I’ve been sharing four helpful tools I have found that cover a lot of ground in teaching kids to write. Since our family is larger than the average size, these have been very helpful to me in minimizing the number of lessons while still developing the many sub-categories of writing: spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, handwriting, writing style, etc. In my last post, I covered habit #2: copywork.
Reading- Reading quality literature of many genres.
Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
Narration- Reading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.
Habit #3: Narration
If the idea of narration is new to you, here is a simple description. Narration is hearing or reading a selection of a text and telling it back to another person in your own words. That’s it.
It seems too easy, doesn’t it? I mean, how much can a person really learn from doing something that basic? Shouldn’t there be more involved? Is this really teaching them valuable writing skills?
Does this sound too easy to be “real work”? Before you write this off as too simple of a habit to develop good writers, I challenge you to try it yourself. Read a short selection or chapter from a book and then tell it back in a one page narration. Put this post aside and try it. I have done this myself. Narrating a text myself is what convinced me that retelling something in your own words challenges many parts of your brain. It’s not as easy as you think.
Beginning Narration: Oral
I start this with our kids as soon as they are old enough to form sentences. After reading a short storybook, I ask them to tell me about it. This is informal. They usually don’t even realize that they are “narrating”. I just ask them to tell me about the story. In their eagerness to talk about everything, they readily like to tell their version of the story.
For younger kids, give shorter sections to narrate. It can be hard for them to wait until the end of a book to retell the story. They may need shorter chunks. Read a page or two and ask them to tell what is happening.
This does not only have to be done in response to a reading. Ask them to retell in many ways. Tell about their day in sequential order over the dinner table. Explain the steps involved in a project. Describe a scene or the view from your front door.
As children enter Kindergarten and progress through elementary grades, you can encourage them to develop their oral narrations. For example, some kids want to tell every single detail step by step and need help in seeing the the most important parts and keeping it brief. Others will need encouragement to be more descriptive.
Progressing Narration: Written
After children have been giving quality oral narrations for a period of time and once they are able to write sentences and paragraphs fluently, they can begin written narrations. This often happens beginning in the upper elementary years (3rd or 4th grade), depending on the particular child.
One thing I have done in the past to help my kids transition from oral to written narration is this. I have them orally narrate a story and I type it out word for word as they are speaking. I include everything they say, the “ums” and “likes”. When they are done, I have them read it aloud to me. This helps them not only to see what their narration looks like in written form, but also to hear how it sounds.
As they progress in written narrations, this is a wonderful opportunity to assess their written expression with them. How does the paragraph flow? Are ideas expressed in complete sentences? Are there run-on sentences? Does the writing reflect the main ideas of what was read? If someone had not read the piece the child is narrating about, would they get the same conclusions from what they have written? Are the beginning and ending sentences appropriate? Consider syntax. Are there a variety of sentence structures including simple and complex patterns or do the sentences appear repetitive?
I would discourage assessing their work every time they write a narration. Let them grow a natural habit without the pressure of assessment, building confidence as they perform the skill over and over. Then, after 4-5 narrations, review their work together discussing what is done well and how they can improve.
I aim to have my older kids do one narration a day. Realistically, this does not happen. It is more like 2-3 times per week. Currently, we are reading key sections from Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster.
The effectiveness of narration is best observed when done over a long period of time. At the beginning of the year, each of our kids gets a new narration notebook in which to keep all their writings successively. I like to look back through their narration notebooks as they move through the year to see how they are improving. (It’s also motivating to the kids!) Even comparing their work from one or two years prior to see their progress is a great motivator!
The regular habit of narration produces quality writers. Looking for a way to help your child improve their writing skills? Give narration a try. Do it for a year and track their progress over time. You might be surprised at how something so simple can be so effective!
Hi. I’m Connie and I’ve been married to my husband Eric for 19 years. We have seven children and are in the process of adopting our eighth child. My husband is a bi-vocational pastor of a small church so our schedule can get a little interesting sometimes. I’m learning to walk in joy that is NOT rooted in what is going on around me.
Connie answers the question everyone is asking homeschool moms, “How do you do it all?!” Being a homeschool mom can feel like holding down a couple of full time jobs! Connie, Mom of 7, shares her passion for discipling their kids and what she has learned to help her get it all done each day.
–Did you always want to homeschool?What attracted you to it?
I was homeschooled as child and had a great experience. Homeschooling allowed me to study and pursue what I was interested and felt called to (especially in the high school years). I wanted my children to have that experience too!
–What advice do you have for people who are homeschooling temporarily for this year?
Don’t try to make homeschool look exactly like school. It’s not possible at home. Be ok with it feeling a little messy….but do enjoy spending time learning and growing with your kids! Advice from my husband: Give it a strong try and consider it permanently. Don’t expect it to go smoothly, especially initially. Plan for “off” days.
–Advice for new homeschoolers?
I would say don’t feel compelled to say yes to everything. Learn to pray about your schedule and then follow the LORD’S leading for your family. It may look very different than the next homeschool family. Too much (even of really good stuff) is just too much and can make homeschooling feel more stressful than it needs to be. Feel the freedom to enjoy your children and to go at their pace (FYI…that pace picks up the in the teen years!!!)
–What has been your biggest challenge?
We have a large age range (3-16) and managing all their needs and spending individual time with each of them can be challenging. The way I think about this has been really important. The little things….like helping my three year old dress in the morning is time spent with her! Impromptu conversations while I’m driving with my 16 year old is quality time spent! It doesn’t have to always look a certain way(although many times I wish it did)!
–One of these: Is there something that stands out as your passion with your family/homeschooling?
Homeschooling allows us to live life with our kids and disciple them. We try to do a discipleship night once a week with our older kids. We read an encouraging book together and spend time praying for them. We also talk about our beliefs and what the Bible has to say throughout our homeschooling day.
