Monday, January 12, 2009

Dyslexia isn't an end to home education!

I have been homeschooling my children for ever is seams and we deal with the same issues. I have 9 children. All of them have different learning styles. Some are way more difficult to adapt to than others. The bad news is that nothing will fix this. I hate that we use the term "diagnosed". We are not talking about an illness here, medicine will not make it better. We are really talking about a way of thinking. The brain is working differently for these individuals than for others, and that isn't a bad thing. That was the hardest thing for me to understand.

What really helped with that was reading a book called "The Gift of Dyslexia" (click on the title and it will take you to a visual of the book). The book is in two parts. The first part is wonderful and lovingly explains the mind and how it works for a dyslexic. I felt like I could once again understand my children. It was worded so positively and not too technical. Very good read. Ignore the second half of the book. It is an odd approach to try to "fix" it. I found that part goofy at best.

Math U See is wonderful for this situation. I switched programs for younger children and had my then high school freshman want to retake all math. She had never understood it even though she was doing well. She worked her way through each book her freshmen year. It was the best investment of money for me and time for her. I love Math U See. I have heard some people complain about how it prepares one for the SAT though, or I should say doesn't. BUT we haven't experienced that issue ourselves yet. The other children are making progress as well.

Please do not stress about this. You have discovered your child in a way at a very young age and there are many things that you can do to help that child adapt to school world. Please do not run out and buy tons of new programs to help. They are all very costly and often not very effective. You will to do lots of reading aloud. Get audio books from the library, etc, etc.

There are many cognitive training programs out there that will help with processing speeds and such. Some are a little too advanced for a 7 year old. Looking back I wish I had stressed less and spent more time with hands on stuff. My children thrive with art, living history, science projects etc.etc. When you can afford it I would recommend looking into the PACE program. It will be costly but worth it. A friend of mine runs a business in the Woodlands with this program. She teaching/trains with the PACE program out of her home. Her business is called The Woodlands Learning Center. http://www.thewoodl andslearningcent html

There is another home version of the same type of program. I have listened to talks and have a few products from Little Giant Steps. I have not used their new complete program or had my children evaluated, so I can not say the true value but it looks good. And in Theory I agree with the approach and philosophy behind these programs. http://www.littlegi antsteps. com/index. php

We love our timeline approach to history and it really seams to help this type of leaner. We pick a time frame and read book that are suggested by Designing your own Classical Curriculum. We then read together many of these books and add pictures from the Internet to our homemade time lines. We like to look at our time lines as photo albums for His family. We include saints, science, politicians.

As your son gets a tad older. I would recommend Apologia science. They have a younger program that starts about 4Th grade. We do them all together as a read aloud. I love them. I do "take notes" on the board and make them copy them. Not many but a few.

Please remember. This is not a problem. It is wonderful that God has given you an insight into how your child thinks. Your child is not broken or damaged or different. This is just how it is. The world needs people that think in pictures. They are the ones that give us ideas and hope. It can be a tad different but wonderful. It is a challenge to discover how to teach someone that learns differently but I have learned so much with them.

Just enjoy this learning, it is God sent. Dyslexia

Parenting advice

The most important piece of advice any one can ever give a new parent would be to remind the new parents to never hand away their authority. That child is yours don’t ever give the authority of parent to the grandparents, the day care providers or even teachers. You were given this child and only you know what is best for the child. It is true that often people might know more about a topic that might fall into your world. If you find out your child has a deathly allergy to peanuts you would defiantly listen to the advice of a medical doctor on how best to parent this child in the immediate topic of peanut consumption. But you are still the parent. Don’t forget that. Too often as parents we choose clothes, foods, schools based on what other “experts” tell us is best for our child. This can be very dangerous.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You need to see the good qualities, not just the faults! 2-25-07

So you are home schooling your children and you have had a friend over to play with your 4th grader. This kid is smart. He plays the piano, he is in advanced classes all across the board, you about pass out when he starts quoting a book that you didn’t even read until college. You then look back at your beautiful 10 year old son. This poor boy cannot read at all. It is near impossible to read what he attempts to write. His work is always sloppy and he would do anything to get out of the classroom. You send his friend home and begin to really judge your son. How can he be this lazy and unmotivated. What, How dare you judge your own son that way.

