Homeschooling becomes a family project when we follow our kids where their passions lead them.
Greetings! I am the Curriculum Junkie at home/school/life magazine, where I have the privilege of reviewing the absolute best of homeschool materials. I am also mom to 3 young homeschooling boys and a writer at www.steampoweredclassroom.com. I love my jobs; there is truly never a dull moment! It is a great joy to write about resources that help enrich the time we spend learning with our kids. There are so many treasures out there that I can’t possibly present them all in the magazine, so I’ve jumped on board at HSL’s blog for some more fun and sharing.It’s my hope you’ll glean information from this feature that truly enriches your homeschool experience. If there are particular subjects or themes related to curriculum that you would like to read about, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more in-depth looks at curriculum, check out my column in home/school/life’s magazine. Now on to the review!
The homeschooling lifestyle is ripe with potential for learners endowed with an entrepreneurial spirit. Hands-on opportunities to learn the basics of developing and operating a business can be made abundant. However, for those children wishing to deepen their understanding of the subject, it is helpful to have a guide that provides financial and business vocabulary, terms and concepts and that also guides the development and implementation of strategic thinking.
If your child is asking for such a resource, you might consider Y.M.B.A’s series of business workbooks designed for students ages 9 and above. The 5-volume set includes the titles, Marketing, Finance, Business Law, Business Math and Accounting.
The workbooks, which are approximately 70 pages, contain easy-to-read text with good-sized font and are made all the more user friendly by their many graphs, cartoons, and illustrations explaining key concepts. A motivated child could easily enjoy and work through this program independently, if they wished.
Each concise lesson begins with a one-page introduction to new concepts such as the history of money, how to write a check, loans and invoices and investment strategy to name just a few. The page that follows each lesson is called the “Drawing Room.” These worksheets provide readers a chance to engage with the new terms and concepts presented on the previous page. In completing each of these lessons, a wide use of skills are practiced; computation, creative and strategic thinking, exploration and application of ideas. Examples of Drawing Board exercises found in Marketing and Finance include writing a check, creating an organizational chart, word searches, making a comic strip, identifying the features of a saving bond, pricing a series of items for a shop, identifying a target market, and designing an eye-catching box for a specific sales item. A complete answer key follows at the end of the books. Each workbook is $9.95 and can be ordered on Y.M.B.A.’s website at www.YMBAgroup.com.
In the end, there is no better teacher than experience itself. This series is a comprehensive accompaniment that will reinforce the many concepts and skills a child encounters as they work to establish their own exciting business venture.
In recent months I find myself reading a lot about the importance of play--unstructured, risky play included--and all of the ways it influences childhood development.
Sometimes when I think about my own childhood, I feel like it didn't include much risk. I didn't spend a lot of time in unsupervised outdoor play, I didn’t climb high trees, travel freely around the neighborhood with a pack of fellow 6- and 7-year-olds, or build forts in the woods.
But I'm realizing that there were other elements of my childhood where potentially risky tasks were embraced, namely real work with "dangerous" tools and materials.
I remember once when I was in Brownies (a level of the Canadian Girl Guides program), my mother, one of the leaders, organized an applesauce making activity. She was all set to provide all the 7- and 8-year-olds with small paring knives and peelers, but the other leaders were positively horrified by the idea. None of their children had ever handled a knife in food preparation before. My mother found this surprising, considering I'd been doing so for years at that point.
I owned a set of small yet perfectly functional tools: a hammer, screwdriver, etc. with metal heads. Real tools, just child-sized ones. And when it came to the kitchen, I was using small sharp tools--under the supervision of my parents when I was younger--almost as soon as I was able to hold and control them.
My sister and I helped with cooking and cleaning, banged on nails, stacked firewood, helped change bandages on our dogs' minor wounds, and all other tasks, small and large, of everyday life. Some of these tasks (like wood stacking and apple cutting) seem, to some, to be dangerous and inappropriate for small children. But in our house, they were just treated as important skills, and things that needed doing.
In our adult lives, my sister has expressed distress at the way some other people she knows mistreat their cast iron cookware (we love our cast iron in this house) or (don't) clean their kitchens. I've been surprised many times over at how difficult cooking even the simplest dish is to so many young people. We learned from a young age how to feed and take care of ourselves and each other: our own version of “home economics,” I guess you could say.
