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By Stephanie S. Tolan
(c) 1996 by Stephanie S. Tolan, Used by Permission.
It's a tough time to raise, teach or BE a highly gifted child. As the term "gifted" and the unusual intellectual capacity to which that term refers become more and more politically incorrect, the educational establishment changes terminology and focus.
Giftedness, a global, integrative mental capacity, may be dismissed, replaced by fragmented "talents" which seem less threatening and theoretically easier for schools to deal with. Instead of an internal developmental reality that affects every aspect of a child's life, "intellectual talent" is more and more perceived as synonymous with (AND LIMITED TO) academic achievement.
The child who does well in school, gets good grades, wins awards, and “performs" beyond the norms for his or her age, is considered talented. The child who does not, no matter what his innate intellectual capacities or developmental level, is less and less likely be identified, less and less likely to be served.
A cheetah metaphor can help us see the problem with achievement-oriented thinking. The cheetah is the fastest animal on earth. When we think of cheetahs we are likely to think first of their speed. It's flashy. It’s impressive. It's unique. And it makes identification incredibly easy. Since cheetahs are the only animals that can run 70 mph, if you clock an animal running 70 mph, IT'S A CHEETAH!
But cheetahs are not always running. In fact, they are able to maintain top speed only for a limited time, after which they need a considerable period of rest.
It's not difficult to identify a cheetah when it isn't running, provided we know its other characteristics. It is gold with black spots, like a leopard, but it also has unique black "tear marks" beneath its eyes. Its head is small, its body lean, its legs unusually long -- all bodily characteristics critical to a runner. And the cheetah is the only member of the cat family that has non-retractable claws. Other cats retract their claws to keep them sharp, like carving knives kept in a sheath --the cheetah's claws are designed not for cutting but for traction. This is an animal biologically designed to run.
Its chief food is the antelope, itself a prodigious runner. The antelope is not large or heavy, so the cheetah does not need strength and bulk to overpower it. Only speed. On the open plains of its natural habitat the cheetah is capable of catching an antelope simply by running it down.
While body design in nature is utilitarian, it also creates a powerful internal drive. The cheetah needs to run!
Despite design and need however, certain conditions are necessary if it is to attain its famous 70 mph top speed. It must be fully grown. It must be healthy, fit and rested. It must have plenty of room to run. Besides that, it is best motivated to run all out when it is hungry and there are antelope to chase.
If a cheetah is confined to a 10 X 12 foot cage, though it may pace or fling itself against the bars in restless frustration, it won't run70 mph.
IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
If a cheetah has only 20 mph rabbits to chase for food, it won't run 70 mph while hunting. If it did, it would flash past its prey and go hungry! Though it might well run on its own for exercise, recreation, fulfillment of its internal drive, when given only rabbits to eat the hunting cheetah will run only fast enough to catch a rabbit.
IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
If a cheetah is fed Zoo Chow it may not run at all.
IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
If a cheetah is sick or if its legs have been broken, it won't even walk.
IS IT STILL A CHEETAH?
And finally, if the cheetah is only six weeks old, it can't yet run70 mph.
IS IT, THEN, ONLY A *POTENTIAL* CHEETAH?
A school system that defines giftedness (or talent) as behavior, achievement and performance is as compromised in its ability to recognize its highly gifted students and to give them what they need as a zoo would be to recognized and provide for its cheetahs if it looked only for speed. When a cheetah does run 70 mph it isn't a particularly "achieving" cheetah. Though it is doing what no other cat can do, it is behaving normally for a cheetah.
To lions, tigers, leopards -- to any of the other big cats -- the cheetah’s biological attributes would seem to be deformities. Far from the "best cat," the cheetah would seem to be barely a cat at all. It is not heavy enough to bring down a wildebeest; its non-retractable claws cannot be kept sharp enough to tear the wildebeest's thick hide. Given the cheetah’s tendency to activity, cats who spend most of their time sleeping in the sun might well label the cheetah hyperactive.
Like cheetahs, highly gifted children can be easy to identify. If a child teaches herself Greek at age five, reads at the eighth grade level at age six or does algebra in second grade we can safely assume that child is a highly gifted child. Though the world may see these activities as “achievements,” she is not an "achieving" child so much as a child who is operating normally according to her own biological design, her innate mental capacity. Such a child has clearly been given room to “run" and something to run for. She is healthy and fit and has not had her capacities crippled. It doesn't take great knowledge about the characteristics of highly gifted children to recognize this child.