What am I talking about. Your son will need to lead a family some day, he must learn his math and his reading. He will need to provide for a wife and children (God willing) or better yet run a parish, a diocese, or maybe even the entire Catholic church. Wow, how can you see your little under achiever as the pontiff. Those men need to know several languages and you can not even master English. Maybe you should put him back in school. Will that be the best for him.

Let’s think about that idea for a moment. If your child was in school you would be on his side and not out to point out his faults. Why have you abandoned him. He still needs your support. He still needs you to see his potential. If a teacher was telling you how slow your son is, you would be pointing out how smart he is. You would remind her that he comes home every day sharing what he has learned. You would be pointing out that he is the only one in the family that knows anything about hooking up the DVD player or getting the computers running. He might not be reading but he is brilliant.

Now you are the teacher and the mom. You have to see both sides. You need to see him like Christ does. The Father created your son, of course He knows his faults. Remember our Lord sees the complete package. He sees the child as a temple for the Holy Spirit. He sees the potential and the love. It is so hard, but that is what we are called to see.

We have one graduated! 1-3-09

January 3, 2009 is the date listed on the official transcript as the date she is finished with her high school studies. Along the way we were often asked "how do you do it?" Just remember it didn't start with her as a teenager.

Way back when our oldest was just 5 years old I had it in my heart that I wanted to home school her. Her dad did not want that for her. We had both grown up going to private Catholic grade schools and then high schools. He wanted the same for our children. So we researched both and actually enrolled her into the local Catholic School. We jumped through the hoops, took placement tests, made deposits, turned in medical records, met with teachers, signed up for volunteer lists, ordered the uniforms and then we waited. (. .and waited . . .and waited)

Her placement scores were very high and we had turned our paper work in early but there were too many kids that year. In the end our daughter was put on the waiting list and not really set for classes at all. We had never wanted her to go to public school but now she would have to start there until a spot opened. So my husband said to me, "Go ahead and try this home school thing. We will try it for one year and see how it goes."

When our daughter's peers started at school that year we began her work at home. She was a very smart young woman and loved learning. It was a fun year, full of adventure and wonderment.After the end of that first school year we took the the time to re-evaluated. We decided to try homeschooling for one more year. She started her first grade year using the complete program from Seton Home Study. This was a very intense year of study and I felt it included too much busy work. We did it all but it got difficult with all the babies running around.

Second grade was a little easier. We still used Seton but this was the last year for a pre-packaged program. I was reading so many teaching books and knew that I wanted to pick my own curriculum. I had now been teaching this child for 2 years and knew that we were on the right track. As each year passed my husband and I became more and more confidant that this was the path for our family.And so it went from there. It had started as a second choice and a last minute fill in alternative. Now homeschooling was a way of life for all of us. In the end it is a true calling from God. We took it one year at a time for 12 1/2 years. We had always thought we would send her to a Catholic High School when the time came. After moving to Texas we realized that high school would be better taught at home as well.

It hasn't always been easy but our daughter has always given her best. She has matured and learned to find balance in life with it all routed in prayer.We will offer her a graduation ceremony later in the Spring. She is currently enrolled in community college for next semester. She has graduated our program one semester early. She plans to work toward her associates and then head off to a earn a bachelors. She is interested in nursing of some sort, and is open to seeing what God has in store for her.

We are so proud as we offer the world our first graduate of our home school. We kept our daughter home and maybe protected her from some stuff. That wasn't our reason. Most importantly we offered her a world of studies that were not limited to four walls and a curriculum picked out by a board of strangers. We have nourished her social life with positive experiences and good Christian peers. We have boasted her self awareness offering her a strong education that included her faith. We have demanded that she learn to balance all aspects of her life to best form her into the kind, loving, smart, passionate person she is today. We are so proud to graduate this young woman. We offer the world a beautiful, smart, strong, educated, fun loving, well rounded woman of GOD.

