Group Homeschooling

What a beautifully chaotic morning I had homeschooling 7 children and breastfeeding two babies. My sister-in-law, Jenny, is sick so I invited two of her four kids to come over to homeschool with us. (One of my nephews had a fever.) And my sister, Carolyn, left her three-week old daughter behind because she had to attend to an event in Taytay. I asked her if Natasha would last the two hours that she was gone. She assured me that she would…and, worse case, if she didn’t, I was to feed her.

Ack. I love my sister. But, I’ve never fed another person’s baby. It was a first for me when Natasha started acting up and her yaya handed her to me because I was the only option. Thankfully, she was easy to feed. It felt bizarre and familiar at the same time.

I group-homeschooled until about 12:30 and the kids did just fine. We started off with a morning devotion followed by an art project. I taught the kids how to create textured paint cards using a toothbrush, cotton buds, blocks, straws, a comb, etc. And then we let the cards dry and I cut them up into various sized rectangles. Afterwards, I let the kids make personalized works of art. They had to use the texture cards to form the first letters of their name. With the left-over pieces we made a collage.

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In between waiting for the cards to dry the kids did their writing, reading, mathematics, and grammar work. I didn’t get to do much with Tiana so she just colored. I also had to breastfeed two babies at different occasions. And while I was away, some mayhem ensued but I was always able to return just in time to get things orderly again. And, I had a reporter – Edan.

At one point, I heard really loud singing and Edan came to the door and said something like, “I think you need to come back.” There was a tone of urgency in his voice. So I did and got them back to their seats to continue working.

Elijah and Edan are pretty independent learners so I assigned them their work and they got right to it. As for my niece, nephew, and Titus, I had to be in close proximity to them. I hovered around them to assist them when I was needed. But they all did great. They wanted to “surprise me” with their progress.

I’ve used this tactic with my kids to get them to focus. I will say, “Okay, I won’t look, and then surprise me when you are done!” It becomes a challenge and a game. They are motivated to accomplish their material. The kids were also excited to finish early so they could play with one another afterwards. This is one of the advantages of homeschooling with other children.

What are some tricks to homeschooling many kids and not going crazy? These are the tips that worked for me today…

  1. Prepare materials in advance. Once the kids are all present, they need to have something productive to do. If you aren’t ready with your supplies, books, and activities, you end up wasting a lot of time and the kids get restless.
  2. Lay down the ground rules, one of which is, “If we are going to homeschool together, then I want you to focus on your work.” Another one is cleaning up after they make a mess.
  3. Put tabs on the pages that you want the kids to get done if they are working in books. They will know their goals without having to ask.
  4. Pray aloud before you start.
  5. Use an authoritative tone that tells the kids you mean business but speak kindly to them. Be in control but don’t be too controlling.
  6. See yourself as a facilitator and not as a teacher standing in front with a blackboard. I move about the room checking on everyone while they are seated around a large table. When they need me I respond. If I see a child struggling, I attend to them. But as much as possible, I let them do their work on their own.
  7. Allow the kids to see one another’s progress. It encourages them to keep up and it fosters healthy competition, for as long as there is no comparing going on. I don’t say things like, “Look at what so-and-so did, you should do your work like that, too.” Instead, I say, “Look at what so-and-so did!” Then, I address the person and say, “Great job! I’m so proud of you!” I also find something to affirm about everyone.
  8. Give feedback as often as possible. If you notice that a child isn’t quite getting it, spend some time beside them to show them how to do their work correctly. But don’t cripple them by making them dependent on you. Show them and then let them figure it out. If they still don’t get it, review again, and then give them space to do it on their own. When they are successful, commend their effort. (If they still don’t understand, especially in an area like math, they may have a learning gap so back track a little so they can master previous content.) Tell them, “I’m going to help you to learn,” so they know you are committed to their success. Don’t say things like, “I already taught you this. Why can’t you get it?!”
  9. When it’s reading practice time, invite the other children to listen to the person reading. I did this with my niece and I said, “Let’s take turns reading. You read one word and I will read the next one.” And then I put Tiana on my lap to listen to her cousin. We did this back and forth reading for about three pages and then my niece confidently read the rest of the book aloud by herself.
  10. Be enthusiastic about learning together. It keeps everyone positive. Make comments like, “This is so fun!” “I’m glad we can do this together.”
  11. Give breaks (especially to the ones who like to move). I sent two of the boys to the kitchen and asked them to come back with sliced apples to share. They distributed these to everyone and then returned to their seats.
  12. Use rewards like stickers, smiley faces on their completed work. I pulled out a bunch of stickers and the kids were like, “I want one!” So I said, “Whoever finishes first, gets to choose first.”
  13. Seat children in the right areas. Generally, I use a big table where everyone can sit. But, Elijah needed his own space so he could concentrate. He was at another side of the room. Titus and my nephew were looking forward to sitting together so I put them side-by-side. When my nephew struggled through a page of his phonics work, Titus looked over and was eager to help. Tiana sat beside my niece (whom she looks up to). For as long as my niece was seated, Tiana didn’t move either. She sat still coloring for a long time.
  14. Give older kids responsibilities. Edan finished his work earlier so he made “prizes” for everyone at a separate table. He handed these out to the kids and created awards for best art, best work, etc.
  15. Do group activities that require cooperation and collaboration. Art is always a great way to do this because it cuts across ages.
  16. Rely on God’s grace to enjoy and get through a day like this. I always believe that God supplies for the occasion. He sustained me this morning and kept the kids teachable and focused.

