Teaching a Preschooler at Home

I frequently am asked “What curriculum should I use with my preschooler?”

After teaching a lot of preschoolers in my home (including my own forever children as well as almost two dozen foster children), I’ve learned a lot about what works with most children and what doesn’t. I’ve learned that Continue reading Teaching a Preschooler at Home

How Do You Use Kids’ Interests?

Every year around this time, I ask my kids about what they’d like to study next year. The answers have varied a great deal but they’ve always made our studies more interesting for both the kids and me, and I know they learn more when they are fully engaged in what we’re studying. It can take a bit of creativity and work to figure out how to include their interests, but the rewards have been great.

For example, one year my son who was about ten years old at the time, asked if he could study Star Wars. My initial response was, “No, we can’t study Star Wars. Continue reading How Do You Use Kids’ Interests?

Mock Trial Fun

Tomorrow morning, we–my children and several others from our local homeschool support group–will put on our fourth annual mock trial. In the first mock trial, we used a pre-planned script we found online (prepared by a group of lawyers for use in educating students and available at no cost), but over the years as we’ve all learned from the process, we’ve grown more daring and have created our own.
This year’s mock trial is based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Ms. Willow Woodcutter is accused of the murder of Mr. Wolffe. Was she a heroine who saved lives by killing a fiend? Or did she misjudge him and attack him without cause because of her own bias against wolves? Depends on which team of lawyers you believe. (They weren’t sure about the use of a fairy tale in the beginning, but they’ve had a lot of fun with it. Hopefully the actual trial will be full of the drama exhibited in today’s rehearsal.)
Our players have planned their strategies, prepared their speeches, made props (including a box of Puffs–the brand of tissues prescribed to Mr. Wolffe who suffered from terrible allergies and short-term memory loss per one team of lawyers–and a police report about Mr. Wolffe’s previous crimes) and are ready to go. They’ve learned some of the basics of how trials are organized and the evidence allowed; tomorrow, they’ll demonstrate what they’ve learned and include a number of other children who may choose to just watch or to participate as members of the jury. Our mock trials have all been held in the historic courtroom in a local museum and have been a lot of fun as well as great learning experiences not only demonstrating an aspect of how our government works, but giving the children a chance to practice public speaking and theater skills.

Cheryl

Shakespeare Club

Shakespeare festival anonymous
At our Shakespeare festival: My daughter in a costume showing off her video made using Lego bricks that was her own version of the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.

Three years ago, a mom in our group started a Shakespeare Club geared to kids of a wide variety of ages–from kindergartners to high school students. At first only our two families were involved, but I loved the idea of doing Shakespeare together. I’ll admit it–I hated Shakespeare when I was in school. I couldn’t understand much of what he wrote and dreamed of finding an interpreter to turn his words into English that I could understand. But as an adult, Continue reading Shakespeare Club

Making Math Relevant (and perhaps fun, too)

Algebra Club? That will never work.

Or so I was told by a few people when I suggested the idea a few years ago. I envisioned a club, not a class, for homeschooled students; a supplement to studying algebra rather than a main source for learning algebra. We wouldn’t have a textbook, homework to grade, nor any quizzes and tests. Instead I envisioned this as a way to make algebra more fun by adding a social element to it, some bits of history trivia and stories, some hands-on activities, manipulatives and games that would work better with a group of children than with just my two teens alone. These were the parts of teaching math that I loved when I was a classroom teacher, but Continue reading Making Math Relevant (and perhaps fun, too)

Homeschooling During a Hurricane

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the freedom to set our own schedule based on our own priorities. This freedom is so important when disaster looms.

This past week, the meteorological tracking models predicted that Hurricane Matthew was about to strike very close to our home in south Florida–so close that if they were wrong by even a few miles, we’d be at ground zero. We’ve been through a few hurricanes previously. When Wilma hit, we had furniture piled against the front door and we pushed against that furniture for what seemed like forever as we battled to keep the storm from pushing our front doors open; we later discovered that a couple of our neighbors had not been able to prevent theirs from flying open. During Frances, a huge tree in our backyard was partially uprooted and hung over our house, threatening to crash into it until we found a neighbor Continue reading Homeschooling During a Hurricane

Enough Math?

A mom worriedly told me that her young daughter didn’t do a lot of math lessons this past year. She had worked on her basic math facts and learned to use math in real life situations as they came up, but she worried that this wouldn’t be enough. Could she pass her homeschool evaluation without a lot of other written math assignments to show?

As a young girl, when I was homeschooled as my family sailed the world, I did book work one day a week. Mondays. Only on Mondays Continue reading Enough Math?

Can I Homeschool This Way?

I see so many questions online that basically ask, “Can I homeschool this way?” or “What’s the right way to homeschool my child?” followed by a bunch of replies which tell the person exactly the right way to teach some child the posters have likely never met, as though children are cogs and there’s only one right way to teach them all.

I have experienced many more schools than the average person. I went to at least thirteen schools (including a couple of bouts of homeschooling that I count as one “school”) between Continue reading Can I Homeschool This Way?

What Counts for P.E.?

Could I count Zumba classes or maybe even walking as P.E.? How about bowling or swimming?

I see questions like these online periodically. Perhaps they are followed by responses that declare that they won’t count unless instruction is involved or that give some other warnings of what it would take to actually count for a high school credit.

Perhaps it’s because I spent quite a number of years attending and later teaching in a wide variety of schools. Maybe it’s because my husband still works in schools. Whatever the reason, these sorts of questions always make me think Continue reading What Counts for P.E.?

The Freedom of High School

Or:  Thinking About Science Next Year

“What kind of labs are you going to do next next for chemistry?” a mom asked me.

“Uh? Hmmm….” I hadn’t thought through yet what science my kids were going to take next year for 10th grade.

“I assumed Chemistry came next after Biology,” she added.

I thought about that. No, actually, when I was in high school, Continue reading The Freedom of High School