“But how can I teach writing to my students?”

October 2, 2014

Business concepts in crossword,  featured words are: innovation,If there is one question I get asked the most, it is this question:

How do you teach writing, especially to high school students?

What is interesting to me about this question is that there is more to being fluent in English than simply being able to write, yet we as home educators worry about writing more than just about any skill our children will develop. Just a random thought there.

I’ve finally come out of the closet, and I’m sharing my unusual approach to teaching English skills to my high schoolers, who happen to be self-teaching. My five high school graduates to date have achieved extraordinary scores on their SATs and ACTs as a result of the way they have approached their English study. I know what works and what doesn’t work. I hate busywork personally, and I never give busywork to my kids.

Sooooooo, I could post my process here, or I can simply let you know that on my Website I now have a page chronicling the manner in which I’ve tackled teaching English FLUENCY through the years. Fluency means ability to read, write, and speak/think well. I don’t just want my students to write well. There is so much more to being fluent in English!

The answer to how I’ve taught writing to my middle school and high school students is found here, on this page:  The Fluency Trilogy.

I should warn you that the method is SIMPLE, and there is a MINDSET that goes along with the methodology.

If you wonder what is the best way to teach writing and language skills to students across the board, I don’t have an answer for you. I would never say I have found the absolute BEST way.

What I can tell you is what I’ve done with my students that has OVER prepared them for college and for real life. The answer may surprise you.  And hopefully it will RELAX you as well. 🙂

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence in any educational setting.

 


Respect: It Ain’t Just a One-Way Street

January 28, 2013

PortraitParents can hurt their children unlike any other type of humankind on the planet can. Parents of adult children often don’t realize that their offspring never outgrow the need for respect from their parents. And vice versa. But the onus is on parents to be mindful of this truth in the first place.

I know I mess up with my kids and give them lots of reasons to feel less than respected at times. I hate when I do that!

So this post is written as a reminder to ME of how I should treat my still-at-home children as well as my grown-up children if I want to maintain a healthy and vibrant relationship with them.

Respect means:

1. Giving my full attention (by putting down hand-held devices such as smart phones, looking away from the blog post I’m typing and making eye contact, removing ear buds and turning off loud, rockin’ country music, opening eyes when I’m almost asleep…finally…after a long day, and etc.).

2. Did I mention making eye contact without ear buds in?

3. Respect means not interrupting unless it’s with interjections such as Wow! That’s Awesome! Woo-hoo!

Avoid interrupting by using interjections such as Hush! Wait a minute! Dude! Can’t you see I’m busy?

4. Respect means speaking to my kids like I’d speak to an adult. Three-year-old kids don’t need a sing-songy voice, and neither do teens. Neither does my 80-year-old Dad.

5. Respect means saying please and thank you even for stuff that is “expected” such as chores.

6. Respect means not deliberately embarrassing my kids in front of others, including siblings. In this day and age, it means asking permission before posting something concerning them on Instagram or Facebook. Or even in a blog post.

I would never deliberately embarrass my kids in front of anyone, just fyi. The thought makes me cringe, actually.

7. Respect means apologizing when I need to….like when I forget to ask permission before posting something concerning them on Instagram or Facebook. Or even in a blog post. Asking forgiveness, too, is essential.

8. Respect means knocking on a door before entering their rooms. (It also means not hiding behind the door to scare the life outta your poor mom. Just sayin’.)

9. Respect means not asking my kiddos to do something I’m not willing to do.

The exception would be asking my skinny little daughter to reach something that fell under my bed…like an earring that I shall never see again unless she slithers under there and kindly retrieves it for me. Heh heh.

10. Respect means communicating, not commanding.

The exception to this rule lies in safety-related issues. Sometimes there isn’t time to communicate why not to run out into the open field during a thunderstorm in order to retrieve a kite that’s stuck in a tree.

Fortunately, Benjamin Franklin’s mom failed at this particular safety command, and we now how electricity with which to power all these things we need to put aside when our dear children are communicating with us. So yeah, there are always exceptions to exceptions.