After lunch, you can bet I was pretty exhausted so I locked my door to hang out with Catalina and take a nap!

Here is my take on group homeschooling…It works well with children who have been trained by their parents to obey and respond to authority. Praise God my brother and my sister-in-law have done a great job training their kids. I would also say that up to 8 young children is “doable” but more than 8 may require the help of another parent.

 

 

 

 

Mystery of History Volume I (Quarter 1)

Every time I tackle the book Mystery of History (MOH) with my kids I need ideas for crafts and projects to put in their portfolio. Sometimes, I use the suggested activities in the books. But other times, I think of an activity my kids can do using things I already have around the house. Or, I do my own research and find free stuff online. I love free stuff!

Right now, I have two kids going through MOH. My eldest son is doing Volume III and my second son is doing Volume I. Next year, I intend to do just one volume for the entire family. It was crazy covering two separate volumes this year. Learn from my mistake. It’s called a multi-level curriculum for good reason!

Here is what I have so far for Volume I – Creation to Christ (Quarter 1). I will add to this list whenever I can and if you have your own ideas, please let me know so I can include them here, too. Hope these help to make your homeschooling a little easier! (Some of these are home-made, some are ideas I picked up on-line, and others are free resources). With internet resources, please be present to monitor your child:

QUARTER 1

Lesson 1: Creation (c. 4004 b.c.)

Creation Mini-book

Lesson 2: Adam and Eve (c. 4004 b.c.)

Adam and Eve in the Garden (You Tube Cartoon Video)

Paper Chain Snake

Lesson 3: Jubal and Tubal-Cain (10 Generations After Adam)

Easy Instruments to Make at Home

Lesson 4: Noah and the Flood (2349 b.c.)

Streamer Rainbow

Noah’s Ark Paper Plate Craft

Lesson 5: The Ice Age (c. 2300–1600 b.c.)

Ice Cube Painting

Lesson 6: Dinosaurs (Created on the 5th and 6th Days)

Dinosaur Fossil Cookies Option 1

Dinosaur Fossil Cookies Option 2

Lesson 7: The Sumerians (c. 2300 b.c.)

Your Name In Cuneiform Writing

More About Ancient Sumer

Images of Ziggurats

Lesson 8: The Tower of Babel (2242 b.c.)

Tower of Babel Craft Page 1

Tower of Babel Craft Page 2

Lesson 9: The Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2000 b.c.)

Epic of Gilgamesh for Kids (Powerpoint)

Lesson 10: Stonehenge (c. 2000 b.c.)

Miniature Stonehenge

Lesson 11: Early Egypt (3rd and 4th Centuries b.c.)

Guide to Hieroglyphics (Interactive)

Write and Print Your Name in Hieroglyphics

Explore Ancient Egypt

The Two Lands and King Menes

Lesson 12: The Minoan Civilization (c. 2000 b.c.)

Minoan History for Kids

Printable Maze (Challenging)

Lesson 13: ABRAHAM (1922 b.c.)*

God’s Friend Abraham Game

A Promise for Abraham Bible Mini Book

Lesson 14: Jacob and Esau (1836 b.c.)

Lesson 15: Joseph (1728 b.c.)

Coat of Many Colors Pattern

Lesson 16: Hammurabi (1792 b.c.)

Hammurabi’s Code

Hammurabi Strategy Game

Lesson 17: The Israelites in Slavery (Date Unknown)

Make Mud Bricks

Brick making in Egypt (Video)

Lesson 18: China and the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1046 b.c.)

How Silk is Made Video

About the Silkworm

The Shang and Chou Dynasties

Lesson 19: Moses and the Exodus (1491 b.c.)

The 10 Plagues Page 1

The 10 Plagues Page 2

Ten Commandments Craft

Lesson 20: The Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle (1491 b.c.)

Make the Tabernacle Craft (3-D Model)

Tabernacle Diagrams

Lesson 21: Joshua, Jericho, and Rahab (1451 b.c.)

Joshua and Israel Destroy Jericho

Lesson 22: Amenhotep IV and Nefertiti (1353 b.c.)

