~ Subscribe to Blog ~

July 28, 2008

Just a reminder that you can subscribe to this lil’ ol’ Blog by clicking “Blog Info” at the top right of your screen. This is a drop-down box where you can choose to subscribe to the blog and keep up with new posts without having to remember to check back later.

Now back to your regularly scheduled post. 🙂


~ 12 Strategies Part 3 ~

July 27, 2008

I’ll just jump right in here.

If you are careful to institute the first eight strategies we have been talking about, then these last four we are about to discuss will be rather simple to implement. We are looking at strategies that will prepare your student for a great showing on the College Board exams.

9. Provide notebooks to your high school kids solely for the purpose of writing something regularly. We use vocabulary lists, and the kids need to write in their notebooks (or on Microsoft Word) three times a week utilizing X number of vocab words.

Allow students to write whatever they like without grading these essays. Here is an opportunity for your students to just write. My only rule is no pure silliness. Humorous is fine, but ridiculousness for its own sake is not going to fly with mom.

If you see repetitive mistakes in the work, it is fine to mention this to the student, but don’t give a grade for each day’s essay. This is pleasure writing at its finest and will get your student writing without fear of criticism. Get the creative juices going and just let ’em go.

Not all kids find it easy to be creative on paper. One of my students found it difficult to crank out half a page semi-regularly, but half a page was done without complaint.

It is fun to read what your kids come up with when they write without hesitation because they know they will not be graded. Making suggestions is fair, but going over with a red pen and fine-tooth comb is foul.

Forget formal essays and focus on regular writing for pleasure.

10. Take the College Boards early and often…for fun only!  Have your student start taking exams annually in grades 8 through 10 for fun, and then when the scores really count, the tests will not be nearly as intimidating when taken in the junior and senior years.

When a student takes the SAT after 8th grade, there really is no pressure to perform. Who expects a middle schooler to do well at this age? This is precisely when confidence-building begins. Just don’t have any expectations at this age, and your student will pretty much surprise you. It is a great starting point!

Stress that the student is competing against himself only. The more familiar the student is with the testing environment, the more comfortable and confident he or she will be down the road when the test scores are “for keeps.”

11. Three weeks before the test date, use all of the practice tests you can findfor preparation. You can find free online tests at the college board sites, or purchase books by Kaplan or the Princeton Review, etc to work through as exam prep.

Forget all other school work and concentrate on taking the practice exams.

12. Do something fun the day before the exam. No studying allowed! Get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam is my final piece of advice to students (and the parents who love them.)

Of course, once again it bears repeating that my top educational goal for my kids is NOT to ace the SAT and ACT exams. However, this will be the outcome if I have been faithful in developing their educational confidence by encouraging a love of reading and giving the freedom to become self-learning.

We as parents are Homeschool Coaches! This topic will have its own post devoted to it, but I wanted to throw that in right here and now. You are a Homeschool Coach. Your family depends upon you to know what is required to win the game, and how to get there step by step.

I hope that you can see that raising kids who enjoy learning and who become engaged in life is actually pretty cut and dried. It takes some backbone on our part as parents (just say no to constant TV and distractions) and say yes to just about everything else. (Yes, we can go to the library. Yes, I can play monopoly with you. Yes I can read you a story. Yes, you can use the video camera to make a movie. Um…no, you can not make your sister walk the plank.)

It is important to me to remember that I reap what I sow. If I sow to my flesh, I will reap little that is of eternal value. If I sow seeds of high expectations, I will reap good, hardy fruit.

If I sow diligence in my role as the coach, I will reap students who take the ball and run with it in the manner that we have practiced over and over and over again.

Thank you so much for coming by today!

~ 12 Strategies Part 2 ~

July 22, 2008
Okay.  Where were we?  We had been discussing the first four strategies that will enable your young students to develop educationally so that they perform well on the College Board exams. 

Today let’s talk about the next four items which build upon the first four and that are applicable for the middle school years.

