Teaching to Their Strengths

I’m a strong believer in teaching to a child’s strengths. What does this mean? Basically rather than focusing all your time and teaching energy on attempting to help a child who is not great at math to excel at it, focus that time and energy into helping that same child develop their gift for writing. As parents and teachers we tend to focus on the problem areas. Yes, we do want them to at least become proficient in these areas. However, our greatest efforts will be better spent in nurturing the areas in which our children are naturally gifted. When someone constantly points out our faults, we begin to feel that we are a failure and can do nothing well. However, when people show admiration for the talents we have, it builds confidence and we feel that even the things we struggle with are not so hard as before.

Math Anxiety

I had math anxiety when I was a kid. The more people tried to get me to understand, the more upset I would get and the less I was able to understand. I remember my parents’ frustration with me. Especially my dad. Math is his life. He is constantly doing figuring and sees numbers everywhere he goes. For me, it’s words instead of numbers. Numbers just don’t want to stick in my brain. It’s like I have some sort of reverse velcro to numbers.

If you have a child like this, how can you encourage them and help reduce the anxiety?

  • Try to be patient with them. If they sense your frustration, they will become upset with their own lack of understanding which only perpetuates the vicious circle.
  • Make sure they get a good foundation in the basic math facts.
  • Give them plenty of math practice but make it fun.
  • Keep in mind that some kids just don’t have a ‘head for math’. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t learn the basics. It just means that they probably aren’t going to ever love math or excel in it like those for whom it comes naturally.

Kids and the Internet

These days most parents know about the dangers of the internet to children. It is up to each parent to decide how much access, if any, to allow their kids on the internet. Should you choose to let your kids explore the world wide web, there are some definite precautions that should be taken and ground rules established. Most of them are obvious, but some may be less apparent.

  • Make sure your kids know not to share personal info with anyone online.
  • Keep all computers/internet accessible electronics in common areas of the home. (no internet in bedrooms, bathrooms or other hidden areas of the home)
  • Set up parental controls on each internet accessible device.
  • Don’t forget to monitor your child’s online history.
  • No internet after a specific time at night.

Don’t forget about the tablets, smart phones, e-reading devices, etc! It seems modern homes have a plethora of windows to the internet! It’s our responsibility as parents to make sure that each one has safety glass to protect them from potentially shattering our childrens’ innocence.

Christmas School

It seems that every year I struggle with what to do during the two weeks of Christmas and New Years. It’s so tempting to just take those two weeks off, however there are so many fun activities to be done at this time of the year. One of my homeschool friends calls this Christmas School. What does she mean by that? Basically, it is tailoring each lesson to a Christmas theme. For instance, you can have spelling lists that have all holiday words on them. Or you could do Lapbook based on “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. Math could be based on the fractions and such required while making Christmas cookies. I’m sure the wheels are already turning in your head thinking of many more possibilities.

Homeschool PE

These days, it can be difficult to pull kids away from MineCraft long enough to get them outside let alone get any real exercise! Homeschool kids seem to have more free time to devote to sitting in front of the screen. So what is a mom to do? There are actually a number of options available.

  • Enroll them in an organized sport via community or church sports teams.
  • Require PE as a homeschool class
  • Join a weekly coop PE class
  • Have daily “recess” where the kids are required to go outside for some fresh air
  • Go for a daily walk, bike ride or run with your kids, take the dog along!

Foreign Language

Thinking about adding foreign language to your current curriculum? Wondering what to choose? You don’t have to get get a second mortgage for one of those big name foreign language programs. There are tons of free courses online! Some of my favorites are:

In fact you can find a list of great free foreign language resources in this slideshow. Yes, this list is geared to high school. But many of the resources listed can also be used for younger students. There is likely to be one in this list that will work perfectly for your budding linguist!

To Cursive or not to Cursive?

There has been an ongoing debate among educators as to whether cursive handwriting is obsolete or not. With the increased use of computers, email and texting it seems that we hardly have a reason to pick up a pencil anymore. You can even bring your grocery list to the store on your phone! Some argue that handwriting is still important. How is a young person to put their signature on important documents if they don’t know how to form the cursive letters of their name? Besides, it helps to develop important hand-eye coordination. I wonder if some of us aren’t simply sentimental about seeing cursive become a lost art.

Back to Homeschool!

All the stores are displaying their back-to-school sales at this time of year. You can see class supply lists made available in the stationary isle. You are probably pulling together your list of needed supplies for homeschool. What curriculum will you use this year? How well did last year’s curriculum work out? What do we need to do differently? These are all questions that run through a homeschool mom’s mind as she gears up for the new year. If you are like me, you’ve been pondering these questions all summer and are pretty close to making some decisions. This is one my favorite parts of the school year! Aside from letting out for summer! It’s a brand new start and a chance to avoid the mistakes I made the year before. Of course, I will make different mistakes this year, but my kids and I will learn and grow from them!

Let’s Play!

Summer is a great time to encourage your kids to play educational games. Not only does it help to break the “I’m soooo bored!!” cycle, but it also helps prevent brain drain over the summer. There are so many great sites with learning games that kids love. In fact, you might want to consider having a scaled down “summer curriculum” for your kids. Spelling City has one such offering. If science is your kids’ thing, they would love the Science4Us summer program. We have a writer in our family, who would appreciate the lessons on Time4Writing.com. Whichever way you choose to go, with summer learning games, you can’t go wrong!

Summer Reading Lists

Reading is obviously an important activity for kids in 4th grade. But how does one find reading lists for elementary age students? Certainly your local library would be a great place to start. However it’s always nice to have something to go on before you arrive. One great site for homeschoolers to check is Homeschool Literature.com.

Some favorite books for 4th grade include:

There are so many good books out there, you may want your child to read them ALL. Remember to let them choose books with themes that interest them even while requiring certain classics.