Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sequential Spelling - it works for us!

DS6 has a excellent visual memory. He went from phonics to chapter books within six months in his kindy year. Once he sees a word - he can re-call it. He doesn't need repetition which is why mainstream school was often boring for him. I felt that learning to spell may happen just as quickly as learning to read and didn't want to waste time with explanations and excercises that were unnecessary. I also didn't want to spend a lot of money if they were only going to be used for a short time.

Learning to spell...........

I thought his ability to read would mean that spelling would also be a breeze. I was wrong.

Ever since DS6 could hold a crayon he has been writing stories. I never had the heart to discourage his eagerness by correcting his handwriting or spelling. Unfortunately, this is where he developed some bad habits. He continues to spell some words phonetically like he did when he was younger and now these incorrectly spelt words are firmly established in his visual memory. 


I bought Sequential Spelling secondhand from another homeschooler. It was cheap and because it was inexpensive I figured we could just and try and see how we go. If it didn't work then we would put it aside and try something new. 

Thankfully, it worked!

The idea is that children learn to recognise patterns of spelling in the English language without the complicated and confusing explanations. I don't often consider the role of homophones when I'm enjoying a good book. And I don't re-call the last time someone asked me if I've enjoyed any good synonyms lately? I'm not entirely convinced that the confusing rules and terminology is helpful for young children learning to spell.

This is why I love sequential spelling!

It also comes with teaching notes at the beginning of the book to help you get started!

So why does it work so well for us?

Firstly, my son doesn't need much repetition. It's also simple - just grab the book, some paper and a white board with some coloured markers and away you go! I also love that the results are immediate. After the fourth day, my son was writing stories and spelling words like 'beginning' correctly. It was exciting to see and rewarding for him.

The only thing I find a bit frustrating is that it often includes words that are extremely uncommon such as 'lout' or 'clouted'. I'm not convinced some of the words even exist. You should hear me trying to put them in a sentence! 

I've been really happy with sequential spelling and will continue to use it. I even purchased the next 2 books from Chariot press on sale just in case we continue through the whole program. There are 7 books in total and they now have it available on DVD which we may consider in the future.

Sequential Spelling - it works for us!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Fun With Boxes On A Rainy Day

child playing box

It was a rainy day so there was no playing outside. My boys got together and spent hours (yes, hours) making trains out of cardboard boxes. At first they cut them to make room for the passengers. Then they decorated them, ate afternoon tea in them (as above) and finally, played with them.

child play boxes

Even the baby got involved. I'm not sure how much she enjoyed being in a box though.

baby in a box

I love watching my boys work together learning to share, negotiate, plan and create as a team.

boys box train

Who would've thought some old cardboard boxes could provide such a positive learning experience and literally hours of entertainment on a rainy day!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Learning From Each Other

baby learning piano 

One of the things I love about homeschooling is seeing the bond develop between my kids. There are fights of course, but there are also tender moments that happen between them that I missed seeing when they were at school.

DS6 is incredibly caring and nurturing and adores his baby sister who is currently 4 months old. In fact, I sometimes joke that he's the third parent. He can't get enough of her to the point where he has withdrawals if a friend or visitor is holding her!

He is also very protective which I hope continues well into her teenage and young adult years!

So, this morning he decided to teach her to play the piano.

As you can see she's a natural! She loves it!

baby girl playing piano

Although there are always going to be bonds between siblings, I can see that we are creating memories by giving them more time together through homeschooling. We are sharing life together - not leading individual lives. There is something beautiful about growing and learning together. I know that each of my children has something meaningful to give and contribute to our family and that we can all learn from one another.

Let's be honest, my 4 month old isn't quite ready to learn the piano but when she is, she will have 3 big brothers to show her the ropes and encourage her.

Homeschooling = learning from each other and learning together.

baby learning piano

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Education - Are We Creating A Success? Or A Human Being?

Ahhh...Chris Hedges - I love you!

This is exactly where I'm at with my view on education. I even blogged at MUMmedia about the problems with teaching kids to be successful as opposed to building their character.

There have been times when I have focused too much on academic achievement.

I once read a book about Chinese tiger mum's and although I was horrified at just how hard they pushed their children, it made me feel like I was being way too lenient with my own. I wanted to take a leaf (just one) out of their parenting philosophy to give my children the opportunity to succeed academically.

In a time where we have more money than ever to spend on our children's education and enrichment, it's easy to get off track. We may find ourselves busily attending activity after activity truly believing that we are giving our kids the best. In reality, our kids probably just want (and need) to be at home in an environment where they can talk, discuss and interact with us - daily. It is through these interactions that children have the opportunity to develop their character. We need to be present in their lives (in a big way) to model and teach the values we want to instill in them.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will
Romans 12:2

I like to remind myself of this verse when I feel my thoughts and focus drifting too much towards achievement.

Of course I want my children to be successful but I don't want to conform to the world's definition of success. 

I want to live and teach my children to live in line with God's values - not the worlds.

As Christians, it is just as easy for us to fall into the trap of success and achievement. In some ways, the church lives in constant danger of conforming TOO much to the world in order to be socially relevant. It's a fine line. After all, we have to live IN the world don't we? Therefore we need to conform to some things don't we?

