Teachers and Homeschoolers Sharing Wisdom Part 3: Guest Blogger Jennifer Garcia

I am just loving the guest Bloggers who have graced us with wisdom these past few weeks! The links are at the end of this post!

Today's guest blogger is Jennifer Garcia with Pages of Grace.
She is a Christian, teacher, wife, mom, runner, cake decorator, and craft enthusiast who tries to enjoy the little things in life. I love that! Get ready. Jennifer, like me, began by disagreeing with homeschooling! I love how the Lord changed her heart!

Here's Jennifer!

To be honest, when I was teaching in the classroom, I did not understand why people chose to homeschool.

Through my college education and the years I spent working in public schools, I was trained to believe that children should be in regular school; it was not good for them to be deprived of the socialization that comes from the schools.
Now that I have children of my own, my whole thought process has changed!

I decided to take a few years off when I had my first child, always planning on going back to the classroom when my children were in school. Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time looking at the different school options in our area, and I am feeling more and more that homeschool is a very good option for us and many other families.

My older daughter attends a Christian preschool, and I do supplemental work at a home with her and my younger daughter. I completely understand and respect the reasons that parents choose to homeschool their children now. Parents know what is best for their own children. There are many reasons, but these are the three big ones that stick out to me and many people I know:

*We want more time with our children. Family time seems to be less and less important these days, but in reality, I believe it is more necessary than ever. By spending that extra time with our children, we have the opportunity to pour love, wisdom, and morals into our children that we might not have if they were in school every day.

*Exposing our children to things when we feel it is right. There is such a push to throw kids out in society and let them deal with it, because that's what "everybody" does. However, we feel that there is a proper time and place for children to be exposed to certain ideas and situations, and it should be when we feel they are ready, not when society says they should.

*Religious reasons. While everyone has their own beliefs, we believe that Jesus and the Bible should guide our lives. Our society has removed every ounce of truth from our schools, to the point where I felt I had to walk on eggshells as a teacher. It is very sad to see that the more we push God away, the worse our society has become. Students will eventually have to grow up and make their own choices, but I believe that children need to spend these influential years in an atmosphere of love and truth, so they are ready for what the world throws at them later.

My children are young, so we are mostly focused on literacy right now. I create activities and lessons based on their interests. I know the topic that I want to focus on, and then I mix it with the things that my kids enjoy. For example, my girls are both really into art, so when we are working on letter recognition, I give them lots of different materials and have them make letters using the different materials--rhinestones and glitter are their favorites :) They also love playing games, so when we started doing sight words, I made some games that we could play together to reinforce the sight word practice. I think the key to approaching new things is to know the topic that you need to teach, and then create learning activities around the interests of the children.

When I was in the classroom, I worked with many struggling learners. Here is my approach to helping them succeed:
First and foremost, you have to know the child. Look at all of the background information so you understand what is NOT working.

Then, I take a different approach. If one method is not clicking, I try something else. I also think it is important to take things one step at a time. It can be overwhelming to look at a child who is struggling in every area. I take the approach of tackling one thing at a time, and also making it a point to praise every milestone and achievement. This builds confidence in the student and helps him feel that he is making progress and that the goals are in reach.
My Teachers Pay Teachers store has a wide variety of resources, because I have things from the classroom (4th-6th grade) and things that I make for my own children (preschool-kindergarten). I will include some products from different levels, in the hopes that it will help parents with multiple children.

This is my main freebie.
It is a set of task cards for double digit multiplication. Task cards are a great resource that can be used in many different ways.
Double Digit Multiplication Task Cards

This is one of my phonics packets. I have a series of phonics packets that I made to teach my children how to read. I think this is a great homeschool resource. It is easy to follow and progresses smoothly from one topic to the next. Each packet builds upon the last. The packets are designed to focus on one or two word families at a time, allowing children to focus on and master one thing and build confidence. This is the first packet (CVC words). I have 3 other packets in my store now, and I am working on adding more soon.
CVC Complete Practice Packet-No Prep 

I have some novel studies that are complete integrated units. These are a fun way to really dive into a book, while covering many different skills. This link is for the book, Holes. I also have novel studies for Charlotte's Web and The Tale of Desperaux, and I am in the process of adding a few more in the next few months.
Holes Novel Study-Complete Integrated Unit 

I hope parents find this information helpful, and I look forward to learning more about homeschool ideas from the other people in this guest blog. Thank you for the opportunity to collaborate :)

Recent Guest Bloggers:
Melissa Jenkins,  My Broken BootStraps 
Lisa Smith, Tales of Teaching and Learning

I receive no monetary perks for any of the teaching and learning packets shared in this post. I am simply trying to share my heart for becoming a better educator by connecting great teachers with great homeschoolers. We have so much to learn from each other!

Am I a Good Enough Homeschool Teacher?

I wrestle with feelings of insecurity when it comes to homeschooling our boys.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the best teacher for my children... Am I alone?

Last week I picked up the novel my son was reading to help him with comprehension. He is reading Call it Courage. As I read the first chapter I realized that this book was not about a boy's struggle with war. (That's right! I never even noticed the cover)

Good Lord, help my children!

OK. I am not the most literate adult I know. In fact I did not read one book in high school. I was that student that could scan and skim, gather the right information and quotes to get an "A" in the class while never really having to read anything.

I was pleasantly surprised by the plot of this tiny little book my son was reading, yet it made me question my ability to lead him.

  • How could I possibly teach this child when I couldn't even scan a book in advance to know it was about an island culture and their worship of courage? 
  • How could I look myself in the mirror and be confident in my ability to help my son love learning?

After about three days of feeling bad, I realized my son's interest had awakened as he read about and drew the setting of the story: an island surrounded by a beautiful coral reef.