However, schools are to extraordinarily intelligent children what zoos are to cheetahs. Many schools provide a 10 x 12 foot cage, giving the unusual mind no room to get up to speed. Many highly gifted children sit in the classroom the way big cats sit in their cages, dull-eyed and silent. Some, unable to resist the urge from inside even though they can't exercise it, pace the bars, snarl and lash out at their keepers, or throw themselves against the bars until they do themselves damage.
Even open and enlightened schools are likely to create an environment that, like the cheetah enclosures in enlightened zoos, allow some moderate running, but no room for the growing cheetah to develop the necessary muscles and stamina to become a 70 mph runner. Children in cages or enclosures, no matter how bright, are unlikely to appear highly gifted; kept from exercising their minds for too long, these children may never be able to reach the level of mental functioning they were designed for.
A zoo, however much room it provides for its cheetahs, does not feed them antelope, challenging them either to run full out or go hungry. Schools similarly provide too little challenge for the development of extraordinary minds. Even a gifted program may provide only the intellectual equivalent of 20 mph rabbits (while sometimes labeling children suspected of extreme intelligence "underachievers" for NOT putting on top speed to catch those rabbits!) Without special programming, schools provide the academic equivalent of Zoo Chow, food that requires no effort whatsoever. Some children refuse to take in such uninteresting, dead nourishment at all.
To develop not just the physical ability but also the strategy to catch antelope in the wild, a cheetah must have antelopes to chase, room to chase them and a cheetah role model to show them how to do it. Without instruction and practice they are unlikely to be able to learn essential survival skills.
A recent nature documentary about cheetahs in lion country showed a curious fact of life in the wild. Lions kill cheetah cubs. They don't eat them, they just kill them. In fact, they appear to work rather hard to find them in order to kill them (though cheetahs can't possibly threaten the continued survival of lions). Is this maliciousness? Recreation? No one knows. We only know that lions do it. Cheetah mothers must hide their dens and go to great efforts to protect their cubs, coming and going from the den under deep cover or only in the dead of night or when lions are far away. Highly gifted children and their families often feel like cheetahs in lion country.
In some schools brilliant children are asked to do what they were never designed to do (like cheetahs asked to tear open a wildebeest hide with their claws -- after all, the lions can do it!) while the attributes that are a natural aspect of unusual mental capacity -- intensity, passion, high energy, independence, moral reasoning, curiosity, humor, unusual interests and insistence on truth and accuracy -- are considered problems that need fixing.
Brilliant children may feel surrounded by lions who make fun of or shun them for their differences, who may even break their legs or drug them to keep them moving more slowly, in time with the lions' pace. Is it any wonder they would try to escape; would put on a lion suit to keep form being noticed; would fight back?
This metaphor, like any metaphor, eventually breaks down. Highly gifted children don't have body markings and non-retractable claws by which to be identified when not performing. Furthermore, the cheetah's ability to run 70 mph is a single trait readily measured. Highly gifted children are very different from each other so there is no single ability to look for even when they are performing; besides that, a child's greatest gifts could be outside the academic world's definition of achievement and so go unrecognized altogether. While this truth can save some children from being wantonly killed by marauding lions, it also keeps them from being recognized for what they are -- children with deep and powerful innate differences as all-encompassing as the differences between cheetahs and other big cats.
That they may not be instantly recognizable does not mean that there is no means of identifying them. It means that more time and effort are required to do it. Educators can learn the attributes of unusual intelligence and observe closely enough to see those attributes in individual children. They can recognize not only that highly gifted children can do many things other children cannot, but that there are tasks other children can do that the highly gifted cannot.
Every organism has an internal drive to fulfill its biological design. The same is true for unusually bright children. From time to time the bars need be removed, the enclosures broadened. Zoo Chow, easy and cheap as it is, must give way, at least some of the time, to lively, challenging mental prey.
More than this, schools need to believe that it is important to make the effort, that these children not only have the needs of all other children to be protected and properly cared for, but that they have as much RIGHT as others to have their needs met.
Biodiversity is a fundamental principle of life on our planet. It allows life to adapt to change. In our culture highly gifted children, like cheetahs, are endangered. Like cheetahs, they are here for a reason; they fill a particular niche in the design of life. Zoos, whatever their limitations, may be critical to the continued survival of cheetahs; many are doing their best to offer their captives what they will need eventually to survive in the wild. Schools can do the same for their highly gifted children.
