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Happiness…. What is it? Most of us will probably define it as something that we all strive for, something that is even listed as one of our “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence – the right to the pursuit of happiness. The Webster’s Dictionary calls it
a : a state of well-being and contentment : joy
b : a pleasurable or satisfying experience
Amidst all the talk about happiness, including countless seminars and books, it appears to me that we don’t always put a high enough premium on it when it comes to the world of education. It seems we have forgotten that happiness is also an unalienable right of children and not just adults. So often we see kids dragging themselves to school, experiencing little joy from the process of learning, even though education is one of the most wondrous of life’s experiences!
This saddens me, and makes me very determined to work for a change! The incorporation of happiness and joy into the process of learning is grossly undervalued in most of our educational systems today. Our lives are so short; this is a reality I have just recently experienced again with the death of my father. Why would we spend extended periods of time in self-imposed misery when we don’t have to? Sadly, most kids don’t have any say in this whole process of imposed joylessness. They get dragged to school with no choice and the frustration that creates can spill out in the form of a variety of undesirable behaviors.
There are many enjoyable and engaging ways to learn. The industrialized method that we’ve been using for the past century is, increasingly, not one of those. Wouldn’t it be more engaging for students to learn through experiences, projects, apprenticeships, and from people with a passion for the subject than to spend an inordinate amount of time practicing for a test? If an adult wants to learn something, they find someone who knows the subject, spend time with them and learn in a hands-on, experiential way–why is it not the same for kids? When teachers are saddled with increasingly large class sizes, required to spend many days testing and many more preparing for these tests, and required to cover all subjects, it is virtually impossible to engage every child in the most inspiring way. Putting aside the fact that it takes all the joy out of teaching, there are other problems with that model as well. If that teacher really is not a fan of Math, do you think it will not come through in her teaching? If she freaks out when she sees a bug, do you think her Science class will take a hands-on approach, or be the best these kids have ever had? Of course not! Everyone has their limitations, and someone who does not enjoy a subject isn’t the best choice to be teaching it.
At Learn Beyond The Book, we have taken many of the problems we’ve seen in traditional schools and created solutions. Not only are all our classes taught by individuals who are highly passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, but also by kind, compassionate individuals who think of the children as whole human beings, engaging them as individuals and encouraging them as a group. We see children as resourceful, and value their input as part of the educational process. We create classes where they feel embraced and respected as they actively participate in their own learning, where they more easily remember what they’ve learned, because they were engaged in the learning process, not passive bystanders!
Learn Beyond The Book maintains small class sizes to create an intimate and safe environment where kids can try things, fail, learn from their mistakes, succeed, and celebrate each other’s successes. What is the result of all this? Happy kids who can’t wait to come to class! It’s a win-win for students, teachers, and parents. All the kids attending are either homeschooled or hybrid schooled, which combines independent learning with several of our classes. We provide support to homeschooling families and high quality class options to families who enroll in home-study charter schools. Homeschooling parents love this system because it provides them with some free time and a break from the feeling that they have to become an expert in every subject, especially the ones they do not enjoy themselves. Many times we’ve even seen parents become more interested in learning about a topic that they previously didn’t find interesting, because their kid has been so inspired by a class and shared their excitement with a parent. Our teachers enjoy teaching because they have freedom to teach the kids in the way that they best learn, considering all the different personalities and learning styles in their class, and without being bound by stringent testing and grading standards. Our students have a great time learning and doing it all surrounded by good friends and a supportive, less competitive atmosphere. It is all so exciting to observe!
In my experience, happy teachers teach more effectively, and happy students are more efficient learners. Many of our families have remarked about the change they see in their kids when they are learning in our more happiness-inducing atmosphere. Imagine how your child might blossom in such an environment.
If you are interested in a different kind of learning environment for your children, feel free to check out our website and all of our Fall classes.
As you know, Learn Beyond The Book already partners with 10 great charter schools offering classes and social groups, fieldtrips, and more to their students and will continue to do so (Golden Valley, Sky Mountain, Gorman, SCVi, iLead Lancaster, iLead Exploration, Sage Oak, Albert Einstein Academy, Excel Academy, and Mission View Charter Schools).
I’m very excited to let you know that Inspire Charter School has partnered with Learn Beyond The Book, to provide a true hybrid program for homeschoolers/hybrid schoolers in a new Specialty Program, starting Fall 2015. There are many benefits for you as a result of our partnership. Most families will love the ability to choose up to any six of the available Beyond The Book classes each semester. These classes are available tuition free for all enrolled Inspire Charter School students. If students want to take more than the six classes, parents are free to pay the rest out of pocket.
The whole goal of Inspire is to simplify things in order to give students the best individualized education program possible. Inspire provides special education services and the teacher assigned to your student will be available for assisting parents in getting any questions answered that you might have about the program or homeschooling in general.
A credentialed teacher, assigned to the students at Learn Beyond The Book (one of our own local teachers), will be on site at Learn Beyond The Book at regular predetermined times and they will be collecting the monthly work samples, most of which will be created during Learn Beyond The Book class times from students/parents, as well as an attendance calendar, which has to be initialed by the students and signed by parents for all days attended in the month. Since the teacher will know the students from being on site, they wouldn’t have to meet with them and the parents for an hour each month. Parents also won’t have to fill out any specific learning logs. We are excited to have Kelli Mejia, a homeschool mom herself, be our first teacher!
If your student chooses to use the online courses available to them, the funding for those will not reduce your tuition-free classes. For K-8 students, K12 or Odysseyware is available and A-G approved APEX for high school students. Students in high school could replace APEX courses with community college classes and/or test out of certain courses. High School Science courses with labs done through APEX will have labs completed by attending 2 Saturdays per semester of lab time. Electives taken at Learn Beyond The Book can count for credit under certain circumstances, so please see this article for more details. High school credentialed teachers are available all week for students’ questions via phone and online and classes taught by our own credentialed teachers will be able to count for high school credit.
When testing time rolls around, all Inspire state testing will also be conducted at Learn Beyond The Book’s facility and proctored by the assigned teacher(s). Inspire doesn’t believe in teaching to the test so students will not feel pressure about that.
If students want to use funding at other vendors as well, they can enroll in a different program of Inspire with an annual budget of $1,000 for enrichment with the core subjects being done through one of the online platforms (K12, Odysseyware and APEX). In this program, students have to use the online curriculum.
There are limited spots available for the Fall, so don’t delay your enrollment if this sounds like a great fit for your family. Then also register on our site for the classes you want and put Inspire down as your school.
A free information meeting to provide you with more details about Inspire’s partnership with Learn Beyond The Book was held on July 16, 2015 and here is a partial recording of the meeting (forgot to push record right away, but what you missed is in this article).
Have you ever wished your child could play in a Wind & Percussion band at school, but thought that it might be hard to pull off because of the fact that you’re homeschooling? Maybe you don’t want to pay for Flute, Trumpet or Drum lessons first and then get into a band, because maybe the kids won’t even want to take it or won’t be excited about practicing, even though you see the benefits of learning to read music and play an instrument.
Well, there is good news. At Learn Beyond The Book, we have started a Band program and it has been so fun! The kids don’t have to be trained in any instrument before joining the band. They can join and receive lessons as part of band practice. The motivating factor for getting better is that they’re playing in a band with their friends and that usually helps motivate them to practice.
Our awesome band director, Kris Chase, has played in a lot of bands and can teach all the different wind/percussion instruments. We have Beginnning and Intermediate Band, so if your child has already been trained in one of the instruments, they can join the Intermediate Band and if they are brand new, Beginning Band would be perfect. The Band meets Monday afternoons starting 9/14. Beginning Band meets at 5-5:45pm and Intermediate Band meets 4:15-5pm.
A great perk is that we are allowing homeschool parents of enrolled band students to join us for free if they would like to play as well.
As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, there are many reasons why homeschoolers feel the urge to stop homeschooling or those considering it think that they rather shouldn’t pursue it. Here are a few more:
I’m scared my kids will have gaps in their education
This seems like a perfectly legitimate concern until you actually start homeschooling and realize just how many gaps you yourself have even though most of us went through traditional school and were even very good at it. If you ever learned some of the stuff, you already forgot it long ago, since it is not useful to your current life. If a child has learnt how to read, write and do basic Math, he/she can learn everything else they desire to learn on this planet, maybe with the help of some expert, but they are capable of filling in any gaps that you might’ve left. As parents we are so concerned for our children’s well-being that we are most likely not to leave gaps and a disjointed curriculum would have a better chance of leaving gaps.
– Check to see if your children have critical thinking skills and if they question things around them and you’ll know if they’re interpreting their surroundings accurately.
– Ask lots of insight questions and you will soon span all disciplines of learning just based around a common theme.
– Make use of classes by experts where they can learn the things you aren’t comfortable teaching.
– If you are nervous you’ll leave gaps, feel free to check the standards listed on the CA Department of Education site, which would mean you would at least be leaving the same gaps everyone else in California schools would have.
– You could again enroll in a charter school where a credentialed teacher will be supervising your journey and can help you make sure important things get covered.
I’m worried I’ll mess them up
This concern is solely based on the responsibility we feel to “produce” good adults, productive and involved citizens and all around someone that everyone would like to have around. We feel inadequate in ourselves to pull that off.
Once again, just the fact that you’re concerned about it, most probably means you’re not messing them up. However, “messing them up” should be defined. I think it probably will have a lot to do with leaving gaps in their education, which I discussed above. There does come a point where fighting with your children to get them to do school work could start damaging your parent-child relationship and create a “messed up” view of education where they start hating it. I believe that is the point where a change is needed.
– There are many solutions though and most of the time this starts happening as the kids enter puberty where they really are just trying to figure themselves out and establish that they are individuals and don’t want to just be followers and feel like puppets. This is perfectly normal and healthy for them to do and once you know that is what is happening, it becomes less personal and we feel less defensive as parents. It is especially hard when this happens to your firstborn, because your sweet, friendly child suddenly becomes less happy and even rude and disrespectful to you at times and you’re not used to it happening at all. It does pass and it is important to give kids some space to develop into their own during this time. The more they see you respect them and this process, the more likely they will be letting you into their world, because you are not trying to control them.
One of my friends likened this stage of development to that of a chrysalis turning into a butterfly. All that has to be done with it is to leave it alone and provide the conditions for it to successfully emerge. If you ever tried to shake around the chrysalis or tried to help the butterfly get out when it is stuck in the process of coming out of the cocoon, you know that it is interfering with nature and never works out well. We’ve had a few butterfly gardens and it never works to try to “help”. As parents the most important thing is for us to be available to them and assure them of our love and providing an enriching world, but not “shake around” their chrysalis or try to control their emersion as they try to mature.
– At this point in time, it also really helps kids to have a lot of social interaction with friends and often they appreciate other teachers in their lives, not just their parents. Find a good class and teacher in the neighborhood in the topic they are most interested in and expose them to other good teachers and role models.
As homeschooling families, we all have our good days and our bad days, just like any other regular family. The only difference is that, since we homeschool, we might potentially be with the kid who is causing us distress the whole day while other families might have some hours that the child is at school to think about how to handle the situation when the child returns from school, time to sort of push the “reset” button. So, our bad days sometimes feel like bad weeks, bad months or even a bad year. There are many reasons for things going wrong and for most there are solutions that work differently for different children. Today I want to write about what it is that pushes most families to thinking that they should stop homeschooling (or never even start) and invite you to investigate why that shouldn’t make you stop and how it can potentially be solved. Most of all I want everyone to realize they are NOT alone in these struggles, it is very common.
Here are some common concerns that homeschoolers face during the years of homeschooling:
• Student(s) resisting instruction
• It’s too expensive
• We have a lot of hard days
• I’m scared my kids will have gaps in their education
• I’m worried I’ll mess them up
• I’m not patient enough to do this
• I’m worried they don’t have enough friends
In this article, the first in a series, I would like to explore just the first concern and in subsequent articles, the others will be discussed.
• Student(s) resisting instruction
Many of us probably have encountered the child who, when called to start “school”, gives a sigh and asks, “Do I have to?” Although that is not a fun thing to hear when you spent several hours preparing something that you think would be important or even fun, it is important to not take it personally.
Remember the following possibilities:
– If you were waking the child up to go to the school down the street, you probably would’ve had the same response, but wouldn’t have thought anything of it, because that would be “normal”, because everyone else also deals with that and you’re not anything unusual.
– A lot of times if you have a child just coming out of traditional school, they might need some time to deschool first.
– It’s not always easy and neither is it fun to be pulled out of doing something you’re really enjoying to do something that you might not be that interested in. We don’t even like it as adults.
Some possible solutions:
As is the case with all homeschooling issues, there isn’t just one answer, but several possible options that might be helpful.
– Give the child a time that school will start and it is great to have that be a consistent time, e.g. 9am every morning or 2pm or whatever time works best with their natural rhythm and age (teens usually like to sleep in way later).
– Give the student some warning, e.g. remind them about 10 minutes before they need to start.
– Some families let the student set their own schedule. They are given an assignment sheet for each day and they have freedom to do those things whenever they would like as long as it’s done by the end of the day. This encourages time management and self-regulation, but it might have to be slowly implemented with younger children who might have a hard time to manage all their time right away.
– Reconsider the curriculum you’re using if this is a common occurrence where the child is complaining about doing school work. It might not fit their learning style or modality. Keep the lines of communication open and don’t take anything personally.
– Always encourage them to give you feedback. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Try to feel what they’re feeling. The more they have a say in how and what they’re learning, the more likely they will be active participants.
– If the problem persists, consider setting up a meeting with a homeschool consultant (like myself) to discuss potential solutions for your specific situation.
More on the other concerns in my next article.
Last week I wrote about the importance of Language Arts in the curriculum of every student and this week I want to highlight the importance of Math.
For a lot of students Math is a nightmare and they just can’t wait to be done with it for life. I always tell them that they will never be done with Math, since we use it every single day. There is a level of Math though that few people ever use unless they get into a career like Engineering, Architect, or Math teacher. Even though it is not everyone’s favorite thing to do, it sure can be taught in more interesting ways than it sometimes is. Some parents/teachers really hate it themselves and never quite got it down themselves and now years later, after not using it, they have forgotten a lot of it. Math is like a second language and therefore needs to be taught as such, with constant repetition until it becomes second nature to the speaker.
At Learn Beyond The Book our Math classes are taught by individuals who absolutely love numbers and Math and will impart that love and passion to their students. We employ lots of games and projects as well as hands-on manipulatives for a lot of it, whenever possible.
We also break Math down in the components & skills that make up higher Math. We start out with a very strong emphasis on Place Value, which is essential to grasp and then Adding & Subtracting, plus things like reading clocks, counting money, etc. Once students master these concepts and Math facts, they move on to the Multiplication & Division class. Once they mastered those skills, which of course build on addition & subtraction, they are ready to move into the Decimals, % and Fractions class. Then we introduce them to positive and negative numbers in the Integers, Measurements & Word Problems class, some basic Geometry, Graphs, and cement all of that with word problems. Finally, they are ready for Pre-Algebra and higher Algebra and Geometry classes, which would be the next levels. Just understanding that progression already helps a lot to know where everything fits in place. Lots of curriculum teach a little of everything and don’t review enough for students to really master anything and so when they return to the same skillset the next year, they don’t remember it anymore and it is discouraging. Mastery is such a crucial aspect of Math instruction.
When I was in school, we learned Math more like parrots than thinking people and it was very confusing to most students and even though I loved the numbers and manipulating them, I didn’t have a clear understanding of what I was in fact doing. So, my goal in teaching Math, is to make sure students understand what they’re doing and why, because without that, they’ll feel lost and never be able to apply it to real life situations.
Of course, there are the applications of Math as well, so we also have some creative classes that mix Literature with Math for those students who love stories. We use the Sir Cumference series of books to demonstrate several Math concepts and do projects based on the story for the week. Another class that apply Math in a very important way is the Economics & Personal Finance class, titled “Where’s the Money?”. This class gives students all the skills they need to manage their own personal finances and even start a small business. They learn through projects, games (money & review) and lessons. Near the end of the semester, we have an Entrepreneur Day and also a fieldtrip to the Federal Reserve Bank planned.
For those students who might really not like Math, the Math through Logic & Games class might be a great fit, since they play games, but learn Math at the same time. The teacher, working on her PhD and a Mensa member is so fun and has as much fun as the kids with the games!
Even given all this, we also have Math tutors available to help with homework or for students who need a little extra practice during the week which can be scheduled by appointment.
Whether you sign up for a Math class or do it at home, please make sure your students master the Math skills before moving on. To me there is no such thing as Gr.5 Math or Gr.2 Math, because every student is at a different level with it and either acquired certain skills or not.
Patience and encouragement in teaching it is key to students’ success. Happy teaching!