I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Importance of Setting Goals

Image result for goals
During two years of graduate school at a college of education, one of the most important and basic concepts I grasped was that of setting goals.  In the classroom, setting goals is especially necessary in lesson planning.  Long-term and short-term goals determine pace, structure, and what type of curriculum to use.  The same should be true for any homeschool.  My goals for each child have evolved as they have grow and reached specific milestones.  They have also changed as I gained a better understanding of their God-given gifts.


Each year, I evaluate each child's achievements and weaknesses.  Depending on how well they do, I choose to slow down or speed up in different areas, change curricula, do away with an entire subject in favor of another, postpone material which may be too advanced, add more challenge in certain areas, etc.

Picking out appropriate curricula can become overwhelming if one has little support or experience. In these cases, attending a large homeschooling conference can be invaluable, as it provides an opportunity to browse through many curriculum choices.  Many companies will have knowledgeable speakers and representatives who will be happy to describe their choices and discuss options.  It is also helpful to find an older and experienced homeschooling parent who has similar academic goals as you. 

Whether a student is advanced or low-achieving, setting goals is essential.  For the advanced student, it is very important to keep material fresh and challenging.  Slow and boring is very frustrating for these children. Homeschooling provides an excellent opportunity for children whose interests lie outside the typical schoolroom curriculum structure. A homeschooling parent has a great advantage with first-hand knowledge of their child, which is essential in setting flexible, individualized goals. For the low-achieving student, it is very important to set goals as well.  Again, an individualized approach which focuses on that child's learning style, gifts, and interests will create a less frustrating learning environment in which she/he will gain confidence and maturity, enabling them to achieve better.

One thing to remember is the saying: Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. Although Webster's dictionary's first definition of the word discipline is simply - punishment.  I usually think of the word in terms of its other meaning, training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.   I believe this is the meaning intended in that saying.  Without discipline there will be no accomplishment.  We must remember to train ourselves to be disciplined as well - to be steadfast in pursuing realistic goals in our homeschool, so that our children will be equipped to accomplish their own goals later in life.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Time well spent


Daily assignment sheets = time well spent

I thought I should post about them, as it would have helped me when I first started homeschooling.  My days flow much more smoothly since adopting this routine a few years ago when I had one child in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school.  Since our children's ages are widespread, I haven't had groups that I've lumped together using the same curriculum and subjects. This system has helped me keep up with very diverse learning styles and needs.


It is simple things like this, routine, and organization which helps keep our days and weeks flowing smoothly.  We all are clear on what needs to be done, so there is little confusion at the end of the week, when I collect all the work that wasn't checked daily, like math.  I spot check their work somewhat randomly during the week as well, which keeps everyone on their toes!  I do not advocate un-schooling by any means, it just isn't part of our worldview.  Everyone is happy when they have a set of assignments, no guessing involved, and a known stopping point.

I always keep a lesson plan book with about three weeks of plans into the future.  These daily assignment lists are pulled from my more structured and detailed lesson plan books every morning.  I add comments and additional work, tweaking what is in my plan book, based on how the previous days' work was done, fine tuning assignments to work on weaknesses or subjects of more interest.

There have been times when I have needed a more structured plan like this one, but after a couple of years, they got used to pacing themselves, and I was able to relax the assignment list, letting them chose which subjects to do first. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What I do with Fix it!

I love Fix it!  At first sight, it looks like a simplistic curriculum, but it is actually very in depth.  I like the flexibility that a cumulative repetition gives in grammar, and this program lends itself well to an individualized approach, where the assignment can be tailored

The approach with Fix it! is that if your child is getting most things right, you are not on the right level for that child.  Learning from mistakes is the method.  So, each week there is a set of assignments for four days of the week in which the student becomes the editor of a story which lasts the entire year.  He or she slowly makes the corrections on a couple of sentences each day.    On the fifth day, it is copywork of corrected sentences for that week.  
One week's work
 I use different colored pens/highlighters to indicate different mistakes for that day, then I write a question or an additional assignment related to that grammatical error, color-coordinated on the left page.

In the beginning, I used to check and correct each day's assignment, but I've found that correcting at the end of the week gives a larger picture, where my children can see how that mistake would change the meaning of the story.



So, that's the scoop.  Fix it! has been a great addition to our English curriculum.  My college aged student is acing his essays.  He is a history major, so his classes are writing intensive.  

Thanks IEW!



Monday, November 7, 2016

Florida Natural History Museum


Last weekend, we took a trip up to Gainesville and visited the Florida natural History Museum at the University of Florida.  They had several interesting exhibits there, but what we really liked the most was the butterfly garden and immense collection of butterflies from around the world.



Not only was the size and diversity of the butterflies in the garden impressive, but so were all the beautiful plants.  This could also be called an enclosed botanical garden...  