Unless we make a commitment to saving these children, we will continue to lose them and whatever unique benefit their existence might provide for the human species of which they are an essential part. http://members.aol.com/discanner/cheetah.html
[Note: please disseminate this widely if you find it useful. Proper attribution would be appreciated, however -- Stephanie S. Tolan] (c) 1996 Stephanie Tolan, Used by Permission. . Special thanks to repost on MHRN.COM
Graphic and Page design by ©Dirhody
Unschooling or Homeschooling? By Billy Greer
What is the difference between unschooling and homeschooling? At one time they were just two terms for the same thing, so the question was like asking what the difference is between a car and an automobile. Today, homeschooling has remained a generic term while unschooling has come to refer to a specific type of homeschooling. So now the question is like asking what the difference is between a Ferrari and a car. Just what is it about unschooling that differentiates it from other types of homeschooling enough to warrant its own term?
Before we look at that question, let's look at a history of the words. At one time, there was no special term for people who took their children out of the public school system to teach them at home. If you look at references to education before there even was a public school system, you will see phrases such as "tutored at home," "self-taught," or "no formal education" to refer to people we might now call homeschooled.
Even after the modern homeschooling movement got started, there wasn't a standard term for what these parents were doing. People simply referred to teaching their children at home, or not sending them to school. In issue #108 of Growing Without Schooling, Susannah Sheffer tells us that the first issue of GWS (published in 1977), did not even make use of the term homeschooling. In issue #2, John Holt used the term unschooling, but it was used as a general term for what we now call homeschooling. In issue #118 of GWS, Aaron Falbel tells us that Holt wrote in issue #2 of GWS (Nov. 1977) that they [GWS] would use unschooling "when we mean taking kids out of school." Falbel goes on to say that it wasn't until the early 1980's that the term homeschooling became more popular.
I don't know when it happened or who first used the phrase, but it is pretty easy to see that if most kids went to public school, then people might say kids who were taught at home went to "home school." As the term has become more an accepted part of our vocabulary, it has moved from the novelty phrase "home schooling" (in quotes) to home schooling (no quotes), to home-schooling (hyphenated), and now homeschooling (one word).
John Holt is considered the father of unschooling and the person who coined the term. In Holt's early writings, he seemed to hold out hope that the school system could be fixed, but he later became more convinced that parents were better off taking their kids out of schools. I imagine that it then seemed natural to him to refer to the process of not sending your kids to school as unschooling, as in not schooling.
While the terms may have been interchangeable originally, that is no longer the case today. Unschooling has become associated with the particular style of homeschooling in which no set curriculum is used. Where the split originated is hard to say, but part of the reason for the division is probably because of the words themselves. Homeschooling carries an implication of schooling-at-home, while unschooling connotes that what you are doing is the opposite of school. People who accepted the teaching techniques of school but wanted more control over the subject matter, socialization, or morals that their children were exposed to might readily accept the term homeschooling. People who disliked the teaching techniques and environment of school might be more inclined to use the term unschooling.
Currently, homeschooling is considered to span a spectrum from those who school-at-home to those who unschool. The school-at home designation is self-explanatory. This group revels in all the trappings of school! They may have the same desks used in the public schools, some of the same text books, and they may even start each day by ringing a bell and saying the pledge of allegiance. The parent assumes the role of teacher, preparing lesson plans, assigning homework or tests, and grading papers. Their "holy grail" is the search for the perfect curriculum, the one that will cover everything their children need to learn.
What is it that unschoolers do? Where do you find a curriculum package that will help you to be an unschooler? The reason that unschooling is hard to explain and hard for some people to understand, is that it is not a technique that can be broken down to a step by step process. Rather, unschooling is an attitude, a way of life. Where most homeschooling puts the emphasis on what needs to be learned, unschooling puts the emphasis on who is doing the learning. This makes it a very personalized experience and one that does not lend itself well to the one size-fits-all approach of a commercial curriculum package.