Do you have any favorite hobbies?
I love to really study GOD’S WORD, to hike, to drink coffee, to star gaze at night, and to read good books.
What is your favorite thing that you do together?
My husband has instilled a love of soccer in all of our kids….we love to play together. We also enjoy exploring different parks.
Any interesting projects or experiences?
We traveled to Texas as a family five years ago. That was an epic road trip that we still talk about! Each year we try to plan one bigger family vacation and that has been so fun for our kids.
Any other questions you think would be good or things you would like to talk about?
Many times people ask me “How do you do it all?” My short answer is that I don’t do it all. There are many things I’m not doing in this season that I hope to one day. I really rely on the LORD’S strength. I ask for help. My older kids have become really really helpful over the years too.
In my last post, I listed four helpful tools I have found that cover a lot of ground in teaching kids to write. Since our family is larger than the average size, these have been very helpful to me in minimizing the number of lessons while still developing the many sub-categories of writing: spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, handwriting, writing style, etc.
Reading- Reading quality literature of many genres.
Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
Narration- Reading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.
How do we learn to do anything? We observe someone who is doing it!
“The grand goal is communication. Learning to communicate well will cover a multitude of deficiencies. How to achieve this? Copy others who do it well. It is the best way to learn almost anything!”
What should a child copy?
Copy passages of Scripture, Aesop’s Fables, poems, short stories or fairy tales, notable sections from each chapter of the fiction book they are reading.
Years ago, I found lists of copywork that I downloaded to our computer. I print them out as needed and put them in folders for our kids to copy daily. These lists are based on the amblesideonline.com book lists which I highly recommend! I usually choose copywork that coincides with the book that child is currently reading.
A good rule of thumb is to copy one sentence for first grade, two sentences for second, three sentences for third, etc. or according to the child’s needs and abilities as you observe them.
How often should a child practice copywork?
Daily! When you copy the works of great writers as a daily habit for many years, you acquire a sense for how words flow together. You learn to discern the best ways of expressing thought.
What skills are covered in copywork?
I use copywork to teach spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, and more. It takes a relatively short period of time for them to complete and teaches them so much at the same time. When I correct our kids’ copywork, this is the time I use to review the following skills.
Handwriting. I think it is important to expect children to produce their neatest work. Keep in mind, however, that “neatest” will vary from child to child. Usually, a parent can easily tell if their child has rushed to get it done or carefully copied the piece. A good practice is to have the child read it back to you. If they can’t read their own work, it helps them to see on their own that others will have difficulty reading it as well.
Spelling. In looking at their work together, we find any misspelled words and circle them. They practice spelling them correctly a few times. This is also a good time to explain spelling patterns or rules that will be helpful to them. I have always thought that the best way to learn spelling (rather than long lists of isolated words) is to learn them in the context of them being used- not only in the context of a random written sentence, but in a written piece. It has been my observation that if copywork is a daily habit practiced for several years, kids learn to spell well.
Punctuation. As I correct their work, we also discuss punctuation. All sentences start with a capital letter, but what different punctuation can come at the end? And how do you know which one to use? How do you punctuate a direct quote? A quote within a quote? When should you use a comma? (Side note: Starting in 4th grade, I also use a Language curriculum to supplement punctuation and grammar skills.)
Vocabulary. What words in this passage are unfamiliar to you? Looking at the context, can you figure out the meaning? How would you use this word if you wanted to put it in a sentence?
Writing Styles. Look at the different ways the author begins each sentence. How does the writer describe different scenes? What descriptive/persuasive/action words are used?
Personal note: Realistically, I don’t go through all of these skills in any certain way, just as needed or as the opportunity presents itself. The simple act of copying quality writing regularly, when practiced over several years, teaches these concepts by itself.
Extensions of copywork.
Cursive. If it is important to you that your kids learn to write cursive, you can require copywork to be done in cursive once they have mastered the initial skills. I like our kids to be able to read and write in cursive so that they can read historical letters and documents.
Typing. As soon as a child learns to type (we use free tools online), they can practice typing a portion of their copywork after they have written it by hand.
Dictation. To really see how well kids can spell, read aloud a selection from something they have memorized or written as a previous copywork and have them transcribe it. This will quickly show their skill level and areas that need improvement.
The thing I love most about copywork is that once the kids learn to write their letters, it is something they can do independently every day. It takes a relatively short amount of time AND they glean so much from practicing it. These are just a few ideas that I have used over the years. I’d love to hear your input and ideas.
Next up, Healthy Habits for Writing Well #3: Narration.
When you think about all the facets involved in teaching a child to write well, it can be overwhelming!! The subjects handwriting, punctuation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary are just the start. They need to learn the challenging skill of expressing their thoughts clearly in written form. Add to the list the writing process, writing styles… writing a research paper, writing to persuade, writing personal letters… it can feel like a lot!
How can we teach our kids to communicate effectively? There are many excellent writing curriculums out there, but I have also found that there are simple writing habits that can be used regularly to cover a lot of ground. Kind of like a multi-vitamin or an all-in-one. In observing the positive results I have seen from these practices I have become so convinced of their effectiveness that they HAVE BECOME our main writing curriculum!
In short they are these:
Literacy- Reading quality literature of many genres, memorizing, and engaging in conversations.
Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
Narration- Reading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.
HABIT #1- Creating a literate environment.
How can you express something that you don’t possess? Children should have a vast mental “library” of written ideas before they will be able to clearly express their thoughts in written word. I wrote more on this concept in the post Teaching a Child To Read.
Every child should be read to-A LOT! This can happen in small, scattered moments throughout the day, but it should be lathered frequently with pleasure.
