Thursday, June 25, 2009

Get Motivated... or how to do what you don't want to do but have to! Part 3

You know how I wrote about staying focused and minimising distractions yesterday? Well, today I'm going to tell you to do the opposite!

That's right: sometimes it is quicker and easier to take care of our distractions and then come back to what it was we were doing before. This is especially helpful if we're fazing out and not really capable of focusing. We need a break and instead of being a distraction it will help us to get back on track!

Sometimes as home educating parents we forget that our children are, after all, only human. Like us, they can't work continually, especially if they are waiting and anticipating something happening later, like a treat or a birthday or visits from friends arriving later in the day. Have a quick chat about their anticipation - this lets them know you realise how hard it is to be patient. It will only take a couple of minutes, and you'll cover another valuable homeschool curriculum topic (under Health and Personal Development) at the same time.

And then there are times when our children are fidgetting and can't sit still. There's nothing wrong with everyone having a quick romp around the room, a silly chasey game that ends in a heap on the living room floor with a manic tickling session and lots of laughter. Or a fifteen minute game of catch with a ball on the lawn. Scheduling some fun playing with the family pet could take care of a couple of chores, as well, so long as you remember not to get too distracted from the original task!

And then there are days when you simply must abandon whatever you are doing to take advantage of that once in life-time learning opportunity: a downpour that turns into a cloud burst and provides an opportunity to witness erosion at a massive scale at the local creek (watched from a safe distance!); rushing to the beach because your friend phoned and said there was a whale and her calf frolicking in the shallows; taking care of an injured bird that just flew into the window, etc.

We homeschoolers need to be flexible and adaptable. Seeing disruptions as learning opportunities will help us feel less distracted. Handling distractions in a positive and constructive way will help us to feel and stay motivated as home educators.

© Beverley Paine

Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia to read more original articles on home education by Beverley Paine. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschool Australia Newsletter. Visit www.beverleypaine.com for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!"

Get Motivated... or how to do what you don't want to do but have to! Part 2

Yesterday I wrote Part 1 of my blog about motivation. If you're a homeschooler you might like to buy my Practical Homeschooling Series booklet, Motivation in the Homeschool. It is a compilation of the various workshops I've given over the years about how to overcome many of the problems that we face as parents teaching our children at home.

I spoke about my need to plan my day according to my moods and state of mind: today I'm focusing on another tip I find really useful.

All too often I find that in the middle of doing one thing I think about something else and, worried I will forget about it, stop what I'm doing and do the other thing instead. Rarely do I get back to completing the first thing? And you can imagine how many unfinished projects I have lying around my home, can't you? And I bet you have just as many...!

One day it occurred to me that I'd be better off carrying around a notebook and simply jotting down my thoughts instead of doing them. This way, half of my 'must do' tasks turn out to be not that essential after all. The other half get done, but because I'm not rushing to get back to the unfinished task, they are done with more thoroughly and care. And I'm less likely to break something!

We can apply that kind of thinking to homeschooling too. While helping our children with a unit study on volcanoes we might come across some interesting information about plate tectonics. Yes, they are associated topics but wandering off topic exploring why earthquakes happen won't get that model volcano spewing out foam before dinner time! Staying focused will help us - and the children - learn as much as we can before moving on to the next topic. And it keeps the lessons short and sweet, just the way we all like them. I've read that it is better to stop while the children are interested than wait until their eyes glaze over and their minds begin to wander.

Staying focused is also helped by minimising distractions. Turn off the television, use a static screen-saver on the computer so that it doesn't catch the eye, mute the computer so you can't hear when the emails arrive, be selective with background music (so it stays in the background!), put the answering machine on and leave a note on the front door that says "Homeschooling in Progress! Disturb only if absolutely essential!"

Give your children your complete attention during homeschool lessons. They deserve it. You'd be miffed if their teacher kept interrupting his or her time with your children to answer the phone, talk to other teachers, read her emails, chat on Facebook, manicure his nails or fix the phone, etc. Even if is simply reading a story together or mucking about in the junk box with the glue and sticky-tape.

