Thursday, July 18, 2013

Teachable Moments

It seems that posting on my homeschool lists inspires me to blog. That’s a good thing! This time I was mentioning how I varied the ‘teaching moments’ by usually grabbing a chance when it shows itself.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do love to plan. I spend the summer mapping out the next school year.  It feels great and I get excited to start. [Hey, it’s inspiring]  Following through, however,  is not so much fun. Those are details that are meant for mere mortals, I guess.  Of course, I try, but its just not my forte.  My forte is however, spontaneity!
When a kid asks a question or  a child doodles on the wall. . . It’s time for a quick lesson! [Not That lesson, but an art lesson!]  I grab the closest piece of scrap paper and voila! School accomplished for the day!  String several of these together and it makes a great portfolio.   So, I thought I’d post a few photos of those more impromptu sessions we have had in the recent past and their explanations. 

I bought 'removable' chalkboard paper from a craft store. It sticks easily to the wall but is NOT removable if you keep it in one spot too long. This one is low to the floor right by the kitchen. Chalk tends to stay on the floor underneath, though there's a kitchen drawer close at hand. This way, if my pre-schooler seems interested, I can take a few minutes to work on her letters before getting back to 'chores' or school with the big kids. She is also free to use it whenever she wants.  Above: we did a few letters and then tried a word. She also had to practice making hearts. 

I have 2 good sized dry erase boards that I scored from a business closing. I have one place to hang them on the wall- so they take turns in that spot, otherwise they are leaning against various walls in the house, depending on where we feel like working in any given season.  Dry erase makes impromptu learning easy. Just grab a marker and start teaching! Change of subject? Just erase it.  Reluctant writers can't resist markers! Above: preschooler learning 'hop.'

So one morning we wanted to try that restaurant technique of squirting the pancake batter from a bottle or pastry bag.  The kids quickly figured out you could 'write' with it.  It wasn't as easy as we thought, but we made some letters and words.  We could then 'read' them before we ate them! Yum. 

The chalkboard off the kitchen:  Our youngest learned out to write her name on this. There is always a fair amount of doodling and 'artistic' license.  After writing her name, we erased parts and did them over in different colors.  Note some phonogram review on top.  This chalkboard is in our entry hall, so its also useful for party signs or family notes.  Its low to the floor  to be young child friendly and easier to just sit on the floor.

The dangers of Knowledge!! Our preschooler wanted to write my 'name' so I taught her 'mom'  She did give me an invitation to a 'show' she was planning, however she apparently couldn't resist practicing on our suede chair.  I'm a little conflicted. 1]I'm happy she remembered how to spell it and form those letters, 2]I'm disappointed she didn't use cursive.  Maybe the curve of the arm and the softness of the fabric made it difficult.  3] oh, she wrote on the furniture. . . but now every time we sit there together we can sound it out and read it!

This was cool.  We have combined several partial Risk games into one game. One set was apparently Roman numeral shaped pieces.  The kids were having some difficulty telling them apart [it was hard] and remembering their value. It inspired an entire session on Roman numerals and how they work.  Glad that chalkboard was close at hand!!  Note the numbers on top- I always start with 0.  It's a pet peeve of mine that we have 10 digits, they are 0-9 which we use to make all other numbers; not 1-10!   Using 0-9 helps explain place value and counting higher and higher. 

I also like to do 'teaching moments' while waiting in doctors' or mechanic's waiting rooms and even in the church pew.  Even if you forget to bring anything, those places always have advertisements and pens- just grab some of that paper and use the white space. [for my youngest we can play 'find the phonograms']  If I'm on top of things, we can pack lap dry erase boards, markers, notebooks and any flashcards or books we want and off we go-carschooling.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Recently I answered a post by a homeschool mom that was feeling discouraged. I thought I would share my response here as I think it may be useful to all of us. 

I think feelings of discouragement are more common than we admit.  We see those other posts, read those magazine articles or look up statistics and we wonder what we're dong wrong. Why isn't my child making leaps and bounds? Why isn't my child succeeding in that way?    It's an easy thing to slip into, but we need to be aware and watch for it.   We need to keep our focus on our own kids and make sure our goals actually fit for them. Not what we want. Not what those other kids are doing.  

While in the mean time, we should review and revisit our tools. Any other profession will have continuing education or conferences of some type. Professionals know they have to keep on top of their game.  So, why don't we? A refresher course- re-reading the book, watching the video or attending the class again- all ways we can refresh our teaching.   Our job as teachers is worth the effort or expense for extra or updated training.  

The other thing most professionals do as well- is refreshing the 'spirit'. They might not call it that. But some time reflecting on why we do what we do is also very helpful. I have loved attending the real refreshment retreats. [ ] So much so, that I also keep the program  with my notes in it for re-reading throughout the year. I highly recommend it.  If you can't do a 'real refreshment' you may want to do your own. Set aside some time where you can reflect on why you do this, where is God leading you? What is He calling you to do in this manner? What scripture verses speak to you? Mediate on Him. 

My children are never going to make those great leaps or probably ever be 'above' grade level in some areas,  but they are continuing to progress in all areas at their own personal rate. [bumpy and uneven at that] Sometimes I need an attitude adjustment to help me see how very talented and smart my kids really are. . . I have come to accept that my children and my homeschool will not look like anyone else's, even if sometimes, I need a reminder.