“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. 🙂

___________________________________________

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.

 

Advertisements

Promises

November 16, 2013

???????There are so many voices out there today that offer parenting advice. When we are growing and developing as parents, how do we know who to listen to?

I don’t really know the answer to that question. That is kind of why I posed it, but I’d like to trace over some familiar words from Scripture that give us valuable parenting advice. Scripture is always a trusted source, and there is a ton of parenting advice found therein.

Proverbs 22: 6 advises parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

When you think about it, there is quite a distance between childhood and old age, right? A lot happens between those two points in life. I think there is a reason why we aren’t given a specific date and time in this passage.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and by the time he is married and has his own children, he will not depart from it.”

Ha. No, that’s not what it said, right? Proverbs gives even more of a time differential! Proverbs literally is saying when your young child is into the realm of old age, he will not venture from the basics he was taught as a child.

I think that means God in His grace gives us as human beings a lot of leeway. He knows we are but dust. Our human state means some of us will wander as some sheep wander, but as our Shepherd, He will find and care for roaming sheep.

As the father of prodigal kids, He awaits those who go off in their own wisdom, looking for success only to be batted around by a cruel, cold world. Our young-adult children will probably make some bad decisions apart from us! Did you make bad decisions apart from your parents?

As parents, we can rest in the knowledge that no matter how things look for our children once they leave home and are beyond our physical reach, the teaching we’ve given them while trying our best to instill in them skillful and godly Wisdom will pay off. In some instances, the payoff may not come until late in their lives; perhaps we won’t even be around to see it!

To me, this verse in Proverbs is a verse of promise, a verse of sweet rest for us as parents of teens and young adults. We do our best, then we can let go in the knowledge of three specific things:

1. God knows we are not perfect parents.
2. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect parents.
2. God loves our children even more than we do.
3. God keeps His promises.

Yeah, I know that was four. God is much more trustworthy than I. ❤


Help! I’m a Self-Learner, and I Can’t Figure This Out!

January 22, 2013

Questions curriculum questions picWith the advent of the Internet and search engines like Google, many of us have become self-learners simply because information is literally at the tips of our fingers.

It’s AWESOME, isn’t it?

Yes! It’s so awesome that my daughter Lilienne, who will be 11 on Saturday, deduced recently that school really wasn’t necessary once you learned to read because you can now look up everything you want to know on Google as you need to know it.

I concur with her….to a degree. Nowadays we have no excuse not to know the answer to a question (that actually has an answer) aside from lack of time to research or laziness or lack of motivation or something lame along those lines.

I’m not a Webhead, but I enjoy playing around with my websites and junk online. I can usually figure stuff out on my own with a little persistence, sometimes accompanied by tears and frustration. Recently I ran into a situation where I needed to figure out how to put an RSS feed both here and on my Author Page on Amazon.com.

Step one: I googled something about RSS feeds. Well, after going here and there ~ info specifically for wordpress blogs, etc. ~ I wasn’t getting it. (Perhaps a mental block because I was born about the time color television hit the American scene.) Google really wasn’t helpful. Not because I was lazy, but because I was kinda overwhelmed with the lingo.

What is a self-learner to do when stumped?

Step two: Ask someone else who might know the answer to the question at hand.

I asked my fabulous son-in-law, Brandon, but he couldn’t help me right that minute. I asked my daughter Lauren, who is a whiz at setting up Websites (www.beadboxbargains.com) but she had something else going on at the time, so she couldn’t help me either.

So I did what I do best: I moved onto another project and forgot all about it.

Until this week during a conference call with my publisher who asked me if I had put my RSS feed from this very blog up on my amazon.com author page. Heh heh. Oopsie. No, I hadn’t done that yet.

After the call, I mentioned to my husband that the RSS feed thing was driving me nuts, and I was fixin’ to cuss (not that I would actually ever DO that. no way. not me.)

Yesterday Tim came over to my desk (one of them, anyway. I have desks all over the house) and he told me how to add the widget and what to put in the URL. I knew how to do the widget thing, but the URL is what had stumped me.

