Happy Read Alouds

Read alouds are our homeschool and family superglue!  Reading aloud is our main homeschool method and we have loved our learning journey through living books and classic literature.  And even though my older 2 children have graduated high school, we still enjoy reading aloud as a family.

Read aloud to your children — young or old.  Start even before your baby is born, and never underestimate the joy and power it brings to teens and young adults.

Read any type of book — Read beautifully or colorfully illustrated  stories for young children.  Read flap books to involve young toddler’s curiosity.  Read pop-up books to dazzle and amaze young kids.  Read comics and highly detailed picture books; those “Where’s Wally?” and “I Spy” books are fabulous for middle school children.  Read accurate descriptive books and biographies or historical fiction for older kids.

Read aloud — to start your day or finish it.  Start your day reading aloud in circle time with Bible stories.  This will lead young hearts to prayer and praise.  Read a Core story book to engage your children’s minds and hearts.  This leads to narrations, hands-on activities, lapbooks or notebooks, or projects based on the story.  In essence, we have used reading to create our literature-based learning.   And every child loves to have mom or dad read to them in bed, closing the day with lovely thoughts and images.

Read snuggled next to each other.  Our read aloud time is always a time of togetherness, closeness and intimacy.  Fidgety children can play with quiet toys or activities on the carpet at my feet while listening.  Whether physically close or not, the story weaves our minds and hearts together on a journey.  Often, my kids would not let me stop.  Most days my throat would ache because, as I would place the bookmark in the book, my kids would all beg, “Please read another chapter”, and I would continue.

Read poems  — and let your children revel in sounds of words, rhyming words, enjoy the rhythm of the syllables, and wonder at creative word images.

Read non-fiction — and learn so much!  After school, my kids would rush to tell their dad, “Did you know…?” giving him their detailed, natural narrations!  Learning through literature is so much more engaging and real than using textbooks.  Textbooks present someone else’s views of important details, often reduced to bland facts.  A living book describing someone’s experiences, travels, or field notes is full of accurate details, descriptive observations, and personal experiences, and you’ll be amazed how children soak up enormous and exact details and facts, seemingly without any effort!

Read fiction

Image result for image fantasy book

Fantasy World Book by Mark Vog

Fade into the fantasy of the author’s creation.  Delve into the invisible world of make-believe, fly into unknown worlds, explore and escape into new word-worlds.  I believe in the power of fantasy.  It is a gift of the imagination and makes one rich and full.

It is amazing how much you can share, talk, go and grow together through a story — so enjoy your read alouds.

Blessings, Nadene

Cultivate Curiosity

Have you ever watched a toddler play?  They are naturally curious, engaged, and motivated to explore.  But what happens when we push them, persuade them, or pressure them to learn things?  Quite often we quench this natural, inbuilt learning model.

Sadly, most young moms feel that they have to buy expensive programs, educational toys and books and DVDs to keep their children motivated and learning.  Moms, you can relax.  Your child will learn so much if you give them opportunities to explore, discover, and encourage them to learn in their own way.

Provide them with some simple elements and they will be happy for hours ~ let them play outside in nature, play with sand and water, offer them things to pour with or carry, play with playdough, keep a container filled with bottles, empty tubes, etc.  Give them a large sheet to make tents or forts.  And read to them every day.

When your young child learns, they love to repeat, and repeat and repeat the activity.  Once they have mastered that skill or activity, they will move on.  If they are not interested, they will move on.  Follow their lead.

Ask them questions and let them discover … what happens when you put this in the water?  Which objects will float?  How can we pour this into that?  Which object will fit on top?  Hint ~ don’t be a teacher!  Simply behave as a curious and eager participant.

Facilitate their curiosity with new experiences and this will lead to their learning, and be there with them to watch them explore and learn.  E.g.: Spray a blob of shaving cream low enough for them to reach on a large window and let them play!  Put a blob of shaving cream on a plastic table and let them discover how they can make marks, patterns or simply enjoy a sensory experience.  (Although it seems messy, shaving cream wipes off with a damp cloth and smells lovely!)  Let them play with rice in a little paddle pool (so that the mess is relatively contained) and let them fill bowls, bottles, pour into funnels, through cardboard rolls, spoon into cups etc.