I picked up a Coral Reef book filled with fantastic photographs and we began exploring the complexity and delicacy of these living structures. Oh my, we were and continue to be captivated!

In our research we discovered a new creature: The mantis shrimp. Holy smokes! This little guy is fantastic. Supposedly this creature has the fastest movement in the animal kingdom as it punches its prey. We had to learn more...

A quick internet search, led us to one of my favorite YouTube Channels "Smarter Every Day" and viola, there was the beautiful, powerful, and astounding mantis shrimp. This one is worth watching with your kids!

So there you go. A ride on my homeschooling merry go round.
First I allow my son to read a book that I know nothing about.
second, I form an opinion about the book strictly by its title.
Then, I am struck "dumb" as I read to catchup with my son.
next I see an opportunity to follow a rabbit trail down an area of interest.
Then, we become engrossed and amazed in a little creature we didn't even know existed.

Yep, a successful homeschooling week I'd say.

Of course, I failed again when I fell for the "Finding Nemo is all about a coral reef": hook, line and sinker.

How about you?
Do you ever struggle with feeling like you fall short as a homeschooler?

Math Fun: Summer Multiplication Practice

Guest Blogger Melissa Jenkins: Teachers and Homeschoolers Sharing Wisdom

Ready for some more teacher/educator/homeschooling sharing?
My Broken BootstrapsI am pleased to introduce you to Melissa Jenkins of My Broken Bootstraps. Melissa is fellow homeschooling mom and educator with a passion for teaching and she has so much knowledge to share with us!
Be sure to visit her blog and grab some of her resources!
Without further to do... Here's Melissa!
I have always known I would be a teacher.  
I remember lining up my dolls and stuffed animals as a child and diligently teaching them their ABCs every Saturday.  While others worried about their career paths, I had an inner calm already knowing my purpose.  And I was right.  Twenty years out of college I can look back and see the many students whose lives I touched.  More importantly, so many of them touched me.  I have worked with infants through college, Deaf Education, Special Education, and Regular Education.  I have had students that are adults now find me on Facebook and tell me how much I helped them.  Several have become teachers themselves and give me some credit for making that decision.  And yet…  

Without a doubt the students I loved teaching the most are my own twin daughters, now age 19.  They are one week from graduating high school and I couldn’t be more proud.  They both have learning disabilities, so school was a long hard battle for them as well as me.  Their first grade teacher said Megan and Katie needed to repeat that grade, so they did.  With me.  I homeschooled them to the dismay of several public school teacher friends.  We did not follow the typical public or private school curriculum.  I saw how they learned.  I knew where the gaps were and decided to focus on that alone.  We did reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic, with an emphasis on reading.  By the end of the semester, Megan, who entered homeschool as a non-reader, was now reading on a second grade level.  We had gained two and a half years in one semester.  Talk about miracles!
The next time we decided to homeschool was during the terrifying Middle School years.  I took a break from teaching other students to focus on my own.  We had the joy of homeschooling 6th – 8th grades.  There were many reasons behind this, but the main one was we wanted to draw them closer to our family unit.  This is such a risky time when so many choices have life-long consequences, either good or bad.  My daughter Katie has since come to me and admitted that if we had not homeschooled her during middle school, we might very well had lost her.  She has already declared that she will be doing the same when she has children of her own.
While homeschooling my own children, I pulled so much information from my training and experience as a professional teacher.  I have been on both sides of the tracks.  I fully support any family that wants to homeschool their children.  Just as I heard dismay from public school teachers when I let them know of my plans to teach at home, I saw the wringing hands of homeschool families when we decided to put them back in public school.  I have never understood why there are opposite “camps” on this issue.  I think that at times there can be a benefit to both sides.  As a professional teacher I have had the opportunity to try new things with a variety of students and happily tuck away the successful ones for future use.  Here are a few ideas I have used when my students are struggling.
  1. One of the most difficult skills a good teacher MUST learn to do is break down information into smaller bites.  WE know the information already, but our children do not.  Think from the child’s perspective.  Break the information down into small steps.  Do not go to step two until they understand step one.  This takes a lot more time, but it is so worth it in the end.
  2. Don’t be afraid of silence.  When you ask your child a question, wait.  And wait.  Aaaand wait.  The fancy word for this is latency, but the purpose is the same.  We already know the information, and the fact that we were going to ask it.  Your child does not have that knowledge.  Plus, if it is a child who is struggling, they may need longer time to process that information.
  3. Variety is the spice of life.  It is also the spice to teaching.  When you are teaching something new, talk about it, read about it, youtube about it, make something about it… Make sure your child has the opportunity to see it, hear it, visualize it, and experience it.  The more opportunities they have to learn in different ways, the better they will internalize the information.
  4. Wash, rinse, repeat.  Repetition is critical for a struggling learner.  Research has shown that young readers need to hear a story read to them up to 20 times in order to internalize it.  It’s the same with any new information.  Go back to information you have already taught and review it from time to time.  After you’ve taught the concept, let them take a turn to be the teacher and explain it to you or a younger sibling.  
Random Teacher/Mommy Handwriting Hack:
When you are working with a child that has atrocious handwriting, try writing what you want them to practice with a yellow highlighter first.  They can copy the highlighted letters and get a feel for how they move.  This will give them more confidence when they write on their own.

Math Anchor Charts FreebieA Freebie from Melissa:
Two more favorites:

Also, I try to have freebies every Monday on my blog.  It has not been as regular as I wanted, but I think I am back on track.

Thank you so much for this opportunity!

Melissa Jenkins, aka My Broken Bootstraps



I receive no monetary perks for any of the teaching and learning packets shared in this post. I am simply trying to share my heart for becoming a better educator by connecting great teachers with great homeschoolers. We have so much to learn from each other!