Games have been a staple in our home(school) ever since my oldest received Candy Land at age three. While our stash of games has changed over the years, our love of playing games continues to flourish. I've compiled a list of classic, educational, and online games/apps that we're enjoying with a house full of teens and tweens. Continue reading »
Are you homeschooling the presidency? No matter our political views, there are issues brought up by the current presidency that our children can learn from. As homeschoolers, we can help them learn about government through most of their homeschooling years, even without an official course. Continue reading »
One of my favorite "instead of curriculum" titles is the book Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists by Joel Best.
This book is a great book for your high schooler to read. While it can be paired with a traditional study of statistics, it also works well on its own for kids who need to understand statistics from either a consumer point of view or for fact-checking research or stories in the media. Continue reading »
One of the most accessible basic logic books on our book shelf is The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning by Nathan and Hans Bluedorn. The book helps kids (and adults) spot errors in thinking -- logical fallacies often used in an effort to persuade others. Learning about fallacious thinking is valuable for academic reasons, but it's also important to being a good consumer (recognizing how advertising works) and to being a good citizen (understanding how political communication works). Continue reading »
"Bring me bad writing," I told my two homeschool co-op classes of middle school and elementary age writers. "Incorrect writing, wrong apostrophes, sentence fragments, typos, passive voice. Horrible stuff. Bring it."
The next week, they marched in with an array of bad writing they'd found on websites, on convenience store signs, on gas pumps, in a letter from a college administrator, in text books, in novels, and in their own journals.
They had snapped photos, hand copied passages, bookmarked pages, and printed screen shots. Continue reading »
My first t-shirt as a homeschooling parent proclaimed, "Don't bother me. I'm having a parent-teacher conference."
This expressed well my initial thoughts about the roles of mother and teacher while homeschooling. I could see my "teacher self" talking to my "mother self," echoing the familiar adult roles in education that involves public school...
Past my first few months of homeschooling more than a decade and a half ago, I have not separated a "teacher self" from my "mom self." At the same time, I found it was important for me to set boundaries of time and space that made my family function well. Continue reading »
Winter is a wonderful time to take Alphabet Walks with your children. In my part of the U.S., this means bundling up for the cold weather, but hunting for the ABCs in nature may be just the thing to get you and the kids moving on darker winter days.
The main object of an Alphabet Walk is to find letters that have been unintentionally formed in the outdoors. Perhaps crossing tree branches form an X against the blue sky, or a cat curved on your deck forms a perfect C. A front door wreath on your neighbor's house is an O. The brickwork above the windows in an old Main Street building creates a V. Continue reading »
Part I of Homeschool High School Composition gives an overview of how to approach teaching homeschool composition. It is important to read it before using the assignments below, since it is a different perspective for teaching composition. Below are the assignments for composition using this part-to-whole process. The assignments use the UNC Writing Center's free online resources. Continue reading »
The Writing Center at UNC has put together a large collection of writing resources for college writing that are excellent tools for teaching homeschool high school composition. The center's printables and videos offer detailed explanations about research, sourcing, organization, editing and proofreading, voice, fallacies, thesis statements, and dozens of other writing topics. The resources are arranged alphabetically, making them easy to find by topic but not offering much in the way of an orderly progression for teaching. The following is a suggested order of study for using the resources for composition for a homeschooled high school student. In our case, we used this for a literature composition, but literature compositions can be the most difficult type to write. It might be more effective to initially use the process with a topic of choice instead of an essay on a particular book. Continue reading »
When I was in high school and college, my mom clipped newspaper and news magazine articles for me. She left them for me on the steps to my bedroom or put them in an envelope and mailed them to me at with a handwritten note in the margin -- "Thought you'd be interested in this" or "What do you think about this news?" Today, I do something similar with my teen and twenty-something sons, only I do it electronically. Continue reading »
A big emphasis of homeschooling at our house is thinking critically about the resources we use for information. I have always wanted my kids to understand that books, websites, presentations, magazines, television, and newspapers have a point of view, and that in order to be well-educated, we need to challenge ourselves with information that comes from a variety of editorial viewpoints. As part of my commitment to inquiry-based learning, I have frequently played “devil’s advocate” with my kids, especially by the later elementary years, and certainly throughout the middle school years, high school years, and beyond. Sketching out the corresponding point of view for the sake of argument, I'll ask... Continue reading »
When I tried to throw our dictionary out my oldest threw a fit. This is a very old dictionary. It was owned by my Great Aunt Mildred. The book is huge, with indents along the side for each letter of the alphabet. It’s also not in good shape. Threads are hanging out of a nearly Continue reading »
The reputation of homeschooling has progressed to the point that in addition to the occasional vitriol, I frequently get compliments for homeschooling my kids. The compliments often come from other moms who say, "I could never do that."
There are many reasons they say they couldn't do it, but maybe the most frequent one is, "I'd kill my kids."
What they mean, of course, is that they would not get along well enough with their kids to be able to get through it. The conflict and distress would be too much; parent and child would be at each other all the time. Continue reading »
More than any materials we introduce, the connections my kids find most pivotal are those they make on their own, person-to-person across any distance. For example, one of my musician sons got interested in acoustics. He joined special interest forums to talk with fellow aficionados around the world about technical details of repairing historic microphones, the artistic nuances of found sound recordings, and other topics. Friendships developed. Now they converse about everything from politics to movies. Some day, when he travels overseas, he plans to take them up on their offers to stay in New Zealand, Finland, Brazil and elsewhere. Already he’s visited friends made online in the U.S., finding the rapport they developed holds fast in person as well. Continue reading »
I recently wrote about how homeschooling parents can use a dialogue-based approach to education, which I see as a big potential benefit to home education. While many public schools have been forced into test-prep mania that defines success very narrowly, homeschoolers can use this educational approach to develop critical thinking and evaluate learning.
Scientific American has a recent story that reflects my thoughts on the unfortunate increased emphasis on standardized testing in public education. Continue reading »
Elementary age homeschooled kids are often eager book group participants. However, parents sometimes struggle to move their kids to more literary discussion about books as they grow into middle school and early high school years. One useful idea to smooth this transition is to pair a book with its movie adaptation. I've found that kids frequently find films to be more accessible, and creating a scenario where kids will naturally compare the book and the movie is an easy way to create deeper discussion points. Here is what that might look like. Continue reading »
Why do some homeschoolers choose not to use one of the many complete math curricula available today? And what do they do instead? To many homeschooling parents, math feels like the one thing that must be taught and learned in a systematic way even for very young children. Even many people who are otherwise attracted to or influenced by a version of interest-based learning or unschooling often say-- "except for math."
Take a look at promotional material for preschools in your area. Chances are there's an emphasis on early math, pre-reading, and other academics. This approach sells. Nearly everyone I know is sure their children benefit from playing with blinking, beeping toys that "teach." Most of them sign their children up at the age of two or three to attend specialized enrichment programs that claim to boost abilities in science, art, sports, or language. Continue reading »
Back in 1964, sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke introduced a program on future predictions by stating: The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So, if what I say to you now seems to be very reasonable then I’ll have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen. Among other developments, Clarke predicted the emergence of the Internet, telecommuting, and remote surgery. Fantastic. Just like the predictions kids gave when I asked them about the future at a multi-age homeschool program. The youngest ones jumped in eagerly... Continue reading »