Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung, testing is over, but school is still in session. To many this can be a depressing time. Everyone wants to be outside, wants school to be over and it feels over with the ‘end of the year testing’ done. And yet we must trudge on, get our days in, finish our ‘to do’ lists, all the while everything inside screams to be finished. The conflict is within parent and child alike. No one wants to be doing what they feel they ‘have’ to do, so tempers are short, feelings get hurt and school becomes a chore, something only to be completed but not to be enjoyed. What can we do?

I think we must make changes, cater to the urges within us. Spring is the time for sewing seed, tending gardens, etc – I imagine God gave us the desires we have to be outside at this time of year. Just look at all the beauty He created around us. Every part of our being cries to be outside and why not? Why are we homeschooling? – to be like the schools? – to be stuck in the monotony of busy work? With all of us feeling stuck, maybe there is something to those feelings, some deep truth that needs delved into?

For goodness sakes, if everything in you and your child is screaming for change, then change! We have that liberty when we homeschool – that’s one of the reasons we do it! I want my children to have a desire to learn and understand their world, God’s creation, so why not get out in it and observe and enjoy what He has made.

Be CuriousGo on a nature hike or a nature hunt. See how many different bugs, birds, leaves, weeds, flowers you can find. Make graphs and charts on your driveway compiling the information you see.

Do jump-rope skip-counting and memorize your math facts. Play catch while counting by 2’s, 3’s, etc. or while doing multiplication tables. Observe the geometry around you, street intersections, parallel lines, perpendicular angles.

Practice spelling or take a spelling test on the driveway with chalk. For younger kids, write the days of the week, the months of the year or the alphabet and have them jump from one to the next practicing, memorizing.

Do art outdoors; take some time to draw from nature, learn about texture – take your pencil or crayon and color on different surfaces then try to recreate that image, see what you can create with sidewalk chalk on your driveway.

Work on listening skill activities. Have them follow a set of directions and add another one and see how many they can remember, for example: run to the tallest tree, spin around, hop to the mailbox, skip to the grass and do a cartwheel. It’s amazing how they enjoy this stuff and it’s great for their listening and remembering skills.

Study history and have them be explorers, writing a journal, complete with illustrations, of the things and peoples they meet, in your back yard!! Have them follow compass directions and plot a map complete with how many centimeters/inches = how many meters/feet.

Have them read under the shade of a tree.

There are sooooo many things we can do outside and still learn. Sure they may not be your everyday ‘curriculum’ but what do you want your children to learn? It may take a bit more creativity and work on your part (and on theirs but they may not even realize it – it’s amazing what children will do when they are having fun at learning). I think you will find it definitely worth the time and effort you take. Instead of feeling trapped you can be free and free up your children to love and enjoy learning.

By Tami Munden

Learning Styles

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The secret of education is respecting the pupil.” Part of respecting the ‘pupil’ is understanding them; learning their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, the way they learn… their ‘style’.

Think of how frustrating it is when someone wants you to understand something, but they don’t take time to explain it in a way you understand. Our children can get frustrated when we expect them to learn, but aren’t communicating in a manner they can grasp.

feet in water - Psalm 139God created us that way, so we can’t all be expected to think, learn and process information in the same way. There are many different studies, tests, and philosophies of learning that discuss various aspects of learning. The bottom line though, boils down to the fact that we are all unique individuals, with a myriad of different ways we learn. In teaching, our goal is to learn our child’s ‘style’ and encourage them in their strengths, help them in their weaknesses and develop them into the person God created them to be.

As we seek to understand how our child/children learn, it helps to have an understanding of some of the different philosophies of learning. One way of understanding learning is ‘how do we best take in information?’ The auditory/visual/kinesthetic approach says that most of us will learn best in one or a combination of these styles.

When children are young, most will be kinesthetic learners, they want to touch, feel, experience the world around them. As they grow they can continue to be kinesthetic learners, which means they will learn best by doing and experiencing, others will develop into more auditory or visual learners. The auditory learner will learn best when they hear what they need to learn and the visual needs to see it.