11. Allowing my kids to have their own opinions without telling them why they are freakishly wrong is another way I can show respect.

This is especially relevant when you have adult children. Not that my adult children have opinions that I think are freakishly wrong….well…there is that one particular offspring….! JUST kidding.

12. Listen well. Listening is always respectful. So is nodding and otherwise acting interested. “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh…” gets awfully annoying after a very short while.

Uh-huh.

Okay. I see you have a call coming in, so I’ll bow out now. Respectfully.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Humble Homeschool Beginnings

January 25, 2013

IM000689Many moons ago, when I started home educating my first child, I didn’t even know I was doing it. Nicky just naturally gravitated to books and floor puzzles and mazes and all sorts of logic-related stuff, and that’s the kind of thing we had around the house for him to fill his days with. (This was way before the Computer Age, y’all.)

And by the time Nicky turned three, I was expecting child number three. I laid around and read to those first little critters an awful lot in the early days.

Before long, the card-carrying, diploma-waving teacher in me decided I needed to set some goals and add some structure to my oldest child’s day.

Here is a short list of the personal goals I had when I “officially” began home educating my first child, Nicholas, at age four:

1.   Present new information in various forms: workbooks, readers, texts, etc.

2.   Test when necessary to make sure information is learned to an A level.

3.   Move on to the next thing, letting my child’s readiness be the guide.

Because I had that degree in elementary education and had taught school before having my own children, it never dawned on me that children would enjoy learning if left to themselves. I was prepared to entice and cajole my son into formal learning.

Isn’t that a strange thing to say? But it’s true. My experience in the classroom had taught me that children had to be pushed and pulled along, for the most part.

In my experience as a mom who was home educating her child, however, I found that Nicholas moved very, very quickly through his lessons because he could go at his own speed. He didn’t need to wait for the class to finish up; he was the class!

Nor did he know that he should not be enjoying this thing called school. Ah! But that was the difference! It was not school; it was learning at home. We weren’t up at the crack of dawn, gulping down breakfast, scrambling to find matching shoes, and running out the door to catch the school bus, separated from everything related to family.

Instead, learning was a natural thing done in the comfort of our own home along with family, on a schedule that worked well for us, not for an entire school system. What a cool thing it was to be able to tailor learning to my student! What an improvement over group learning!

I wasn’t just providing the opportunity for learning; I was there to ensure that learning took place, the learning of all the subject matter, not just 75 or 88 percent of it, but all of it. And then we moved on, directed solely by my son’s desire to learn—a desire which was surprisingly voracious.

Why would I want to send my child to a school when he could have such fun learning at home and could move at his own speed? And hang out with his sibs? And eat real food?

I simply did not want to miss out on time spent with him either. If I put him on a school bus, that meant forty fewer hours per week I would have to spend with him, times thirty-six weeks in a year. That equals 1,440 hours apart per year. Multiply that times twelve years, not counting kindergarten, and that comes out to 17,280 hours—roughly three full years of his life spent elsewhere.  Yikes! Why did I have a child only to entrust him to someone else to influence, mold, and shape? That didn’t make any sense to me.

I knew my son could learn better at home than he could anywhere else. For now, home education was for us. We’d worry about high school later.

Additionally, at age four, Nicky had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This was quite a shock, of course. And years ago, there was no way to accurately test blood sugar at home as there is now.

Another reason we decided to keep Nicky at home was that we knew we could keep a better eye on his health challenges than any school nurse could.

If your child has chronic health issues, learning at home is certainly a wonderful option to explore.

Thus began our home-education adventure. Home-education adventures all have unique beginnings. What did yours look like?

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


25 MORE Fabulous Parenting & Education Quotes!

January 5, 2013

Family and dogA couple days ago, I gave you a list of my absolute favorite quotes in the areas of parenting and education. To me, parenting and education naturally go hand in hand. One begets the other. But I digress.

