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Project Learning, Folder Games, Annie and Her Boys

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, August 20, 2009

                The Homeschooler's Notebook
     Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
   Vol. 10 No 61                        August 20, 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
  -- Project-Led Learning
  Helpful Tip
  -- Preschool Folder Games
  Winning Website
  -- A+ Research and Writing
  Reader Question
  -- Annie and Her Boys
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

       Notes from Heather

  A few issues back I introduced Daniel Yordy and his 'Project-Led
  Learning' philosophy in an article about middle school students:


  Daniel recently received feedback from one of our readers who wrote
  to him.  I really agree with her assessment -- and in all my 'panning
  for gold' for those nuggets to build my own home education philosophy,
  this concept is fast becoming a gold brick cornerstone.  I think
  we are truly onto something big and I plan to implement it more in
  my own family!

  -- Heather


  RE: YGuide Academy...

  "What you've come up with is something that a lot of parents, myself
  included, have always known innately -- but you've taken it and
  articulated it into a structure that we can work with.  By doing so,
  it gives us more peace of mind and encouragement to allow what we
  know our kids naturally do, that is to learn by doing things that
  mean something to themselves and the greater human community.

  I am so excited about your program that I have talked about it with
  various friends.  Locally I have led a couple of activity-based
  homeschool groups within the folds of a few larger homeschool support
  groups.  When I get the chance, I plan on letting all my groups know
  about your wonderful programs.  I'm sure it will speak to many others
  the way it has spoken to me."


  Now I want to share with you more from Daniel about Project-Led
  Learning.  This is especially for those who may wonder how it
  really is any different from the Unit Study method...


  -- Heather


  Daniel writes...

  "A reader asked me how Projects compare to Unit Studies.  There are
  similarities.  A unit study is a good attempt to make 'education'
  interesting and active, as close to real life as possible, that is,
  a simulation.  A unit study focuses on one topic in a larger course
  and expands that topic into a variety of activities and exercises.
  For instance, in history, a study of the life of Martin Luther gives
  a look at an entire microcosm of the world at that time.

  Some projects will be large unit studies, but not all.

  Let me explain the difference as best I can.  There is in modern
  thinking an idea, stated strongly by some, that children should not
  be useful; that anything a child does that is 'education' ought to
  be with no profitable purpose.  Inside that box of thinking that
  is defined by the 'school classroom', experts have raised 'learning'
  to great heights.  But learning inside that box is by distraction.
  'There is no immediate purpose for you in what we are studying today,
  so let's distract you into learning something you will remember and
  use someday when you are old, by making it 'interesting'...'
  Essentially, that is what unit studies in the modern classroom do.

  The problem is that home school families take curriculum designed
  for valueless classroom learning and think that this is 'real'
  education.  What I mean by 'valueless' is that the product of the
  child's labor goes into the trash can because it has no real-world

  We need not do that.

  As many projects as possible should be made real.  To transform
  a unit study into a project, make the product of your child's
  work to be something of value, and then make the learning incidental
  to creating or performing the thing that has value.  Many things
  are valuable.  Piano students putting on a recital that is truly
  entertaining are producing value.  Growing a garden and putting
  real food on the table is the creation of value.  Polishing your
  short story until it is worthy of publishing on the Internet for
  strangers to read and enjoy is valuable.

  The majority of a child's projects will create value.  Exceptions
  include some social studies -- reading great historical fiction is
  an excellent substitute for the real thing.  Creating a country
  display must usually substitute for spending actual time in that

  My favorite projects in college were large assignments that,
  upon receiving them back from the college teacher, I took into
  my classroom the very next day and used for the good of my own
  high school students.

  Modern education has completely disconnected students from
  productive reality.  Everything designed for the modern school
  classroom, including many approaches to unit studies, is created
  inside that way of thinking.

  Learning that surrounds the creation of value is something quite

  Project-led learning resonates within the hearts of many who
  discover for the first time the idea of a child doing real things
  in order to learn.  In the brief few weeks that I have presented
  what has been percolating inside me for years, I have heard more
  than once, 'I wish I had seen this before we took our children
  through home schooling!' 

  I suspect they are secretly saying, 'I wish doing real projects
  had filled my years of school.'

  I know in my childhood years I made go-carts from piles of junk.
  I built a little house in the woods and made it my bedroom; it
  even had a woodstove in it that I bought from my sister.  I studied
  the map of the world for hours on end.  I blew up things in my
  bedroom.  I raised my own animals; I grew my own garden.  None of
  it was 'school', but all of it I remember better now -- and the
  lessons learned -- than most anything from those 12 years of
  banality called schooling.

