Monday, March 26, 2012

Making Us Proud

My husband and son got all dressed up this evening to go to their boy scout meeting.  It was a review night and they both looked so sharp!

They came home in a great mood and my husband was very proud of our son as he earned his rank advancement this evening.
When he told him to come tell me about it, my son rushed in grinning and said, "Home school is paying off mom!"
I said, "What do you mean?"
He said, "I was able to not only answer a question about our constitutional rights but give them a list of them and how they applied to me.  I did really well on that question."

I was pretty excited and extremely pleased to hear that some of the material he has learned in the last few months is already beginning to make a difference. He's not just learning.  He's retaining information.  He's applying it to his life.

This is the kind of news that would make any home school parent proud!  What we do does make a difference!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Develop a Writer

Unfortunately for my son his mom is a published author.  I might not be Nora Roberts or Danielle Steel but the fact remains I have published my writing in various formats for the last ten years.  He used to have a thirst for writing that almost surpassed my own.  I could see the desire to possibly someday be published himself.  

The problem is somewhere in the public education system this thirst dampened.  It died.  He was writing well developed stories in fourth grade and so they stopped feeding him improvement.  They didn't teach him the mundane part of the writing process because he was doing a good job.  So the ball got dropped.  The spark for telling a story is still there.  The little hint of a flame as he reveals a plot twist, a gruesome death, or a funny joke.  What's missing is a lack of respect for the process of "feeding the flame".  

He has no idea how often one, single piece may be written and rewritten.  He wasn't given elements of building the story further than his initial idea.  While he was taught writing in a classroom setting it was a basic class that touched upon knowledge he already had.  It taught basic character development.  Never mind that his stories all showed those basics what he needed was more in depth knowledge.

So now we have a problem of arrogance.  Thinking his writing is far superior to his peers he has hit a point where I am going to have to burst that bubble.  I am going to have to take some of the lessons above the place his peers are at.  Which means I will hear complaints of, "this is too hard."  "I'm not writing a book mom!"  "I already did that."  "How long does it have to be?"  The last is my least favorite because it isn't a question that explores what is my potential? It's a question that explores what do I have to do to pass?

So there is a mind set here that we need to make a break through in.   Life isn't about passing or failing.  It's not about doing good enough.  It's about doing your best.  If he would get rid of that pass or fail, good enough, how long should my writing be thought process I have no idea what he would create.  When he is given the limit of doing two pages, he does exactly two pages.  When he is told do 10 paragraphs, he does exactly 10 paragraphs.  What I see is that if he would let his creative monster loose on paper, unguarded, there is no limit to his imagination.  

I hate giving a limit on a writing assignment.  I really do.  But if I don't, he will write the entire assignment in two sentences.  His mind set is on doing as little as possible to produce the exact result the teacher requests.  He won't explore any further.  Yet, take him on vacation and riding in a car with nothing else to do he is typing out longer stories in the notes section of my Iphone.  Stories that are good.

So this is my experiment in developing him beyond the pass/fail school system way of teaching.  I don't know how successful it will be in the end and there are have been times already in this process where he has bucked against my non traditional method.

1. Give him a good writing prompt and ask for 5 paragraphs.
2.  He used a "To be continued" setting himself up the next day to finish the story in 5 paragraphs.
3. Teach character development.  Using a simple chart we watched an episode of his favorite television show and analyzed each character.  We had four charts completed at the end of this session.
4. Then he was told to do two more charts just like that printable on his characters.
5.  At this point he was told to revise his 10 paragraph story and incorporate his character chart exercise into his writing.  Here is where he did something completely unexpected.  Rather than expanding upon his assignment, he did exactly what I asked and in the process condensed his story down to one page length.  I was mad at first. Then I looked closer at what he had done.  He had tightened down his story and took out a lot of the non essential elements.  He did add in good character descriptions.   It is nowhere near complete but it may actually be easier for him to work with the story now that the only things remaining are the important parts.  Oh, and the story still made perfect sense.
6.  Then we looked at the beginning.  We read through:
Then he was given a list I made in Microsoft word that hit each key point talked about in the article but worded in a way a sixth grader can apply to his writing.  His assignment was to look through my print out and begin to brainstorm how he was going to do everything on that page in his first chapter.   I also took his condensed story and broke it down into Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and  Chapter 3.  The objective at the end of this unit is a three chapter story that showcases his writing style.
7.  The next class period is to complete Chapter 1.  Incorporate everything he read, learned, and then worked out on paper the day before into his actual story.
This is a unit in progress so we are not finished but the overall point of what he is doing is here.
We will do a few lessons on conflict and the middle of a story.  We will do a few lessons on conflict resolution, good endings, and how to wrap everything up without leaving a loose end unless you plan on doing a series of novels or stories.   Finally, he will be put through the editing and re-writing process one last time to produce a three chapter short story.   How will it work out for us?  I have no idea.  But I can't wait to read the final product!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

