~ Einstein’s Theory on Teaching ~

April 26, 2009
Einstein's Office Mess

Einstein's Office Mess

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn. – Albert Einstein

Wow.

That is the job of the homeschooling parent right there: provide the environment for learning to happen.

Worth memorizing and internalizing and reminding yourself with when you realize you are doing all of the work again.

Yeah, and next time you are aggravated by the mess in your house, remember this pic! LOL

Happy Saturday, y’all!

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~ Curriculum Hopping ~

April 16, 2009

curriculumhopping-graphicThose of you who are members of my yahoo list, I apologize for the rerun. I received such positive feedback after posting on this subject that I thought I would share it here as well. If you are not on the list, I’d love for you to join us at Raising Self-Learners for Life. We’re all about–you guessed it-self-teaching and mastery stuff.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RaisingSL4Life/

One of the things that reeeeally bothers me is how many parents are swayed to change curriculum because little Jimmy “doesn’t like it.” Kids should not be determining the curriculum, folks. I don’t ask my younger kids which spelling book they want to do, or which history series they want to use, etc. I look at it, I decide if I think it is in the best interest of my educational philosophy to use it or not, and then the children DO IT. Period.

Granted, for me I am dealing with crowd control. If I catered to each child’s whim on curriculum and tolerated one of them saying how they “didn’t like their spelling book” and wanted to try another kind, then before I knew it, I would be hearing complaints about every piece of material in the house from every child.

You all know that I am a huge proponent of students taking more and more control of their educational processes. However, there is a fine line here that many parents cross thinking that they should let their children decide if they “like” curriculum or not, or if mom should go searching for yet another history text that perhaps Junior will like better.

Hogwash! I don’t know what I would do if one of my kids said, “Mom, I don’t really like this handwriting book. Can you look for something else that I might like better?”

If I DID hear that from one of my kids, I would ask what it is the student didn’t like about the handwriting book, and I would listen to their complaints. Then I would gently but firmly let the student know that I think this series is the best one out there, and while I am sorry they don’t like _________ about it, it is my choice for their handwriting instruction. End of subject. I would not allow any future comments or whining about the handwriting book.

I am the mom. I trust my judgment. My kids trust my judgment. One way to make them NOT trust my judgment is to give in to them and go looking for “something better.” Have I looked at every single handwriting program out there? Uh, no. I have found one I like and that I want to use, and that is what we do. In fact, I have used the same program for every single child thus far.

If Lilie, child number 8, complains about the book, do you think I am going to substantiate her whining by assuring her that her 100% enjoyment of homeschooling is my ultimate goal?

If she had been my first child and she had complained, I may have been swayed to look around for something else because I would have had no past experience that said, “This curriculum works,” and I may have waffled. Don’t do that!

If you have one child who randomly and regularly complains about curriculum, don’t give in! Sure, you need to listen and address the child’s concerns, but do not give your young children control over what you use in your homeschool. And especially do not change from one series to another just because your child complains.

What happens in college? What if a college student doesn’t like the curriculum the professor chooses? Exactly! So why do parents doubt themselves when their kids kick up a fuss about curriculum? Why do homeschool parents not RELAX and use what they have instead of feeling a compulsion to scour the aisles of curriculum fair after curriculum fair in search of a curriculum that will make the child happy.

Can you tell this is my pet peeve?

I would also say not to change your math curriculum either. Lauren, when she was in high school, did not like or enjoy Saxon math.  We pushed on through it. I wish for her sake that she had liked it, but she had to work through her dislike of the curriculum, and she had to have a good attitude about it. She did. She pulled an A in every level. She also earned an A in her college algebra class her freshman year while tutoring other students in her class who requested her help.

The ability to tailor learning to the individual student is wonderful; however, do not feel that you have to find a curriculum that your student is delighted with all of the time. Find what WORKS and stick with it. As an experienced mom of many, I can assure you that forcing your child to work through what you have chosen, to work with excellence, and to master the material is NOT UNREASONABLE. It is the expectation!

Keep it simple. Stick to your guns. Work through what you have. You will never find the perfect curriculum, so why torture yourself and think that it is out there? I even recommend that parents NOT go to curriculum fairs if all they are going to do is shop around for different curriculum.

It is like looking in a candy store window. You WILL like what you see, and you WILL be tempted to buy, but you don’t need it! Why go looking? You know you will become unsatisfied with what you have, and you will doubt yourself. You will think, “I like this and this about Math-U-See (or whatever), so maybe we’ll try this to see if little Jimmy likes this better?”

JUST SAY NO.

One concession that I will make is for a video tutorial. Sometimes students, especially with math, need to SEE and HEAR a teacher go through the steps to understand more complex operations such as algebra. Algebra is MUCH more complex than spelling, right? Spelling is memorization, whereas algebra requires complex operations. Get a video tutorial if your child struggles with Saxon algebra (or whatever)IF and ONLY IF you are unable to explain it to him or her.

