homeschool, learning styles, organizing

Learning Styles: Orderliness (Part 5)

So, what does orderliness have to do with learning styles? Quite a bit, actually! For instance, I personally can’t focus on learning anything if my environment is a mess. What about you? What about your kids?

We all know about the messies and the neatniks, but let’s put these into an academic context. On the one hand, we have the sequential/concrete learners (mostly the neatniks). On the other hand, we have the global/random learners (usually the messies). Sequential learners need to learn things one at a time in an orderly fashion. They’re building their foundations one brick at a time. The concrete part means that they need to see, hear, feel, or touch it. Abstract concepts are usually difficult for the concrete learner to grasp.
            Global learners prefer to see/know the whole picture all at once. While they may still get from point A to point B, they usually don’t take the most conventional route. Their minds jump randomly from one thought to another. Abstract concepts are much more easily grasped for this type of learner.

homeschool, learning styles, organizing

Learning Styles: Setting (Part 4)

Are your children loners or groupies? The setting can make all the difference. Some kids need to absorb the energy of a group and need to bounce their ideas off others in order to learn. Unless you live in Timbuktu, co-ops, library groups, scouts, church groups, and other opportunities abound. The more your little groupies are involved, the better.
            Other kids are too distracted in a group setting and prefer to process information on their own (or with just you). They prefer to compare their new experiences with their own prior knowledge and perceptions. While a few social gatherings are a good thing for your loners, don’t expect them to be enthusiastic with a different co-op meeting every day.

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.

homeschool, learning styles, planning

Learning Styles Introduction (Part 1)

          How do you retain new information best? Chances are, at least one of your children does not learn the same way that you do. My older daughter does learn the same way that I do, so I was in for a shock when I tried the same style and activities with my younger daughter. It should be no surprise that not everyone learns best with the same style of teaching. That’s why so many people do not have good memories of their school years; they just weren’t taught in a way that engaged them. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can discover our children’s learning styles and teach them in a way that they will enjoy and retain information. Learning styles are similar to personality traits. Every book I’ve read, and every person I’ve heard speak on the subject gave different titles to different traits and styles. For the next several posts, I’ve lumped the different styles into four categories: intake, output, setting, and orderliness.

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Four Tips for Your College-Bound Homeschooled Kid

Having been homeschooled from the second grade through high school, I know personally what a wonderful experience it can be to be taught by one’s parents in a warm, loving, and supportive environment. Many homeschool parents may be nervous about their children’s ability to thrive in a college environment away from home, but, as a CBS article indicates, homeschooled children tend to perform even better than their non-homeschooled counterparts. Still, making the transition to a radically different learning environment is no easy task. Here are a few things to consider as your children prepare to apply to college.
1.      Thoroughly research schools that most fit your child’s interests, beliefs, and personality.
One of the biggest mistakes that parents and college-bound kids make when looking for schools is that they consider only brand names like Harvard, Stanford, or well-reputed state schools. This search method completely neglects to take into consideration various other factors that contribute to a successful collegiate experience such as geographic location, particular academic strengths, availability of certain extra-curricular activities, as well as religious beliefs. Decide which of these factors are most important to you and your child and make a list of five to seven schools.
2.      Call or email each school on the list and determine what their application guidelines are for homeschooled children.
Different schools have different requirements for homeschooled children. You can be sure that they will ask for standardized test scores, a personal statement, and more than likely a few letters of recommendation. Some schools require that homeschooled applicants take the GED in lieu of a high school diploma. Be sure to keep track of each school’s requirements.
3.      Ensure that your child will be able to secure letters of recommendation from adult mentors well before the application deadline.
Most students who attended a traditional high school can easily secure letters of recommendation from teachers. For homeschooled students, however, finding recommenders can be a bit more complicated. The best recommendation letter sources for homeschooled students are adults who can comment on the student’s talents, abilities, and values. These include pastors, coaches, or other extra-curricular instructors like music teachers. Make sure to request these letters well before the application deadline.
4.      Spend considerable time studying for standardized tests.
For most universities, there is no magic formula that will get your child into the college of his or her choice. Admissions committees look at a bunch of different qualities that are revealed in the personal essay, recommendation letters, and more. Still, for homeschooled students, it is especially important to do well on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, since admissions committees have no recognized standard of academic performance by which to judge your homeschooled child. Spend several months studying for these tests, and remember that these tests don’t necessarily test intelligence; they test how well your student can take a standard test. As such, practice is the key to a good score.
Getting into college is really the biggest hurdle in the entire collegiate experience. Once your child is accepted by several schools, try to visit each to determine which school fosters an environment where your child will thrive. Good luck!

