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The Best Occupation of a Middle Schooler

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, July 30, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 55                          July 30, 2009
                      ISSN: 1536-2035                              
   Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to The Homeschooler's Notebook!

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  Guest Article
  -- Active Learning
  Helpful Tip
  -- Free Spanish Resources
  Winning Website
  -- Scott Foresman Downloads
  Reader Question
  -- Trouble Hearing Key Words
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Notes from Heather

  Active Learning - The Only Option for the Middle School Student
    by Daniel Yordy


  Part of the scam of modern education is this incredible belief
  that a child who is actively engaged in doing interesting things
  cannot be "getting an education".  At the same time, people think
  that a child sitting at a desk, answering questions out of a text
  book, on topics that have no present relationship to the child's
  life or needs, is being educated.

  Do not be fooled by this scam.  Look -- how many middle school
  boys (especially), unable to sit at a desk doing insipidly boring
  and meaningless tasks, are then drugged so that they will sit
  there quietly and look like they are being "educated"?  This is
  the modern system's answer.

  Don't buy it.

  The middle school child does not need a repeat of the academic
  work he or she received over and over in elementary school.
  Neither should they be focused on "college prep".

  The middle school child should be learning about the world in
  which he or she lives.  They should get their hands dirty.  They
  should be making things, building things, fixing things, growing
  things, operating things, raising things.  They should be running
  and shouting.  They should be involved in large, active projects
  that are both interesting and valuable to the people in their life.

  A child cannot know what he or she would enjoy in life simply
  because they have not had the chance to try all the kinds of
  activities that are available in the world.

  When I was in 9th grade, I took a vocational introduction course.
  The first quarter was electricity, the second drafting, the third
  metal working, and the fourth woodworking.  Electricity was
  interesting, but I didn't connect.  I loved drafting.  I hated
  metal working.  I liked woodworking, but not in a school shop
  with lots of other kids.  After the course was over, I forgot
  about all those things for the rest of high school.

  Yet, in my adult life, I am a woodworker.  I still hate metal
  working or anything to do with mechanics.  I continue to be
  indifferent to electrical work, though I can wire a house.  And
  designing homes is a passion for me.

  Yet here's the funny thing.  I am a teacher.  And I had no idea
  that I was a teacher until I was 28 years old and was offered
  the job of teaching a class of 4 students English in a small
  Christian school.  I had never been to college.

  And I would never have known that I was a teacher if I had not
  stepped into that classroom and tried it.  College, including
  a Master's of Education degree, came later.

  What am I getting at?

  Neither children, nor any of us, can know what makes us sing,
  what things we truly love, until we get a chance to do them.
  For every several things we get the chance to do once or twice
  in a lifetime, we may really like only one.  But we would never
  have discovered that one unless we had tried several.

  That is why project-led learning is so important for the middle
  school child, especially the boys.  When I say that, I don't
  mean that girls do not deserve project-led learning equally as
  much as boys.  It is because girls are somehow able to tolerate
  insipid boredom better than boys.  Middle school boys just can't
  handle it and should not be forced to.

  If a child does 14 projects a year across a wide range of
  activities, during half of 6th grade, all of 7th and 8th grades
  and half of 9th grade, that is a total of 42 different projects.
  Out of those 42 projects, the child might discover several that
  become life long joys, and possibly even the very thing they
  were made to do in this life.

  Busy text book work can never give that to anyone.


  If you need further information about project-led learning, contact
  us through http://www.YguideAcademy.com/ProjectLedLearning.html
  We would love to help you develop your project ideas into meaningful
  learning experiences.

  Help your child build his or her own business with 'Micro-Business
  for High Schoolers', a nine month course that guides step-by-step
  in the creation of a real-world business, while learning a whole
  lot.  This course could easily become a central part of your
  child's high school education.  Check it out at:

  Copyright 2009 by YGuide Publishing, Inc.

  Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Daniel_Yordy


  I LOVED this article!  When I was a young teen I was given the
  opportunity to build houses in central Florida.  I felt as if
  I had been given a reason to live, as I was a resident of an
  orphanage type children's home at the time and really didn't
  see that my life was worth much.  Although I certainly don't
  build homes now, I have done specialty wiring projects since!
  (Unlike Daniel, I do enjoy wiring.)  When I was in middle school
  and high school, I couldn't put thoughts on paper -- I consistently
  got failing grades on term papers.  And now I write and edit all
  the time!  There are seasons for everything, but I do agree with
  Daniel that trying a variety of different hands-on opportunities
  can rejuvenate the spirit and often leads us to our life's work.

