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  • Is Homeschooling Right for You? 10 Things to Consider Part 2

    Is Homeschooling Right for You2

    pic by Wellspring Community School

    Thinking of homeschooling? We are preparing a two-part guide of questions you should ask yourself before you make the decision to homeschool your children. You can see the first part of the guide here. Homeschool is a very challenging task for parents to take on, but it can be extremely rewarding too.

    What are your goals for homeschooling?

    Stating your goals for your homeschooling practice will mean that you have a direction and path to follow. Some goals you may want to consider include exceeding your local requirements for curriculum, spending more time with your children, and giving your children the individualized, personal instruction they need to excel.

    How will you deal with detractors?

    While most parents will be curious as to why you chose to homeschool or how you manage to get everything done in a day, others will feel defensive about their decision to send their children to schools and yet others will disagree strongly with your decision to homeschool. It’s helpful to think about how you will answer criticism or curiosity before you set out on a homeschooling course.

    Dealing with opposition from other parents, friends and family members with understanding and patience will make the transition easier for you and your children.

    What about socialization?

    One of the biggest concerns for most people is that their children will become isolated by homeschooling and they won’t learn to socialize properly. This is really up to the family and I know some homeschooled children who are far more sociable and involved in their communities than their school-going counterparts.

    Start by finding other homeschooling groups that share your ideas and values and join them. Ensure that your children are encouraged to participate in after-school activities at clubs, and encourage dance, art, music and other extra mural interests. There are all sorts of sports clubs and activities where they can meet other children and engage in social activities.

    When should you take your children out of school?

    If your children are already in school, make a timetable to take them out when it will be the least disruptive for them. Perhaps at the end of the academic year or at the end of a semester will suit you or when you feel organized and ready.

    How long will you homeschool?

    This is a question that is best left open to discussion. Try to give yourself a solid year of homeschooling as it really does take a long time to settle in and adjust. Then, take it either year by year or semester by semester. Circumstances change and your children’s needs may change too, so keep the lines of communication open and be flexible enough to adjust so that you are always doing what is best for your children.

  • Is Homeschooling Right for You? 10 Things to Consider Part 2

    Is Homeschooling Right for You 10 Things to Consider Part 1

    Pic by Iowa Politics

    Thinking of homeschooling? We are preparing a two-part guide of questions you should ask yourself before you make the decision to homeschool your children. You can see the first part of the guide here. Homeschool is a very challenging task for parents to take on, but it can be extremely rewarding too.

    What are your goals for homeschooling?

    Stating your goals for your homeschooling practice will mean that you have a direction and path to follow. Some goals you may want to consider include exceeding your local requirements for curriculum, spending more time with your children, and giving your children the individualized, personal instruction they need to excel.

    How will you deal with detractors?

    While most parents will be curious as to why you chose to homeschool or how you manage to get everything done in a day, others will feel defensive about their decision to send their children to schools and yet others will disagree strongly with your decision to homeschool. It’s helpful to think about how you will answer criticism or curiosity before you set out on a homeschooling course.

    Dealing with opposition from other parents, friends and family members with understanding and patience will make the transition easier for you and your children.

    What about socialization?

    One of the biggest concerns for most people is that their children will become isolated by homeschooling and they won’t learn to socialize properly. This is really up to the family and I know some homeschooled children who are far more sociable and involved in their communities than their school-going counterparts.

    Start by finding other homeschooling groups that share your ideas and values and join them. Ensure that your children are encouraged to participate in after-school activities at clubs, and encourage dance, art, music and other interests. There are all sorts of sports clubs and activities where they can meet other children and engage in social activities.

    When should you take your children out of school?

    If your children are already in school, make a timetable to take them out when it will be the least disruptive for them. Perhaps at the end of the academic year or at the end of a semester will suit you or when you feel organized and ready.

    How long will you homeschool?

    This is a question that is best left open to discussion. Try to give yourself a solid year of homeschooling as it really does take a long time to settle in and adjust. Then, take it either year by year or semester by semester. Circumstances change and your children’s needs may change too, so keep the lines of communication open and be flexible enough to adjust so that you are always doing what is best for your children.

     

  • 7 Things about Internet Safety Every Parent Should Know

    7 Things about Internet Safety Every Parent Should Know

    pic by Karmastrong 9

    The internet can be a powerful resources for students with access to videos, worksheets, research materials and test papers. They can use the internet to advance their studies, socialize with friends and play games. However, the internet is also fraught with dangers and parents should be cognizant of its inherent pitfalls in order to protect their children from online bullying and predators.

