How Lucky We Are to Be Able to Homeschool!

1 Jul

Announcements!

 The 6th book in the Our America series is out! The Civil War Adventure is now available on Amazon and the free pdf of activities for it is available at this link: Free Civil War Activities

 To celebrate, on July 6th I’m giving away five free print copies of the first book in the series, The Pilgrim Adventure. The books will be shipped by Amazon, so contestants will need an Amazon account. To enter the contest, just go to the following page of this website on July 6th: Lessons and Activities

 Also, I have added a new page to this website. If you have read any of my blogs on reading, you will know that I think children’s series are a useful tool for teaching kids to love reading. The link titled “Children’s Series” on the top of this page will bring you to a list of some old classic children’s series along with some newer ones. Enjoy!

 

How Lucky We are to Be Able to Homeschool!

It has struck me lately how lucky we are to live in a country that allows homeschooling. Our country, in spite of becoming more and more regulated, still gives parents the right to choose how their children are educated. Others are not so lucky.  For example, in Sweden on June 29, 2009, the Johanasson family had decided to immigrate to India where Annie, the mother of the family, was born. They were on the airplane about to take off when suddenly the Swedish police came on board and tore their 7-year-old son, Domenic, from their arms. Their terrible crime? A crime worthy of stealing a child from his parents? Child abuse? Murder? No, none of these.  It was homeschooling. Oh and there was a further charge of neglect, due to Domenic having some cavities (which his parents were aware of and had planned to deal with once they reached India) and his parents’ choice not to give him some vaccines (something many parents chose to not do in this country). This story is incredible to those of us who live in a free society. In 2012, a Swedish appeals court ordered the guardianship of Domenic transferred to a third party. His parents are not allowed to have any contact with him at all. You can read more about this case at: Desperate Homeschooling Parents Plead for Help or Domenic Johansson to Face Christmas without Parents.

But Sweden is not the only country hostile to homeschooling families. Germany’s high court refused to strike down a statute that imposes penalties on homeschoolers, saying that “children can only learn how to be good citizens in schools.” One German judge has said that “The children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.” It seems to me that it is the judge who is practicing intolerance here.

The atmosphere in Germany is so hostile to homeschoolers that the Romeike family fled to the United States and asked for asylum so that they could continue homeschooling. Another homeschooling family, the Wunderlichs, have been battling the German authorities for years. According to an HSLDA factsheet, they were fined for homeschooling in 2006 and left Germany. Their children were taken away from them while they were in France, based on what the family thinks were vague complaints from German social workers. The French authorities found the children to be well cared for and immediately returned them to their parents. The family returned to Germany to find work in 2012, and custody of their children was taken away from them. The children were, however, allowed to stay with their parents. Then in August 2013, their children were taken from home in a police raid on the house. They were returned about three weeks later in September 2013. Since then, the children have been able to stay with their family, but their parents still could be facing steep fines and punishments. Recently they were warned that if they continue homeschooling they could face up to four years in prison. All of this government interference in a family was because they chose to homeschool.

I find the Germany homeschooler’s problems particularly interesting as it relates to a book I read a few years back titled, Hansi, the Girl Who Loved the Swastika. It is the story of a young Czechoslovakian girl who won a scholarship to a Nazi school in 1940. She says of the school, “Hitler was with us every hour. . . . His sayings were quoted in every class. His doctrines were our most important study.” This book is a great illustration of how a school curriculum can twist children’s thinking and change their basic beliefs. That, to me, is the most dangerous thing about a national curriculum. If you get the wrong people in charge of your government, you are giving them complete control over what children are learning in school. In a very short time, Hitler was able to gain control over the young people’s minds in his country by using the German school system. And now the German school system is behind the persecution of German homeschooling families for wanting to teach their children different values than they would learn in school.

I am very thankful that my country allows homeschooling.

May it ever be so.

 

 

 

A Pet Peeve

6 Nov

Announcement!

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I have decided to indefinitely lower the Kindle price of the first book in my Our America historical chapter book series, The Pilgrim Adventure, to $2.99. This book with the new Kindle price can be found here: The Pilgrim Adventure.

 

A Pet Peeve

I am starting to have a “pet peeve.” We recently moved from a state that was full of homeschoolers (mostly because the state’s education system wasn’t all that great) to a state with less homeschoolers. Before we moved, if I mentioned to a stranger that we were homeschooling, I usually heard comments like, “That’s great! I wish I could homeschool.”

However, things are different now that we’ve moved, and I’m starting to notice a pattern to the comments. They all seem to focus on telling me a story about a homeschooler the person knows who has not turned out well. Actually, most of them are about homeschoolers who are still living at home as adults, although one was about a homeschooler who turned to drugs in college.