What kills a child’s natural curiosity?  A young child’s curiosity withers away with competition, comparison to others, constantly needing or receiving praise and approval, punishment or shame, testing or a sense of a fixed/ right result.  Avoid groups or schools where this is disguised as “motivation”.

Socialization  for young children is important, but does not mean that your preschooler must join a group.  Meet once a week with one like-valued family with children the same ages and this more than enough for your child.  Once a month arrange to go out on a picnic,  or outings to the zoo or petting parks,  or take a ride on a bus, or meet at the local library, or watch puppet shows, etc.  Remember the golden socialization ratio  for young children = their age plus one = your three-year-old can only really cope with 4 friends at a party or group, so don’t overwhelm your young child with too many friends, play dates or groups.

Moms these days are under so much pressure for their child to perform.  Please, don’t do too many other classes (such as music, play ball,  horse riding, gymnastics, ballet, etc.  Please, these are all fine, but not all at once, and not all for a young child ).   I don’t know about you, but my stress levels shoot through the roof when I need to get everyone into the car and arrive somewhere on time everyday!  I would recommend your preschooler takes swimming lessons, but don’t fill your week with endless trips to classes and activities.   When you have several children, watch out for conflicting schedules, or where the whole family are endlessly bundled in and out of cars for one child’s activities.  You should not feel like a taxi driver everyday!

A good rule to guide your junior primary child in joining extra-curricula activities is to choose one sport and one cultural activity for that season.  Some activities are year-long, such as ballet, so then allow one more activity that is compatible with your existing schedule.  Ensure you have at least 1 free day where you can stay home, take your time, be leisurely and relaxed in your schedule.  This freedom encourages curiosity.

When starting your preschool homeschooling, please don’t feel that you need to be formal, strict, and precise in your approach.  Apart from reading aloud together every day, simply create variety in your weekly schedule which may include some of these activities:

  • Learn and sing nursery rhymes and Bible songs
  • make music
  • play and climb
  • time in nature
  • make-believe games and dressing up
  • learning meaningful life skills such as washing up, sorting washing, setting the table, feeding the cat/dog, dusting and polishing furniture, emptying dustbins,
  • reading aloud from well-illustrated Children’s Bible and classical children’s stories
  • Provide short little lessons where they can sort, group, thread, stack, cut & paste, count, learn their alphabet through phonics, etc.

I hope that these ideas encourage you to relax, trust and enjoy your young child’s natural curiosity.

(Photos of my granddaughter Emma on her first birthday, and with her dad on her second birthday)

Blessings, Nadene

Twice Exceptional

I came across the term “Twice Exceptional” while reading Gifted Voices.   I had to look up its meaning:

“Twice exceptional (or 2E students) are sometimes also referred to as double labelled, or having dual exceptionality. These are gifted students whose performance is impaired, or high potential is masked, by a specific learning disability, physical impairment, disorder, or condition. They may experience extreme difficulty in developing their giftedness into talent.”

When I studied Remedial Education, I quickly realized that many children with learning difficulties were often gifted.  Once I started teaching, I also recognized that many gifted children presented behavioural problems, often similar to those of children with learning difficulties, due to their boredom and frustration with the school system. They often struggled to fit in and seldom discovered their unique gifting and wonderful abilities.

Describing 2E children, TKI explains,

“Gifted students with disabilities are at-risk as their educational and social/emotional needs often go undetected. Educators often incorrectly believe twice-exceptional students are not putting in adequate effort within the classroom. They are often described as ‘lazy’ and ‘unmotivated’.  Hidden disabilities may prevent students with advanced cognitive abilities from achieving high academic results. 2E students perform inconsistently across the curriculum. The frustrations related to unidentified strengths and disabilities can result in behavioural and social/emotional issues.”

Because a child struggles with their uniqueness or outside-of-the-box, or have different social-emotional needs, they struggle  in the conventional school system.  Many parents face the dilemma  of whether to stick to the school system or to homeschool their gifted or twice-exceptional child.  My advice is that you look for a place where your child can thrive, grow, learn and “become” in the most supportive, loving environment, which is usually at home!