Author Bio:
This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, students, teachers, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.


Q4U: Have something homeschool and/or organization related to share with my readers? Wanna be a guest blogger? Let me know; I’ve got some open spots in the next few months!

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History Through the Ages

It’s time to answer another reader’s question! This question is about history–what we called social studies when we were kids. I don’t know what passes for social studies in schools these days; I’m more interested in the actual facts. Classical education, which our family has embraced since we started our homeschooling journey, espouses studying history chronologically from the beginning and studying it all the way through consecutively.

The most popular way to incorporate a linear study of history is to complete three four-year cycles, beginning in first grade: ancient, medieval, early modern, modern. Another popular curriculum does a five-year cycle from second through sixth grades, then two two-year cycles in junior high and high school. The length of time spent in each historical period doesn’t really matter. What matters is covering each major period several times throughout the homeschooling process (assuming you’re homeschooling all the way through). Each time a history period is covered, more details will pop out, more in-depth discussion will occur, and more work will be required of the student. The student will gain a deeper, richer knowledge of history’s parallels and applications each time through each segment.

Since many homeschooling families have more than one child, let’s talk about how to utilize this method without teaching all of the time periods at the same time and without driving yourself crazy. The first child gets to start ancient history in first grade. The next child, when she hits first grade, joins child number one wherever he is in the cycle, and so on. Yes, that means that not all of the children will start with ancient history. But that’s ok—really! Eventually, child number two (and subsequent children who did not start with ancient history) will catch up and travel through history from beginning to end more than once.

As much as I love American history, I don’t want to teach it every year to my kids; furthermore, they don’t want to learn it every year! Chances are, your kids don’t either.

Q4U: What’s your homeschooling or organizing question? What would you like to see answered by me here on my blog?

bethany

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Planners and Responsibilities

Remember the teacher’s planner that enthralled you so much at the convention that you bought it? Its purpose is not just to look pretty on your shelf or on your computer’s desktop. It’s time to pull it out and start using it, or to figure out all the features it has if you’ve purchased an e-planner. Yes, I mean right now (well, after you’ve finished reading this)! If you follow a more traditional school year, you’ve probably recently started the new school year. The good news is that it’s not too late to start using your planner!
First of all, plan—at least roughly—your starting and ending dates for the school year. Be sure to incorporate holidays and other dates you know you’ll be taking off from official academics. Make sure you have 180 days if that’s required in your state. It’s okay if these dates fluctuate during the year—really—at least you’ve got a framework.
The next step is to write all these dates into your paper planner or to program them into your e-planner. The nice thing about e-planners is that they will calculate the number of days for you and it’s much easier to change dates if something unexpected comes up, and it will. This feature comes in handy towards the end of the year when the kids (and you) are getting antsy for the last day of school. Many states require you to keep and submit a yearly attendance log, which will be a breeze once you start using your e-planner. No more counting out days trying to remember if you did school on Columbus Day or not.
Mid-range planning involves breaking the school year down into quarters (or whatever units you use), then months, and then weeks. I plan which books will be read when and which projects go with which history and science units. I also look at every textbook, workbook, and living book we’ll be using to see approximately how many pages and chapters need to be done every quarter, month, and week. It saves time when I do my short-term planning during the school year, and it also helps me keep the children on track to finish each book by the end of the school year (but not three months early, unless we want to do it that way).
While this may seem like a lot of unnecessary work, it makes my planning during the year go much more smoothly. When I do my bi-weekly planning, I simply look at my chart and decide what and how much to do each day. That way when we get to the end of the year, I don’t discover a really cool project that we forgot we had or find a book about an explorer when we’re studying the Civil War.
Short-term planning, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, involves planning specific pages, chapters, lessons, and projects for each day of the school week. I have found that it works best for me to do this once every two weeks. Doing it every week tends to feel cumbersome and never-ending. If I do it only every three or four weeks, we tend to get out of sync too easily by an unexpected field trip or illness. It may take you a few tries to figure out what timing works best for you, but you will be much more relaxed throughout the school year if you take a little bit of time now to do so.
As I do my short-term planning, I print out a lesson plan schedule for each of my children, starting about when they reach the fourth grade level. At this point, especially if you’ve been homeschooling for several years, children are capable of looking at the list, figuring out what to do next, and crossing off each item as it is completed. This is part of the progression towards independent learning. Children enjoy feeling as if they have some control over their days, and they start to figure out the process of scheduling for themselves. For us moms, it cuts down on the constant, “Mom, what do I do next?” syndrome. Of course we’re not leaving our children completely to their own devices; we’re just teaching them a little bit of independence at a time while we can still monitor their progress.
           