How to Make a Queen Nefertiti Crown (Tutorial)

Lesson 23: TUTANKHAMEN (KING TUT) (1333 b.c.)*

Printable King Tut Mask

Paper Pyramid Craft

Lesson 24: Ramses II (the Great) (1304–1237 b.c.)

About Ramses II

Lesson 25: Legend of the Trojan Horse (c. 1200–1184 b.c.)

Make a Trojan Horse

Lesson 26: Ruth and Naomi (c. 1200 b.c.)

Ruth Gathering Grain Craft

Family Tree for Boaz and Ruth

Lesson 27: Gideon (1199 b.c.)

Gideon Torch

Gideon Trumpet

 

Other Resources: Downloadable Bible Story Books

 

 

 

 

In the Trenches – What I Like

Last weekend, I was in Cebu with Edric and the kids. No yaya. Wow. It was slightly crazy and wonderful at the same time. Part of the reason we were there was to talk about homeschooling. I was asked to give a testimony as someone who is in the trenches of it. That’s definitely me! So here is my take on homeschooling in a nutshell. I’ve broken up my testimony into two parts and taken bits and pieces from old posts to summarize What I like About Homeschooling and What I’ve Learned as A Homeschooling Mom

What I like About Homeschooling:

Free-flowing Lessons. Learning happens very naturally in the home. Teaching and training my children are not confined to a set period of the day. It doesn’t just happen in the study room of our home. I have four kids at different stages of learning so if I were to do a classroom set-up, I wouldn’t have enough time in the day to teach my kids like a conventional school would. Instead, I let my kids’ learning happen outside of textbooks and workbooks. Learning happens naturally through dialogue and discussion, hands-on experiences, modeling, games, reading and telling stories, socializing with family members or friends, and lots of creative play. I do give my kids workbook and textbook time, as well as writing exercises and tests. But, these conventional learning methods don’t dictate how, what, and when my children learn.

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A typical day for our family would be the kids waking up at 7 AM and we have breakfast as a family. By 8:30 or 9 AM we start our lessons. With each child I will cover three to four subject areas. My older son, Elijah, is a pretty independent learner so he can do most of his work on his own. We will read History and Science together because he likes the discussion and interaction time we have when we go through these subjects. In the meantime, my second son, Edan, will be doing his lessons with lots of breaks in between. And when I’m preoccupied with my youngest son, Titus, Edan act as my teacher’s assistant or entertainer. He will help teach Tiana, my fourth child, and keep her busy. I work more closely with Titus because he needs one-on-one instruction. And after about 45 minutes he is done with his “academics” and will work with manipulatives or have free play time with his sister. Everyone is doing something productive between 9 and 12 noon, but it isn’t always sitting down at a desk. In the afternoons, the kids can read, pursue their hobbies, practice their violin, and rest. I rest, too!

A Customized Education – tailor fit to my child’s needs. At home, with one-on-one instruction, it is much easier for a parent to adjust to the learning needs of her child. Titus is a kinesthetic child but like my two older boys, he learned to read early because I modified my approach with him. Phonics instruction was kept short and sweet. We didn’t do too much writing until he was really ready. And I let him have lots of time to play with dough, scissors, glue, marbles…basically anything to help him develop his fine motor skills.

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My simple philosophy for teaching my kids is this: All children are equipped to learn and they can develop a genuine love for learning, but a parent must be willing to discover and investigate how her child learns best, welcome the adjustment it requires on her part, and look to the Lord for the supernatural creativity, insight, wisdom and ability that this kind of inspired teaching requires.

At home, children have true play. They can engage in self-initiated activity without the pressure of outcomes. They are challenged to be creative, to conceptualize, and to problem solve while they play. And they have hours and hours to play! I really feel like they get to have an extended childhood that isn’t cut short by the over scheduling and time consuming homework that school-going kids have to deal with.

Learning along-side my children. I have never been excellent in math. I used to dislike it immensely until I started homeschooling my kids. When I became a “math teacher,” I had to re-learn math from the ground up. From pre-school math to upper elementary math (where I find myself now), I am both student and teacher to my kids. When Elijah was in 3rd grade, I peaked at the answer key in the back of his math book when we encountered a word problem I was stumped on (can you believe it?! 3rd grade?!) and he got really upset. He said, “Now you won’t solve the problem with me!” He enjoyed the fact that we solved the problems together. It didn’t matter to him that I wasn’t a math expert and this didn’t keep him from learning. He wanted me to learn along-side him. Nowadays, he uses Kahn Academy to teach himself math.

I call this approach to homeschooling the “teamwork” approach. It is experiencing the process with my kids, encouraging them and inspiring them to learn by making it fun. And often times, their definition of fun is having me beside them.

Cultivating relational intimacy between siblings / between parent and child. Adidas used to have a tag line for basketball. Basketball is a brotherhood. Well, for my boys, homeschooling is a brotherhood. My kids are growing up to be best friends and they often say they are. Homeschooling has a lot to do with it because they are together so often and have to work out their differences, defer to one another, and love one another unconditionally. God has really knit the hearts of my children to one another. They hold each other accountable for responsibilities like violin practice, reading their bibles and praying together. And they have each other’s backs. Elijah recently told me, “I protect my brothers and I stick up for them.”  Someday, they will benefit from each other’s spiritual support and encouragement to weather the storms of life. Developing a loyalty to one another when they are young will have a lot to do with that.

My siblings and I were homeschooled for a time. And it proved to be such an amazing bonding experience, we remain close to this day. We enjoy getting together with our families, sharing meals and conversations, watching movies, playing games and sports, etc. My parents taught us to prioritize loving your family members before friends and this has carried on into our adulthood.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a foremost child developmental and clinical psychologist from Canada made this statement during a talk he gave on Why Home Education Works. “Homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature into a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him – his parents.” He is not even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.

He cites the following reasons:

  • At home, children have continuity of contact with their parents. Schools separate children from their parents and foster competing attachments with peers.
  • At home parents taken on the responsibility of pursuing their child relationally. This gives a child rest from the work of attachment. He doesn’t have to strive for the attention or affections of his parent. When children have to work for love or affection, they do not grow or mature.
  • At home, a child faces less separation and less wounding (ideally) so that his heart stays soft and pliable. At school a lot of wounding occurs, especially among peers. This causes a flight from vulnerability and a child develops hardness of heart.
  • At home, parents can support the maturity process. They can handle the stages a child goes through, the questions and the struggles.

I would like to add that at home, parents can continually assure their child, “nothing will separate you form my love…not your attitude, not your behavior, I love you no matter what, but because I love you, I am committed to helping you change and improve.”

Homeschooling has most certainly turned the heart of Edric towards our kids. And he has chosen to be very involved in their lives. This has been a special blessing for our family. The conviction to be a hands-on, intentional father came when Edric began to think about the goals of our parenting and homeschooling.

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Influence. Dr. Neufeld also explained that children want to be like those whom they are attached to. They will give their heart to those whom they are attached to. They want to be known and reveal their secrets to those whom they are attached to.

He brought up this very important point: When did your child fall in love with you? When did you child give you his heart? We were never meant to deal with a children whose hearts we did not have. If you do not have the heart of your child, you will not have the context in which to bring him to his fullest potential. If you do not have his heart, you will not have his mind.

Homeschooling allows Edric and I to impact the hearts and minds of our kids because they are very much attached to us. Because we spend the most time with them, we naturally have the most influence, too.

Teaching a Biblical World-view. No education is neutral. No child is neutral. Every child has an orientation towards God or away from God. Edric and I don’t want our children to be bombarded with secular messages and worldviews that will turn them away from a God-ward orientation. So we filter what they learn through the word of God. We protect our children from wrong kinds of indoctrination by peers, teachers, school curriculums and systems that promote humanism vs. theism.

David Sant said, “All education is indoctrination into a religious worldview…All education is undergirded by presuppositions about the origin of the universe, the origin of man, the purpose of man, ethics government relationships between men, and the continuing existence of the universe in an orderly and predictable manner. It is an inescapable fact that all of these basic assumptions are fundamentally religious. Therefore we must view the schoolroom as the place where children are indoctrinated into the religion of their society. The school is, in effect, a temple.”

In a climate of postmodern thinking which has removed God from the picture and promoted the ideas of moral subjectivity, pluralism and relativism, there is a need more than ever before to teach our children the truths that God has given us in his word. When Elijah was 3, he asked us, “What if there is no God…what will happen?”  It was a valid question. Who would have answered this for him if we weren’t around?

As parents, we need to be able to answer key questions that will impact our children’s belief system and determine their choices and actions: Who is God? Who Am I? What on Earth Am I here for? Edric and I aren’t willing to gamble our children’s future convictions by leaving this task up to others.

The faithfulness of God. We chose to homeschool in faith, in obedience to the Lord. We continue to do so, despite our limitations and imperfections to find that God is faithful. Every year that I teach the kids, I look back and think, how did we survive last year and manage to finish everything?! I’m always in awe of how God comes through for us. He is the one who makes my kids excited about learning. He is the one who helps them to learn. They are doing well inspite of me!

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It Takes All Day

It takes all day to homeschool. I’m not talking about the part where we use books and workbooks or do homeschool “projects.” I’m talking about everything in between.

For example, today I had a talk with my second son, Edan. He was in a difficult mood yesterday when I was homeschooling him. But I knew that if I had tried to correct his attitude then, it wouldn’t have been effective. He was not ready.

He hovered over his math book like it was some form of torture. I looked at the page he had to complete and I knew, as his teacher, that it wasn’t anything beyond his capacity. It was merely a review of concepts he had already understood just a few weeks prior. I took the book away from him and told him to go to his room and pray about his attitude.