5. Allow children to work independently as much as possible beginning as young as possible. How young can children begin to work independently? I recommend by grade 2 allowing children to read directions and work on their own in at least one or two subjects such as handwriting or math.

6. Do not move on in each area unless the child has mastered the material. It is imperative that today’s work be done with excellence before tomorrow’s work is even considered. Everyone has a bad day here and there, so if the student isn’t getting it today, you can always have him try again tomorrow. Just don’t move on tomorrow until today’s stuff has been understood even if it isn’t understood until tomorrow. Make sense?

7. Have the student set short-term goals with you in each subject and praise them when the goals are reached. Every nine weeks, which equals just four times a year, (or however often you want to order it,) sit the student down, look over each subject and have them project where they think they can be in each subject nine weeks from now.


At the end of the nine weeks, review what has been accomplished, praise and/or give rewards, and set goals for the next nine weeks.

8. Allow plenty of “quiet time” during the day for students to pursue their own interests and to foster personal development. Provide cool pens and notebooks for non-school use. Encourage (or enforce if you have to) one hour of in-your-room time for your students.

What they do during this time is up to you. I like to have mine just go in their rooms and find something to do that is not screen-related. They will write, draw, read, play board games, etc.

I found that my kids really enjoyed this time, and my middle school-aged kids would stay in their rooms past the one hour time period because they were engrossed in something that they probably wouldn’t have been engrossed in had mom not insisted they spend time in their rooms. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Just a helpful hint here: if the children come out of their rooms before the hour is up, (excepting bathroom trips and anything else that is essential) then the clock starts over again.

There you have them…the four things which, if implemented and done faithfully, will provide valuable opportunities for children to learn and grow in ways that will bring lifelong benefits.  

If you have questions on mastery learning or self-teaching, there are a couple of pages on this blog that have additional info on these two topics.

Stay tuned for the last four strategies, which will be directed specifically towards high school students.

Thank you kindly for coming by, and I hope you have an awesome day!




~ 12 Strategies for College Board Exam Prep ~

July 15, 2008

A perfect-SAT-scorer lives in my house.

In fact, this student has scored in the 99th percentile on every college board and ACT exam he has ever taken from 9th through 12th grades. If you asked him about it, he would look pretty sheepish and shoot me a dirty look for revealing this piece of information about him.

However, if we had not had excellent results in our homeschool, would you be interested in what I have to say? Probably not. So please forgive my outburst in the above paragraph. Hopefully I will make it up to you by sharing some info that is helpful. 🙂

There really are simple things you and your young child can do to prepare for his or her stellar performance on the SAT, ACT, and PSAT starting today! I don’t see these as strictly things that should be incorporated so that your student will eventually score well on tests. However, it does help to have the end in sight when your children are young, to have a plan, to have a strategy upon which you are building day after day!

High test scores are not our goal here in the Calderwood family; they are a result of self-teaching coupled with mastery learning.

If you look at the SAT closely, you will see that this test is not testing general knowledge. It is testing the taker’s ability to think and to reason within a given time frame. The ACT is more knowledge-based, and according to many students who have taken both of these exams, is the harder of the two.

So keep in mind that the information I am about to share with you is valuable information that I have gleaned from personal experience over the years. This is what I have been doing in my household to prepare my students for an exciting lifetime of learning. It is not what we have been doing in order to achieve test results. The test results are merely confirmation of the fact that these strategies work!

Let’s discuss test results for a minute.

I think competition is a good thing, and while my kids all know each other’s rankings, they also understand that they are ultimately competing against themselves when they are sitting in the classroom on test day. They are trying to beat the test, and they look forward to seeing how well they did at it. Do they feel anxious? Of course! That is part of the nature of the experience.

Think Olympic athletes get stressed and anxious? You bet! Anxiety and competition need not be seen as bad things at all. It is all in our attitude as parents ~ helping our children see that they are competing for a prize, not just taking a test. In our family, earning a ticket to the university of your choice is seen as a major reward.