We should be reading aloud to our children- A Lot! In addition, as soon as they begin reading on their own, we should maintain for them a quiet space and quality literature on which they can feast their imaginations. This is providing for them a bank, if you will, from which to draw as they attempt to formulate their own ideas about the world around them.
Here are some ideas to help cultivate a literate environment for your children.
Read a variety of fiction to them including fantasy, historical fiction, folk tales, mystery, etc.
Read non-fiction to them. What subjects interest them? What do they ask about or spend a lot of time doing? Get books on these topics and look through them together.
Read biographies. Stories of great men and women of history inspire them to do hard tasks, overcome challenges, and be different.
Read poetry. I like to read poetry by poet. When I find a poet I like or that I think the kids will like, I read some of their best poems over and over. Poetry should be read more than once to fully appreciate the meanings behind each word.
Memorize together. Memorize Scripture. Memorize famous poems of history, historical documents like The Declaration of Independence or snippets from famous historical speeches. Memorize the planets, books of the Bible, Presidents of the US, states and capitols, planets, continents, oceans, and more!
Engage in conversations that make them think. Ask them questions. When they ask the questions, on the other hand, use their curiosity as an opportunity to start conversations that help them express their thoughts and feelings clearly.
A child can only express what they possess. Give them a broad foundation of knowledge and experiences with oral and written language. This will be a great starting place for communicating their thoughts in oral and written form.
Are you looking for help in teaching writing? If you have found a writing curriculum that you LOVE, then continue with what works for you and your kids! On the other hand, if the multi-faceted work of teaching spelling, handwriting, grammar, punctuation, writing form, etc. is adding too much to your plate, know that there are simpler and equally effective tools that can be used to help your children communicate well.
Homeschooling can be all-consuming. It’s easy to become obsessive about planning, looking into new, exciting curriculums and enjoying this new-found freedom.
When I started homeschooling, my girlfriends and I would bounce ideas off each other, talk about our schedules, what was working/not working, the beauty of learning at home, giving our kids a wild and free childhood, and spending long hours with them outside.
In the beginning, I was so excited (and intimidated at the same time!) about our new lifestyle…homeschooling WAS my hobby.
This initial excitement is important and maybe necessary at the start. It helps plunge you into a whole new way of thinking and living. Over time, however, and as you progress, the excitement sometimes wanes and the demands of homeschooling can become overwhelming, exhausting, engulfing.
Do you feel yourself slipping into the dark hole of fatigue and monotony? The questions I’ve listed below are questions to ask to help keep yourself inspired, positive, and purposeful.
What’s your Source? Don’t neglect time alone with God. E.M. Bounds said, “To be much alone with God is the secret of knowing Him and of influence with Him.” You can only pour out when you are full. What is the first thing you do when you get a free moment? That is a moment you can run to the Source!
How often do you spend time doing things you enjoy? What hobbies do you have? Make the effort to stop everything a spend time doing something you love EVERY day. After all, what are we teaching our kids if we aren’t modeling our own personal growth?
Are you getting enough sleep? If you are in the temporary season of having an infant or if you are pregnant, make sleep a priority.
Are you taking care of your body? Exercise! Exercise not only for your body, but also for your mind! This recent article Need to Spark Creativity? Go On a Walk inspired me to try to go for a walk every day.
Is your marriage a priority? Don’t neglect your spouse. Make time for each other without the kids. As good as we all believe homeschooling is for our kids, a healthy marriage is much more important.
With what are you filling your mind? Beware of the trap of mindless entertainment. Scrolling endlessly on social media is draining, not fueling. Instead, read a good book. Work on a project. Journal. Watch a good flick with your husband.
Is homeschooling consuming your family life? Keep “academic” school hours during school hours. When you are finished for the day, BE DONE. Move on to living life with your family.
Do you spend time with encouraging friends? Go out with your girlfriends. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay at home, but spending time with good friends is life-giving. Encouraging friendships keep you going on the hard days!
Do you and the kids need a break? Take a day (or more!) off. There’s something to be said for just giving everybody the day off. Walk away for a little. Maybe everybody needs a reset.
What are some things that you do to stay positive and purposeful?
Here are 10 MORE reasons why homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids!.
Time to Read. I don’t think it can be overstated that 1.) reading aloud to kids and 2.) giving them lots of time to read- catapults kids towards a voracious appetite for learning. Do you want your kids to love learning? Read to them. Do you want them to grow into a lifestyle of learning on their own? Let. them. read. Give them access to a plethora of quality books, whether through a home library or trips to the local library, and then provide plenty of time for them to read. The flexibility in homeschooling makes it possible to spend large quantities of time reading.
Healthy balance of time with friends and time at home. Rather than being locked in to a certain group of kids for certain time periods daily, homeschoolers own their schedules. Parents can influence their kids’ social lives as they observe their child’s needs. If a parent senses that their child needs more time with friends, he or she can plan more play dates or sign up for more co-ops, classes, or events. On the other hand, if its a busy life season- maybe a move or unexpected health crisis or even the holidays, the parent can block out the schedule and have more quiet days at home.
More opportunities to help people and be involved in the community. Do you know what it means to an elderly neighbor to have trustworthy kids nearby who offer to get your mail or help during the day if needed? Can you imagine what it does for them just to SEE kids during the day- outside playing or walking or working?! Seeing kids out in the middle of the day is a beautiful thing!! Because their schedule is more flexible, homeschoolers also have more chances to volunteer in community activities. These kinds of opportunities teach them sympathy and give them the satisfaction of contributing to a noble cause.
Kids can pursue friendships by choice. We all know there are just some people you click with better than others. Homeschooled kids can be choosy about the friendships in which they’d like to invest the most time. They are not lumped into one group or even one age level. *As a side note, parents have more freedom to discourage friendships that are unhealthy and encourage bonds that are mutually strengthening.
