Fun Hands-On Math Activities Part 3

This is Part 3 of a series on fun math activities you can do at home. You can find a list of all the posts in this series in the “Fun Math Activities” section on the Home Education Tips page.

More on Math, Mapping, and Landscaping

In Part 1 of this series of “fun hands-on math activities” I mentioned using math, mapping, and landscaping.  Here’s an example of how this worked with one of my students: “We used a measuring tape to measure the size of the yard and mark it on graph paper. Next, we measured the house, and its distance from the edges of the yard, and marked it on the graph paper. After that, we marked all the plants, sidewalks, picnic table, woodpile and other items in the yard. After we’d measured some distances, I had A. ‘estimate’ other distances, then we checked them with the measuring tape. After we finished the “rough copy” of the yard map, we sat at the table. I had A. suggest what symbols we could use for various items in the yard (for example, logs for the firewood, flower picture for the flower bed, and plate/ knife/ spoon for the picnic table. Also, I asked Aiden if he knew where “north” is, and he was able to tell me correctly–a compass is handy to back this up. I also showed A. how to add a scale to the map.” Of course, once the mapping is done, you can follow up by deciding on new plantings and other landscaping changes, and then keep records of the results in as many mathematical ways as possible. Math has so many interesting applications … many of them right in your own backyard! (This same kind of activity could be used to decide where to place your tent and other equipment in a camping spot, or the best area to play a game like croquet at the park, and so on. Check out the previous discussion for more details.)

Outdoor Explorations and Nature Notebooks

When you do outdoors activities such as hiking and camping (or even just a visit to the local park), be sure to take along nature guidebooks, notebooks (sketch pads are ideal), rulers and measuring tapes, a compass, a good magnifying glass, a camera that can take good close-ups, and so on. As you explore nature, encourage your children to record their observations, and set the example by making your own notebook. I did this with my own children, and we each ended up with our own “Nature Notebooks.” For an example of how this works, check out my “Nature Notebook” which describes science/math field trips I did with my children on Haida Gwaii when we were homeschooling–Bird Sanctuary; Forest Discoveries; Culturally Modified Trees; Weather Changes; and more. There are so many outdoor activities that involve math: keep track of temperatures and rainfall and graph them; measure branches, stems, etc. and record their growth over time; record the rise and fall of creek and lake levels through the seasons; and so on. Use these mathematical observations to learn more about science, too. Your family will quickly become naturalists! And explore math in these ways in your own yard and garden, too!

More Fun With Geometry

In the first post in this series on fun, hands-on math activities, we briefly mentioned some activities to do with geometric shapes. Here are some more suggestions:
– photocopy flattened geometric designs (there is a good selection here), cut them out, and glue them into their 3D shapes. Discuss how you can use these shapes for things like Christmas tree decorations; make them from shiny paper and hang them as a mobile by the window to reflect the sun; use firmer paper/cardboard to make many-sided dice and invent games; construct unusual “buildings” and “towers” by combining shapes; and so on.
– Extend your study by talking about other forms of paper-folding like origami and paper-plane making. There are many excellent books in the library that show how to do these forms, but also encourage children to experiment with their own forms, based on what they’ve learned about geometry.
– Read the  Curious George book, Curious George Rides a Bike, and make a folded paper boat as Curious George did it in the book.
– Gather a variety of resources that feature “hands-on”  practical math. Check out your local library or bookstore or even the children’s book section of your local thrift stores for books of “magic science tricks,” paper aircraft instructions, various math “activities,” instructions on how to make birdhouses, home science, beading (patterns), etc. All these different activities involve mathematical concepts which you can introduce as you have fun together making different items or trying tricks and experiments.
– Cut and fold paper triangles to form isosceles triangles, right triangles, parallelograms, squares, and other shapes and designs based on triangles.
– Use a tangram set to make many different geometric shapes, and then make pictures using the shapes. This is a great outdoor activity; sit at the picnic table and observe nature. What shapes and patterns do you see? Try to recreate natural items (trees, plants, mountains, etc.) using the tangram shapes.
– Do the same thing with human-made objects. What shapes have been used? 2D? 3D? Can you recreate them with tangrams or with the 3D shapes you created earlier with paper?