If you don't like it, Suck an Egg

Since we decided to "come out" and announce our decision, we have found more haters than those that embrace our choice.  Amazingly enough, the haters stem from our own family and relatives more than strangers.  Strangers embrace the idea of home school without judgement or question.
In the interest of fairness, before I say to go suck an egg, let me also say when you have your own children you get to choose how to raise and educate them.  You get to make those decisions.  And I have seen plenty of public school educated adults fail.  I have seen too many parents spend their time fighting with the system, fighting with their kids to fall in line with the system, and in general fighting more than educating.  Isn't that a lot of stress?
Even in public school, they expect the parent to be a full time teacher in the evening.  You walk hand in hand with your child's education process but you only get to see them a few hours in the evening after work/school before bed.  Where is the time in that to be loving, joyous family unit?  You only get your child a limited amount of years before they grow up.  Do you not want quality family time?  Do you not want to make enjoyable family memories?
As to questioning my credentials, let me just say that I did go to school for early childhood education.  I didn't finish.  I decided I didn't want to spend my life in a class room with thirty unknown children everyday trying to make them listen and follow rules in a society so screwed up a parent can't discipline a child, much less a teacher.  I didn't want to spend more time fighting officials over every little move I made than I did expanding minds.  I didn't want to do that.  Plain and simple.  Do you think every teacher with a degree is qualified and outstanding to teach every child?  If you let a piece of paper tell  you what you can and can not do your entire life, than you are going to miss out on life.
So here are some facts:

1. In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families was released. It was entitled, "Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America." The study demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects. 

2. This was confirmed in another study by Dr. Lawrence Rudner of 20,760 homeschooled students which found the homeschoolers who have homeschooled all their school aged years had the highest academic achievement. This was especially apparent in the higher grades.

3.  In a study released by the National Center for Home Education on November 10, 1994. According to these standardized test results provided by the Riverside Publishing Company of 16,311 homeschoolers from all 50 states K-12, the nationwide average for homeschool students is at the 77th percentile of the basic battery of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In reading, the homeschoolers' nationwide grand mean is the 79th percentile. This means, of course, that the homeschool students perform better in reading than 79 percent of the same population on whom the test is normed. In the area of language arts and math, the typical homeschooler scored in the 73rd percentile.

4. In 1991, a survey of standardized test scores was performed by the Home School Legal Defense Association in cooperation with the Psychological Corporation, which publishes the Stanford Achievement Test. The study involved the administering of the Stanford Achievement Test (8th Edition, Form J) to 5,124 homeschooled students. These students represented all 50 states and their grades ranged from K-12.   These 5,124 homeschoolers' composite scores on the basic battery of tests in reading, math, and language arts ranked 18 to 28 percentile points above public school averages.

5. The Bob Jones University Testing Service of South Carolina provided test results of Montana homeschoolers. Also a survey of homeschoolers in Montana was conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute. Dr. Brian Ray evaluated the survey and test results and found:On average, the home education students in this study scored above the national norm in all subject areas on standardized achievement tests. These students scored, on average, at the 72nd percentile. This is well above the national average.

6. In North Dakota, Dr. Brian Ray conducted a survey of 205 homeschoolers throughout the state. The middle reading score was the 84th percentile, language was the 81st percentile, science was the 87th percentile, social studies was the 86th percentile, and math was the 81st percentile.  Further, Dr. Ray found no significant statistical differences in academic achievement between those students taught by parents with less formal education and those students taught by parents with higher formal education.

7. Stanford University accepted 26% of the 35 homeschoolers who applied--nearly double its overall acceptance rate.

8. 2001, homeschoolers scored an average of 1,100 on the SAT--a full 81 points above the national average--and 22.8 on the ACT, compared with the national average of 21.

