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Boys' Brains and More 'Where We School'

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, September 22, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 38 September 22, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- Boys' Brains
Helpful Tips
-- Pizza Box Math
Resource Reviews
-- Spelling Power
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Recently overheard on the HomeschoolingBOYS.com group:

"I have to share a hillarious statement that I heard at a local home-
school convention. Christie Berry (http://www.specialfriendsnews.com)
was talking with a lady about her child's special needs. The poor
mother was beside herself with complaints about her son that went
something like this...

'... My son is stressing me out!! I don't know what to do. In past
years his grades were excellent and he was focused and tried very
hard. Since this school year started, he is still making great grades,
but his mind is elsewhere. If I need to make a phone call or do a
load of laundry, he gets distracted, starts playing with his brothers,
etc. I told him to read a chapter in History a little while ago and
when I went to ask him the first question, he got it wrong. He says he
can't read without me being there...'

Mrs Berry asked, 'And how old is you son?'
'Well, he's ten. Why?'
'Ahhhh,' she replied. 'His brain has shut off. It's a medical fact.'

As we all laughed and tried to decide if she was serious, she con-
tinued, 'Physically ALL his energy is going into growth right now.
Have you ever looked at Jr High curriculum? REALLY looked at it?
It is the same things they learned for the last 6 years on repeat
until high school. Even public schools know that they just aren't
going to learn much of anything with thier bodies so overloaded, so
they just maintain. Nothing new until 9th grade!'

We were all thoughtful for a minute, but it started to sink in. Hey!
My kid is normal! It's not ADD, it's testosterone! LOL! Her sug
geston was more PHYSICAL labor. Take up woodworking, air
conditioner repair, small farming, neighborhood yard care business,
etc. -- just get him out of the house and activating his large muscle

Thanks to Heather from the HomeschoolingBOYS.com email group
for sharing Christie Berry's comments with us! Christie's main web-
site is http://www.specialfriendsnews.com

She also has an "Ask Christie" blog where you can email her with
questions about your children's special needs. And I just noticed
that she is offering a free e-book, too! It is titled "Learning Styles
and Interests". Here is the link to her blog and free e-book offer:



Do you have comments to share? Please write!

Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Pizza Box Math

"I did this for our math/fraction craft during homeschool co-op.
I went to Pizza Hut and got personal Pan Pizza boxes. I cut
circles of crust (whole), sauce (cut in 2), cheese (cut in 4). Then
I used 2 toppings. I pasted into the box top and paper that said
"Crust - 1", "Sauce - 2", etc. up to 6. The result was a game
where you play with each other and see who can make their pizza
the quickest by rolling the die. (Or they could play alone and see
the lowest number of rolls they could get to make their pizza). We
talked about fractions with the pizza and the chance of getting your
next item you need." -- Rene from HomeschoolingBOYS group


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Reviews

[Note: I am changing the "Editor's Pick" section to an alternating
"Resource Reviews" and "Website Winners" feature. Lynn used to
do reviews of different curricula and supplementary resources, so
I'm reviving this feature again! - Heather]

Spelling Power

"I have a soon-to-be 9 year old son. We are using Spelling Power
for the first time this year. Once my son said ‘You know, Mom, I
really miss the old spelling…where I would do activities all week
with the words and then have a spelling test'. A couple of days later,
I was having a discussion about spelling with an online friend and I
asked my son if he wanted to go back to the ‘old spelling ways’. He
said, ‘No way. I like this better.’

The great thing about Spelling Power is that it’s not busy work. The
kids get credit for what they DO know and they study and retest the
words that they don’t. I also like that it takes just 15 minutes a day.
I start by testing my son for five minutes – using the 'say, sentence,
say' method. He’ll say the word (so that I can correct any mispronun-
ciation – most misspellings are caused by mispronunciation… I did
not know that). Then when he’s finished writing the word, he’ll say it
again, telling me that he’s ready. I will then say that word again and
spell it. He knows immediately if he’s gotten the word correct or incor-
rect. I love this immediate self-correction! If he gets it wrong, we
respell and he’ll cross out the wrong spelling and write the correct
spelling next to it. This is now a word that he will study in the next
segment – the five minutes of studying.

This is also fabulous because it teaches the student HOW TO study
the word. He looks at the letters individually, thinks about the sounds,
notices any patterns (double consonants, etc), WRITES the word on
his desk (with his finger), says the word out loud as he’s spelling it.
it’s VERY multi sensory and my son just does really well with it.

The last 5 minutes (but usually it ends up being 10) is filled what the
book calls 'Discovery Activities'. These are different activities that
the student does to become further accustomed to the words. My son’s
favorite activity is crossword puzzles... so I go to Discovery.com and
create them for him.

Hopefully this will give you a 'feel' for how the program works so that
you’ll know if it'll work for your student or not.

On a side note, my 5 year old daughter sat on my lap recently and
helped me give my son the test. I read the word and sentence and
she would say the word again and spell it for my son. This was all
initiated at her request and a spelling lesson for her too!"


Thanks to Iva in Georgia from our HomeschoolingBOYS.com email
group for this great review of Spelling Power!

You can read more about Spelling Power and/or purchase it at
Cindy Prechtel's wonderful resource site...


Last Issue's Reader Question

"After reading about where everyone does school it gave me a lot
of good ideas. But, I have a question. When you have a designated
room for the child to work in... where are you? Are you up doing
housework? Are you sitting there watching them, what are you doing?
I don't want to have to sit next to her and watch her do her school
work, but I want to be able to help her if she needs. She doesn't
like to be left alone either. Kitchen table could work I guess, though
it isn't my favorite place. So, what do you suggest?" -- Darcy

Our Readers' Responses

"We've never had a designated room. School work happens all over
the house and for some of the reasons you've mentioned.

They don't like to be alone. Human interaction is very important for
all people, but especially children. To have him chasing me all over
the house to get clarification about something that they're not getting
doesn't work well. I choose one room where I need to work and set
him up nearby. I make sure I go over everything he may possibly
need for the lesson and then I work nearby so that I am readily
available for questions (and to keep him on track if I see that time
and all eternity may pass before this assignment gets done!)

I am homeschooling only one so I can't vouch for how this would work
with larger families.

As far as the kitchen table not being your favorite place... what is her
favorite place? You may want to give her some input on this. Other-
wise, we have done schoolwork in the laundry room, dining room,
living room, deck, porch, garage, basement. You name it we've been

I don't think physical location is as important as what they're getting
out of the lesson. When new material is introduced, or new
processes, or something that they find challenging, your presence is
very reassuring to them. They know they can access your wisdom
and knowledge whenever they need you and another person in the
room makes the work less isolating. My boys (15 yrs. apart!) always
wanted to talk to me during lessons. Sometimes it was a dodge to
distract me, but most of the time they just needed to know that I
hadn't forgotten them." -- Dorie


"One of the joys of homeschooling is the flexibility of it. One thing I
noticed when I started officially homeschooling 7 years ago - was that
I was trying to make our homeschool - a 'school at home' --- all I had
to go by was what I knew - public school. That did NOT work for us.
There are parts of that I keep here and there, but definitely NOT every-
thing. We have a schoolroom in our home with a table, chairs, mom's
desk, computer, bookshelves, etc. --- but we found that our son likes
to take his tests in his bedroom at that desk, our daughters like to do
reading on Mama's lap in the family room or one of them even likes to
come do some of his independent work (that he 'might' need some help
with sometimes) on a bench in the kitchen as I wash lunch dishes, etc.