Homeschool parents can tailor-make their educational approach to work with their child’s strengths, while gently encouraging them to strengthen areas of weakness.  Because you work one-on-one with your child, you can immediately determine where and when your child is bored or struggles, and adjust your pace or approach.

You can seamlessly include motivation, opportunities, therapy and remedial activities as part of your homeschooling for children with illnesses, disabilities or disorders.  Most remedial therapy is presented as games, and often children enjoy these fun activities.  Therapy varies.  Most children initially require therapy regularly, but as they master skills, these activities can be moderated or stopped.  Some children perform better with a therapist, because they may resist or refuse at home, while most therapy requires regular “homework” or practice.  Whatever your approach, try avoid instilling in your child a sense of failure or disappointment, or that the child has, or worse still, is a problem.

Homeschooling your twice exceptional child helps you establish a steady routine which is important when dealing with complex problems or disabilities.  Parents can establish a  healthy or specific diet as well as good sleeping patterns, and these routines and practices are often very helpful in assisting a 2E child.

Most importantly, your homeschooled child is allowed to progress at his/ her own pace without feeling that he/she isn’t the same as the rest of the class.  Avoid comparisons at all costs, not even one child with another in your home.  Avoid labels.  No one wants to know that his/ her person is a medical/ behavioural disorder.  Speak of their condition in positives, “My daughter loves to move … to learn well.”

Try find a homeschool family or support group that you and your child can cope with and where you find grace and encouragement.  Having a “different” child can often make one feel isolated and insecure.  Support groups are very helpful to assist parents who often feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

My youngest daughter would probably have required remedial therapy when she was young, but my husband, in such wisdom, encouraged me to let her be and to encourage her to learn in her own time.  We patiently persevered and it has wonderfully paid off.  From a struggling emerging reader, she is now our bibliophile and most avid reader in our home!

It may not seem like it now, but you will see your child grow and develop into the most marvelous person that they were created to become.   Do not give up!

With all grace and blessings, Nadene

Highschooler Needs

I’m sure many homeschool moms feel insecure about homeschooling their child through the high school years like I do?  Coping with important subject and career choices, teenagers’ growing need  for independence, as well as their raging and extreme emotions can quickly bring a mom to her knees!  But let me encourage you to keep homeschooling to the end ~

  •  Accept the confusion and guilt as part of this phase.  You will feel like you didn’t do enough, that you failed in so many ways, but try not to dwell on that, because you have time for relationships which is the cornerstone of your reason to homeschool.
  • Feast your eyes on the amazing person that is your high school son/ daughter. Consider the many good things about that person, and recognize that you influenced some of that wonderfulness. Enjoy the person, cherish the moments, treasure the memories you are making.
  • You still have an impact on this wants-to-be-autonomous-but-still-needs-mommy child. It’s not too late to help them in preparing for independence by encouraging more and more responsibility and self-reliance.
  • Give them the space they need to test their wings while they still have the safety of home. Show trust where you can, and try not to hold the reins too tight. Easier said than done, I know…
  • Be physically affectionate.  Hug them early and often; when they wake up  and hug them before they go into their room for the night. Hug them in the middle of an argument. Hug them “just because” throughout the day.  It is impossible to hug too often!
  • Talk with them as often as possible, and better yet, let them talk to you about anything and everything. Avoid criticism or correction about what they say — just let them vent, or exclaim, or explain — and then you may nod and say “mm-hmmm.”  Give an opinion only when asked. Be available, and willing, to listen.
  • Expect their frustrations because they all sigh, fuss or yell, “why should I have to do this stupid school work”.  Try not to nag; it may be time to let them experience some natural consequences of not getting things done on time. When in doubt of how to respond, see #3 and #4.
  • You need to help and support your senior highschooler through critical transitions like writing final exams,  completing applications for college or university, or writing up their CV or resume and preparing for and attending job interviews.
  • Plan on celebrating graduation. Make it a big deal and celebrate, even if it is only a special family meal, eating out at a nice restaurant, or holding a small gathering for cake and photographs.

