Christmas Craft Fail

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Internet not working on computer so here’s a shot post while the dust bunnies work on the problem.

This is a lesson in why you should always test out crafts ahead of time, preferably while kids unconscious.

Can you guess what I was actually trying to do?

Guest Post: Homeschooling and the World Wide Web

Guest Post by Laurie Rappeport, a freelance writer and online teacher. Laurie has been living in Safed for 28 years and worked in the Tzfat Tourist Information Center for 13 years. She continues to be active in the field of Tzfat tourism, running a website with local updates. She is the single mother of five children, a number of them successfully homeschooled. She is now moving into the world of mother-in-lawhood and grandmotherhood!

Beginning in the late 1990s a new phenomenon developed as online colleges began offering  opportunities for students to learn subjects via the Internet. Online degree programs quickly followed and by the early years of the new millennium high schools, and then elementary schools began to include elearning in their curriculum.

Today online education is a vibrant part of almost all schools. Homeschoolers have also discovered the benefits of elearning which enables them to refine their children’s education, present subject matter in a dynamic and interactive format, encourage independent learning and create engaging opportunities for the children to collaborate with other homeschoolers.

The United States Department of Education released a study, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices of Online Learning which was based on the results of 50 independent research projects. The study concluded that online learning is more effective than traditional face-to-face instruction. Today’s multi-media and Web-based applications have significantly improved the learning environment and scholastic results of students who learn partially or fully online. These opportunities have helped to propel the increase in homeschooling which, statistics show, is now growing at an annual rate of 7% – 15%.

The general view of the homeschooling population regarding online education has changed drastically over the last ten years. In the early years the majority of the discussion about online learning among homeschoolers focused on the drawbacks — undue reliance on technology, reduced ability to interact face-to-face in a homeschool setting, lack of familiarity with traditional book learning, etc. Today the discussion has noticeably shifted from whether to include online learning in the classroom to how to best include online learning in the classroom.

In reviewing some of the benefits of online learning for homeschooling students it’s clear that most students can complete some, or even all, of their coursework online. Whereas early elementary-aged children need more supervision, by the 5th or 6th grade, students can receive asynchronous assignments from their homeschooling educator and complete those assignments either semi-independently or completely independently. Many families have become involved in groups which facilitate collaboration among both parents and students. Such interactions enable the students to collaborate on assignments — sometimes via Skype or another web application — in pairs or in small groups, to expand the scope of a lesson and increase social interaction among participating students.

eGames offer another tool for homeschoolers to support personalized learning. eGames are designed to respond instantly to whatever the player does as they are arranged in series of increasingly difficult challenges which fit the sequencing of the curriculum (i.e. after conquering the fractions level, the student moves up to the algebra level). These games promote independent learning and offer an atmosphere of vibrant information exchange.

eGames Match screenshot

Online education is structured to ensure that students can learn in their own style and at their own pace, each in his or her individual learning style. In addition to egames, other online tools and apps create an invigorating learning environment for homeschoolers which ensure that each student gets the maximum out of his or her coursework.

Online materials and lesson plans help parents identify and implement both core curriculum and extra-curricular learning with their kids. Two of the best known resource sites for homeschooling are the Kahn Academy and the K12 project. The Khan Academy offers content on a wide range of subjects including the sciences, math, social studies, language arts and more. The Academy offers these resources for free and the parent/educator is responsible for creating the assignments for the student which will reinforce the material.

Khan Academy Periodic Table

The K12 program, by far the larger of the two, has a structured learning program which offers over 500 structured learning courses for grades 1-12. Its chairman is known to have made strong statements about the benefits of integrating technology with homeschooling. Many of the programs are free, subsidized by the public school system. They are meant to individualize student learning and match appropriate curriculum  to the needs and abilities of each student.

Homeschoolers are finding that elearning makes it possible for students to approach their studies from various angles. The parent provides the child with assistance as needed, but the ability for the student to proceed independently and explore related subjects easily as they arise offers a tremendous learning advantage for student and parent alike.

Families may be concerned about the costs of elearning, which may also include purchasing a laptop or tablet for each student. Studies have shown that, when all costs are added up, the savings on textbooks can more than make up for the expenditures on digital equipment, not to mention access to an unlimited rich world of online resources both for education and recreation.

Teachable Moments: Pillow Math & Other Opportunities Abound.

We are finally back from our big adventure at PunPun, a sustainable farm one hour north of Chiang Mai. Our stay was spectacular in so many ways and I will be writing a more comprehensive post about our time there. Here’s a sneak peek: Photo by my 5-yr-old

PunPunFarm Kids CC

While I am still catching up on the backlog of emails and commitments after an amazing break from wireless and unlimited kbps lands, I want to share an important lesson I re-learned during our trip.

Teachable moments are everywhere.

Sometimes as homeschooling parents –based on my vast experience of stalking online groups– we worry we aren’t giving our kids enough, that we aren’t prepared enough, that we don’t have all the things we need in order to teach them what they need to learn. When I started out this year, I was obsessed with lesson plans, curriculums, and having the right manipulables. I worried how I would manage with a limited budget. (Read anyone who wants to donate or gift me a Montessori moveable letters set, don’t hold back!) But in truth I was worrying for nothing; some of you may already have realized I could get paid for worrying, I am such an expert at it.

When I stopped trying to bring school home and let go, things naturally started to happen. Once I was fully oxygenating my brain instead of panicking about how much I was covering and just watching my kids play, I could jump in when they asked and see where I could naturally fit in letter, number, language learning among other things.

Here are a couple examples:

1. From a morning chat to vocabulary building & basic math concepts.
Mondays are French days in our house and I was talking with P while halfheartedly trying to make my bed. I am not sure how, but I used the word plus in French, meaning which means both more and “+”. My daughter asked me to explain the word. I used moins or less as a contrast but it wasn’t enough for her to understand. Finally I looked around and grabbed the four pillows I was fluffing. We divvied them up a few times, with her having more and then less than me.  We talked about adding them to her pile. We also had equal amounts. I then talked her through other verbal examples of more or less things, like who got to hold the chicken more at the farm, etc. Finally we found a pen and paper and looked at the + and – signs and wrote out the basic pillow additions we did. Ending the lot with a small pillow/tickle fight.

Teachable: Pillow Maths

2. I wanted to review some letters with something other than paper letters. As I was re-organizing toys, I came across a travel scrabble set we have yet to use. The girls loved grouping similar letters. Then counting how many of each they had and then putting them into order. Yes the star and pink boxes distracted them briefly, but hey, it’s all a work in progress.

Teachable, Scrabble Letters Alphabet

And yes, we always play scrabble in pink ballroom competition dresses. Don’t you?

I’ll put more examples in the comments as they crop up. I am just so tired I can’t think of them now. And please share your own!

Swimming Against the Tide: Why I am homeschooling.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Homeschool Blogging Carnival hosted by Lisa at The Squishable Baby and Keisha at Unschooling Momma. This month our participants are introducing their homeschools and styles.

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It seems like only yesterday I was pondering whether or not to homeschool my kids: what would it mean for us? Would I be patient enough? Could I, a non qualified teacher, teach them? Did we have a big enough support network? Would I ever get to pee alone again?

Wait, it was only yesterday and I am petrified.

My little family currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand. I am franco-american and lived in the UK for many years. My husband, aka el jeffe is Mexican and we have two daughters: Sweet Pea just five and little Plum, who will be three on September 1st.

I’ve just received the emails from the kindergarten and Pre-K schools confirming I’ve officially withdrawn my children. It felt so final that I broke into a cold sweat and nearly fainted. I wish I were exaggerating.

There are many reasons why I am choosing to homeschool but they aren’t the two main ones I typically read about. Most of the time you either hear about families for whom it is a faith-based decision or kids not thriving in school. I want a secular education for my kids – and that for me means they learn about all the major global religions. My two girls overall both love school and this is probably the hardest thing about pulling them out. It would be so much easier if, like me, they were hating the experience.

So why am I doing it? The main reason is totally selfish. I am suddenly incredibly aware of my mortality and I know my kids will only worship the ground I walk on for a few more years so I’d like to spend as much of that time as possible with them, harnessing that adoration, instead of only getting the rushing on either side of school. Traffic in Bangkok means I have to get them up at 6am and they are gone by 6.55.  By the time they get back in the afternoon, we have time for a tiny bit of tired play and the whole dinner, bath, book routine.  During these windows, I frequently feel like I am tap dancing in a minefield as their exhaustion makes them emotional explosive time bombs. Ultimately, I get the two slices of bread and none of the delicious filling.

bangkok traffic via scottygraham.blogspot.com

Another factor is the a question of value for money. Living in Bangkok, my only option is to send my kids to private school. These schools are extremely expensive catering generally to an élite expat crowd, bankrolled by their companies and the schools take full advantage of this including outrageous sign-up fees leaving us mere working mortals struggling to educate our children. Maybe if we were a monolingual family, I would have considered local Thai school but my kids are already growing up with English, French and Spanish and it just didn’t make sense to add Thai to that. Also the Thai educational approach is far from what I want for my kids.

Freeing up these financial resources allows me to organize a whole host of educational trips and activities including extended stays with Abuela in Mexico and their Papoo and Yaya in France and the US. It kills me that my mother in law hasn’t seen my eldest since she was 8 months old and has never met our second girl.

As far as approaches – well it is a little too early to say what we will end up doing but my plan at this point is loosely following a waldorf-based curriculum called Oak Meadow but without signing up for the teacher support at this stage. To this, I’d like to incorporate aspects of the Well Trained Mind approach. I am big on the classics and laying foundations. As far as maths go, I am hesitating between Singapore math and Montessori math. I am in Asia and hear so many good things about the former but from what I can tell so far SM and MM are actually very similar in their approaches so it may just be a case of which materials are easier for me to source. Of course all of these are ideas and only time will tell what ends up working for us.

Jumping into the deep end.

I mentioned earlier, I am petrified but ready to jump into the deep end. The courage I’ve found has come less from within but in the knowledge of the incredible support group I’ve been able to find here in Bangkok. Homeschooling is not common here but I’ve been fortunate to find a small group of families with kids of similar ages who are already homeschoolers or starting out like me.

And as I sat there, nauseous and nervous, having just read the withdrawal emails, my daughter, unbeknownst to her, shared an experience that sealed the deal. She was a little upset, wanting to draw a fish but insisting she didn’t know how. When I tried to encourage her, she explained to me that a teacher had told her that she hadn’t drawn her fish right.

Who tells a 4-year-old that their fish isn’t right? Apart from the millions of different types of fish and sea creatures I am pretty sure the teacher isn’t familiar with, WHO tells a FOUR-year-old  their fish ISN’T RIGHT?

Talk about killing creativity and sowing the seeds of insecurity and doubt. No way, you are not getting my money or more importantly, my child.

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Visit The Squishable Baby to see how you can participate in the next Homeschool Blogging Carnival. hmschool blogging button

 

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