What are some of the unintended lessons of a "school" approach to learning? First of all, the student is taught that learning is something that takes place in a certain location at certain times. From 8 to 3 you do lessons at your desk. Learning is also unpleasant and often boring, so it is usually a relief when "school" is finally out. Students become used to the idea that learning requires a teacher - someone more knowledgeable than them. This follows the old model of learning in which students are empty cups waiting to be filled and the teacher is the pitcher full of knowledge that will fill them. This also emphasizes the idea that students must be taught - in other words, what happens to you (learning) is the result of what someone else does to you (teaching). School also reinforces the idea that learning is a linear process. You work and add knowledge incrementally over time in a steady process. To get from point A to point C, you must first pass point B.
In unschooling, learning can happen anywhere and at anytime. It is an ongoing, natural process - part of the journey we call life. It is not unpleasant or boring anymore than breathing, eating or sleeping are. There is no sense of relief that school is out because learning is always happening. Students also know that they are responsible for their learning. They do not need an "expert" to teach them. If they have an interest, they can go out and pursue the knowledge they need. This is another fundamental difference between a schoolish approach and an unschooling model. School is a case of knowledge (that someone else has determined to be important) in pursuit of the student, while unschooling puts the student in pursuit of the knowledge (which they have decided is important). In this role, parents are not teachers who always know more than their children, they are often fellow learners making the journey along with their children. (See the side bar for more comments about the non-linear learning of unschooling.)
It is unfortunate that the older term "unschooled" often means uneducated. As unschooling gains acceptance and its effectiveness is recognized, the dictionaries will have to be corrected to reflect the positive aspects of someone who has been educated by unschooling" School is a case of knowledge (that someone else has determined to be important) chasing after the student, while unschooling puts the student chasing after the knowledge (that they have decided is important) Have you noticed that unschooling doesn't result in a steady increase in learning? You'll have periods where it seems like nothing is happening. You may find yourself wondering if your kids are learning anything or if they ever will. Suddenly, something will click and your kids immerse themselves in a subject. You can barely drag them away from what they are doing or keep up with the questions they have.
In pursuing this new interest with them, you will discover they know about many things that they seem to have just absorbed out of the air they breathe.
In retrospect, those periods where nothing seemed to be happening were probably laying the foundation for that sudden "knowledge spurt." There are similarities with physical growth that suggest this is a natural pattern. Studies have shown that infants do not grow steadily. They may stay exactly the same size for weeks, then suddenly grow as much as an inch in only a few days. This is very different from the steady, gradual pattern that growth charts might lead you to expect. Where most homeschooling puts the emphasis on what needs to be learned, unschooling puts the emphasis on who is doing the learning.
Reprinted with permission from Issue no. 12 of FUN News, the Family Unschoolers Network, http://www.unschooling.org/fun12_unschooling.htm
No Thank You,
We Don't Believe in Socialization!
©2000 Lisa Russell
Used with Permission
I can't believe I am writing an article about socialization, The word makes my skin crawl. As homeschoolers, we are often accosted by people who assume that since we're homeschooling, our kids won't be "socialized." The word has become such a catch phrase that it has entirely lost any meaning.
The first time I heard the word, I was attending a Catholic day school as a first grader.
Having been a "reader" for almost 2 years, I found the phonics and reading lessons to be incredibly boring. Luckily the girl behind me felt the same way, and when we were done with our silly little worksheets, we would chat back and forth. I've never known two 6 yr. olds who could maintain a quiet conversation, so naturally a ruler-carrying nun interrupted us with a few strong raps on our desk. We were both asked to stay in at recess, and sit quietly in our desks for the entire 25 minutes, because "We are not here to socialize, young ladies."
Those words were repeated over and over throughout my education, by just about every teacher I've ever had. If we're not there to socialize, then why were we there? I learned to read at home. If I finished my work early (which I always did,) could I have gone home? If I were already familiar with the subject matter, would I have been excused from class that day? If schools weren't made for socializing, then why on earth would anyone assume that homeschoolers were missing out?
As a society full of people whose childhood’s were spent waiting anxiously for recess time, and trying desperately to "socialize" with the kids in class; It is often difficult for people to have an image of a child whose social life is NOT based on school buddies. Do you ever remember sitting in class, and wanting desperately to speak to your friend? It's kind of hard to concentrate on the lessons when you're bouncing around trying not to talk. Have you ever had a teacher who rearranged the seats every now and then, to prevent talking, splitting up friends and "talking corners." Were you ever caught passing notes in class?