    Institute a security policy

    Set out a detailed policy of what your children are and aren’t allowed to do, sites that they can have access to and information that they can share online. Be specific; rather than saying that they shouldn’t interact with strangers online, be very specific about the kinds of interactions that are ok and exactly what information they can share.

    Check that they don’t share their last names, addresses, schools, birth dates and phone numbers.

    Keep passwords safe

    Ensure that your children understand that they are never to share passwords, even with close friends. If you aren’t sure that they are old enough to take on this responsibility, set the passwords yourself and only share them when you are confident that your children will keep them private. Teach your children to log off when using public computers and to change their passwords frequently.

    Interactions with strangers

    Never allow your children to interact with strangers on the net. This is not only limited to social media, but also applies to apps, games and other sites.

    Ensure that your children don’t leave tablets, laptops and smartphone unattended when they are out.

    Limit site access

    Know what sites your children are frequenting. If they want to explore new sites, make sure that you are around and have given them the go-ahead.

    Encourage your children to select email addresses and screen names that are not their own so that people can’t easily guess their contact details.

    No bully policy

    Online bullying is a terrible thing for any student to endure. The public ridicule is often perpetrated by friends or school colleagues rather than by strangers. Discuss bullying and encourage your child to report bullies to you, a teacher or a tutor.

    Since some children won’t talk about bullying because they are embarrassed or because they are afraid that action on your behalf will cause embarrassment, discuss ways in which they should deal with bullies. Role play various scenarios to ensure that their reactions to online bullying don’t make matters worse.

    There should be a no tolerance policy for online bullying whether your child is the perpetrator or the victim.

    Be your child’s public relations manager

    Regrettable posts, pictures or comments may follow your child for life. While they may be just joking or perhaps not thinking through their actions, when they post inappropriate materials online, they could be jeopardizing their futures.

    It’s your job to monitor their online activity to ensure that they are being respectful of themselves and others.

  • Is Homeschooling Right for You? 10 Things to Consider Part 1

    Is Homeschooling Right for You 10 Things to Consider Part 2

    Pic by Rachel

    The prospect of homeschooling is a daunting task as it has many advantages and disadvantages. We know you want what is best for your children, and so if you are thinking of homeschooling, here are some things you should consider before making your final decision.

    Why homeschool?

    There are always a number of schooling choices in every neighborhood, so you need to have a really strong idea of why you want to homeschool. Homeschooling takes an enormous amount of your time, requires organization and a whole lot of work on your behalf, so having really strongly formed reasons for why you want to embark on this is important to keep you going.

    What are the legal requirements?

    Contact your local school boards for curriculums and the legal requirements you have as a parent. Each school board has materials and books for homeschooling that make it easier for you to create and follow a curriculum that covers everything your child needs to learn in each semester.

    Join homeschooling groups in your area as they will have a wealth of information too. Register your family for homeschool and ensure that you know your legal responsibilities.

    What is your homeschooling style?

    As homeschooling develops, so does the number of homeschooling styles. From classic to eclectic to unschooling, select your style and ensure it fits with your child’s learning style.

    Who will help you?

    Most people have academic strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps you and your husband have different talents and can share the workload or perhaps you will need one-on-one tutors to guide your child through those subjects that you don’t excel at. Ensure that you have a plan that covers the entire curriculum and don’t be afraid to ask for help; you don’t have to do everything on your own.

    Another possibility is to share classes with other homeschooling families in a homeschooling co-op. This will help to reduce your work load and will ensure that your children are getting a great education from likeminded individuals.

    What are your strengths and weaknesses?

    It’s really important to be honest about this; sure we would love to do everything ourselves, but we have to provide the absolute best for our children. If you are poor at discipline or schedules, then ask for help making one that the family has to stick to. Know your strong points and play to them; know your weaknesses and illicit help from your family members, homeschooling community and tutors.

    What is your support base?

    Create a support base for yourself that will create a community of learning that supports your children. Friends, family members and other homeschooling families will help you to create a community in which your children are free to learn, grow and play. This community is also there to help you and to provide the support you need to enjoy your homeschooling experience and to provide advice and ideas that you can adopt so your homeschooling practice evolves and grows with your family.

  • Studies show Many Benefits of Parental Involvement

    Studies show Many Benefits of Parental Involvement

    Pic by Lauren Fritts

    We get it; you are so busy with work and family life that it really is difficult to find the time to get involved with school activities too. However, research shows that the benefits of parental involvement in education are legion. According to one study (Henderson and Berla, 1994), parental involvement was the most accurate predictor of student achievement winning out over social status and income.

