Ring Around the Phonics

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homeschool

Following is a delightful and funny true life story told by a public school teacher who became a homeschool mom.  If you are thinking about homeschooling, or if you want to improve your homeschool abilities, this article is for you.

 

“At first I wanted them to sit at a desk and learn like I did.  I set up my classroom like a school classroom with a computer station.  I began using K12.  I wanted a teacher who “really taught” that particular grade to oversee everything.  I had never taught elementary school.  I set up a desk for each child that faced a big whiteboard at the front of my classroom.  We sat in circle time at the beginning of each day and we would discuss the weather, day of the week, and all these other things.  It was the most productive time of the day, but I thought it was because the kids were “fresh.”  I found later that it’s because they were totally, whole body engaged.  (This link is an article on the Florida Homeschool Association. When you homeschool, the whole world becomes your classroom.) They were wiggling and going to the bulletin board to put up the answers.  They were lying on the floor and getting tickled when they answered.  But it was what I saw in a “real classroom, so that was why I tried it.

I felt that I needed a textbook for each class, K12 provided all these textbooks and workbooks (one for each class) and I intended to use them.  I watched the grades slip in spelling and I saw the boys learn the spelling rule and list of words and then forget.  Their writing was full of misspelled, former spelling words.  I watched my youngest hate phonics “class” to the point where he was beginning to hate reading.  And I watched my oldest get frustrated by the rhythm of follow the textbook’s activities then do 2 worksheets of problems in the math program.

Facing those 3 problems: too much kill and drill/ follow the textbook/ and desk time was MUCH less productive than circle time.  We redesigned our room. We are now down to 2 desks and 2 computers (for all 4 of us).  We spend most of our time on the couch (in the living room), the floor (2 bean bags and 2 huge pillows), and running around than we do at desks. Plus experiments at the kitchen table, ya know where there’s a SINK nearby, just make much more sense.  We can all gather round, everybody can get their hands involved. For the textbook problem I realized I would need to leave K12.  So I did.  (Well there were a billion other reasons for us to leave, but this is the reason that applies here)

While teaching in a public school, Video was a dirty word!!  Now I know that for some learning styles it works very well (and easy to do when homeschooling).  In the past few months we’ve watched many science documentaries.  We’ve read books and then watched the movie and written or spoke comparisons.  I’ve watched their oral vocabulary soar!!  Not getting a phonics rule, a chemical reaction, and a trajectory equation?  There is most likely a YouTube (a free homeschooling too)l for that!  And it probably has a song about it, especially for the LOs.

I’ve also learned that my response time is much faster when teaching fewer kids.  So I don’t need to teach them for 6 hours/day (another benefit made possible by homeschooling) .  I can respond to their uncertainty or find a better way to explain it much faster. Or I can move to something else, take the evening looking for a better way and hit it fresh in the morning.  I can be much more flexible than I could ever be in the classroom.  We can go outside (without asking permission or filling out a form!!) (the blessings that come with homeschooling), I don’t have to tell anybody if I plan to blow something up!!  I just do it.  Then some really cool things happened:

I learned to stop giving grades.  When they get above 87%, we move on.  They don’t need a grade and I don’t need them to take a test in order for me to figure out they have or don’t have something.

I learned that it is okay to have my kids teach or help each other.  I tried that my first few years teaching in the PSs, and I would end up having to teach it again because the group didn’t understand it well enough to teach it in the first place.  But now, my oldest has had the lesson before, so it is a great review for him to teach it to his brothers.  Then I can build on it and go deeper with him.

So then I needed to find a solution to those textbooks.  I found the solution in my objectives!!  I was looking at them the wrong way!!  When I was using k12 the objectives came packaged to my door.  When I went out on my own, I bought the “2nd grade science book” and the “second grade math book” and “spelling grade 3.”  I created some general objectives and went on with the lessons.  I followed the book.

I learned that my general objectives were great, but if I made my specific objectives even more specific, I was able to use them as discussion questions and move on without a test.  Then I noticed that my objectives were a great jumping off point for finding books and materials.  In the PS, the materials were usually the jumping off point for making my objectives.  Looking at it from the flipped perspective opens up learning to a world experience.  I could ask the boys to come up with objectives themselves!  What do YOU want to be able to do?  And boy oh boy did they provide!  Using their objectives and some of mine along with a scope and sequencing guide: off we went.  I would find multiple textbooks for each subject.  And it was OK if we didn’t follow in order and we didn’t finish the book and we used it just as a reference for its great experiments.  We might use another part next year!  I could tag things that we liked, didn’t like, whatever. The world opened up to us.  I began to see that the trip to the farmer’s market was a learning opportunity.  We stopped “book learning” altogether for the big holiday breaks and learned through our baking, card making, gift giving.  I took them to the bank and opened an account.  They get a statement and we talk about it every month.  Just every single day. Learning.

I’m sure my journey isn’t “done” and probably never will be.  BUT now I stopped thinking like I was taught in college about how to teach the material.  I’ve learned to both lead and follow.  It’s brought me closer to the boys.  We have many more good days now, and many fewer bad days (oh they are still there!  And still make me want to rip my hair out). One of the few things I’ve kept is the diagnostic tests.  We still take an online diagnostic test.  Their “scores” always put them about 3-4 grade levels ahead, so I “know” that they are doing well.  But mostly it’s so that the naysayers in the family just shush and let us go on……By “bluerooffarm”, on Cafemom.”

Thanks to this teacher, turned homeschool mom, for allowing me to print her personal story.  She explains common mistakes that many make when they start homeschooling, and how she improved her ability to homeschool.  Her story can save you and your children a lot of heart ache. Homeschool is so much more fun when you use full body engagement.

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