The Fine Art of Learning

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Little Divine: “Why did you give me a book on race cars to read today?”
Me: “I thought it looked interesting. Give it a try and see if you have anything interesting to journal about after.”
Little Divine: “Hmm, I guess we’ll see.”

Ten Minutes Later.

Little Divine: “Did you know they give out big money prizes to whoever wins the races? And there is a race pretty much every month! And there is this guy, Richard Petty, who holds the all time record for winning 200 races! I wonder if he’s still alive? I’m going to check Google.” (continues to talk while doing so)

This is the learning I’ve hoped for. This is the whole reason I homeschool Little Divine. For a much more natural and child led type of learning. I absolutely bring home books that are on a variety of topics, some Little Divine doesn’t think she’ll be interested in, because I want her to explore the world of learning available to her and find new that peak her interest. With a library card and Google at hand, there is very little that we can’t learn about. I want to challenge Little Divine to research and explore things that come across her mind or her desk so when she’s an adult she will do the same.

Why is the sky blue? Just one question can open the door to so much learning and excitement!

Yesterday Little Divine spent hours researching ways to stimulate the mind of our dog and then trying them out. No one told her to – this was an idea she had all on her own. She got online, found things to try out, and spend a good part of the day doing them. I cannot speak on the dog’s mental stimulation, but she sure was thrilled to get attention and a lot of dog treats! Little Divine shared many of the things she learned with us over dinner and throughout the day. She was really enjoying it!

A few weeks ago Little Divine spent a good hour online researching insects that live in our area, as well as resourceful ways to get rid of the pesky or dangerous ones that can sometimes get in your home. She then recounted to me all the information she learned with pride. I told her I hoped she enjoyed her science lesson and she stared at me curiously. I explained that learning about insects was a part of science and she gave her self a great lesson on them. Her reply? “I didn’t even think of it like that.” No, she just got online and looked up information she wanted to learn. No one stopped her and told her she had to learn what the class was learning. No one told her that it was time to switch to another subject. No one reprimanded her for looking up information on the computer. She got to learn something she was interested in on her terms.

I read a post about unschooling yesterday that I really enjoyed. The writer used a quote from the book, Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling  by John Holt and Patrick Farenga. In it he describes unschooling as, “interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning… associated with the type of homeschooling that doesn’t use a fixed curriculum… allowing children as much freedom to learn in the world, as their parents can comfortably bear. The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require (the parent) to become someone else — a professional teacher pouring knowledge into child-vessels on a planned basis. Instead you live and learn together, pursuing questions and interests as they arise …This is the way we learn before going to school and the way we learn when we leave school and enter the world of work.

Unschooling, for lack of a better term (until people start to accept living as part and parcel of learning), is the natural way to learn. This does not mean unschoolers do not take traditional classes or use curricular materials when (they) decide that this is how they want to do it. Learning to read or do quadratic equations are not “natural” processes, but unschoolers nonetheless learn them when it makes sense to them to do so, not because they have reached a certain age or are compelled to do so by arbitrary authority. Therefore it isn’t unusual to find unschoolers who are barely eight-years-old studying astronomy or who are ten-years-old and just learning to read.”

I read that quote to Mr. Divine and he said, “Very nice! That sounds like us.” I think often people assume unschooling means no schooling at all. This is not the case. Unschoolers take classes and learn. They just do it at the child’s pace. Learning is MEANT TO BE FUN. Schools have long since taken the fun out of it. Unschooling is trying to put it back in. Little Divine is full of information and facts. They are things she’s learned about and enjoyed learning about them. I think it’s truly sad that so many school children hate school. Learning should be a wonderful experience!