I should probably mention that Subject #2, my oldest daughter, was in the 98th percentile across the board where testing is concerned. If I had only two children, you might even be slightly impressed. Since I have six more to graduate, I know you want to withhold judgment and just see how the experiment works itself out over the next 12 years with the others, right?! 🙂

Will all of my children score so well? All I can say is that they will be prepared. That is all that we can do…see that our kids have the tools they need to succeed. These tools will vary depending on our individual definitions of success. For my oldest two, the ability to work hard on their own is its own reward. (Their rooms, however, are messy at this very moment. Perhaps I should include a pic here? LOL)

I am not an athlete. I don’t even like Ultimate Frisbee. You should see me do a “drop” on the trampoline; no, you really shouldn’t. You know what is interesting? I wasn’t raised by athletic parents. I never saw them deliberately get exercise in twenty some years. Is it their fault that I am not athletic? Should I be bitter? Yes and no.

They are musicians, and they were interested in seeing that I developed musically. I paid my way through college via piano as a result. So yes, I was not raised to play sports, to be competitive on the field or on the court, but am I bitter? Of course not. My husband, however, is very athletic, and his influence in athletics has been so good for our kids.

My education was forged in a public school. My parents would occasionally ask if my homework was done, but my A’s were not really rewarded. I worked hard for myself with little input from parents although the expectation that I would do so was was always present. Looking back I am a little surprised that there was so little encouragement given along the way, yet I was still motivated. Hmmm…a topic for later delving.

Think about your own upbringing for just a moment. How were you influenced by the interests and values held by your parents? What was your attitude towards school and how was that attitude framed by your parents either directly or indirectly? I wish you could talk to me right now, because I would be fascinated to hear your story if you cared to share it.

Do you see where I am going with this? Just as you and I are a direct result of our up-bringing, so our children will be the direct result of how we live our lives with them today. Our preferences and choices will naturally become theirs. Our lifestyle, our parenting style influences how they will live their lives as adults. No pressure here, right?

I firmly believe that all children are gifted. It is our responsibility and our joy as parents to give our children the resources they need to fly, to excel in their areas of expertise. Your attitudes, your expectations, and your input will directly and indirectly affect how successful your child is in the realm of education or in any realm actually.

I don’t mean to scare you here. I mean to encourage you! A good attitude, a yes-you-can attitude, an I’m-in-this-with-you attitude will make all of the difference in the world to your child. If we don’t care enough to set standards and expectations for our children and enforce them, our children will lack focus.

It doesn’t matter if you are wealthy or live paycheck to paycheck. You may have excelled in academics or not. You may have done terribly in school because you lacked encouragement or support. No matter how unprepared you feel to educate your children at home, they can soar in the educational realm. I assure you that if you support them in education, if you are watchful, they will succeed.

 All children are gifted; how those gifts are developed, how determined the child is to “win,” and how supportive and watchful the parents are will influence the outcome of the race.

Anyone can learn to learn with excellence, but it takes coaching. It may take some children more time to get to the pinnacle than others. Sure, some may have obstacles to overcome. Obstacles are an Olympic hurdler’s life! One can get really, really good at going over them smoothly with – ahem – practice. With practice comes mastery.

Back to testing: testing validates students, especially homeschoolers who may feel the need to test to make sure they are “doing it right.” I hold that mastery learning will bring out the best in your kids on test day. If they can read and comprehend well, if they have strong logic skills, if they have strong mental muscle that has been exercised well regularly, then they will perform with excellence.

What I am going to do over the course of the next couple days is break down the 12 Strategies into three groups: 1) Strategies for littles, 2) Strategies for middles, and 3) Strategies for young adults.

Here are the first four of my 12 Strategies which should be implemented as early as possible; however, if they have not been implemented and your child is ten or older, have no fear! Just plan today to get moving.

1. Promote a lifelong enjoyment of learning by having books available. Read to your youngers. Take them to the library to select their own books. The enjoyment of reading, the experience of reading needs to be a positive one! This can not be over-emphasized.  Every parent can take some time to read to their children, and it is so very important to establish reading as a positive experience from a young age.