Enjoy your high school senior while you have them with you, and then watch them take on the world. It’s a wonderful thing to be part of.  I wish I could say that things get easier now, but I know that you are already aware that parenting is a lifetime endeavor.

Blessings, Nadene

Adapt Adjust or Amend your Approach

Image result for adapt and overcomeMost moms have a pretty good idea of how things should be, especially when it comes to homeschooling.  I recall, over 18 years ago, when we considered homeschooling, visiting 2 homeschool homes and thinking how we could make homeschooling work for us.  Then I bought the bell-and-whistles-full-curriculum package for each child and I, in my idealistic hopes, thought that this was a guarantee for success.

It wasn’t.

When we started homeschooling, my eldest child, starting grade 4, resisted, refused, fussed and struggled about the work, and instead of taking it really slow, and cutting back the work to  a more manageable load, I pressured, punished and persisted in my attempt to “make it work”. It was a disaster and I felt like such a failure, not only as a teacher, but as a mom.  You see, homeschooling is a relationship, and when it doesn’t work, for whatever reason,  relationships suffer.

Here’s my advice —

Find what works for your child in your home.  Adapt, adjust, adopt, add, and amend your approach to fit your child’s  learning style and needs.

Please remember that the curriculum was created by an individual, no matter how clever or qualified, who prepared a package for the average child and the general aims of the educational institution.  It will not suit every one, all the time.  When it does not suit your child, or your family lifestyle, or your parenting style, work with what works and adapt or adjust, abandon or ignore the rest.

Yes, you may put the book back on the shelf that no one enjoys, or stop halfway through a project that causes meltdowns, even abandon the package if it doesn’t meet your family’s needs.  Pushing on will not achieve much if your children resist.  It will seem like you are pushing a huge boulder, in pouring rain, up a muddy mountain path!  Well, that’s how I felt many days … I sat in tears and wondered what was wrong with me or my child.

Improvise Adapt and Overcome Quote #4574931

When I finally found the courage to follow my own leading and use the schedule and package as a guideline,  I felt such a relief.  The peace and joy returned, and my kids began to flourish.  The less I pressured, the more they blossomed.  The more informal I became in my approach, the more they absorbed and contributed.  The more I simply offered options, the more my kids created and expressed themselves.

A homeschool education is never about learning information.  It is about relationships, life skills, character and values.

I know a few homeschool moms that have several unused curriculums and packages sitting gathering dust on their bookshelves.  It is an expensive waste, and often they speak of the guilt of their impulsive buying.  I would recommend you create your own version of homeschooling with what you already have.  Adapt it or add to it.  At the very worst, sell the stuff you really can’t use and use that money to make more meaningful purchases.  There are wonderful opportunities on Facebook groups to advertise and sell your unwanted stuff, and to buy books and programs, second-hand, for good prices.

It is easier than you think to create your own eclectic package for your children, and there is a lot available for free on the Internet.  You simply need to find what they need to learn and offer them the options.  Give your children options, choices, a wide and generous education.  Find what delights them and let them lead the way.

Don’t despair when things are imperfect.  It is simply a signal to adjust, or amend your approach.

Blessings, Nadene

 

Praise and mindsets

What if I told you that the way you praise your child can encourage and stimulate achievement and success in your children?  Stop praising kids for their innate or God-given abilities, and instead focus on their effort.

There are two types of mindsets we can cultivate ~

  • One that embraces problems as opportunities and who see problems as interesting challenges to learn = a growth mindset
  • one that avoids problems and difficulties, often out of fear to fail and avoid conflicts = a fixed mindset

Watch this excellent video presenting Carol Dweck’s studies on “How to help every child fulfill their potential” ~

Dweck says, “If you’re a parent, you likely want to explore not just why a growth mindset is advantageous, but also how to encourage your kids to develop that kind of attitude.”  In her research, she discovered that the way we praise children effects their mindset.

Here are 3 ways parents praised their children:

  1. They praised one group for their innate intelligence = value intelligence & results = This praise put kids into a fixed mindset.
  2. They praised one group for the processes they came up with to solve the test = value effort = This praise pushed these children into a growth mindset.
  3. They praised a third group, as a control, for a passing score, without mentioning either their intelligence or the process they had used.