Last week went to the local museum for Nuclear Science week. We spent 3 hours enjoying the sessions and activities! I signed Little Divine up because nuclear science is not something we’ve covered a lot. I was also thrilled to see a class for just homeschool children was offered. One speaker was a little unsure how to speak about his lesson since we had grades 2 through 8 in our group. Yet the children of all ages were able to sit down and listen, as well as learn what he was teaching and do the activity well! Little Divine and I both learned a lot of neat stuff that we were able to take home and share with Mr. Divine. Neither of us expected to enjoy it as much as we did or glean so much from it. (^.^) It was a great shared learning experience with Little Divine and it opened the doors for more learning at the dinner table with Mr. Divine. We traveled through history and science together as a family.

And so while I look online at a new series of Manga style educational books I’ve found for Little Divine, she reads stories of Roman gods and goddesses, telling me interesting information as she comes across it. She then journals about anything interesting she’s read in the book and we discuss all of it throughout the day. Later we’ll do a science experiment and watch a movie on Robin Hood. For us, this is educational bliss. ❤

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Reading Based Homeschooling

 

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I am constantly trying to find the best way to do things for our family and ways to improve our lives. Homeschooling is a very flexible system of education and we tweak it as needed. When we started off homeschooling years ago Little Divine loved doing her workbooks. They were colorful, fun and engaging. They held her interest and she enjoyed doing them. As we’ve progressed over the years the books have become less colorful, less fun and she doesn’t enjoy doing them as much. We will find a few that she enjoys and gets a lot out of, but a majority are just very plain looking and the book work isn’t something that appeals to her as much.

When we find that something isn’t working, we evaluate it and see if we can find a way to work. If it’s just not working out – it’s time to look for an alternative. That’s exactly what I did for Little Divine. She LOVES to read and is reading at a 9th grade level at least. Books have always been something she’s loved since she first learned to read. She enjoys reading  daily and gets a lot out of it. Because of this I started looking online for information on book centered homeschool curriculum and ways of teaching.

The program I like the best is Build Your Library. This program offers a low cost curriculum for grades K – 9. I’m hoping they expand to higher grades each year so we can move up with them! You purchase each year individually and they each come with generally the same stuff depending on grade level.

  • A lesson plans with:

    • a daily and weekly schedule
    • reading list
    • a set of narration cards
    • vocabulary words, discussion questions and dictation passages tied to the literature readings
    • Weekly writing assignments
    • memory work projects
    • Activity pages (including map work)
    • research projects
    • art projects

The price isn’t bad at $24.95 – $54.95 per set depending on the grade level. That’s a small cost compared to other yearly curriculum programs! I have never been a fan of homeschool curriculum companies who think charging families $300-$600 a year for a curriculum is fair business. Homeschool should not be that expensive. This is another reason I like Build Your Library because I feel their prices are very reasonable.

Little Divine is in 5th and 6th grade books right now. Build Your Library has 5th grade working on US History but I wanted to start off our whole reading based learning system from the very beginning. We have begun checking out books from the Ancient History book list from Grade 1 from our local library and will work our way up through the other grade reading lists until we’ve reached our grade level curriculum. This way we get to start at the beginning of history and move forward! (^.^)

Little Divine is super excited! I showed her the books on the list we are working on right now and showed her the lists to follow. She told me that she’d much prefer learning with reading over workbooks. We are not throwing all our workbooks out the window though. Each week she will be given the choice to pick which workbook she wants to work on each day. She can also work on whatever pages in it she wants. I still feel that writing skills and book work is beneficial, but this way she gets to pick what she works on each day and hopefully it will add some enjoyment back into it for her!

Another thing I added is her choice of something to learn about every week. Each week she gets to pick something she wants to learn about and it can be anything! We will go to the library for books on that subject, watch videos online, and find documentaries on it. We will fully immerse in that topic and learn all we can about it! I’ve told her that if she really loves a topic she can extend how long she learns on it, it doesn’t have to just be a week. This gives her another way to guide her learning and enjoy what she’s learning!

I feel that giving her freedom with her education is extremely important. Homeschool isn’t meant to be a duplicate of the school system. It’s meant to be something that’s special and unique for each child. We as parents often have to make decisions for our kiddos but there are also many times we should let them make their own. I will be here to guide her and step in when needed. We should always remain present in our children’s lives and decisions, even when we let them make their own.