The last thing I want to do when I’m homeschooling my kids is force them to learn when they aren’t spiritually ready. Since I am available to them almost 24 hours, I know we have many more moments in the day to address the heart issues they face. I am not going to ballistic over a page or two of math work. But I won’t let my kids’ negative attitudes linger without addressing them either.

When they act de-motivated, I take a step back, compose myself before losing my cool, and let my kids isolate themselves to think and pray about their actions and attitudes. When they are ready, they will come back to me with some sort of resolution. If not, then I pursue them relationally and sit down with them to talk.

I had asked Edan in the car yesterday if he would like to explain to me why he didn’t want to do his work. He asked me if we could talk privately. This morning, I invited him to a conversation, just the two of us.

It’s amazing how a serious dialogue between a parent and child, without time pressure, can do much to unlock what’s going on inside a child’s heart. I suppose one of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that I’m not rushing my kids off to school or stressing out at the end of the day about their homework, test-preparation, etc. We can be together for extended periods of time to deal with whatever needs to be dealt with. Top on my list is the discipleship of my kids…their character.

So we sat there, on the bed and I asked him a few questions. He can be a tough nut to crack because he tends to be quiet about his feelings. When he is upset, he will go lie on his bed and cry. Rarely will he display dramatics. My eldest, Elijah, tends to be the more intense one so he’s more entertaining to watch when he is upset. (Did I just say that? What I mean is, it’s not difficult to guess what he’s feeling.)

With Edan, he has to be pried open gently and the right factors have to be present. When I asked him to come to my room to talk, he knew it was a safe place to tell me whatever he was thinking or feeling. “Can you tell me why you didn’t feel like doing your work yesterday? Mommy wants to be able to help you.” The conversation began along those lines. At first, he wanted to bury his face in a pillow and look at me out of just one eye, while the other one was covered. But I asked him to look directly at me. After a few seconds, he began to share about how he didn’t like books that only had two colors. That made absolute sense coming from a child who is a visual learner. I just didn’t know it made such a big difference to him. And so, I asked, “Do you think it is okay to have a bad attitude if you don’t like your book?” We talked some more about how he was feeling and then I reminded him about the character trait of gratefulness.

A couple months ago, we had covered this topic for our family bible study. My husband, Edric, had asked the kids to memorize the verse, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I shared with him that it was important to thank God for the blessings that we do have. We talked about how we could apply this in our homeschooling.

In between, Titus tried to spy on us. He poked his head around the door and stood there for a while, hoping to find out what we were talking about. I asked him to close the door and leave us for a bit. He acted like he was closing it but kept a part open so he could still spy on us. I saw his shadow, and said, “Titus…close the door.” Curious little Titus finally shut it.

The conversation between Edan and I resumed. It took a while but we finally arrived at a conclusion. Edan said he would choose to do the right thing and change his attitude. We prayed together. I also shared with him that there are times when I don’t have good attitude…like when “Daddy asks me to do something,” so I also have to work on this area. We both confessed our sins and Edan was back to his old smiley self.

Was he ready to be instructed after that? Yes.

When parents ask me, “How long do you homeschool for?”, I usually say, the kids do their work in the morning. But a more accurate answer to that question would really be, homeschooling takes all day. It’s not just about covering subject matter and saying, “Yes, it was a good day. We got all our ‘work’ done.” So much of what happens in between the work, throughout the many interactions I have with my kids, is the actual homeschooling. I consider this to be the more important part of what I do.

It’s very hard to explain this to parents who are on the outside looking in. And I understand where they are coming from because their concerns center around, “How many subjects do I have to teach? How much time will it take?” After all, this often seems like the most intimidating aspect of homeschooling. Many parents feel inadequate before they ever begin because the very word “homeschooling” sounds a whole lot like school-at-home. And we associate “school” with school-related work like learning about math, English, science, history, Filipino, social Studies, geography, music, art, etc. (Oh and don’t forget Bible and character!) We look at the line up of subject areas and it’s like, “How the heck am I going to teach all that?” I’m not a professional teacher!”

My encouragement to parents who feel this way is this…teaching subjects is the easier task when discipleship is a priority. Discipleship is primary. Once we make the acquisition of knowledge the priority, we start homeschooling for the wrong reasons and we can start teaching the wrong way, too. Outbursts of anger, irritation, impatience will surface when we feel that our “academic” goals for our kids are blocked. For example, when they aren’t cooperative and they aren’t motivated we get annoyed. And we want to push, push, push. What are we pushing towards? They may comply externally and complete ten pages of their math workbook in one sitting but their heart is far away from us, far away from the Lord.