When we minimise distractions and focus on what it is we're doing we end up completing many more tasks each day. This makes us feel good. This makes us feel motivated!

© Beverley Paine

Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia to read more original articles on home education by Beverley Paine. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschool Australia Newsletter. Visit www.beverleypaine.com for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!"

Get Motivated... or how to do what you don't want to do but have to! Part 1

A few years ago my then teenage son and I would have long conversations about the nature of motivation. Basically, both of us were struggling with having to do things we didn't want to do, but had to do. You know, the daily chores - washing the dishes, hanging out the clothes, sweeping the floors, etc. Boring, mundane and what we considered to be very unrewarding tasks! Sometimes something would come along that was completely unpleasant but needed to be done. We agreed that such tasks meant that after hours or days - even weeks! - of procrastination, we'd finally drag our heavy bodies and reluctant minds to heel and get the task done.

What we discovered was that afterwards we'd feel really great, and wonder why we'd made such a fuss in the first place!

One tip I've learned to manage handling these tasks is to plan ahead. One, to make sure I have left enough time to procrastinate a satisfying amount of time, but mostly so that I can complete the task when I'm in a better mood or state of mind. Two, planning helps me select the time of day I'm more likely to be in that mood. For instance, we leave the dishes after dinner as we relax after eating and doing the dishes is work. Problem is, the dishes are there in the morning - ugh! Instead of beating myself up, I happily leave them until about 4pm, when my mind turns to preparing the evening meal. As I'm in the kitchen then (I usually spend most of my day either at my computer or in the garden) I'm happy to knock over the job of doing the dishes, while I dream up a yummy meal.

We can do the same with homeschooling. Once we've spent some time observing our children and getting to know their learning styles we're in a much better position to know when they are at their best, most awake, most imaginative, receptive, happy, eager to learn, etc. I knew that my children were most interested first thing in the morning, so if there was something I really wanted them to learn, like the 4x tables, I'd schedule a lesson in at around about 8 am, minutes after they'd woken up - just before they picked up a box of LEGO to play with!

Munching on the muesli and playing with the times table cards and counters didn't seem so much of a chore then, to them or me! Finish breakfast off with a quick listen to the skip-counting tape and that's that: maths lesson done for the day. (Not really, that was just the thing I wanted them to learn that day!)

After lunch their energy would wane somewhat - this was the ideal time to slip a taped documentary into the video player, or leave some books scattered on the rug in the living room. This was and still is a good time for us to check our emails, muck about in Facebook, play computer games - anything that didn't require problem solving or making decisions.

Knowing when to take advantage of our state or mind and moods can really help avoid motivation problems.

© Beverley Paine

Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia to read more original articles on home education by Beverley Paine. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschool Australia Newsletter. Visit www.beverleypaine.com for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Homeschool Time Tables and Schedules

What do you put when applying for registration as a home educator if it asks how much time will be spent on each subject or topic - minutes a day and how many days a week? Is it necessary to include a time table if it's asked for, or an outline of a daily homeschooling schedule? These are questions I'm often asked.

How long you spend on each 'lesson' depends on the age of the child/ren and the nature of the lesson.

For example, a maths lesson on exchanging (hundreds, tens, units) might take a few minutes or half an hour. I would spend as long as it took for the child to get a grasp on the concept, knowing that we would be revisiting it soon to reinforce what the child has learned. I might be using counters/matchsticks or MAB blocks (MathsUSee blokcs do the same thing) together with number cards (I made based on some I saw at a Montessori school) as well as recording on the sums on paper in a structured prepared lesson. Or I could be using anything to hand to help my son calculate a sum he wanted help with... My children would often bring sums and spelling tasks to me, asking for help and I'd use the opportunity as instant mini-lessons.

I'd often include board games as lessons. We created a shopping game that would take about an hour to play and involved a fair bit of maths. When the children were young I'd make sure they had access to the maths blocks, calculator, pen and paper so that they could do the working out themselves, even though it slowed the game down.