I have to say that both of us are so excited for this new path! Sitting down to devote and hour or more to laying out all her lessons and make her worksheet packets is quite a task. It will be a nice change for me to just hand her the workbooks for the week and tell her to work on them as she desires! Homeschool shouldn’t stress out the parents daily either. It should be an enjoyable experience as much as possible. No you won’t always have enjoyable days, but it should be enjoyable more than not.

Have you tried a books based/reading centered curriculum for your kids? What did you think?

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Time4Learning Educational Online Website Review

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Image from Time4Learning.com

We homeschool Little Divine and have been homeschooling her since the very start. She is a smart kiddo and has always been ahead so homeschooling was the best fit. Plus the schools where we live are not super great. I’m happy with her home education and feel it is the very best option for her.

I am always on the lookout for great curriculum! Learning should be fun and it should help kids learn important things. It’s a hard combo to find of fun learning and good learning. Little Divine has been super involved in the computer the last few months, and just about everything involving the computer is a big interest to her. I decided to try looking online for an online homeschool curriculum that would give her the best all around curriculum. I looked at A LOT of sites. I ruled out any sites that were strictly Common Core as we don’t generally like a lot of the way Common Core teaches. Also ruled out were the overtly religious sites as I don’t want Little Divine to have someone’s religious principals forced on her while doing basic subjects. I feel religion should be taught to kids when they are developmentally able to understand it, and it should be a wide view of multiple religions, not just one.

We ended up landing on Time4Learning. It covers Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. After a short time period you also get an Art course as well. They just wait to open that up to you to make sure you are going to stick with the program. What I like at Time4Learning is that it is FUN. When we did the demo, Little Divine was totally focused on it. That’s important to me. The lessons are fun and she’s learning from them. Trust me – I quiz her at dinner about her daily lesson! (^.^)

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Parents get their own login and tools to use. You get updated reports as to what your child is working on. I literally can see her progress on the report showing how far along she is on an assignment. And they are updated as they go along, so I get up to the minute status on how much she’s completed. I can set her study time and her recess/gameroom time as well. I get to choose how fast she completes her grade level, how many lessons she does a day, and what lessons she does. It really give the parent a lot of freedom!

The price isn’t bad either – $19.95 a month for kids K through 8th, $30 a month for kids in high school. There are also options to get a major discount on rates if you pay for 6 months or a year in advance. My opinion is to sign up for the monthly and then buy in advance if it really works well for your family. That way you aren’t in the hole for a lot if it isn’t a good fit.

* Right now Time4Learning is offering a Buy One Month, Get One Month Free deal! So you get to try out 2 months of the site for only $19.95. I signed Little Divine up on this deal because I wanted to give her a good amount of time to try it out. THE DEAL END ON JUNE 30TH AT 11:59PM EDT! It isn’t available much longer but they might have other deals available after this one. This deal is ONLY for new members! *

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We haven’t been signed up long, so I’ll be reviewing it again as we get farther along. I really wanted to pass on the discount to you all because I feel it’s a really good buy. I don’t like spending a lot on curriculum but I really like how they teach. Little Divine hasn’t enjoyed that as she’s moved up in grades her books have lessened on the fun. She’s in 5th grade and it seems that her books have less and less colorful pages and fun mixed in with the learning. For us, this site is what we’ve been looking for to help put the fun back into learning.

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I’ve read that an issue with online curriculum is that kids don’t retain as much. If this is a concern for you, supplementing with other fun educational material or books and workbooks is your best bet. You can use them way less if you use a site for the core of your child’s learning which saves on money and paper. I am always an advocate of repetition because I feel it helps with retention! There are a lot of ways to help kids get the most out of their learning and make sure they retain it!

All in all, we currently recommend Time4Learning to be used as a homeschool curriculum! We are using the 5th grade level on all subjects to start off. Let me know what you think about the site if you give it a try! (^.^)

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