Food for thought.

God values generosity - the world values selfishness.
God values kindness - the world values self-centredness.
God wants us to live humbly - the world want us to live extravagantly.
God values the poor - the world values the rich.
God values spiritual depth - the world values the superficial and materialistic.

God values character - the world values success.

In our competitive culture where we are obsessed with achievement it's easy to just go with the flow. I know that I need a constant reminder that the task of building character in my four children is more important than academic success.

Each day I want to ask: What have I done today to help build my child's character?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sand Play - A Fun Way To Learn

children learning sand
Believe it or not there were three children missing from that photo.

Last week my friend popped around with her six children to see how our homeschooling was going.

While we enjoyed a cuppa and a chat, the kids got busy! We sat and watched as all nine kids worked together to build a volcano. This involved building and collecting water from the rainwater tank to make the sand nice and wet. It also gave the appearance of a volcano for a few short seconds while they squealed with delight.

kids playing in sand

Why is sand good for kids? 
  • Sand play promotes physical development. Large muscle skills develop as children dig, pour, sift, scoop and pat as well as small muscle skills.
  • Sand play is good for eye-hand coordination and small muscle control which improves as children learn to manipulate sand accessories.
  • Maths concepts can be developed during sand play through the use of measuring cups and spoons and different sized containers. Kids learn concepts such as heavy/light and empty/full.
  •  Sand also develops social skills such as teamwork including sharing, negotiating and compromising.
  •  It also stimulates creativity and the basis for learning science concepts

Learning....just happens

It's easy to forget that learning takes place naturally when children are given the freedom to play and explore. This was just a playdate with some sand and water but the kids were learning and developing valuable skills.

Piaget (1945) noted that children have an inner drive to build an understanding of their world as they explore and interact with materials like sand! It is through the freedom to play that children develop concepts about how the world works and these develop as children get older.

We can never underestimate how much children can learn through something as simple as the backyard sandpit and a little bit of water!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Our Homeschool Mission Statement

After a few weeks of homeschooling I've realised that I constantly need to remind myself WHY we have made this choice. In fact, I need to remind myself daily....and keep reminding myself...and reminding myself!

Homeschooling Mission Statement

To protect, nurture, and encourage my children's curiosity, imagination, and love of learning

To create a warm, safe learning environment to suit my children's interests and changing needs

To build strong character in my children believing that good character is more important than academic success

To protect my children from negative influences by providing an environment where they are encouraged to embrace and celebrate their God-given uniqueness

To empower my children with the knowledge that they are created by God and God has a plan and purpose for their life

To live joyfully and peacefully together, encouraging and uplifting one another with both words and actions

To impart a heart-felt desire to contribute meaningfully to the world

Train up a child in the way he should go - and when he is old he will not depart from it 
- Proverbs 22:6

I have placed copies all through the house so that I see it constantly. I've highlighted the words that reflect what I'm trying to do such as protect, empower, impart etc. I've also highlighted things that we are working towards such as to live joyfully and peacefully.

As I wrote this, I got really excited! It reminded me that I'm not just homeschooling my kids - I'm protecting, nurturing, empowering, imparting and building something in my children. 

It's not just about school - this is about equipping them and preparing them for life. What a responsibility! But also, what a privilege and honour this is!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

De-schooling - Welcome Back Son!

It has only been three weeks and experts suggest it takes months for a child who has been in mainstream school to de-school and adjust to a new learning environment. I'm already seeing some really positive changes in his behavior and attitude not just towards me as his new 'teacher' but to life in general.

So, what have I noticed?

He is more confident

He is now in an environment of encouragement where he can build his confidence. He is learning that who he is is exactly who God made him to be. He doesn't have to be good at soccer or watch hours of Nickelodeon to be liked. He is liked and loved by his family and our close friends and is beginning to learn that his value is beyond peer group acceptance.

He no longer has to survive in a school environment because he can thrive at home!

He is more polite

Hello manners!

This was the first thing I noticed. He was suddenly saying please and thank you but in a way that seemed genuine for the very first time. It wasn't something 'forced' upon him but something that suddenly clicked. I now reassure him that I appreciate his manners as it reflects an attitude shift.

I suspect that spending more time in a consistent environment has helped. At school politeness isn't always essential so he probably just learnt what he could get away with and then had to adjust to coming home to different expectations. 

He is happy

My son is happy as opposed to moody, flat and exhausted. In fact, I don't mind his crazy hyperactive moments as at least I know he's happy. I can see he is content and that makes ME happy!

 DS6 is making beautiful progress and even felt confident enough to walk through his old school this afternoon to pick up his brother from kindy.  I'm really proud of him!

The de-schooling process will continue but for now, I am seeing so many positive changes in his attitude and interactions that I am encouraged to persist through the difficulties.

I feel like the son I know and love is slowly coming back.

Welcome back Son!

Car-schooling with Jonathon Park Audio Adventures

  I once asked a seasoned homeschooler how she managed to fit so many activities and events around 'schoolwork'. She told ...