Not all children learn alike. This is an established fact. However when one child seems to grasp things much more easily and faster than the other, the homeschooling parent may be forgiven for wondering if the “slow” learner has a problem. Do you have a special needs child in your homeschool classroom? Here are some checks that you can do before you involve an expert and create upheaval in the life of your homeschool student.
Is your homeschool student skipping small words while reading aloud? Does he still need to use the finger as a tracker while reading even after the age of seven? Are word reversals such as on-no, saw-was, big-dig, a common issue? These may be triggers that help you identify that your child may not be doing visual processing of the data as expected.
The hand to eye coordination is shaky in most children but as they grow older it should improve. An awkward writing posture, poor space between letters, and reversals written in the note book may again be clues to the fact that the child is having an issue with motor responses. Do remember that there is no “one size fits all“ theory about how quickly your child should master these tasks. However if younger siblings are doing much better it may be time to intervene.
Converting sounds they hear into written letter and words is a problem. Verbal expression is not spontaneous and needs a fair amount of effort. Phonetic rules do not get understood as sounds are not being processed as they should. The same word is spelt differently time and again. Certain words are guessed at since whole sounds are not understood. These are definite signs of a problem.
While the focus of a young child is never constant, there should be some tangible attention span. If the child needs to spend a large chunk of time and attention to accomplish a relatively simple task, there may be an issue. Easily distracted children with no persistence may not always have a disability, so you need to be careful how you proceed.
The joys of conducting science experiments do not have to be restricted to expensive all inclusive kits. You can do a lot with the supplies around the home as well. Here are some tips to make science more interesting on a shoestring budget.
Backyard to Kitchen
Your backyard can become a science lab with very little effort. Set up a botany counter with some edible herbs. Plant five different types of seeds and have the children measure the growth of the herbs each day. You can take photos on your smartphone and upload them to the computer to compare the weekly differences.
When the herbs are ready its time for some tasty chemical reactions. Get some flour and yeast ready to make different herb flavoured breads. You can experiment with making your own pizzas and buns. Watch which herbs give a stronger colour, taste the herbs that have more flavour and make a note of your observations along with photographs.
Kitchen to Backyard
Chemistry can be involved in obtaining boiling and freezing points of different liquids in the kitchen. All you need is adult supervision, a couple of different drinks, and extreme temperatures as provided by the microwave or fridge. Take an aerated drink and a fruit juice tetra pack and get down the freezing temperatures.
Now head out into the backyard to observe how fast they melt. Some drawing and art can also be made possible with the frozen popsicles. Just place some plain white sheets of paper and allow the children to figure out what sketches they can make as the iced beverage melts.
Handy Work Repairs
Physics may make its appearance as you make minor repairs to home appliances. Simple activities such as changing a light bulb, replacing a worn out wire on an iron, or putting in a fresh plug on a gadget ending can become great learning opportunities. Basic conductivity, insulators, and simple circuits can all be explained easily using these activities. The best part is that these are skills that will come in handy life long.
As you can see science activities are all around us at home, we just need to identify them to take advantage of the teaching opportunity.
There are a lot of ways that you can homeschool on a shoestring budget . Here are some tips to get you started.
Don’t Buy Books - If you are a part of an active and large enough support group you can always borrow the books you need in the homeschool classroom. There are also places where you can rent used books for the academic session. If you attend library sales you may be able to get a wealth of books at a fraction of the price you would pay elsewhere. This does work out much cheaper in the long run.
Create Wish Lists – Family and friends are always looking to make a meaningful contribution of gifts on special occasions. Help them get it right by adding all that you need to a visible wish list. You could post it online on a blog that you run. Major stores like Amazon allow you to have public wish lists that can be seen by your well wishers. That way no one needs to ask you what to get, they can just pick something off the wish list and send it to you.
Reuse Material Where Possible - Some study material can be passed on from student to student in subsequent grade years. Educational games, reference books, atlases, even stationary material may be easily reused by the younger student in the homeschool classroom. So when you end an academic session scan through the materials you have used in that grade that can be reused and put them away safely for the next year.
Make Frugal Field Trips – Most field trips that take you out of the house to a special location will come at an additional cost, if only that f gas and food. However some field trips that require entrance fees and a fair amount of transportation cost may be difficult for the homeschooling family to undertake. Especially if they are struggling to make the budget stretch. In such cases closer to home and cheaper trips make a lot more sense. You can still get a lot of learning done on a frugal field trip if you plan it out well.
In a homeschooling family the parent is usually none too sure what teaching approach will work best with their children. Many of these homeschooling teachers have studied in traditional classrooms and tend to think that opening out textbooks and going through worksheets is the acceptable way to proceed with learning. While there is nothing wrong in this method of teaching, the fact that you have chosen to homeschool does give you some flexibility to play with. You can still use textbooks as a starting point for studies but encourage the homeschooled students to go beyond what is mentioned in the book.
