Help us get the word out! We are promoting the concept, research and implementation of SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION (both in and out of school). I’ve had to wait until we had our third university graduate. We’ve launched a project on Kickstarter! For as little as $10, (in which you get a copy of the book), you can support the costs of launching the book titled Unschooling To University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. Just go to Kickstarter.com, register as a guest (anonymous), and search for Unschooling To University or Judy Arnall. Thanks!
The exam results are in!
Your child brings home a bad report card. Your first instinct may be to punish him in order to make him raise his marks. However, will that really solve the problem? We know from research in the workplace, that punishment never solves motivation or performance problems, so why would it work for children? What can do you do to encourage him instead? It’s good to keep in mind that a report card is only one “view” of your child. It’s a picture to report to parents what the child is like in school. However, he is a multifaceted learner with strengths and room for improvement in all areas of his life, just as anybody is. Think of your child’s performance like a three legged stool. All three legs are required for the stool to function and all perspectives can give an accurate assessment of the child as a learner.
One leg of the stool is from the teacher who is gives an academic skills report. This report should include information on how the child is doing learning subject matter in the four cores of math, language arts, science, social studies, and options. Schools like to report on character and other things that are not academic, but they only see the child participating in an institutional setting with many peers. The teacher does not see the child at home, or “outside of school” social situations.
The other leg is the parent who also gives a report card on two of the most important learning’s: life skills and people skills. The parent can present the report card to the child at any given time. Life skills include chores, money management, organization skills, problem-solving, initiative, responsibilities, health and wellbeing maintenance, and volunteer commitment. In other words – all the skills that parents witness at home. People skills include sharing, sibling conflict resolution, attitude, listening, assertiveness, and politeness, emotional intelligence at home and out in social situations. Most people with academic and technical brilliance lose their jobs not because of inefficiency in that area, but because of lack of people and life skills. These are the some of the most important skills to develop. These skills can be learned and practiced by all children. Not all children can get an “A” in math, but all children can learn to be polite and organized.
The final leg of the three legged stool is the child. He can self-evaluate and give himself a report card on all three components – Academic skills, life skills and people skills. This is the most important evaluation and parents and teachers can ask how they can support growth and success for the child in all these areas.
Finally, the parent, teacher and child should discuss where the strengths are and room-for-improvement and come to an agreement on how to go about setting improvement in place.
Education is a journey, and is not a race. The letter or number grade does not indicate learning or self- awareness. In fact, when children only chase a grade, they can be more prone to cheating and learn nothing. We learn the best when we fail or make mistakes which over insight and reflection, give us ideas for change. When children make mistakes, ask them “what did you learn from this?” The ability to self-evaluate, and find motivation to start again is the real learning and the upmost key to success. The Winklevoss twins learned more about life and resilience in their court battle with Facebook, than all those academic years at Harvard.
Parents, de-emphasize the numbers. As a society, we tend to treasure what we measure, but learning can’t be denigrated to a number. Most of what we do in life that really counts; love, help, volunteering, life learning, and kindness can’t be evaluated by a number, but can be observed, noticed and appreciated.
No one is perfect and we all have room for improvement. Your job as parents is to figure out with your child, how can you pick him up, dust him off and support him moving forward?
Judy Arnall is a non-punitive parenting and education expert. email@example.com
By the time a child reaches the preschool age of three to five, they have changed in so many ways. Many children are ready to expand their world outside of home and interact more with peers, teachers and other parents.
Physically, preschoolers are capable of many tasks. Emotionally, many can control their anger and uncomfortable emotions much better. Socially, they are curious about other children. The element of other people to play with adds fun, creativity, and learning (and sometimes needed conflict resolution) with other children.
The cognitive development of preschoolers puts them squarely in the magical/fantasy element of brain development. Their whole world is constructed of “make-believe” which further enhances play with others. They also have enough brain power and self control to understand a few safety limits and to listen to adults a wee bit more than toddlers.
Many parents wonder what type of education is best for this age. The answer really depends on the child. Factors that affect this are: gender, temperament, personality, and learning style more than age alone.
In terms of gender, preschool boys are still quite active and find it hard to sit, concentrate and participate in circle time. They tend to fidget more when compelled to listen to music, storybook reading or teachers talking. Programs to look for should be active and fun with a high physical component. Preschools with lots of circle time and quiet play should not be the first choice. Girls, tend to love role-playing with toys and make believe play and often can sit longer to listen to stories.