If you are able to do it, then take the time and spend it generously with your student to help them along in this area. If you totally don’t “get” algebra, and your student is unable to read the book and get it, then bring in some visual aids if necessary, but only if you feel they have hit a wall.

I will be talking about this topic in my next HSE column. One way to be an underwhelmed homeschool mom is definitely to trust your instincts and not allow your young children to do anything other than happily do what you place before them, as you have chosen that material for a reason which is not open for discussion with the student, as a rule. I am talking about younger children here, meaning the elementary and even middle school years.

Should a high schooler have an input on what “brand” of material they do? YES, but I would be asking for input and letting the student know that I am interested in their thoughts; I will be making the decision, however. Do not send the message that the student’s likes and dislikes are the ONLY factor and not the educational content being a huge factor in the brand-choosing. You should definitely consider whether or not you think the material will be a good fit for your student(s), but be objective about it.

Wrong thought: Will Susie like this history text and not complain about it and say it is too boring?

Correct thought: Will the material in this program present the given information in a learner-friendly manner? Is it presented in such a way that Susie will comprehend it and be able to remember it?

One of the reasons I like Abeka materials is that they are colorful and the material is presented in an interesting way. One reason I do not like Rod and Staff is that I find it hard to read through the books myself, and I find them interesting: few pictures and black and white text only. (They may have changed things since I last looked.) If I am not interested in it, I can safely assume my students won’t be, either.

However, the content is more important than presentation. I am happy to have found BOTH in the Abeka series–to me, that is. You’ll find what YOU like for your students. But once you choose, stick with what you have chosen. Make your life easier by remembering that if what you have works, don’t turn it in for the next new thing that comes down the pike. The next new thing WILL BE COMING to a curriculum fair near you–I can guarantee you that.

You know, curriculum choices are like meal choices in a lot of ways. Our goal in meal-planning is good health for our children, right? If I leave it to my children to choose their own food, they would most likely not choose what I would choose for them.

Sure, I try to make things that they do like, but I will require them to eat something they don’t particularly like because that is what we are having for supper. In our household, you don’t complain about dinner; you eat it thankfully.

Same thing with curriculum. You don’t pick it apart; you just do it.

Curriculum fairs, however, are good places to go to in order to find your curriculum. Once you find it, don’t negotiate with your children to get them to cheerfully use it. Expect them to cheerfully use it. If they don’t love it, don’t think you made a mistake and go looking for something bigger, better, nicer.

I don’t know that I have ever met a curriculum that I thought wouldn’t work. Sure, children will have preferences, and get what you think is right for your children. Then stay there.

As I have said before, other than a brief dabbling into the Robinson Curriculum, I have used the same materials for all of my students for the past 16 years, and I see no reason to go hunting for something better. I am not compelled to do so NOW, but I used to feel the pressure. For some reason, I thought I had to be up on the latest thing in home education.

I remember feeling enormous relief when I realized that what we had been using all along was yielding great results! And I really don’t credit the curriculum. I credit the mindset of mastery learning and self-teaching.

Will I ever change anything? Perhaps, but it will not be because one of my students is whining and carrying on. My positive attitude about what we use spills over to my children. If I am confident, then they are as well. Funny how that works.


~ Are you your own worst enemy? ~

April 1, 2009

cartoon-fire

It is pretty much spring here in Tennessee. By the time we say goodbye to March, the school year seems to be winding down; just two months until graduation for this year’s high school seniors. Amazing, isn’t it? Time marches on, and as day turns into day and year turns into year, we may get the feeling that things are out of control or are not as in our control as we would like them to be.

“In our control” is an interesting prepositional phrase. We as moms feel the need to control our environment, which is totally natural. Of course we must manage what we have been given to manage. You no doubt are an amazing mom, capable of taking large blocks of time and turning them into learning opportunities for your children. You do what many people are paid to do professionally – you have accepted the challenge of educating your children.

If you are a homeschooling mom, you are an amazing combination of mother and educator. While neatly organizing your children’s educational timelines, you also manage your physical household, which undoubtedly requires much thought and energy in order to keep things running smoothly. While most days you may not feel amazing, I want to look you right in the eye and tell you, remind you, that you are amazing.

I am willing to bet that you would not admit that. I am willing to bet that you don’t realize how truly valuable you are to those around you; moreover, I suspect that you may be just a little weary from carrying burdens day after day after day. Perhaps things have gotten more than a little out of control in your life right now.

Generally, in this space I present you with a strategy for de-pressurizing your homeschool world. This time, I would like to share with you a very personal tip that has the power to de-pressurize your life.

To begin, let me ask you a question: do you reverently fear the Lord, listen carefully to His voice and aim to obey day after day, yet the cares of life steal your sense of well-being on a regular basis? Do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed with inertia, unable to move beyond the nagging burdens facing you at the moment? Funny, but Isaiah asked this same question of the folks in his day.