Isn’t widget the cutest word EVER?

Tim had done a little research for me and figured out the missing piece to the whole thing! Wasn’t that nice of him? Yes. It was. Thank you, Tim. And now I will make him salisbury steak and smashed potatoes for dinner tonight. 🙂

So now I have an RSS feed!! AND I’m still a self-learner because I learned how to do the RSS feed thing. I know you think I’m not a self-learner because I had to ask around, right? I can read your doubting mind.

Self-learning simply requires knowing where to go to find out what it is that you don’t know.

I had to ask someone else ~ multiple people, in fact ~ before I found someone who was able to help me learn what I needed to learn. I now know how to set up an RSS feed.

Self-learners tend to think they shouldn’t ask for help; they should be able to figure things out on their own. That is not always true. Asking for assistance is a really good way to learn at times, although seeking out the answer yourself first is kind of the rule of thumb in our home school.

But if you’re stumped, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

______________________________________________

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.


50 Words the SAT Loves

January 8, 2013

Stack of booksShortcuts. Who doesn’t love ’em?

Today I’m sharing 50 of the most common SAT words for your learning pleasure and that of your college-bound kids.

I have a feeling that most of my eight faithful readers will already know the majority–if not all–of these words listed below.

At breakfast, why not read some of ’em out loud to your kids, and see how many words they may already be acquainted with?

Toddlers exempted.

Ready? Go!

  1. abstract: not concrete
  2. aesthetic: having to do with the appreciation of beauty
  3. alleviate: to ease a pain or a burden
  4. ambivalent: simultaneously feeling opposing feelings; uncertain
  5. apathetic: feeling or showing little emotion
  6. auspicious: favorable; promising
  7. benevolent: well-meaning; generous
  8. candor: sincerity; openness
  9. cogent: convincing; reasonable
  10. comprehensive: broad or complete in scope or content
  11. contemporary: current, modern; from the same time
  12. conviction: a fixed or strong belief
  13. diligent: marked by painstaking effort; hard-working
  14. dubious: doubtful; of unlikely authenticity
  15. eclectic: made up of a variety of sources or styles
  16. egregious: conspicuously bad or offensive
  17. exculpate: to free from guilt or blame
  18. florid: flowery or elaborate in style
  19. gratuitous: given freely; unearned; unwarranted
  20. hackneyed: worn out through overuse; trite
  21. idealize: to consider perfect
  22. impartial: not in favor of one side or the other; unbiased
  23. imperious: arrogantly domineering or overbearing
  24. inherent: inborn; built-in
  25. innovative: introducing something new
  26. inveterate: long established; deep-rooted; habitual
  27. laudatory: giving praise
  28. maverick: one who resists adherence to a group
  29. mollify: to calm or soothe
  30. novel: strikingly new or unusual
  31. obdurate: stubborn; inflexible
  32. objectivity: judgment uninfluenced by emotion
  33. obstinate: stubbornly adhering to an opinion
  34. ornate: elaborately decorated
  35. ostentatious: describing a pretentious display
  36. paramount: of chief concern or importance
  37. penitent: expressing remorse for one’s misdeeds
  38. pervasive: dispersed throughout
  39. plausible: seemingly valid or acceptable; credible
  40. profound: having great depth or seriousness
  41. prosaic: unimaginative; dull; ordinary
  42. quandary: a state of uncertainty or perplexity
  43. rancorous: hateful; marked by deep-seated ill will
  44. spurious: not genuine; false; counterfeit
  45. stoic: indifferent to pleasure or pain; impassive
  46. superfluous: extra; unnecessary
  47. tenuous: having little substance or strength; unsure; weak
  48. timorous: timid; fearful
  49. transitory: short-lived; temporary
  50. vindicated: freed from blame

So how’d you do? If you knew every single word, you WIN! Comment below, and I’ll get your prize to you right away.

Meow. 🙂


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

______________________________________

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.)

____________________________________________

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.

______________________________

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.


%d bloggers like this: