homeschool, learning styles, study skills, writing

How to F.O.C.U.S.

Forget trying to get the kids to focus, I’m the one having problems concentrating! So, here are a few tips to help moms (or anyone else) focus on the task at hand, which will enable you to finish sooner.

F – FACEBOOK (Twitter, blogs, email, etc.) = NOT! Turn it off for a while!

O – ONE thing at a time. Even for multitasking mom mavens, it’s best to concentrate on doing one thing WELL at a time. You’ll find that you’re really more efficient in the long run.

C – CONCENTRATE on whatever is in front of you. Don’t be distracted by the T.V., kids jumping on the trampoline, or the cats chasing each other. Bonus: CAFFEINE helps–sometimes. You know yourself; if it helps, have some. If not, don’t.

U – UNDERSTAND that you will have interruptions no matter how good your intentions (and/or instructions) are. Sometimes your own thoughts will interrupt you with other things you have to do; write down whatever pops into your mind so you can get it out of your head and focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.

S – STAY on task for a specified length of time or until you meet a certain goal. Make short goals (to write 1,000 words, to clean 1 kitchen cabinet, to make 1 project, or whatever), meet each goal, then take a short break. Bonus: SLEEP. It’s a good thing. Get some.

Today’s confession: I scribbled the outline for this post while I was trying to focus on another writing project!

Q4U: What are your best tips for focusing on the task at hand?

homeschool, learning styles, organizing, study skills

Learning Styles: Output (Part 3)

What about output? Most output is either oral or written, but movement output can’t be discounted. Oral learners hate written tests and essays with a passion. They do, however, usually perform much better by answering questions out loud, or by talking through their paragraphs or essays while someone else types them. Learning how to use a computer can be a big help to oral learners, but they may still need to be encouraged to practice out loud before typing it. Discussions are the way to go for this type of learner; forget about workbooks with many empty lines. Of course, oral learners will have to be taught gradually how to write effectively as they get older. Standardized college entrance tests can’t be done orally, neither can the boss’s written report.
            Learners who prefer to write will thrive with those empty workbook pages and essays. If you ask for a paragraph, you’re likely to get several. Discussions and speeches are much harder for this type of learner, but should still be encouraged.
            The wigglers will still have to give some answers verbally (orally or written), but should also be allowed to act out scenes from books and move while reciting, as appropriate.

homeschool, learning styles, planning, study skills

Learning Styles: Intake (Part 2)

How do our children intake and process information most effectively? That’s how we want to teach them!

Auditorily, visually, and kinesthetically are the three main ways in which to intake information. Auditory learners prefer to be read to, to read aloud and to repeat information over and over again. Auditory learners will learn best with audio books, singing math and geography songs, and reciting verses out loud. As much as possible, aim to provide books on tape (CDs, MP3s, etc.) and to encourage verbal repetition.
            Visual learners need to see it to understand it. They usually love reading, and understand more easily with graphs, charts, and pictures. Provide lots of quality reading material and don’t be frustrated if this child doesn’t want to be read to as much after she learns how to read herself. This is the easiest style to accommodate, because much curricula is visually oriented.
            The little wigglers really can’t help themselves; they’re most likely kinesthetic learners. They may be required to sit still in Mrs. Smith’s first grade classroom, but in our homeschools, let them wiggle. I have found that to require absolute stillness from kinesthetic learners is a recipe for disaster. Sure, they may sit perfectly still for five minutes, but they won’t be able to concentrate on anything else; all of their energy will be directed towards not fidgeting. By allowing some movement, we free up their minds to intake academic information. Some not-too-intrusive ideas are allowing a little squishy ball to hold and squeeze, standing for a while, sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair, and allowing movements (such as making up a cheer for a Bible verse). Their concrete nature means that they’ll need manipulatives for math. Most children start off being kinesthetic learners, but many outgrow the need to touch and/or move in order to learn as they get older.

about me, change, learning styles, lessons learned, study skills

What It Takes to be a Good Online Student

Going back to school after you’ve been out for a while is scary. At least, it was for me. I entered college at age 17, full of dreams and plans to save the world as a social worker. Then I graduated and had to get a job to pay the rent. I found a social work job, but I didn’t think I could change the world anymore. I worked for two years, then started the job that never ends and really does change the world: motherhood. Somewhere between changing diapers and clutching the door handle of my car for dear life with a teen driver, I started writing and editing. I figured out that I really liked it. Then I figured out that to advance any in that field, I should return to school for a master’s degree in English. I waded through the hundreds of online choices, applied to a state school, and got accepted. Then I panicked!

School means studying, writing papers, and reading textbooks. In the world of online studies, it also means posting on the Blackboard (without the chalky mess of our childhoods), emailing questions to an unseen professor, and navigating Internet research materials. All of this happens in between driving the family taxi, cooking dinner, working, and a slew of other responsibilities.

How do I juggle it all? Very carefully! First of all, I am now the not-so-proud owner of brand new dust bunnies. I’ve had to lower many of my housekeeping expectations. Second of all, I recruit help; my teenagers do their own laundry, clean their own bathroom, and cook dinner occasionally. Third, I carved out a space where I can close the door to concentrate on my school work. Oh, it’s technically a shared office/school room, but when they’re done at the end of the day, I can put out my do-not-disturb sign.

So, what do I do with my do-not-disturb time? Not Facebook, not email, and not blogging. At least, not much. I dedicate the quieter times to the longer papers that take real concentration and the confusing textbooks that require my full attention. I do my best not to multitask during that time so that I can really focus on my schoolwork in order to make the most of my time.

I wish I could say I can get everything done when I’m locked in my own little space, but I can’t. I often take my reading to gymnastics and my paper drafts to waiting rooms. I’ve learned to check out the discussion forums while dinner is cooking.

This whole process is not easy. I’d much rather be reading a novel than a technical editing textbook on the way to the shore. I’d rather sleep on the long drive home for Thanksgiving than be working on a project due in a few weeks. But, it will all be worth it a year and a half from now when I hold that master’s of English degree in my hand!

Do you have a dream to back to school or maybe to go to college for the first time? You can do it! It takes a lot of discipline and a lot of determination, but it can be done. Go for it!