Recently Quartz, a worldwide digital-only publication for the business elite, produced an article entitled, "The concept of different "learning styles" is one of the greatest neuroscience myths". Are they a myth? Are adjustments educators and, in particular, homeschooling parents make to best connect their student(s) with the learning goal a waste of time?
If after reading the article you are left with a sense of bewilderment, then you are probably not alone. After all, while the article cites the valid difficulty of studying such concepts scientifically, it provides no words on how applying a variety of teaching methods may prove to be useful in spite of the lack of science to back it up. Instead the author dismissively indicates that just because students may have "fun" with the application of different methods, it doesn't mean that such adjustments actually make a difference in the learning process. The vibe basically is that educators are wasting their time with these kinds of efforts.
Am I writing to say that I have scientifically valid evidence to debunk their observations? No, that is not my point. However, I am expressing my concern that just because there are not heaps of scientific evidence in support of the idea of learning styles, that educators are indirectly discouraged from innovating new and applicable ways to reach their students. As homeschooling parents, we can and should actively seek to run our own observational efforts to see what does work best in our own families and variations in learning methods are a piece of that larger puzzle. We all know that families can sometimes have students who work much better in a structured, text-book style approach versus those who need to attach new concepts to some combination of techniques including visual aids, auditory cues, emotions, movement, or interactions with others.
This kind of experiential knowledge reminds me of when our oldest son was fighting leukemia and at one point for many months we lived around the country seeking options for him. For the message we received in each treatment institution was always framed by the maximum of what that particular institution could provide. Phoenix Children's couldn't talk to us about double-cord blood transplants since they weren't versed in it. Seattle Children's could provide transplant details but weren't very helpful when our son faced cancer that would not submit to their typical protocols to get back into remission. The National Institutes of Health could offer a number of novel antibody therapies to attempt remission, but they only had access to their protocols. Similarly, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital could only talk about their one and only treatment option and could not speak to other choices. My point? If we had only gone with what local doctors presented us, if we had only used what was available as accepted protocol in our area, if we had been unwilling to be part of the research process at multiple institutions, then our son would not have experienced the benefits he received from the various options we tried and would not have survived as long as he did. If we had waited for tons of repeatable evidence to come in on every single option we attempted, we would have lost more time with him and he would not have had the good quality of life that he experienced during those twenty-five difficult months. So lack of voluminous data and experimental repeatability in and of itself should not be a deal-breaker when seeking our best options in life.
Now back to learning styles. How can homeschoolers respond? We can make sure that we don't allow unhelpful articles discourage us into doing nothing. Keep journals on each of your students. Make notes on when concepts seem to more easily transfer versus other occasions where it is just "not sticking". What tools, teaching approach, etc. do you use to make it all work? Wouldn't it be great if homeschoolers could one day pool their observational feedback and grab the attention of the scientific community; possibly sharing how learning styles and other teaching concepts aren't such a myth after all?
Interestingly, Quartz goes on in a separate article to report that "Most researching findings are false..." and that many science experiments are designed with flaws stating that as much as two-thirds of published research is unable to be replicated. That is a problem, but the article is unsurprisingly light on solutions that will impact us anytime soon. No matter. While any data we collect on learning styles or on related data as a homeschooling community or as individual families might not matter to the scientific community, we can rest in the knowledge that actual benefits were observed and realized at least within our own little corner of the world.
If you grew up in the 70's and have children yourself now (especially boys!), you are probably very familiar with the original Star Wars movies. Standing in a wrap-around-the-building line at the original Cine Capri theater in Phoenix, I waited with my father and brother to watch the premier and didn't even have a clue that Star Wars was to be one of three films, later turning into even more films. I am sure I would have been very confused if future me had told 1970's me that I was really watching the fourth film in the franchise.
Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, our boys watched all three movies for fun; not fully appreciating how lucky they were not to have to wait years to see "what happened next" to all of our galactic favorites. As a young girl, I found Princess Leia fascinating. Yet, as a homeschooling mom, I confess that Yoda is now my favorite...well, Chewbacca too. But since Yoda talks, I'll go with him for now! Little did George Lucas suspect that when he created the character of Yoda, homeschoolers could eventually glean encouragement from his "words of wisdom" so many decades later. For our purposes, we will look at three well-known "Yoda-isms" that help keep us on track during our homeschooling journey.
