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A Cornucopia of Gifts from The Henry Ford Museum!

Added by Heather Idoni

Monday, October 29, 2012
Vol. 13 No. 17, October 29, 2012, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2012, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

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Guest Article
-- Back-to-School Advice?
Winning Website
-- The Henry Ford
Helpful Tip
-- More on 'Strewing'
Reader Question
-- Retaining Math Facts
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

A Homeschooler's Response to the Usual Back-to-School Advice
  by Barbara Frank


A recent issue of the Sunday newspaper supplement USA Weekend offered the usual back-to-school article; this year, the author devised a 7-point plan for parents sending their children back to their local school.

Here are her seven points, followed by a few points that occurred to me, a retired homeschool mom.

1. "Make contact with teachers by Week 3." Personally, I'd want to know the adult(s) my child is spending each day with before I put her on the bus. But that's just me. As the author says, "The goal is to open up the lines of communication between the most influential adults in your child's life." Again, we homeschoolers prefer that the most influential adults in our children's lives are us. We're funny that way.

2. "Check that your child is reading at grade level." This would be perfectly logical if all children learned at the same rate. But they don't. I read at age three; a friend's homeschooled daughter didn't start reading until 11. Both of us could read massive novels at age 13. So let's not try to force kids into a mold; they'll read when they're ready.

3. "Understand the importance of downtime." We already do, which is why we homeschool! The author quotes an article from Pediatrics magazine stating that in 2009, 30% of 8- and 9-year-olds got little or no recess in school. That's sad, but the rest of the class probably wasn't getting much more downtime because today's kids are fully booked outside of school. Downtime is sorely needed by ALL kids.

4. "Analyze test scores." Because test scores tell you how smart your child is, right? No! Some very bright kids don't test well, and some average kids can score quite well because they can read the test-writer's intentions. Schools place way too much importance on test scores.

5. "Stay on track for college." Here we go again. Not all kids should go to college. Not all kids need to go to college. And given the number of college grads now underemployed and unemployed, college is not a guarantee of a promising job future. Wait until you see signs that your child is college material and go from there.

6. "Don't trash-talk about math." Well, duh. You never trash-talk things you want your child to enjoy and excel in. But why math in particular? Be open to all of your child's interests and give him plenty of opportunities to explore the world around him.

7. "Be part of the learning community." The author recommends going to school meetings, being a school volunteer and going to the school play. Beans! My parents never showed up at school except for the occasional parent-teacher night and my graduations, yet I still made the honor roll. Let's be honest: being part of the "learning community" is just a way for the school to butt into and usurp your family life. Replace the phrase "learning community" with "family". Be there for your child. Read to her, answer her questions, and take her to museums, zoos and anywhere else that piques her curiosity. Put your energy into your child instead of the PTA. The time you put into actually being a parent is priceless.


Copyright 2012 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers

Barbara Frank homeschooled her four children for 25 years and has written several books related to homeschooling. You'll find her on the web at www.cardamompublishers.com, www.barbarafrankonline.com and www.thrivinginthe21stcentury.com


Your feedback is always welcome! Just send your email to heather(at)familyclassroom.net



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Winning Website

The Henry Ford

Invention, Innovation, American History, Auto Racing Science and More!


Our family recently made a trip to The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. While there, I split off from the rest of the gang to learn about the many resources available to homeschooling families and other educators. While there is more than enough for those who plan field trips to experience The Henry Ford in person, they also offer quite a bit for those who want to learn from the comfort of home.

Here are just a few examples of the FREE downloadable lesson plans The Henry Ford is offering online. These packages, coined "digikits", are made up of downloadable PDFs with hot links to digitized source documents and other verified online resources:

You Can Be an Innovator Like Henry Ford (grades 3-5)
Transportation Systems (grades 8-12)
Impact of the Model-T -- Then and Now (grades 9-12)
Science, Life Skills & Innovations in American Automobile Racing (grades 3-8)
Physics, Technology and Engineering in Auto Racing (grades 9-12)

To view more materials on a variety of subjects including an interactive adventure with colonial home life and learning in a one-room schoolhouse (just to name a few)...

1. Go to this link: http://www.thehenryford.org/education/topics.aspx

2. Click on one of the 6 topics on the page

3. Scroll down to the "Classroom Resources" drop-down menu near the bottom

4. Choose an interactive website or a resource to view or print out!

There is also a section which boasts over 150 teacher-created lesson plans on America's Industrial Revolution, which were the result of symposiums from 2009-2011 with the best historians, professors and teachers with a passion for history. Browse down through the pages of just one of the elementary level packages to see the great quality of this endeavor:


The Henry Ford is excited about spreading the word to more homeschooling families about their online and downloadable free resources, so please pass on this information to your friends!

And if you get an opportunity to travel to Michigan, be sure to plan a few extra days to explore both the museum and also Greenfield Village, which is an amazing and beautiful open-air museum spread over dozens of acres and filled with all the historical buildings and famous homes collected by Henry Ford and added to over the years since his death. You will find everything from the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop to Edison's Menlo Park laboratory. You really need a full day to enjoy all the village has to offer -- including dynamic living history performances and glass blowing, pottery and cooking demonstrations. Our family would pick The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village over Disneyworld any day. It's that fun and inspiring!


"Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right."
   -- Henry Ford

Helpful Tip

Homeschool "Strewing"

Last issue we talked about the idea of "strewing". Read what a few of our moms shared about their own experiences!


"Hi, Heather! I've 'strewn' things for my kids to pick up since they were toddlers. Early on, we started keeping a book basket in the bathroom which would be filled weekly with a selection of books around a theme. Initially, the intent was to keep them busy on the potty while toilet training -- they had a tendency to sit for a nanosecond only before announcing 'nothing happened!' and running off to play. The books kept them on the potty long enough to start having successes -- but as they grew, they started really paying attention to the themes in the basket and it triggered some great conversations.

Now that they are approaching their pre-teen years, we still keep to the tradition of a reading basket in the bathrooms -- filled with chapter books I think they might enjoy. I often take out classic books from the library to encourage them to pick up and enjoy the classics, and these are often strewn here. I also leave love notes and inspirational quotes taped to their bathroom mirror.

We also keep a 'reading nook' behind the couch. Our library books are in a basket there, along with a couple of oversized pillows for curling up on. I also often put a small toy or playset there, like a small bin of lego with an instruction book or two nearby. Because it forms a secret little nook between the couch and the bay window, the kids tend to vanish there when they are needing some quiet alone time, but don't want to be far from the family.

Our living room coffee table has a nature bowl as its centerpiece, and I often strew the bowl with interesting bits I find on walks -- and the kids strew it for me, too, and are keen to talk about what they've found. I will also tuck in small photos printed off the web of birds or animals we might see this time of year, or interesting habitat facts. The table is also often home to a puzzle box, a deck of cards, or a board game. Spreading out maps and putting the globe nearby, along with a few history worksheets or related books is another strewing strategy I use.

Our basement has a ping pong table dominating one end of the room, and I often lay out our Young Scientist Club packets there to see if the kids feel like diving in to them on their own. I also set out embroidery materials or painting supplies with a half-done sample painting and a reference photo -- something half-started just begs to be finished after all, and the kids often make their own artwork and then pester me to finish mine so we can compare and admire our works of art.

I will also leave books out with pages flagged with post-it notes and a list nearby stating 'things to try with the kids'. They are curious (nosy!) by nature and tend to look up whatever it is I've marked as something I want to try with them, and often they don't even wait for me, they just ask 'can I try this?' and do it themselves.

On the workbench, I buy small wooden sets to build birdhouses or toy fire trucks and leave them lying on top. My son loves assembling and painting them, and if they are just conveniently lying about, he will set to work.

Finally, we have a bulletin board that holds our calendar, work lists, and bits and pieces of unit studies. I put a daily inspirational quote on the board, and possible future projects, plus interesting articles. The kids pick them up more often than not and are inspired to continue researching on their own." -- Andrea


"Oh, this is just too fun! Loved the suggestions -- I have SO done this too! Especially -- a book left out on the coffee table would get consumed (or even a stack of white paper and some good pencil crayons!) Now that the kids are older, things like the Perplexus maze on the coffee table or, even last weekend with a daughter's university friends, a Scrabble FLASH game.

It's happened over and over -- something to inspire is often lots of fun to discover on one's own... rather than saying, 'You should/could read/watch/do this'. Leaving it out works! Funny, even buying a guide book for MYSELF for a local multi-day hike piqued interest as did one with local 'secret' beaches. We also had several polymer clay books that would get 'left out' with a large variety of pack of Sculpey just before Christmas. Lately, my husband's fun with tin whistles has been hard to resist, too, as they lounge in the living room... and my sewing machine is becoming something new to explore! (Skinny leg jeans transformation, anyone?)

I'm so glad someone else could capture the fun of this irresistible strewing and share it so well!" -- Eunice


Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am looking for some advice regarding my 12 year old son, who is galloping through algebra at the pace of a chapter every day or two, but STILL has trouble with math facts, in spite of a large variety of techniques including manipulatives, songs, flash cards, computer programs, mental math rules like the rule of 9's and practice since he was about 6 years old. He is learning his facts, but oh so slowly, and still has trouble frequently.

His older sister had a similar problem. When presented with 3x + 4x, I saw her counting up 3 + 4 on her fingers under the table. And his father, who has a PhD in a science, is notoriously slow in calculation unless he has his calculator handy. So maybe this is a genetic thing and we'll all just have to make our peace with it. But he wants to study engineering, and it's useful in science and everyday life to be able to make quick and accurate mental calculations and estimates. Any advice would be appreciated."

Debra, HSGifted Group


Our Answers...

"This may come as a strange response, but have you considered dyslexia? Dyslexia is so NOT what I thought it was. The dyslexic brain simply processes things differently than the non-dyslexic brain. This makes some things harder -- like how your read and anything that is rote memorization -- like addition/subtraction and multiplication/division facts, or reading sheet music. Many of our best inventors and leaders are dyslexic -- probably because they 'see' things differently. And dyslexia runs in families." -- Pam H.


"Debra -- I hated doing math facts when I was younger because I was so slow. I didn't make my oldest do them for that reason, but once she hit Algebra, etc. I sure did regret it. With my younger kids I have given them math facts on a daily basis and it has helped immensely. They are far from being speed demons but they eventually do get them down. I print up 5 minute drills from www.themathworksheetsite.com and have them do them for 5 minutes and see how many they can get done. I started mine on quarter sheets (I just took the 5 minute drill and folded in fourths), then moved them to halves (folding them in half), and then moved up to a full sheet. You can have them do 5 minutes in one color and then finish up the rest of the problems in a different color. That way they can see if they are improving, but don't get off easy if they don't do their very best. I think the daily drilling does help. Doing facts quickly is a skill and it needs to be worked at to be perfected. I told my 4th grader that if she gets where she can consistently finish all 100 facts in 5 minutes she won't have to do Math Facts any more. Boy did that motivate her to do her best! She is now up to 75 facts in 5 minutes -- better than her siblings were at that point. I think starting younger with +/- facts helped with focusing and speed." -- Sandy in UT


"I have 4 sons. The oldest two are 19 and 14. When my 19-year-old was in his early teen years, he had the same problem. He is very intelligent and always academically advanced, and he was doing great in algebra and other math courses, but he consistently made small computation errors. Like you, we used many different methods to try to get basic math facts and functions into his brain, but it just did not happen. I finally found an online conversation among some other homeschool moms, and they were all saying that their teenaged sons were making the same kinds of errors, and that this seems to be a common problem! Now, I am seeing the same thing happening with my 14-year-old, who is very math-minded. I really have come to believe that this is something that just happens in teenaged boys, and that in most cases, it will improve over time." -- Mindy


New Reader Question

"I am really struggling with breakfast this year. The boys and their dad would eat pancakes with fruit and milk every morning with few complaints, but I'm over that! They don't love warm cereal, and boxed cereal is just too artificial. Any good ideas for a good, QUICK, healthy breakfast? Thanks!" -- Brenda


Send YOUR Answer!

Do you have a suggestion or two for a healthy breakfast for Brenda and her guys? Please send in your answer!

Email: hn-answers(at)familyclassroom.net


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