    Benefits of Parental Involvement for Children:

    • Regardless of race, parent’s education level and socioeconomic status, children whose parents were involved in their education tended to achieve more.
    • Children were more consistent in handing in assignments and completing homework.
    • Children had better attendance records.
    • Students had higher test scores and better grades.
    • Students had better self-discipline and higher self-esteem.
    • Children were better motivated and had a more positive attitude towards education.
    • Students had fewer behavioral issues and required fewer disciplinary measures.
    • Students made better transitions when changing to new schools and were less likely to drop out.
    • Parents were able to recognize when students were struggling and offered help before the problems reduced confidence or caused a drop in grades.

    Benefits for Teachers

    • When parents were involved and had positive relationships with teachers and helped to alleviate their workload, the staff had higher morale and improved job satisfaction.
    • When parents were involved, there was better communication between teachers and parents which led to more positive relationships and fewer conflicts.
    • When parents were involved, teachers had a greater understanding of cultural diversities and were better able to accommodate student’s needs.

    Benefits for Parents

    • Involved parents had a better understanding of their children’s social, intellectual and emotional needs.
    • Parents enjoyed better communication with their children.
    • Parents gained insights into their child’s development and tended to rely more on positive encouragement rather than punishment.
    • Parents enjoyed higher levels of confidence in their decisions and parenting skills.
    • They had a better understanding of school curriculums. This made them more likely to help when teachers asked for volunteers or when teachers asked parents to participate in homework activities.
    • Parents were more likely to support and participate in school policies and activities when they had been made part of the decision-making process.
    • Parents were better able to help with academic needs and homework.

    Benefits for the School

    • When parents participated, schools were able to create an educational community that was better able to support the needs of their students.
    • School with parental support enjoyed better reputations and community involvement.
    • Parents were more likely to support school fundraising activities when they were part of the programs.
    • Having volunteers meant that schools could make their tight budgets stretch even further.

  • How Big is too Big? Class Size and its Impact on Education

    Personalized tutoring

    pic by Woodley Wonder Works

    Studies show that class size is linked to academic performance. Researchers Spyros Konstantopoulos and Vicki Chung: “Class size reduction appears to be an intervention that increases the achievement levels for all students while simultaneously reducing the achievement gap.” Their findings show that low teacher-student ratios have beneficial effects on academic performance throughout a student’s school career.

    The study also found that when class size was reduced, students who were struggling the most got the biggest benefits. The National Education Association (NEA) recommends an ideal class size of 15, but with dwindling education budgets this is an unattainable ratio for most school boards.

    The Facts

    The Tennessee STAR class size reduction program discovered students in small classes performed better in math and reading tests by the end of kindergarten. They also displayed better behavioral patterns and were better at socializing.

    Wisconsin’s SAGE class size reduction program, targeted at low-income schools, found students outperformed their peers with higher student-teacher ratios.

    David Zyngier’s 2014 study found overwhelming evidence that small classes reduced the achievement gap.

    A 2011 study by Dynarski, Hyman and Schanzenbach: “The study concludes that attending a small class increases the rate of college attendance, with the largest positive impact on black and poor students.  Among those students with the lowest predicted probability of attending college, a small class increased rate of college attendance by 11 percentage points. Attending a small class also increases the probability of earning a college degree, and to shift students toward earning degrees in high-earning fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), business and economics.”

    What can you do?

    You can opt for private education and select a school where the teacher-student ratio is more favorable. But for most parents, private education is beyond their budget. There is much you can do to effect change within the school system and help your student to achieve despite large class sizes.

    Support the National Education Association lobby to reduce class sizes: You can follow their link here to take action and become a cyber-lobbyist for change and education reform.

    Volunteer:  Help out with class activities and field trips. This not only gives the teacher some much-needed relief, but it also means you get to see what happens in the classroom. Volunteering helps to build a positive relationship between teachers and parents and creates a community of learning.

    Get a tutor: If smaller class ratios have such a positive effect on learning, imagine what personalized, one-on-one tutoring can do for your student. Tutor Doctor in-home tutors not only teach to your child’s learning style, they also work to the Academic Game Plan which teaches organizational skills, time management, study skills and task prioritization so that they have the skills they need to succeed at academics and in life.

