Homeschool Resources for Teacher Training
Summer break is the perfect time for homeschool moms to relax and recharge for a new homeschool year. It's also the perfect time to plan and prepare for that new year.
I refer to our summer break as my 'teacher training' month. After we've been on break for a few weeks, I jump into the preparation and planning. And part of that involves watching seminars, listening to audios, and reading homeschooling books
The first thing I usually do is re-read portions of The Well-Trained Mind (my teaching manual!). This year there is a lot of reading and looking at our goals and schedule since TJ is going into 5th grade. After I've made my notes, looked at my goals, and purchased curriculum, I start getting down to the nitty-gritty details.
I go through each subject, taking notes and studying so I'll be prepared to teach. Between subjects I spend time listening to lots of audios and DVD resources. Some of my favorites:
- Audio downloads from Peace Hill Press
- Audios & Podcasts from Circe
- Video & Audio Seminars from Classical Academic Press
- Audio Seminars from Institute for Excellence in Writing
- Audio Companion to Teaching from Rest from Amongst Lovely Things
- Teaching Writing: Structure & Style from Institute for Excellence in Writing
- Teaching the Classics from Center for Lit
Books for Homeschool Moms
I’m a literalist by nature and find it difficult to plumb the depths of a novel to find a message hidden there. It is much easier to put a check mark on a list and know I’ve completed another task on my agenda than it is to stop, reflect, and ponder what the author might be trying to say. It is much less demanding to leave it with a, “Oh, that was a really good book. I thoroughly enjoyed the story.” But I’m finding it isn’t so satisfactory. Sure, I can tell someone my favourite part or character, but I can’t really take part in the “great debate” until I’ve taken time to carefully consider what the author was saying in the story.
With those thoughts in mind, I ordered Deconstructing Penguins by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, on the recommendation of some friends on the Well-Trained Mind message board. I’ve got a young daughter who I plan on homeschooling, and I am well aware of the need to discuss literature with her beyond the “my favourite character was...” and “this part was my favourite because...” conversations. But I truly have no idea how to go about it. Scary thought.
Deconstructing Penguins was a quick, interesting read on the subject of guiding children through the process of interpreting an author’s meaning in a book. The authors speak about various works by different authors and share portions of the discussions that take place in their book club meetings. The highlights of Deconstructing Penguins are the conversations of the book club groups. The authors really show us a view of a how a successful discussion can occur.
Each chapter focuses on different literary elements that can be applied to children’s literature. The book includes chapters on finding the protagonist and antagonist in a story. There is a section on setting and another on conflict and climax. All of these are good literary elements that even children can learn to appreciate. They even incorporate a chapter on poetry. But I wish it had included something more. I would have really appreciated a breakdown of “this is how we do it”, listing the steps to leading a discussion. Instead, though we are left with good ideas and examples of the authors discussion groups, we are not actually shown how to implement them as a whole.
Knowing that what they were sharing was a valuable tool, I sat at my computer and skimmed through the book again and made a basic outline of each step in implementing a book discussion. After doing that, I could fully appreciate what the authors were saying, and consequently, have more confidence in my ability to discuss a story with my daughter. Or even use those same tools in my own reading.
Deconstructing Penguins is a delightful book and I did enjoy reading it. I absorbed quite a bit about learning to think about a book and what it really means. The only thing lacking is a chapter on how to execute a successful discussion.
It would have been less work for me if that chapter were included. But, then again, maybe they wanted me to think and dig out the meaning for myself. Which is never a bad thing.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO HOMESCHOOLING
If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time then you’ve probably heard about Apologia and their elementary and upper level science programs. But maybe you aren’t aware that they have branched out and now supply products beyond the realm of science. I certainly wasn’t until I found out that I’d be receiving a book about homeschooling that they’ve re-published under the banner of Apologia Press.
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell has been updated and released by Apologia and it’s perfect for a new homeschooling family or for a veteran who has a bit more experience under their belt. I’m still fairly new to this homeschooling thing but I’ve read as many books on the topic that I could get my hands on. But even though I’ve read lots of books there are only a few that have a permanent home on my bookshelf. Debra Bell’s book has found a place among those few.
It is obvious right from the beginning that Debra writes from her heart. She shares her personal experiences – even the things that didn’t work out quite as she expected. She is honest and real – something that many homeschooling moms want to read about. We’ve all had bad days and sometimes it helps to know that we aren’t alone – even the experts have rough days!
So what will you find in this 500 page book? It’s split into ten sections (34 chapters):
- Homeschooling: Is it for You?