Now- flash forward to "real life." Imagine the following scenes:
Your Employer is auditing the Inter-Office Email system and comes across a personal note between you and a coworker. You are required to stand at the podium in the next sales meeting to read it aloud to your coworkers. The Police knock on your door, and announce that because you and your neighbor have gotten so close, they're separating you. You must move your home and your belongings to the other side of town, and you may only meet at public places on weekends.
You're sitting at a booth waiting for a coworker to arrive for a scheduled lunch date. Suddenly a member of upper management sits down across from you and demands your credit cards. When your friend arrives, you just order water and claim you're not hungry, since he stole your lunch money.
You're applying for a job and in an unconventional hiring practice, you are made to line up with other applicants, and wait patiently while representatives from two competing companies take their pick from the lineup.
You're taking your parents out for an anniversary dinner. After you find a table, a waiter tells you that seniors have a separate dining room, lest they "corrupt" the younger members of society.
You go to the grocery store only to find that since you are 32 years old you must shop at the store for 32 year olds. It's 8 miles away and they don't sell meat because the manager is a vegetarian, but your birthday is coming up and soon you'll be able to shop at the store for 33 yr. olds.
You'd like to learn about Aviation History. You go to the library and check out a book on the subject only to be given a list of "other subjects" that you must read about before you are permitted to check out the aviation book.
You're having a hard time finding what you need in the local department store. The saleslady explains that each item is arranged alphabetically in the store, so instead of having a section for shoes, you will find the men's shoes in between the maternity clothes and the mirrors.
Your Cable Company announces that anyone wishing to watch the Superbowl this year must log on a certain number of hours watching the Discovery Channel before they can be permitted to watch the game.
You apply for a job only to be told that this job is for 29 year olds. Since you're 32, you'll have to stay with your level.
In a group project, your boss decides to pair you up with the person you don't "click" with. His hope is that you'll get learn to get along with each other, regardless of how the project turns out.
These absurd examples were created to point out how absolutely ridiculous the idea of "socializing" in schools is. Many people had a friend who they stayed friends with all through grammar school- WHY? Because their names were alphabetically similar, and they always ended up in line with each other. As an adult, have you ever made friends with someone simply because your names were similar? How long would such a friendship last and how meaningful would it be, providing you had nothing else in common?
People often use the bully as an example of why it's so important to let kids "socialize" at school. If that's so important, then the bully needs to go to JAIL after a few months, because self-respecting society simply doesn't put up with that, nor should my 6 yr. old. Sure, there are crappy people in the world, but the world does a much better job of taking care of these things. A bullying brat in the first grade will still be a bullying brat in the 6th grade. He will still be picking on the same kids year after year after year, unless he moves to a new town. How long would the average adult put up with a bully? Personally, as an adult, I have only come across one grown up bully. I choose not to be around this miserable woman. So do many other people. THAT is real life. If she were a coworker, I would find a different job. If she worked at a business I patronized- not only would I refrain from doing business with that company, I would write a letter to the bully, her manager, the owner and the main office. A kid in a classroom has no way to emotionally protect themselves against such a person. I would never expect my kids to put up with bad treatment from a bully in the name of "toughening them up." For what? So they can be submissive wimps when they grow up too? So they can "ignore" their miserable bosses and abusive spouses? In real life, if an employer discovered that an employee was harassing the other staff members, that employee could be fired (pending the 90 day evaluation) or relocated. In real life, if you are so dreadfully harassed by a coworker you can seek legal recourse independently. In a classroom, the teacher and other children are often powerless.
The idea of learning acceptable social skills in a school is as absurd to me as learning nutrition from a grocery store.
As Homeschoolers, the world is our classroom. We interact with people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. We talk to and learn from everyone who strikes our interest. We use good manners in our home and I'm always pleased when others comment on the manners my children have picked up. I believe good manners to be an important social skill.
Respecting common areas is also of value to us. We often carry a grocery bag with us on walks, in case we find trash that needs to be discarded. When we're waiting at a bus stop, if there is trash on the ground, we make a point to carry it onto the bus and discard of it properly. Once, while waiting at a bus stop- we saw a grown man drop his popsicle wrapper on the ground. He was 2 feet from a trash can- My daughter looked up at me with eyes as big as saucers. I told her (out loud) "It must have blown out of his hand from that little wind, because no-one would throw trash on the ground on purpose. I'm sure when he's done with his popsicle, he will pick it up and throw it away correctly- otherwise, we can take care of it so we don't have an ugly world." He did pick it up, rather sheepishly. I can't imagine expecting my children to have a respect for the cleanliness of common areas in an environment where bathroom walls are covered in graffiti and trees are scratched with symbols of "love" of all things.
