Curriculum Recommendation for Real Life

June 2, 2015

mom and son“Hi, my name is Melissa and my son just completed 4th grade. I’m really concerned because he is really struggling with Reading Comprehension & Writing. I know the VLA program starts with 9th graders, but what program/programs would you recommend for 5th graders and middle schoolers? I appreciate your feedback, thank you!”

This is an actual email I received a couple days ago, and it is a sampling of what fills my Facebook messages and personal email inbox.

I most certainly understand and applaud parents who are searching for the very best stuff out there for their children in terms of curriculum. What I want to highlight is the fact that it AIN’T about curriculum!

Curriculum is just a tool in the hands of a student. A good student can use any curriculum and learn. It is the MINDSET of the STUDENT that will yield his results.

Self-Propelled students have a “yes, I can!” mindset from doing their own problem solving day in and day out, regardless of curriculum. Students who are dependent on their teachers do not necessarily possess this positive approach to learning. (I write extensively about this positive mindset in my book The Self-Propelled Advantage.)

Students who have a “no, I probably cant” mindset are going to struggle with any curriculum. It is all about getting to the bottom of this attitude and understanding what causes it which will be of most benefit to the student, not trial and error with this curriculum or that curriculum, although that is what happens most often. Home-educating parents tend to doubt the worth of a curriculum before they look at what is REALLY going on in the heart of their student.

Why?

It is easiest to blame curriculum. It is pretty darn simple to curriculum-hop, but isn’t it painfully expensive and time consuming? In 23 years of schooling eight kiddos, I’ve never changed a curriculum. What I purchased 23 years ago for my first child, my last child is using today.

What did I say to the sweet mom who wrote me? I’ll cut and paste my answer in case anyone is interested. Hopefully it will highlight what parents can do right now, this summer, to grow children who are on the road to becoming truly educated.

Hi Melissa,

Thank you kindly for your email! If you don’t mind, may I just say one word?

RELAX! 🙂

Writing skills develop over time, and that is why I don’t offer any courses for kids below high school.

I have five high school graduates. All totaled, they’ve written me ZERO papers in their 13 years of schooling other than for the composition class and research paper classes they took in high school for a total of two semesters. When they did VirtualLanguageAlive, they didn’t write essays for ME, they wrote them for themselves to utilize their vocabulary, to learn their vocabulary words.

What I did require and what I recommend you do is to go to the library and let him check out books. Set a minimum time of one hour of reading per day even (and ESPECIALLY) through the summer. Allow your kiddos to get ALONE with their reading material. Take away distractions of the technological kind, and make reading the only option, but give children choice in selecting their own reading materials.

Have technology-free days or technology-free times of day, at least. Take away those distractions and temptations FOR your children.

Encourage your child to read by giving your child ruminating time: time to think with no distractions. Charlotte Mason said, “Children must be left alone to ruminate,” and as a child, I was given that time as well. We didn’t have close neighbors or a public swimming pool, or etc. My mom took me to the library every two weeks or so, and my brothers and I would leave there with at least a dozen books. Happiness meant reading away in the coolness of an air-conditioned house. Or in the car. Or on the porch swing.

If I had had all of the distractions that today’s kids have, I would never have developed an appreciation for being ALONE with a book. I would not have honed my reading skills when there was no pressure to do so because I was reading for pleasure, not for school.

Today’s kids need to be left alone with their thoughts to ruminate. We are not being “mean” by just saying NO to screen time of all varieties!

This is the biggest challenge parents face in the 21st century: fostering reading in an age of electronics.

Just my two cents. Bahahahaha! I really got going there, Melissa. I apologize for being lengthy. I didn’t intend to be. READING is the key to lifelong learning. Comprehension will come and it grows over time, so simply allow a child to have his own relationship with any book he reads this summer. Eventually, from whatever curriculum he is given, he will be able to grow and learn.

Hugs,
joanne calderwood

_______________________

reading girlOne last tip for today:

Head out to your local bookstore, and let your kids look around for the latest and greatest stuff. Don’t purchase the books from the bookstore! Go to Amazon.com or to your favorite online book seller and order them at a discounted price. Waiting for the books to come in the mail adds EXCITEMENT! Don’t you love getting stuff in the mail? So do your kids! Set them up for additional excitement this way.

Okay, buy them one book at the bookstore. And grab yourself one while you are at it. If your kids see you enjoying a book in your spare time, they will get the message that reading is a worthwhile pursuit.

 

Advertisements

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.


10 Critical Things Parents of Young Children Should Keep in Mind

December 18, 2012

Family grocery shopping.Here they are in no particular order, as they are all kinda important in the whole scheme of parenting. 🙂

1. My young children are my responsibility in every sense of the word. I (and my spouse) have the authority to make all decisions regarding them; We are in charge, but we can also choose to abdicate this authority.

2. If I don’t like the way my children are turning out, I have the ability to change that. Starting Today.

3. If I can’t stand being around my own kids, chances are good no one else can either. Refer to #2.

4. Children need understanding and praise, and I am the primary one to provide these.

5. Children need discipline and boundaries, and I am the primary one to provide these.

6. It is impossible to love my kids too much. Smother? Spoil? Yes, but neither of those is actually love. Refer to #4 and #5.