 

 

 

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Fun Hands-On Math Activities Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series on fun math activities you can do at home. You can find a list of all the posts in this series in the “Fun Math Activities” section on the Home Education Tips page.

Do research on, and keep an eye out for, the many different uses of a specific number:

Different numbers have been used in a wide variety of ways throughout history. For example, “7 is lucky” while “13 is unlucky” (which is why many tall buildings will have a 12th floor and a 14th floor, but not a 13th floor).  Different cultures have different feelings about certain numbers. In some cultures in the past, children might be named by their number in the family. The number “666” comes up often in futuristic movies and books. We talk about the “seven wonders of the ancient world.” We also use the number 7 in our calendars: seven days in the week. The moon cycle involves 7 (days in a week), and 4 multiples of 7 (four weeks in a full cycle). All through nature there are patterns of 3–which can you think of? These number uses and patterns are intriguing–watch out together for examples all around you, and do some research on what you discover.

Measurement systems–and why we’ve decided to use the metric system (usually…):

Did you know the metric system was first used during the French revolution? Look it up! Various ancient methods of measurement (using body parts, grains of barley, baskets etc) are interesting but unfortunately, they could be imprecise and cause some big disagreements–now that’s an interesting topic to explore. The “meter” was developed, based on the distance from the North Pole to the Equator. The history of measurements is diverse and curious. Check it out! Why do you think the metric system is most widely used today? Why would people still want to use Imperial/American standard measurements? Why do ships use a different way to measure speed and distance than cars do? Why do we easily accept using metric for scientific purposes but still like to use imperial for personal purposes (like our weight, or the cost/pound for food at the store)?

Keep an eye out for the main ways we use measurement – length, weight, and capacity –  in daily life. Figure out how far your family travels on their holidays, the length of things your children are interested in, why newborns are weighed in grams and adults in kilograms, the weight of chocolate bars, and the capacity of toothpaste tubes, and recipes that offer measures for baking in both metric and imperial (experiment: are the two measurements really the same?). Try using some of the different historical methods of measurement for different objects, distances, etc. Which is easiest? Which is more accurate?

Here is a fun video, created by NASA, on the “Metric and Standard Measurement Systems.” It’s a great way to get a discussion going on measurement!

Using calendars for more than just checking the date:

Next time you’re buying a calendar, look for more than the pretty pictures! Some calendars use two or even three languages for the month and days. What a useful addition to your children’s language studies. Calendars also often include national and even international holidays, religious celebrations, and other cultural events. Some calendars have extra information like the history of a month’s name, the cycles of the moon, tide charts, and more. Choose an interesting, detailed calendar–or a selection of a few different calendars, and you’ll have access to instant “daily” activities and learning opportunities. Of course, you can also create many other activities, including planning for upcoming events, recording weather and so on. Calendars with good-sized squares for each day are a great way for children to learn to keep a daily diary, or if used as a planner, provide an easy “month-at-a-view.” Blank calendars can be used to create a personalized family (or child) calendar with important dates, events, and more, and personal illustrations (photos, drawings, etc.). Children can count “how many days/weeks until…” Christmas, birthdays, and so on. They can lead to discussions and research on a multitude of topics in all kinds of subject areas: English/other languages, social studies, science, art … and of course, math!

 

Dominoes and other games with mathematical uses:

“Dominoes” are so much fun to set on end and create the “domino effect” – which can lead into an animated discussion on how the “domino effect” is used to describe political and historical events as well as all kinds of other “cause and effect” situations, expected or totally unexpected.

