileage fee if I must travel more than 30 miles to a consultation.

What forms of payment do you take?

I am able to receive PayPal payments, PayPal here payments via credit or debit card, and cash. Payment is due by the time of the consultation in order to receive the service in a timely manner.

If you are ready to schedule your consultation, please contact me using the subscription page or consultation page. If you have any questions or concerns, please email lissa_kaye54@yahoo.com or call 407-712-4368.

 

Thank you for the opportunity to help your family get the most out of homeschooling!

 

 

A Word on Safety and Judging Parents

I have been trying to organize my thoughts about keeping children safe since I heard the story of a boy who climbed toward, then fell into, a gorilla exhibit at a zoo. This has happened before and, sadly, could occur again. What’s done is done whether we like it or not and regardless of whom we blame and to what degree we blame them (if we blame anyone at all).  So the question remains, exactly how do we keep children safe?

There are people who complain about “helicopter parents” who do everything for kids. There are people who complain about “free range” kids who are thought to have the run of the area where they live. I suspect that most of parents fall somewhere in between these two parenting models. I have definitely met free range parents, who by the way have great kids. I have not yet met a helicopter parent, though I have worked with children and families in varying capacities for close to 20 years. I suppose they may exist or they may be parents who have children with some special needs. As long as you are not enabling harmful behaviors, I wouldn’t worry about that label anyway.

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Back to the point, how do we keep children safe? Start by recognizing your limits and your child’s limits. If your child is a runner, find ways to prevent running or allow it within a safe boundary. Think about the what ifs because, unfortunately, your “not a runner” may become a runner at any time. I have been known to scout a location before scheduling a play date to be sure there is a fence that closes with a latch that is taller than my child so I had more time to get to the gate before a kid could run. This won’t prevent an “escape”, but will buy you more time to get to the child if necessary.

I once had a student who ran quite often, if angry. (I had a few different runners, but this particular student ran due to anger.) Now, you cannot always stop someone’s feelings, but you can provide replacement behaviors that are more safe. However, this takes time, energy, and consistency. It does not happen overnight. So a runner may run even though you are implementing a (soon to be successful) solution. Sometimes they run off though you are looking right at them and some kids are faaaast.

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Most parents have more than one thing on their minds. Dishes laundry, schedules, groceries, dinner options, traffic woes, and other issues cloud my mind at any given time. Plus, having more than one child can cause even the best multi-tasker to miss a potential issue when considering a situation. Maybe you are at the park pushing a child on the swing, then, seeing that adorable smile on her face you feel like you have to take a photo. So you do, but as you go back to the swing, your precious little one falls off and gets hurt. We cannot be by a child’s side 24 hours a day. We don’t always anticipate things that may happen. We cannot protect them from everything. There are no guarantees, but we can try to minimize issues brought about because they are young and not yet ready to make big decisions.

If you have a runner, climber, or other similar normal behavior in your child, practice following directions regarding safety well before you have to be in a certain situation. Practice safe versus unsafe and remember that it may seem like it takes forever for a child to catch on. That is because they have different priorities than we do. Also, kids do not always notice the danger involved in certain decisions. Their brains are not yet completely mature which means they cannot always think about the future possibilities of current behavior choices. It is not that they don’t know it is that they can’t know the long term repercussions of some actions.

Some people leave children at home with a sitter if they must go out. Others use a toddler carrier or bring along help. The problem is that not everyone has a village of support nearby. If you see a child doing something that will injure himself, act. Call the parent, call a security guard, call 911. I hate to say you ought to pick up the child without permission, but in extreme circumstances, that might be appropriate. I would certainly prefer that you pick up my child before he jumps into shallow water, if no alternate is available, instead of letting him hurt his legs.

Parents cannot plan for every possible situation. We may not always have help. I get that. I have been there, too, on many occasions. All we can do is our best. And before we say “don’t judge”, why don’t we make an appraisal about behaviors we observe. It is not about who is a better person or parent. It is about improving ourselves based on our own previous behaviors. Maybe we should think about how we can do the same things as another parent, if it is safe, healthy and effective. If the parenting choice was not very safe, then how can we learn from it? How can we improve ourselves so we are safe, kind, and effective parents? It is my opinion that we should be thankful for the opportunity to learn from another parent’s mistakes or accidents. We should also embrace our own shortcomings and try to improve them. It may take some time to figure out, but there is often a way to minimize the chance of an unsafe scenario.

One final thought, please, let’s bring back a village of support. Let’s get to know one another and figure out how we can help so that when a parent is exhausted, there is someone safe who knows the child that can help with cooking, cleaning, childcare, and more. It seems that many mistakes happen because parents are not part of a village that helps when times are tough and parenting gets overwhelming. Let’s bring back the safety of a village.

