Thursday, June 04, 2015

A Homeschool Conference Offers Good Reminders

This was our second year in a row attending the conference hosted by the Florida Parent-Educators Association (FPEA). Both times I have left feeling encouraged and more equipped for the road ahead.

Here are my take aways from this years conference.

#1: Relationship trumps everything else, even education.

Your relationship with your child is more important than getting that new math concept across. If things spiral into shouting and tears, we are focused on the wrong thing. We are parents first - teachers second.

#2: Focus on subjects that are important to you and your child.

Several speakers referred to proverbs 22:6 in a way that I have never heard.

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Traditionally, this is interpreted as a charge to develop the morals and values of a child. However, some are saying that in the original Hebrew it can also be read as "train a child in the way he is bent." We should, of course, instill values and morals in our children; other bible stories and scriptures support this. But what if this scripture is really referring to something else like education, skill development, etc.? The implication would then be different from having our kids learn what we think they should be learning. Instead, we would need to become students of our children - learn and discern the gifts and desires that God has put in them that makes them unique and then train them in those things.

However, when it comes to curriculum selection, if I'm the one that has to teach it, it has to be interesting to me as well or at least very doable or (ideally) both. Don't disregard the instructors preferences. Choose curriculum and subjects that appeal to both the teacher and pupil.

#3: Grammar is grammar is grammar - wait until they are ready.

Going into this conference I was wondering whether I needed to introduce more language arts and how focused I needed to be on grammar at this point with an upcoming 2nd and 3rd grader. One session entitled "The Language Arts Tool Belt: What You Need to Teach Your Kids and When" was extremely helpful to me on this topic. It was presented by Erin Karl, contributing author and owner of Analytical Grammar. According to Erin, K-3rd graders should focus on learning to read, spell, increasing vocabulary (primarily through reading) and the beginning of story formation. She said and I quote, "don't worry about grammar instruction in 2nd and 3rd grade." She suggests that 4th or 5th grade is when to begin basic grammar instruction and that grammar doesn't take that long to teach once kids brains are developed enough. When someone has a product to sell and tells me you don't need it right now, I listen. Their credibility increases ten-fold in my eyes. And, as a result, I will certainly be looking at Analytical Grammar for the middle school grades.

She also said grammar is grammar is grammar. There is no such thing as elementary grammar, high school grammar and college grammar; there is just grammar. College grammar books are the same as high school grammar books with a different cover.

I rather enjoyed scratching grammar off my homeschool "to do" list at least for now.

#4: Personal interaction and conversation are important.

When a parent schools their child, there are many more opportunities for adult-child interactions than in a typical public school environment. In those everyday conversations and interactions the child learns so much - everything from family values to language. Personally I was convicted about this because both of my kids are talkers. Sometimes, it is very hard for me to actually focus in on what they are saying when often I would rather have peace and quiet. I need to keep in mind that conversation strengthens our relationship and has educational value. I want to be more engaged in their conversation and not ignore them.

#5: Give them opportunities to speak or perform in front of others.

The #1 fear in America is the fear of public speaking. The frustration of this has always been an issue for me. As a result, I am committed to helping my kids have confidence to do whatever it is they have "the bent" to do in this world and not be hindered by fear of any kind. Zan Tyler, the author of 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child's Potential spoke to this issue in the session, "Cultivating Your Child's Unique Voice for Writing, Speaking and Living." She suggested that one simple way to address this issue is to have kids recite a poem or just share what they have been learning over the last few months in a presentation to extended family or a few friends. In other words, it doesn't have to be a performance at Carnegie Hall and it may be best to start small.

So, get your kids up in front of others to perform or speak or recite, unless, of course, you have studied your child and determined otherwise. Because your relationship comes first and you know the way they are bent and how best to guide their training.
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