Category Archives: Support

Tips and discussions about ways to support homeschoolers.

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Will increasing test-taking skills improve your chances of getting into MIT?

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When I read this week that Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School successfully raised their grade from an F to a C during the past year, I felt relief for the students and staff at the school. It couldn’t have been easy to have your school graded in such a public, callous way and then rise above and find ways to improve. The two methods used to up their grade were supplying plentiful snacks before testing time and spending more class time learning test-taking strategies. It is this latter part that saddens me. Our public school kids and teachers are required to spend more time on better test-taking – and less time experiencing science, arts, math and everything else.

I have a 12-year-old who wants to go to Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT). Since he is dyslexic and homeschooled, you can bet your bottom dollar I have already reviewed the application process. Many things come to mind as I look ahead for his application to one of the worlds most prestigious places of learning. And getting good at testing is not one of them. MIT has specific recommendations for homeschooled applicants including exhibiting entrepreneurial spirit, taking advanced classes during high school, participating in extra curricular activities, taking collaborative summer programs and having varied recommendations. No where does it suggest increasing test-taking skills. As MIT so aptly puts it in the admissions information on their website, “Standardized tests are required for any freshman application to MIT. However, they are not the only factor, or even the most important factor…We admit people not numbers”.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

(The photo above shows my son watching a 3D printer in action at the UMaine Engineering Expo in March of 2014)

http://mitadmissions.org/apply/prepare/homeschool

Battling Homeschool Burnout

If you’ve experienced one or more of these symptoms, you may be battling Homeschool Burnout!

  1. It’s nighttime and you’re finally laying your head down to sleep. You find this is the first opportunity you’ve had all day to wipe the sleep from your eyes. From the previous night.
  2. Within the last week you have, at least once, blurted out a threat to send your children to school.
  3. Your house is starting to feel like Alcatraz; “Let me outta here!” feelings are bubbling up.
  4. After three or more days of not brushing your hair, you realize that dreads are forming.

As May creeps into June, homeschools all over are probably feeling many of the same pressures of school teachers. The school year is almost out and I still need to teach this, this and that and my kids just want to be outside. I have been thinking about this a lot the last few weeks as I’ve faced my own burnout. I will share with you my thoughts and some tips I have thought of to help.

Turn it to the kids. Sit down and have a discussion. We have six more weeks left of school, what would you like to accomplish? Then hope and pray it’s not ‘dissect a hissing cock roach’.

Go outside. We all know now that movement enhances learning. Kids and parents in Northern areas, having been cooped up much of the winter, need to get outside and play. If my kids run outside after breakfast and start playing a game they made up with tennis balls, a tape measure and lacrosse sticks, I would have to be an insane person to make them come in and do math at the table. They need this. I need this. While they are playing, I start planting and they later join to help. What about planting seeds ¼ inch thick, 2 inches apart, in rows 3 feet apart does NOT involve math?

Search for what brings you joy and do it. Even if it’s 10 minutes a day, do what you love. Be it dancing, playing a musical instrument, meditating, or whatever, you must find the time to make your heart sing.

Try the “One Small Thing Rule” when it comes to housework. Obviously, when you have a houseful of children, who do not leave for school every day, housework can be a pretty overwhelming prospect. Just getting the basics done is often challenging. So when spring rolls around and all these projects you want to get done come to mind, frustration can often set in when reality hits – there is only so much time in the day. So I like to try and do “one small thing” each day. Not including the bare basics you have to do. It’s more like something a little special. Even if it’s just cleaning out the crack in the kitchen table, a 45-second, extremely satisfying experience. It may not seem like much, but you took a little effort and made your home a little nicer. That’s a good feeling.

Take a break from improving. Parents are notorious for this and homeschoolers are just as guilty. Every day, week to week, most of us are asking, “What can I do to improve my parenting and teaching skills? ” or “What can I do to make the homeschool better?” Try to relax a bit; know that you’ve worked hard and will continue to do so, but that you don’t need to keep up with the latest and greatest next new thing, and your kids will be fine. In TED Talks video, whose link is below, there is a compelling argument for parents to lighten up a bit and go easy on themselves.  http://www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_senior_for_parents_happiness_is_a_very_high_bar

Have you ever experienced Homeschool Burnout? What helped you get through?

 

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Creating Your Homeschool Community

Interacting with other homeschoolers is an important key to making homeschooling work. Having families with which to share your experiences can benefit parents as well as kids. Most homeschoolers are pioneers – by that I mean they’ve never seen other homeschoolers in their life and they are blazing their own trail. And as homeschool pioneers we are not faced with just one trail: there’s an infinite number of kinds of homeschooling and equal number of resources. So each homeschooler you meet is undoubtedly going to have a lot of ideas. There are many ways of reaching out to meet other local homeschoolers. Here’s a few:

  1. Contact the local public library. The children’s librarians are the folks who see homeschoolers on a regular basis. They can put you in contact with experienced homeschoolers in your area. Often times they have a homeschooler’s book club. If not, you can ask them to start one.
  2. Peruse the natural foods store. I’ve found this to be a mecca of like-minded families. Ask the owner to hold a cooking or nutrition class for homeschoolers. Or, if there’s a small cafe inside, you could start an informal weekly homeschool brunch.
  3. Start a local homeschool co-op. Put flyers up in your area for a homeschool co-op for kids and parents to meet at a local park or other public place. It can start out small and be geared towards a specific type of homeschooling (i.e. religious-based or unschooling), or just open to all. A co-op can mean anything. In my experience it means taking turns have families come to your home, or meeting for a hike or field trip, on a regular basis. It could also mean having a public space and offering classes taught by local volunteers or parents. Basically it can be anything that your group needs.
  4. Start a Lego Engineering Club. Bring Legos, the kids will come. Some spaces that may work for clubs include a local community center, a church or someone’s home. Having a weekly Lego Club for kids can create a much-anticipated time for social fun and building. Engineering and science topics can easily be worked in or the kids can design their own curriculum. The meetings can be followed by a play-date at the park or a field trip, making for a memorable day, every week.
  5. Check out online resources. You can google ‘homeschool’ and your town or form your own local YAHOO group. This website has a few ideas as well: http://www.smarttutor.com/homeschoolers-theyre-out-there/

 

 

How I Used to Have a Paid Job

A long, long time ago, in a not so distant galaxy I used to have a job. That paid. It was a lovely bank job, using furniture that was not duct taped, enjoying the latest in technological devices, all with a boss that thanked me for my hard work. Then there was the money I received, every week! And the health insurance, retirement plans, vacation time and sick days. There was opportunity for advancement and reimbursement for educational costs.

So how the heck did I get here – sitting on a chair with ripped upholstery, using a pc who’s operating system will self-implode in exactly 9 days? It’s not like I don’t work. I work very hard at my jobs of parenting, homeschooling, community volunteering, coaching robotics and lactation counseling, not to mention house, yard and lately even road work. I don’t get paid a cent for any of it. Does that mean my work is undervalued? Am I receiving an appropriate compensation plan?

Here’s how I view  it. I can look at my kids and see intelligence, integrity and good health. That is absolutely the best benefit package I can imagine. I see my 11-year-old son tirelessly mentoring his robotics club, my 9-year-old-daughter helping out as a mother’s helper for our neighbors, and my 9-year-old son blossoming as a humble athlete. If I can ignore the lack of new material goods in my home; if I can forget about a vacation and try to remember that I live in vacationland; if I can just look my kids in the eye and know I did my best, then it’s better than any paycheck I ever received.