EDUCATION: One Size Fits All doesn't fit anyone

EDUCATION: One Size Fits All doesn't fit anyone

You want to know that if you choose to homeschool, your child will receive the same quality of education as their public and privately schooled friends. You want assurances that their future will be happy and successful. Of course you are nervous about taking on the responsibility for providing an education for your child.

Let's get down to the bottom line, right now.

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Embracing your dual roles of parent and teacher

being both parent and teacher

Parents often feel conflicted about being both parent and teacher.
They don't know how those two roles will combine, or how to 'switch hats',
so to speak. 

Here's some good news—you don't have to switch hats. Parent and teacher are not separate roles. How do I know this? Because every parent teaches their child important core skills, starting at birth. How to speak, identify objects and concepts, how to crawl, then how to walk. Parents read to their children, take them to the store, the doctor, the zoo, the children's museum. 

Every one of these experiences adds up to a child learning about the world and their place in it. When parents divorce themselves from the learning process, they do themselves and their children a disservice. 

We've placed professional teachers on a pedestal to the extent that we have demoted parenting to an act of reproduction and basic caretaking, with schools in the overarching role of character building, education, and life preparation. 

This couldn't be further from the truth, or the truth as it should be. 

Teachers train in how to impart knowledge to large groups of children, and how to assess their progress. This is a good thing, and I would never want to be perceived as dismissive of the importance of education for a healthy society, and how teachers contribute to that effort. 

But parents are the most essential element of the learning process. Whether you are a homeschool parent or your children attend a school, you are the linchpin, and your child's success hinges on your involvement, support, and perseverance. 

I think what parents most often fear is the vulnerability of teaching academics, because you will inevitably have to speak these words--"I don't know."  

Here's some more good news; saying "I don't know" is an important life skill to learn. Is it really better to pretend you know something, or to stand silent and afraid to ask a question and learn?  

No, it isn't better. Your children need to understand that learning is a lifelong process. They will need to acquire knowledge and skills their entire life if they want to be productive and successful. Your example in this area is important, and it starts with saying, "I don't know", and continues with "Let's find out!" 

As a parent/teacher, you may sometimes have to express your ignorance, but you also will share your experiences, interests, and passions with the people you love the most. You will learn alongside them, showing them how to admit they are afraid, and to work through it. You may sometimes be wrong and have to apologize or stand corrected.  

In other words, you will be human.  

But who better to be human with than your children?  

Don't be intimidated or feel like a second class citizen as a parent. Society is built on healthy personal relationships, and one of the most foundational relationships is that of parent and child. You are not arbitrary or optional. So no matter where your child receives their academic training, you must be deeply involved in their lives, encouraging them to read, explore, study, and listen. You are responsible to help them form good habits and develop character graced with compassion, generosity, courage, and conviction.  

Embrace  your identity as both parent and teacher,
and don't give them up for anyone or anything.

Do I need a homeschool room and a schedule?

Do I need a homeschool room and a schedule?

There are several ‘first questions’ that new homeschoolers ask, and one of them is:  “Do I need a detailed schedule and a dedicated schoolroom?”

Because of our own school experiences, we picture learning as taking place at a specific time in a special space, requiring one-piece desks, chalkboards, charts, and other schoolish trappings. Some find the idea of doing anything else intimidating and even frightening.

Homeschooling frees our children from classroom constraints and conditioning, and allows us to find our unique learning style.

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Six organization tips for parents and students

Six organization tips for parents and students

When we plan ahead and stay organized, things run much smoother. We know what to do when, we know where to find our things when we want them, stress is lessened and everyone feels more relaxed. 

Mornings spent in a rush looking for shoes, keys, coats, books, pencils, etc. make me feel stressed and cranky, and we feel it in our homeschool. You feel it in yours too.

Looking back, the good habits I acquired at home were incredibly helpful, but my bad habits were difficult to overcome. I knew when I started to homeschool that I needed to teach my kids to prioritize their time and keep track of their stuff. But when to start? 