  We humans are hard-wired to learn by doing, by creating value for
  the real people in our lives.  Modern education is simulation.  No
  matter how well a teacher, or a method, or a curriculum might be
  finely tuned to produce 'results', all of it is simulation.  It
  is not real.

  Thank you for joining me on this journey.  I hope to inspire you,
  to give you sound arguments on why learning ought to be real, not
  simulated, to give you concrete ideas on how to guide your children
  through projects and business.  And I want to share with you my own
  journey with my children and with the promise of YGuide Academy."


  Daniel Yordy has a wide range of experience both inside and outside
  of education.  He has taught a total of seven years in private
  Christian schools, and five years in Texas public schools.  He has
  assisted his wife in homeschooling their children over a number of
  years.  He brings firsthand knowledge of every educational environment.
  He has also served as principal in a public school and as a director
  of disciplinary education.

  If you would like further information about project-led learning,
  contact Daniel through http://YguideAcademy.com/ProjectLedLearning.html
  He 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: http://www.YguideAcademy.com/MicroBusiness.html


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


            ~ The HOMESCHOOLING ABCs Class ~

  When you subscribe to our Homeschooling ABCs class, whether you
  are a brand new homeschooling parent or experienced by a few years,
  you will learn how to teach specifically to your children's unique
  learning styles, select the best possible curriculum for your family,
  learn how to stay focused, on-track and even organized, and more!

  PLUS, you will receive over $275 in curriculum bonuses with each
  class membership when you sign up this summer, 2009 - including
  A Child's Geography, In the Hands of a Child & WriteShop materials!

  Read more about this "must-take" class at the following link:




      Helpful Tip

  Preschool Activities

  "This site is done by a preschool teacher who has put a ton of
  lessons and file folder games for young children on her site.
  There are videos and lots of stuff!  I recommend taking time
  and making a bunch of these lessons for the little ones.  Then
  when you need a few minutes with your older children, you can
  have the little ones pull out some file folder games." -- Ally

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

      Winning Website

  A+ Research and Writing

  The Internet Public Library for Teens has put together an
  incredible resource for learning to research and write a
  research paper.  All the steps are there, clearly laid out.
  Any high school student can login and follow the steps from
  choosing a topic to citing sources.  Along the way they provide
  links to other helpful articles and websites that further
  illustrate the steps to writing and revising a paper.

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

      Last Issue's Reader Question

  "Hi -- my name is Annie.  I have two boys and a 9 year old girl.
  My boys (ages 7 and 4) are always busy, but never constructively --
  always destructively, unless I give them something specific to do,
  which doesn't last long.  My question is... what can I have them do
  while I give my daughter some of my time.  Since she is the oldest,
  I tend to give her the lessons for the day and send her off so I can
  work with my middle son, who is struggling with reading, and can't
  be independent in school.  She is so independent and trustworthy
  that I, unintentionally, leave her to herself too much.
  Legos and Lincoln Logs are old, and matchbox cars end up everywhere,
  including the toilet.  Arts and crafts... well, I got tired of
  cleaning glue off the walls.  For me, this is a tough age (the 7
  year old) because he wants to be independent, but is still too
  young to do some of the activities he wants to do.  He wants to
  learn to whittle so he can build a ship (large and small, his
  perception is not yet up to par).  He also wants to learn to make
  fireworks... yikes!  Please, I need help!" -- Annie

      Our Readers' Responses 

  "We have 10, 8, 5, and 3 year olds.  We solved this problem by
  allowing all of the children to participate (in some way) with
  the same subject matter.  Our expectations are age and ability
  appropriate, but all are learning from the same materials.

  When the little ones mentally check out they have their own
  learning (what we call schooling) to do.  The younger ones each
  have a list of four things to check off with the 5 year old
  helping the 3 year old, proudly.

  Have crayons and books, scissors, paper, etc. ready for that time
  when you need a bit more with the older one.  Train the younger
  one for a few days about what things to do when you are with the
  older one for a few minutes.

  If the younger one is not able to complete things by herself,
  then have blocks or toys to play at your feet or in the next room.

  A child, even at two, should be trained (not just told) to make
  her own fun.  This will do wonders to her creativity and future
  learning." -- David


  "I have four sons and know what you are talking about -- down to
  the glue on the walls!  I avoid science experiments as I am afraid
  one day my water heater will come through the floor!