Then, once you get around to playing the game, as the dominoes are matched, you can add “mathematical skills” into the process. Add the “scores” (the total dots on the original domino, plus the total dots on the added one)–or subtract, multiply, create fractions and so on. I had a student who hated addition but loved winning games. And it didn’t seem to occur to him, as the scores mounted up into the high decades, that he was adding larger and larger numbers.

You can even use the domino game pieces for other purposes, for example as building blocks or to lay out a floor design for a house. Each piece can represent a certain length, width and area. Often, it will be your children who will come up with imaginative alternative ways of playing all kinds of games, and unexpected ways of using game pieces. All very educational (but don’t tell them that…). Dominoes and all kinds of other games (including outdoor sports, and even simple activities like walking) have so much potential for math learning fun.

What ideas can you come up with?

Share your ideas and experiences in the comments, please!

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Fun Hands-On Math Activities

So many times, children (and youth and adults, too) “hate” math because it seems like nothing but a bunch of useless theory. If you can teach your child mathematical concepts through interesting real-life activities, instead of textbook work, they’ll develop a love of math in all its many aspects of life–often without realizing that they are actually doing math.  Here are a few fun activities I have done with my own children and my tutoring students:

 

Use dominoes to:

– construct structures. Try to make each structure more complex than the previous one. (You can also use blocks, lego type bricks, and other similar shaped objects–and combine them). Encourage the child to “talk through” the process. As a parent, build your own structure alongside and explain your process as you do it. Include how you use analysis, strategy, and probability, as well as other planning skills. Do sketch pre-planning on graph paper or even try using “architectural” software.

Use dry noodles and craft glue to

-build structures such as bridges. Plan ahead. Try different types of noodles (spaghettini, spaghetti, lasagna) to see which are strongest. How can different kinds be combined? Which should be used for spans? For the bridge deck? etc.?

Multiplication:

– calculate the number of bricks in a chimney or wall by counting across and down and multiplying. Since bricks are staggered, how many “across” rows will need to be taken into consideration?

Geometry:

– use balls of clay and toothpicks to build models of “square numbers and “cubic numbers” (etc.).
– use paper to design geometric shapes. Draw what you think a 3 dimensional shape would look like “flat,” then cut it out around the edges and try to assemble it into the 3D shape. Keep trying until you understand one shape, then try other shapes. If the child is stuck, cut a cardboard box along the edges so it lays flat. Examine it, and try to reproduce it with paper.

Fractions (and division and multiplication)

– Research and discuss how science has kept discovering smaller and smaller parts of what we once thought were already the smallest parts. Talk about molecules, atoms, electrons, protons … and smaller and smaller…
– Use dominoes or lego bricks to discuss fractions. Count how many there are altogether (start with a small number like 10; later work with larger numbers). Put all of them together to form a “whole.” Then start separating into equal parts. (For example, with 10 bricks, you can have halves and fifths. With 35 bricks, you can have fifths and sevenths.
– Use baking to understand fractions. Double or triple recipes–or halve them. When the product is baked, cut it up into x number of equal parts (think of different ways to do that; sketch them out on paper first; choose the “best” way).

Negative numbers:

– Use a thermometer to understand positive and negative numbers.

Probability and statistics:

– flip a penny or other coin and record the “heads” and “tails” on a chart. Discuss the “probability” of each. (Discuss things like: While theoretically, there should be an equal probability, the different sides of a coin have different amounts of metal due to the engraving, so there are slight differences in weight. How does that affect probability? What if you do the flipping in a windy place or in front of a fan? Would that change the probability? Why or why not?)
– Do the same with dice. Roll one and record/graph how many times it lands on each set of dots. Then do it with two dice, and record and graph combinations.
Predict which combinations will come up most and least; then check against the results. How many times did you have to toss the dice before the result came up even or close to even? What aspects of the dice, the tossing method, the surface the dice land on, etc. could affect the results? Using your graph of combinations and the same pair of dice, play a game like Yahtzee that uses dice. Use what you’ve learned to decide the probability of which dice combinations are most likely to come up when you’re playing the game. Can we use this to create strategies for playing a game?
– Discuss how we use probability and statistics in all kinds of ways. Look through news articles or listen to news reports. How often are statistics used? Are they accurate? Why or why not? How else could the same statistics be interpreted? (This is very interesting when there are elections or other events that use polls).
– Look at a Farmer’s Almanac or seed packets. Discuss how weather statistics are used to determine when is the best time to plant different crops in different places.
– Likewise, examine a tide chart (and go to the shore each day for a few days to observe the high and low tide marks). How is statistics used to determine tide levels and times? Why is it helpful to know these things?
– Go online and record the high and low temperature predictions (plus sun, clouds, rain, etc) for the next week. Record them on a graph. Then, using a different colour, record the actual results. Watch weather reports on TV; learn about “highs” and “lows” and other ways (including historical statistics) meteorologists predict the probability of upcoming weather. Do the same for the path of a hurricane (or tornado or other weather events) from the time it is first spotted forming until it has actually run its course. How did the predictions and actual events compare? What could have accounted for differences? What kinds of stats and probability were used to predict it?

Math and Mapping and Landscaping:

– discuss why mapping a yard would be a good idea (decide the best places to do certain types of plantings based on needs of space, sunlight, soil, etc.; planning the best place to set up a picnic table and barbeque; finding a good place to play croquet or other yard activities; etc.).
– Then map your own yard, recording the information on graph paper. Mark topography, trees and shrubs, soil types, compass directions (important for when different parts of the yard are in sun), areas that are in shade or in sunlight much of the time, and so on. You can even find “micro climates” by placing thermometers in different spots. Then decide how you could put your yard to the best use. This is a wonderful, long term activity! Do experiments like planting the same plant in a shady spot, a sunny spot, a rocky spot and a sandy spot. Keep records; make lots of graphs. Over time, develop some statistics and make predictions based on those statistics and probability.

Perspective:

– Take photographs of an object or scene from different positions: directly above, from different side angles, from below, from close up, from far away, with the whole object or just parts of it. Compare them. How does the perspective change what you see? What did you notice about the object that you never thought of before? Are any of the photos puzzling? Why not show one of the puzzling pictures to several people and see if they can figure out what it is. Why does an object or scene look like it has different sizes and shapes, depending on the angle of the picture? What angle do you think is most accurate, measurement-wise? Least accurate? Why does that happen?

This is Part 1 of a series on fun math activities you can do at home.

You can find a list of all the posts in this series in the “Fun Math Activities” section on the Home Education Tips page.

What are your favourite family fun activities for learning math?

Please do share your ideas in the comments. Thank you!

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Hire a Tutor or Homeschool My Child?

(This is a response I gave to a question on Quora: “Am I allowed to hire a tutor instead of homeschooling my child?”)

I’d like to approach this question from a somewhat different aspect than the previous responders. (Though I would agree with the other responders that you do need to know the laws around homeschooling in your location).

As a tutor, a former school teacher, and also a former homeschooling parent of 5, I think there are definitely times when you might want to hire a tutor when you are homeschooling your child. As a few examples:

  • Obviously, if your child is studying a complex subject (for example, grade 12 calculus, or a foreign language) which you have no experience with or background in, a tutor could come in very handy.
  • A tutor might also be helpful if you are suddenly faced with a situation like a serious personal or family illness which uses up a great deal of your time and energy.
  • Sometimes, you and your child might be having some interpersonal difficulties in one or more subject areas, and hiring a tutor for a period of time for “academics” could take off some of the stress and allow you and your child to rebuild your relationship in other ways.