7. My children need my spouse and me and our influence in their lives. There is no substitute for loving parents and a supportive home environment.

8. Sometimes I need a break from my children and vice versa. Sometimes I may even need caffeine, chocolate, and a seratonin booster.

9. My children will become a product of their home and educational environments. Combining the two provides an incredible launching pad for future success! Refer to #7.

10. It doesn’t take a village to raise my child. Refer to all of the above.

________________________________________

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.


How to DE-Motivate

December 16, 2012

Young boy in bedroom yawning using laptop and listening to MP3 pScenario 1:

Let’s say my eleventh-grade son wants to be on a debate team. If he has an interest in debate, then by all means, I will look into the possibility of getting him involved.

So he and I do some research and find a local team, and I step back and allow my son to set his goals from there. I won’t harass him with how I think he should do things. I may give some guidance if asked, but for the most part, I’m letting experience be the best teacher.

A self-teaching student who has a yes-I-can attitude will head into the activity wanting to be the best. Why do something if you aren’t going to do your best? That is the attitude I find that my children naturally have.

I have not taught them to be competitive—I don’t have to push them; they just feel that anything worth doing is worth doing full-out. There is no halfway. They are intrinsically motivated to do their best, and when they are pitted against other debaters who feel the same way, the results are going to be quite interesting.

Scenario 2:

However, if I as the parent decide that I want my son to participate in a debate team apart from his own choosing, he is not going to be enthused, and I don’t blame him.

As parents, we need to give our young adults support when they choose an area of interest. I may tell my son 24/7 that he could be a wonderful debater if he would just try, but if he lacks the interest, I am wasting my time.

Sure, I can insist that he do it, but what will that yield? Frustration and discouragement—on both our parts. I am just creating a battle scene.

Here is a third scenario:

My son comes to me and expresses an interest in being a part of a debate team. I ask him, “Is that something you really think you can do? I mean, you’ve never been good in front of people, and logic isn’t your strong suit. Don’t you think you should try something else?”

Wow, I have just totally motivated my son to never ask me to help him in the future!

Parenting self-propelled children means encouraging them to spread their wings and fly, to branch out and try new things.

In this last scenario, I caused my son to go from yes-I-can to maybe-I-can’t.

I shot a hole in his self-esteem.

Maybe logic isn’t his strength at the moment, but if he has the desire to hone that skill, then I surely can help him find opportunities in which to develop it. It is a joy to help children find opportunities to engage and develop their skills.

However, it is never acceptable for me to decide what I want my young adults to excel at and then push them, micromanaging their lives so that my dream for them comes true.

May it never be!

Our job as parents is to equip our children to become the people they are created to be.

__________________________________

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.


Motivation and Self-Esteem (Part 7)

December 13, 2012

School children and their teacher in a high school science classWelcome! If this is your first foray into my series on Motivation, we’ve been talking about a book entitled SAT Perfect Score: 7 Secrets to Raise Your Score, by Dr. Tom Fischgrund.

Dr. Fischgrund studied 160 students who scored perfectly on the SAT in 2003…and their families.

In several of the interviews done with perfect score students themselves, it was found that high achievers’ parents respected and encouraged their kids.

“Perfect score students don’t operate in a vacuum. They can’t tap into their inner motivation without first having high self-esteem. They need to believe that they can succeed before they develop the drive to succeed.

Parents, of course, can build or tear down their children’s self-esteem. Starting at the youngest age, children get cues from their parents about how high their expectations are. If children know that their parents expect great things that are realistically achievable, then they will be motivated to achieve those things.”[1]

Some would scoff at the whole concept of self-esteem and believe-in-yourself psychology. To them I can only say there is such a thing as self-esteem or self-worth. It is very real, and a child either has low, average, or high self-esteem. While self-esteem is internal, it is formed by external factors or cues from parents, siblings, friends, and other relationships.

A young child’s parents and close family members have control over his self-esteem, and children raised in a loving home will have higher self-esteem than those raised in a home where they do not feel important or valued.

Parents need to instill in their children the belief that they have the ability to succeed.

That is not to say that failure isn’t going to occur. Failure is a part of life, and teaching our children that sometimes things will not turn out the way we want them to is vital.

Learning how to deal with failure was a real challenge for my children. Because they tend to throw their whole selves into a project or activity, they take failure personally when it does come. But there are always important lessons to be learned through failure, and my husband and I don’t discourage our children from trying a new activity out of a fear of failure.

It’s not easy to watch our children fail, is it? No, it never is, but we recognize that struggle is part of what brings out the beauty of the butterfly as it breaks the restraints of its cocoon.

Freedom requires struggle.

As a tenth-grade chemistry student, I quietly fought against failure. Because I was an honors student, failure was especially humiliating, and I hid it from my parents until my first semester grade report arrived. I don’t remember my parents saying much at all. They knew I was a “good student” who always tried to do my best. In reality, there was something unapproachable about the chemistry teacher; he didn’t talk much. His classroom was always eerily quiet.