No bullying– No explanation needed!
Current Events. Because our kids are home, we can capitalize on current events locally and around the world. Most recently, the election has been prime opportunity to discuss the voting process and the electoral college. How many electoral votes are needed to win? Can there be a tie in the electoral college? What would happen in that event? We usually do current events in the morning with our breakfast. Resources like World Magazine, World Watch, The Worldview in 5 Minutes, and Voice of the Martyr’s Magazine have all helped to keep us abreast of what is happening around the world.
Free Time. What happens when your school day is shortened by several hours (as it is when you are homeschooled) and you have extra free time? You learn skills. Let me repeat that. You acquire and hone skills according to your interests. You paint. You play imaginative games with siblings. You explore outside. You experiment in the kitchen. You get craft ideas from Pinterest. You look up YouTube videos on how to do magic tricks or how to play a certain song on the piano. You practice your soccer skills. You try knitting.
Meaningful Conversations. Think about it. When do you have the most meaningful conversations with your kids? They are usually not scheduled. They happen late at night or in moments when you least expect it. When parents spend large quantities of time with kids, the chances for meaningful conversations to happen increase.
Length of lessons catered to developmental age and individual needs of the child. Many times lessons have been too easy or too difficult for our kids and I have the freedom to adjust as needed. If a lesson is too easy, I can assign more or give an extension activity. If, on the other hand, a child has spent a good deal of time on math, has only finished two problems, and is becoming frustrated, I have the freedom to sit down, work with him on one or two more problems and call it a day. There are times for plugging away at things, but an exasperated child will not make much progress. It’s better to walk away and try again tomorrow.
Investment in relationships that are life-long. By far, I believe one of the best benefits of homeschooling is the childhood spent investing in relationships that you will have for the rest. of. your. life. Your family. It is not easy to develop close relationships with siblings when you spend the majority of your waking hours separated, with people you will only know in grade school. It’s important to have friends. Being involved in a co-op and having your kids regularly see others in their inner circle helps them develop important social skills. BUT spending a lot of time with family is a long term investment that pays!
I’d love to hear why you think homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids!
Beth and her husband live in New Jersey. They have four kids and have been homeschooling for seven years. Beth is in the thick of homeschooling. She has two elementary-aged children. She just added a Kindergartner this year. In addition, she has an active toddler to entertain! She gives honest, but encouraging advice to moms who are starting out homeschooling for the first time. If you are juggling homeschooling and preschoolers, you will relate to this conversation with Beth!
Hi! My name is Beth Kline. I have 4 kids, two girls ages 10 & 8 and two boys ages 5 & 2. My husband is a sales manager for an energy software company. We moved to New Jersey from Pennsylvania 9 years ago and absolutely love it! We are pretty close to the ocean and spend a lot of time at the beach. We have been homeschooling since my oldest was 4 so this is our 7th year. I was introduced to Classical Conversations when I first started thinking about homeschooling and have been involved in our local C.C. community for the last 7 years.
What attracted you to homeschooling?
Before I had kids, I never would have thought that homeschooling would be something I would be doing. When my daughter was 3 or so, my mom, who was a kindergarten teacher, really helped me realize I didn’t need to send her to preschool, that I could teach her everything she needed to be ready for kindergarten. This in itself felt like a huge step because everyone I knew who had younger kids was sending them to preschool. At the same time, I met a family with 5 kids who homeschooled and they were a really great, well-adjusted family. Most of their kids had already graduated and were in successful jobs. I could see that homeschooling could be done well. Also, I should mention that my husband and his brothers were homeschooled. Although I don’t really think that effected my decision. He pretty much stayed out of the decision-making process because he knew that it would be my responsibility and he was willing to support me one way or another. He knew how hard it was and didn’t want to put that on me if it wasn’t something I wanted to take on. Now that we are about 7 years into it, we are both so grateful that this is our reality. I feel unbelievably blessed to be able to stay home and be with my kids and learn with them.
Can you give advice for new homeschool moms?
My advice for new homeschoolers is to keep it simple. Start with math and a language arts program and find great books to read together. As you get a rhythm and understand what your kids need, you can add new things. Simple is better. Getting outside every day is important for everyone’s sanity. Find a good book list and get to the library. Connecting with a community of like-minded people is vital. It is really important to have people you can connect with and run ideas by and ask advice from who are going through similar things. Be easy on yourself. Homeschooling can have some really rewarding days but there can be tough days too. Giving yourself grace and relying on the Lord for strength is so important.
My favorite Resources:
I love listening to podcasts in the car or when I’m folding laundry.
I really appreciate Beautiful Feet Books for history. We are using their early American history curriculum this year. I absolutely love reading real books for history and using stories to capture our imaginations as it relates to the past. This year they updated their reading list to give more insight and different perspectives of historical characters. It has really led to some good discussions with the kids about empathy and compassion for people who traditionally have been left out of history books.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Right now I have two challenges. The first is trying to school with our 2 year-old. No place is safe and he is so busy! We all breathe a little bit during his nap time and try to get as much done as possible but it’s tough and I don’t really have a great solution. My husband works from home and is on the phone a lot so we have to be extra quiet. And my other challenge is giving a solid amount of time to each kid. The oldest, in 5th grade is thankfully very independent. She works on most of her work by herself and I check it all when she is done. The younger 2 need a lot of help still so it has been challenging to bounce back and forth between them.
My son just started kindergarten this year and man, boys are SO different than girls! I am learning that he really needs exercise and creative free time. My daughters (especially my oldest) would just sit for hours and we could read and do work without needing too much of a break. He is in constant motion. So I am learning to let him have many breaks. If I think of it, I have him do some laps out in our cul-da-sac before he starts work. I also let him build with blocks or Legos while I am reading so he is still moving but he can hopefully focus a little better. Another tip which I really think helps is I discovered an essential oil called that I diffuse while we are doing work that seems to make everyone a little calmer and more focused.