First, Yoda advises that, "You must unlearn what you have learned." This can mean different action items to different families. For example, if you are a product of a typical school environment yourself, be willing to let some go of those preconceived notions of what a successful school experience looks like. Issues like when, how, and what you should teach are up to you now and not left on someone else's doorstep to decide. Also, if you are bringing your children home from a public or private institution, be prepared to set academics aside for awhile until you reestablish your relationship with your child. I know that some of you are gasping right now, but when we are not with our children day in and day out, we really only know part of who they are. So get to know your child all over again, redefine priorities for them, and connect with them in a new way as both their parent and their teacher.
Another piece of Yoda's legacy is reflected by the words, "Do or do not. There is no try." Often times we are our own worst enemy; shooting down plans before we implement anything or never quite exiting the bondage of our quest for the perfect curriculum. So be willing to "do" many different things before the ideal pattern or balance is achieved. We also must remember that each season our child passes through is but a breath and once they leave each one, we will never get that time back. So "do" more with your children and worry less about what doesn't get done when you are involved in worthwhile "doing".
Finally, Yoda reminds us that we need to "Always pass on what you have learned." Remember that a huge benefit to home education is doing life together and we need to allow our children to witness how we prioritize decisions, handle crisis, and resolve disputes. In many ways, values are "caught more than taught". So allow your children to "catch" your values by enabling them to have a front-row view to the ups and downs of daily living and learning within the context of a Christian home.
Happy learning and "may the force be with you!"
On February 4th, 2014, a historic event took place in Christendom. This is the date that Ken Ham (founder of Answers in Genesis) and Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") participated in a debate about this very issue of creation vs. evolution. Watched by millions, facilitated by Tom Foreman from CNN, and covered by over 70 news media organizations from around the world, the debate lasted for well over two hours touching on nearly every aspect of the subject. The question debated was this...."Is Creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?" You may watch the debate yourself at this link: http://debatelive.org/ or order your own copy through our store by clicking the image below.
However, rather than review the debate and provide you my opinion about it, I would like to encourage you to consider why it is important to incorporate discussions about this topic within your own home school environment.
Co-authored by Ken Ham with data provided by The Barna Research Group, "Already Gone" shows that if you look around at the youth in any typical church in America, two-thirds of them are "already gone". In other words, though they are physically present, they have already mentally "checked out".
Why is this happening? By and large it is due to the fact that by 5th grade or so, children have begun to unconsciously categorize church as a place you go to feel good and listen to stories about the Bible. Apologetics is mostly ignored as the principle tool to teach youth about Scripture and so the Bible is not viewed as being reliable or relevant to them by the time they reach junior high school. Students start to realize that they attend church to build relationships and learn principles of living a respectable life but they go to school to learn facts and truthful accounts of history and science; all of which seem to contradict God's Word regarding the same matters. As Christian parents, we must be alarmed by this and recognize that we cannot and should not rely solely on the local church to "bring them up in the way they should go".
So what does this all have to with the debate mentioned above? The Ham/Nye debate is a powerful reality check for all Christians to realize that we must take all of Scripture in the literal way in which it was written. While there are certainly poetic and allegorical aspects to the Bible, most of it is clearly written as a historical account. In other words, we need to take all of the Bible and not just some of it for its plain-sense meaning. God's Holy Scripture must not be changed into our own version of "Holey" Scripture.
The debate and the entire focus of the Answers in Genesis organization, for that matter, focus on the historical accuracy of the foundational scriptures of the Bible, particularly as found in Genesis chapters one through eleven. When we begin to allow areas such as the creation account, Noah's flood, and the Tower of Babel dispertion to be spiritualized, we being our journey down a slippery slope of "what ifs".
Here are some dangerous concepts you have probably heard before....
I could go on, but you get the picture. Once we begin questioning the authority of God's Word; saying that it doesn't really mean what it says we open the door to question everything else in Scripture...
You can see how disturbing it is when we allow ourselves to begin spiritualizing God's Word; convincing ourselves that Scripture does not mean what it says it means. We run the risk of picking of choosing what to believe rather than taking the all-or-nothing approach. However, many Christians have unknowingly fallen into a belief that we can believe in both the Bible and the world of secular science when it comes to the subject of historical origins and still be consistent in our Christian walk.