We all enjoyed this part of the museum very much.



Another reason for the trip was Michael's interest in UF graduate school.  He went to an orientation type lecture, got to speak with current students and admissions advisors, and got a tour of the campus.

One of the many cases on display, beautiful!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Celebrating Fall (and cooler weather)

turkey-brightI look forward to Fall every year, especially as the heat of summer lingers here in Florida.  If you are young and someone tells you that you will get used to the heat, you won't.  I have learned some coping skills though, like always carrying a water bottle... and mostly staying inside in the A/C!  But, now the weather is changing, the humidity has finally receded, and it is cool in the mornings and evenings, finally!

To celebrate the end of the doldrums of summer, we will be joining in Barry Stebbing's (How Great Thou Art)  Thanksgiving contest that he just announced. The contest is broken down into age groups, which works well for us as Emily and Michelle are in different groups.  I am looking forward to see the girls' creations and coming up with some creative ways to use them in our decorations this year.  They both have very unique and distinct styles!

I have been baking and using pumpkins from our garden these last couple of weeks.  For tonight, I have this recipe I got in an email from Bulk Herb Store which looks very good:

Cinnamon Baked Apples


Ingredients
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/4 cup blanched almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoon walnuts, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Cut the top off the apples, about a quarter way down from the stem.
  3. Remove the core of the apple With a sharp knife, leaving the bottom in tact. This doesn't have to be perfect (or pretty). Just get the core out and try not to cut through the bottom.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, almond flour, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Stir until well combined.  Add the raisins and walnuts and stir until evenly distributed.
  5. Stuff the center of each apple with the mixture. It will pile on top of the apples.
  6. Place in a baking pan and bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then cover with foil and bake for another 10 minutes. (If you have a casserole dish with a lid, that would work perfectly and for this and allow you to avoid using foil).
  7. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Eat alone or with a dollop of cream. Enjoy! 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Benjamin Franklin's Glass Harmonica

A lovely glass harmonica concert illustrated this week's reading in American Literature.



Also supplementing the reading of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography with art of that time period, an outline of El Greco's Burial of Count Orgaz in Start Exploring Masterpieces.

We are greatly enjoying Janice Campbell's Excellence in Literature's American Literature high school curriculum this year.

McGuffey Readers (1836), What We Do...

Mc Guffey's readers are classics and not your typical modern currilum.  They don't come with worksheets, step-by-step teacher directions, lesson plans, or tests.  There is no grade level breakdown offered either.  The most helpful guide would be to read a book about the Charlotte Mason education method.  Some have broken down the books into age groups or grades, but the two determining factors I have used have been reading level and maturity.  This is based on the content of the books.  The fourth book definitely being a high school level book.
McGuffey, oil painting by an unknown artist; in the collection of Ohio University, Athens
William H. McGuffey

Each reader can span two or three years, reading one lesson a week.  I go through the vocabulary list at the end of each reading, asking for spelling and meaning.  From this list, I will pick words to do an etymology on - a study on the meaning of the word, its origin, spelling, and a couple of sentences using it in meaningful context, as you would find in a good dictionary.  Each word is done on a separate index card.  I use a variety of ways to review the words - puzzles, crosswords, hangman, and oral quizzes.

I use the readers to reinforce spelling, vocabulary work, reading ageless stories, biblical moral values, literature, and practicing diction by reading out loud.

It was McGuffey’s view that the proper education of young people required their introduction to a wide variety of topics and practical matters. 

I rarely use a typical spelling curriculum.  Reading is the key to spelling and reading out loud is very important, too.

Links with guidelines:
Why the 1836 edition is best?
"The 1836 edition was the only one which was actually compiled by McGuffey. His brother Alexander compiled the Fifth and Sixth Readers. Through successive editions, the essentially fundamentalist values that the McGuffeys put in the Readers were diluted by Unitarian influences. Although there were plenty of references to God, there were few to Christ. After the publication of the Readers, McGuffey’s influence as an educator grew, particularly in the West."
Read more in this essay.

Also,
"McGuffey was remembered as a theological and conservative teacher. He understood the goals of public schooling in terms of moral and spiritual education, and attempted to give schools a curriculum that would instill Presbyterian Calvinist beliefs and manners in their students. These goals were suitable for early 19th century America, but not for the nations’ later need for unified pluralism. The content of the readers changed drastically between McGuffey’s 1836- 1837 editions and the 1879 edition. The revised Readers were compiled to meet the needs of national unity and the dream of an American “melting pot” for the worlds’ oppressed masses. The Calvinist values of salvation, righteousness and piety, so prominent in the early Readers, were entirely missing in the later versions."
Read entire article here. 


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