A Better Way to Homeschool
What if we focus on character
Love of learning. What does that phrase mean to you?
When I began homeschooling, I figured my children would naturally love to learn. I would not need to teach them how to do this. Instead, my goal was to fill their minds with as much knowledge as I could possibly pour upon them.
My experiences as a public school student and teacher taught me that children could easily make it from K-12 and beyond attaining titles such as “top of their class” without truly learning anything more than how to study, memorize, and regurgitate facts. I was one of those types of kids and I definitely wanted my children to get more than this from their education.
Determined to set a full plate before them, I scoured over homeschooling magazines, catalogs, and websites and purchased more books and curriculums in those first couple of years than I have the last six combined. It soon became apparent that we would need to add extra hours to our day in order to finish all of the prescribed scopes and sequences. With schedules and assignment sheets in hand, we began to plow our way through our curriculums. Now, obviously, we hit a few bumps in the road. Who doesn’t? During those years though, all skeptical eyes were upon us from family to friends to the local social worker that paid regular visits to our home (we were fostering at the time). All bumps were neatly swept under the rug and we kept right on plowing. From the outside looking in and according to the standardized tests, everything was great.
Eventually though, the pace and the bumps began to wear on me and I became restless about our homeschooling. The kids, on the other hand, had adjusted fairly well. They had grown accustomed to the long hours, the lack of playtime, and mom’s perfectionist tendencies. However, when I finally took stock one day in what we were doing, I realized that instead of helping my children to rise above my own educational background, I had trained them to be just like me.
They were pro’s at marking off their little check boxes, filling in the blanks, and regurgitating information in nice little pre-packaged amounts. Additionally, they had sacrificed their own interests and desires so much to this point that they really did not know how to “just be a kid”.
This was not what homeschooling was supposed to be like for our family! What happened?
In retrospect, I know that my mistake was not in having high aspirations nor was it my perfectionist tendencies or the pressure from our skeptical audience. The problem was I began building my children’s education without first laying a proper foundation. I continued to add layer upon layer to our educational structure with the goal to build it as tall as possible. Therefore, when the building became too heavy and burdensome, it all came crashing down without much more than the materials to show for all of the labor. This is the point where those in my situation begin selling off all of the “materials” in exchange for new ones thinking that will somehow fix the problem. Instead, we should focus our time and attention on laying that proper foundation.
So how does one go about this? First, give yourself permission to break whatever mold your family is currently conforming to and let go of whatever is entangling you. (Unfortunately, it took me about three years to really do this and to let go.)
Then, invest some time to research “homeschooling philosophy” online or at the library and begin writing your own philosophy of education.
This will be your foundation.
Seek ideas that will preserve the unique personalities, desires, and interests of your children as well as remain true to your family’s vision. Define what “love of learning” means to you. Weave this into your foundation. You may find that your philosophy is a hodge-podge of some of the popular homeschooling philosophies floating around out there. Perfect! Take the best points from those that really mesh with your family and make it your own. Having defined this for my family has freed me from my own misconceptions about education as well those from outside sources and “experts”. It has freed my children to be kids again, opening the doors of discovery and ushering in a true love of learning that will build larger storehouses of information and wisdom than I could have ever hoped of building!
(Reprinted with permission from Debra Reed, NotebookingPages.com)
At the end of each school year, are you finding yourself swimming through mounds of worksheets, quizzes, tests, and half-finished workbooks wondering just what to do with it all?
Where does the organization begin?
What do you keep?
Where will you keep it?
How much should you, dare I say, throw away?
As you begin to tackle this heap, your brain recalls the many hours that went into creating this voluminous collection.
You may start to wonder just how well spent those hours really were.
You remember the great ambitions with which you started the school year and the many good intentions that fell to the wayside in order to finish this massive collection you are now faced with sorting. Finally, you conclude that if most, or perhaps all, of your children’s work is going to get tucked away somewhere never to be seen again, how much value can it possibly hold? Does any of this sound familiar?
Well, it doesn’t have to anymore!
Our family has been introduced to an ageless tool of learning that keeps us from creating these questionable mounds of paper throughout the year.
There is nothing left to sort.
There is nothing left to pack away.
There is nothing to throw away.
Instead, another volume (or two or three or more) of our children’s prized work gets added to their personal library at the end of each year.
No more busywork.
No more second-guessing if our time has been well spent.
As a matter of fact, this tool has freed me from the seemingly never-ending search for the perfect curriculum! It can literally transform the way you approach your children’s education and set afire a love of learning within each child. Spend your precious hours exploring, discovering, and capturing the knowledge that awaits you and your children each day. Make learning a journey instead of a list to be checked off at the end of the day and a pile to be sorted at the end of the year. How do you do this? Let me introduce you to the tool that has breathed new life into our homeschooling.
It’s called . . . notebooking!
Notebooking is the coined term for what one may refer to as educational journaling or scrapbooking.
Essentially, the idea is to take your planned school subjects and activities as well as the areas of your child’s interests and create notebooks, compilations of created pages collected in binders.
Your child will fill his notebooks throughout the year with what he has learned about these topics. Written narrations, drawings, maps, and photographs are just a few of the items he may include.
Through the process of creating a notebook, you will likely watch him become a storyteller, a teacher, and most undoubtedly, an expert in some of the topics he studies.
