Friday, March 23, 2012

How I Didn't Teach My Daughter to Read

* I didn't buy 101 ways to teach your child to read.  (Okay, I did.  I didn't use it on her.)

* I didn't insist she sit and do page after page of phonics worksheets.

* I didn't use a multitude of flashcards to teach sight words.

* I didn't teach my daughter to read.

But she learned how to read.

The difference?  Subtle I suppose.  Indulge me while I share the story of how I learned that my daughter could read.

One bright fall day while waiting around outside the speech classroom where two of my children were enjoying speech, I saw bats.  You know, winged creatures studied by all elementary school kids in fall.  So, on a whim, I said to my 4 year old "How do you spell 'bat'?"  I have listened to many, many, many kids sound out words.  (Did I mention I used to teach remedial reading?)  I have never, ever heard a new reader sound out a word like this.  Usually you have to prompt, remind them of the word, emphasize the letter they are trying to figure out, you know.  She did it all.  She walked herself through the word just as if I had been coaching her, but coaching herself!  Yay!  All that practice paid off!  Except, we hadn't.  Practiced that is.  I don't think I had ever asked her to spell a word other than her name before.  We had done a few simple phonic pages, beginning letter sound stuff.  I had given her no formal reading instruction.   She was able to quickly figure out all the words in that family.

This really threw me for a loop. I had put off starting Kindergarten with her.  My other girls started at 4 (or 3) because they had older brothers starting and were ready and eager.  She seemed neither.  Though she would ask when she got to start, she never seemed able to or interested in doing more than a page of schoolwork and then only what she wanted to do.

That night, as we read Bible together, (I was reading from my computer) I could hear her trying to sound out words from my screen (large font ad words).  To satisfy my curiosity, I typed a list of "at" word family words.  She read every one.  She then proceeded to read "op" words and "an" words.  WHOA!

She was allowed to start Kindergarten. 

This was a joyous moment in my homeschooling life, not only nor primarily because it was the 5th of my children who successfully learned to read under my loving care and tutelage, but because it reminded me of a deep truth that  many homeschooling families get to experience.

Learning is a lifestyle, a family event.  Learning happens all day every day.  Learning happens when people lovingly share their lives.  Learning is a byproduct of life.  Most of the time I don't know how my children learned the things they share with me.  I know people who find conversations with my children to be highly entertaining.  We live a lifestyle of curiosity and inquisitiveness and is shows in their conversations.

We just learn, when stuff comes up, we learn.  School isn't necessarily this thing we do so many hours a day then get on with our real life, it is part of our family culture.  We are blessed to have the opportunity to live school with our children.  And this story reminds us that they learn more from an environment of learning than from a series of good texts. 

Tomorrow, I'm learning about snails.  What are you learning?

Check out The Homeschool Classroom for other memorable homeschooling moments.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How I Organized My Family Closet - Finally!

In October I shared some of the issues and plans I have used to make my laundry for an army more manageable.  In November I shared some of my dreams and plans as well as my then current modifications to my family closet.   Today, I share the final results, pictures and all.  Here is my Family Closet.

I am sure you noticed that there were no "before" pictures.  I know everyone loves to see "before" the makeover so they can appreciate the difference.  However, I was too embarrassed to take, let alone post, the pictures of before. Picture a laundry mat, clean and dirty laundry both, exploding inside a small, dark, poorly lit bedroom. That is about it. 

I originally planned to keep two dressers and install more closet rods.  Then a friend of mine who works at a major retail store told us that his store was closing and selling off all their fixtures.  We went shopping.  We came home with goodies for remodeling our pantry in an attempt to store more food for emergency preparedness (hopefully I will post on this later) and with hanging racks and cubbies for the closet. 

We have 6 columns of cubbies, and four rows.  Since we have 6 kids this seems to work.  Each kid has a tub for socks and undies, pjs, shorts (pesky things - don't like to stay on hangers) and shoes.  On the top of the cubbies, there is a small plastic basket for tights.  We keep all the girls' tights together since guessing the size is next to impossible.  Next to that is a wicker basket filled with swimsuits.  I decided that since we occasionally go swimming in the winter, I needed easy access to them.