Here are the next 25 on my list of fabulous quotes. I hope you might be inspired by one or two or more of ’em.

26. Education is Man’s going forward from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty.  ~ Kenneth G. Johnson

27. Education is [A process] which makes one rogue cleverer than another. ~ Oscar Wilde (1856-1900) British poet and dramatist.

 28. Education is the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the ignorant by the incompetent.  ~ Josiah Stamp

29. Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.  ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer.

30. Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.  ~ George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English statesman and author.

31. Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance. ~ Will Durant (1885-1981) U.S. author and historian.

32. The chief wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody concerned in it, teachers and taught. ~ Henry Brooks Adams (1828-1918) U.S. historian and writer: The Education of Henry Adams.

33. Public schools are the nurseries of all vice and immorality. ~ Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist.

34. Education has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. ~ G. M. Trevelyan (1876-1962) British historian.

35. They say that we are better educated than our parents’ generation. What they mean is that we go to school longer. They are not the same thing. ~ Douglas Yates

36. Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education. ~ Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English philosopher, mathematician and writer.

37. It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. I believe that one could even deprive a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness if one could force it with a whip to eat continuously whether it were hungry or not.  ~ Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U.S. physicist.

38. The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.  ~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American author, editor and printer.

39. I’m sure the reason such young nitwits are produced in our schools is because they have no contact with anything of any use in everyday life. ~ Petronius (d. circa 66 AD) The Satyricon.

40. True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the inequality of success, the glorious inequality of talent, of genius. ~ Felix E. Schelling (1858-1945) American educator.

41. He was so learned that he could name a horse in nine languages; so ignorant that he bought a cow to ride on. ~ Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, author, scientist, inventor and philosopher.

42. A college degree does not lessen the length of your ears; it only conceals it. ~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American author, editor and printer.

43. I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. (Sound familiar?) ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer.

44. The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant place in which to spend one’s time. ~ Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) American journalist.

45. Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire. ~ William B. Yeats, poet

46. You can lade a man up to th’ university, but ye can’t make him think. ~ Finley Peter Dunne

47. Education: Being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and it’s knowing how to use the information once you get it. ~ William Feather

48. An educated man is one who can entertain a new idea, entertain another person, and entertain himself. ~ Sydney Wood

…And, for all us homeschool moms who never learned all the classical composers and great artists and a gazillion other things, but knew enough to instill a love of them in our children, there’s this one:

49. Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master. ~ Leonardo da Vinci.

50. You are what you teach, and you teach what you are. ~ Joanne Calderwood

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Says Who?

January 4, 2013

ImageThree of my girls take piano lessons. I am a pianist myself, but I do not enjoy teaching piano. In the busyness of my life, I’ve found that it is very hard to find time to do things about which you are not passionate. Sometimes something’s gotta give; you cannot do it all. Know what I mean? I know you know what I mean!

Yesterday, Adrienne asked me to take a look at one of her assigned piano pieces. It was in 2/4 time, and the right hand was on the off beats in this syncopated piece of classical music. As I played through the piece for her, I flashed back to when I actually learned to play this piece as a child. I also remembered my teacher, who happened to be my mom, fuss at me because I didn’t always pay attention to the fingerings. And it didn’t only happen with that particular piece either.

There was a good reason why I didn’t always follow the suggested fingerings: I have a genetic thing where my pinky finger is smaller than the average person’s pinky finger. So what? Well, playing octaves is certainly a challenge. If you don’t have short-pinkyitis, don’t judge me. LOL Here’s a pic to prove my disability:

Notice how my poor little pinky only comes up to about the middle knuckle? Now look at your hand. I bet your pinky comes up to about the first joint on your ring finger, right? Because of this issue, I had to make some adjustments in the fingerings of music I played. I had to compensate for the stuff I couldn’t physically pull off.

I discovered that whoever wrote in the fingerings in my piano books wasn’t always correct. At least the fingerings didn’t always work for me. I had fun convincing my mom of this since I didn’t get the genetic issue from her side of the family. She would point out when I used the “wrong” fingers, but to me I was using the “right” fingers. Who said you have to follow fingering notations anyway? I doubt Mozart or Chopin included them in their original manuscripts.