Unlike some of the more traditional tools of learning, like worksheets and tests, notebooking allows your child to develop a deeper relationship with what he is learning. Instead of finding out what he doesn’t know about a topic or study, which is what a worksheet or test usually reveals, he is given an opportunity to express everything he does know. By cutting out the busywork that is involved in some of these more traditional methods, you open a window of time and opportunity for your children to dig deeper into topics, to really get to know the people, the places, the events, the concepts, the ideas, and so on of what they are studying. Then, they take this information, digest it, and produce a notebook that tells all about what they have learned.
After following this process, there will not be that sudden “unlearning” phenomena that usually takes place after the traditional chapter or unit test. The knowledge that your child gains during his notebooking experience will stick! Most importantly this process fuels a love of learning as your child begins to discover how exciting and fun it is to learn with notebooking!
As your children become more experienced with notebooking, you will begin to see the evident benefits of this great tool. The richness of what they are learning will be apparent as their notebooks become filled to the brim with stories, pictures, maps, quotes, and photographs of the people, places, and events encountered. The depth of what they are learning will be told as new layers are added each year to certain notebooks, such as their language arts and math notebooks.
The process of learning they have experienced will be unveiled as you note the ways they organize and choose the material they include for their notebooks. You will begin to see certain notebooks take on your children’s personalities as they learn to express themselves in the variety of ways they have been gifted. It is an amazing joy to sit down with your child while they lovingly and passionately share all that they have learned through the process of creating their notebook. Their hearts and hard work have been poured into this notebook and they beam with confidence at the turn of each page.
Each year, as you take time to look back through the increasing volumes of notebooks being added to the shelves, you will see that notebooking has become an amazing “living” record of your children’s journey of learning. Instead of tossing the year’s work into a box in the back of the closet, you’ll be looking for ways to add more bookshelves to house these treasures!
Start simple. Start with one topic or one study for each child or for the whole family.
Perhaps the easiest way to start is to let each child begin a notebook of one of their favorite hobbies or passions. Do you have a child that loves dinosaurs? I do!
My youngest son would find spare moments throughout the day to notebook his knowledge of dinosaurs. His head would be stuck in any number of books from the library trying to gather information. That’s where it began for him! Today, he is our leading expert when it comes to dinosaurs.
Perhaps the easiest place to start notebooking with the entire family is with any history or science topic because there are so many ways to dig into these subjects. You could start very simply by asking your children to give a short narration of what was read on a particular day either during your read-aloud time or their independent reading time. If they give you a blank stare, ask them what they found to be most important or interesting about what was studied and encourage them to write about that. If you have younger children, you may need to write down their narrations for them until they are more proficient with the physical skill of writing. For children who are accustomed to giving short fill-in-the-blank type answers to questions, narration will take some practice to develop. I highly suggest researching the topic of narration for more help in this area. Narration is an invaluable skill that will prove most beneficial in their notebooking studies.
As your family or child continues to dig deeper, add new material to the notebook. The notebook may include any number of pages and collections including, but definitely not limited to:
Ready to get started?
(Reprinted with permission from Debra Reed, NotebookingPages.com)
Before notebooking, our school days were chocked full of a variety of learning activities and curriculums, but the learning was so dry and dull. By the end of the day, and I mean the-END-of-the-day, the kids were wiped out and so was I. Do you have days like these?
Notebooking will refresh and rejuvenate your homeschooling.
It opens the door for meaningful learning while saving you time, money, and those precious hours you currently spend (if you’re like most homeschooling moms) trying to tweak everything that you currently do to make your day better.
Today, I want to help you get started.
Notebooking is a very simple tool.
Basically, we just want to help our children get what’s in their brain onto paper using both what they can “see” and what they can verbalize. I have been amazed out how effective this has worked with my children. Over the past few years, we have been able to completely eliminate the worksheet/test method from our schooling.
We now use notebooking for just about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!
We have saved time, money, and SO much frustration by using this tool.
Now, instead of a trashcan (or tote that gets tucked away in the back of the closet) full of oodles of paperwork that we’ll never look at again, we have beautifully crafted and individualized notebooks full of their best work–their OWN work–their very OWN homemade books! You will pull these notebooks out time and time again throughout the years, just like your old photo albums, to treasure over and over again.
Updated July 2017
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A Blast from the Past
We live in the central mountains of California and are surrounded by beautiful Oak Trees.
This year the kids and I are busily learning about how to sprout acorns in the spring and have been harvesting the newly fallen acorns during our daily 2-mile morning walk.
We have a neat little park near our home that we share with our little community.
As Homeschoolers, my kids are the only munchkins on the trail each day. We pass the same walkers every morning, quite a few of them are elderly.
This year we are all excited about the acorns that have been landing on the path each day. We gather a few handfuls and bring them home to test them and store them for the spring.
While we all look at the same world, everyone looks at life from their own perspective.
photo by Aaron Burden
While the kids and I were looking at the acorns on the ground as our own oak tree store, the elderly walkers we meet every day on the path were seeing them as stumbling blocks.
Praise the Lord, she’s OK, but I cannot see the path the same way.
Yesterday, Peanut and I took action.
We pulled up some mustard sticks and created our own broom and cleared part of the path.
He was so excited to help our friends out that we decided to bring an actual broom and do a good job.
Today we walked 1/2 a mile before reaching the villainous part of the trail and he happily brushed away most of the “safety hazard”. Actually, all the boys helped, he is the only one that made it on film.
The walkers we so appreciative.
Perspective is everything. I was surprised that I had only seen the fun little nuts on the ground, rather than the danger to others. It was a good lesson.
My challenge to you is to find something in your life to point out perspective to your own children today. I’d love to hear about it when you do!