What keeps you going?
Coffee! I always have a cup of coffee in my hand. But seriously, even when it’s really challenging, I’d rather have my kids with me than not. I want my husband and me to be the biggest influence in their lives. I want them to learn how to be independent, life-long learners. I love the freedom it allows our family to travel when we want to. Remembering the overall purpose is really important.
Some of the chapter books we have read together
Some picture books we read often:
Some books for our early American history curriculum this year include:
Have questions for Beth? You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!
What does it take to make it in homeschooling? What’s necessary to make it work for the long haul? Homeschooling is an endeavor that is not for the faint of heart! In my opinion, to make it for any period of time longer than a year, you have to be confident and you have to firmly believe that what you are doing is a great option for your kids. I recently read an article from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association which validates these two premises. In this article, the author listed two crucial attitudes that are necessary in order for new homeschoolers to make it.
In this post, I’d like to share some of the reasons I believe homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids.
Shorter School Day The chart below represents what I think is a useful measuring tool based on the needs of kids according to age. I’ve never timed exactly how long our kids do school, but I think this is roughly how it plays out for us. You can easily tell if you are doing too much. The child will be frustrated, constantly distracted, and discouraged. On the other hand, if your child has finished work and is walking around with nothing to do, bothering siblings, getting into trouble, he or she may need more work. Aside from this chart, how do you know if they are really doing enough? When kids have finished their work, they will naturally move on to their interests. For young kids, this is usually play. For older kids, it might be hobbies, exercise, or time with friends.
Interpersonal Skills Homeschoolers learn many interpersonal skills every day from people who have much more life experience than they have (their parents) -not their peers. Here are a few of them. Basic etiquette. Accepting compliments and constructive criticism. Listening well. Communicating effectively. Responding to emotions. Respecting others. Expressing an appropriate sense of humor. Self-discipline. Focusing on a task. These type of skills are often caught rather than taught.
Life skills In a home environment, the opportunity for life skills are everywhere. Even for homeschool parents who are not intentional about teaching life skills, homeschooled kids are just there when all these things are happening: cooking, car maintenance, running laundry, daily meal clean-up, paying bills, making phone calls, making a bed, home repairs, using kitchen appliances, managing time, and so much more.
Frequent Breaks Don’t underestimate the weight of this one. Do you fully realize how really GOOD this is for kids?! Even adults cannot sit and focus on something for long periods of time. To be able to complete a challenging lesson and then run around in the sunshine or shoot a bow and arrow or kick the soccer ball, it’s what kids need! After short, frequent breaks, they are able to come back, concentrate and may be even more curious about what is in front of them.
Close Connection to Nature What varieties of trees and flowers are in your yard, your neighborhood? Before our recent move to a new property, we lived in a small suburban neighborhood for 12 years. We went for a walk almost every day. We learned all the diverse kinds of trees and flowers in our neighborhood simply by seeing them every day, through every season, for many years. Every spring, we watched a Mulberry tree on the corner of Sunset Road for signs of ripe mulberries to collect. In autumn, we always looked for the bright yellow leaves of the Ginko tree down the street on Hunter Drive. Several families of cardinals in the hemlocks across the street entertained us in the quiet winter months. When we saw the streets littered with natural debris in spring, we knew the oaks were all flowering. We would never have noticed any of these beautiful displays right in our own backyard except that we observed them every day for several years.
Heroes Who are your kids’ heroes? Because of the flexibility in choosing educational resources, parents can challenge their kids to dream by reading to them or assigning them books to read about great people. Here are some of the heroes that have inspired our kids: David Livingstone, Ben Carson, Leonardo da Vinci, Anne Sullivan, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Cranmer, Frederick Douglass, William Tyndale, Isaac Newton, Abigail Adams, George Mueller… just to name a few! Give them heroes that inspire them!
Habits We all know the value of being able to maintain good habits. The older our kids get and the longer these habits have taken to form in myself and in them reminds me just how crucial it is for us to continue practicing them. Making a bed, personal hygiene, keeping a clean work space, morning devotions, completing a chore thoroughly, writing letters, journaling. To which habits do you aspire for your kids? Habits give a great advantage in life!
Less of the wrong kids of peer pressure. Are homeschoolers sheltered? By its very nature, homeschooling is somewhat sheltering. Maybe you have known a family that over shelters their kids in a way that is unhealthy and does little to prepare their kids to function in the real world. Here’s a question. Can there also be a kind of sheltering that is healthy? A kind of protection that encourages them to function appropriately in all surroundings while cushioning them from the barrage of negativity so common in the school system? I’d believe there is. Because they face negative peer pressure less frequently or at a later age than the norm for kids in school, many of them display a positive self-assurance that stands out from the crowd. I’ve noticed from many homeschoolers that they are unaware in group situations that they are supposed to be “too cool” to answer questions or speak up. They are confident with who they are because they are used to being in an environment, whether at home or in the community, where everyone is treated with respect.
Child comparing progress against themselves, not other kids in their grade. When kids are measured by their own progress instead of “what all the other fourth graders should be doing”, they challenge themselves. They gain confidence instead of losing it.
Transfer of Family Values Each family has their own flavor. Individual parents have certain values that they want to pass down to their kids. In our family, we have taught our kids to do things that we enjoy and value. Here are some things my husband and I love and hope to pass down to our kids. We both love playing music and singing. We love gardening, caring for animals on our farmette, growing and preserving our own food. My husband and I are also very different, in personality and hobbies. He enjoys making things with wood, using tools for any kind of mechanical work, and investing in his growing eBay business. I enjoy reading, knitting, and writing. What unique gifts and interests do you hope to pass on to your kids?