I still remember the way he would look at me and my lab partner during labs when we didn’t know the answer to a question. He would look at us with a sort of grin on his face as if to say, “What do you mean you don’t know? You’re kidding, right?”

So I stopped asking questions, and so did my lab partner. I ended the year with a solid D.

Looking back now, I cannot believe my questions were not taken seriously. The teacher was not gifted in teaching at a high school level, and I was not a self-learner. Consequently, the last thing I would want to study as an adult is chemistry because I still don’t think I can. “No-I-can’t” is what I hear in my head when I flirt with the idea of studying my high schoolers’ Apologia chemistry book.

Academically, a self-propelled student is going to find out that yes, he can do things on his own with excellence.

Parents who require mastery learning are setting their kids up for success because mastery ensures that a student is constantly moving on but not before he is ready to do so. That yes-I-can attitude is what translates into positive self-esteem.

Setting realistic goals is very important to building self-esteem. In order to set goals that are challenging as well as realistic, the student has to understand that he can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of work. Is the student willing to do what it takes to achieve his goal? Does he understand how hard he is going to have to work to achieve it?

While a student may work hard to achieve a goal, he is naturally going to work harder if he has set the goal himself than if a parent has set the goal for him. The “realistic” part comes into play when the student sees just how much effort is required to meet the goal. Is it an amount of effort that he is willing to give?

In the long run, achieving a goal will depend upon the student’s personal motivation which is a direct result of the self-confidence he’s developed via childhood experiences. Many of us spend our adult lives overcoming the lack of self-confidence stemming from our childhood days.

[1] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 69.

__________________________________________________

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.


Motivation: Seeing the Big Marshmallow

December 1, 2012

marshmallow_treatpops_2This is, like, my fourth post on Motivation for students, primarily, but helpful for other species of humans as well. If you missed yesterday’s post on Motivation and Marshmallows, you may want to scroll down my blog here and catch that one first. This post concerning the Marshmallow Study will make a heckuva lot more sense if you take just a couple seconds and read it first. If you’re a rebel, feel free to skip the advice.

If you are interested in the application of the Marshmallow Study, as it’s been dubbed, to success in business and in your personal life, I recommend a book entitled, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life by Joachim de Posada and Ellen Singer. This gem of a book looks at why intelligence and hard work don’t necessarily equal success, and how you can utilize delayed gratification in your daily life to reach your own goals.

Common sense dictates that if you are smart and work hard, you will be successful. Not necessarily, according to Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet.

After reading de Posada’s book, it became apparent to me that the real secret to success is seeing the big picture, which is an incredibly motivating thing to do. When we only see the little individual marshmallow instead of the benefits of waiting to eat it—doubling our reward—we miss out on half of the benefits. We lose opportunity as a result of our impatience and shortsightedness. It takes foresight and vision to hold out for the rewards that are ours when we keep our eyes on the big picture and finally reach our ultimate goals.

Incidentally, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! offers a “Five-Step Marshmallow Plan.” Following this simple plan really helped me focus and see what I needed to change and do in order to begin reaching my goals via delayed gratification.

Seeing the Big Picture

What motivates a student who thinks that he is at the mercy of his teachers and that he must do whatever those teachers tell him to do?

Very little motivates him when he has no control over his environment.

A home-educated student is also unlikely to be motivated day after day when he doesn’t see the big picture, when he doesn’t see a purpose in the work he is doing. A big part of motivation is understanding the why behind what we are doing. I will be much more intrinsically motivated when I see how what I am doing right now will benefit me in the long run. How will what I do today or what I am asked to do by my employer or by my teacher be moving me towards my goals?

If we have no goals at all except to get through the day, chances are good that we will be unhappy. The human spirit thrives on challenge and success. Motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic, is necessary for a well-balanced life.

I admit that I have worked simply for a paycheck before. Perhaps you have too. Because I could see the big picture—putting food on the table—I was willing to work for that extrinsic reward. Eventually, my situation changed. Remember me saying that motivation changes? It sure does. Now I am self-employed, and I’m very intrinsically motivated to work for the sake of helping others and not for monetary reward. In fact, I hate taking people’s money. If I could, I would give all of my products away.

The self-propelled student is motivated intrinsically by seeing the big picture, setting simple goals, and then moving closer and closer to those goals. By teaching our children to see the big picture, teaching them how to set goals, and helping to remove any obstacles that would prevent them from reaching those goals, we are giving them an edge. We are giving them the tools with which to master themselves, and as a result, they will hang in there not for immediate gratification, but for the purpose of reaching their goals. That is delayed gratification at its best.

Marshmallows and the SAT

Interestingly, another follow-up to the original Marshmallow Study was done in 1990, and it found a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and higher SAT scores. Those who did not eat the marshmallow scored higher on the SAT than those who gobbled up their marshmallows. Isn’t that fascinating? I think so.

__________________________________________________________________________

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: