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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

WFMW: Seven Habits of a Highly Effective School Year

As always, this is what works for me. We have been Homeschooling since our eldest was born. It has become a lifestyle. We have tried lots of things even though the oldest is only 8. I have plenty of friends who have tried lots of other things, some that worked and some that haven't. Some of these things I have learned from veteran Homeschoolers, some I have learned from my college education, others I have learned from my mistakes and from the mistakes of others. In every case, these are things that work for us as a Homeschooling family.

Never stop so you never have to start. We school year round. We then can take small breaks when we feel the need without having to re-teach.

When I was in my senior year of college (I graduated with a major in both Special Education and Elementary Education and was one credit short of an art minor) my professor of Behavior Management put forth a study that had been done over the previous 10 years. The study regarded several school districts which had the same number of students, similar curriculums, and the same amount of time spent in school. Those who took shorter breaks year round learned significantly more over the 10 year period than those who had the summer off. In the school district's case this was bad news since it is much harder to give kids mini- breaks than to have the school open 8 months of the year. On the other hand, for Homeschoolers it is a plus. Who says your trip to the grocery store can't be school, especially if your child is helping by reading the list, checking prices, using coupons. Any trip out can be considered a field trip as long as you look for the educational possibilities within.

Use every moment as a teachable moment. You've heard it before. There is an opportunity to teach lurking around every corner, on every sidewalk, up every tree, and in every situation. Be open to them and use them. If you make it a habit so will your kids. After a while, when you are busy doing something that is distracting you from the opportunity to teach, your child will point it out, and sometimes even run with it. My kids ask questions everywhere we go. We now know that the loud buzz in most stores is a telephone ringing, how to use the cash register at the family owned GNC we frequent, how to organize books at the library, and that the staff at the local Dollar Store loves home-made cookies. None of this was learned at my prompting but because the kids were interested and asked. I attended public school and never would have dreamed of ordering my own food let alone asking what that buzz is.

Homeschool doesn't need to be expensive. Your child DOES NOT need the most expensive curriculum in order to learn. Bottle caps, Legos, blocks, and marbles make great manipulatives. Old fashioned workbooks from the dollar store make for cheap set work that you won't mind picking and choosing from. A copy book is one of the best handwriting tools you can get (have them copy a verse, a quote, a poem, whatever, daily and they will learn to shape their letters and do it consistently and well, not to mention learning what it says, and probably memorizing it.) Board games and flash cards can easily be adapted to teach almost every subject (my kids' favorite game is to make a "race" out of suitable flashcards for each. They line them up in the hall and use a timer from another game to time their turns. Whoever reaches the end first, wins.) Chores are great teachers for doing your best, home economics, civics, and finishing what you start (plus sooner or later your child WILL have to do laundry, dishes, sweep, and dust whether you teach him or not.) Grocery, thrift, and dollar stores are great resources for cheap school books and supplies. And of course, never forget the significance of the local library. Even if a book is not Biblical you can glean the good stuff (if you are reading the Bible daily) and help them learn to be discerning. The plus side of this is that they will already have been exposed to some of the not so great stuff and be able to argue for the Biblical perspective. Your church library also may have a large stock of books or videos that can be useful. Ours has the Moody Bible Institute's Creation series which the kids love and which has been a great bouncing off point for our study of creation science this year.

Yard sales, thrift shops, and back to school sales are a great way, and the best time to stock up. Staples, Office Max, and other office supply store put the basics on sale every week in August. I just picked up five, twenty-four crayon, boxes of Crayolas for $.15 each. (Watch for the sales with limited amounts, they are usually the loss leaders, just like at the grocery store.) We stock up, not only for school, but also for birthdays, Christmas, and other extra treats.

Use the Bible. Character training is the best start and will help them develop a lifestyle of learning. Skip the Bible and focus on the "academics" and you will waste a lot of your time fighting to get them to work. Teach them to read God's Word and pray and the rest will follow, especially if you teach them discernment with it.

Remember why you are teaching them at home. The goal is not to cram as much into them as you can or make them miserable with all the "stuff" you are doing. The goal is to give them the best opportunity to learn in a familiar, Godly environment. If the kid's see that you are focused on stuff and academics, they will be focused on the same. If they see that your focus is on being a Godly person and that academics are a means to develop their Godly character, it will be theirs. Keep your perspective and you will be able to train them in the way they should go.

Remember that just because something works for one child won't make it work for the next. Every child is different. Every child should be trained in the way he or she should go, not in the way you want them to go. God's plan for them may not be yours. Pray for wisdom, pray that you will know and see the way they should go. He will bless you, and bless them through you. If you put them in God's hands He will lead them, even when you don't see it.


kel said...

I needed that post, thank you. I just started about 3 weeks ago with our first year of homeschool.

Carol said...

Excellent advice!! One more that I learned when we were homeschooling (through trial and error...mostly error), is that home is not a school. Instead of trying to turn our home into a school, we focused on enhancing its own natural learning environment. That worked much better for us.

Great tips!

Heather said...

Excellent advice Carol. This is very true. Trying to turn home int a school makes it less home like and much more stressful.

Mama Duck said...

What a wonderful idea! Have a great Wednesday - our WFMW tip is up as well!

Overwhelmed! said...

Excellent post! I'm still trying to decide what method of education we're going to use for Snuggle Bug. I talked about it in my public or private? post. Now I'm wondering if we shouldn't give more consideration to homeschooling as well.

Oh, and thanks for your comment on my WFMW (alternate use for a pot rack) post. I'll bet this idea would work well in a bathroom too! :)

PastorMac's Ann said...

I'm constantly trying to remind myself of #6! Somedays I remember more than others!

Thanks for the list! Just the boost I needed.

Grafted Branch said...

Homeschooling...have no idea what I'm doing...been doing it for 6 years...oldest child is more knowledgeable than me already on much of history and culture...loves to learn...owns what she learns...doesn't forget much...inspires me.

I especially loved #4...a truer truth has never been spoken on the subject. Godly character is everything in the young years. It's just not something you can turn around later. Though, they can learn everything else -- later.

Grafted Branch said...

Oops. Make that number 5.

Kathleen Marie said...

What an excellent post! Thank you!

MugwumpMom said...

Great advise. Had I been a homeschooler I would have heeded it. I admire homeschoolers, and having said that, had two kids attend a public high school who finished up on the straight A honour roll each year running. One is a 3rd year pre-med student at local Christian university while the other is planning on officer's training...
Thanks for visiting me today. I enjoy getting new visitors.

Pass The Torch said...

Great advice! It sounds like you do a fantastic job of homeschooling your kids.

Tammy said...

Loved this advice!

I am still fairly new...this will be my second year. We didn't go through the summer but may do that in the future. My oldest will just be going into second grade...and we've kind of did the pick and choose method of curriculum. I'm still learning a lot...thank you for some wonderful thoughts!

Mary said...

This was a great and super informative post! I'm a hsing mom of 3 girls, 3rd, 1st and two years old. Love homeschooling, can't imagine life any other way!
Thanks for taking the time to post all this!

Maureen said...

It took me a long time to figure out #7 in our homeschool!

Thanks for participating in the Seven Habits project!