But before you rush out and hire a tutor and send your child off for tutoring lessons, consider these options:

  • Perhaps you could actually benefit more from the tutoring than your child might. Assuming you already have some background in a subject but feel you’ve “forgotten too much,” a couple “refresher” lessons for yourself could result in you being able to teach the child yourself—and the cost of a couple lessons for you compared to a series of lessons for the child would be considerably less.
  • If you are having difficulty finding creative ways to teach your child, or if you and your child seem to have different learning styles, or if your child has specific learning differences (special needs) you aren’t sure how to handle, asking a tutor to give you some advice could really help. Or you could ask the tutor to allow you to sit in (quietly observing from a distance) on some tutoring lessons for your child, and watch the tutor’s methods.
  • Do some research on educational methodology, and especially on methods that are successful in the homeschooling situation. Read broadly and ask questions of other homeschoolers. As you research, make notes of ideas that fit with your educational goals and beliefs, and with your child’s personal learning needs. Be willing to experiment with methods till you find what works with each child—you may end up doing some quite different approaches with your different children.
  • If you and your child just seem to need a break from each other or from homeschooling for a bit, maybe:
    • Take a break! That really is one of the great advantages of homeschooling—the ability to create your own schedule.
    • Allow your child to experiment with self-teaching/self-education (aka unschooling). Let him/her choose what he/she wants to learn about, and find ways to do that. Some children are amazingly self-motivated, independent learners, if you just give them a chance.
    • Allow your child to spend time with a “mentor” – perhaps a grandparent or other adult the child enjoys spending time with, or a family friend with whom the child can “job shadow.” While they might do some “academics” together, they might alternatively do a hobby or some kind of “work” together, or travel together, any of which can be really great learning experiences.
    • Enroll your child in a variety of children’s courses (not just academics, but sports, fine arts, etc.) for a while.
    • Join up with a local homeschool support group and get involved in lots of group activities; swap “teaching” assignments with some of the other parents; etc.

There are lots of other options, too. Homeschooling can—and should be—an adventure. Hiring a tutor can at times be part of that adventure. There are times, too, when school may be your best option. Or you might use a combination of all these options, at once or at different times. Use your creativity to find the learning options that work best for you and your family. I have actually written a whole series of blog posts on this kind of topic. If you are interested, you can find it here: Why Children Need Parent-Tutors (Scroll to the bottom of this first post for links to all the other posts in the series).

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Thoughts About Multiple Choice/Standardized Tests

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

Some time ago, in a half-awake early morning state, I came up with this article outline, and its somewhat cheeky conclusions, which I then posted on a former version of this site 🙂

April 8, 2010 — So I woke up about 6:15 am, and was laying there thinking about things… and started composing an article in my head.  Well, I wasn’t really composing an article.  I was just thinking about stuff and realized it was a potential article.  Especially after I caught myself thinking about it in outline form!  Then I realized I do know a fair amount about a lot of different things – at least enough to write articles about them.
So I thought, maybe I should write down the general gist of this outline while it’s still in my head… so here it is…  (and maybe, after all, it’s just a result of my lack of sleep during the night, but just in case it isn’t, here goes!)

Why Kids Fail Multiple Choice Exams

1.  They don’t “know” the material:

a. They missed the teaching.

b. They didn’t understand the teaching:

i.  It was presented in overly complex language.

ii.  They didn’t have sufficient background knowledge.

iii. There was a personality conflict between them and the teacher.

c. They couldn’t comprehend the material:

i. Reading difficulties.

ii.  ESL.

d. They studied too much or crammed, or…

e. They didn’t “study” hard enough.

2.  They aren’t multiple-choice-test-wise:

a. They don’t realize they must look for the “one best answer.”

b. They don’t realize it is usually best to skip questions one isn’t sure about (and come back later if other questions provide a hint!).

c. They don’t realize that if one must answer every question, the first guess is usually the best guess.

d. They are creative thinkers and see the potential “rightness” in many of the choices.

e. They don’t realize that the root line in the question is key; so they don’t read it carefully enough.

f.They aren’t trained to look for “trick” questions and answers.

