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Friday, August 6, 2010

GUEST BLOG - How To Measure Whether Your Style Of Homeschooling Is Working

Elsa's back with part two of her post. Some very good thoughts, here! Enjoy!

My previous post on this blog touched on questioning homeschool choices. This time we’ll look at how to measure whether what you’re doing is working, and also at a few simple steps which might just fix problems you’ve discovered. I don’t have all the answers, but I can share what has worked for us.

Measuring happiness: When you question your style of homeschooling or your choice of resources, there is a very accurate measure to use. Is your child happy? Is the child inspired and feverishly trying to find out more about a subject or simply content and peacefully working along? Those are both natural states we experience in our own learning. You know your child and you’ll know if the child is happy.

Something we’ve found is that, apart from obvious reasons such as illness or unavoidable stress, there are two main reasons for a child to be unhappy and not progressing at a natural speed in their learning. One is if the work is too difficult or too much and another is if the work is not challenging or stimulating enough. There are easy ways to fix these issues.

Pare down and simplify: What do you do if your child is overwhelmed by the amount or complexity of work and exhausted in trying to keep up? This should be obvious, but often when we’ve bought an expensive curriculum we simply do not want to skip any little bit of detail. Get real, people! That is a big box of materials and one small to medium child. Which is more precious to you? Do you really want to break a spirit that young, and lose what could have been an enthusiastic mathematician through an avalanche of worksheets? She’ll probably be fine if she did a fifth of the exercises. Repetition is for when one does not understand something, so do not destroy souls with repetition of things they have mastered and which no longer hold magic.

Do you wear yourself and the rest of the family out driving from activity to activity? You, too, need to be happy and healthy for the rest of the family to function. What am I saying? If the homeschool parent is worn out, the whole family malfunctions! If you’re finding it all too much, chances are the child has given up hope of managing what you’ve lined up. More is not necessarily better. In fact, more is most often simply too much! You are not depriving a child if you cut down on activities. It is not a bad lesson to learn early in life that one can’t have it all, especially not at the expense of others.

Embroider and broaden: There is also the other side of the coin. Sometimes we pick easier work for a child on purpose. It is hard to watch children struggle and good to see that they accomplish some work easily. Yet you’ll find that it is not in human nature always to want it easy. Even the most cautious of us are programmed to want a challenge and to test ourselves just a little bit.

If all of your child’s work is of such a standard that he can simply cruise along, he will become frustrated and that is one of the main reasons children get moody and difficult to handle.

There is no reason to throw out what you’re doing though. If it is not possible to upgrade to a different level, have a look at the material and see how you can make it more interesting. Can you devise a project, with the child’s input, to challenge him and embroider further? If there is already a spark of interest but the set work does not provide sufficient depth, set up a web quest or library research project so that he can dig much deeper into the subject.

Cross-curricular links also work very well to provide interest. When studying the geography of Europe, for example, one can embroider by focussing on a specific country, or broaden the field by studying the music/food/languages of many countries. This method works well for any age group.

Work on intuition: Well, you won’t hear that in school! Yet I’ve found following my gut instinct a very accurate way of keeping our homeschooling on track. While things are humming along nicely, a lot of learning occurs. When they are not, the learning taking place tends to be of the negative kind.

Trust your intuition and watch your children carefully to see if they are happy. That has worked for us for many years and still does. Above all, enjoy the time you have together.

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