- Choosing a Curriculum
- Organization and Planning
- Preventing Burnout
- What to Teach – When and How
- Homeschooling Teens
- Computers in the Homeschool
- Creative Solutions
- Measuring Your Success
- Resource Guide
Each section is broken down into chapters with advice and inspiration from Debra, practical ideas, stories from other homeschooling families, and book and website suggestions. The resource guide is fully updated with many helpful websites and book recommendations.
I like practical advice and Debra shares lots of it. I found her advice about raising an independent learner especially helpful. TJ is still very young but I want to nurture her love of learning and continue to see it flourish as she becomes more independent. Debra shares many ideas for keeping that feeling alive – from leaning to give them control of their schedule to giving them choices about what to study – she offers many useful tips on fostering independence.
Another great chapter deals with the elements of a successful homeschool. One of those elements? A happy mom. “Probably the key factor in those homes that have happy, motivated children who are achieving at the level of their potential is mom’s attitude. Is she happy? Are we having fun yet? Does she enjoy homeschooling and maintain relatively consistent enthusiasm? Or does she have a pinched look on her face most of the time?” Ouch, that one hit home. So many times I find myself trudging through the material I want to cover, just trying to get things done so I can send TJ to her quiet time and I can have a break. And she’s only six! My attitude needs to change if I want a happy, enthusiastic homeschool environment.
I love this book and I’ll be referring to it again and again. I’m sure this will be one of those books that I’ll re-read at the beginning of each homeschool year. It’s also the book that I’ll be recommending to friends who ask about homeschooling.
The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling is $20 and you can see a sample chapter and Table of Contents at the Apologia website.
THE WELL-TRAINED MIND
When I first decided I wanted to homeschool I had no clue what or how much subject material I should cover each year. I thought I’d have to choose between Abeka, BJU, and ACE – the only programs for homeschoolers I had ever heard of.
One day at the library I happened to do a search for homeschooling books and found a copy of The Well-Trained Mind. I checked it out, took it home, and things have never been the same since.
The Well-Trained Mind showed me that I didn’t have to settle for a boxed curriculum (I’m not knocking boxed curriculum, I just wasn’t aware that there was anything else out there) but could use different products for each subject. It also introduced me to the idea of using real books for history and science in lieu of textbooks – something I had never heard of but was so excited to try (since I hated my own social studies/history classes because of the boring textbooks). This led me to a few internet searches where I discovered a plethora of resources for homeschooling and I finally realized that, “hey, I think I could actually do this!”
I started ordering homeschooling catalogs and looking at all the programs that were available. I researched and read and asked questions on homeschooling message boards. I looked at many scope and sequence lists and finally sat down and wrote down my own goals for my daughter. I looked for programs that would help me meet those goals.
I read more homeschooling books that helped me to refine my goals even more. Even with all that, I know that I’ll probably forget to teach something. But I’ve come to realize that isn’t the end of the world.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that it’s more important to help your child develop a love of learning and to give them the tools to discover things for themselves. When that happens you’ve created a life-long learner and it won’t matter what you forgot to teach them because they will know how to discover the answer for themselves. Education is a life-long journey, not something that ends with a high school or college diploma, so it’s important to equip our children for the trip.
The Well-Trained Mind has given me the courage I needed to strike out on this homeschooling journey.
Leigh Bortins' new book, The Core: Teaching your Child the Foundations of Classical Education, is a wonderful addition to a classical homeschooler's library. As founder of Classical Conversations, she's had the opportunity to introduce the concept of classical education to many homeschooling families and define the most important tools of learning – the core.
When asked about the foundations of a classical education, Leigh replied that it's "important to over-practice the basics until they become second nature. Every area of thought or activity has foundational ideas that if mastered allow us to eventually be experts. Practicing the fundamentals is as crucial in academics as it is in music or athletics. So we don’t believe that you can think critically unless you have facts to think about. Memorizing the periodic table is as foundational to chemistry studies as memorizing the coaches playbook is to a football player. You can make the same comparison between an actor memorizing a Shakespeare play and a student memorizing a timeline of history. Classical students can aptly perform as world citizens because they have the story memorized." Leigh believes that memorization is the most important foundation to a full and complete education. After discovering that her older children were struggling with some basic facts, she realized that if those facts had been memorized when they were younger they wouldn't be struggling. She set out to have her younger children begin to memorize those fundamental facts and, consequently, they didn't face those same struggles later on.
The Core is full of ideas for memory work in reading, writing, math, geography, history, science, and fine arts. I really love her ideas for learning about geography (something that is sadly lacking in my own education) and plan on implementing her ideas this fall when we begin our new school year. I've always thought that memorization was an important skill and I'm thrilled to have discovered some new ideas for presenting memory work in an interesting fashion. I enjoyed reading Leigh's new book and it's a nice addition to my homeschool library; one I'm sure I'll be referring to often.