Staring Out the Window

Some days you just don’t want to sit at a desk and do work. Or, conversely, you don’t want to stare at a computer screen. I can remember plenty of days in my school career where I would stare out the window longingly at the larger world outside, and wish beyond anything to just not be in that classroom. I’m fairly certain that I didn’t learn much on those days. Once in a while, a teacher would take the classroom outside, and we’d sit in the fresh air and sunshine, which helped, but still … that wasn’t what I needed.

As homeschoolers, we have the freedom and flexibility, to a point, to allow the kids to have that time outside when they need it. There are days when I just look at my kids and know that we won’t be learning much at all if they don’t soak up some sun, and perhaps run around for a few hours. My 5th grade daughter will sometimes come to me in the middle of a science lesson, or perhaps math, and just say “Mama, I really need a break. Can I go outside?” Sometimes I’m tempted to say no; because I’m afraid we’ll lose progress or fall behind in where we need to be. But then I remember staring out that window when I was in school, and say yes.

There are other ways to allow that time out of the homeschooling classroom, and yet still continue learning, often without them even knowing. Today, for instance, I’m planning to take the kids to a local science museum. It’s about an hour away, and we have a family membership that I’d like to take full advantage of. We recently got about a foot of snow, so the kids have gotten a little stir crazy since it’s been too cold to play outside for long.

At the science museum, the kids learn – without even realizing it – about sound and how it carries across long distances, shadows, constructing with Lego’s, mixing different substances, and much, much more. They run around excitedly “playing,” yet learning valuable science lessons that I can’t duplicate at home. My daughter, of course, gleans the most from this, and talks about it all the way home every time we go.

Tomorrow, we can pick the exhibit she found the most interesting, and do a little research online so she can learn even more. Then, I’ll have her write a paper or perhaps do a little project, which she’ll be thrilled to do because it involves something she found so fun and interesting.

And it’s all because I let her out of the classroom when she stared longingly out the window.

Read More

Spelling

Spelling is the bane of my homeschooling existence. Yes, I just said that. My daughter – bless her heart – is a terrible speller. Well, I should say she is a phonetic speller, just like my husband. (He once gave me a card in which he wrote “Happy Easter Sweetheart.” This has given me years of teasing material!) Unfortunately I’m what most people call a “living spell check,” and living with phonetic spellers is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard.

The worst part about this is I feel as though somehow it reflects poorly on me as a homeschool teacher. This may or may not be correct, but I feel as though people see my daughter spell and then instantly judge my abilities to teach her. I find myself justifying her spelling, explaining it, making excuses for it, even trying to hide it, but the fact of the matter is – it is hard.

Most likely, all of these judgments that I’m sure people are making are all in my head. Kids don’t all have excellent spelling, and there is still plenty of time to correct her spelling waywardness. I think many homeschoolers – myself included – have a tendency to be extra hard on themselves. In a way, that is very good, because the weight of our children’s education is very much on our shoulders. But we shouldn’t let that become a layer of guilt that bears down on us.

In reality, if I’m honest, the only real honest judgment has been from a few well meaning family members, who use anything they possibly can to “encourage” us to put the kids in public school. Everyone has these people in their lives, and we’ve learned to mostly ignore them. When it comes to the spelling issue, though, I have a hard time. I just don’t see the results I want to see in that area, and it makes me wonder.

My daughter has picked up on some of this, and recently started announcing to people that she is “a bad speller.” That’s what really made me realize that perhaps I’ve been approaching this the wrong way. The absolute last thing I ever wanted was for her to feel badly about herself, and I’m fairly certain negativity will not help her in our quest to improve spelling. If it takes me years, what I want out her homeschooling experience – besides a good education – is for her to have a great self image, because I feel that is a big part of how far you go in life.

I think perhaps the real problem is that I just haven’t found the correct way to teach her spelling. The whole list of spelling words on Monday, activities all week, test on Friday thing has never worked for her. But that’s just one method: there are computer programs, online learning games, printouts … I could even incorporate spelling into our daily life. That’s just another great part of homeschooling; if the educational shoe doesn’t fit, then try on another one!

Read More