There are some things you might need to be right there for. For us it
is when I am teaching a NEW CONCEPT or when our youngest CAN'T READ
EVERYTHING. We have trained our children to be independent learners -
so - for the older two - everything is written on a lesson plan and
they can see what needs to be accomplished daily - and they work right
through that sheet. They ALWAYS KNOW that Mama is there for any
questions, at any time. If I'm not available and doing something else
they move on to something they can do alone until I can help them out."
-- Charity from New York State


"We have a school room upstairs and it's also a craft/scrapbook room
but we rarely use it. I moved most of her things and her desk down
into an area between the dining room and living room. She is only 6
so it's like a Little Tikes desk but she enjoys having an area all to
herself and I can work in the kitchen or living room and I also do
laundry while she is working but I am always nearby and check on her
often. When she's not doing school we cover her desk with a pretty
blanket so that she's not tempted to sit down and do more work. She
loves to do work pages and practice her writing but I want her to be a
little girl and play also so if we cover it then it's almost like the
old saying 'out of sight, out of mind' " -- Jennifer in Oklahoma


"Take up knitting! If I am able to keep my hands busy with something
that isn't so interesting that it draws attention, it saves my sanity.
That way I am available if needed, but still feel like I am accomplish-
ing something with my time. It could be mending, folding laundry, etc."
-- Susan P.


"We have a homeschooling room where I store all of our neccessities,
but when the kids do schoolwork, they like to use a laptray ($8 at Wal-
Mart) and go to various parts of the house, usually the living room. I
am around the house, and when they need help, I just sit next to them on
the couch and assist. They like to take these trays up to their bunk-
beds, or even outside. They have little pocket sections where the
pencils can fit, etc. We do have tables in the homeschooling room, but
they're seldom cleared off enough! Got to let these kids be creative
too! They love it, and can go where they need to get away from younger
sibs!" -- Crystal N.


"My children are very different in respect to needing me with them. I
have one child who is very independent, and doesn't need me right there
all the time. I have another one who almost can't function unless I am
with him, so I make the time to be with him when he's working as often
as I can. I find that this dependency is decreasing with age, and you
can probably gradually wean the child into working more on her own. In
the meantime, be glad that she wants you with her! My child who wants me
with him is also the child who wants to hang out with me when I'm doing
my work. He's always there, eager to help, and can take over and do
many of my jobs when I'm ill or otherwise unable to do things that need
doing." -- Mary Beth


"We do our school work in different rooms. We do our paper work,
(writing, math, coloring and such) in the kitchen. I am usually doing
dishes, putting together a meal, or sitting at table if they really need
me. We do Bible, History, Science in the living room; we all get
comfy and I read and we all discuss what we are learning in these
classes. This is also where we do memorization work and flashcards.
For math lessons we get a big white board, watch our lessons on the
DVD player and work the problems out on the white board on my bed,
I don't know why we don't do this in the living room, it just works this
way. If the kids are working on a project that I do not have to be hands
on, just close by for questions, I will fold laundry in the same room,
do household paperwork, or crochet. My kids do not do their work on
their own like I hear a lot of homeschool families do, but this is what
works for us. We also do not get done in 3 hours like some, for us
sometimes it feels like an all-day thing -- so household jobs have to
get done at the same time." -- Anna R.


"I have 11 children and have been homeschooling for 15 years. We
don't have a huge home so every inch counts! We have a room in half
of our basement for a 'school room'. We have done desks, tables,
floor, etc. Right now we have 2 tables and a futon (which is claimed
by rank!) I have a big old wooden desk which serves as a desk, craft
table, computer lab, you name it. I do my laundry in the next room
(I'm always lurking) and sometimes I venture out of the dungeon to visit
my hubby and fill my coffee. BUT... we also had a flood and school
moved to the dining room table for 8 or 9 months! Six kids and Mom
and everything that goes with school -- and alot that didn't! My hutch
was a bookshelf, extra chairs and tables were labs and art centers.
Well, you get the picture. It doesn't matter where, only that you find
what works for your family. And I guarantee that it won't be the same
next year! Just love your time with your kids!!" -- Leslie B.


"We have a school room set aside in our house and I'm in school
when the kids are in school. Although we are not modeling our
home schooling experience after the public schools, you would not
enter a public school and see a classroom without a teacher. There-
fore, I feel it is my obligation to be in the classroom when school is
in session. I let the answering machine get the phone during school
hours, I check e-mail before and after school, and I try to do a couple
chores before our schooling begins at 9am (like throw a load of laun-
dry in the washer and make my bed). We are typically done with school
at NOON and take a one hour lunch break. At that time, we tie up any
loose ends in schoolwork, and then we all get busy with chores. I've
broken housework up into segments so we have one 'major' chore a day.
For example, we change the sheets on Mondays, clean the bathrooms on
Tuesdays, and dust and vacuum on Thursdays. Having the kids help with
chores is a huge help for me. They don't always do it perfectly, but
they are learning responsibility and I'm learning flexibility and
delegation. By the way, while you're sitting in school, you could make
good use of your time reading homeschooling magazines, writing letters
and/or cards, doing a Bible Study, etc. You'd be amazed at how much you
could accomplish." -- Noreen


"In our home we actually have a school room (efficiency apartment
built by former owners) where 90% of our stuff is kept. We start off in
the school room doing our devotional, journal & book report, then my
daughter and I head to the dining room (just into the next room) to do
her math. My son does his in the school room (I can still see him).
Our home is built so that I'm never far away. I don't always hang over
my kids but I do periodically check on them. My son is a self learner,
my daughter is not. When we're doing our morning stuff I'm in the
same room as them. By afternoon time we're all over the main floor.
I would suggest if you need to do other things in the home, to at least
let her know where you'll be for a few minutes and if she needs help to
come ask. That way she knows you are available but you don't have
to hover over her. Also try and do your housework after lunch, then
she can help you out and not have to be on her own plus she's learn-
ing household skills." -- Karie


"In my experience, when I'm off in another room my son does not stay
focused and becomes easily distracted by everything. He does his
school work at the dining room table and I set up my crafting station
there as well. I can easily do beading or knitting or some other craft
and keep an eye on him as well as answer questions he may have, but I am
doing my own thing and not 'watching' him. He is not interested in my
crafts, so that isn't a distraction for him. I can also spend that time
catching up on correspondence, or doing some kind of paperwork or plan-
ning. I've found that if I'm reading a good book though, I'M too
distracted to keep on eye on HIM!" -- Becky


"I have tables of some sort in almost all of the rooms in the first
floor of my house. (Table in kitchen, coffee table in living room, and
portable table in the front room.) When my son is doing work, I can
clean in that room, and we move on to the next room. The change of
scenery does him good. Often we pair it with as change of subject or
activity - this works for him." -- Jennifer F.

Answer our NEW Question

"I am a mother of four surviving quintuplets who are now 13 years
old. This is my third full year homeschooling all of them. I began
with two the previous year. They are all in the seventh grade. One
of my daughters is blind and needs all of her materials adapted for
her. We have all been an integral part of making that happen.
Another of my daughters has 'extreme' difficulties processing infor-
mation and staying focused during the school day. A third daughter
wants to just 'get by', and my son is bored most of the time and
seems to be in a big hurry to get all his work done by noon so he
can have the rest of the day to flit away. Here's the problem. As
you can imagine, the first two daughters mentioned need most of
my undivided attention, so I find myself at the end of the week angry
with myself for not having created an exciting and more adventurous
learning time for the other two. I feel undisciplined, unimaginative,
and generally overwhelmed by what I believe I should be doing as
opposed to what I am actually doing. I should be bringing to the
classroom subjects like Spanish, Home-Ec., Science projects,
typing skills, map studies, etc. and I can't even get all the 'basics'
in. I tend to feel like a failure because I'm overwhelmed by the two
who need the most attention and not attentive enough to the other
two. What I want is to be more organized and creative, yet I feel
that I don't have what it takes to be on this level. Other home-
schoolers in my area are a part of co-ops or homeschooling associ-
ations where they have their kids join others in a more 'class-room-
like' setting, but I feel I can't join them because I lack the time to
put into preparation for others what I can't seem to do for my own
'classroom'. I'm at the point of throwing in the towel. HELP!"
-- Jill in NC


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