When Homeschooling Isn't Going Well: 101 Questions to Ask Yourself, by Sheryl

 

We’ve all had those awful homeschooling moments. The ones where you look around at your kids and realize that everyone is going through the motions, but their education isn’t where you want it to be. Tears are flowing, projects are left unfinished, grades drop, and your visions of the perfect homeschool vanish.

When my crew is in the thick of homeschooling, it is easy to just put our “noses to the grindstone” and do the next thing. I focus on getting work done but rarely question the work itself. This has come to some disastrous results. At one point, I suddenly realized that I had been reteaching my daughter how to count to 10 for years. Something was wrong. I had to put everything on hold while I spent time in agonizing self-reflection to pinpoint how to proceed with getting her learning disability diagnosed and altering all of our lessons to reflect reality. It was a harsh change from my dream of what school would look like, and it was apparent that something needed to change. But what?

Self-examination is required if we are to look critically and find the source of the problem, but true self-examination is difficult. It requires us to analyze every aspect of our approach, including our methods, assumptions, and biases. It requires deep honesty and a courageous willingness to challenge our own beliefs.

Nobody likes to have their assumptions challenged, and we certainly don’t want to have our self-assessment reveal that we are contributing in any way to our children’s struggles. It is easy to avoid doing this work, but challenging our assumptions, objectives, and yes, even homeschooling itself, will push us to become better.

12723998114_7549375626_z

Get a pen and notepad or download our assessment form. We are going to mercilessly examine your school. For each question below, you will look at the following areas.
You will need five columns.

1. The original question

2. What are your assumptions?

3. In what do you base that belief?

4. Should you challenge this belief? If so, how?

5. To do.

Okay, ready?

The basics: Academic Reassessment

    • Are you on track to complete the school year?
    • Look at each subject independently. Are your kids struggling or mastering material?
    • What methods are working best?
    • What causes the most tears?
    • What creates the most joy?
    • How do the kids feel about school in general? Are they excited, content, anxious?
    • What one subject do you most feel that you need to tweak to fit your homeschool?
    • What is holding you back?
    • What do you really not want to change?
    • What materials did you pay too much for?
    • Look at each outside activity independently. Is it a good fit for your child?
    • Are there any signs of learning disabilities? What are they?
    • What subject are you not spending enough time on?
    • What subject are you spending too much time on?
    • What should you drop entirely?
    • Do you know your children’s learning styles? Do your lessons reflect this?
    • Is your record keeping system working well for you?
    • Are you pushing or challenging your students?
    • Are your children exploring on their own?

Leave room for imperfection. Not all students are capable of straight As, and purchased materials don’t come with charts that factor in exactly how to handle that month of drastic illness you suffered. It is okay to not be perfectly in sync with where you want to be, but strive to find a balance point.

Home Reassessment

    • In general, how is your home running?
    • How many days are you out of the house?  Do you feel okay with that number?
    • What one area are you struggling most in? (cooking, cleaning, laundry, time management, outside activities)
    • Are you delegating well?
    • Are your school supplies well organized and easy to reach?
    • Is there clutter that is distracting you or the kids from schoolwork?
    • How well is your routine working for you?
    • What time of day is best for your students? Worst?
    • What doesn’t work well for you as the teacher? As Mom?
    • Do you find yourself scrambling right before lessons to find the supplies you need?

If your time management is out of order, take a moment to do a bit of backwards planning and see where your time hogs are. This will help you to determine exactly what to keep, what to drop, and where to buckle down and simply work faster.

Relationship Reassessment

    • Is there a specific subject, topic, or time of day that seems to create the worst attitudes?
    • Are you feeling distant from any of your children?
    • How well do your children interact with one another?
    • Is your child’s relationship with your spouse positive?
    • Are there discipline issues that you need to focus on?
    • Are the kids healthy?
    • Would you describe your children as happy?
    • Are there any physical or emotional impairments that should be considered?
    • What is the role of religion in your home? Is this helping your relationships?
    • Are you demonstrating good manners and consideration?
    • Do your children have friends who are a good influence?
    • What are you doing to help your children to build strong friendships with others?
    • Are special projects and field trips helping or hurting your relationships?

Self Reassessment

How is your own attitude? Our kids feed off of our energy, and our attitude can set the mood for the entire family’s day, week or even year. Remember, be completely honest with yourself while doing this assessment. Our kids learn more from what they see us do than what they hear us say.