I'm not the only one! Right? 9-26-07

I’m not the only one! Right?

I know that this has happened to you, at least to some degree. You are in a public place, the library, grocery store or even church, and the children are politely talking to an adult. As soon as mom enters the conversation the tone changes and that question is asked. You know the question. They always ask. I am often trying to juggle a baby that wants to nurse, catch a toddler that is trying to run, telling a teenager she can’t skip school work, answering a million voices asking why we can’t have McDonalds for lunch all while trying to assess what my little informers have shared with this total stranger. It is hard to determine “friend or foe” from the statement/question that was posed, “You Home school these children?”

This is about the time that my little informers start sharing our family ‘secrets’.
“If you can call it that, we don’t even get up until after 9:00a.m.”
“We do home school but some of us can’t read yet.”
“Mom says that because of the new born we are unschooling now.”
“We were tight on money so she hasn’t ordered my books yet.”
“This year our school work is learning how to help mom with the laundry.”
Usually the stranger can’t hear these sarcastic remarks due to the constant rumble from all the voices offering these answers. Thankfully most ‘outsiders’ are not used to hearing so many people talking at once so they can not decipher these lies (secrets. . .exaggerations . . .OK they are completely true but I don’t have a year to explain the reasons to this stranger.) This is one of those situations that I am very thankful we have a bunch of kiddos.

I try to talk loud enough to drown out all the little ones that are selling me out. “Yes, Yes, we do home school. I just love it. I have great children so they make it easy.” Maybe if I speak loud and continue talking this stranger will not hear the little ones at all. “We do a lot of group study and it really has helped our family to grow close. I would not trade it for anything in the world. The day includes several loads of laundry but other than that we get a lot done.” Hopefully this is enough information to answer the persons question and I can move on to the stranger’s next question or chase down the toddler.

The truth is this would be a funny scenario if it didn’t happen several times every day! Can you relate?

Note sent to a new friend from the pool. 8-7-08

I just wanted to plant one little seed with you for right now. You seam very concerned that you will not teach them something that they need to know. The only thing that we really need to learn in life is God's love. Now the reality of learning God's love is by learning about his earth and everything in it. I get so excited that it becomes hard to pick my words. Forgive me. My point goes back to basic Baltimore Catechism. Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world so that I can be happy with Him in the next. (or whatever) The point is that all your children must truly learn is the path to heaven. Often the school setting (even a Catholic or private school) does more harm than good in that ultimate goal of heaven.

So before we even begin to talk about programs, tests, books, or even the social issues I encourage you and your husband to look at our faith. You will find the answer there. Read the promises that you make during your child's baptism. Study the graces that are freely given to the parents who bring their child to Him. Read the catechism on baptism. Read what JP II said about the parents responsibility on education of a child. Refresh your marriage vows. Look over them. During a Catholic wedding we promise to raise our children in Him.

The grace to know what to do is given to the parents. Only mom and dad will know what is best. Don't let a grandparent, aunt or friend make that decision. Ultimately I leave that to dad as head of the family. God gives him the grace not me. That doesn't mean leave it up to him it just means that you might be surprised that while you worry about the detaills your husband might become confidant one way or another. Don't fight his confidence get strength from him. You may start homeschooling right away and you may do it in two years, you might home school for one and put them back. Just be open. God will let you know.

It does sound like He is guiding you. Do not worry. You, the Mom and Dad of a child of God can not mess up. You are not doing this alone. You will not fail. God will never allow it. What ever happens will be guided as long as you are open to it. No one will ever care about the success of your children academically or spiritually as much as you two. In my opinion you two, dad making the major decisions and mom faithfully caring them out (Just like St. Joseph leaving in the middle of the night with Mary having to make a new home.) are the only ones qualified to educate your children. Degrees do not matter. Our beautiful faith tells us that the grace to care for a child is given to us at marriage. It is a promise.