  But I will say I thought this day would never come -- and I did
  find some things to keep them busy and occupied, without a lot of
  issues at times.  Part of it first required my attention to make
  sure they stayed where I asked them to be, but I would get audio
  books instead of having him read aloud (as my son loved stories,
  but hated to read) and gave him a box of popsicle sticks and a
  hot glue gun.  You have to stay near a plug, and he wanted to
  listen to the story.  It would keep him occupied for an hour or
  more at least -- and I gave him a stern talk about hot it was and
  how special it is that he gets to use it -- and it really helped.
  He was about 6 when I started this with him.
  For the 4 year old, I had a special box with Ziploc bag activities
  and file folder games.  I would set the timer and they had to do
  the one activity for a certain set amount of time (like 10 minutes)
  before they could choose the next one.  They also had to stay in
  a certain area, usually on a large blanket I would spread on the
  floor, while I was working with another child. 'Preschool Activities
  in a Bag'
is a great book for making these activities: 

  Everything had to stay on the blanket or they lost it." -- Martha


  "Annie -- This may not be exactly the answer you are looking for,
  but I would recommend working on the reading with your son in the
  evening when the 'regular' school day is over.  It will free up
  your daytime a bit and the reading lesson can be presented as more
  of a 'for pleasure' reading time.  I find my daughter gets the short
  end as well sometimes; she is more responsible with her assignments
  and babysits her little sister as well.  We have 'girls night out'
  while dad stays home with my son and youngest daughter.  It's a
  great time to reconnect.  We don't get out that often, but we really
  enjoy the time we do.  It has become very special."


  "I recommend getting a lot of boxes from the grocery store and
  letting them do some big muscle creativity.  They can build a rocket
  or a sailing ship or a club house in the back yard -- and if the
  boxes are wrecked you can recycle them and get more.  They really
  sound like normal, healthy, little boys -- and all they need is
  enough space and material to work off their energy." -- Anne


  "Dear Annie -- First of all, let me encourage you that this too
  will pass -- with a little help from the Lord and from you as mom,
  not just as teacher in the home. :)  I, too, have extremely active
  boys (4 and another one on the way!), so I completely understand
  the frustration you feel!  It is very important to be able to occupy
  the younger ones while schooling with the older child -- however,
  teaching self-control and respect for your time is also equally
  important.  I have found that having specific boundaries/rules with
  consequences have helped tremendously when it comes to teaching my
  boys self-control and respect.  There is a catch though -- you, as
  the parent, must follow through with whatever you have told them --
  no matter how inconvenient.  For example, my younger ones know that
  if they make a mess, they must completely clean it up to my standards,
  and I must be willing to enforce that rule.  If you take the time
  now to develop their character, you will reap the fruit and be so
  grateful that you dealt with it now rather than later.  If your nine
  year old is well behaved, then I would place more of a focus on her
  being able to do things independently while you work with the boys.

  We also have a 'game' that we played with our boys to help them with
  self-control: table-time.  Table-time is very specific, focused time
  to train them to work independently and quietly.  For example: When
  our oldest son was around five, we started out with 5 minutes of
  table time.  We would give him an age appropriate activity that he
  could do all by himself, such as a puzzle, or Legos -- but we always
  told him what we expected him to do, like build a church, house,
  car, etc.  Sometimes it was drawing or modeling with clay.  Then
  we had a timer and we would set it for those five minutes -- and
  these were the rules:

  1. No talking or getting up from the table at all during table time
  2. You must do your very best to accomplish the task
  3. If you are finished with your task before the timer goes off,
  then you must think of something creative to add to your project
  without getting up from the table or speaking about it.
  4. If you break any of these rules, then we start all over again.