    • Are you healthy?
    • Would you describe yourself as happy? Would others?
    • Are your daily actions demonstrating what you believe to be true?
    • Are you available to help with lessons when needed?
    • Does being needed frustrate you?
    • Are there changes that should be made in your diet or exercise routine?
    • What are you most afraid of? Is that fear impacting your life right now?
    • What methods or materials are you using simply because they are easy?
    • What are you neglecting?
    • What one thing should you stop doing?
    • Is there one subject that you can delegate?
    • What distracts you?
    • Are you hovering or empowering?
    • How comfortable are you with the amount of preparation you need to do?
    • What are you doing really well?

The hard part: Goal Reassessment

These may seem like fluff questions, but they are really at the heart of the matter.

    • Why are you homeschooling?
    • What is it that you want to achieve at the end of your child’s school career?
    • Is your child on track for college entry?
    • What should your child know by the end of this year? Be realistic and specific.
    • What teaching philosophy do you believe in most? Do your lessons reflect this?
    • If you could pick only one priority, what would you teach your kids?
    • Are you accountable to anyone?
    • What is the most important change you need to make?
    • Is homeschooling right for your children?

Just do it

This is where the rubber meets the road. You now have a list of things that you would like to improve. Things that can help revitalize yourself, your home, your school, and your kids. It’s a long list. It is challenging, and it may involve some pretty major changes.

At this point you must remember that the purpose of re-assessment isn’t to point out all  your failures or inadequacies; it is to find the areas where you can make positive changes. None of us feel like we are “doing it right.” We are all concerned that our child isn’t progressing perfectly in one subject or another, and we all have areas in which we need to improve. No one is capable of making giant changes all at once. Choose just a few areas that you feel will be the most beneficial to your kids’ school experience and focus on only that.

Reassessment is just the first step in the process.  Are you ready to find out what changes you need to make?  Download the assessment form and get started.

 

Sherysheryll–Sheryl is living her dream in the house on Liberty Hill where she is a full time wife, mother, and teacher. She is passionate about turning children’s natural curiosity into activities that will inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Learn more about her adventures at libertyhillhouse.com

Creative Classical Education: Is It Possible? by Sheryl

 

There is no dichotomy between logic and creativity. None. We have falsely mystified the idea of imagination, causing many people to believe that they don’t have the ability to be creative or, conversely, that they are too artistic to be constrained by logic! What a shame.

Don’t believe that creativity and logic are intricately entwined?

Notice how many classroom “subjects” are involved in artist Janet Echelman’s work.

Creativity isn’t just having the freedom to discover beauty, it is combining ideas and materials in a new way. We live in an interconnected world, and creativity is one part of the whole. It is intentional and it can, in fact, be fostered. Classical education offers a wonderful springboard for creating such an environment.

Creativity in Math and Science

It has been stated by many that “Research is organized purposeful creativity.” I love this line of thinking. Research requires thinking about things in a new way, experimenting, observing, trying diligently, and often getting things wrong.

One of the wonderful parts of Classical Education is that it values time spent in thought. It cultivates the art of awareness, teaching students to articulate their observations clearly. Children aren’t afraid of being wrong and their capacity for innovation is infinite. Classical Education allows them the freedom to question, and to discover answers through their studies in an orderly way.

dscn1889

Creativity in History and the Social Sciences

Creativity is empowering. It creates change. It is how generals develop new battle plans, and how new systems of government are formed. Spending time observing the interconnectedness of our world teaches our children to build an awareness of the activities around them and to begin to analyze what they see.

(Oh, and as a bonus, the study of stories has been proven to help with retention in other fields as well! Consider it homeschool multi-tasking.)

img_8567

Creativity in Debate and Writing

The purpose of Classical Education is not to produce fact memorizers (although the youngest children are encouraged to do a significant amount of memorizing).  The goal is to create students who understand how to learn. Maybe more importantly, the goal is to bring up children who are excited to learn on their own and share their discoveries with others.

By the time students have completed the Rhetoric stage, they have gained enough skills to be express their point clearly. It is only through this expression, rather than mere thought, that they will be able to impact the world around them with their discoveries.

dsc_0071

The opposite side of the coin…

Have you noticed that the arts are analytical?  Music and dance follow patterns, there is history in drama, and psychology in colors. Intelligence is diverse. More diverse than we generally acknowledge.