Certainly fingerings in piano lesson books are there to help the budding musician adopt the easiest approach to playing any given piece. The fact was that just because it was easy for everyone else didn’t mean it was possible for me, so I adjusted the fingerings so that I could play more easily. I think my mom eventually gave up trying to enforce the fingering rules. I failed to conform because in many cases I just couldn’t due to the fact that my young hands were small, and they just couldn’t stretch like everyone else’s.

How does a tiny pinky relate to education?

Not all children are alike. Guidelines that work for one child may not work for the next child. In my teaching days, I was not always able to tailor a lesson to the needs of individual students due to time constraints. In fact, it was more like throwing all the information out there to the class and hoping some of it would stick with a high percentage of the children. I’d tell the class what I was going to tell them, then we’d go over the information together, and then I would tell them what we just “learned,” followed, of course, by some sort of quiz or test to see if they learned what we’d discussed.

Not all the children in my classroom were ready to understand the “ph” sound when I presented it. Not all children had the mental maturity to understand fractions just because the math book said it was time to learn fractions. In a classroom, it is difficult for a teacher to monitor each student to ensure that he/she has mastered each subject each day before moving on to the next lesson. The child either succeeds, partially succeeds, or fails. Or figures out a way to work around what they can’t do that everyone else can do.

In some cases, this involves self-protection devices where the child just gives up and accepts failure because he gets used to it, hoping that he’ll “get” the next thing that is presented in the sequence of the school year. Just as I totally disregarded the fingerings because so often I had to find my own way through the piece, children will find a way to work around what it is they cannot do. Or they will give up.

Had my mom insisted that I conform to the fingerings, I would have hated piano and felt a definite sense of failure. Instead, she let me find my own way through.

As a teacher of my own young children, I have learned not to be a slave to our curriculum. If my child is not understanding basic phonics skills that we’re doing together, perhaps I need to back off for a season. Who says every 6-year-old child is ready for phonics just by virtue of the fact that the curriculum says he should be?

Failure is not an option in my home school.

If a student isn’t “getting” something, I’m looking to see why. I’m looking at the possible reasons why he or she is struggling. Very rarely is it laziness on the student’s part. More often it is just a concept that needs to be presented in a fresh manner. (Reteaching, so to speak.) Or perhaps I need to set aside the consonant digraphs until the child is ready to understand blends.

The most important part of teaching children is understanding how their young brains work and not expecting them to conform to a curriculum in the elementary and middle school years especially.

What a great benefit of home schooling! The students move on when they are READY to move on. They don’t fail at a lesson and then just move ahead because we don’t have time to make sure they know everything to an A level. Of course we have time! But do we have the patience and stick-to-it-tiveness to identify the issue and then help the child find another way to understand the material?

If you get to a point in your child’s educational path where he is really struggling with something that is being presented, find out *why*he is struggling instead of moving on to the next day’s work, and help the student find a work-around.

Sometimes that may mean allowing them to do something a little unconventional like not forcing their little hands to conform to the fingering markings because they aren’t physically capable of playing that way. Or are they being lazy? Hmmm….as the parent, I should be able to discern the answer to that question. A teacher, on the other hand, may not be able to uncover the source of the issue because she does not know the child as she would know her own child. Conformity is the issue in a school classroom. Conformity is not always possible.

Says who? Says me, the parent of my children. Says you, the parent of your children. Don’t force conformity to curriculum without a good reason.

(Note: This is a re-posting of a blog post I did about a year ago that I thought was worth pulling out of the hat once again. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blast from the past.)

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


9 Maxims for Homeschool Happiness

December 28, 2012

Family Walking Through Snowy Woodland In light of the beginning of a brand-new year, I thought I would share some of the stuff I’ve learned over the years that I think has been pivotal in the raising of my children.