But Dweck discovered that, “The most astonishing thing to us was that praising intelligence turned kids off to learning.”

Remember the fabulous word “YET” because it allows a child to set up a process, e.g.: “I’m not good at Maths, yet.”  Encourage your child to keep trying and praise them for their process, struggle and effort.

Remember Praise PROCESS!

Blessings, Nadene

Working Independently Yet Responsibly

A reader recently asked ~

“Do you have any ideas when dealing with boys?  My son (11) to be a different learner, wanting to be more independent and do things on his own, which I am fine with and would like to encourage, however he keeps putting everything off and doesn’t want to be told when to learn….”

Your son’s desire to work independently often occurs when children, both boys and girls, move into their tweens and teen years.  The trick is to find the balance between independence  and accountability.  

I believe that independence is given through trust that is earned by repeated responsible behaviour, and so my teen children gained more independence when they regularly worked up to standard.  

I have written several posts on High School and independence here and here, and the tips and advice that I share below applies to high school ages, but you can apply most these points to your independent learner, whatever his age.  Here’s what I found works for us ~

  • Collaborate and decide together what subjects/ topics/ themes/ courses/ or programs your child wishes to cover.  When you provide delight-directed subjects, he will definitely be more motivated.  He may still have to cover other compulsory subjects to meet your country/ state’s education requirements, but if the majority of his homeschooling focuses on his interests and passions, he should co-operate with you.
  • Plan and schedule his subjects and determine his goals and deadlines. Create a basic timetable and a year plan.  Once you schedule his chapters/ lessons/ and topics over each month, this will form your basic year plan.   You can plan your child’s work on  Google Calendar or Homeschool Tracker or in a Spiral Notebook.
    Google Calendar
  • Keep track and record his work. Provide your child his own checklist so he can keep track of his own work.  I use my year plan for my record of work and created space to write comments, marks and dates.
  • Allow your child freedom to choose what and where he wants to work, providing he achieves a certain standard of work.  (Lying on the floor or bed to work is fine for some subjects, but is not effective for written work.) Teens often want to work in their own rooms.  Privacy is important, but, again, they need to demonstrate their responsibility in order to earn your trust.
  • Be flexible yet consistent.  Independent learners should work at their most efficient times (maybe later in the mornings or in the afternoons), but they should work regularly.
  • Set the standards and encourage your teen to raise their standard to meet the requirements for high school.
  • Be firm about how their work is presented or how detailed their notes should be.  Phase this in as they start their new work.  Encourage them to improve as they master the basics.
  • Very Important — Schedule regular accountability sessions with your independent learner.  Start with daily meetings before schooling starts, to discuss the schedule and his assignments.  Sign-off his check lists and discuss and evaluate his assignments at the end of the day.  Once he has accomplished his assigned tasks correctly and independently, you can meet to sign off his work once a week. These accountability sessions should be friendly, but focused meetings.   They are essential to building trust in relationship so that he can work more and more independently.  For example, if a child skips work or produces inferior work, re-schedule the assignment for him to do/ redo.  It is good to sit side-by-side and talk about the work, rather than simply tick pages with a red pen.  Quite often these discussions are an excellent opportunity to evaluate your child’s understanding, their focus or ability.  I make notes in my record of work when we meet.   Please read Heather Woodie of Blog, She Wrote post Fostering Collaboration With Morning Meeting Time.
  • Mom, you need to be consistent.  Keep an eye on your child’s progress.  Don’t skip meetings or forget to have daily or weekly meetings, because, before you notice, your child may fall behind or skip work altogether!  I “dropped the ball”  when I lost track of our middle daughters’ progress in her first year when she worked independently.  If I skip weekly meetings, some tasks fall below the standard.  Children need regular checkups with the necessary encouragement or suggestions to upgrade and improve in their work.
  • Never stick to something that simply doesn’t work!  You can adjust the course as you go along.  Find alternatives such as a study group/  a tutor or an online course where there is conflict between you and your child.
  • Tailor-make your homeschooling to include a variety of subjects such as life skills and entrepreneur options.
  • Ensure that your independent learner avoids obvious distractions such as cell phones, social media notifications, computer games etc.  My hubby insisted that our children put their cellphones in our bedroom at night until after 2pm the next afternoon, so that they had undisturbed sleep and homeschool without temptations of constant online distractions.
  • Above all, maintain a heart-to-heart relationship with your child.  Remain interested and involved in your child’s interests, passions and friends.  Even though they seem to “push us away” in their desire to become independent, they still want and need us in their lives.  Listen to their music, watch their games and videos.  Read aloud to them, laugh with them, pray with them.  Despite your changing role, this is still the most wonderful, intimate way to educate your child!