I am not trying to sound all crazy but it is the truth. You will need to concentrate on how to carry out that education. Realizing that you are the parent is sometimes the hardest thing in making the decision. I am sorry to ramble. I am just so excited every time I hear that a faithful person is trying to discern homeschooling. It is a gift from God. I cannot imagine sending a child to a stranger to care for the details that come naturally to me. Our culture tells us the opposite. It makes me angry to think about it.

In short: YES you can do it, you are called to it by baptism and marriage, you will not fail, you will love it!!!! Don't worry. Enjoy the process. I have found that when God starts to pull at your heart. The best thing to do is sit back and enjoy it. The road may get rocky but the bumps are what make the ride fun, just ask the kids who sit in the back seat.

Writing a Transcript

Where to begin is often the hardest part with anything this "official". I found that one of the tricks to remember is that my husband and I have been in charge of our children's schooling from the very beginning. Why would I approach this any differently. We are are still in charge and this official document will be created by us. This is not a stretch, even though it took me a while to feel that way.

Deciding to home school throughout high school was not an easy decision for us. I am so glad we did and I really feel it was the best approach. That is not the purpose of this post. We are here to discuss the transcript and how we did it.

When planning high school I did have an idea of the projected 4 years. I just found this free tool for helping to plan the 4 years. I didn't have it but it takes some of the work I did out of the mix. I knew in the end that the transcript would need to cover certain things to be usable to get my child into a college. I also know we needed it for scholarship applications as well. As the years went on I tried to make notes, some just mental, on all the projects that were accomplished. I didn't jot down every book read. I have friends that have done that but I didn't see the need. We made notes of all the extra curricular and the volunteer stuff as well.

A tool that I used to actually put it all together to look like a real transcript was a product called: TranscriptPro Home School Transcript Generator Developed by Inge P. Cannon and produced by Education Plus. I found this tool to honestly meet all the promises that it advertised. When it comes to organizing the information this tool is a Godsend and worth every penny I spent. I have the first edition and am limited to just 5 students. I noticed that the third edition limits you to 8.

We picked the look that most matched what we wanted and got started. It really was very simple plugging in our courses and assigning a grade. There are many tips out there on how to assign a grade and how to assign credit. We read them all and then with an educated mind made our own criteria. This was all while trying to remember that we were the teacher, principal, and administrator of the school.

Another good source for transcript information can be found at the HSLDA website. They even have examples in file format that you can play around with to create a transcript of your own. HSLDA Transcript information can be found here. As with everything HSLDA is a great resource.

In the end this is what I did. I searched out several examples. I found what I wanted the end result to look like. I knew my child's needs. She was using it to share just course information with the community college she was enrolling in. If she was applying for a traditional 4 year college without starting at the community college I know that the transcript might need to be tweaked a little different. So know your audience and what they are looking for.

I used the Transcript Pro product to calculate the Carnegie Units of Credit and the Grade Point Averages. I printed off their version then compared it to several copies of transcripts I found just doing a google image search. I then created one that worked best for our home school using a publication document creator from Microsoft. I did this because we never studied a foreign language. At least not hard enough to assign a credit to it. I didn't like the empty column generated from the program. We also never took classes from any other organization. She had very few standardized tests to report also.
In creating our own look within publisher I was careful to not get too creative so I followed the same format as the majority of others. I was once told by a college admissions director that it helps the college admission board to asses the home schooled student if their transcripts look like the rest. They are used to looking at those and can do so efficiently. So be careful and keep in mind that you don't want to look so different that your child's transcript gets put off because it can not be quickly reviewed. I added what she needed and took out what she didn't. In the end we had a beautiful document that accurately described her high school studies and accomplishments.

That is how I did it. If you don't want to get as creative and publish your own then use one of the many available generators. In the end the important thing is to remember you are the one that needs to do. Don't put it off. Just get it done! My daughter found such a wonderful sense of accomplishment when I should it to her. "Wow, I did do all that, didn't I? I really did do the school work just like my friends." We had never discussed grades, never. So when she actually saw what she had earned she grew very excited.

The good news is that we got it done without much issue. We are proud of the end result. We have used it to save money on car insurance (she had a B or better!) and is set up at the community college for classes next semester. We now have the official document to also send for her scholarship searches that she is now working on.