So below you’ll find a compilation of my best tips for raising smart, motivated kids who learn and work with excellence (most of the time).

1. Develop good habits yourself. Be a good example of reading for pleasure. Let your children see you doing the things you want them to develop a love for doing such as

reading, writing, exercising, eating well, or whatever may be on your list.

2. Always remember that you are what you teach, and you teach what you are.

Ouch. I revisit this maxim frequently, especially when I see my bad habits showing up in my children. This is a variation of the first maxim.

3. Neatness counts. We are all more relaxed and focused when our homes are RELATIVELY neat, right? I am not talking about extremes here. I assure you that my house is not a showplace; we live and work here. I’m simply talking about being able to see the family room floor. Kids function better in order than they do in chaos.

Yeah, let’s move on. I get hives thinking about how organized my house is not.

4. Have expectations and enforce them. Expect honesty and trustworthiness every day. Expect cheerful obedience the first time you ask your child to do something. Sullen faces and attitudes do not belong in a happy home. You are the Mom (or Dad). You get to be the one in control of what behavior and attitudes are acceptable in your home.

5. Have a general routine. Find what works for YOUR FAMILY. Children need a sense of what is coming next. Our routine here is very laid back now that my baby is almost eleven and the other three girls are teens. It was much more regulated when we had a lot of young children.

6. Know where you are headed. A little planning is all you need for each quarter of your homeschool year. (Refer to The Self-Propelled Student Planners for help in this area if you need it. These planners have changed my life!)

7. Teach your children to enjoy the feeling of a job well done. Intrinsic motivation will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

8. Expect mastery learning every day, in every subject. Before long, students begin to expect it of themselves. That is a really cool thing and will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

9. Trust your instincts.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


SAT Perfect Score Conclusion (Probably)

December 17, 2012

YTo conclude the last few blog posts’ worth of examination of Dr. Tom Fischgrund’s Perfect Score Study of 600 perfect-SAT-scoring students and their families (breathe here), I’d like to point out that the students who were the subject of the study did not revel in their perfect scores.

Sure, they were happy about their scores, but they didn’t define who they were by test scores.

As Dr. Fischgrund found,

“Perfect score students would probably never have been able to succeed if their parents never took the giant leap of letting their kids have some control over their academic lives.”[1]

Letting go and allowing our children to have a measure of control academically is vitally important.

Yes, I was very, very encouraged by the way the Perfect Score Study results echoed the results my family has had. The similarities were almost eerie.

It should not surprise me that strong family values are so important to academic success because apparently the Moms and Dads in this study set expectations when their children were young and didn’t allow them to slack off at home.

They were able to motivate their young children, and as the children matured, the parents were able to take a more hands-off approach to their young teens’ learning.

Once the teens became high school seniors, they had a sense of purpose as a result of developing one or two core passions before graduation. They had a direction to pursue after high school. They could see the bigger picture.

Parents, we have not only the responsibility but also the privilege of having the greatest influence on our children.

Would your children say that you and your spouse are the primary influences in their lives?

This is what I get from the Perfect Score Study: kids succeed with support in the home. I’m not talking about simply success on the SAT; I am talking about success in life!

Scoring well on the SAT or ACT is not a goal in my home-educating family. I want that to be perfectly clear. What I am laying out for you here is the fact that young adults who have been given the opportunity to be independent learners, who master each day’s work before moving on to the next day’s lesson, will be equipped to score well on the College Board exams.

Does that mean I think these exams are good things? No, not necessarily. I hate that so much hinges on them, and I guarantee they are not predictors of success in college or beyond. They are hoops through which our young people must jump if they want to head to college, and especially if they want to earn scholarship money for college.

All three elements of the Self-Propelled advantage ~ self-mastery, self-learning, and mastery learning ~ will absolutely give your children an advantage in scholarship competitions.

Beyond that, a firm family foundation will give your children an advantage that goes way beyond that type of success. There is nothing that can replace the value of family. 

[1] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 74.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


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