Beyond this though are many varied ways people learn. Think about it, do you learn best by reading, having someone explain? Do you need to take notes as you read or listen? Do you learn best in a quiet place or in a busy, noisy place? Do you learn best sitting up straight at a table, lying on the floor, sitting under a tree outside? Watch your child, how does he/she seem to learn best?

Processing information involves how we take in information, how we file it, and then how we use it. I always thought it was interesting how one of my daughters liked to have the ‘big’ picture first, then the details would fall into place. She could make the jumps from the steps almost intuitively once she understood the whole. On the other hand, my other daughter didn’t want to know the whole, she wanted the steps. She liked to know how to get from step one to step two. If I tried to show her the large picture, I would just end up frustrating her, whereas my other daughter would get frustrated by the steps if she didn’t ‘see’ the large picture first.

The way we learn effects the way we teach. We tend to expect our children to learn in the same way we do. If we were in a classroom situation with 20 to 30+ children it would be hard to give each child individual attention and to attempt to learn his or her unique strengths and abilities as well as weaknesses and disabilities. Our situation is different though, thankfully. We have the opportunity to get to know our students style and not only that, we have the joy of getting to know our child/children and see them flourish in an environment that supports their uniqueness and cherishes their God given strengths as well as their God given weaknesses.

There are many sources and resources out there to help you determine yours and your child’s learning style. Do a search on the internet or go to the library and check out some books that will help you understand some of the various philosophies. Most importantly though, take the time to respect your student, learn his/her style, and watch them flourish.

By Tami Munden

Decisive Element

Haim Ginott Quote
Haim Ginott Quote

Sometimes I read this quote and think “I sure hope this isn’t true!” but then I see the truth in it.  I love the teachings of Steve Brown, he is so quick to affirm God’s love for me, His unconditional love for me, to remind me that I am a child of God and can call Him Abba Father.  What great peace of mind this gives me.  Sometimes when I feel like a failure, when I am a failure, when I’m reminded of my fallenness, it’s easy to want to hide from it.  To act like I have it all together and am ‘saved;’ saved so I can appear to others as being Holy and Righteous in myself.  But I’m not.  I’m saved so I can be naked and unashamed, so I can be transparent in my weakness and yet know that I am loved and cherished.

When I think on the above quote, I see my successes and I smile, but then I quickly remember my failures and honestly I want to hide from them.  But God calls us to be vulnerable and to help each other through our ups and our downs, not just our ups.

I remember a day when my daughter questioned something the science book was teaching, I got irritated – ‘I didn’t write this, it’s not my opinion, it’s what is.’ Instead of nurturing her, I got frustrated – I didn’t have a better answer and she just had to accept what the book said.  I look back on that day now and wish I would have said, ‘That’s an interesting point you are making – we should do some research and find out why they say that.’ But no, I just moved on and, at least for that moment, squashed her inquisitiveness.  I can’t say I always did that, there were times I would stop, change directions and go with the flow of learning and inquiry, but not always.

I think back to teachers that inspired me and I realize they set the mood, the tone of their classroom and geared it towards enlightenment, wonder, and acceptance.  They shared their love for learning with me and I drank it in.  Others, the ones I felt stifled by, tried to squash the inquisitiveness; they set their stage and went with their set agenda even if it wasn’t working.  They were more interested in teaching the lesson, as I was that day with my daughter, than they were in inspiring the student to a love of learning.

We, as homeschool parents, have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.  We take it willingly and with love, but we have to remember that we are the decisive element in our child’s learning.  He can inspire or squash, and unlike when I was growing up and had some good teachers that did inspire and some bad ones, we are their only teachers, so we must be all the more aware of the responsibility we have.

Given that, it is important that we remember Who is the decisive element in our lives.  We need to remember God’s love for us, His mercy, His grace, and His forgiveness.  We need to remember that He sent Jesus as our Savior, not because we’re great people without any faults, but because we actually need a Savior.  We are fallen people in a fallen world and, where one day there will be a new heaven and earth with no more sin and death, that day isn’t today.  We strive to be the best we can be, not to earn any medal, but because we are loved.  We strive to be that positive decisive element in our classroom, not because we are perfect, but because we love.