With maths 'book work' I'd set them as many pages as I felt the children were capable of doing before they'd get grumpy, bored or would lose interest. I remember April galloping through three levels of maths books at age 6 - she'd do six pages a day and probably more if I'd let her. By the time we got to Year 4 level the number of problems on each page had quadrupled (and doubled again the next year!) - that's when it all began to get a little bit tedious and repetitive, so we changed tack and dropped most of the bookwork, using the 'test' and 'puzzle' pages to see if she understood the concepts and could use the processes needed to calculate, etc.

Each child was different and worked at a different rate, learning and revising in different ways. For example, I had to teach maths in a very different to my youngest as he wasn't reading independently until age 11, which meant I could leave him to do bookwork on his own.

As a quick guide I'd put down lessons as lasting half an hour, but allowing for less or more as per the individual child and topic. Most homeschoolers find that the basics - reading, writing and arithmetic - can be covered in a couple of hours, usually in the morning. I would encourage my children to get up and have a drink, stretch and bite to eat in the middle of a 'study period', or when we put the maths books away and started writing.

The timetable generally lasts for a year or so until home education relaxes into a more natural and family family routine. Some families find timetables essential as they have a lot of 'extra-curricula' activities to squeeze into each week and it is too easy to forget to fit in art, history, and sometimes even maths lessons. As home educators we run the risk of not having enough time to fit everything we want to do into our weekly homeschooling schedules. I used a calendar and diary to help me stay on track for the first few years of our homeschooling life.

Keeping track of hours and minutes spent on each subject distracts from focusing on the much more important content of those lessons. I wouldn't want to pin it down. I'd rather make sure that I was covering a good cross-section of different areas of learning each week, with time for the 3Rs set aside each day.

Writing an outline of a typical homeschooling (stay at home) day offers a useful guide and is reassuring for the regulating authorities, but we need to remember it is a simply as snapshot of what usually happens and isn't something we need to religiously adhere to. Timetables are useful in school settings for all sorts of administrative rather than educational reasons.

This is the 'typical day' I used to offer:

* Completion of chores - personal, house hold, and animals.

* Daily focus on maths/language based activities drawn from learning program (about 1-2 hours for younger children, 2-3 hours for older).

* Snack and stretch.

* Free personal time, hobbies, including play and computer.

* Lunch.

* Time to pursue personal interests and/or on-going projects - construction, art and craft, researching, technology.

* Outside physical activity - sport, walking, swimming, tree climbing, etc.

* Music practice.

* Reading together, silent and shared.

* Chores - personal, household, and animals, preparation of family meal.

* News and current affairs, discussion and conversation.

* Watching documentaries, movies; or playing educational and fun games; or use of computer for games, projects, etc.; or quiet reading.

from http://homeschoolaustralia.com/articles/typicalday1.html

© Beverley Paine

Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia to read more original articles on home education by Beverley Paine. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschool Australia Newsletter. Visit www.beverleypaine.com for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sharing one of my favourite parenting newsletters....

Here's a link to a newsletter I get regularly. Bob collects articles about parenting and unschooling and it's great because he's a dad so he focuses on that a bit, which helps people like me (females) see the other side of the story.

He comes up with some great links to articles and websites - anything to do with being a more switched on child-friendly person.

In this month's issue of Parental Intelligence:


BOOK REVIEW

Raising Intuitive Children


FEATURE ARTICLE

Parents and Friends


ARTICLE LINKS

To Be a Baby
Four things you won't like hearing
Feminism, fathers and valuing parenthood How Using Social Media Has Helped Me Be a Better Dad Developing Choices about the Emotions we Experience with NLP Is Gifted and Talented a Life Sentence?
Textbook rant
Q&A: How to raise 'global students'
Unschooling is homeschooling without the school part Great Thinkers on Self-Education: John Holt Surprise! Daydreaming Really Works the Brain