This list is by no means exhausted! But I hope it is enough to whet your appetite. Why do you think homeschooling can be SO GOOD for kids?
You have stepped out to homeschool your child- timidly, but surely. You’re excited, but scared to death. Will we be able to keep up? Will my kids have friends? What if they are missing something? What if I ruin them?
I recently read a fantastic article put out by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association in which the author listed two crucial attitudes necessary for new homeschoolers to make it.
They need to believe
“We really can pull this off!” and
2. “Homeschooling is good for our children.”
These two thoughts were the inspiration behind this post and the one I will publish next.
Here’s why I believe you really CAN pull this off!
You will learn as you go. You will fail. There will even be days when you will completely blow it, but you will learn as you go. Does your daily schedule not seem to be working? You will work it out. Are you having trouble managing both the house and school? You will find a workable routine. (And you just might become more flexible!) Do you stink at math? You will grow in it. You will become better at math AND you will become a better math teacher.
The other day my husband happened to be home for a school day and our 7th grade son asked him to help him with his math problems (fractions). My husband gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look across the room, telepathically asking for my help. It’s not that my husband doesn’t know fractions or that he’s bad at math. It’s not that I’m a math whiz or that math has always come easily to me. The fact is that I have been studying and teaching math every day for the past 10 years since our oldest (now in 10th grade) started Kindergarten. When you work at something everyday, you become better at it. It’s fresh in your mind and you can more clearly break it down in a way for others to understand. As our oldest grew and started some of his higher level math work, I had that same deer-in-the-headlights look at times, BUT we figured it out together step by step. Now I understand how to do it and teach it to the kids who are coming up behind him. You will learn as you go. When I was back in the early years with our kids-with two or three young kids in different math levels, I was always learning with my oldest child. Sometimes we would get to something new and I would begin to think I had reached my limit of what I could help him in with math, but we just slowed down, took it one step at a time and kept going. Stay one step of your oldest child.
You will learn as you go.
It gets easier as your kids get older. This is one thing I really wish someone had told me. The longer you homeschool AND the older your kids get, homeschooling does get easier. Yes, maybe the content becomes more challenging, but managing schedules, finding your style and your kids’ styles, gaining confidence, homeschooling with littles underfoot- all these things become easier.
The longer you are homeschooling, the more readers you have in the house. The more readers you have, the more independent they can be with their work.
In the beginning, everything feels so foreign, especially if you grew up going to school and homeschooling is a brand new concept to you. Choosing a curriculum at the start can be daunting. Becoming familiar with your curriculum also takes time. In the beginning, you may be just starting to establish a community that is a good fit for you and the kids. It’s not always easy finding and making new friends!
Many moms start homeschooling their Kindergartner while also juggling a preschool child and a baby or pregnancy. That is not an easy task for sure! BUT it is doable! And it is foundational work that is necessary in the early years. In any new endeavor, building the foundation is always the hardest and the most crucial part. My first several years of homeschooling were hands-down the hardest for me. BUT now I am reaping the rewards of that hard work and I’m so glad we stuck with it! Of our eight kids, six are school age. We have six readers and five fairly independent learners. I still have a preschooler and toddler, but it is different now than it was when my oldest was starting school. Back then it was a challenge to help the oldest with school work while keeping the baby occupied and the toddler from flushing something down the toilet! Now, my littles tend to follow the older kids. They want to do “school” since that’s what everybody else seems to be doing! They will sometimes sit beside them and draw or pretend they are doing their own work. Often my older kids will take a break and read to the littles. It’s a whole new world when you have older kids!
It WILL get easier as your kids get older!!
Encourage your kids to be self-learners and watch them thrive. When I was fulfilling my student teaching requirements in college, I studied under a cooperating teacher who gave me some excellent advice. She said, “The one who is doing the most work is the one learning.”
Think about that. Are you doing everything for your child? Are you holding their hand all day long as they muscle through their work? Consider pushing them to be self-learners. Give them their own checklist to follow. Make them responsible for all the work that they can do independently.
In our early years of homeschooling, I used a math curriculum that was very hands on and was taught by using manipulative and games. I thought it was a perfect fit for our second son who is a hands on learner. I was surprised, however, at the change I observed in him a few years later when I switched to a more self-directed curriculum. I didn’t want to change math programs because I loved the philosophy behind what we were using, but due to our growing family, I simply could not teach three math lessons to three different kids every day on top of all our other school work and caring for a baby. I was hesitant about the new curriculum, probably because I really felt that they needed someone to teach them a math lesson every day, but switching to a more independent program was really my only option. Given my teaching background, honestly, I was very skeptical about encouraging kids to be self-learners. Don’t they need someone to teach them a lesson every day in each of their subjects? How are they really going to learn it well otherwise? What I observed in my son, though, completely changed my opinion on this. He liked being able to see how much work he had to accomplish each day-as opposed to me teaching a lesson for which he had no idea how long it would take! Since he is the kind of child that only wants to hear what he really needs to know to figure out how do do things (no fluff!), he was able to cut to the chase when I set him free to be responsible for his math lesson. I became more of a facilitator in his learning rather than a lecturer. He came to me for the important things for which he needed help, but many other things he figured out on his own by reading and studying the lesson examples. He was learning HOW to learn himself! What a valuable skill!!
Reading covers a multitude of sins. Ask any experienced homeschool mom for advice and you will hear this across the board. READ. TO. THEM. Read a lot. Read to kids who can already read.