As the teacher you are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your student, now all you have to do is help the student identify both for himself. If your homeschool student prefers to have defined goals and set assignments to structure the studies, give him tasks that allow him a sense of accomplishment when he finishes them. If your homeschool student prefers to read up what he likes about a topic of interest when he wants to, you could just suggest a number of useful resources and ask him to come up with a report on what all he uncovered at the end of the week.
If you know that your child will lose interest in the topic if you are not constantly prodding him to get on with it, you may like to have a daily “what I accomplished today” report filled out at the end of the school day. This will help keep your records organized as well as let you know just what your child managed to cover in a day. There is the added advantage of making your child learn how to summarize what they have accomplished in a set period of time.
They can also be asked to set their own goals for what they hope to accomplish on the next day in the same report. This allows them to gain perspective on what a goal can truly entail, and how long it takes to accomplish each individual task. It also teaches responsibility about what tasks they need to cover and how they mean to complete them.
With studies being taken care of by a parent at home, and no families with homeschooling children close by, it may seem difficult for homeschool students to get socialized. However this is a myth as almost all homeschool students have a number of co-curricular activities that allow them to interact and learn new skills with other children their age. In a study conducted by HSLDA an average homeschool student was involved in a minimum of two or more activities.
What are the most popular activities?
Play dates with people outside the family was the most common socialization activity followed a close second by field trips. No matter where you live there is always a place near by that you can plan a field trip to. The beauty of homeschooling is that a visit to a local natural park, a factory, a museum or even a historical monument can be turned into an educational activity. This makes field trips a very popular activity for homeschool parents.
What else are the other homeschoolers doing?
The top of the list is group sports. Community sports centres are very popular with homeschoolers and most of them learn more than one active group sport. Great for socializing with peers, this also inculcates a sense of team work in the children. Then we move on to the second most popular activity, music class. Be it singing in a choir, leanring ballet, contemporary dance clases or learning to play a musical instrument, most homeschoolers are involved in some kind of music classes. It is a great way to introduce appreciation of art and culture to them.
Other popular activities that the homeschooler students are involved in
Bible Clubs, Ministry and Volunteer work are all popular outlets for homeschooler enthusiasm. The children are often involved in social projects that affect the local community and thrive as they learn about caring for others. The natural compassion that young children have make them excellent volunteers for both human and animal related charities. Parents usually guide their youngsters towards volunteer work which invokes their imagination and fires them up with the need to make a difference in the world.
Teaching methods vary from homeschool classroom to classroom, and one that is gaining popularity if the Living Books approach. This method is based on the writings of Charlotte Mason, a British educator. Mason was unhappy at the formal education system of her time which treated children as little more than empty containers to be filled up with bits of isolated information. She wanted them to read more than the dull textbooks that she considered inferior material. She wanted to open their minds to new possibilities.
Mason was of the opinion that if children were given good books to read, they would be able to educate themselves in good habits and a good lifestyle. She believed that children should be taught about how to behave and act in real life situations rather than merely generating artificial learning situations in the school classroom. She wanted them to be able to handle themselves in actual situations they faced. This is very much in resonance to most homeschooling families where the learning is never restricted to the classrooms.
After teaching the children basic reading, writing and math skills Mason asked that they be allowed to experience other sources of learning. Living books, as per her, were books that made the theme or topic come alive in a manner that the child could easily relate to it. They made the children think about what they were reading, unlike dull textbooks which seemed to assume that the student had no capacity for individual opinion formation. They demand the active participation of the student.
The homeschool students become active participants in their own learning in the living books approach. They are exposed to real world information rather than a small and simplified version of the topic that is highly distilled. They go out into the world and test the words that they have read. They don’t have to waste time on busy work, but instead can indulge their curiosity and creative thinking. They develop a love of learning and do not always wait on the homeschool teacher to find out more about something that interests them. It is for this reason that the approach is gaining popularity with homeschoolers.
There are a number of different methods that homeschool teachers use to help their students learn. Some use a regular school text book, others don’t touch any formal texts at all. As long as the homeschooled child learns what he needs at his grade level, its all okay. One popular homeschool method of teaching is using unit studies.
What is a Unit Study?
A single theme or topic is taken up in the unit study over a period of time. The topic is explored in depth and often integrates many different school subjects in it. For instance if you were to study mammals as a unit study you would begin with types of mammals in biology, them move on to where they live in geography, figure out their Latin based species names in language skills, count how many of them are in existence and do comparative studies of populations in math. The topic or theme stays mammals but you study them from the point of view of every school subject differently.
Who should take on Unit Studies?
Ask yourself a few questions to see if you and your homeschool classroom are ready for Unit Studies. Are you a creative teacher who likes to make things interesting and fun? Do you want to spark the interest of your homeschool students in a manner that makes them want to learn more about a theme or topic on their own? Would you like to teach all your children of different ages all together in the classroom? Do you have the resilience to accept certain gaps in your child’s education during the academic session? If you answered yes to all these questions, then you probably will do well with unit studies.