2. Foster reading for pleasure. In other words, turn off the TV. Mind candy is always going to be more attractive to children than reading books if they have a choice just as candy will always be chosen over broccoli if young children are given the choice. 

If children are left alone with books, they will become interested in books.

3. Let your children see you reading. If all your children see you do is work around the house, Mom, or come home from work and turn on the TV, Dad, then they are going to pick up on the signals you are sending that reading is not important. It is not fun. It must not be worthwhile.

Have cozy evenings where you all just sit around the family room reading or reading to each other.

4. Develop independent thinking in your littles by having games and puzzles on hand for daily use. Also provide art supplies and play doh for creative play. You don’t have to have structured “reading time,” “game time,” “art time,” etc. Just allow children to spontaneously go from one thing to another in the early years. The more hands-on an activity is, the higher its value on the scale of educational relevance.

So you can see that three out of the first four strategies involves reading or attitudes about reading. By the time your young child is school-aged (5 to 6) he or she already has established feelings about reading which will affect learning in the elementary years and beyond.

If you have created an environment where electronic media is more accessilbe and prevalent than reading, you will be fighting an uphill battle from the start. You may want to think about that the next time your children ask to watch a movie or play Wii.

I am speaking to myself here as well. I need to remember that while it is easier to let my 6-year-old entertain herself by playing a computer game, she would benefit much more by me sitting down with her and reading to her for 15 minutes, or suggesting that one of her siblings read to her if I absolutely can not.

Having art supplies on hand is always a great way to provide instant fun.  Playing a game with my littler ones is always a hit. Of course that means I have to stop what I am doing to do this. What kind of message does that send to my kids? It tells them that I value my time with them, and that mom isn’t too busy to play. Sometimes I have to make appointments with them and say, “When I get these packages ready to ship, I’ll be ready to play.” Kids know if you really want to make time for them or not.

Make reading and learning a pleasure emotionally for your littles.

What can you do if you student is 15 and hates to read? I have been asked that question more than any other question, I think. To be honest with you, it is going to be a tough road but there is hope.

Guess what needs to be done to change the course your student is on? You have to make reading a pleasure emotionally for your teens just as you do for your littles! As adults, don’t we do those things that we *like* to do when we have free time? Of course!

I am not a huge proponent of telling kids what they have to read. I am all for letting them loose in the library to choose their own books beginning when they are young. I would recommend allowing teens to do this as well if they haven’t developed a love of reading.

Don’t give them a reading list at this point. Your student needs time to develop an interest, to develop a relationship with the process of reading, and this doesn’t happen in a month’s time. How interested would you be if someone told you that you “had” to read a book? Not very. I feel that too many parents dictate what must be read to teenagers without allowing them balance in this realm.

If your teen “doesn’t like reading,” here is what I suggest. Call a moratorium on reading for schooling purposes. However, make a deal with him/her that you will not require reading for school if you see him/her reading a book from the library (or from wherever) that he wants to read. If he picks a Star Wars paperback at the library, great! That’s a start. Book candy is not a bad thing at this point! Forget Shakespeare and go for reading of any variety that captures interest. (Within reason, of course.)

You may need to go an entire semester this way or even longer! Keep the goal in sight: the student needs time alone with books of his choosing in order to devlopa relationship with reading. It also helps to limit entertainment choices as well so that books become more attractive.

There you have Strategies 1 through 4. Next time we will build upon these strategies in the middle school years examining what can be done at these ages to prepare a student for outstanding test scores on the college board exams. I dislike putting it that way because again, our goal in educating our children is NOT just doing well on a test or two.  However, by employing great learning habits at a young age, children will be on the road to educational mastery, of which excellent test scores are a direct result.

Have fun with your kids today! As always, I thank you for stopping by. Have a great today!

~ You’re gonna miss this ~

July 9, 2008

As a quintessential country music fan, I am often inspired by the heartfelt lyrics of sensitive musicians who write of their life experiences.

