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Reader Advice, A Degree We Need, Adhering to Grade Levels

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, May 11, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 37                           May 11, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
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  Notes from Heather
  -- Reader Advice
  Helpful Tip
  -- A Degree for Homeschooling
  Resource Review
  -- William Henry is a Fine Name
  Reader Question
  -- Adhering to Grade Levels
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Notes from Heather

  This past week we had several answers to reader questions that
  came in after-the-fact.  Better late than never -- so here they are!


  For the Mom Struggling with Burn-Out


  "J.S. -- This is my 10th year of homeschooling, and while I have
  encountered many different problems and frustrations over the
  years, this is the first year I have struggled with burnout.  The
  only thing that I found that truly helped me overcome it was to pray.
  I asked the Lord to restore my joy in teaching my children and to
  remind me why we decided to homeschool in the first place -- and He
  did.  I think everyone has rough spots at different times and in
  different seasons.  The Lord will provide exactly what we need when
  we need it (2 Corinthians 9:8).  Also, I highly recommend the book,
  'When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling' by R.C.
  Sproul, Jr.:


  I try to read this book every summer while I am gearing up for the
  next school year.  It really re-focuses my perspective and reminds
  me why I am doing this!" -- Mindy


  Helping Mandi Get Organized Again


  "Mandi -- Oh boy, can I relate?!  We've been through this same thing
  in our own homeschool.  Once we take a break for any length of time
  (days or weeks) it seems to be so difficult to get back into the
  swing of things again.  Here are some things that have worked for us
  in the past.
  1.  Organized home and organized school materials -
  I need for everything to have a place and be in it's place or I
  cannot function, because I am so distracted by clutter.  Sometimes
  that means we have to do a quick 5 minute clean up before beginning
  school.  When my kids were younger (about the ages of your children)
  we made it like a game.  I would set a timer for 1 minute and they
  raced to see how much they could put away before the timer went off.
  2.  Set a goal -
  Sometimes I tell my kids at bed time what our goals are for the next
  day, such as 'We are getting up at ____ time, have a quick breakfast
  (cereal or muffins), and get started on school'.  Other times I write
  on the whiteboard what we will be doing for the day and we erase it
  as we get it accomplished.  I've also been known to say that we will
  have to finish school by a certain time that day, and then give
  reminders throughout the day of how many hours we have left before
  school is over, which helps them realize how much they need to
  accomplish before time is up.  Having a goal before us enables us to
  stay on task and do what we know must be done in a timely manner.
  3.  Sometimes they are just wiggly and need some activity so we will
  do something active as a 10 or 15 minute break during the day, then
  come back to our lessons.  With children as young as yours they may
  need several small breaks for activity or a snack throughout the day,
  and if you plan for that you won't feel as if you are falling behind
  I have to begin my day with a plan and determination to get things
  accomplished.  I give my day to the Lord and ask Him to help me
  accomplish all that I should.  Then I can focus better on keeping
  things on course. Usually, if we get out of sorts and can't seem to
  get things going I know that it is usually because I'm not focused.
  If I'm not focused my children aren't focused either.  Don't be too
  hard on yourself if you have a bad day. Sometimes things will come
  up that need to be tended to, and the beauty of homeschooling is that
  you have the flexibility of meeting those needs.  We just have to
  guard our time and not fall into the trap of allowing other things
  to always take priority over our children's education." -- Missy


  For the Parent of the Son Making Careless Mistakes


  "I don't believe that sending your son back to public school will
  solve this problem, as it is not an academic issue.  It is a
  character issue.  At his age, your son is entering the transition
  period when little boys are becoming young men.  Little boys are
  happy to try to please their mothers.  However, as they grow into
  their teens their focus and motivations change.  It sounds to me as
  if your son needs to have men in his life to whom he is accountable
  for his attitude and his work.  I would encourage you to get a man
  or men involved with this situation.  If his father is prepared to
  be the one, then I would ask that he become responsible for supervising
  your son's math work.  If not, then perhaps a local pastor or youth
  group leader.  As you have pointed out, your son's poor performance
  on his tests and in his bookwork is a character issue.  Therefore,
  as well as getting him some solid male input and expectations regarding
  his behaviour, I would also look at some specific character development
  projects.  This might be some volunteer work under the supervision of
  a godly man who would expect (and help him to achieve) high standards
  of performance.  Or, it might be some actual work on a character
  development curriculum.  Perhaps requiring him to journal the reasons
  why he is presenting poor work, if he is happy with the current methods
  of homeschooling in which he is engaged and what changes he would like
  to make.  Perhaps you may need to institute contracts where your son
  agrees to perform a given amount of work at a given standard of
  performance.  He would need to be closely involved in writing the
  contract and choosing the consequences/outcomes for both fulfillment
  or non-fulfillment.  Or, it might be a combination of some or all of
  the above.  As your son is bright and capable it certainly wouldn't
  hurt to take some time out of his regular lessons to concentrate on
  this issue for a time.  It is crucial that this problem is addressed
  before he gets older, as character issues can prevent us from reaching
  our potential.  It may also allow you to get to know more about what
  your son is thinking and feeling regarding his current homeschool
  situation, and whether he would like to become more of a choice-maker
  as he is maturing.  Hopefully these ideas will help you empower your
  son to help himself." -- Heather in TN


  "My son is also very bright and has a real problem with careless
  mistakes.  We use video games as a reward to get him to double check
  his work.  My son LOVES video games and we usually limit play to the
  weekends, but my husband came up with this idea around the beginning
  of this year as we saw the careless mistakes continuing.  The curriculum
  we use has workbooks -- and for every page that does not have a mistake
  (not an incorrect answer on a concept my son didn't fully grasp, but
  a mistake on something that I KNOW HE KNOWS), we allow him 5 minutes
  to play video games at the end of the day.  This usually amounts to
  about 45 minutes.  And on tests he will get extra -- if the test is
  two pages, then he will get 5 minutes per page and an extra 5 minutes
  for getting everything correct.  Then, if he has everything correct in
  every subject, we will round it off to 1 hour that he gets to play.  Of
  course, when he is done with a subject or test we remind him to double
  check his work.  For now it seems to be helping -- not eliminating
  mistakes -- but he is catching himself here and there and making the
  corrections.  I am hoping that even though right now the motivation
  is just for the reward, eventually it will become such a habit ingrained
  in him that he will double check himself without thinking about it.
  Just like I double checked this email to see if I didn't ramble tooooo
  much before I sent it!" -- Jackie


  Do you have comments to share?  Please do!
  Send your emails to:  mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net



      Helpful Tip

  The Degree We ALL Need to Teach


  "Sometimes people question whether we are qualified to teach our
  children, especially if we don't have a 'degree'.  Don McCabe,
  founder of AVKO, has a wonderful comment:

  'You don't need a master's degree to teach your kids -- just a
  degree of caring.'

  So now you can tell those skeptical folks that you have exactly
  the degree you need to teach your children!" -- Mary Beth


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

      Resource Review

  Review:  William Henry is a Fine Name
  Author:  Cathy Gohlke
  Genre: Historical Fiction

  Ordering Information:

  Set in Maryland prior to the Civil War, this coming of age tale of
  thirteen-year-old Robert Glover is packed with action, adventure,
  laughter, and tears. We join Robert and his family at their home in
  Elkton, Maryland, where his father, Charles, works as overseer on a
  Quaker farm. Mr. Heath, Charles’ employer, freed his slaves, and now
  pays them to work the land alongside Charles and Robert. Robert’s
  mother, Caroline, hails from a prominent slave holding family in
  North Carolina, and loyalties are challenged when The Underground
  Railroad is nearly discovered in Robert’s area.

  Many secrets are revealed the summer Robert turns thirteen, including
  the fact that Mr. Heath and Robert’s father work with The Underground
  Railroad. William Henry, son of freed slaves that work for Mr. Heath,
  is Robert’s best friend. Robert and William Henry grew up together,
  but until that summer, William Henry has a better idea than Robert
  of why skin color matters.

  Robert also meets his North Carolina relatives that year, which
  further clarifies his growing convictions concerning slavery. Will
  Robert step up and fill the shoes his Grandfather wants him to fill
  as sole heir of the North Carolina family plantation? Or will Robert
  join his father in the Underground Railroad?

  Cathy Gohlke paints an inspiring and realistic portrait of life just
  prior to the Civil War. Robert’s story serves to richly illuminate
  the past while entertaining the reader. The book’s informative and
  entertaining value will appeal to ages 12-100. It would also be a
  wonderful teaching tool for those studying American history. This
  book is a marvelous testimony to the genre of historical fiction.
  In my opinion, this book is a winner!

  (Parental Note: 'William Henry is a Fine Name' contains subject matter
  pertaining to the realities of slavery. Depending on the ages and
  maturity levels of your children, you may wish to preview this book
  before allowing your children to read it or using it as a read aloud.
  I recommend this as independent reading for mature preteens and up.)

  For more information or to order:


  Review by Karen Lange. Karen homeschooled her three children K-12.
  She is a freelance writer, homeschool consultant, and creator of the
  Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op for teens. Visit her website
  at www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com

  Review copyright 2009, used with permission.

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "I am new to homeschooling.  I have three children, but I'm starting
  with my oldest child who is 12 years old.  The problem I am having is
  that the public school had him in 4th grade due to be slow doing his
  work, but now that he is at home with one-on-one, he can do a lot
  harder work then he was being given.  I found that he stays more
  interested with the advanced work.  How do I advance him even though
  it is not where the public school says he is (if I can at all)?