Another social skill we strive to teach our children is that all people are created equal. I can't imagine doing that in an environment where physically disadvantaged children are segregated into a "special" classroom. Or even children who speak a different language at home. They are segregated and forced to learn English, while never acknowledging the unique culture they were raised in, and not enabling the other students to learn FROM them. Learning, in school, comes from the books and teachers. We will learn Spanish from a BOOK, not from a Spanish-speaking student; and not until 7th grade.
I have never felt it would be beneficial to stick my 6-yr. old in a room full of other 6-yr. olds. I believe God created a world full of people of all ages and sexes to insure that the younger ones and older ones learn from each other. A few years ago, we were living thousands of miles from any older family members, so I brought my kids (then 5 and 2) to an assisted living facility, so they could interact with the elderly. Staff members told us that many of the older people would wake up every day and ask if we would be visiting soon. We always went on Wednesdays. My daughters learned some old show tunes while one of the men played piano, and the others would sing along. If I didn't have to chase my 2-yr. old around, I would have had plenty of women ready to share the art of crocheting with me (something I've always wanted to learn.) If a friend was too sick to come out of their room during our visit, we would often spend a few minutes in their room. I always let them give the kids whatever cookies they had baked for them, and I ended up cleaning a few of the apartments while we visited, simply because I would have done the same for my own Grandmother. Every room had pictures from my kids posted on their refrigerators. We called this "Visiting the Grandmas and Grandpas" and my daughters both (almost 2 years later) have fond memories of our visits. I'm sure that if we were still visiting there, my unborn child would have a thousand handmade blankets and booties to keep him warm all winter.
I don't remember any such experiences in my entire School life, although I do remember being a bit afraid of old people if they were too wrinkly or weak looking. I never really knew anyone over 60. I never sped down the hall on someone's wheelchair lap, squealing as we popped wheelies and screeched around corners. I never got to hear stories about what life was like before indoor plumbing and electricity, from the point of view of a woman with Alzheimer’s, who might believe she was still 5 years old, talking with my daughter as if she were a friend. I never got to help a 90 yr. old woman keep her arm steady while she painted a picture. And I never watched a room full of "grandma's" waiting for me by the window, because we were 15 minutes late.
On a recent visit to an Art Gallery, we noticed a man walking back and forth, carrying framed artwork from his old pickup truck. I asked my 6 yr. old if she thought he might be the artist. We both agreed that was a possibility, and after a little pep-talk to overcome her stage fright, she approached him and asked. He was the artist, and he was bringing in his work to be evaluated by the curator. We all sat down and he explained some of his techniques and listened to her opinions about which piece she liked best. He told about how he enjoyed art when he was 6 and would "sell" pictures to family and friends. He recounted how he felt while creating a few of the pieces, and how each one has special meaning to him. He even let her know how nervous he was to show them to the curator and how he hoped she found them as interesting as we did. As he was called into the office, a group of thirty-four 3rd graders filed past, ever so quietly, while their teacher explained each piece on the walls. The children were so quiet and well behaved. They didn't seem to mind moving on from one picture to the next (The problem with homeschoolers is they tend to linger on things they enjoy). They didn't seem to have any questions or comments (Maybe they'll discuss that later in class). And they never got a chance to meet the gentleman in the pickup truck.
I hope my kids aren't missing out on any "socialization."
Lisa Russell; A Gen X homeschooling mom, writer, wife, daydreamer, U.S. traveler, hiker, poet, artist, web designer, and whatever else suits the moment. Lisa Russell can be contacted at: http://www.lisarussell.net or: firstname.lastname@example.org
Special thanks to repost on MHRN.COM
Finding a homeschool curriculum that matches the needs of you and your child is one of the most difficult and important decisions a homeschool family makes.
It isn’t easy. There’s a great deal of good information about homeschooling available from friends, neighbors, relatives, other homeschoolers, and the Internet. However, this information, while well intended, isn’t always accurate or universal.
A homeschooling program is a lot like a pair of shoes: It has to fit perfectly to be comfortable and effective day after day. Sometimes families fail at homeschooling because they chose the wrong curriculum, not because they were poor teachers or their children poor learners.
Careful evaluation before starting a program is critical to success, say experts.