Therefore I challenge homeschooling parents to do three things:
1. Be informed. Understand the issues clearly and resist the urge to say that we don't need to concern ourselves with such things because we just need to have faith. YES, faith is necessary. Yet we also need to be prepared to understand how to articulate the foundation of our faith which must include a full understanding of the foundational points of scripture. Part of being informed also requires us to understand that conflicts related to science and the Bible have to do with historical/origins science and not observable/repeatable science. We all have the same evidence to consider. Yet Chrsitians interpret it through a Biblical worldview versus a secular or humanistic one.
2. Prepare your children. Students who eventually leave home to enter the work force or attend college will be faced with the debates about creation vs. evolution. They will be questioned about the seeming inconsistencies with science and the Bible. They will be challenged in every turn about various points of their faith. So equip them with tools that support their faith and help them stand the strain that the culture will place on them. Answers in Genesis is an excellent source of resources regarding these matters, as I have already mentioned. Lamb and Lion Ministries is another good one that stands on the authority of the plain-sense meaning of Scripture in the face of today's cultural issues.
3. Evaluate your church's programs. Take a look at your church's children's and youth programs. Most programs claim to "come alongside the parents" in their quest to spiritually raise their kids. But is this what they are really doing or are they merely softballing Scripture and entertaining them? In other words, don't give away pieces of what you are doing in the home by allowing them to be surrounded by others who do not take the Gospel seriously or interpret it correctly.
In recent months, there has been much ado in the field of education about the Common Core. But what is it and should homeschoolers worry about it or even care?
Essentially, the Common Core seeks to create a "level playing field" for students; teaching the same subjects at the same time to all students. Now you may assume that this initiative originated at the federal level from the Department of Education (DOE). However, while there are strong supporters in the DOE to create a federal education system, the push for the Common Core was initially fueled by an organization called Achieve, which just so happens to be largely funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Achieve in turn approached a number of state governors across the country and gained enough support to have it become a formal project adopted by the National Governors Association and also has the involvement of the Council of Chief State School Officers. So now, with only five states who have NOT adopted the Common Core as their new educational standard, it is quickly becoming the top priority to deal with on every educator's plate. No bill was proposed, no debates took place, no parental input was solicited, and no voting occurred. Yet here it is to stay and the DOE will ultimately be the agency to implement it. This is what can happen when a board of influential business folks set their mind to something.
So back to the original question; what is the Common Core? Well, no one really knows the full extent of what the Common Core will ultimately entail. Although teachers will be accountable to teach to it and students will be accountable to learn it, the standards remain mostly unpublished, with only guidelines for math and English language arts recently published. The scope and sequence of the whole program is not clear and remains abstract. Worst of all, it is a totally unproven and untested model and yet our country's educational system is going to jump in blindfolded with both feet.
Most teachers are against the Common Core and many administrators are nervous about the shift of power from the state to the federal level that seems inevitable even if it is unconstitutional. Oh, if only Ronald Reagan had really been able to reverse Jimmy Carter's creation of the DOE back in the day! Calling it a "new bureacratic boondoggle", Reagan must have seen the writing on the wall that we are all realizing today in the form of the Common Core's efforts to further centralize our educational system.
There is also a good deal of concern relating to the virtual "itemization" of our children with the creation of a database record that will essentially follow them from cradle to grave by linking educational data with workforce data. "Who will have access to this information?", "How will it be secured from identity theft?", and "How will it be used?" are just a few of the daunting questions that lay ahead.
Yet the SAT and ACT test writers have already aligned the math and literature sections of their materials to comply with the Common Core, even though the standards themselves remain unpublished. Colleges will also require a certain level of Common Core compliance in the future when considering student applications.
So, as homeschoolers, here are three action items we can take:
To read more about a homeschooling perspective on the Common Core, read these articles provided by HSLDA.
How Do We Stop the Common Core?
Common Core Issues
Will Common Core Impact Homeschools and Private Schools?
Who Opposes the Common Core and Why?
Common Core: An International Failure
State-By-State Standards Adoption
"To empower students to be successful in an ever changing world."
This is the school motto that flashes on the electronic announcement board of the local elementary school in our neighborhood. It sounds good, right? In fact, it's one of those statements that seems to prompt agreement and nods of approval all the way around. However, while the statement above seems like a noble quest for any adult educator to desire for their students, we must be careful when defining our goals within the context of our home schools.