  • Best Reading List for Fifth and Sixth Graders

    Best Reading List for Fifth and Sixth Graders

    Pic by Arrathoonlaa

    Whether your child is an avid or reluctant reader, getting them to read for pleasure is a great way to help them improve their reading and comprehension skills and knock those communication abilities right out of the park. One of the best ways to get them hooked on reading is to find books that intrigue them. Here is a list of the some really great books to try online, from your library or from your local book store.

    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    This now-famous series of books is enthralling and follows the trials and tribulations of Katniss Everdeen as she inadvertently leads a rebellion against the oppressive capital in the nation of Panem. The series explores the idea of repression by the state and the courage it takes to stand up to those you are afraid of.

    The Great Molasses Flood of 1919 by Deborah Kops

    This sticky piece of history recounts the story of a molasses truck that exploded in Boston’s north end in 1919, sending shards of metal and molasses flying in all directions. The story chronicles the events leading up to the mishap, the great cleanup and the court case that followed.

    Because of Winn-Dixie  by Kate DiCamillo

    Opal’s mum abandoned her at a young age and now she has trouble fitting in with the residents of the new town she has just moved to with her preacher dad. When she meets a scraggly stray at her local Winn-Dixie supermarket, her life changes forever. Winn-Dixie is a big ugly dog whose misadventures help Opal to connect with her community and come to terms with her loss.

    Catherine, called Birdy by Karen Cushman

    This medieval coming of age novel follows the story of Birdy who, in moving from childhood to womanhood, must be sold in marriage to an unwanted suitor. Through her diary entries, Birdy at first rebels against her fate, but when she finally resigns herself to it, a wonderful surprise is in store.

    Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

    Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee is good at everything he does, but his life is difficult living with his aunt and uncle after both his parents die. When he can’t take living with his feuding family, he runs away to Two Mills, PA where he must settle a feud between rival gangs and deal with issues of race.

    Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

    The epic tale of one family’s struggle during the depression and how they overcome racism and social injustice. This is the story of Cassie Logan who discovers why land ownership is so important in establishing the Logan family’s sence of pride and independence. This is a touching tale with important social themes.

  • How to Deal with Conflict in the Classroom

    How to Deal with Conflict in the Classroom

    Pic by College Degree 360

    Every child has one; those teachers they just can’t get along with. Being a student is no cake walk, parenting is difficult and teaching isn’t the easiest job in the world, but with a little empathy and understanding, we really can all learn to get along.

    Be fair

    It’s easy for students to blame teachers rather than taking responsibility for their behavior and academic performance. This means that when they get bad grades, their first go-to is to blame the teacher. Students can be harsh critics so try to get a better idea of what is really going on in the classroom before you confront the teacher.

    Ask your students for examples of how the teacher didn’t help or when they were inattentive or unfair. If you decide to talk to the teacher, its best to keep an open mind and allow them to share their views on bad grades or personality conflicts rather than being confrontational.

    Get involved

    Being involved in your child’s education is the best way to form a positive relationship with teachers. Volunteer to help in class a couple of hours a week, help out on a field trip and always attend teacher/parent conferences. Get involved in after-school activities and special events so that you can see what’s really going on. This will give you better insight and will help you to more effectively deal with the situation.

    Be a good example

    No matter how frustrated you feel, always be polite with your teachers and try to resolve situations rather than making them worse. Remember that if you are confrontational, your child may suffer the consequences.

    We are all confronted with people we struggle to get along with. Perhaps it’s a neighbor, a manager or a work colleague that you don’t like. Teaching your child how to navigate these relationships and resolve conflict is a wonderful life skill to have. This means you have to be a good example so try to resolve the situation without losing your cool.

    Step back

    Listen carefully to your child’s complaints and express your solidarity. Try to get a very good idea of what the problem is. If your child says: “She hates me,” ask for more specific details. Once you have established what the problem is, discuss possible solutions with your child and role play scenarios. For example, if you realize that the teacher is getting frustrated because your child is disruptive, or they aren’t focusing, ask your child to concentrate more in class. Ask the teacher to move them to the front of the class or away from the window so that they have less distractions.

    Try to let your child solve the problem for themselves. Learning to deal with difficult situations is an important life lesson. Try to avoid being confrontational with teachers; instead work together to resolve the situation. If you see any attempt at resolution from the teacher or student, offer appreciation and encouragement.