I can’t settle for that kind of education in our home. My prayer is that each year our children grow deeper in love with Jesus, that their hearts remain teachable and receptive to our instruction, and they make leaps and bounds in the area of godly character. That is homeschooling. And that takes all day, every day, until God says they are ready to go out into the world to be his instruments of change, to bear his gospel, and to pursue the mission he has called them to.

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Handwriting Practice Worksheet Maker

You will like this! Forget about buying penmanship workbooks. Just make your own worksheets. The nice thing about D’Nealian’s writing style is that it makes the transition to cursive more natural. Instead of boxy print letters, D’Nealian uses slanted letters. Admittedly, I have used boxy letters when teaching my kids and I forgot all about D’Nealian. So I was happy to rediscover this worksheet maker. It is free!

D’Nealian Handwriting Worksheets Maker

Stages of Writing

Gently introduce pre-school aged boys to writing, especially if they are not very confident or skilled at handling a pencil. I have found that exposing my kids to various writing instruments and craft-related materials (like glue, tape, playdough, clay, safe scissors, etc) has helped them to develop their hand muscles in preparation for gripping that pen or pencil!

However, I often feel that conventional schools overemphasize penmanship and writing so that parents tend to stress out on their child’s handwriting. But pen and paper methods are not the only way to teach kids to write. In fact, most children who have difficulty with their penmanship simply did not have enough opportunity to work out their hand muscles, develop their hand-eye coordination, vision, right posture, appropriate grip, etc.

“The development of handwriting is actually a process that involves the mastery of several important aspects –
vision, coordination of the eyes, arms, hands, memory, posture, body control and posture, and the ability to hold a pencil and form text.” (Source: Child Support )

So before penmanship related issues cause undue stress in my relationship with my kids, I expose them to many pre-writing experiences. I have them draw letters in the air, roll dough into the shapes of letters, numbers and shapes, practice in a tray of sand or flour, cut out or tear pieces of paper to form them, glue or assemble objects together to represent them, practice the strokes on an Ipad or Iphone app, and use all kinds of fun writing instruments like crayons, markers, chalk, colored pencils, and paint to inspire writing. Frequent exposure to text in books or in the surrounding environment (like identifying letters, words, numbers, shapes, etc) also gives my kids better recall of their forms, too.

Writing will happen in stages so I tell myself, “relax, my child will get there.”Stages of Writing In the meantime, I praise their efforts and give them positive feedback.

Titus, my third son, often hands me scribbles that don’t seem to make much sense but given the opportunity to express what his picture is about, I often discover there is some logic to all the lines and swirls. He brought me a picture once and I was not sure what it was. However, he took the time to explain it. “Mom, this is a maze…you go up here and there, and there’s monsters in this one part but don’t be scared. Jesus is in your heart, right? Right? So you will go to heaven.”

It was the cutest description of a drawing I had ever heard. I laughed and told him I loved it!

Here is a photo of him practicing his writing on a chalk board.

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Notice how he is holding his chalk. It’s not even the correct grip. But he is getting there and he is enjoying the process!

Downloadable Homeschool Portfolio Forms

I made these forms years ago when I was helping out with TMA Homeschool as a consultant. If you are making a portfolio for your child, these forms will make it easier for you. Just download and print. :)

Homeschool Portfolio Forms Part 1

Homeschool Portfolio Forms Part 2

Homeschool Portfolio Forms Part 3

Homeschool Portfolio Forms Part 4

Do You Have What It Takes?

I am not incredibly smart. I am not an expert in all subject matter that I teach my kids, but I made a commitment when I said yes to homeschooling. And it is this commitment that gets me up each day to keep parenting and teaching my kids.

Whatever fears parents may have about ability, it is not the biggest challenge of homeschooling. The hardest thing to do is to stay immovable, steadfast, resolute.

When Edric and I made the decision to homeschool our kids, there wasn’t any other option we preferred over it. We were dead-set on teaching them ourselves because of Deuteronomy 6:5-7. And we gave ourselves no exit. Indefinitely…until God says so.

My greatest hurdle so far has not been the actual teaching. My greatest obstacle is often ME. But when my commitment starts to wane, I hold on to a vision, a beautiful hope.

I look forward to the day when I can present my children before the Lord — grown men and women, who are 100% in love with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Men and women who are fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives and making a positive difference in the world, for the glory of God.

When I fixate on this purpose, it’s like getting my gas tank refueled with the motivation I need to press on. And my source of strength is not my own will or drive. As 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 58 says, “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

I love this passage. It reminds me that Jesus has given me the capacity to homeschool victoriously. Because of finished work at calvary, he conquered sin, death, limitations, human failure. His victory makes me able. I just need to wake up and be willing to homeschool one more day, one more week, month, year.