Dear mom, your child’s desire to work independently is actually your goal!  Our role as homeschool moms is to facilitate our children to become independent.  We need to prayerfully and graciously learn how to move out of center stage and stand in the wings of our emerging young adults’ lives.

Wishing you much wisdom and grace as you work through your son’s transition.

Blessings, Nadene

 

Best Homeschooling Decision #3 Free Day

Right from the start of our homeschooling journey we kept to a 4-day week.  Sonlight presented this as a planning option and it was the one thing that saved me from complete burn out in my first year of homeschooling.

I’m glad I realized that we could homeschool “only” four days instead of every day.

We often used our “free day ” for doing our weekly shopping,   There was nothing really educational about many of our free days, but it was the day available for outings, going to the library, meeting with friends, or playing in the park.   I scheduled at least one free day per month for some educational activity.

Let me be completely honest here … we took a day off for shopping every week because we lived so far from town, but, now and then we took another day off for homeschool outings and meetings.  That meant that sometimes we took 2 days off our week!  And do you know … we still didn’t fall terribly behind!  Somehow we  fitted in the week’s work in 3 days.

Our “free day” P1170201also became known as fabulous Fine Arts Fridays which was a delicious day of art, appreciation, art activities, listening to classical music, reading or listening to poetry,  and most importantly, relaxing together in the world of fine arts.

Free days were excellent for catching up on work we skipped or books we needed to catch up.  We also watched  related YouTube videos or historical movies on free days.

A free day is vital to ~

  • soothe stressed moms
  • unwind tense kids
  • fill your lives with a rich culture
  • give you time to catch up when life interrupts the schedule
  • offer a variety
  • present new opportunities and experiences
  • fit in all the extras that make homeschooling wonderful!

Plan free days in your schedule and enjoy your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

Best Homeschooling Decision #2 Group Together

My worst year of homeschooling was my first year when I started teaching all three kids, each on their own cores. https://i0.wp.com/cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/080b7af9-e3af-4297-915b-a233e2dc525b/e2529190-88ba-4505-8235-cc022e25a0bf.png

Why was it so hard?   I bought a separate curriculum for each child with all the bells and whistles!  I lacked confidence and homeschooling experience, and I thought this would be the best educational option for each child .  Even though I had taught in government schools for 10 years, I was afraid to teach my younger children.  I didn’t want to leave any gaps, miss anything each child may need, and I thought that the curriculum supplier would know what was best for my family.

Why was that a BAD decision?  The workload stressed out me completely.   I could barely keep up with each childs’ schedule.  I read aloud for hours every day.  My throat actually ached!  I was exhausted. It took me ages to find the rhythm and flow for our family.  As we progressed, I realized that the kids listen to each other’s read alouds.  When you use a literature-based curriculum as your core, it becomes a family journey.  Why not just read one read aloud for the whole family?

What would you suggest instead?  Group the kids together

Plan to teach similar-aged children on the one core using the same read alouds

How will each child learn from the same core?  Even though the read aloud or content may be the same, differentiate their activities for each topic.

How does differentiation work?  In other words you offer different options or activities ~ for example: the youngest child illustrates their narration, the middle schooler works on a dictated narration in minibooks or a lapbook, while the older child types their narrations on the computer and prints out their own notebook page.  OR  A young preschooler and middle schooler build Lego models, while an older child draws and labels a picture.  OR one child dramatizes the story and another writes a newspaper report.  OR they all can do the same activity, but just at their own level or ability.  You get the idea, right?  Because they are on their own level for Maths, Spelling, Writing and Reading learning, they will progress through their basics individually, but enjoy the same homeschool story journey.