So here’s my pet peeve. . . . Homeschoolers are somehow expected to be different from other kids. If they don’t become little Einsteins, but are just normal kids, then somehow we’ve made a mistake in homeschooling them. And if, heaven forbid, they are living at home as adults, then somehow we’ve failed. Of course, the people who think this neglect to remember that young adults all over the country are tending to live at home more because of the current economy. But when homeschoolers do it, somehow we’ve failed.

When my private-schooled niece moved back home for a year after college while she was job hunting, it didn’t even cross my mind that her parents might have made a mistake sending her to an excellent private high school. So why is it that when a homeschooler moves back home it is considered “odd?” And as for the drugged-out homeschooler mentioned above, how many public-schooled kids turn to drugs in college? Zero?

Raising children to be responsible adults in this modern world is challenging for all parents these days—homeschooled or not.  Anyone who takes on the challenge deserves our respect, no matter what vehicle they use for their children’s schooling.

The Importance of Teaching History Accurately

1 Aug

Announcement!

            The next book in my Our America series is published! The Pioneer Adventure continues Finn and Ginny’s search for their lost parents. For more information and a pdf of free activities to go along with the book, click on the Our America link at the top of this page. And, to celebrate the publication of my new book, the Kindle version of the first book in the series, The Pilgrim Adventure will be on SALE for $2.99 on August 4th, 5th, & 6th.

Here is the link to the Kindle version that will be on sale: The Pilgrim Adventure

 

The Importance of Teaching  History Accurately

While I was researching The Pilgrim Adventure, I was extremely upset to hear about a children’s unit study on the Pilgrims that was full of inaccuracies and incorrect information. What particularly bothered me was a prayer that the unit claimed was given during what some call the first Thanksgiving feast. This prayer implied that the Pilgrims were thanking God for wiping out the Indians in the area so that the Pilgrims could have their land. There are two things wrong with this prayer. First, there is absolutely no record of any prayer uttered by the Pilgrims during the feast they had which we call the “First Thanksgiving.” Second, the person who the unit said gave the prayer did not come over on the Mayflower, was not one of the Pilgrims, and was not there at the “First Thanksgiving.” The unit was also full of other inaccuracies.

It seems to me that racial tension is high enough in our country without teaching children lies about history to make things worse. Why can’t we teach our children how to get along with each other instead of stirring up the flames of racial hatred and guilt in our children at a young age? Shouldn’t we want a future for our children free of racial tension and hatred? Yes, it is important to understand how different racial groups were treated in our history, but let’s teach the truth. And, let’s teach it in historical context. The Pilgrims were one of the first groups of Europeans who came to America with the intention of settling down and being friends with their native neighbors. If you look at how some of the other European ship captains, crew, and settlers treated the Native Americans of our East Coast, you can see that within the context of their time period and the threats they were facing, the Pilgrims were actually pretty ahead of their time. Teaching their history inaccurately is doing a disservice not only to their memories but also to our children.

Cookie-Cutter Teachers

8 Mar

Announcements!

            The next book in my Our America series is published! The Revolutionary War Adventure continues Finn and Ginny’s search for their lost parents. For more information and a pdf of free activities to go along with the book, click on the Our America link at the top of this page.

 40% off SALE!!!!

 To celebrate the publication of The Revolutionary War Adventure, the Kindle versions of the last three books in the Our America series will be on sale for 40% off on March 11th & 12th!

 Links to the Amazon books that will be on sale March 11th & 12th:

 The King Philip’s War Adventure

The Salem Adventure

The Revolutionary War Adventure

 

25% off SALE!!!

 To celebrate the publication of The Revolutionary War Adventure, on March 11th & 12th all of Sue’s paperback books will be on sale for 25% off! Just click on the Special Orders link at the top of this page and type in the code: HAVY4KRQ at checkout to receive the discount. Orders will be placed through CreateSpace, a division of Amazon.

 

Cookie-Cutter Teachers

            Common Core is in the news a lot lately, and, as a homeschooler, I have pretty much ignored it. However, I am becoming aware that it is a part of a dangerous trend in our schools today—the trend to micro-manage teachers.

Each teacher is an individual and individuals are going to have different ways that they enjoy teaching. If you tell a teacher that he has to teach a subject using a particular curriculum that he can’t stray from, then you are taking all of the creativity out of his teaching. And if you tell a teacher that she has to teach in a certain way, you are not letting her try alternative methods that might work better within her particular classroom. All teachers are not the same, all students are not the same, and all classrooms are not the same. If you take away teachers’ ability to alter their methods, you are hurting the students who might have benefitted by a different teaching style. Teachers are the people in the classrooms with the students, not some bureaucrat in some office. Individual teachers are the best-qualified as to what teaching methods will work best for both teacher and students. Trying to make cookie-cutter teachers is a huge mistake.

            Allowing teachers the flexibility to use their own teaching methods is especially important today when there are so many new and exciting options available. However, just when exciting new things are happening in education, states seem to be happily telling teachers that they can’t use them. I’m not saying that any specific curriculum is bad. I’m just saying that teachers, not bureaucrats, should be the ones deciding what to use in their classrooms.

            People are wringing their hands these days over how our education system has gone downhill. Instead of trying to find new methods to fix this problem, perhaps we should look back at what we were doing correctly in the past, when our education system was working.  It seems to me that we’ve messed up our education system and instead of saying, “We made a mistake, let’s erase it,” we keep adding new mistakes on top of the old ones. Giving teachers back the ability to choose their own methods would be a step in the right direction.

Children’s Books and Series

13 Nov

I just discovered a $0.99 Kindle download of the complete Wizard of Oz series, which I was very excited to find. I have a special love of old children’s books and The Wizard of Oz series is one of my childhood favorites. In my blog titled “Encouraging a Love of Reading,” I mention that getting your child hooked on a series is one way to help them develop a love of reading. For me, it was the Nancy Drew series. I was in the bottom reading group in first grade, but that summer I discovered Nancy Drew and when I went back to school the next year I ended up in the top reading group—all from getting hooked on the Nancy Drew series. From there I went on to The Bobbsey Twins, The Happy Hollisters, and The Hardy Boys.

When I decided to homeschool my son, I decided to do the same thing and introduce him to a children’s series. We started with The Magic Treehouse and went on to The Boxcar Children and the Animal Ark series. I also purchased as many of my old childhood favorites as I could find.

And that brings me to the other topic that I would like to cover–what has been happening through the years in the children’s book industry. Now, I haven’t done a scientific study of this, but from my personal observations it appears that in the past children’s authors made more of a point of writing books that would help develop a child’s character. Books were used as a tool to help teach good morals and habits. The heroes in children’s books were generally well-mannered and honorable.

Nowadays, the heroes of many (not all) children’s books are sarcastic, disrespectful, and not always honorable. And the adults in some of the modern children’s books aren’t much better. It seems to me that the authors of these books are forgetting that their books are providing role models for children and are teaching them how to behave. Writing for children is a sacred trust and I think many authors are forgetting this. Parents can no longer be certain that all the books in the children’s section of a library are necessarily books that they want their children reading. Like television, parents these days need to supervise what their young children are reading. Some might call this censorship. I call it good parenting. As St. Irenaeus said, “The things we learnt in childhood are part of our soul.”

After I wrote this blog, I read an excellent article by Meghan Cox Curdon titled “The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books” which worried me even more about what is happening in children’s literature. This article is a warning call to all parents. Be aware.

How We Homeschooled the Elementary Years: History

8 Jul

Hi Folks!

 Great News! The third book in my Our America series, The Salem Adventure is published! You can find it on Amazon at this link: The Salem Adventure.

 In The Salem Adventure, Finn and Ginny continue to search for their lost parents while living in Salem Village during the witch trials. For more information on this and the other books in the series, go to the Our America page of this website.

 To celebrate the new book, the Kindle version of The King Philip’s War Adventure will go on sale for FREE on July 15, 16, and 17th on Amazon, so mark your calendars so that you can take advantage of this offer. And if you and your children enjoy the book, I would really appreciate it if you would let Amazon know by writing a customer review of the book. This will help me with my future Amazon sales. The link to the Kindle version is: The King Philip’s War Adventure.

 Also, there are some free colonial activities to go along with The Salem Adventure at this link: The Salem Adventure activities.

 And now for the next part of my blog series on homeschooling:

How We Homeschooled the Elementary Years:  History

This is the third in a series of posts on how our family homeschooled during the elementary school years. As I mentioned earlier, there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers and just because something worked for our family, doesn’t mean that it will work for yours. These posts are just here to let you know what worked for one family.

 As I look back on learning history in school, what strikes me now is how boring it was. I didn’t even realize that I had a love of history until long (very long) after I’d grown up.

 The clue to making history interesting is hidden right in the word: History. History is the story of mankind. It’s a story full of loyalty, betrayal, love, pain, and suffering, everything you need to make an interesting read. But classic textbooks take all of this human interest and turn it into boring lists of dates and names with very little of the emotions behind the facts. And if you don’t understand the emotions behind the story, you’re never going to really understand history.