All other clothing goes on hangers.  Each child has their own rod for hanging their clothes. (Or rather they will have once the final rack is collected from the store.  We were able to buy two, but they couldn't give us the second until all the clothes had been removed.)    I hope that by having all this extra space for each child, we can keep winter/summer clothes out all year and not have the endure the hassle of season change.  I was also able to put some clothes I have been saving for my 7 year-old for this coming winter on his rack rather than find a home for them.  The cardboard box in the bottom of the boys closet is a temporary home for sheets until I find my final solution.

This also helped me find a solution for The Bathrobes!  We have tried finding places for these things, but nothing has ever worked.  Now each kid has a spot for a bathrobe.

I put a laundry hamper (not pictured) in the room so that they have a place for dirty laundry.  For some reason, I did not foresee them wanting to actually dress in here, presuming they would take their clothes to the bathroom.  This created quite a problem as I couldn't figure out which clothes were dirty and which were clean that they "dropped" while putting laundry away.

This room still must, temporarily at least, act as the printer/school computer room.  I am including a shot of the printer station.  The computer is out for repairs.

This project was the culmination of a lot of trial and error, pondering and planning.  We removed 4 dressers and a table along with 3 boxes that had never been dealt with since our move (almost 5 years ago).  The room still needs painted (school bus yellow walls and ceilings are rather nauseating), some wiring needs run for the computer and an overhead light needs to be installed.  But finally, this space is usable.   

Do you have a family closet?  Or a laundry system that is workable for your family?  Share your ideas!

I'm linking up with Raising Arrows Welcome Home Link-Up, check out the other links!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Favorite Homeschooling Resource

I have been homeschooling for around 6 years now.  Or is it 7?  The years blend together.  I still feel completely overwhelmed and like I am brand new to the homeschool world.  It seems like every year I'm starting something new.  Next year, middle school!

Over the years I have tried and failed with a lot of curriculum.  I have found several I love, some I really dislike and some that I'm sure are great - for other people.

But the one thing I have found that I use every year, time and time again is the resource that I pull out about this time each year:  My Rainbow Resource Catalog.

Their website it great, but the catalog is my best homeschooling friend.  If you have never had their catalog or used their site, you must check it out.  Not only are they a great resource for purchasing materials usually at a good price, but their catalog actually reviews products.

As you read through the 1200+ pages of informational reviews, you will discover not just a line item telling what the product is, but a blurb telling the good or unique points of that particular curriculum.  They even are sure to point out in a science curriculum if evolution is taught.  They do a thorough job of not just explaining what the curriculum covers, but also in giving you information that will help you decide if it is best for your learner.

Each year I pull out my catalog, begin making my list, edit my list, and spend hours plotting and planning for the next year.  I meet with friends, eat, talk over what has worked (and not), eat,  look at their materials, eat and edit my list again.  The nerd in me loves this time of year.  My children start getting that look "What is she going to come up with this time?"

Spring.  Homeschool Convention. New year planning.  Could it get any better than this?  I don't think so.

Check out The Homeschool Classroom for other favorite homeschool resources.

What is your favorite Homeschooling Resource?  Do you have any "new year" planning traditions that help you prepare for the next year?

** Rainbow Resource Center, Inc is in no way sponsoring this post.  I receive no payment, monetary or otherwise, from Rainbow Resource Center, Inc and am not connected with them as an employee or affiliate.  The view expressed are purely my own. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Empowering Students to Learn

Have you ever wondered why a saying such as “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” sticks around for generations, or where they even came from?  As I ponder this old saying, I realize that they stick because they breathe truth is so many lives on so many levels.  I imagine the beginnings of this phrase, oh so many years ago:

A mother paces the living room of her little, candle lit cabin waiting for her husband to return.  At the table sits her oldest son, head bent appearing to scour his school work for mistakes to correct.  The door flings open as the old cowboy enters the room.  The mother begins her story, detailing all she has done and tried, points to the boy and cries emphatically “And he STILL can’t add his numbers!”  Calmly, removing his hat and coat the cowboy utters the now infamous phrase, “Well, darlin’, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”

Yep, I’m choosing to believe that this famous phrase was first coined by the wise and perceptive father of a homeschool family 200 years ago.  Sure, I have nothing to support my story, but it is my story.  The application of this phrase in a homeschool classroom is so true, so necessary and so wildly misunderstood, that I believe it had to originate in just such an environment.