3.  They aren’t “interested” in the material or in the testing:

a. It doesn’t seem to be related to their own lives:

i. Culturally.

ii.  Economically/ socially.

iii. Current peer culture.

iv. Family encouragement or lack thereof.

b. It doesn’t seem to relate to their goals in life.

c. They “just don’t care”:

i. They already are conditioned to believe they will fail anyway.

ii. It isn’t considered cool to do well.

d. They are more interested in mathematical possibilities: e.g.: if I choose a) for #1, b)  for #2, c) for #3, d) for #4, and continue that pattern, what are the chances I’ll pass this test? (probably pretty good, actually!)

4.  They have “personal” difficulties:

a. They were sick on test day.

b. They were worried/ distracted on test day:

i. Home difficulties.

ii. Bad news.

iii. In love.

iv.  Big game coming up later in the day.

c. They didn’t have a healthy breakfast.

d. They have personal learning styles which:

i. Don’t support the particular form of teaching style.

ii. Don’t support the particular form of learning style/ activities.

iii. Don’t support the particular form of testing style.

e. They were up all night because the TV was blaring and/or the parents were partying.

Etc. Etc. Etc….

Which is why once-a-year multiple choice standardized tests (particularly; but also multiple choice tests generally), are often very poor indicators of a child’s overall knowledge and understanding; and why determining how well a child is actually learning, or even what they are learning (often many unintended lessons occur while the intended lesson is completely missed!), is a very complex business.
And thus, assessment should take place constantly throughout the teaching, learning, practicing and testing processes.  (Yes, the teaching process too, since that can very often be failing, itself.  Sorry, teachers…been there, done that myself…).
Furthermore, learning really is “proved” at some later point in life when the child has the opportunity to use that knowledge in real ways.  And those ways are not always job-related, or further-education related, believe it or not.  They are more likely to be “proved” in:

  • off-the-cuff conversations with some random person in a coffee shop, or
  • in the understanding of what some one is explaining; or
  • in relating to a movie or story or video game or magazine article, or
  • making a good dinner, or
  • drawing a picture, or
  • making an informed decision about something seemingly quite unrelated to the original learning, or
  • trying out new-to-you foods and enjoying them, or
  • adjusting to new/ different situations

Etc. Etc. Etc….

Which is why most prospective employers, love interests, organization recruiters, friends, allies–and increasingly, higher educational facilities–could care less about the results of a kid’s multiple-choice test marks.
Ho! Ho!  Each section of my notes above could be developed into a lengthy article of its own. Yep, I could even write a whole book.  And it all came out of my head, at 6:30 in the morning when I was still half-asleep.  Based on my own experiences.  I’m an expert!  Yay!
Obviously, I just need to jot down the key points of every conversation I take part in or overhear, every situation I observe, every set of meandering thoughts when I can’t sleep.  Then write them as articles, submit them to appropriate niche sites and publishers – on or off line–and…
Voila!  Instant successful author, writer, millionaire!
(Was I really awake? Maybe it was all a dream?)

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Tips to a new home school mom

(The following post was originally a letter from myself to a new home schooling mom who was worried about her ability to educate her children. I hope it will encourage you, too!)

Let me assure you: the majority of children have their own difficulties! Every line you have written here about your son’s difficulties immediately brought to mind memories of my own children’s situations! Let’s start with your son’s unhappy year in kindergarten, which led you to consider home schooling. In my case, my first daughter was obviously very bright, learning to speak in full sentences very early–and yet she “failed” kindergarten! It turned out she was just not “socially ready”– for the classroom situation, that is (

Let’s start with your son’s unhappy year in kindergarten, which has led you to consider home schooling. In my case, my first daughter was obviously bright, learning to speak in full sentences very early–and yet she “failed” kindergarten! It turned out she was just not “socially ready”– for the classroom situation, that is (as many children are not).

