Homeschool this and that: the last of the conference summaries, I promise

The homeschool conference is beginning to get fuzzy in my mind and I’d like to finish this effort to summarize some of the things I learned. These two sessions that I am going to refer to were taught by the same presenter, Nancy Bjorkman. I first heard her speak last year on the topic of language arts and was very impressed. She is a homeschool mom of four kids, her youngest headed to college this fall. She and her husband actually have a store and homeschool supply company, which you can check out at legacyhomeschool.com. (One a side note, if you ever have questions about a particular curriculum I would highly recommend her as a resource. Though she sells curriculum for a living, she constantly is warning against the temptation to buy and use a lot of curriculum. She seems knowledgeable about a variety of methods and also very willing to answer questions and help you find things that work for you. Their store is located in Minnesota, though they seem to do the homeschool conference circuit.)

Session:  “Engaging Early Learners” by Nancy Bjorkman (you can actually link to the handout from the workshop here)

Summary:  Ideas on how to begin the homeschool journey by having the end in mind.  Encouragement to consider developmental readiness and prayerfully make choices about the timing of learning for each of your children.

Things that stuck with me:
  • ·         Sit down and write a “Top Ten’’ list of what you desire to instill in your children. Examples from her own list included : value family relationships, have personal faith, know how to learn, love learning, practical life skills, integrity/character. Use this list to make choices: curriculum, extra-curricular, family decisions. Keep these priorities in mind as you consider how you are progressing: value character over curriculum!!!!
  • ·    In the early years, you are developing a culture of your family. It is far more important that your children feel safe and love to learn than completing early curriculum or academic milestones.
  • ·         There is no correlation between early reading and academic success. This struck home because there is a subtle pressure from all sides for kids to be reading early. Ms. Bjorkman said over and over that it is not really important WHEN your child starts reading but that they LOVE to read. Such a distinction!
  • ·         Developmental readiness- academic skills are based partially on development. Teaching a child to read who isn’t ready is a lot like trying to potty-train a child who isn’t ready: frustrating for everyone involved. It is perfectly normal to read between 3-7 years- such a large window!  This point in particular was fascinating to me. When I think about all the kids in classroom settings who have been labeled as learning disabled or slow simply because their developmental timeline was a little slower than their peers, it is thought provoking. Also, as someone who has tried to potty train before the child was ready, I understand the frustration. So imagine that frustration and disappointment being associated in a child’s mind with reading. Such a poor foundation for academic success. On the other hand, it is so freeing to know that I simply need to watch for signs of readiness and introduce things that are developmentally appropriate to MY child. “When a child is READY and finds a subject relevant, the learning is almost effortless.” (not exact quote but she said something like that) That sounds like an exaggeration, but it is often true.
  • ·         If it’s not working- WAIT. They may simply not be ready. 
  • ·         You’re not behind. DO NOT PANIC! Again, there is that nagging feeling that maybe we are behind. Behind what? This is a personalized curriculum for your child! You do not have to stay on subject with your local schools; instead, focus on your child’s education plan being developmentally appropriate and challenging for them.
  • ·         For curriculum, less is more. Often we overload on curriculum that fills shelves and stands in judgment over us, making us feel like we are not getting it all done. As someone who has curriculum that does stand in judgment of me, all I could say was “amen.”
  • ·         You learned to talk by listening and talking. You learn to read by reading. You learn to write by writing. Don’t overthink it.
  • ·         Everyone in your family is “in school”- celebrate the developmental place of each individual and engage them there. In particular, spend time with younger ones first and often they will be much more satisfied to work independently after that.  This simple point was so good, and is really the seed that grew the idea of Isaac joining us in more formal ways next year. He is eager to learn, and is convinced that he too is in school. That doesn’t mean I need to buy him a preschool curriculum, it means I need to seriously and prayerfully consider his developmental readiness and prepare relevant things for him to work on. He is eager to read because his brother reads, and will often point to words and ask, “Mom, what does this say?” There are some basic phonics and letter formation things we could do together that would gently move him along and help him not to be lost in the shuffle. And Ella- what is she ready to learn? I need to consider that as well and prepare activities that are right for her. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that education is not an activity- it is a way of life. So I need to radically shift from the idea that I am distracting the little ones while the students learn and instead realize that we (me included) are all students! Ella’s learning may be puzzles, behavioral goals (potty training, dressing herself) holding crayons, learning letters, and learning to be helpful with the baby and obedient. It doesn’t make her less of a student, just a student at a different developmental stage. Love that thought….love, love, love it!

Causes me to want to:
  • ·         Make our “Top Ten” list.
  • ·         Be more proactive in engaging the younger ones

Session: “Walking you through the Homeschool Years” by Nancy Bjorkman

Summary: A general scope of things to consider at each age.
Things that stuck with me:
  • ·         Closed Subjects: Math and Language Arts must be taught sequentially and will usually be individual
  • ·         Open subjects: History and science can be learned in any order and can be done together as a family
  • ·         Goal of Language Arts is strong communicators (grammar can wait until upper elementary)
  • ·         Benefit of homeschooling is that each child’s education is directed towards them.
  • ·         Allow kids to move beyond things they understand, even if it means leaving a blank workbook
  • ·         Learning should be mastery based. This is something that you do want to grab hold of and really understand. There is such an advantage to being able to spend as much or as little time on a subject as a child needs. So if your child can already pass the math tests for the first half of the book, then start where they are challenged. Or if your child really isn’t grasping a math concept, re-teach, find new ways to think it through, consider some games or new manipulatives- but don’t move on! Mastery-based education means that children master a subject- not fill in all the workbook lines.
  • ·         Consider your children’s gifts, interest, and direction. Seek to help them discern God’s direction in their life. Try to give them an education that best prepares them for that. Exciting thought, isn’t that?
  • ·         Pray like crazy.

Causes me to want to:
  • ·         Read ‘The Way They Learn” by Cynthia Tobias (book on learning styles) Already I sense that Isaac will be a radically different student than Drew. I would like to read up on learning styles and be more aware of how I can engage and meet his needs.
  • ·         ‘Things We Wish We’d Known” a compilation of over 30 homeschool families reflecting on the tough lessons of the homeschool years, compiled by Warings.
  • ·         Pray like crazy.

Also….while we’re on the homeschool topic, here is a list of articles by Barbara Curtis that you may find helpful if you are looking for preschool activities or just trying to educationally entertain a toddler!

All for now. 


Tawnya said...

Your homeschool posts have been so helpful and enlightening. It remains such a difficult choice of whether we homeschool or not. I know for sure that we will start a little bit more formal learning this fall with Truman at home, but the question is whether to send him to pre-school next year.....so much to pray about!!

Becky said...


I'm glad these have been helpful. The education of your children is such a big decision and can be overwhelming. But remember that God will grant you wisdom (without finding fault!) as you seek Him. =)

Stacey said...

One question I have is how do you determine when they're developmentally ready for what? I went to school for education, but my focus was with older students. Understanding levels of readiness for the five and under crowd, or even the seven or under crowed, is outside my knowledge base. Do you have any resources for that, Becky, or is it something you learn as you become a more experienced mother? (After all, my oldest just now turned 18 mo.)