Since it is such a broad statement, it leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. While we can probably all agree that we live in an "ever-changing world", how do we interpret the words "empower" and "successful"? Most likely our definitions of these terms and how the local school board defines them are going to be quite different.
Whereas we seek to "empower" our children by becoming "powerless" and relying on the strength and wisdom of the Lord, the world teaches children that they only need to believe in their own abilities to achieve whatever they desire. While we strive to equip our children to be bold in taking a stand for what is true and right in the eyes of God, the world upholds the lukewarm doctrine of relativism; teaching children that "right" is in the eyes of the beholder. Similarly, when we work to spiritually "heartschool" our children; knowing that successful academics will come as a natural by-product of that focus, the world emphasizes children who behave acceptably on the outside yet divorce the motivation to do so from anything that is spiritual or Godly.
Then there is the whole issue of defining "success". Subscribing to worldly standards, success means tolerating each other, following the law of the land, maintaining attractive standards for our person and our possessions, contributing to functioning of our society, and making a decent amount of money in the process. Yet, as Christians, we know that our worth and our standards of success have nothing to do with worldly goals. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." Samuel reminded King Saul, "It is better to obey than to sacrifice." The obedience that reflected the faith of Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs were all "credited to them as righteousness". Likewise, we encourage our children to obey what God has commanded because it is right. If we do this, they will be "successful" no matter what tangible form of responsibility they take on in life.
Proverbs 6:20-23 says..
My son, keep your father's command,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
Bind them continually upon your heart;
Tie them around your neck.
When you roam, they will lead you;
When you sleep, they will keep you;
And when you awake, they will speak with you.
For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
Is it likely, then, that the instruction and training God intended for the children that He made in His own likeness and then gave to us as gifts should come from any other perspective but the one that Godly parents can deliver? Simply put, no. It is not likely because the concept of "empowering" begs the question "from what source and with what standards are the children being empowered"? Similarly, "success" can only be measured in terms of the obedience and faith that flow from our children's hearts to their hands.
Ultimately, while it is not a bad goal "to empower students to be successful in an ever changing world", as homeschooling parents we need to be boldly specific in our family's vision statement so that there is no question where are standards come from and where their application will lead us.
If you would like to join us for our upcoming spring session where we explore the essential role of creating a family mission statement and many other important topics, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to provide you with those details when they become available.
For years, we have encouraged our couples to join a local Financial Peace University class; a DVD-based financial management curriculum produced by Dave Ramsey that meets in a facilitated small group setting over nine weeks. By working together, families are able to greatly reduce their debt while building up their savings options. Now, another great choice exists for families to not only to get a handle on their own financial situation but to also teach their children the Biblical principles of handling money at the same time! So if you are in need of help in this area or even if you just need support in teaching these concepts to your junior high or high school student, consider investing in this program called, "Foundations in Personal Finance: Homeschool Kit" by Dave Ramsey.''
You may read the reviews at this link. If you would like to order the product, please do so through our store to save $30 off list price!
There is no getting around it; technology is here to stay and as much as many homeschooling moms may want to skirt around the use of it, it is better to be intentional in our use of it than to ignore it altogether. After all, just like money is not the root of all evil, neither is technology the cause of issues within our home. Rather it is a tool to be subdued and used to our best advantage rather than to be categorically omitted or allowed to propagate problems.
So what role should it play in our homeschools? While the answer to this question will, of course, vary, there are some basic ways we can look to utilize technology that will serve both our children and our families well over the long term. While we touch on the issue of internet safety in the TBH program and checking out a tool like Safe Eyes is essential in this day and age, here are some other thoughts that may be useful to consider as well. This is especially since many safety tools can be difficult to implement in reality; striking a hard balance between setting restrictions while achieving access to useful sites.
FEE-BASED SERVICES: Rather than relying on the unpredictable results of Google searching for finding supplemental information, consider investing in a subscription-based service like Encyclopedia Britannica for Kids (ages 6-14) or Brain Pop (topic-specific videos geared for Jr. High and up). Similarly, consider using the Usborne series of Internet-Linked books to extend understanding and discussion about various topics you are studying.
FREE RESOURCES: Another consideration is to begin saving a list in your "favorites" that serve as handy resources for your teaching needs. For example, a site called Watch, Know, and Learn is a free collection of videos that have been organized especially to serve educators. Though you will need to research in advance to locate the best, age-appropriate ones for your purposes, there are some useful videos available here. Teacher Tube is organized similarly. Google Earth is also a fantastic resource (free download) that is very useful when studying geography or history.