She had been very happy at home and in the neighborhood, with her younger siblings and her many friends and cousins, and her parents, grandparents, adult family friends, aunts and uncles, church members … in other words, well socialized into real society. She could carry on a happy and interesting and intelligent conversation with people of any age. She loved listening to us read Shakespeare and philosophers and discuss politics and religion and current events, and would ask intelligent questions and give interesting and thoughtful commentary on all kinds of topics. This was just from being part of a large family, both nuclear and extended, as well as part of community family in the church and other organizations (for example, she came with me to Girl Guides even when she was a tot–I would only be a leader if I could bring along my baby!).

Then she went to kindergarten – and she began being “socialized,” stuck in a room with 25 or so other little people who “just happened to be born in the same year.” She was expected to live her life by a clock, doing things that were considered “age-appropriate.” So, for example, even though she had begun, without any coaching, drawing detailed pictures from the age of about 2, suddenly she was expected to use giant crayons and paintbrushes because supposedly she did not yet have fine-motor abilities! (She also was left-handed – and the teacher aide made her sit on her left hand, and use her right hand for printing and cutting! Another rant topic…)

Sadly, this applied to many things she did in Kindergarten. So basically she sat in the corner for the whole year, intensely unhappy. Her teacher recommended she repeat kindergarten because supposedly she hadn’t learned anything. (Within a year after that, she was reading anything and everything, far, far above grade level–so much for “not learning”–and later, after some years of home schooling, as a teenager she was teaching adults at a BC Government Skills Center how to do website design while her fellow age-appropriate-students were still struggling in grade 11 at school. And those technology skills were developed without a single hour of classroom instruction, or even parent-instruction: she taught herself computer coding and design (and then taught me!). In other words, she had grown up from the start to be interested in all aspects of life and to be a self-motivated learner and participant.

In fact, I was a school teacher, and I did not even realize home-school was a legal alternative until my oldest child was about 9 years old–and the only people I knew then who home schooled were simply having their children sit at desks at home from 9 to 3 daily, filling in workbooks, which seemed pointless to me. As it turned out, we were actually home learning in our entire lifestyle but didn’t realize it. So by the time we started the full learning-at-home adventure, my oldest daughter (the one who failed kindergarten) was at the grade 7 age level. Her little brother, our youngest, had just had a year of kindergarten, and we had 3 other daughters in between. When my children got into their teens, some chose to continue with learning-at-home, while some incorporated public school classes into their learning, some used Learning Centers, and so on. But whatever path they took was their choice, and I gave them great freedom in learning. And sometimes, school is almost unavoidable… like when I was in

When my children got into their teens, some chose to continue with learning-at-home, while some incorporated public school classes into their learning, some used Learning Centers, and so on. But whatever path they took was their choice, and I gave them great freedom in learning.

Three of my children have ended up with “Dogwood certificates,” while 2 have not “officially graduated.” Some have university degrees, others are self-employed or work successfully for companies. Yet they are all successful in their adult lives and now that they are having children of their own, they are making sure that their children really experience lifelong learning.

Your home school/ life-long learning adventure can and should be an adventure, using a lot of imagination and methods. You know your child better than anyone else, and together you can figure out your children’s needs and take advantage of what works for them. For example, one of my girls was very athletic and very competitive, and I arranged with our local neighborhood school for her to be able to take Phys Ed classes at the school and be part of their track and field team.

Also, our children have First Nations heritage, and they were able to go over to the local school to take part in language and culture learning activities, even while officially home-schooling. They also were involved in cultural activities in our community. Some schools are more open to these things than others, but it never hurts to find out. Even if your local schools won’t cooperate with your home schooling, there are so many other opportunities if you only search for them.