Another option is to purchase (or make) a planner for each child. The Well-Planned Day, Apologia, and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Store offer planners for different age groups with grade-appropriate forms in addition to regular curricula planning pages. With younger children, you may find yourself writing everything in their planners and perhaps just having them check off each subject as it is completed. Even kindergarteners and first graders get a kick out of finding the word math on Tuesday and x-ing it off.
           
As they get older, you can have children take more responsibility for planning one subject at a time—with your guidance, of course. For instance, when my children reached middle school, I started telling them that they had two weeks to finish a science module. We elect to complete most available tests for memory retention and for future training (driver’s license or SATs, anyone?), so I teach my children to work backwards from the test date. If this is Monday and the test will be next Friday; that means that next Thursday will be a study day. That leaves us with three days next week and five days this week to read the chapter, do any experiments, and answer the questions along the way. Now we count the pages in the chapter; let’s just say there are twenty-four pages. Then, we divide the twenty-four pages by the eight days in which we have to do them and come up with reading four pages a day, including corresponding questions and experiments. In the early stages of planning, I make my children write the exact page numbers on each day of their planners. Voila, they’ve planned out the next two weeks of their science curriculum (almost) on their own.
           
I get less strict about how my children plan while keeping tabs on their general progress as they become more mature. Instead of doing some each day, particularly in science, history, and other subjects that don’t need daily repetition, some students may prefer to do more of one thing on certain days. That works, too, but make sure you count the right number of days and/or weeks when you plan that way.
           
Yes, this type of planning takes time. But it’s not just about writing down the next math lesson number or the next literature chapter. It’s also about learning to manage one’s time and resources, which is a life lesson that will be used over and over again. Most jobs require some sort of planning and implementation—even homemakers are more efficient if meals are planned ahead of time.
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls; but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” Proverbs 11:14.
“Plans are established by counsel” Proverbs 20:18a.

**This article appears over at Heart of the Matter Online today. Check out the other great writers over there!

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Planning e-Books to Get Your School Year Off to a GREAT Start


 

Learn how to plan your curricula and your time in order to have your best year ever. Learn how to write your own lesson plans and make your own schedules. Discover the freeing power of time management. Bethany LeBedz, veteran homeschooler, organizer, writer, and speaker, provides tips and handouts to help maximize your homeschool resources without being restrictive. 

My latest e-book is available on my website for just $5.95! It’s also available on CurrClick.com.



