Real World Solutions
Home schooling has to occur in the real world, not just in nice how-to books. The CHOCboard therefore offers the following answers to those oft asked questions.
What About Socialization?
Forgive us if we laugh, but that is the number one question asked and always when we were out in public! And it is the easiest "real life problem" to solve.
Usually this is asked because the person has assumed an institutional school setting is essential for the socialization of children. But when was the last time you were in a room full of same-aged persons interacting on a mono-themed topic and expected to react in a pre-determined pattern? That's not reflective of real world life. (And you were supposed to be focused on your school work not chatting or texting with your friends in class!)
Home schooled does not and should not mean home-bound, isolated with a library card and a few books. The front door does "swing both ways." Most of the real fun is after institutional school anyway. All those clubs, sports, volunteer work, etc.
Homeschoolers have built large networks to provide socialization outlets for their children, and individual families become involved in all sorts of clubs, sports and community work. (See our Directories of Local Activities and Local Resources if in doubt.)
Homeschooled children are socialized in the real world. They interact with a broad range of ages within the family and community. They have the time to develop deeper relationships and learn to interact with adults and children alike.
When families are normally active and involved in their community, we at the CHOC Board believe this is a more realistic and beneficial pattern of socialization than the common experience of being "socialized" in an institutional setting---you know, the one with a large group of same-aged children often behaving questionably under the loose oversight of one adult who is more of a bored babysitter than mentor.
How Do I Homeschool with Different Ages and Housework?
Many new homeschoolers worry about the aspect of "juggling" all the schooling lessons with general life when small children are in the household, or there is a broad mix of ages. Learn to think "outside the box." Schooling doesn't have to look identical for each child.
Talking with large homeschooling families will assure you that lessons do get done, and so the housework, eventually. The challenge is more often about spending time to work out character development, especially between siblings. But that can be the positive too.
It is important to remember true education is full-life discipleship. Because your children are at home, personality issues come to the surface in your presence where all can learn through them (as opposed to happening in an institutional setting far away from an attentive or wise adult). Under guidance, and admittedly effort, your family can grow closer as each child matures in character as well as their academics.
There are some key elements to helping things run more smoothly, and you don't have to be an organizational guru to achieve them.
Everyone who is able should have a job to do to help run the home. (Even little people can put dirty clothes in a hamper.)
Try to have a place for things to go that even the littlest can reach (if appropriate)
Morning hours are often best for focused learning, use afternoon hours for fun activities.
Make schooling fit your life pattern--don't try to imitate institutional school. Not all children need to school at the same time.
Learn to control unneccesary distractions (get an answer machine, turn off the cell, and don't answer the door)
Expect obedience from your children, and prepare lesson plans the older can follow on their own.
Have special toys and quiet activities for little ones that are only brought out when you need to focus with an older child
Combine subjects and work thematically, if possible. (Science and history can often be thematically approached at multi-age levels)
Ask for help when you need it. Older children can assist younger. Grandparents can help. Homeschooling friends or Co-Ops can provide options.
Keep a sense of humor and trust God to provide an answer
How Do I Teach An Active Child Who Won't Sit Still?
If you are asking this question, chances are you have a tactile learner who will not be happy if taxed by oodles of workbook pages or long hours at a desk (something of the square peg in a round hole syndrome).
Most younger children (often up to age 9 or 10 as a generalization) fit this category to some degree. Also, predominately more boys figure into this category and for a longer time--no political incorrectness meant--just a common observation by most mothers of young boys!
Be aware we are not referring to blatant rebellion or laziness, both of which most children will at some point try to use to avoid their lessons. We are talking about a true need to move and groove to burn off all that excess energy.
Many programs--especially the non-traditional "delight directed," Charlotte Mason, "living books," and unit style programs--take a child's energy into consideration, particularly for the earlier grades. Early learning often looks like "play" because that is how children process their world.
Most children do outgrow this stage eventually. All should, to a certain degree, learn how to learn in a more academic style as they grow older.
But, a wise parent understands a child's need for movement and will help the child release that energy constructively, so the mind can focus.
Thus, when schooling, be sensitive to your child's activity level when planning your day or choosing your curriculum. Over-fidgetiness often means an ambitious parent is rushing a young child too quickly or has planned their day poorly. Learn to slow down and let the child grow at his or her pace. Be sensitive to their energy levels and natural learning patterns.
That means balancing workbook or reading time carefully with fun crafts or hands-on activities. Some children will require a lot more hands-on time than others. When teaching, keep your lessons short with physical play breaks in between. Keep your point simple and clear, and learn to be creative with the presentation of concepts using as much hands-on activities as possible.