As homeschooling parents, we tend to think that we are solely responsible for the education of our children. We have specific reasons that we choose to homeschool.  We believe that if they fail to learn, it is because we didn’t purchase the best, newest curriculum or we didn’t do enough hands on activities or we did too many hands on activities.  And sometimes that is part of the problem.  But often a child’s failure to learn is completely and entirely his fault.  Sometimes that horse has been led to the cleanest, freshest, tastiest water and that stubborn, willful horse chooses to wither from dehydration rather than submit to the suggestion and input of his rider.  

Does this give the parents a free pass each time the child fails?  No.  A parent shares some of the responsibility as the adult in charge of the child’s education.  But, especially as children get older, to say that the parent is solely responsible, solely in charge is to say that the child has neither the ability nor the will to make choices and decisions affecting his life.  This is dishonoring toward our children.  It is dishonoring to think that we have the ultimate control of their little bodies.  We need to honor them, and empower them, with choices that lead them to the water that they so badly want and need and will willing choose to take, once the choice has been made theirs.  

How do we empower our children to make the choice to learn?  We’ve proven that we can force them to copy missed spelling words 20 times.  They’ve proven that they can make us as miserable as they are while doing so.  And they’ve proven that, though we can eventually force the hand to comply we cannot force the brain to comply.  Sometimes, children choose not to learn, because they have been offered no choice.  Children need control; they need to know that they have control.  Because, believe it or not, they do.  And when we refuse to acknowledge that they have any self-control, they begin to exert their desire to control everything in their environment.  

I am beginning a journey toward offering, especially my older children some control.   I am offering them the choice between two different science texts, two different types of math programs, etc.  With this choice comes the responsibility, “you chose this, you don’t have to like it, but you don’t get to whine or complain about it.”  

As we are still struggling with math facts, I have a plan to help them study but to mostly help them learn how they study best.  I am giving them, along with the week’s facts, a list of possible ways to study.  At the end of the week, if they were successful and know the material, they will advance to the next set, retaining the power of choice.  If they were unsuccessful, they will repeat the set, following my study instructions.  Upon completion of the set, they will receive a new set and fresh opportunity to choose, hoping that they will begin to discover how they learn best, a skill that will serve them well in high school and college.  

When we begin to treat our children like they truly are capable of rational thought and are able to make choices, we suddenly empower them to do and become anything God calls them to do in life.  Choices are powerful.

What choices have you given your children to empower them in their own education?

Check out other homeschool, family and natural living blogs at A Mama's Story.

Holiday World 2011!

Holiday World 2011!

Baby # 6

Baby # 6
Welcome to the world and welcome to our crazy family!

Fort Benning

Fort Benning
We finally made it to Georgia!!!

Just a day at the park!

Just a day at the park!

My Hero!

My Hero!
I don't do dead things. Fortunately for me, God gave me boys!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!

Much awaited 2009 PJs from Daddy!
Daddy and Grandma make Jammies every year for the kids, They love it!

Christmas in PJs

Christmas in PJs
Don't I just have the cutest kids?

2010 Jammies

2010 Jammies
Once again Daddy pulled it off. They look cute!

Round 2 birthday parties

Round 2 birthday parties
Cake number 1 of 3 done. I am so not an artist, but I think it came out pretty well!

My Girls

My Girls
Borrowed dance clothes, my girls sure look cute.

Couped up

Couped up
More images below showing the children feeling a bit "couped up" from the long winter!

Chickens: Take 2

Chickens: Take 2
Cute chicks!

The robot cake. I am glad my kids' standards aren't as high as mine!

Tree Climbers

Tree Climbers

Summer Fun!

Summer Fun!
Hi Daddy! Hope you are having fun at work!

This one is so bad, I had to label the cake so you would know it's not a cow!

Dressed for Church!

Dressed for Church!
Come as your favorite Bible character night!

Too cute for words!

If the boy wasn't so tall, I could get a picture of his face!

Establishing the pecking order!