Temperament and Personality
Temperament is another consideration. For spirited children a small group is less sensory stimulating than a large group. An unstructured type of play environment such as Waldorf, Montessori, or PACT play program would be more suitable. Children decide where and when they would like to explore in these programs, instead of having definite centre times. An easygoing child would adapt more to structured settings such as conventional preschools that have set times for snack, music, and creative play.
Introverted children who prefer the company of a parent, home and his own toys may not benefit from structured learning environments. Research shows that some types of preschool help disadvantaged children catch up to what they need to know for grade one. However, for children with a stimulating home environment (homes that have books and toys), early schooling doesn’t make any difference in grade three test scores. If your child is an extravert and his boisterousness is wearing you thin, the excitement of preschool may be what your child is craving.
Learning styles also play a key factor. Your child’s learning style emerges by the preschool years. A good preschool should mix up their program delivery to accommodate learning styles. If your child is auditory, then circle time, oral instruction and story listening are their preferred ways to take in information. If your child is visual, then videos, picture books, and painting/ art should be high on their list. If your child is kinesthetic, then again, a high physical game content is needed with lots of building materials, art supplies, board games etc. as well as a good chunk of playground time.
It’s important for parents to keep in mind the developmental tasks of preschoolers. Their job is to explore with all their senses. Touch, hear, see, taste, smell and move! Worksheets have no place in preschool or Kindergarten. Those are the times for learning how to play, get along and have fun.
What to Consider
New options include all day preschool. If you child tolerates daycare well, then they should be happy to ease into all day preschool. There is not much difference in the level of activities offered to children, but to be funded as a preschool, there may be pressure to add more “academic” looking activities. Parents should be warned though that grade one entrance has no expectations that children should know more than to write their name and use the bathroom independently.
Kindergarten is still optional and voluntary in Alberta. It is assumed that in grade one, children are coming with no academic advantage. The grade one curriculum starts at knowledge level zero. Many children who have spent three years in an “academic” preschool may be bored in grade one if they already have covered colours, letters and numbers and have attended all the typical field trips already. In addition, children that have not attended preschool or Kindergarten catch up pretty quickly on the social rules of learning to take turns, line-up and raise their hand to speak.
Look for preschools with lots of unstructured toys that are open-ended play value. Sand tables, paint, playdough, blocks, people, houses, cars, trains, building toys, dress-up, puppets, art supplies, are very good toys in addition to a playground. So many families have computers, video consoles and hand held gaming systems at home, that children have ample opportunity to use them at home. Preschools away from home should have more physically interactive toys. At this age, it’s better to paint on paper and build with Lego than to do it on a computer screen. Children need the tactile experience.
As always, parents who try out a preschool program should watch their child for signs of discontent. Anxiety, sleeplessness, increased temper tantrums and sibling fighting, moodiness, and eating jags are signs of stress. Give a program two weeks and if signs do not subside, it may not be the right time for a formal play environment for your child. That’s okay, because they have plenty of time for outside the home experiences when they are older.
When considering homeschooling a child who has reached school age or when the decision is made for children to leave a school they attended last year, parents who are homeschooling their children for the first time have a lot of questions, worries and fears. These concerns are very common and as a home educator for the past 17 years, I would like to address them.
1. Can I balance home and school? I am worried that my mother duties would suffer when I would be spending a lot of my time teaching.
More and more you will blend parenting and teaching so that there is not much distinction between the two. You have been a teacher since your child was born and that loving style won’t change. Let your passions loose and share them with your child. Let your children share their passions with you. Many parents find the roles of teacher and student reverse because the parents learn too. Think of teaching your child not as a person with a brain that you have to fill with facts, but as a journey in which you and your child will travel and learn together.
2. I’m worried that his education will not be recognized later down the road in order to be accepted into a good post secondary institution, so he can have all the same opportunities as traditionally schooled kids.
First, there are many studies that show that home-schooled children meet grade level achievement and often exceed it. Secondly, in Alberta, all children write the grade 12 diploma exams in the core subjects if they want to go on to post-secondary education. By high school age, many kids actively seek out courses to pass the exams and move forward with their goals. Many kids don’t even start formal coursework until grade 10 and do just fine on the exams – so don’t worry – you can’t possibly mess them up.