NOTICE BOARD

ADHD Research - Help Wanted
Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Liberating Parents How I Parent Guiding Stars of the New Parenting Movement Kindred Magazine Natural Child News Connection Parenting Parenting For A Peaceful World The Double Bind Rally for Homebirth Connect to your unborn baby (for dads) Attachment Parenting Australia Pinky McKay Family Matters Etendi BRIDGE The Mother magazine Juno Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Rethinking Education is rethinking EVERYTHING!
Free Learning Monitor
Ditch the Backpack: 100 Essential Web Tools for Virtual Students Sandra Dodd on YouTube Part 3 Dayna Martin on YouTube
101 Reasons I'm An Unschooler
Be curious. Be kind


To read the Parental Intelligence Newsletter online, please go to http://www.parental-intelligence.com

Monday, June 15, 2009

Internet Etiquette and Cautiousness

While it is important to share our stories on forums like this we all need to be aware that these are public forums. It is easy for anyone to join them, even with moderator approval. I'm a moderator and group owner of a couple of groups and rely on the honesty of those applying to join to determine if they are suitable. I can't know if the intentions of the person joining the group are in the group's interests until the person starts posting... and if they never post, I'll never know.

We need to be remain aware that when we post on forums our messages can be read by people we don't know. They can tell others who aren't members of the yahoo group what we have written - or their interpretation of what we have written. I think it is important to remember that what is written on the group remains online or on a hard drive somewhere 'forever', even if individual posts or the whole group is deleted. That's the nature of computers and computing.

I've been on a group where someone wrote something about another person (not a group member) that was considered defamatory by that person. Court action was threatened. I don't know the outcome and I wasn't involved, but copies of the offending post were sent to me, which is how I know about it. It made me aware that when I write about other people in my emails I need to be extra vigilant that I don't say anything that I will later regret. It also made me aware that even when I am writing private emails to individuals I need to be careful not to let emotion take over, which is when I usually start to say stuff that may end up hurting someone else. With email, nothing is truly private. That is the nature of the internet.

Reporting the truth as we see it is always important and I hate the whole idea of censorship. I want to be upfront and honest about what I think and feel. I don't want to inadvertently upset someone, or say something that will be interpreted differently to what I meant. Most of the time I am very careful to remember to re-read what I have written before I hit the send button. Sometimes I won't post it until the next day. I seem to delete half of what I write nowadays, thinking 'better safe than sorry'. (That's hard to believe, isn't it!)

When we write about our experiences using email or on the internet we need to be guarded.

I never used to think like this. I've written hundreds of articles about my homeschooling life, never thinking about the impact my honesty and openness would have on my children's lives. Happily for me it isn't an issue for them, but I am lucky - my ignorance in the past could have been the cause of constant source of pain and hurt in my family for years to come. When I write about other people I need to be even more cautious - there is not the carefully crafted and nurtured bond of love and respect I have with my own family to protect me. Other people are not as forgiving of me as my family!

When we write on the internet we need to remember these things. I've seen lots of people protect their children's privacy by using DS (dear son) or DD (dear daughter) or simply using the child's initial. It's too late for me but I'd recommend that tactic for others to adopt. Plus I tend to generalise statements now - talk about the topic, rather than the person, when having a whinge session or needing to get something off my chest. I'm much more interested in issues and solutions and have learned the hard way too often to focus on the personal stuff involved. If I mention names I try to keep it factual and cut out any emotional comments. Internet communication can be tricky. I wouldn't want to go back to the past when I felt incredibly isolated - I love the internet and I'm an email addict. But it is important to be aware and be a little bit guarded in how we use it.

© Beverley Paine

Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia to read more original articles on home education by Beverley Paine. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to the free Homeschool Australia Newsletter. Visit www.beverleypaine.com for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!"

Friday, June 12, 2009

Field Guide to Homeschoolers

The 180th Carnival of Homeschooling consulted the "Field Guide to Homeschoolers" in an 'attempt to describe this fascinating specimen of educational freedom and gain a greater understanding of its habits, habitat and daily life.'

It begins...

"The homeschooler, elusive and quick, is one of the most difficult creatures to study. They do not survive well in captivity, and field studies to date have focused on small, easily observable populations..."

This exceptionally clever essay on home educators is a MUST READ for anyone remotely interested in this growing phenomenon!

http://principleddiscovery.com/2009/06/09/field-guide-homeschoolers/