Whatever mistakes you will make your first couple years (and you will make them!), they aren’t terribly crucial if you are reading to them a lot. Reading covers so much ground. It fosters their imagination. And more importantly, it creates in them an insatiable desire to learn more, to read more, to know about things at which they have always wondered. Reading will be your margin for error. It’s okay to make mistakes in homeschooling if you are reading to them a lot.
Find a community. I’ve met them. The people who say they’ve tried homeschooling and it just didn’t work for them. This is what they all have in common. They tried to do it alone. Don’t make this mistake. Don’t think you can pull this off without somebody in your corner. No man is an island. You need to meet other homeschool moms and your kids need to have friendships other kids who are also homeschooled.
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a great resource for national listings of homeschool support groups. They have a community section on their website where you can look up organizations by state and more specifically, by county. If you live in my home state of Pennsylvania, CHAP has many resources for homeschoolers including homeschool laws in PA, community groups, and homeschool convention details. If you live in Lancaster County, I highly recommend visiting CHALC which lists all the homeschool co-ops in the county and coordinates a phenomenal county-wide graduation ceremony for homeschool graduates.
Another great way to find community is simply to ask around. Many churches hosts co-ops. Look for groups on Facebook. Asking people helps give you a feel for the best options in your area.
If you have a pioneer spirit, you can also start your own support group! That’s how our co-op started over ten years ago. There were five of us moms with kids about the same ages. We met and talked about homeschooling here and there. We decided to start meeting in each other’s homes every week. It was a wonderful way to start, especially because we were all at the same place and had so many things in common to talk about. Over the years, our group expanded and we now have 35 families and over 150 kids! Our co-op is like family to us. I can say with certainty that I would not have continued homeschooling if it were not for the wonderful friendships and support we found through our co-op.
YOU are the expert on your child. Here’s the biggie. I really believe this is the number 1 reason you can pull this off! No one knows your child like you do. No one has a personal, life-long investment in your child like you have. There is no one who will work harder or search more diligently than you will to find the resources your child needs for their struggles AND their gifts. While I have great respect for the amazing teachers in our schools (being a former teacher myself), the teacher is an expert in his or her field. They may be specialize in teaching a certain age such as primary or middle age kids. Or they may be an expert in a certain subject, like technology, math, history, etc., but YOU are the expert on your child. And the more you homeschool, you become even more adept at understanding the unique person they are becoming.
Imagine the following scenario. Imagine that your child went to school from K-12th grade. Imagine that among many teachers along the way, he had one teacher, chosen because he or she had the utmost ardor and care for your child. Imagine that this person remained his teacher, his advocate, his role model, his champion from Kindergarten through the culmination of his education, his final year. That teacher is you. YOU are the expert on your child.
Let me just say something here to clear the air. I have a teaching degree. I have teaching experience. I cannot tell how many times I have been in conversation with homeschooling skeptics, who, when they hear that I have a background and experience in education, completely change their tune when they hear I have a teaching certificate. They quickly decide that that background and that experience somehow “qualifies” me to homeschool my kids. While I have great respect for teachers, being a former teacher myself and coming from a family of teachers, I personally do not believe that having an education degree or teaching experience makes you a better homeschool parent. Some of the most amazing homeschoolers I have met have had no education background at all! The two basic qualities that I see great homeschool parents have are these: 1. An insatiable desire to learn and 2. a passion for their kids’ success.
Not every parent wants to homeschool. Not every parent is called to homeschooling. But it is my personal belief, that ANY PARENT can homeschool their child well. Given that their motivation is their child’s best interest and given that their drive is to educate themselves at any cost in this attempt, I believe any parent can create a learning environment that thrusts their child to love learning and life.
When I started homeschooling over ten years ago, I felt alone and unsure of myself. I knew that God had called me to this. And I really loved it.. even with the challenges. I just wasn’t sure how it was all going to turn out. I wanted our kids to have the very best. I remember reading this verse one morning and tucking it away because it was so encouraging to me.
Psalm 37:6 “He will make your righteousness shine like a light, your just cause like the noonday sun.”
If you are going to make it this year,
you have to know,
from this experienced homeschool mom who has been where you are….
Brandon and Kay Gilanyi live in Willow Street in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Brandon just graduated Seminary over the summer and is currently looking for a job in ministry. Right now he is working at the family business for Kay’s Dad as General Manager at “Lancaster’s Furniture To Go!!” Previous to that he held manager positions at Sherwin Williams for 12 years. Kay is a SAHM, but the couple has also taught Bradley Method Birth Classes for the past 9 1/2 years. Kay also runs a Homeopathic Consulting Service. She helps individuals through the use of this alternative system of medicine with everything from the flu, to ear infections to eczema to anxiety. Her driving force is to make better healthcare available to everyone using natural, effective and affordable Homeopathic remedies. She discovered and fell in love with this system of medicine more than 10 years ago and has made it her mission to try to spread the word and teach people how to listen to and support their body. She consults for chronic as well as acute cases as she studies under her Homeopath, who is also a medical doctor. She hopes to pursue an educational degree, but for now her passion for homeopathy and helping people get well drives her hands-on education. You can learn more about Kay and all her passions at her blog (which she tries very hard to keep up with!) www.kayleeliving.com
Here’s my interview with Kay and Brandon: (Yes, we get to hear from a homeschool dad, yay!) Kay’s real passion in homeschooling is being together in life and giving their kids a childhood. She says, “I see it as my mission to first understand my children, and then help them understand themselves and who God has made them to be, so that they can see how their gifts and abilities fit into a greater plan to serve and love Jesus. This is our great commission as parents! “
My name is Kay Gilanyi and I am a wife, homeschool mom, and health educator, I guess! I tend to be a very passionate person and when I am into something I am all in and want to bring everyone along with me! One of the reasons I hesitated looking into homeschooling at the very beginning was because I knew that once I dipped my foot in, if I felt it was best, I would be throwing myself in with a vigor and conviction that, honestly, I wasn’t sure at that time I had the energy for! Haha. I have a few big passions, and one of them has become homeschooling my kids as a stay-at-home parent.