"You want age-appropriate, academically challenging lessons that enable your child to excel," says Jean C. Halle, president of Calvert School Education Services, based in Baltimore, Md. The company is the homeschooling provider arm of Calvert School, which started in 1906 to offer its private school curriculum to families who wanted to teach at home. More than 20,000 families a year use its curriculum for children between pre-kindergarten and eighth grade.
Calvert School receives hundreds of calls a year from families investigating whether the school’s complete classical curriculum is right for them. "We put a lot of time into helping families to select what’s right for them, even isn’t the same grade level as their child is in at school," says Halle. "It’s critical that the curriculum be perfectly suited to that child’s needs in order for him or her to be successful."
Halle and other homeschooling experts suggest that parents should explore four main components of a provider’s offerings when choosing a homeschool curriculum.
The first step in a child’s academic experience should be appropriate placement in a grade. The ideal placement assessment takes into account how your child arrived at answers in order to evaluate both concept knowledge as well as his ability to apply those skills. Because they offer details about a child’s writing mechanics, vocabulary and spelling levels, sentence structure, content, and organization skills, evaluations of writing samples are important.
A good curriculum will draw material from a variety of sources, incorporate opportunities for practice to improve written and oral communication, and help your child to learn, to analyze and interpret information, not simply memorize facts. An integrated curriculum allows the student to be able to write about all subjects, to think mathematically about subjects other than math, to compare and contrast geographical statistics to history facts, and to review and obtain valuable reinforcement of concepts taught.
Lesson manuals should provide good detail, including lessons that introduce topics, explain concepts, coordinate subjects with each other, and suggest added practice and enrichment. At the appropriate age, the manual should be directed to the student, and the role of the home teacher should turn to more of an advisory role. If the provider offers answer keys for all daily work, parents can confirm their child’s performance.
Educational professionals, who can offer strategies for teaching children with all learning styles, should be available by phone, fax, or email, to answer any questions you may have and to offer suggestions for accelerated or remedial work.
Knowing if your child is learning is important. A good program will include tests, which evaluate both content mastery and skill development. The availability of tests with answer keys can be helpful. If you have difficulty evaluating your child’s composition and other subjective work, you should look for a provider that offers testing support in these areas.
Another key to success is evaluating the provider’s materials. "Take time to review sample lessons, if offered by the provider, to be sure that the curriculum delivers as promised," says Calvert School’s Halle.
Your family is making a commitment for the entire school year so the time you invest in evaluating your options is well spent." For more information, contact Calvert School at 888-487-4652 or visit www.calvertschool.org. Special thanks to Calvert for providing this and other resources. © 2003 Calvert School, Inc.
Nebel's Elementary Education Books A great resource to have in you homeschool library, besides science there are instructions regarding the teaching of reading and writing, math, government, economics, history, and geography, plus a chapter dealing with character education. A well rounded educational resource as it's own curriculum with lesson plans, and works well with any other curriculum you may be using
Unofficial guide to home schooling- Kathy Ishizuka
Home schooling for Excellence- David Micki Colfax
The ultimate Guide to Home schooling- Debra Bell
Home schooling handbook - Mary Griffit
The first years of home schooling - Linda Dobson
Home schooling learning year to Year - Rebecca Rupp
123 Magic -BY: Thomas W. Phelan PH. D. , effective discipline for children Program provides easy to follow steps for disciplining children with out yelling arguing or spanking . How to get kids to stop doing what you don't want them to do( like arguing whining tantrums sibling rivalry. etc.) How to encourage your kids to START doing what you want them to do ( like cleaning rooms going to bed and doing home work etc.
The Out of Sync Child- BY: Carol Stock Kranowitz, - Recognizing and coping with sensory Integration Dysfunction. Is your child labeled with word like difficult , picky , oversensitive, Clumsy, o r inattentive... Over sensitivity to touching , refuses to wear certain cloths, socks shoes tags , a picky eater covers ears and eyes .
too loud to bright too fast to tight- By: Sharon Heller , PH. D. What do you do if you are sensory defensive in a world over stimulating world. Do labels and clothing tags bother you so much that you remove them? Do you wince at bright lights need to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days ?. Do you notice and feel irritated by smell, more so than other? Do many food repulse you? If yes the answers to many of these question you may be suffering from sensory defensiveness. The best way to to cope with sensory defensiveness is not psychotherapy or medication, but a host of other treatments that tap the primitive brain.