Don't feel you have to be a one-man circus, though, to appease or bribe him or her to learn. You should also not feel that your child must "run wild" before he or she will settle down for a couple of lessons. Pray for God to reveal reasonable goals for your child, keep a sense of humor, set some clear limits for their behavior, then let the games begin.
Games for Active Learners
For ideas we did with our active learners please go to our article Games Compilation for Early Learning
In our Curriculum page we've listed curriculum publishers that carry thematic and hands-on materials--two of our favorites is Timberdoodle and Love to Learn. Also check out the wonderful educational coloring books by Rod and Staff. We got a lot of learning time done while young children's hands were busy coloring on the topic we were discussing. (And little ears picked up a lot...just ask the older siblings who forgot the answer but the little one piped up for dad).
We recognize some children with learning challenges will need special attention to help them progress with their studies. If you believe your child may be beyond the "normal" limit of childhood activity or distractfulness, we encourage you to seek wise counsel. See our Testing and Counseling section or contact OCEANetwork.
What do I do if homeschooling isn't going so well?
Homeschooling takes work. As with anything, it also has its ups and downs. If things aren't going well, don't give up in a fit of frustration looking for the nearest public or private school enrollment form. First, take some time to get rested and refreshed, both in mind, body and spirit, before you make any permanent decisions.
If that means taking a couple of days off from homeschooling, then do it. We all need a break sometimes. Consider it a teacher "in service" day and spend time in prayer as you refresh. Spend time as a family having fun together rather than just schooling together. Often, this alone will alleviate much of the pressure.
Then, if you feel something is truly amiss, analyze what doesn't seem to be well with your home school. Typical discouragement sources are addressed in our "The Pitfalls to Avoid" article. There are some good counselors who can help (See our Testing and Counseling section).
Remember, there is no shame in seeking alternative sources for a particular subject if needed. There are many creative solutions because homeschooling is ultimately parent-directed schooling which can be shaped and fitted to the needs at hand. Seek help within a co-op, academy class, private tutor, online curriculum source, other family members...the list goes on and on. (See our Academies and Co-Ops or Classes for a starting point.)
Continue to shape your homeschool as your children grow recognizing each season will present its own challenges...and rewards. As veteran homeschoolers will attest, the joys we reap are abundant and beyond measure.
What about Assigning Grades?
There is no "right or wrong" answer, just personal opinion. While grades can be a good tool for assessing student progress, overall, we at the CHOC Board are not a fans of grades, especially in the years before high school. We prefer a "percentage system" which will be explained below. For high school, we did feel compelled to assign grades for the transcript, but we still emphasized our percentage system for the student.
So why our aversion to grades? Well for better or worse, grades do tend to "brand" a child with more than a letter. While not as severe as Hawthorn's "Scarlet A," every school classmate knows those that are "brainy" get the "A's" while those that are, well, slow, get definitely not "A's."
I repeatedly see in my tutoring services that the students who are not receiving the top grades, especially in grade school, are often the ones that have wonderfully creative minds. Minds that just don't fit confinement into a classroom for 6 hours of so much blah blah blah by the talking head at the front. (No disrespect intended to those hard working classroom teachers...I've been there, done that.)
On the other hand, I've also witnessed that those who score high grades often have an over-inflated opinion of their abilities yet end up with a terrible education. Students who rush to look good often do not take time to understand the bigger concepts. I hear older students (and adults) lament that they spent a lot of time to get high grades but basically just studied for the test and learned very little in the process.
Unfortunately, our upper school system uses the high school transcript to filter students for admission. Notice this doesn't indicate what the student actually learned, but rather it is a quick assessment tool for busy admission counselors. Many colleges are moving away from the transcript because the value of grades can varying so much from school to school. But for the time being, I think we are largely stuck with grades and transcripts unless you can talk a counselor into taking more time to scrutinize a portfolio through personal interview
The Percentage System. I personally prefer a straight percentage system with no grade attached. The goal of teaching is for mastery of a subject rather than unintentional intelligence branding. A student can see that when they achieve a 90% correct score. It means they missed 10% of the material. I remind students a 10% deviation from the goal can mean the bridge still fell down. Those who achieve a 50% score realize they have learned half the material. Yippee, now let's focus on the other half. I stress to all students that the goal is 100% mastery. When assessed, we rejoice in what we've accomplished but accept with thankful humility that which we still need to learn.
My family also used a reward system tied to a "school store" stocked with fun things to "purchase" as a motivational system for those students who begin to work the percentage system (knowing they will always have another opportunity to correct the work to 100% tomorrow). It is important to do our best effort first, and "fruits of our labor" can reinforce that concept.
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