What you should guard against
In Unit Studies there are no set assignments that the children must finish, so it can be difficult to assess the exact amount of learning happening. You can remedy this by having pop quizzes to check who remembers how much of the stuff being gone through. Also since this is a very activity intense type of learning, the teacher may be exhausted setting up one activity after the other. So give yourself some space between unit studies to have regular classes as well.
The importance of exercise and fresh air has been well documented and it is a good idea to set aside some time each day for the physical education of your homeschool students. You agree in theory that the kids should get outside everyday. The trouble arises when the activity you planned can somehow not be conducted that day.
More often than not its the weather playing spoilsport. You wanted them to go out in the back yard and play badminton, but now its so windy that the shuttle will never stay on course. So what? Give them something else to do, just keep them outdoors and physically active. If its too windy for badminton throw open a dodge ball game. Don’t worry about anything, just remember that there is always a solution to any problem.
If it is nice and windy, have them fly a kite. If it is raining you can use the time to actually design and make your own kite. The rains are also a good time to take a walk in the park. Honestly, everything is so much more fun when its drizzling and you have mud puddles to jump in and out of. Don’t let the weather hold you back from truly having an amazing time with your homeschool students out of the house.
Of course in the summer you may not want to leave the cool house, but think of the fun you can have if you head out to the swimming pool. Or perhaps just turn on the sprinklers of the lawn and have an impromptu rain dance right on the grass. Turn up the music nice and loud from the house and you can really shake a leg. Invite kids from the neighbourhood and make it a real party.
The idea is to get behind any physical activity and have some fun. Physical Education period does not have to be limited to organized sports and games. There is a lot to be said for just having fun and getting all the exercise that you and your children could ever need. Think about what physical activity you enjoy and add it to your day, today.
There are always a number of things that a homeschooling parent would like to teach their homeschool students but somehow never find the time for. If you are a single homeschool teacher you already know that every minute of the day is precious. You can also do things that you really want to if you just factor them into your day. A good way to keep track of the big rocks that you want to reach is to make a Homeschool Bucket List for the year. Here’s how it can work as a great tool to help you get more done and also work as a teaching aid in your homeschool classroom.
Each Member Makes Their Own List
At the beginning of the homeschool year you can ask each student to come up with a list of activities that they would really want to do in the course of that academic session. Its fine if more than one person wants to claim a single activity. Get them to write down the list, it teaches them organization. There will be a whole lot of things in the initial list. Let them write it all down. Now ask them to pick up the absolute must do from the list to make a top ten items bucket list.
Do Some Art and Craft Work
Now bring out old magazines and ask them to cut out pictures that symbolize items on their bucket list. They can even draw their own illustrations if they wish to. Hand out the chart papers and glue to get a visual representation of the bucket list ready to hang on the homeschool wall. Make sure that you number the activities on the bucket list and have a square next to it which may be ticked off as soon as you get around to doing the activity mentioned.
Make A Master Bucket List for Yourself
Its not just the students who get to be in on the action here. As the teacher you get to pick your top ten activities from all the student lists. This is what you are sure to get down during the coming academic session. Stick to what you really want to do in this list rather than what will be popular with the children.
Finger painting is a great hobby for keeping young toddlers involved in a project while you sit with their elder siblings in the homeschool classroom. However as most toddlers are bound to taste what they have on their hands, it is a good idea to give them a taste of something not just edible, but actually tasty when you give them paints. Here are some great ideas for making edible finger paints that you can easily hand over to your youngest member of the homeschool.
For Red : Boil some beetroot and blend it in the grinder to get a really nice deep red or almost maroon color. If you wish to dilute the shade add a spot of milk or curd to it.
For Pink : Use strawberries and blend them up together in the grinder to get a smooth paste. Add a couple of spoons of hung curd to give it a thicker consistency.
For Orange: actually orange juice and some icing sugar can be combined well to make the color. Plus you will not mind your toddler taking a couple of licks of the mixture as they finger paint their next masterpiece.
For Blue : Blueberries and yogurt again make a great blend in the grinder. They give you a great blue tinted paste to use for finger painting.
For Green : Spinach can be blanched and churned in the grinder with some hard cheese to get the correct consistency to paint with. Needless to say you will actually be encouraging your toddler to eat this rather healthy painting mixture.
For Yellow : turmeric power is great when added to some cream cheese for a decent shade of yellow. Be careful how much powder you add as the color can be quite potent. Plus it can make the cheese taste a bit bitter if you add too much of it.
Each of these edible paints will give your child a beautiful shade to play with on the painting. You can even consider allowing the child to paint the masterpieces on slices of break which may serve secondary duty as the mid day snack. Talk about being efficient!