Finally, one last observation. When I started to home school, I knew very little about it. But I did know a lot about how to teach school! So the first day of home school, I had my living room outfitted with 5 desks, a whiteboard, a teacher desk, a bell (really!), and a very carefully planned timetable and curriculum. By noon the first day, my five little scholars had informed me that “If we’re just going to do school at home, we might as well go back to school.” So by the end of the first week, the desks and bell were banished, and my careful timetable and curriculum began to crumble away. Home school–learning at home as part of life–became an adventure of discovery for all of us. Sometimes I felt as though I was learning far more than my kids, and a lot of the time, they were my teachers! So don’t be afraid to take time to look around, get ideas, try different things out, be willing to change. And feel free to keep asking other home schoolers your great questions!

Please share your experiences in the comments. Thanks!

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Tips for when a spouse isn’t convinced about homeschooling

Tips from one homeschool mom to another about when a spouse isn’t convinced about homeschooling:

(I originally published these tips back in 2008 on a previous version of this blog–but I think they are worth revisiting. What do you think?)

Sometimes it is hard for one’s spouse to get into the whole home school thing, no matter how excited you are about the idea–and you don’t want to let it disrupt your good relationship.

That said, you may be able to bring your spouse around to your way of thinking by “home schooling” outside of school hours for the time being, and even during school hours by being as proactive with the school as possible – volunteering in your son’s classroom and/or on the playground, personally communicating with school staff such as the teacher, administration, secretaries, librarian, etc. on a really regular basis (chat with one or another of them at least once a week). If you are positive with them, trying to find positive solutions rather than being too negative, and being willing to be part of the solution (as long as your son must be in the school), you will likely find that you can get lots of great ideas and positive help that you can use to home school during out of school time now, and in the future when your partner decides to allow you to home school your child. The thing is to let your partner see what you are capable of doing, and it may provide the confidence to let you actually home school.

I think that a really important thing to remember is that learning is a life-long, 24/7/365 journey. Ideally, home schooling is not school-at-home, but rather learning integrated into every part of life. So if you can see it that way, and really aim toward that, I think that your husband will begin to see the value of home learning.

You say your spouse is concerned because your child has “special needs” with sight issues. But it doesn’t matter what a child’s “special need” is – the truth is, all children have one kind or another (or several, for that matter), for no child is truly the “average student” the school system is set up for. It is wise, as you consider home-schooling, to think really, really carefully about what you believe about school/education/learning (and they are not all the same thing!). Talk to your spouse about this too. Ask your partner’s opinion on constitutes a good education. Let this be an ongoing topic of discussion, perhaps a bit at a time. As your partner comes up with personal thoughts about it, start doing things at home that show you can offer that to your child–in a better way than the school is doing it, quite likely!

If you can find ways to do it unobtrusively, involve your spouse in your “practice” homeschooling, too. For example, if your partner thinks “science” is a big deal, start involving your child in outdoor activities that not only are “playing” in nature but are “learning” too. Maybe your spouse likes fishing, so encourage sharing of knowledge (while fishing together, of course)–not only the skill of fishing, but the life of fish, their environment, what they eat, and so on.

As you drive places together as a family, talk about the environment you see and what humankind is doing to the environment. And if your child asks questions, go to the library on the way home, get books on the topic, and read them together. Maybe set up your own terrarium or aquarium, not just as a “pet” thing, but as a learning experience–a family learning adventure–and your partner will begin to see the excitement of your child’s learning, the depth of it (compared to filling in blanks on a worksheet at school). etc. Talk about what you see/hear on the news every day.

This is real home learning, by the way–integrating learning into every part of life–and you can start doing it right now. In fact, you have been doing it all along, one way or another – you are already a good teacher and/or learning facilitator! Who taught your child to walk, talk, etc., etc., etc.? But now, if you really want to officially home school–and get your child into life-long learning rather than 9 to 3 “school education” only–take all those daily activities and consciously encourage deeper learning, deeper involvement, and participation (not just lifting the lid and plopping in information). There is a good chance your spouse will soon see–and experience–the value of home schooling.

What tips would you add about this topic?

Please add your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!

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