When I had my fourth child, I had the craziest homeschool schedule. It had to revolve around breast feeding, my exhaustion, and the demands of a baby. But I gave it what I could. I did not give myself excuses. And somehow, in spite of my great inadequacies and the many distractions that interfered with my daily routines, my second son learned to read, and my eldest scored in the 98th percentile on his achievement test. I am sharing these academic progresses because it matters to those who worry about the “school” part of homeschooling. In reality, however, it is the spiritual maturity of my kids that matters more to me.

But their academic progress represented God’s faithfulness. It was his personal encouragement to me. When I saw the results of my son’s assessment, I cried. It was God’s personal encouragement to me. If I could have put it into words, it felt like he was saying, “You keep homeschooling, just stay faithful, and I will be faithful. Keep nurturing your children spiritually. You do your part and I will do mine.”

God has not failed to fill in where I miss out, to remedy my errors, realign my perspective, recharge my battery, or take over when I have reached my limits.

Homeschooling, for me, is a testimony of the “in spite of.” My kids are turning out okay (so far and by God’s grace), in spite of me. I just do what is required. COMMITMENT. Duty not drama, faithfulness not feelings, resolution not revolution. Just do it.

My confidence is this — If I am homeschooling because of God’s call, through him and for him, then I can surrender that vision and beautiful hope of my children to him. He asks for faithfulness but he is the most faithful. His faithfulness is completely dependable and trustworthy. Like his word says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB)

The Listening Learner

Do you have a child that easily retains and remembers information that she or he hears? If so, you’ve got an auditory learner. These kinds of learners will enjoy dialoguing with you about their lesson and listening to you read a story or hearing you read about a topic.  My oldest son, Elijah, is very much an auditory learner. He is a listening learner, which is great because I can dictate, read, or talk with him and he can process that information.

The downside is that if he is in a room trying to work and his siblings are noisy, he has a very hard time concentrating. (The other downside for me, but upside for him is that he remembers everything I say…a whole lot better than I do!)

I find creative ways to accommodate his learning style. One way is to isolate him in a room with me so he can think when he has to do math or writing assignments. This helps him stay focused and engaged. Otherwise, he wants to be a part of every conversation and activity that he hears about.When it comes to his lessons, particularly Science, Local Civics, and History, I read aloud to him and ask him questions as I go along.

While it is pretty easy to teach him, the challenge is that I have four kids. And if I were to read aloud to all of my kids every single day, I would run out of saliva. Seriously. I read The Chronicles of Narnia to Elijah when he was five and my mouth would get parched. He would run to the kitchen and get me a glass of water so I could keep going, but it was tiring!

I was happy to discover some years back that many audio books of children’s literature and classics have been made by ingenious people. Not all books can be downloaded or played online, but once in awhile you discover a gem of a site with free audio books and it makes your day!

This evening we listened to the Velveteen Rabbit on Light Up Your Brain. This site has a few stories in MP3 format so they play on any audio device and of course, they are free. Kids can listen to each story and visit the story’s page, where they can read along.

For other audio book sites you can check out the following: (Please be aware that some of these sites have books for adults only)

Books Should Be Free

Lit 2 Go Adventure Genre

Audio Books for Free – Fiction Classics

Gutenberg: The Audio Books Project

 

Where Do I Start?

About a month ago, a reader expressed that she was interested in homeschooling but didn’t know where to start. I wasn’t able to see her comment until today and I feel horrible about it. But this post is dedicated to her and her very important question.

“I’m interested in homeschooling, but where do I start?”

Attend a homeschool orientation. Homeschool providers usually give free orientations about their programs and an overview of home education. Attend several if necessary to get a big picture perspective on home schooling in the Philippines. Here are some providers to choose from:

Get connected to other homeschoolers. Join their social networks or email groups. Homeschoolers are very friendly and accommodating. They don’t mind being spied on! You can ask your questions and get answers from a number of people who have “been there and done that.”

Attend the Philippine Homeschool Conference 2012 on May 19, 2012. This is an annual event organized by  HAPI (Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands) for homeschoolers and parents.

Be in agreement with your spouse about making the decision to homeschool. Homeschooling is a way of life more than it is an education. When a family decides to homeschool, every member of the family participates. Fathers may be in charge of devotion time or physical education, and mothers may handle the majority of the subjects, but at the end of the day, both husband and wife must be 100% committed to home education.

Read and follow blogs by homeschoolers in the Philippines. Homeschooling blogs have useful review on books and curriculum that you can use for your own kids. They also talk about upcoming homeschool events, and give practical tips on parenting and teaching. Most of all, they make people realize that homeschoolers are normal people who have their own struggles, shorcomings and frustrations but manage to successfully educate their children (by God’s grace!).

 Do your homework.

  • Read up on homeschool teaching methods.
  • Call the Department of Education (NCR) to get an updated list of accredited homeschool providers. 928-0104; 921-4274
  • Check out the latest facts on homeschooling by Dr. Brian Ray’s National Home Education Research Institute. NHERI
  • Be aware of the Philippine government’s legal stand on homeschooling

Homeschooling and Open Universities in the Philippines 
Homeschool Legal Defense Association on the Philippines

Consider the cost. Homeschooling will require your time, energy, effort, and positive parenting.