You’re gonna miss this; you’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna  wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast. These are some good times. Take a good look around. You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.

How true of us as parents. Each day is precious. The kids may be having one of their crazy wild moments, but someday we will miss even this.  Next month two of my kids will be headed to college as freshman and sophomore. A big ol’ hole will be left in the fabric of our lives, but this is commonly called “growing up” in our culture, and I am cool with that. Sometimes.

I thought I would post for you some family pics that were taken on our recent trip to the aquarium in Chattanooga. This is what I am going to miss…family time.

Ready to rock!

Ready to rock!

Welcome to my family! Back row L to R is Taylor (16), Nick (18), and Frank (14). Front row is Lydia (8), AD (10), Lauren (17), Olivia (12), and Lilie (6).

Ad and Lilie

Ad and Lilie

Frank and Taylor @ fish petting zoo

Frank and Taylor @ fish petting zoo


Lydia in a pensive moment

Lydia in a pensive moment

Nick after Red Bull

Nick after Red Bull

Lauren contemplates primordial ooze

Lauren contemplates primordial ooze


Olivia chills with friends

Olivia chills with friends

Mom with all the girls who were making funny faces so that is why you only see me!

Mom with all the girls who were making funny faces so that is why you only see me!

Where is Tim in all of this? He was behind the camera in some of the pics. I’ll be sure to get some pics of him up here before too long. We had a blast but we must have caught some bug while we were in town because almost all of us developed a “mystery flu” just a few days after our trip. Small price to pay for priceless memories though.

I know you are making your own Summer of 2008 memories with your family. Here’s to good times that will pass only too quickly. Enjoy your children to the extreme today! Hug each one of them at least once, even if they are teenagers.

Thank you for popping in! Oh — one more pic for you —

Ramses wonders where everyone went!

Ramses wonders where everyone went!

 Happy Tuesday!


~ Homeschoolers Threatening ~

July 5, 2008

6/8/2008 9:39:01 AM
Daily Journal

You see them at the grocery, or in a discount store.

It’s a big family by today’s standards – “just like stair steps,” as the old folks say. Freshly scrubbed boys with neatly trimmed hair and girls with braids, in clean but unfashionable clothes follow mom through the store as she fills her no-frills shopping list.

There’s no begging for gimcracks, no fretting, and no threats from mom. The older watch the younger, freeing mom to go peacefully about her task.

You are looking at some of the estimated 2 million children being home schooled in the U.S., and the number is growing. Their reputation for academic achievement has caused colleges to begin aggressively recruiting them.

Savings to the taxpayers in instructional costs are conservatively estimated at $4 billion, and some place the figure as high as $9 billion. When you consider that these families pay taxes to support public schools, but demand nothing from them, it seems quite a deal for the public.

Home schooling parents are usually better educated than the norm, and are more likely to attend worship services. Their motives are many and varied. Some fear contagion from the anti-clericalism, coarse speech, suggestive behavior and hedonistic values that characterize secular schools.

Others are concerned for their children’s safety. Some want their children to be challenged beyond the minimal competencies of the public schools. Concern for a theistic world view largely permeates the movement.

Indications are that home schooling is working well for the kids, and the parents are pleased with their choice, but the practice is coming under increasing suspicion, and even official attack, as in California.

Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much?

Methinks American middle-class people are uncomfortable around the home schooled for the same reason the alcoholic is uneasy around the teetotaler.

Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s be, but they draw the line at their children.

Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.

Just as the jealous Chaldeans schemed to bring the wrath of the king upon the Hebrew eunuchs, we are happy to sic the state’s bureaucrats on these “trouble makers.” Their implicit rejection of America’s most venerated idol, Materialism, (a.k.a. “Individualism”) spurs us to heat the furnace and feed the lions.

Young families must make the decision: Will junior go to day care and day school, or will mom stay home and raise him? The rationalizations begin. “A family just can’t make it on one income.” (Our parents did.) “It just costs so much to raise a child nowadays.”