  You just never know!

  -- Heather


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


  Testimonials from the HomeschoolingABCs class...

  "I was sold on the first mini class and started the 26 week course
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  All the planning is already done for us and we really like the
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  Please tell us this will never end, LOL -- no really I mean it!"
  -- Debbie in MD


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  Homeschooling ABCs course.  I'm learning so much even though I have
  been homeschooling  for some time now.  I also enjoy working on
  one subject at a time.  It gives me the time necessary to read the
  free material and for thinking it through.  Thanks a lot!  I am
  looking forward to the next sessions!" -- Myriam



      Helpful Tip

  Free Spanish Resources


  Here are free printables, audios, links to websites like BBC for
  more free resources; flashcard sites, both online and printable;
  audio sites and links to thousands of books to read in Spanish
  online.  Don't miss the next level on this page:


  Good stuff!


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

      Winning Website

  Online Grammar and Writing Handbook

  Scott Foresman Reading offers free downloadable grammar and writing
  handbooks for grades 1 - 6 (one for each level).  The books are PDF
  files, and appear to be complete workbooks.  Pages are downloadable
  in short sections based on the concept being covered.

  -- Cindy, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "My 7-year-old son is very bright but has difficulty listening to
  others.  When it comes to school time, he often misses key words
  in questions.  Once he understands the pattern of what I'm asking
  him to do (or a book's instructions) he can do any task, but he is
  not learning the key words which would help him clue in to what he's
  being asked to do.  For example, after using math terms carefully
  for months he knows 'ones place', 'tens place', etc., but doesn't
  clue in when I talk about 'place value'; he still doesn't recognize
  the word 'digit' in a question, etc.  I've tried using a 'Jeopardy'
  approach but he doesn't understand the answer-question concept.
  Unfortunately, he's quite a perfectionist and will avoid work
  rather than learn a key word.
  I think he has problems both with observing patterns and with hearing
  key words.  I've got some good materials for discerning patterns now
  (still open for more advice), but wonder if someone can recommend
  listening comprehension exercises I can get easily from the internet,
  etc.  Thanks!" -- Brenda, homeschooling in Thailand

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "Brenda -- Sounds like he could use vocabulary development and
  listening exercises.  I can't point to one resource you can use,
  although Googling "vocab development" might be useful.  If I were
  in your place, I would decide what *key* words he seems to be
  missing, and begin the lesson with those words.  If he understands
  the 'one's place', 'ten's place', etc., but doesn't get 'place
  value', perhaps the word *value* is throwing him for a loop.  You
  can skim each lesson or set of directions before he works with
  them, and pick out words he is likely to miss, or that he hasn't
  used before.
  Figure out how he learns best (visually, auditory, kinesthetic
  (moving and making) and see if you can work with vocabulary in
  that way.  If he needs two new math vocab words, try getting him
  to draw a picture of the concepts, make models (playdough is fine),
  write the words, explain them to someone else, etc.  Approach it
  from different angles.  This can work in all learning areas, not
  just math or science -- he can learn 'educational vocabulary' in
  all learning areas. With the example of 'value', he could draw a
  picture with different numbers of objects, and assign them a number
  value -- he can make playdough letters or numbers and explain
  their value -- he can write the meaning of the word value (my
  children prefer chalk and dry erase to paper, and it helps them
  learn better).
  When it comes time for him to use the words independently, such as
  during practice exercises or assignments, you can point out those
  words first, before giving him the work, and ask him to explain to
  you what he will do.  You can do this for a while, then simply
  highlight or underline the words you have been working on instead.
  Next, review the directions before he begins, but ask *him* to point
  out the words he needs to pay attention to, and maybe he will underline
  or highlight them.  You can build his awareness of how to read
  directions for understanding.  Before too long, he might begin to use
  this strategy on his own, and you can let him be more independent again.
  If you are doing verbal question and answer, you can do a couple of
  things to help him hear the words he's missing.  Maybe have him listen
  carefully, then ask him to repeat the directions back to you in his
  own words.  You can try writing down the questions you plan to ask,
  and have him read them as you speak aloud.  Not all children learn
  well by hearing; some are more visual learners.  I have one like this
  -- she is super bright and can read anything, but I can read her a
  paragraph and ask her a question and she has no idea what I'm talking
  about!  I think part of it is age (she's 6), and part of it is her
  strong preference for visual, written directions as opposed to verbal
  questions and answers." -- Anne