In the words of Picasso, “All children are born artists.” It is our duty to foster their passions and teach them how to utilize their creativity whether they choose to become painters like Picasso or not.

Do you think Classical Education takes imagination seriously enough?

Sheryl is living her dream in the house on Liberty Hill where she is a full time wife, mother, and teacher. She is passionate about turning children’s natural curiosity into activities that will inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Learn more about her adventures at LibertyHillHouse.com

Cover photo: By Janet Echelman (1.26 Sculpture) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Classical Education and the Dyslexic Child

by Sheryl

Classical Education has a reputation for being a teaching method for the gifted. It focuses on the rigorous study of things that we don’t think of as part of our everyday lives, unfamiliar things like Latin, Rhetoric, and Logic. It seems intimidating. Unfortunately, this misconception has led many parents of dyslexic children away from the method, which is truly tragic. I have found that Classical Education is, in fact, a very important part of helping my dyslexic child to overcome her learning disabilities.

antique-reader

Latin

Latin is key to about 50% of our English vocabulary (Classical Education and the Homeschool by Callihan, Jones & Wilson). It is the root of understanding.

Orton-Gillingham, the premiere method of teaching reading and spelling to dyslexics, includes Latin in their materials, and their reasoning is simple: Dyslexics often struggle with dividing words into phonetic bits and then re-assembling those bits into a logical whole. Learning Latin allows students to understand the meaning of those pieces and gives them a more in-depth comprehension of words. Dyslexics, even more than the general population need to have this resource in their tool-kit.

Classical Literature

Language is a large focus of Classical Education, which may make it seem inappropriate for the dyslexic student. Children who struggle with reading are often thought of as incapable of studying great literature with all of its multi-syllable words, complicated language and levels of meaning, but we need to be careful not to confuse isolation from challenging sources with helping our students to overcome their reading struggles.

Great literature increases vocabulary, expands understanding of figurative speech, and exposes us to worlds outside of our own. It is an important window in to the world, and one from which we must not deprive our children.

Reading is necessary to any well rounded education, but this does not mean that students are restricted to only books within their reading level. Technology is a huge asset to the dyslexic student. Audiobooks, text-to-speech programs, and shared reading are all ways to experience the depth of literature outside of independent study.

One of the greatest things I have learned from Classical Education is that exceptional learning comes from exceptional sources. Of course there are a few children that will become an Autodidact, but the dyslexic child (along with most other children) will need to be guided and helped along the way. Experiencing quality literature is far more important than the method of reading. They must focus not just on their weakness, but on ways to work around that that weakness to gain great strength.

A Place to Excel

Children with learning disabilities need to be given the opportunity to find a place in which they can succeed. Many dyslexic students find this in the fine arts. Architecture, movement, and sculpture have all been found to take advantage of the spatial abilities inherent in the dyslexic’s brain. Offering our students time to study the masters and discover their own talent gives them an amazing opportunity to experience success.

The Trivium (stages of learning)

The greatest benefit of Classical Education is that it intentionally and incrementally trains students to learn for themselves. This pattern of moving through the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages is truly beneficial for dyslexic children.

Education is all about challenging children in the subjects in which they excel, and encouraging them where they struggle. Classical Education offers a great balance in this respect. It intentionally divides learning into stages of acquiring facts, connecting those facts, and then questioning and expressing what you believe. It gives our students an excellent foundation.

Parents of dyslexic students must be dedicated to diligently helping their students as they approach more difficult literature, but the benefits are exponentially greater than the sacrifice. In some ways, teachers of dyslexic students are at an advantage. When reading aloud together, deep conversations come naturally and wonderful discussions result. These discussions are the heart of the classical method.

My Reality

Dyslexia isn’t an easy learning disability to deal with. It requires diligent instruction, repetition, and effort. The rigor of Classical Education has offered my daughter not only a thorough quality education, but access to the essential tools that she needs to overcome her disability. We are still walking this path, but our goal is that she will become an adult who is not only capable of learning, but one who can actively and intentionally analyze the world around her regardless of her struggles.

Giftedness is not essential to Classical Education. What is holding you back?

Sheryl G.
——

Sheryl is living her dream in the house on Liberty Hill where she is a full time wife, mother, and teacher. She is passionate about turning children’s natural curiosity into activities that will inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Learn more about her adventures at libertyhillhouse.com.