(Yeah, if you buy brand-name clothing, pre-prepared food, join every club and activity, and spend half the cost of a house on the daughter’s wedding, it does.) And so, the decision is made. We give up the bulk of our waking hours with our children, as well as the formation of their minds, philosophies, and attitudes, to strangers.

We compensate by getting a boat to take them to the river, a van to carry them to Little League, a 2,800-square-foot house, an ATV, a zero-turn Cub Cadet, and a fund to finance a brand-name college education. And most significantly, we claim “our right” to pursue a career for our own

Deep down, however, we know that our generation has eaten its seed corn. We lack the discipline and the vision to deny ourselves in the hope of something enduring and worthy for our posterity. We are tired from working extra jobs, and the looming depression threatens our 401k’s. Credit cards are nearly maxed, and it costs a $100 to fuel the Suburban.

Now the kid is raising hell again, demanding the latest Play Station as his price for doing his school work … and there goes that modest young woman in the home-made dress with her four bright-eyed, well-behaved home-schooled children in tow. Wouldn’t you just love to wipe that serene look right off her smug face?

Is it any wonder we hate her so?

Sonny Scott a community columnist, lives on Sparta Road in Chickasaw County and his e-mail address is sonnyscott@yahoo.com.

Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 6/8/2008, section 0 , page 0

~ The Ownership Principle ~

July 1, 2008

Hello! Thank you for reading this. (I trust there is not a gun to your head and you are doing it of your own free will.) What I am about to share is an unbelievable, innate principle which you can exploit – I mean use – in your home school and in your family life as well.

The Ownership Principle can help you clean up your house. It can help you save precious lung capacity. (Less screaming) It can also help your child or young adult reach their full potential.

Self-teaching is all about the student taking ownership of his or her education! Once the student sees that he is the one in control versus being told what he *has* to do, something magical takes place.

Here is a great real-time example. Last year our oldest, Nick, regularly drove the family vehicles. He had a job in town, and he drove one of the cars as if it were his own.

I found myself frustrated that the car he used regularly resembled a trash can on the inside. I mean, how hard is it to take in your Sonic Route 44 drink cup when you are done with it? Why does one leave soccer stuff spread out all over the back seat when it can easily be located neatly in the soccer bag? And the guitar paraphernalia….picks in the drink holders. Argh! You get the picture.

When Nick graduated from high school last May, we gave him the opportunity to purchase the car he had been using from us for a fraction of its value. He was delighted to own his own car! Guess what he immediately did upon receiving the car? He went out and cleaned and vacuumed it! I mean, the car hadn’t looked that shiny new in months!

Until he had ownership, he didn’t take any real pride in the car. Once it was *his,* it became much more worthy of his time and attention. His car became a reflection of him and not of the entire Calderwood Clan.

Education is exactly the same. If you as the parent own the process, the student doesn’t feel any real inclination to go all out.

But put the student in the driver’s seat, allow her to take the wheel and decide where she is going that day, how far and how fast, and suddenly education is worthy of that student’s time and attention.

The student takes pride in her work like never before!

Ever get frustrated with your kids because they played a board game and left it out in the middle of the floor where the box top gets stepped on, the pieces get dispersed around the room because of the cats who play hockey with them, and the game gets ruined all because no one took responsibility for the game? (Oh no; that has never happened here.)

Use the Ownership Principle to your advantage with items around the house. What I have done is to give each game to a particular child when it comes in the door from the store. Scrabble belongs to Olivia, or Clue belongs to Lydia, etc. That way somebody owns it and actually takes care of it.

This especially works well with decks of cards. We have certain children who take really good care of cards, and as their reward, they get to own them. If one of the others wants to play with the cards, they must get permission from the owner, and they also must give the  cards back to the owner immediately upon finishing. Works most of the time.

If you would like to see an attitude shift in your students, if you want to see their performance go up several notches, hand them the keys to their brand new educational vehicle: self-teaching.

I tell ya, it works. [wink]

Have a great Tuesday!


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