  • Instruction Time: Pre-schooler (1.5 to 2 hours daily); Elementary (3 to 4 hours daily); High school (4 to 5 hours daily)
  • Energy: Being with your kids all day can zap you! Realize, however, that you are making an investment in your relationship with them and their future success.
  • Effort: Homeschooling involves goal setting, planning, scheduling, and actual instruction. You have to prepare for your lessons. Some subjects can be done spontaneously and without much planning ahead. But when you have projects or experiments, you will need to have all your supplies and materials ready. You will also need to understand certain lessons and subject matter before presenting these to your child (especially for older children.)
  • Positive parenting: A good relationship with your child will greatly help your homeschooling. Children naturally respond to parents’ teaching and instruction if they feel loved, accepted, built-up, and when they are disciplined appropriately. A Christ-centered home is the best environment for homeschooling.

If you have the opportunity to, spend a day with a homeschooling family that you know and observe how teaching and instruction happens in their home. See how they set-up their “homeschool area.” Ideally, this should be a family whose children are “good products” of home education. ;-)

Pray about it! Make a list of your fears and apprehensions. Surrender these to the Lord and ask him for confirmation and clear leading about whether you should homeschool.

Have the right motivation. Why choose to homeschool? Don’t let your number one reason be an economic one. My husband, Edric, and I decided to homeschool because we want our children to grow up to love, know, serve, obey, and worship God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Every family that wants to homeschool needs to ask themselves the why question.

 

MORE HELP:

Really Good Smart Parenting Articles on Homeschooling you may also find helpful:

Homeschooling In the Philippines – FAQs and Tips for Parents

How to Choose a Program for Your Child

Why Homeschooling Is Best for Your Preschooler

Homeschooling Your Big Kid – 6-to-7-year-old

The Benefits of Homeschooling Your Child

What It Takes to Homeschool Your Child

 

Art History at Starbucks

Homeschooling at home everyday can get monotonous. For me, atleast! The kids don’t really complain, but sometimes, I am the one that needs a change of scenery. So I asked Elijah if he would like to do his work at Starbucks. (I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do love to smell coffee.) I packed a bag of books and we walked over to the nearest Starbucks — just Elijah and I. It was like our “date” as mom and son, too. Elijah was looking forward to our time together.

I brought along a book that I knew would interest him. The Illustrated Timeline of Art History by Carol Strickland. It shows how art changed through the ages and highlights art and architecture from all around the world. He found it fascinating.

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After reading through the Middle Ages, I let him do a perspective drawing. He has always been very interested in architecture so 3D representations of reality appeal to him. If it is not 3D, he says it is a “little kid’s drawing.” He’s only turning 8, going on 9 in three weeks, but sometimes he acts like a very old soul.

Did he get frustrated trying to work with perspective in his drawing? Of course he did. (He’s a bit of a perfectionist.) But after a while, he was quite pleased with his effort.I was, too! He tried his best and that’s what matters to me.

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We went on to read about the Franciscans and Dominicans in his history book. By this time, we had spent a little over an hour at Starbucks. I could have stayed longer. The ambiance was cozy and I loved the free airconditioning! But Elijah said to me, “Mom, let’s go home.” When I asked him why he was eager to leave, he said, “I want to be with my brothers.” That was a great answer so we put our things together and made our way back to our condo.

Starbucks was a nice change, but it was wonderful to know that Elijah still prefers home, where his best buds are — Edan and Titus. :)

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Easy Science Activities

One of my sons is not so fond of listening to me read about science topics. He easily gets bored when he has to sit through another one of my reading sessions. So I had to modify my approach with him for teaching science — more hands-on activities, less textbook. So far he has enjoyed the different topics we are covering.

Unlike his older brother who didn’t mind going in depth with Apologia’s science curriculum (We have covered astronomy, biology, botany and now, we are doing zoology), this son of mine needs to experience science.

Static Electricity – We rubbed a purple balloon on my hair and did two experiments. My kids saw how bits of paper jumped up to the balloon and how water bends toward the balloon when there is static electricity on it.

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Density – Pour sprite into a glass bowl and put some raisins in the bowl. The raisins will “dance” as the bubbles from the carbonized drink attach to the raisins. They will go up and down. When they go up and the bubbles pop, they sink back down.

Mass – Make a homemade scale using rubber bands, a ruler, tape, something to rest the ruler on, and two containers (must be the same kind) for either side. Compare weights of objects and see how heavier objects stretch the rubber bands longer.

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Chemical Change – Put two table spoons of baking soda in a bowl and slowly pour vinegar on it. A chemical reaction will take place causing the baking soda to fizz like a gas and ooze. The boys loved this one.

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