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Our Foundation for Home Education

Our Foundation for Home Education

You'd think the summer and fall months would be when most families decide to begin homeschooling. After years of writing about homeschooling and being part of a homeschool support group, it became evident that Christmas break is also a popular time for families to remove their kids from public/private school to homeschool.

We were one of those families back in 1996. Seth was doing well in school, but between the complete rejection of phonics instruction, altercations with other kids, and PG-rated movies being viewed during nap time, we became very dissatisfied with his school. So the term "Christmas break" meant more than just a week off school--it was a transition from traditional school to homeschool.

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The Impact of Technology on Our Daily Lives

The Impact of Technology on Our Daily Lives

Many brilliant and creative people have worked over the last few decades to develop digital technology. As with many inventions, the conception and the consequences were years apart, and what was imagined as the possible uses of technology is probably very different from the reality.

So now we have this amazing variety of tools at our disposal. Nearly every house has a computer, and there seems to be a phone in every hand.

As with anything, there are extremes of attitude about technology.

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Ways kids can volunteer

ways kids and families can volunteer

There are many ways families can volunteer and include their children. It starts by being aware of opportunities in your every day life.

Begin exercising a giving spirit where you live, finding out who needs help by getting out in your neighborhood, being friendly and kind. That used to be the norm, but since retro is In, it's OK to do some things the old-fashioned way. 

You will soon discover, whether you are in the city or a suburb, there are neighbors who could use some help.

Maybe there are elderly and disabled folks could use some landscaping, or their homes need minor maintenance like painting, gutter cleaning, or window washing.

Single parents may not have the resources of other families to draw on. Include them in activities like field trips and cook-outs. Gift cards to local department stores and restaurants helps them out financially without it feeling like a handout.

Keep soft, thick socks stuffed with granola bars and water bottles in your car to give to homeless men and women you see while running errands.

Be aware of workers in your area, like the mailman, road construction crews, or garbage disposal workers. Offer them hot coffee in the winter, and popsicles or sports drinks in the summer. 

Start a community garden and share the produce with neighbors and local soup kitchens.

Just keep looking around and your family will find ways to meet the specific needs of people where you live. Learning by doing is the best way for kids to internalize important life lessons.

kids learn by doing

You can go beyond your neighborhood with these ideas:

  • Nursing homes: Kids can bring residents little gifts like quilts, pictures, and books, or sit and listen to their stories. Kids can also read and sing to them. Note on your schedule to regularly send cards and flowers.
  • Project Linus: Make blankets for children who are seriously ill or have experienced a trauma, like a house fire.
  • Hats: There are several kinds of “Hats of Hope” organizations. Some make winter hats for the homeless, while others make soft knitted hats for cancer patients. If you can't find one in your area, start one.
  • Habitat for Humanity: I think everyone has heard of Habitat for Humanity. It’s a great way for older kids to learn carpentry skills and teamwork.
  • Food pantries: Local food pantries need donations, but they also need people to load and unload supplies and organize their inventory.
  • Children’s hospitals: Most children’s hospitals allow teens to volunteer in a variety of ways. Look online for a ‘wish list’ of items that are accepted as donations, such as blankets, activity bags, and craft supplies.
  • Service animals: Many service animal agencies have volunteer programs, from visiting to play with the puppies to being involved in socializing and training.
  • Blood donation: Healthy teens and adults can give blood, especially during the summer months when demand is high and the supply is low. Contact your local Red Cross to find a blood drive near you.
  • Donate hair for wigs and hair pieces with Locks of Love.
  • Support local charitable organizations by participating in their fundraising walk-a-thons/marathons.

I didn’t know at the time the impact volunteering would have on my kids, but now I can see the results of their awareness of the world around them, and the people in it who need help. 

Parenting and homeschooling is about much more than teaching kids facts from textbooks; it's about modeling good character, and helping them become everything they are meant to be. Volunteering does both!

This list isn't exhaustive--share information and ideas in the comments about more ways families and kids can volunteer.