 So how do we teach history to kids in a way that is fun and interesting? I used a combination of methods. History is a great subject to teach with unit studies, so we did lots of those, covering just about every historical topic that I could think of. There are many wonderful books out there full of fun activities having to do with history. You can find some of them on my list of homeschool books at this link: My Favorite Homeschool Resources. We cooked pioneer meals and ate them by candlelight, had a medieval fair with our homeschool friends, participated in a homeschool olympics, made countless crafts, and generally had a blast. I also gave my son many chapter books to read on the various time periods that we studied. I’ve listed as many as I could remember (and the list is growing) on the Historical Chapter Books page of this website. And, finally, we did use a couple of history courses, though, maverick that I am, I never followed them exactly. I liked these two courses because they told history as a story, not as a dry accumulation of facts. Both of them are on the My Favorite Homeschool Resources list:  The Story of the World series and Calvert’s A Child’s History of the World. Both come with teachers’ guides full of activities. A Child’s History of the World (be sure you purchase a newer version, the older ones are not pc) is Calvert’s fourth grade history course and it does not (at least when I purchased it) need to be purchased with the rest of Calvert’s fourth grade materials. The Story of the World is split into four volumes. We found the fourth one to be a bit difficult and dry for elementary school.

 So, my recommendation for teaching history is to toss out the textbooks and have fun with it! But, that’s just what worked for us.

How We Homeschooled the Elementary Years: Math

21 Mar

            This is the second in a series of posts on how our family homeschooled during the elementary school years. As I mentioned earlier, there are as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers, and just because something worked for our family, doesn’t mean that it will work for yours. These posts are just here to let you know what worked for one family.

For math, we used a combination of courses in the beginning.  I found the Math-U-See series helpful for teaching place value, but I also used the math workbook from the Calvert kindergarten curriculum mentioned in the earlier post, and various worksheets that I found on telling time and things like that.

Later, at about fourth grade, we switched solely to Saxon Math and haven’t looked back.  I do not teach my son math; he teaches himself.  I give him about half of a math assignment each day (15 problems, including all of the problems with the new concepts and every other problem pertaining to the old concepts until I reach 15 problems).  If he does well on that half assignment, then the next day he skips ahead to the next assignment. If he doesn’t do well, then he does the second half of the assignment the following day.  I do not teach him anything about the assignment.  The Saxon books are written so that from fourth grade on, students can read the material in the book and learn it themselves without a teacher. After each lesson, I correct the assignment and then give it back to my son to correct any mistakes himself. We have a rule that he is allowed to ask me for help three times for each assignment.  He can choose to do it either while he is doing the work or while he is correcting the assignment.  Once he got used to this way of doing things (and it did take a bit of getting used to), he ended up saving his “helps” for the corrections.  Nowadays, he almost never even asks for help.

If it appears to me that he is having particular trouble with a certain type of problem, I give him “extra math” for a few days, which consist of maybe three extra problems of the type that he is having difficulty with.  Also, at one point, it seemed like he was having difficulty with math in general, and so I cut back on the number of problems he did in a day.  Instead of giving him a half a lesson a day, I gave him a third of a lesson a day (about ten to eleven problems). We still skipped ahead if he did well on the portion of the lesson that he was given.

The first quarter of each Saxon book is pretty much a review of previous years, so whenever we start a new book, we skip the assignments at first, and instead I give him the first tests for that book to help determine where he needs to start in the book.  If he gets an “A” or “B” on the first test, we skip to the next test.  If he gets a “C,” we stop and he starts the book at the beginning (this has only happened once). The next day, I give him the second test. If he gets an “A,” we’ll skip ahead to the third test. If he gets a “C” on the second test, we stop, and he starts the book at the first lesson covered in the second test. If he gets a “B,” whether we skip ahead or stop depends on the grade of his previous test. If his previous test grade was an “A,” we skip ahead to the next test. If his previous grade was a “B,” we stop, and he starts the book at the first lesson covered in the second test.

Basically you can sum up what we do as follows:  If he gets an “A” on the test, we move to the next one.  If he gets a “C” on any test, we stop and start the book at the first lesson that is covered by the test that he got the “C” in.  If he gets two “Bs” in a row, we stop, and he starts the book at the lessons that are covered by the second test that he received a “B” in.  If he gets a “B,” then an “A,” then another “B,” we move on to the next test.  At some point he’ll either get a “C,” or two “Bs” in a row, and that marks where he starts the new book. Through the years he’s started his new math books anywhere from lesson 1 to about lesson 25. My son has been tested on standardized tests twice now, and both times his math scores have been in the upper 5% when compared to other students his age nationally, so skipping ahead doesn’t seem to have hurt him, and he’s learning math two grade levels ahead of his age.

However, one thing that I would like to point out is that my son does not love math like he loves reading.  So while this method has been very successful in teaching him math, I would have preferred that he also discovered an interest in it. However, from a testing standpoint, math is one of his best subjects, so he has a good foundation in math for whatever field he chooses to go into.

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