  • Must-have Reading List for Third and Fourth Grade Students

    Summer slide blog 1

    The third and fourth grades are a crucial time in the reading career of most students when reading either becomes a chore or a life-long hobby that not only helps to improve comprehension and communication skills, but also endows avid readers with a wealth of knowledge. Ensure that your third and fourth graders have books that they can fall in love with. Here are a few that we recommend:

    Wily and the Hairy Man: Adapted from an American Folk Tale by Molly Bang

    This is a great book and an adaption of an Alabama folk tale about courage and addressing your greatest fears. The Hairy Man lives in the swamp and is a magic creature who can change shape. When Wiley has to go with his dogs to the swamp to cut bamboo, his mother fears for his safety. But Wiley and his mother work together to outfox the Hairy Man and banish him from the swamp.

    Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne

    When Jack and his younger sister find a mysterious tree house filled with books, they have no idea that it is a magic time-traveling tree house. When Jack wishes he could see the Pteranodon dinosaur he found in a book, the children are whisked away to the Cretaceous period and have to figure out a way home while being chased by a T-Rex. A brilliant novel for dinosaur lovers.

    Pirateology: the Pirate Hunter’s Companion by Dugald A. Steer

    Nyarrr! Attention landlubbers; this is the quintessential resource for swashbucklers the world over featuring sailor’s knots, ocean navigation, battle strategy, and weapons of every description. Examine gold dust and interpret pirate maps as you read the chronicles of Captain William Lubber’s attempts to capture the dastardly pirate Arabella Drummond. This is a great novel for facts about real-life pirates of the past, mastering navigation skills and broadening geographical knowledge.

    Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth by Nicola Davis

    An engaging and informative look at creatures who live in the most extreme climates and the lengths they go to in order to survive. From red-hot volcanoes to the freezing arctic where humans wouldn’t make it for more than a couple of seconds, Davis takes a light and interesting look at the animals who call these places home.

    Amulet Collection Books 1-5 by Kazu Kibuishi

    A wonderful Manga series with beautiful illustrations, suspense and excitement on every page. After the tragic death of their father, siblings Em and Navin move with their mother to their ancestral home where they are lured into a scary underground world. With only the magic amulet and some new friends to protect them, Em and Navin must face many dangers in their quest to get back home.

  • New Year’s Resolutions for Better Grades with Less Learning

    New Year’s Resolutions for Better Grades with Less Learning

    Pic by Picture Youth

    As the New Year approaches, most of you will be thinking about resolutions that will make your 2015 the best year yet. If you are wanting to improve your grades, there are habits that you can adopt that will help you to learn smarter, not harder. Here are some tips to improve your grades while spending less time learning.

    Got Skills?

    The first thing to ask yourself is if your study skills are up to par. Knowing how to study is an art that is perfected over many years. If you aren’t sure that your study skills are any good, ask you teacher or tutor to help. You have to practice your sports skills, music skills and gaming skills and study skills are no different. If you have been studying in the same way since elementary school, chances are your study skills are outdated. You could be working much smarter and therefore spending less time studying for greater results.

    The same goes for your essay and assignment writing skills. Perfecting the art of assignment writing is vital for your academic success all the way to college. Ask your tutor to work on your writing skills to ensure that you streamline and perfect your processes.

    Learning Style

    Everyone has a learning style; perhaps you like listening to lectures (auditory) or you like watching videos and making mind maps (visual) or maybe you like doing experiments (kinesthetic). Most people use a combination of these styles to learn and knowing what learning style you are best at will mean that you can convert information into that style to absorb it easier.

    For example, if you are a visual learner, watching YouTube videos of demonstrations will help you to grasp difficult concepts. You will also be able to quickly memorize facts when you write them into a mind map rather than reading from the text book. Knowing how to best present information will mean you understand more and learn faster.

    Get Organized

    For most students, organization is the key to better academic performance. We all know the feeling; you forgot you had a test, you left your homework at home, or you’re up all night trying desperately to complete an assignment. If you are always leaving things to the last minute, never have everything you need for class or forget to hand in assignments then you’re not fulfilling your potential. Being good at organizing your time and getting things done will be a life skill that will help you through college and then on to your professional life.

    Eat yourself Smart!

    Just like athletes need to fuel their performance with the right food, you need to feed your brain. Your brain uses 20% of your calorie intake and runs best on carbohydrates and protein. If you have a big exam coming up, don’t pull an all-nighter; your performance drops a grade for every 2 hours sleep you miss out on. Don’t rely on coffee and donuts as you won’t be able to concentrate. Instead opt for water, green tea and exercise. Sleep well and eat a very healthy diet filled with nuts, fruit, veggies, whole grains and protein. This will help you to concentrate, will improve memory and higher cognitive functions because a healthy body really does mean a healthy mind.