What about the pace? Sometimes you may focus the core’s pace on the older child, covering more work daily,  or sometimes you may need to focus on the younger kids, slowly progressing at their rate and ability.  You will soon find your family’s flow and rhythm and pace for each season and your children’s ages and stages.

Of course, some years, grouping everyone together may not be possible.  Your children’s ages differences may be too big to combine them all on one Core, or each child may be on a completely different grade level.  Even so, if you use different cores, try cover the same themes; say World History or Middle Ages or Vikings, during the same time.  Despite my best efforts, one year, each child had to work on their own cores – a middle schooler, a junior high and a graduate level.  I focused most my attention on my highschool graduate that year and my youngest child “floated” more than I had wished.

When you teach several children on one core, you all enjoy the same story and participate in similar projects, do the same lapbooks or hands-on activities.   Your family enjoys outings and trips built around the same core.  It becomes a unified homeschooling journey.  This approach is less stressful for mom and really wonderful for the family.  Read about our family’s Footprints On Our Land journey.

Blessings, Nadene

No Tests

Poster of things tests can’t measure - white with colored pencilsA common question homeschool parents are asked is, “Do your children do tests or exams?”

And my answer is always, “No.”   Well, not until their graduation year, when exam results are a requirement for acceptance into most tertiary institutions.

Testing is NOT needed in homeschooling because parents are almost always one-on-one with their child and can quickly see what their child knows and understands.  Especially when using a Charlotte Mason approach, narrations are an excellent method of listening to or reading what a child remembers and understands on a specific chapter or topic.  And for most seat work subjects like Maths, Spelling and Reading, you are right there with your child and can go back to re-establish a concept or correct a mistake.

Standardized tests are for public school parents, or for teachers of large classes, to measure each child’s basic knowledge or skills, or worse still, for schools to brag about their institutions’ achievements!  With this kind of pressure, many teachers actually “teach the exam” rather than aim to educate the child.

Information and facts can always be learnt, at any time.   Google helps all of us find information in a jiffy, so why waste precious time forcing a child to memorize facts?  Narrations are personal, which is the aim of our homeschooling, isn’t it?

In an article 30+ Important Things That Tests Can’t Measure says,

“Tests can’t predict who will “succeed” in life, regardless of your definition of success. Tests can’t tell a child how or even what he needs to improve.’

She lists some of these things tests can’t measure ~

  • compassion or generosity
  • imagination or creativity 
  • a child’s logic skills
  • faith, trust, hope, reliability, or depth of character
  • friendship or self-worth
  • curiosity, effort, determination or resilience
  • a child’s potential and diligence

In an article , “Kids Don’t Fail, Schools Fail Kids: Sir Ken Robinson on the ‘Learning Revolution’ she quotes Ken Robinson, (famous for his TED talk on the topic of whether schools kill students’ creativity),

“The government has essentially pushed for more and more nationwide testing in order to 1) standardize everything, and 2) try and improve education “through an intense process of competition.”   He believes that the problem with standardized testing is that it “does not prepare kids to achieve.” 

Ken Robinson’s own definition of education’s purpose ~ “To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become.”

He encourages “personalized learning” without relying heavily on technology.

“But what’s most important,” he concluded, “is that every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.””

Parents know their children.  Homeschooling should be individual, tailor-made, delight-directed.  Its pace and focus should be based on the individual’s ability and interest, not focused on tests, scores and exam results.

So, please hear me …  especially parents of kindergarten, junior, middle and even junior high school, please do not buy curriculums that require regimented testing.  You will kill your child’s creativity and natural love to learn.  You will instil fear and anxiety into your homeschooling, both for you and your child.

Your child can learn how to learn for exams, how to write exams and how to succeed in exams in a relatively short time; within 6 months to a year.  At the most, you may need to move towards tests and exams for their final 3 years of senior high school.  And that is stress enough!  With my 17-year old writing her final high school exams, I see her fear and anxiety.  I feel dread’s icy grip in my stomach.

As Marie says, “Children everywhere deserve to know this:  YOU ARE NOT YOUR TEST SCORE.  You are so much more.”

Blessings, Nadene