 

Sidenote: I may change this a bit as I process my thoughts more thoroughly. <3

 

How to Lower the Days of School Students Skip

 

I recently saw an article from the Sun Sentinel here in Florida. The author noted a change to a local attendance policy which would enable students to skip school without excuse notes, though they would receive an automatic grade of 0 for any tests or assignments missed due to an unexcused absence. I understand why schools would move toward punitive measures in order to not allow teachers, schools, and even other students to get the raw part of the meal. However, I could not stop thinking that it should be easier to educate ourselves and our children. Why is it such a struggle to get kids in the seats, bring assignments in, and have happy faces on a regular basis?

You may not like the answer. It was a foreign idea to me for quite a long time. Are you ready for it?

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Student-led learning with a teacher, or parent, available for support always works. I know this seems bizarre. Won’t they sit and play video games all day and never learn to read? Actually, even kids living with special needs want to learn. The problem is that we are forcing it instead of supporting learning in a natural, developmentally appropriate way. Keep in mind that I am guilty of this, too. Though I know better, there are times when I revert back to a forced education model and have to readjust myself.

Child Reading

This type of educational model is easy to implement in a homeschool environment. However, due to current laws and mainstream views, an open ended student-led model is not easily implemented in private and public schools. Teachers and administrators can take some steps to work toward a less forced curriculum, though. Try having morning or weekly meetings in each classroom. Look at students as stakeholders whose ideas about what to learn matter as much as the standards and benchmarks that are currently in place. Allow students to list, then vote on weekly or monthly activities that are safe for the classroom. Better yet, let them create small groups of interest, or clubs, then make these choices within the club. Perhaps the science club wants to know why Hot Wheels cars can go around a loop without falling, but the math group wants to know a faster way to add numbers with 9 as a ones digit. Another option is to get out and about. Create a garden, nature trail, or field trip on campus. Foster citizenship by pairing with another class to be reading buddies, math buddies, or to practice social skills via play or talking activities. It may not happen overnight, but you can foster a sense of ownership in students. If they own the excitement of learning and have free choice, then you will see them be more willing to show up, participate, and help others. There will be less behavior problems and better use of time. (This is especially true when you include outdoor activities.)

You may receive push back from administrators, other co-workers, parents, or students who are not used to having choices. However, students need to love to learn for the sake of learning. They need to practice choosing what to learn, how to learn, and how to find the information they need to learn. By opening up choices for students, we enable their love of learning to grow. If they want to learn, they will want to show up. This is how we lower the days of school students skip.

If you would like more information, have a question, or would like to implement this type of model in your school, then contact me at 407-712-4368.

Homeschool Tips for Single Parents

There is a growing number of single parents who homeschool. It seems like I meet someone every week who has gone this route. Some folks have remarried while others are still single. But many have spent time as a single, homeschooling, parent. Because I am currently in the same boat, I wanted to share a few tips to (I hope) help make your life easier.

 

  1. Use a schedule. Yes, as in write it up and follow it. You don’t have to be strict about the schedule unless you need for it to be strict. Even a relaxed schedule can work.
I have included an example schedule. Remember that unschool parents do not insist on certain lessons at certain times so the schedule is a basic outline rather than a concrete schedule planned out by the hour. Also keep in mind that my family is not considered radical unschoolers. As in all groups, there are sub-groups. Though radical unschooling is a wonderful way to live life, it is not the unschooling model my family uses at this time.

I have included an example schedule. You can be as specific or open as you want to be. This schedule may for unschoolers and relaxed homeschoolers.

2. Plan ahead even if you unschool. Talk with your children about their interests and what things they want to work on during the week, month, or semester. Then, plan academic activities, child care, classes, and field trips around your work schedule and the interests of the children. If everything is prepped and on your calendar, you can see conflicts in advance and plan accordingly.

messy

3. Find a village of support. I am not joking. You need local people who support you emotionally and in person with actual, physical help like childcare and carpools. Look for other homeschool families with similar interests, values, and who are kind. Reciprocate as well. Perhaps you carpool on Mondays, and the other parent carpools on Tuesdays. Keep in mind that sometimes a nanny or sitter will be willing to also tutor or shuttle kids to and from activities.

4. Take care of yourself. (I’ll wait while you stop laughing at this idea.) I have difficulty with this item on the list so I can understand those who think it is impossible. But, at the very least, we should try to do this. Our health, safety, and happiness directly affect our children’s well being.

yoga stress free

5. Ask for help. It’s okay to not know everything. It is okay to need assistance from time to time. Don’t be afraid to let your kids help out, either. My five year old is so very ready to be independent that he did the laundry last week. I had no idea that he could reach all the necessary buttons!

Remember, you can do this! If you choose homeschool or unschool you can create a fruitful, academic environment in which  your children will flourish. It takes some planning, some will power, and a healthy dose of being realistic. But, if I can do it. You can do it. 🙂