  Now at first this was very difficult for each child to do and I
  had to stay in the same room with them helping them to remember
  the rules.  Once they successfully completed the game for a full
  week, then we would increase the time by 3-5 minutes each week
  until they eventually worked up to an entire hour of table time.
  I also had special 'rewards' as they reached certain successes --
  although I never would tell them until afterward.  After moving up
  to ten whole minutes I would say to them, 'Wow! You did 10 whole
  minutes without breaking the rules, why don't we have a popsicle
  to celebrate?'  It was usually little things -- sometimes I would
  take a picture of their project so that daddy could see it or we'd
  display it somewhere special... the point was to let them know how
  proud I was of their efforts, and it was always a pleasant surprise
  to for them to see what I would reward them with next.  The other
  important part of the game was that all materials/activities used
  were themed and were off-limits unless they were being used for
  the game or for school.  This made them special -- we had a puzzle
  box, a paint box, a sticker box, a Lego box, etc.  Once you get
  them to an hour's worth of table time, then it becomes a part of
  their daily routine and it becomes a tool for you.  You now have
  an hour block of time to be able to work with your oldest as needed
  -- and you can divide those blocks into educational activities for
  your 7-year-old -- such as math table time, art table time, and so
  on.  That doesn't mean that you can just walk away and leave him
  to his own devices!  You check on him, encourage him, etc.  We have
  used the table time concept in church, at doctor's visits -- just
  about anywhere.  It is really helpful -- not just for you, but for
  your children.  It helps them focus, reach goals, and feel good
  about themselves in general.  But it only succeeds if you are
  willing to invest the initial time and commitment into it.  As for
  your four year old, he will see his older brother doing table time
  and will probably want to join in too.  The timer will probably be
  less for him, but the concepts are still the same.  Put together
  themed activity boxes for him that are age appropriate as well,
  and you will also have a resource at your beck and call whenever
  you need it.

  Lastly, there must be consequences for destructiveness, and you
  mustn't back down.  Not only should they clean up after themselves,
  but there should be a consequence that speaks to them not to do it
  again.  The most important instruction that a homeschooling parent
  can offer is instruction of the heart and of character; academics
  will take care of themselves, but you really have only a limited
  time to lay a proper foundation for true success in life." -- Nicci


  "Annie -- For your son who wants to whittle I would recommend you
  let him use a plastic knife and whittle a bar of soap. 

  I would also recommend you let the boys get as much fresh air as
  possible.  Outside free play is the best.  I recommend you read
  'Last Child in the Woods' by Richard Louv.

  It really opened my eyes to the benefits of outside free play."
  -- Sandy

  Editor's Note:  I featured this topic in a past issue!  You can read
  more here if you are interested in 'Nature Deficit Disorder'...


  And here is a great book on soap carving for beginners...


  My boys made the tree on the front cover at camp.  It is an easy and
  satisfying project -- we just used Ivory soap bars -- cheap!  What
  is more, you can 'melt' the shavings with water and mold them into
  new bars.  A plastic candy mold works for this.  All 'projects' end
  up in the bathtub -- there is no waste!  And the disposable plastic
  knives are SAFE!  Boys (and girls) can whittle to their heart's
  content! :-)


  "You could be describing my family - boys and girl the same ages!
  Not sure if you let your kids play on the computer, but when I do
  my kids will go nonstop, which does allow me to do other things.
  I recommend http://pbskids.org/ and http://kidsedwebsites.com/ for
  the oldest (although there are things for the younger as well) and
  http://www.poissonrouge.com/ and http://www.starfall.com/ for the
  younger.  If the older boy can help the younger, then that will keep
  them both occupied while you work with your daughter.  And the stuff
  they will be doing is educational to boot.  It may be best to save
  computer time for when you are working with your daughter so that
  they look forward to that time every day, instead of thinking that
  they can do it all day.  Other than that, find a place in the yard
  you don't mind them digging and have them dig a swimming pool or
  look for buried treasure!  (If you hide a toy every so often it may
  help!)" -- Cheryl W.


  "If your son wants to learn whittle, give him a bar of soap (Ivory or
  something similarly soft) and a plastic knife and send him outside.
  You could even draw or print a template (bear, car, rocket or even
  a boat)... there may even be some templates on scout sites.  My guys
  used to love making things with pipe cleaners, too -- a big bag and
  just let them go... no tape, no glue.  Would they sit for an age
  appropriate audio book?  My boys loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and Magic
  Tree House on audio
.  There's also a series called Laugh and Learn
  that they really loved.

  Could you sit outside doing something with your daughter while the
  boys run around or play in a sandbox?  Boys have LOTS of energy to
  burn so physical activity is good." -- Jen K.

     Answer our NEW Question

  "We are home schooling our 7 year old son for the first time this
  year.  He's in 2nd grade.  Everything is going great -- with one
  exception that is.  Cursive writing.  He just isn't getting it.
  We're using A Beka for our curriculum, and although it's the
  beginning of the year, we've already jumped in with cursive.  My
  question is this: 'What ways have you used to teach cursive writing
  that worked for you?'

  I'd appreciate any input on this.  He is so smart and flying through
  everything else, but this is going to drive us both crazy I think.
  Thank you." -- Angela L.


  What advice would you share with Angela? 

  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
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