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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

This was my BEST home school year ever! Because "I let it go."

On Mother's day I was talking to my mom on the phone and I realized that the words "this was our best year ever."came out of my mouth!   Really? I said that?  Yeah! I did and  it was!

This was my 4th year homeschooling my son and at times  it has been a huge head ache!  Like when I hand him something that should take 5 minutes and 45 minutes later the first problem is barely done.  I would have to sit on him just to get anything done.  I would go to Facebook groups for help but others were in the same boat!  I have tried everything! Timers do not help.  Yelling DEFINITELY does not help!

Then one day I read that sometimes you should just allow your kids to suffer their own consequences and that often you just get into a power struggle.  YEAH YEAH I have heard that before.  But really I guess I never thought it over to deeply.  But then I made the decision.  LET HIM SUFFER FROM HIS OWN CONSEQUENCES.  Logical, easy , no brainer.  Well it wasn't.  It took some time to work on this one!

At first I took a wipe erase board and made a list every day of what had to get done that day.  What was not done at the end of the day would go to the late list.  He could not have TV, video games, electronics, internet (other than school work) or dessert/treats until it was all done. I made it clear that outside of school hours I would NOT help him so that I was not stuck helping all the time too!  I have to admit, at first this was hard!  I had to keep telling myself "Let it go" he knows his consequences.  But I did not trust myself or this method, so  I would last a day or 2 and then I would start hounding on him.

Eventually I began to trust myself more and the plan. Then when he had no fun activities for almost 2 weeks!  That was hard!  I would just look at that list and want to hound on him.  I could feel the aggravation build up! But again, I had to work on trusting him and trusting that he would work when he felt the motivation. Finally, when he could take it no longer, he was tired of having no real "fun", he would all the sudden work hard to get it ALL done! I was always astounded by just how much work he could do and how fast!  No hounding, no stress.  He just worked!

As the year progressed and I became more confident that it would get done, I began to relax and trust him.  When I began to see how hard and willing he was to work when he wanted something, I knew this plan was going to work.  And now I can say that this has been the best year since we started! And we are STILL where we need to be, we are NOT behind.  Well, actually we are ahead, but we school all year.

Interestingly,  I noticed he spent his time building, being creative and  reading over a chapter book a day!  It really helped me to relax when I saw that what he was doing in this spare time was actually educational.  He was not just sitting around doing nothing, he was building forts, making books, drawing pictures and using his imagination.  Honestly, I know this will sound mean, but I actually like him to be a little behind  I no do not have to negotiate TV time or video games with him, it actually makes parenting easier on me now!  I love how much he reads when he does not have those options!

The way I have rationalized this approach is that  I am not going to be there to hound on him all of his life!  I will not call him every morning to ensure that he gets up and goes to work! When he grows up he will learn the hard way that if you do not get your boring work done there will be terrible consequences, like being fired! He has to learn that NO ONE has a life that all they get to do is fun things, we all have boring things to do everyday!  My boring thing is cleaning house, I hate it!  I  feel that I am giving him a taste of responsibility and accountability.  Do not get your work done, you will not get to enjoy the fun things.  I want to add though, that some things, piano practice and chores were NOT allowed to not be done, Those had a whole different set of consequences for not being done.

Well, like I said, really this is a no brainer.  My biggest struggle was ME and trusting that in the end it will get done.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Learning To Read or Reading To Learn

Today my son took his 3rd grade standardized test and I am sitting here feeling a little anxiety about it.  I will not find out until October how he did and I will have to sit here and wonder just how well did he do given the circumstances.  Which is, I did not teach to a test, I taught a child.

Learning to read and reading to learn are 2 slightly different methods of teaching.  In my OPINION I feel that the public school system "teaches to read"  What is teaching to read?  To me it is when you teach the child based on levels.  First they start at first level, by halfway through the first grade teachers are happy if the children are reading at 1.5 level and by the end of year they would like to see their pupils reading at level 2. And so on and so forth, until they graduate.  These Standardized test like to measure the pupils to ensure that they are progressing according to schedule and that is all they are meant to test for "Are the pupils on schedule?"

Reading to learn is different, this methodology is more concerned with "what " your child is learning, not "at what level"  I will use my family for instances.  When my son reads we do not concern ourselves with levels.  Right now we are reading in social studies/science about Ancient Greece.  Today he might read a level 2 book, tomorrow a level 7 book and the next day a level 5 book.  We really do not concern ourselves with levels, we are more interested in how engaged the child is to the concepts they are learning.  Early level books are useful because they reinforce known concepts, it is  moving information from short term memory to long term memory.  Medium books are used to build on previously known facts and difficult books help to introduce new concepts that will later be built upon.  This can also be known as "Spiral Learning".  But this method of learning is not nice and neat and easy to test, it really can not be standardized easily.
Picture-We were studying prehistoric man and my son was making structures, tools and art work based on what he learned during his creative play.


I really honestly do not know at what level my child is reading at.  I know that I see Ancient Greece in his dramatic play, I see his pictures and stories he writes, I have had many deep conversations and have heard lots of vocabulary and I know that he LOVES to tell perfect strangers in the store all about Greek Mythology.   What IS the best way to measure learning!!!  Pass a test about levels or being able to use and understand information that they learn?  What is learning?  In my gut, I KNOW that he is learning amazing things, I see proof of this every day.
Picture- My son was inspired by learning about cave art that he made lots of pictures of his "cave art"



Saturday, April 4, 2015

Patriot Kids! Teaching kids about the Revolutionary War

Once upon a time I heard that kids in America could identify and tell you all about Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus, and tell you all about the dumb things that people do on “Duck Dynasty”, but they could not identify important historical figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, nor could they explain why and when we fought the American Revolutionary War.  Honestly, I could believe it, because not so long ago, I would have to admit that I was one of them.  And I did not like that about myself one bit!!!  So of course, I dedicated myself to begin learning about this very important time in history and like the Renaissance Mama  I am, vowed that my son was going to learn it forward and backwards and upside down! He WILL be an expert, LIKE IT OR NOT!  So, that is why I am so very grateful that I found this great  product!  One thing about me, and my goal with my blog, is that I LOVE products that make learning easy and fun!  And this wonderful DVD series is easy enough!
“Liberty Kids” is a wonderful, yet very inexpensive ($5.00 on Amazon ratings over 400 reviews and almost 5 stars) 40 episode historical fiction DVD on the American Revolutionary War.  I will  admit, since I am not a historian, I am not 100% sure that it is completely correct, but none of the reviews I have read suggest that anything is wrong.  It starts in the beginning with the dumping of the tea in the harbor and seems to chronicalize the war.  There are 2 youths that are journalist and they write about the events of the war.  I like the girl Sara, who is English and visiting America, because she gives you the  perspective of the Tory and the English people.  What I love is that it builds up a familiarity with George Washington, General Howe,  Layfayette and how he had to sneak out of France, Benedict Arnold and his growing frustration with being passed over for a promotion, Benjamin Franklin and his role in France, the use of the Hessians, and the role of the Continental Congress. And on top of that! My son loves it and wants to watch it over and over and over again!  He acts it out, he even takes notes during the episodes, and he will even take out his civil war kit and pretend to use it for the Revolutionary War!  All this interesting history he is learning and I just get to sit back and watch!  We do follow up with books on the great leaders, do not want to sound like all I do is sit around!  But, I will have a Historian in no time!


Liberty Kids  You can go directly to Amazon and get this great set!
Hmmm…  Someday soon we are going to be tackling Roman History!  I really hope to see him as engrossed with the Centurions!!!  Note to self, need to start looking for some Roman Soldier costumes and action figures!  And maybe a trident!  It is going to get real fun in the Fox household!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Blogging- Teaching Writing 21st Century Style

This week I introduced blogging to my  Little Renaissance Man  with a book called “Bridget and Bo Build aBlog” by Amanda St John.  I am teaching my son how to blog because I feel like in the 21st century it is a relevant thing to do.  My Little Renaissance Man’s blog is called Adventures of an Alaskan Boy  and he has was really excited to write it!  

  I personally had wanted to write a book, but in my research I realized that blogging was the future and that writing has forever changed!  New writers start with blogging to build a following and they even sometimes write a book one blog at a time.  

Why blogging?

Every day we work on writing and  I realized that writing a blog could be a part of his learning experience.  Let us take a book report for example.  How different is a book report from a book review?  I would have my son review books, to tell readers why he liked or disliked a book.  Then why not let him link that book to a link on Amazon and if a mom says “Hey this 8 year old boy loves this book and I think that my son will too.   So I am going to buy the book.”   Why not let my son benefit from influencing a reader and profit a little.  It helps to make writing real, beneficial, purposeful,  and meaningful to a young person.

Blogging will develop my son’s skills for working on a computer and with the internet.   What better way to learn about the internet and computers than hands on writing a blog!  There are so very many experiences to be gained.  First, his typing, he has to spend a lot of time working on his typing skills that he has acquired from his typing program TYPING INSTRUCTOR FOR KIDS.  He is still working on his regular writing skills, but he has to learn to link, spell check and add on photographs.   While writing he also had to work on copying and pasting, which takes a little time to master when you are 8, but it is a skill we all will need to know.  Blogging makes learning relevant.  There is a reason for his work.  He wants to be noticed and appreciated, so he knows that he will have to give it his best.


We often talk  as educators  that having a child teach what they already know  will enhance their learning experience.  It will help the child understand better what they already know.   When my son realizes his talent, his passion and begins to write about it, it will help him learn at a deeper level what he knows.  Teaching amplifies their learning.  It will strengthen his knowledge base.  It will help him to become an “expert” in an area.  I would like to have a tool available for my son when he finally realizes his talents and wants to pursue them.  I want him to have something that he can show that he is the expert.  It is very empowering to young learners.  I want him to have control over his destiny.

I have always thought of myself as an out of the box thinker, and I hope that you might look at introducing blogging to your children’s writing too.   Make sure that you protect your child’s identity,  we used our sons nickname and a general location. 


If you have any questions or thoughts please feel free to leave a comment.  I would greatly appreciate it!  Please like my page on Facebook  “Raising a Renaissance Man.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Our Visit to a Permafrost Tunnel

This winter our Cub Scout troops had the privilege of visiting the Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility just outside of Fox, Alaska.  It was a chilly neg. 20 degree morning and we all gathered at the visitor’s center to learn more about the tunnel.  The tunnel was first excavated back in 63’ to learn more about permafrost, and ice studies.  They showed us pictures of what was used to excavate the tunnel and of course we discussed safety issues.  Then we went to another building for our hard hats and headed to the tunnel.  Learning about permafrost is very important, especially in an area like Alaska.  The information I read there said that 35% of the earth is covered in permafrost.  Permafrost is when the ground is permanently frozen, it does not unthaw during the winter.  She showed us  a sample taken from the tunnel of defrosted permafrost  and it was mostly murkey water.  In the past in Alaska, people would build their homes, streets and buildings on permafrost, thinking that they were on solid ground.  But as time went on their houses and streets started to sink.   The houses were warm and the warmth of the houses melted the permafrost under them, the permafrost is mostly water, so the houses would sink.  That is why in some parts of Alaska you will see houses and buildings on blocks, so that heat can escape without melting the permafrost.

As we got to the opening of the tunnel we could smell a strong smell of decay, it was amazing that even though the cave is about 28 degrees, there was a very strong smell.  It was amazing to think that as we entered into the tunnel we were stepping back into time 14,000 years ago!  At the beginning of the tunnel we could see bones of animals like mammoths and bison buried in the walls! 
Then we continued into the tunnel.  The farther we went, the farther back in time we went.  We went down a tunnel that took us 65 feet below the surface and was formed 45,000 years ago.  You could see roots and sticks still preserved from plants that lived thousands of years ago, we even saw GREEN dried grass!  The tunnel walls had a fine silt that if you rubbed your hands across would come loose.  Because the environment was so dry the water evaporated from the soil.  The dust if kicked up went every! 


We had to wear a hard hat because parts of the ceiling of the tunnel would fall, like rocks, pebbles and dirt.  The ceiling in some spots was so low that if you hit it with your head clumps would fall down on you.  I did this by accident and some landed on  the back of my shirt and hair.  Let’s just say that for the rest of the day, until I could get home to take a shower, I could smell the decay.  Deep in the cave we got to see ice wedges, these take thousands of years to form and the biggest one that they showed us they estimate took 3000 years to form.  An ice wedge is a crack in the surface of the earth caused by stress.  In the spring that crack fills with water and in the winter that water freezes, then stress causes it to crack again, and in spring it fills with water and the water freezes again and it cracks again and the whole cycle repeats itself until 3000 years and cycles later you have a large ice wedge.  This tour really explained a lot of the geological formations in Alaska.



We all had a great time and we were very thankful for the men and women who took time out of their day to show us this site.  If you are interested in more information please visit Permafrost Tunnel


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Apple Experiment

The Apple Experiment was a little experiment our teachers gave us in college when I was studying Early Childhood Education.  It has always stuck with me as a teacher, to me it was such a simple experiment, but it had a profound impact on me when I was around 18, especially just after graduating out of high school.

The experiment.
1.  Take a picture of an apple and look at it. Write down a description of the apple, Tell about what you sense.
Being a blog here I am going to guess that you are going to say that it is flat, colored maybe, basically it looks like an apple. Right?

2.  Now, take a model of an apple, like plastic or wood. and look at that apple and write down or just think about a description.

You might say that it feels cold, has weight , smooth, or colored.   What are your senses picking up?

3.  Now get a real apple and cut it open and take a bite and describe the apple.  Write or think of the description.

You might say it tastes sweet, juicy, it is crispy on the tongue. It smells sweet and fruity.  It feels  smooth on the skin but crunchy in the mouth.  you see that it is red on the outside and white on the inside.  You can hear  it crunching as you bite into it

The experiment was to demonstrate and remind us why it is so very important to teach children about life with hands on learning, not dittos and sit and listen tactics.  You learn so much more about the environment around you when you live it.  When you can engage ALL of your senses to learn!

It is a simple lesson, thank you for taking it and I hope that it has a simple impact on you too.

Please let me know what you think.  You can join me at Raising a Renaissance Man  on facebook.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Teaching beginning fundamentals of programming in a board game! ROBOT TURTLE

I just do not know where to start.
One thing I have been noticing, is a trend in teaching children through games.  Games are a hands on fun way to engage children and not make them feel like it is work.  It is the practical use of information to solve a problem instead of drilling and drilling.  And researchers are very excited to find that this really works!  But we already know that children just learn better when they are having fun!
Second thing is, us parents realize that programming and coding are the future and techie geeky parents like us see that the needs of our education system have DRASTICALLY changed, but the system is just not changing fast enough with the times.  Leaving many families frustrated because we know WHAT we want our kids to have access to and we really expect them too!

Third, many of us parents are already uncomfortable with how electronics are taking over our lives.  Though we want our kids to learn these important skills, we just do not want them attached to a device all the time. How much is too much?

THEN ONE GAME answers all 3 of my concerns!  Another great game by Thinkfun called Robot Turtle.  This is a board game that teaches basic fundamental programming skills, I mean basic!  This game is literally posted as 4 to 14 years old!  It says 2 to 4 players, but my son and I had no problems just playing it together!
 In the game, just like beginning coding programs, the kid has a character.  Here it is a turtle.  they first practice basic skills of telling the turtles how to get to their jewels with basic cards that go straight, right or left.  Parents get to do some acting as they move the turtle the direction the child has laid out.  Then it gets more complicated with lasers and having to move obstructions.  After that then they begin to work on a card that they can use one function repeatedly and work to use as few cards as possible.
 We have the paid and unpaid Tynker with a cute little monster eating candy, Lightbot, Scratch and Code.  And these basic functions in this game are like what these 4 apps have. So our son is a little advanced for it, but he really enjoys it and he enjoys that I spend time playing it with him( that goes a long way too) The 3rd and 4th part are the parts that challenge him and he needs more practice.  But this game is really great for a novice and parents that just want to have fun with their family!  Knowing that you are giving your children a great start to a 21st century education!