Nothin' 2 Prove

The building of Gunn Ranch Academy one caliche rock at a time; our friends, family, passions, learning adventures and our little piece of HIStory in the making!


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Loving to learn

This week’s Blog Cruise topic is "How do you instill a love for learning in your children?"

   I really believe this starts with you-the teacher/parent. Enthusiasm for anything starts with being encouraged by someone around who brings that energy to the surface. While it’s not always easy to act excited about multipication or Columbus or dependent clauses, the positive attitude heard in the tone of your voice, the smile on your face, not being rushed on to the next subject just to get it over for the day speak volumes to thirsty students.

   Sitting down with them and looking them in the eye with a smile instead of standing over them while you are folding clothes on the end of the table; allowing detours when they ask questions of interest, letting yourself and them share stories of personal experiences, laughing, drawing funny pictures, singing funny songs throughout your day- these are all things that make learning fun. Get up and dance!! Break for snacks, let them help you make lunch, dress up the dog (or little brother, LOL)  in a toga, and get out the molding clay and make Greek sculptures.

     The best part of homeschool for our family is that I’m able to learn with my kids. I had a great dislike for history when I was in school, and since I’ve had the opportunity to homeschool have revisited history in a way I never knew was possible. I get so excited putting the pieces together now, that sometimes I just shout, "Wow isn’t that SOOOO COOL???!!!"

     I really think if my history teachers would have been half as excited as I get, that I would not have left my own formal education hating history.

     Don’t get me wrong. There are days I have a million things to do, lots on my mind, and no one can find a pencil to write with under the clutter on the table. The preschooler brings every loud toy into the room, I’m finally ready to start and where are the girls? Oh, here comes one with a snack and the other is…yep, in the shower. LOL.  No one seems to want to learn today.  Okay, after your snack go ride your horse for a bit while I do a load of laundry, them come on back in and let’s try it again.  Smiles everyone, let’s go on a new adventure! Let’s start with a prayer. Close our eyes, take a breath, and ask for open minds and hearts. This always seems to be a great start to our days. 🙂

   One final note here, I do believe a love of learning can be met through delight-driven learning in the younger years. I like to call our learning experiences "opportunistic unit studies." We could spend weeks sometimes devouring information on something that caught our attention like an endangered horny toad on the ranch, or learning all about horse tack when the girls were first interested in riding. A visit to Half Price books or the library to discover more about our new interest always adds an element of excitment and instills a love for learning as well.

    Read, read, read to the littles. Yep, you’re gonna have to read the same book at least a dozen times in a row for days upon end when they are little, but this will instill a love for reading and learning early on. Hands-on activities like lapbooks, coloring sheets, playdough, salt maps, building a pyramid out of sugar cubes, painting (even when you dread the cleanup and the spills), and hanging a model solar system from your ceiling all help instill a love of learning in your kids.

    Be their cheerleader, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when everything is a mess.  Your excitement will rub off on them, and their accomplishments and interests will fuel that love for learning!!

Happy Homeschooling!

Chris

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Burn Baby Burn

     So after working so hard to figure out the whole homeschooling thing, getting started, experiencing many of those "wow" moments, working through those "I’m ruining them" moments, then setting the cruise control and gliding through a few years of ups and downs, it’s in the natural progression of things to hit a few burnouts.

     Burnout can happen after many years of homeschooling, at the end of the year, before you get to the end of your book, or even before you get to the end of a lesson sometimes, LOL.  We all experience it in everyday life, cooking the same ole meals over and over, going to the same job everyday, washing the same dishes over and over. We might as well teach our kids that burnout happens, and help them learn to deal with it.

     First of all, I try to remember not to just give up or let ourselves become idle.  It’s important to evaluate the  cause of the burnout.  Sometimes, it’s just a well-earned break from things. Take a break from writing that story for a little while, and chances are you’ll be able to return with some fresh new ideas. But, do come back and finish the story.

     There have been times the girls just can’t focus on getting through their math. I try to let them take a week or so off either completely, or use a fun fill-in like Quarter Mile math software, Mathletics (our favorite), take a detour with some Math Mammoth "Math in the Real World" lessons, or go back through our Times Tales for review. Sometimes giving them something easier that they know they can do helps boost them through the burnout.