Get ready to plan a year of enthusiastic homeschool learning with consistent input from the Lord! Take the guesswork out of your planning, systematically organizing your homeschool this year with the FREE e-book from TOS, The New School Year: Planning Your Course and Letting the Lord Determine Your Steps. Written by homeschoolers from a Biblical foundation and using plenty of personal experience, this book will help take your homeschool to a whole new level. From curriculum to field trips, and from co-ops to homeschooling with the heart in mind, God is by your side. Let Him be your guide!
  


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On Your Mark, Get Set

Wait! Stop! I don’t know where we’re going! How do we get there? Looking at a stack of shiny, new textbooks, workbooks, and projects can make me feel like that. Do you ever feel like that at the beginning of a new school year?
In order to get from here (the beginning of the school year) to there (a successful school year ending), you need a roadmap. Planning ahead is like downloading a map for your next trip; it tells you which highways to travel and how many miles you have to go until the next exit. But, it doesn’t prevent you from making an extra stop at the scenic lookout or a fabulous restaurant you pass along the way. So it is with planning ahead for the school year; you know what you want your children to learn during the year and what you have to accomplish in order for them to achieve those goals. But, you can still pause for a sick day or an unexpected field trip without getting off course.
The key to a smooth start of the school year is to begin planning early. Yes, I know it’s only the beginning of August, but sometimes I feel as if August is the shortest month of the year. In order not to feel overwhelmed the weekend before I plan to start school with the kids, and in order not to feel like I’m completely missing my summer vacation, I do a little bit of planning at a time. For those of you using a combination of curricula or making up your own, this will save many hours of preparation during the school year.
Several types of planning make homeschooling go more smoothly: long-range planning, mid-term planning, and short-term planning. Long-term planning involves choosing curriculum for each child that matches her learning style and will be used for several years in order to have continuity in each subject. It can also involve planning which science classes and which literature periods will be covered during the four years of high school (or grade school). Deciding which method of homeschooling (classical, Charlotte Mason, traditional, eclectic, etc.) suits your family best falls under long-term planning, too.
Mid-range planning involves breaking the school year down into quarters (or whatever units you use), then months, and then weeks. I plan which books will be read when and which projects go with which history and science units. I also look at every textbook, workbook, and living book we’ll be using to see approximately how many pages and chapters need to be done every quarter, month, and week. It saves time when I do my short-term planning during the school year, and it also helps me keep the children on track to finish each book by the end of the school year (but not three months early, unless we want to do it that way).
Short-term planning, in case you haven’t figured it out by now, involves planning specific pages, chapters, lessons, and projects for each day of our school week. I have found that it works best for me to do this once every two weeks. Doing it every week tends to feel cumbersome and never-ending. If I do it only every three or four weeks, we tend to get out of sync too easily by an unexpected field trip or illness. It may take you a few tries to figure out what timing works best for you, but you will be much more relaxed throughout the school year if you take a little bit of time now to do so.
Many tools exist to help you with all this planning. You can go to a teachers’ supply store or a homeschool convention and find many different types of paper planners. If you like to have a physical notebook in your hands, this is the way to go. Take the time to choose the style that will best suit your needs: large family, unit studies, high school, and many others. When I used paper planners, my favorites were these two: The Home Schooler’s Journal, published by Fergnus Services Foundations for Learning, and Homeschool Teacher’s Plan Book, by Grace Publications. If you’re computer savvy and don’t want extra papers cluttering your desk, then check out the wide selection of electronic planners. Some are web-based, meaning that your computer has to be connected to the Internet in order to access them. Some are can be downloaded from the internet (my personal favorite is Homeschool Tracker; I use the Basic free edition, the Plus version is $49 and includes free updates) and some can be purchased on a CD-rom to download onto the computer yourself. The Old Schoolhouse (TOS, The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner, $39.00 ) has an extensive homeschool planner that includes forms for everything, with updates every year. If you’re trying to decide whether or not planning on the computer is for you, check out the freebies online.
Your goal for this week: purchase a homeschool teacher’s planner. Leave me a note on your search for the perfect planner, which one you chose, and why you chose it.

This post appears over at Heart of the Matter Online today. Check out their other helpful offerings.