What drew you to homeschooling?
I didn’t always want to homeschool, but I didn’t always want to be a mom of 5 kids either. God has a way of directing us into things we sometimes wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves and then blessing us with what we never dreamed. I had a diverse education experience having started in a very small private school in New Jersey, then moving to PA and into the public system for 2 years, and then an abrupt change to homeschool on nothing but my parent’s very strong conviction, their willingness to take on new adventures, and their idealistic picture of home education. It was not my favorite year. Then they sent us all off to a very highly academic private school which we were all ill-prepared for! I finished my high school years back at home and did not think I would ever homeschool any children-should I have them! But God, when my oldest was 5 years old, stirred in mt heart a realization that I was not quite ready to give him up to another adult and 20 children for the majority of his days. I couldn’t imagine how much more quickly his little life would go by than it already had, despite the difficulty of caring for him and learning to be a mom, and raising two others at the time, when days seem never to end. I knew that I just wasn’t ready to make the transition to saying good-bye everyday for all day, and never getting that time back again-ever-until he graduated and then left the home! It was just not something I was willing to sacrifice. Instead we decided we would take the next 3 years to figure things out and take it one year at a time. We’ve never regretted that choice.
What advice do you have for new homeschoolers, especially those who are homeschooling unexpectedly for the first time this year ?
I think that many parents, though they are facing many difficult challenges this year, have been given a unique opportunity to do the same; take their time to figure things out and get time that they otherwise would not have had with their kids, and use it for relationsip building, life skill learning, and character building, and not stress so much about the academic part. If you have found yourself in a position you never would have chosen otherwise by being forced to homeschool, I would say this: think about what is most important to you to impart to your children and focus on nurturing that in them this year. If it is temporary, remember that this is time you will never get back, and think abot how you would like to remember it in years to come. I’m sure we’d all like to remember time with our children with fondness. I would challenge you to not give them over to a vitrual teacher, a computer screen, or a system which was not made to be work in your home, and trust that as their parent you can do the best job at teaching them the things that are important, and allow them to become independant thinkers as they teach themselves from good books, and an inquiring mind. You have basically all the tools you need already, be bold to use them, and ask for help of other seasoned homeschoolers!
What has been your biggest challenge?
I’ve faced my own challenges and expect to face many more! One of my biggest challenges was reconciling my idea of homeschooling with my reality, and learning my children. As your child’s teacher you really have to be the best student- of THEM. Realizing that each of my kids learn in a different way, are interested in different things, and communicate uniquely, is not only overwhelming, is also very rewarding, if you embrace it and commit to learning THEM. It is also very freeing as a homeschooler to be able to give them space to blossom in their own time and not feel as though they are falling behind in comparison to others. I’ve learned to quiet the doubt in my mind that I am not enough for them, or that I will make mistakes that will set them back, as their parent, I truly want to the best for them, no teacher can compare to a parent’s motivation!
What other hobbies do you enjoy?
I wouldn’t say that homeschooling consumes all my energy or passion. I have some other interests outside of my role as a mom and teacher. My husband and I have taught Bradley Method Birth classes for more than 9 years! We have a desire to educate parents as they seek to learn more about the very important work of bringing a baby into the world safely, prepared as a team, and well-informed. It is a great responsibility that we know ourselves, how our Creator has fashioned us, and how we can be a part of his flawless design. I love educating women on the fascinating, intricate, and perfect design God has blessed them with so that they can be confident and not fearful. I also love educating and informing people on health matters. I have used and studied Homeopathy; a system of medicine, not to be confused with a general term for natural medicine, herbs, or supplements. It is natural, but it is very unique and very effective for all things from mental health and chronic disease, to acute care at home. I’ve been helping people use it successfully at home for about 10 years, but now I have had the privelege of studying under a doctor to be able to help people with chronic conditions. I want everyone to be able to have affordable, effective, non-addictive options when it comes to taking care of themselves, and what medicines they put into their bodies, and this is my one small but impactful way that I can make a difference in people’s lives in that regard.
Book That Inspired Kay to Homeschool
Read Aloud/Audio Favorite for Ages 3-10
These books are slow and lovely. He paints quite a picture and uses lots of play on words which make it more and more interesting to children as they grow and are able to understand it in a new light. I also loved the vocabulary that it introduced to my kids. My children have all been delighted with these timeless, non-fantastic stories.
Again, these stories, set in the 1950’s, are classic storylines any child can relate to, and while they are not one big plot, or anything super exciting, they draw you into the simple truths of what it is to be a child. I enjoy them as much as my kids do!
All of my kiddos love listening to these stories. The concepts they tackle are sometimes ones that I am glad my kids get to be introduced to though a story that promotes some good discussion.
Ages 5 and Up
This is a true living book which introduces them to James Audubon in a round-about way. We read this book for school this year and all my kids loved it. We can’t wait to read others by this author.
Ages 8 and Up
Harry Potter (the first 3 are suitable for ages 8 &9, beyond that, they get a little more intense for young kids) My 10 year old devoured these books! He read through the entire series twice in less than a year. I had never read the books before I read them to my son, and I am now a HUGE fan. Like- I cried at the end. The story is powerful and moving, full of great role models and is full of Christian imagery that will capture you.
Jonathan Park is a great Audio series sort of like Adventures in Odyssey but with a focus on Creation Science. My boys have really enjoyed it.
Have questions for Kay? You can contact her at email@example.com. You can email her with any questions or also to see if your health concerns can be addressed with homeopathy. Remember, though, moms are busy! Response time may be delayed, but she will try to reply as soon as she can!