     When we are just burned out in general from moving from subject to subject daily, I have taken a break from it all for a unit study. The first time we did this we took 4 weeks off to do a packaged unit study on Lighthouses. While they had a great time with it, they were actually a little bit burned out doing the unit study and ready to go back to their regular work!  We currently have a unit study on Horses we are wanting to do, but unable to really take a break from what we are doing now, so you really have to determine how taking a break from it all will affect the progress you need to make.

     This year we have scheduled things a bit differently due to circumstances, but I really feel it has helped things to flow a bit more smoothly and avoid end of the year burnout. We don’t do any subject daily,  and have "together subjects" two to three days weekly and independent studies the other two days. We will probably work a little farther into the summer to finish up what we need to, but I do think it’s been a productive year. I also think a VERY IMPORTANT way to avoid burnout is plenty of field trips, and hands-on activities. Have in mind places that fit what your kids are learning, favorite place close to visit like Zoos or parks, and DON’T hesitate to be spontaneous on a day when no one can get into their schoolwork.

Somedays you just gotta say, "Ok guys, put up your stuff, load up, it’s "Homeschool Socialization Day," LOL. Then take them to the park, bowling, or just to Sonic and Tractor Supply for a break. We have the advantage of living on a ranch with the always-welcome opportunity to send the girls outside to exercise and work on their horse riding skills if needed.

     One word of caution, though. Don’t let burnout be an excuse to slide into a pattern of not finishing and following through with your plans. While it’s ok to fast track through materials, throw out the busywork if you think concepts are well learned, and not finish every word in every book just to say you finished it, I’ve had to really evaluate not letting projects or subjects get dropped or set aside unfinished due to burnout.  I’ve found the pot of gold at the end of a  rainbow of determination is much better than the pot half full of abandoned interest.  Sometimes keeping your eye on the prize, and reminding your crew that you can’t build a mansion without a strong foundation can help get you through those tough times.  It also helps to take a moment to look back at all you’ve accomplished to motivate you to finish. Get out those notebooks of unit studies, nature notebooks, Apologia notebooks, history notebooks, favorite lapbook projects, workbooks, art projects , journals, whatever you have . Take a walk down memory lane, show them how far they’ve come!

   For longterm burnout, read some Homeschool books, find some homeschool friends, and talk it out. Get some support. There are tons of resources out there from fellow homeschoolers, veterans, homeschool grads to read and help you get motivated to keep on.

    Finally, I think it’s important to look at just why we have chosen this lifestyle, and for those of us following a Greater Set of Plans for our kids, just say thanks. Thank you Lord for allowing me the opportunity to guide and nurture these kids you’ve placed in my care in the way that YOU have instructed me to.  Pray about it, talk to Him about it, and ask for motivation to carry on. Pray with your children. Your excitment and enthusiasm will carry over onto your children and help them deal with their feelings of burnout more than anything.

Check out what other families do to deal with burnout over at the  TOS Crew blog.

    

Happy Homeschooling,

Chris


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Wish We Had a Co-Op

When we first began homeschooling we had an awesome coop on base at Fort Meade. This is really where I learned the most about the homeschooling lifestyle. The girls were able to participate in PE activities and computer lab.

As we’ve moved around, we’ve not been so lucky to have access to any more coops. We’ve participated in local homeschool groups, but these were more park days, parties, field trips, etc.

I know of several coops in other states from friends and relatives that are just outstanding. Some get very elaborate with their studies, using whole programs to teach science, history, etc. If I had access to one of these groups I would certainly take advantage of it!

I am currently praying for the opportunity to spark an interest in coops in this area, and help teach some science classes or such.

Chris


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Homeschooling is a Lifestyle

This week’s Blog Cruise topic is "How do you handle multiple ages/homeschool with a toddler or baby."

Schoolwork, Greece, Levi 026 by you.

My kids are 13, 9 and almost 4. Since we are pretty eclectic and relaxed in our style of homeschooling, it’s easy to combine the older two in many subjects. We have used the notebooking approach with many subjects such as Apologia’s Elementary Creation series for science, and Truthquest for history. Some books we read together, some are assigned seperately on individual levels. They can dive in to their writing assignments, notebooking pages, lapbooking pages, or whatever extra creative works they come up with on their own levels. Often the little brother has been included as a project by dressing him up!

Spring 2008 141 by you.

This year has been a challenge with me being gone two days a week. It was hard at first to feel like we were getting everything done, but then as I adjusted our schedule to group "together work" and independent studies, it fell pretty much into place.