In this culture where children are increasingly being sheltered from any possible risk, and where domestic and hands-on skills of any sort are considered to be far behind more intellectual and academic pursuits in importance, I guess it’s not surprising that many don’t learn those skills at a young age.
It seems to me that one of the ways home education prepares young people for later life is by intimately involving them in the here and now. Learning domestic and life skills alongside their parents, through nothing more elaborate than helping with the running of the house in age appropriate ways, is important. Anyone, regardless of education, can do this to some extent. But home learners, with their strong ethos of life learning and without school taking up the majority of their children’s time, seem to be especially good at it.
I might not have gotten those countless hours of unstructured outdoor play that researchers are finding is so important, but I did learn a whole lot of equally important life skills from a young age. I can budget for and buy food that I can turn into various delicious and healthy meals; mend clothes; start fires in our wood stove; grow garden herbs; care for sick pets and sick humans.
In some ways, I guess that doesn’t sound like much. But I’m as grateful for those skills as I am for the more academic ones I’ve worked on in my life learning journey thus far. Which I guess highlights one of my favorite things about self directed learning: the ability to value and cultivate the skills that you feel are most important, for yourself and your kids, and to expand the range of learning well past what a school curriculum considers to be the most important. Literacy and history are certainly important, but so is the ability of each individual to take care of themselves, their dwellings, their loved ones.
I wish that instead of seeing children using the tools of daily life as unnecessarily dangerous, people could instead see it as the first steps in learning to live healthy lives and as an opportunity to gain the unique feeling of independence found in being skilled at the everyday necessities of life.
The holiday break for our family included two trips to the build-it-yourself store (lumber yard), at least four (I lost count) trips to the hardware store, three trips to the recycling center/dump, and one big trip to Goodwill. In short, we built a wall for Christmas (and got a little spring cleaning in as a bonus). All hands were on deck for a remodeling job that turned our small, three bedroom home into a still small, but four bedroom home.
But why… some of our friends and family have questioned… when you have one kid with one foot out the door (perhaps) and two more closer to on-their-own than just-beginning would you bother to add a fourth bedroom now? I have no better answer than that it simply seemed to be the right time. All five members of the family were in agreement, so we spent our holiday building a wall.
In fact, our family has talked about creating more space in this old house for years. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time talking about moving to a bigger, or at least a different house, altogether. So many options have been considered. The back porch could have been converted into a small bedroom or perhaps the side “deck” (which isn’t really a deck at all, but does have a small roof overhang). We’d even talked of a tiny bedroom in the spirit of the tiny house movement, parked in the yard and within easy commute.
But in mid-December, when I mused— “You know, we could move the kitchen table into the (imagine this) kitchen and move the living room furniture into the room where the kitchen table now resides and then put a wall right down the center of the living room with a door and, voila, we’ve got a fourth bedroom!” —that’s when the plan came together.
Anything is possible when the whole crew is on board.
Perhaps I should back up a bit and admit that we aren’t typically a family for whom construction, in the literal sense, is a standard pastime. We read books, we love movies, we take walks and we sometimes hike. We’ve been known to go camping, though travel most often requires a motel room and a hot shower at the end of the day. It would not be unusual to drop in on us at some random point in time and find someone knitting or weaving or sewing or playing a video game or writing a story... Our kitchen is often in use as we are bakers and love cooking from scratch so much that we often chose eating in over going out when we want to treat ourselves to a special meal.
But actually changing the configuration of our house? Not so much. Our tool selection is limited and our skill set, admittedly, on the shy side. In these situations, I close my eyes and do my best to channel my father (the house I grew up in was in a continual state of remodeling) and perhaps consult a how-to book or a wiki-how site.
“Can we build a wall?” the members of my family asked. “Would it remain standing? Could we put an actual door in it?”
“Sure. Why not?” I said. Those are three very powerful words, I have learned.
When the wall was complete, middle kid, recipient of the bedroom that was the product of the construction, said, “Wow. Do you know how empowered I feel? If I can build a wall; I can do anything.”
When I look back on my years as a parent, these are the words that have triggered some of the most worth-while, most memorable, and yes, most educational events of our lives. Can we stay up all night? Can I dig a big hole in the yard? Can we sleep outside? Can I cut my brother’s hair? Can I make up my own recipe? Can we make our own video game?
Sure. Why not?