TEACHING HELP: At some point, many of us will consider and utilize an on-line private course for our children; especially in the high school season. Besides the plethora of on-line classes available through many of the major publishers, here are some additional options that you may not have heard about: Homeschool Spanish Academy (Skype with your teacher on a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio and learn Spanish at any skill level from an engaging, bi-lingual instructor who works around your schedule). Consider art, cooking, gardening, or hand-craft class options through pre-recorded on-line class options that your whole family can enjoy many times over through Michael's Craft Store. Have your teen take a Constitutional Law class from Michael Farris, co-founder of HSLDA.
HOMESCHOOL HELPS: For teacher development and general research, also locate organizations like Sonlight, or Institutes for Excellence in Writing who regularly host live webinars on various topics of interest to home educators. Other groups like College Plus or HSLDA's "At Home Events" hold webinars that may provide needed support based on a particular season you are experiencing or anticipating. Most of these organizations and other similar ones maintain a database of archived webinars either for free or a small fee.
So remember that no matter what season of homeschooling you are in right now, technology can and should play a suitable and useful role in helping to achieve your family's home education and life skills training goals.
While it is easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of products available to us as homeschoolers, once in a while, a product presents itself to be universally appealing. Regardless of what curriculum you utilize, consider making the investment in Wondermaps to help with your history and geography needs over all of the years that you will be home educating your children.
Any variation of geographic presentation can be customized. You decide on whether or not you want your child to have a full level of detail with color overlays, keys, and labels or you want them to locate and labels these elements. A variety of individual state, U.S., and world maps are available. Plus, if you utilize Mystery of History or All American History programs by Bright Ideas Press, all of the maps you need for all six years (i.e. four for MOH and two for AAH) are included.
Even if you do not use these programs, any history curriculum can make use of the historical and thematic maps. Historical maps are separated into four groups: The Ancients, The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, Reformation, & Rise of Nations, and Revolutions to Rising Times. Theme options include Explorers, American History, The World Wars, Chinese Dynasties, and more.
With all of the options and the ability to create literally hundreds of different map options, it will meet every need you have while saving you the cumbersome task of photocopying out of a hard copy book. Just select your map, click to customize, and print!
At $50 retail price ($45.89 through our store), it is an investment, but one that is well worth the cost. For a better understanding of this useful tool, watch this helpful Wondermaps Tutorial on YouTube. If you are interested in purchasing this tool, please route through our store to process an order through CBD.
Despite society's continual march towards replacing printed media with electronic options, we homeschoolers still love our books! This weekend, thousands of homeschooling parents will converge on the Phoenix Convention Center to learn, encourage, connect, and spend! So what will be THE thing that most of us are still spending money on? Books----printed books! Even with providing materials for the mentoring program, while electronic resources and options are appreciated, the physical manual is still the one that is most requested!
In 2012 the American Association of Publishers reported that e-Book sales in the U.S. book industry increased by 46%; representing 1/5 of the entire market. One fifth is an incredibly huge number, but four fifths of us are still buying the printed books.
Maybe it is the aroma of the ink or the sound of turning a page that no one else has turned before. Perhaps it is the feel of the cover or the excitement of the design. The ability to dog-ear, highlight, and pepper with "post-it" notes also cannot be minimized. It is a security blanket that allows us to feel that real value has been obtained and that even just holding the sleekly bound text will place us in a mind frame of newness, potential, and acquisition. No matter what the reason, we are definitely not a paperless society yet!
So as you open, review, feel, consider, and smell the books you will evaluate this weekend, know that you will rarely find every single thing that is on your list to buy. If you find yourself in this situation, then, please consider sourcing the balance of your needed curriculum and materials through our site next week. You may do so by entering CBD through our weblink. Proceeds from these purchases go to support the Evan C. Gary Memorial Scholarship.
So as you ponder curriculum and resources that come at you from every direction, what is the ONE book that you simply have to tackle this summer! For me, it is "The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens" by Debra Bell; refreshing and relevant! We are also enjoying "Summer of the Monkeys" by Wilson Rawls as a family re-aloud. It is a hoot and a great read; especially if you have just been studying the late 1800's time period and have boys.
Homeschooling since 2000, Carol shares in her blog observations, confessions, information, and musings that help provide perspective and inspiration for homeschooling moms.