To homeschool with different ages I believe takes the right combination of "together studies" and independent learning. I have found it necessary to really evaluate where each child is excelling as well as where they might be lacking or struggling. Those areas of need seem to change as I schedule our time to include sitting down and working through them one on one. I do believe it gets easier as the kids get older and have more independent studies.

Currently in our family it works best if I begin our day with some preschool time for Levi. While the girls tend to the critters and get morning chores done, I try to get Levi’s day started with a Before Five in a Row book topic, Critical Thinking math and thinking skills books, tracing books, or whatever he feels like doing together.

Goose Credit 101, letter c 002 by you.

Once his love tank is full, the girls and I progress through Bridge to Latin, Grapevine, Nutrition 101, and history together. We then break for lunch and the afternoon is spent going over independent studies from their workboxes that they need help with, which includes math (we use MathUSee), science ( Morgan is going through Apologia’s Gen Science and Tayt is going back through Apologia’s Swimming Creatures again ;), typing, handwriting, logic (Morgan), art, Critical Thinking. Most of the time they don’t need much help with their independent studies, but sometimes we have to put other things aside to work out places they need help. 

 When Levi was an infant homeschooling was really easy as he just hung out with us. I was still home all the time, and didn’t take the extra time to schedule out independent study days, which gave me more time to spend with him.  It was indeed, a bit more difficult as he became mobile, but we did have plenty for him to do, including lots of toys, music, and educational videos. As he moved into toddler status, he much preferred to be with us at the table, so I did implement some "Preschool in a Bag" activities, and had a few boxes packed with things he could only get out during "schooltime".

Homeschooling is really more of a lifestyle than anything, so homeschooling when more littles come along is really just a matter of adapting your lifestyle to include another as you would anyway.

 I’ve definitely noticed that lately he brings his "loud" toys into the room to play while we are getting started.  Many times he watches a movie or plays on the computer while we are working, and it’s a bit challenging to keep the girls from getting distracted.  I know in theory our world could be better organized, but I’m so thankful everyday to have my kids home where they belong to school!


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Keeping up or standing firm?

 

  I would suppose the question, "How do you know if your kids are keeping up with their peers?" is really just part two of the socialization question.

To start with, let’s clarify just who these peers are, and "keeping up" with what? Developmentally? Academically? Socially, the latest styles, technology, or lingo?

My kids’ "peers" are a mix of ages from church, 4-H, homeschool groups, cousins, etc. As I observe the interaction among friends, I see them forming friendships, navigating and learning as they go along, and seem to be "keeping up" pretty naturally. They can certainly text their friends as quickly as the next guy, LOL. But as homeschoolers, I believe one of our greatest freedoms is the lack of need to feel like we have to "keep up with" or compare our God-given talents and abilities with others.

As I speak with other parents, I can "compare" where my kids are with others. However, one of the beauties of homeschooling is really knowing your kids, where they are, how they feel, and understanding that each child is different.  My greatest aspiration for my kids is to instill in them a sense of who they are in God’s eyes, not the world.

  On a day to day basis I can get a good feel for how my kids "measure up" by listening to other adults at church, parents, relatives who haven’t seen us in a while, or even a stranger at the post office listening in on a conversation my kids are having while standing in line comment on their vocabulary or thinking skills .  (They’re never at a lack for using big words or dreaming up big ideas, LOL.) I do feel it’s difficult not to let other’s judgement of our kids and their actions and behavior, good or bad, puff us up or bring us down in reflection of our parenting skills. I think the "keeping up" has as much to do with our attitude of acceptence as parents as it does with the kids struggles to "fit it."  I pray for guidance and grace in this very issue of judgement daily!

 Academically, I have begun the process of looking at high school graduation credits. In a sense, this is a comparison to peers, as we look at standards for graduation. After printing off the requirements for high school graduation for my state last week, the one thing that concerns me the most is that I don’t see study skills, critical thinking, or character studies of any sort listed. After having spent 9 years in college, I can certainly atest to the fact that while it’s nice to have a good foundation in chemistry, math and composition, what it really takes to get through college (as well as life in general) is a good foundation of hope and character, critical thinking skills (knowing HOW to use your brain, not just how to pass a test),  and standing firm in your own beliefs,  rather than looking to your peers for answers.

 I feel instead of asking "How do you know if your kids are keeping up with their peers?" we should really be asking "are your kids able to stand firm in their beliefs when it comes to their peers?"