  "Brenda -- I'm wondering whether some of the words you're using might
  be too abstract for a 7-year-old.  Try to notice whether the words he
  seems to not understand are consistently abstract terms.  You might try
  using simpler terms, such as 'number' instead of 'digit' and 'spot'
  instead of 'place value'.  Or, ask him what he would call it, and use
  his terms at first.  Another approach might be to have him ask your
  question back to you.  Simply repeating it himself might clarify it
  for him.  When you prepare to ask him a question, make sure he's looking
  you in the eye.  Tell him you are going to ask him something, and to
  get ready to answer you.  That would prepare him mentally to get into
  a listen-respond mode.  The website www.123listening.com has a few
  listening exercises." -- Mary Beth


  "I’ve two suggestions.  The first is to have your son always repeat oral
  instructions.  If they are written instructions have him narrate back
  to you what he suppose to do.  If you get him into this habit it will
  help him to focus.  This is a problem a lot of children his age have.

  The second idea to let him use manipulative or mini-books that he creates.
  For example, a question and answer book with addition clues on the cover
  and inside a list of clue words.   When he has an addition word problem,
  oral or written, ask him what the clue word is.  If he cannot come up
  with an answer let him use the mini book he made to research the answer.
  I would recommend Dinah Zike books to help in this." -- Judy A.


  "I see this same thing with students that have difficulties doing word
  problems in some of my math instruction.  Without adding to your current
  instruction you might try underlining, highlighting or circling the
  keywords in questions before he can answer them.  If the material is
  not consumable, then make sure that either the keywords are rewritten
  before the question is answered or the whole question is rewritten with
  colored pen or pencils being used to write key words or again circling
  or underlining the keywords.  While at first this might seem like extra
  work, the more he starts to focus on the keywords the more he can start
  to recognize them in conversation and other questions.  Different colors
  or methods (circle, box, underline, etc.) can even be used for different
  type of keywords -- and don't forget the WWWWH (Who, What, Why, Where,
  and How)." -- JenniLyn


  "Hi, Brenda -- A few thoughts come to mind:  First off, has your son
  ever had a hearing test done?  If not, I would strongly recommend starting
  there.  It is amazing what a difference even a mild hearing loss can make
  in someone's ability to hear and understand clearly.
  After that, I would recommend looking at his understanding of life in
  general.  Is he understanding what people are saying to him in normal
  conversations?  Is he able to follow directions when doing a task around
  the house?  If not, I would recommend talking to a pediatrician to see if
  there is anything else going on that may be hindering your son's ability
  to learn.
  Finally, we get back to the schoolwork itself. The two main things that
  come to mind are either that this particular curriculum is not a good match
  for your son (especially likely to be true if he is only struggling in math)
  or else vocabulary and memory in general may be hard.  Some things you can
  do that may help your son build his vocabulary include:

  - Reading books that cover the same topics as are being covered in his
    school subjects to help him build his vocabulary
  - Reading stories to him (start with short paragraphs and work up) and
    have him narrate back to you what you have read - this is a Charlotte
    Mason approach that will work wonders in helping him learn to interact
    with the material
  - Applying the concepts in real life (giving him story problems to solve
    about things that come up, as well as doing lots of hands-on math, like
    in baking)
  - Building a personal dictionary of words he repeatedly struggles with
  - Playing games using vocabulary words (such as a memory game where one
    index card has the word and the other card has the definition or a sample)
  Good luck! And don't despair -- your persistence will pay off in the long
  run!" -- El in Canada

     Answer our NEW Question

  "I once saw a merit badge curriculum that you could do with your
  children that was not Boy Scouts, but it still taught the children
  a great deal and they had something to show for their accomplishment.
  I cannot remember the catalog that I saw it in.  Also I would like
  to hear reviews from anyone who has used it with their own children."
  -- Jenny


  Would you like to reply to Jenny's question?

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

     Ask YOUR Question

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  Send it to mailto:HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
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