“Who is among you who reverently fears the Lord, who obeys the voice of His servant, yet who walks with darkness and deep trouble and has no shining splendor in his heart?” (Isaiah 50:10a)

Some time ago, I stumbled upon this verse, and I confess that it hit me hard. Isaiah is saying, “Do you love the Lord, spend time with Him, yet turn right around and get sucked into worry and fear the minute after you say ‘Amen’”? In other words, do your children see a somber-spirited mom who is distracted with concerns and cares? Is your normal demeanor lacking an internal flame of peace? Are you often occupied with frustration, anger, doubt, and other agitating emotions?

If you answered yes to any of the above, there is a seemingly simple solution given in the second part of verse 10: “Let him rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God.”

The solution is found in the verbs rely, trust, lean, and be confident. We can escape the vicious cycle of acknowledging God with our heads, but denying Him in our hearts and by our actions. Rely, trust, lean on and be confident. How does one demonstrate trust and confidence? The elusive answer is by resting. The evidence of faith is rest.

Quite frankly, Isaiah is telling godly folks that if they claim to be members of God’s household yet fail to rely on the Lord to care for them, then something is wrong. There is a disconnect somewhere in the wiring of our hearts if we say we love the Lord, yet we don’t display a “shining splendor” that comes from within.

In order to understand how great your God is, you have to grasp the fact that He is concerned with every detail of your life, and He wants you to be able to recline in His arms, rested, unworried, unburdened, and full of faith in His ability to meet your needs.

If we truly understood that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we can ask or think, then we wouldn’t be frustrated or anxious or worried or frightened or unduly concerned about what is facing us today. Think about it; what is keeping you from feeling peaceful right this moment? Hold that thought.

Let’s move on to verse 11 of Isaiah 50, as it may just illustrate further the state in which we so often find ourselves.

“Look, all you enemies of your own selves who attempt to kindle your own fires and work out your own plans of salvation, who surround and gird yourselves with momentary sparks that you set aflame! Walk by the light of your self-made fire and of the sparks that you have kindled for yourself if you will. But this shall you have from My hand: you shall lie down in grief and in torment.”

Wow! Scripture says that we are our own enemy if we try to make things work on our own, expending our precious time and energy doing things our own way instead of honoring God by simply laying down our burdens. We can work our own deliverance, but the end result will be less than desirable. Who in their right mind would choose grief and torment over rest? We do ourselves a favor when we rest in the Lord.

After I read the verses in Isaiah and truly comprehended the magnitude of what he was saying, I realized that I was missing out on the unstressed life that was mine in Jesus, and my mindset needed to change. It needed to change because I was trying to control my life instead of trusting the Lord to do what He wanted to do. I thought that I could handle whatever came my way by praying about it and then doing what I thought best.

The problem was that I would indeed pray about a situation, but then I would worry about it, constantly look at it from a bazillion angles and worry some more – usually worrying about the “what-ifs.” In case you don’t already know, “what-ifs” will cause you to lie down in grief and torment.

cartoon_fire

Experience is often the very best teacher. Have you ever been in a situation where you have had no one but God to rely upon? The problem is that too many of us work out our own deliverance in order to avoid the position of needing God absolutely. Quite frankly, we are afraid to rest ourselves fully on God. It is our human nature that loudly calls to us to start our own fires, to knock rocks together in order to get a tiny spark that we can then fan into flame, expending great time and energy on something that we don’t need to be doing in the first place.

Worry, fear, depression, anxiety: there is nothing new under the sun. Isaiah was addressing the faithful ones of his day who obviously feared the Lord, but who obviously were still living in darkness and fear. People haven’t changed; we still choose fear and darkness when we could embrace rest and peace. Stop the craziness!

Here is a practical suggestion for how to break the cycle of fear and doubt and worry: Get a journal. Decide for one month that you are going to take God at His word. Commit your worries and concerns to the pages of your journal each day for 30 days. Also, read Isaiah 50:10 and 11 each day.

After you have laid out your cares in the journal, in your mind’s eye picture yourself leaning against the Lord, resting on Him and refusing to pick those burdens back up just for that day. Before you leave the solitude of your room or wherever you are writing, determine that you are not going to worry just for that day.

What you will find is when you refuse to fall into the old patterns of working things out yourself, the Lord is going to meet your needs in ways you couldn’t imagine. God will make a way where there seems to be no way. When He meets those needs, and as you see how He walks with you through the day, record that in your journal the next day.

Leave a trail of answered prayers that you can look back on and reread when your faith falters. Give the Lord an opportunity to be the one in control just for today.

Eventually, even after just one month, you will be living within the parameters of a new mindset! You will be more joyful and relaxed which will carry over to the homeschool realm most certainly. Moreover, the Lord will do things His way, which is what we truly want, isn’t it?

As we learn how to walk each day in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, our minds will be renewed, and we will be empowered to be the parents we are called to be, the home educators we are called to be, and so on.

When we cease trying to light our own fires and struggling to make things happen in our own strength, we illustrate to our children that the Lord is God and can be trusted in all matters; we have experienced Him and found Him to be faithful.

Truly this is one of the most valuable lessons we could possibly hope to pass on to the next generation.

All scripture quoted from The Amplified Bible.


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