  An example is that he went from multiplication in public school to
  Algebra for home schooling and is doing well in it.  If anyone has
  advice on moving him up into the work (and if I can) I would love to
  know about it." -- Belinda in Florida

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "Belinda -- Good for you for homeschooling!  I have a child who
  is also further along than she should be according to the public
  school grades.  I am not familiar with the reporting requirements
  or laws in Florida, but where I am we are required to test once a
  year, keep attendance, and that's about it.  When I decide what
  books or subjects she should do for a year, we look at it as a
  sequence -- of ours, not the school system's.  She and I discuss
  what options are out there to learn, say, algebra, and then she
  picks from my list of resources something that will fit her style.
  We have been homeschooling for five years now, and I can honestly
  say that I haven't the foggiest idea of what she would learn at
  age 13 if I sent her to school. 
  You can decide what to do in your homeschool, within your state's
  requirements.  If you want to move your son to the appropriate
  grade or subject level, do it!  You do not have to finish a 'pre-
  algebra' book before moving to algebra, nor do you have to read
  certain books or finish certain texts to move to the next level.
  Be flexible.  You might find there are areas where he is advanced,
  and areas where he needs typical or below grade level materials;
  use them if they fit his needs.  If he comes across something he
  does not understand, or takes a great interest in, be willing to
  put the books up for a day and let him follow a rabbit trail.  He
  can work at the fifth grade level in writing, ninth grade level
  for math, and read at the college level.  It is all about helping
  him learn, not about making sure he matches other children of his
  age.  School at home does not have to look like school at school.
  Think of it as home education, or learning at home, rather than
  'school'.  Have fun -- it's a great journey!" -- Anne


  "Dear Belinda (What a beautiful name!):  Please consider casting
  off your public school notions about grade level.  You're free now,
  and so are your children.  One of the advantages of home schooling
  is the opportunity to allow your children to learn at their own
  pace.  I don't know Florida's homeschool laws, but you really don't
  have to answer to them anymore.  They apparently had reason to
  retard your child; your goal is to progress him.  It sounds to me
  as if you're already doing all the right things; otherwise you
  would not have discovered his level of ability.  When he's ready
  to move on, let him go." -- Mary Beth


  "I see no reason not to let your son work to his ability.  Yet, I
  would also make sure he knows all the basic concepts that precede
  algebra, and any other subject area.  Forget what the public school
  did, and the labels they attached.  Work with your son on his level,
  and with his abilities.  I would start out with a general review
  in each subject area -- a quick review no more than a week long --
  just to make sure he knows and can work with basic concepts.  You
  can also test him in general subject areas -- there are free online
  tests.  For example, Texas has some different tests from previous
  years for different grades by subject area:


  Keep in mind that each state, school district, or book publisher
  has different standards; any assessment you use will give you just
  a general idea of where to start working.

  Much success in your homeschool journey!" -- Judy A.


  "We live in Texas, which is one of the less regulated states for
  homeschooling, so what I say may not be helpful in Florida -- not
  knowing the regulations you deal with.  However, from what I've
  read, many kids who are pulled out of public school do so well
  with one-on-one tutoring, that they advance quickly.  Many of my
  friends have kids who are doing one grade level work in math, and
  a different grade level in language, history, science, etc.  My
  kids are basically in their age group grade level for church
  Sunday School purposes, but work on varying levels in different
  subjects.  All 3 have tended to be ahead in math, science, and
  even history, but behind in language arts (their Dad has dyslexia
  and they each have varying degrees of the problem).  I think that
  you would find that kids in public schools are probably not perfectly
  on grade level in every subject either.  I have a friend with 4 kids
  and 2 of them are taking junior college courses for dual credit --
  and one is 15 and the other is 16.  The 15 year old is essentially
  through with high school courses, but remains in his high school
  youth group to be with his peer group.  If you can do that in Florida,
  you can essentially ignore grade levels in homeschooling and simply
  work on the level your kids are on, whatever that is." -- Debbie in TX

     Answer our NEW Question

  "My son is 9 years old.  He is not an avid reader, but he can read.
  His comprehension is good, but he cannot write a complete sentence.
  He doesn't seem to be able to spell anything.  I have tried different
  approaches with him, but none of them seem to work.  Nothing sticks!
  And when he does write, it's all guesswork.  But here's what I don't
  understand.  I was doing Sequential Spelling, and they repeat the
  same words over and over again.  They change them just a little.
  Yesterday I had him do two lists of spelling words.  He could not
  remember how to spell a word he had spelled 5 minutes prior!

  We don't do well with lists of words to memorize, and I don't think
  it would do him much good to memorize specific words, when he can't
  write a sentence using even the basic ones.  I think he needs a unique
  approach -- he's very visual and needs something that will stay in
  his brain!  Any ideas?" -- Crystal

  Do you have some thoughts or suggestions to share with Crystal? 

  Please send your answer to:  mailto:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

     Ask YOUR Question

  Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

  Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if we can help you out in a future issue!

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  This ultra-safe chat is supervised by experienced moms who are
  there to serve and share their wisdom... or just offer a listening
  ear and encouragement.


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Next - Personal Notes, Pajama School, Advice for Dyslexia
Previous - 5 Essential Ingredients to Homeschooling Success

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