9. The homeschooling population in the United States has grown from some 10,000 to 15,000 children in the late 1960s to over one million children in 2001

10. In 1997, the winner of the National Spelling Bee was a homeschooled student. Every year since then, the winner has been a homeschooled student. This year, the first and second runners up were also homeschoolers. (2004)
More Info can be found at:

So in summary, if you have something negative to say, use researched facts to back your argument up.  And don't be such a gossip.  Say it to the home school parent's face and be willing to listen to their reasoning, logic, and statistics as well.  You will find out that most of us did not come to this decision lightly.  Most of us researched.  Most of us thought it out.  Most of us have multiple reasons and various layers for our choice.  And most of us work harder than you could imagine to find curriculum that is advanced, informative, accurate, and offers a variety of choices to meet our needs.  Just because you have chose a traditional system with flaws gives you no superior right to knock someone else's choices for deciding to use their own system which may also have flaws, but they are flaws they can work out and mend themselves.  

In Short, Haters can:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sometimes We All Want Cookies

School is hard! Any parent regardless of their educational choices for their children can relate to this.  Today's post is for all of us.  Every parent today plays some role in their child's education.  The schools depend on it when they assign homework.  Is there a school out there who isn't doing reading journals of some sort?  That is basically mom & dad's homework.
You have to write how many minutes your child read and sign the journal.  Or you have to sign this.  Or sign that.  Or read to them.  Read with them.  Watch this.  Answer this.  Discuss this.
For the home school parent we get to make a choice.  Teach even the hard stuff or take the easy route some home schooling does and skip it.  Well, life isn't about skipping the hard stuff.  It's about taking the plunge into the unknown.  Hug the un-love-able things like Algebra.  Wrap your mind around science in all of it's complexities.  You aren't doing anyone any favors if you pick and choose to not teach subjects you aren't familiar with.
Not only do you deprive your child of knowledge that other students have, you deprive yourself of the learning experience.
But soapbox aside, today wasn't about whining or lecturing. No advice.  No quick wit.
Today's post was all about mommy wanting cookies.  She's tired.  She worked hard.  She pushed through Meiosis lessons in Science, least common denominator with fractions in Math, read a report on a state cabinet, typed up the spelling list, helped prepare a writing blog for book reviewing (instead of the old book report formats), and in general researched, taught, got frustrated, laughed, shook her head and figured it all out to finish a productive day in school.
Now ....give....her....a ....cookie.  Please????
Preferably one of those limited edition Birthday Cake Oreo's.
I think I'm going to sob when those go off the market.
Because today, is just a cookie day.
And those oreo's are so good I'm neglecting the girl scout cookies.  
If you love birthday cake ice cream and all of that jazz - I recommend trying these before they are gone.
Hopefully my husband reads this and buys me some cookies!!!!!!
Must have cookies to fuel my brain for tomorrow.  Meiosis test day.  Lots of cookies.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Layover: Humor

Yesterday we tested in most of our subjects and wrapped up unit studies.  Today is Friday and I'm really trying not to delve too deep into brand new units or chapters that he is going to forget come Monday.  So we're doing some busy work that fills space and gives me a chance to access where he is in his subjects.

So for writing, our Review unit was complete and I decided to go for an easy writing prompt.  Thinking I wanted something fun and light hearted because he had just completed a unit that was very intense and I expected a lot out of his writing for that.  I wanted to remind him of the lighter side of writing and bring some humor to our Friday afternoon.  I loved the website I found for writing prompts.  If you home school, you MUST check this out.  The prompts here are so good and look so fun, I think they just might become our Friday routine.  I can't wait to see what he comes up with.  It might even be good for his old, author mom to put her skills to the test next to him and let loose with a few of these.

Here's that link:

Now today our prompt was: Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone Who Just Got Dumped

I laughed.  He's going to fuss at me for blogging this but here are some gems from my favorite twelve year old boy in the world:

"At least now I can date her."
"At least my dog still likes you."
"Want to go on a double date? Ooh, wait.."
"You'll never guess who just asked me out.  Well, maybe you can."
"You'll never find anyone like that again." isn't always BORING.  Have fun!!! Don't be afraid of the lighter side of life.  It engages their brains too.  I promise.

And here's a little photo of the couple we all wish would have broken up when one got eaten by a werewolf: