Avoiding the Summer Slump

pup

All of the local libraries are promoting their Summer Reading Clubs which of course we love in this house.  However, it would be a trick to have our big reader not read every day during the summer.  The stickers and medal are just an added bonus for something she already does.  What I do worry about sliding is the math skills.  She’s made some great progress and is already hitting the times tables, I’d hate to see it all slip away over the summer.  That set me wondering why no one is running any summer math clubs.  Obviously an opportunity for a little DIY learning fun.

When I chatted with my daughter about the idea I was thinking of creating something along the lines of “Math Monsters” or “Math Masters” or something else with alliteration, she had other plans… So without further ado may I present “Math Puppies Summer Math Club”! She’s super excited and wants to invite all the neighbor kids to join and play math games together.  I’ve created a free PDF printable for the kids to track their math activities and/or math minutes.  Print out on card stock and your kids can color in a dog bone for up to 45 days of math.  It was made to  fill a 8.5 x 11”, so you should not have to “fit to page” when printing.

Going on a trip?  Don’t forget a simple deck of playing cards can be used for taking math learning on the road.  Flipping through a deck of cards is one of our daughter’s favorite ways to review math facts, plus it always cracks her up to say “3 times Queen is 3 Queens”, which in turn is a great way to remember that multiplication is just talking about a certain number of groups.  The boy is learning to count so we’ll likely have to pack two decks to keep everyone happy!

Make sure to check back here each week as I plan to share fun math activities and ideas to keep our club members excited.  Please share your family’s favorite ways to play with math in the comments.  Hope you all have a wonderful summer filled with fun learning adventures.

Click on the image above to download pdf.

Homeschool Kindergarten vs Public School Kindergarten

HPIM2039 copySo your tiny baby is suddenly a lively 4.5 year old and you’re seeing notices that it’s time to enroll them into school.  But you are not sure that public school is the best fit for your family.  Here are some factors to consider when trying to decide between homeschooling and public school for your child.  Kindergarten is the perfect time to try out homeschooling and you can read why here.  This post will cover homeschooling vs. public school in general.

Discussing the advantages of homeschooling will naturally shed light on the shortcomings of the public school system.  However, there are some distinct advantages children have in public school and these will be explored.  Finally, I’ll focus on ways to bring these seemingly disparate worlds together.  For the record after teaching my child at home I have an ever greater respect and appreciation for those who teach full classrooms of children.  Kudos to the teachers out there.

TAILORED CURRICULUM (+1 for homeschooling)

The greatest advantage homeschooling has over any school, be it public or private, is being able to completely tailor the learning experience to the student.  Regardless of ability or situation homeschooling can easily accommodate your student.  The individual attention parents are able to give their children means more questions get answered, roadblocks are easier to identify, and time is utilized more fully.  Curriculum can be adjusted to learning style, temperament, and personal interests.  In large public classrooms teaching to the middle is the default leaving both ends out.

FLEXIBILITY (+1 for homeschooling)

Another great advantage of homeschooling is the flexibility.  Time flexibility means that you can work around family schedules.  It allows for learning to fit into family life rather than family life revolving around the school’s hours and calendar.  There is no commuting, nor packing a lunch, and you can take vacations when everyone else is in school and flights are cheaper.  In fact location flexibility means you can take your learning on the road!  What’s not to love?

SOCIALIZATION (even match)

One of the common criticisms of homeschooling is a “lack of socialization”.   This assumes that that learning is limited almost completely to the home environment much like most public school teaching is conducted in the physical school building.  That could not be further from the truth.  Learning co-ops, field trips, meetups, art classes, and team sports are some of the varied opportunities available for homelearners to learn and socialize.   In fact there so many opportunities that it can become quite overwhelming trying to fit everything in.

BULLYING and PEER PRESSURE (-1 for public schools)

When it comes to socialization the public schools look pretty scary, at least the ones portrayed in the media!  Extreme bullying, early sexualization and sexual harassment, access to alcohol and drugs, guns and other weapons at school, and the driving force behind a lot of these problems – peer pressure.  While the news reports obviously focus on the worst of the worst, these issues are pervasive and parents have legitimate concerns.  Homeschooling can provide a safe environment where kids can be kids and not little mini-adults.  They have the rest of their lives to worry about adult concerns.

AGE SEGREGATION (-1 for public schools)

There is one way in which homeschooling trumps the schools in diversity though.  In public schools there is an artificial segregation by age groups.  This limited age range overemphasizes the peer group and increases the impact peers have on children.  At most homeschool events there is a wide range of ages and children naturally develop friendships across age groups.  Children interact with everyone from younger siblings to the adults in real life settings, and for the most part are comfortable socializing with everyone regardless of their age.

DEVELOPING SELF CONFIDENCE AND THEIR OWN IDENTITY (advantage: homeschooling)

Conformity is not a hallmark of a homeschool education.  Homeschoolers are an eclectic bunch so bullying and peer pressure become less of an issue when you provide atypical kids with an atypical peer group.  Children can be their own unique selves, growing and exploring without worry about how they will be perceived by their peers.  On the other hand children do need to learn to act autonomously which they are required to do from their first day in public school.

RESOURCES (advantage: public school)

Access to resources is the one place where schools have a great advantage.  They have the capital to invest in facilities such as gyms, courts, laboratories and theatres along with expensive equipment, spreading the cost out over many students.  But of course this all depends on the school district, and varies widely.  Also, subjects considered “extras” are being phased out of many schools to focus on academics to improve the school rankings.

BRIDGING THE GAP (advantage: everyone)

The schools are pinched for resources, space and are limited in what they can achieve for individual students.  Some are getting more flexible and going beyond the building.  There are partnerships between schools and homeschoolers in the form of Distance Learning programs, online courses and some onsite offerings where homelearners can complete courses such as science labs that would be difficult to replicate at home.  It is the best of both worlds – individualized learning with shared resources.

Why We Homeschool

image1Even before we ever started trying to have kids my husband was a committed homeschooler.  I was more reluctant, figuring when the time came he would see the light and we’d be taking pictures of that first big day.  We would be sending our kids off to our local public school just as our parents did, and I would say “Remember that crazy idea you had about teaching our kids at home!?”

So what changed my mind?  Having an early reader who could sound out 3 letter words at the age of two and a half.  Apparently it’s genetic, because her brother who rarely bothers to speak is completely enamored with text and can sound out many letters at 20 months (which currently makes up over half of his speaking vocabulary!)  It was a natural progression for us to continue to help our daughter learn, and by the time she was school aged we saw no reason to stop something that was working so well.  On our more difficult days I dream of putting her into school and having more time to deal with the rest of life and/or relax, but I truly can not imagine her in school full time.

I recently asked my husband why he had always been set on homeschooling, as he had been a very good student, and didn’t have anything against school per se.  His response was that he felt he had not been provided the framework, specifically of history, to understand the reason behind the information he was presented with. He was great at learning and memorizing the facts, a good portion of which he still remembers.  Where as I took math up through calculus as part of my degree requirements and will have to relearn all of it with our kids!  (I may leave that one up to the engineer in the house though…)  This is one of the true gifts of homeschooling:  We experience learning as a family and will be filling in gaps in our knowledge as we teach our children.  How fun is that!?