3. My kids didn’t listen to me when I nagged them about homework last year. How will it be when their whole education is in my hands?
Homeschooling takes much less time than school. In many cases, it is even less time than children spend on homework! In elementary studies, home schooling might take less than 30 minutes a day not including reading and field trips. In junior high, it might be two hours a day and high school would be 2-3 hours per day. That’s it. And no homework to fight over. Children will have a lot of time to pursue their passions.
Kids are born to learn and will continue to seek out knowledge. It’s natural that humans, from infants to seniors, want to know about their world and how it works. However, they just might at times have a different learning agenda than you. If you have a bad day (and you will) just give up on teaching, go with the flow and go have some fun- build your relationship and try your agenda again in a few days or weeks.
4. I’m worried that I will burn out trying to entertain my kids all day.
Don’t even try to occupy your kids all day. I’m not sure where the notion came that parents must be constant entertainers, but it’s a habit you don’t want to start. Leave things out like a board game today, craft supplies tomorrow and a costume trunk the next day – they will learn to occupy themselves. You will be amazed at their creativity if you are not directing everything. If you don’t get into the habit of occupying them, they will not get into the habit of looking to you to fill their day and you will have free time to yourself. Many homeschoolers use this time to run a home-business, write, or work part-time. The bonus is that children will develop their creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Be sure to insist that they clean up messes though.
5. I’m only homeschooling one sibling. How will the children get along?
Kids readily accept that their siblings have different education situations. That’s okay. They may want to homeschool too or they might not. If you give each child the choice each year, it takes the power struggles out of the inevitable complaints resulting from their choice.
You might want to consider drawing up a contract with two of your non-negotiable stipulations of what you want done this year and get their input of their non-negotiables as well. Each of you sign your name and post it on the wall. That helps when the whining starts. You can point to what the children signed and agreed to.
You will have bad days when the kids are fighting non-stop and you wonder if they won’t be better off in school. But, they would have those days even if they were in school. Most homeschoolers report that their older kids have much better relations because of learning to get along with each other in the early years. For example, my university kids love to still play board games with their 12 year-old brother.
6. How can I teach them things that I don’t know very much about, such as fractions?
Your kids are going to learn fractions whether you teach them or not. You can’t force a child to learn and you can’t stop them from learning. Math concepts are learned from life – baking, money, shopping etc. Language is learned from avid reading. When they get to later grades, they have to start learning fractions on paper rather than in their heads. As kids get into junior and senior high school, there are online teachers that can teach your kids what you don’t know or want to. And developmentally, they are mature enough to listen more to an outside teacher than you!
7. What if I made the wrong choices this year? Programs? Curriculum? Classes?
It’s only a year! Nothing is written in stone. Your education plan (the worksheet you submit to your facilitator of your year’s plan) is a work-in-progress document and you can change anything you wish at any time. Dump curriculum if it doesn’t work for you, or change programs or the timing of topics. Most homeschoolers don’t finish their goals for the year (we are human and humans procrastinate, or life just gets in the way of our best intentions)and the kids move on to the next grade and do just fine! Enjoy the time you have with your children.
8. I worry about what my kids will miss out from not attending school; School portraits, holiday parties, riding the school bus, Christmas pageants, field trips, etc.
The homeschooling community will provide all those experiences too. In school, the logistics of organizing field trips for a large group only allow for one or two field trips per year. With a family, you can go anywhere, anytime! Join a support group or facebook group (search for “city name” and “homeschool” and lots of groups will pop up) that organizes a lot of outings and you could be on a field trip every day. The artists, writers, presenters and special guests that do programs in schools will also provide them to a group of homeschoolers. It just requires someone to organize it. In our earlier years, the homeschooling community provided school photos, year-end talent concerts (that anyone can perform in, regardless of talent) field trips every week, parent organized holiday parties, music lessons and group discounts on plays, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Some parents love to organize and if you are one of them, pick something your child wants to do, pick a date and advertise it and you will have a group to go with you in no time. It’s not homeschooling as much as community schooling!
The only thing missing is the school bus experience and perhaps children will get that in high school!
9. When I tell relatives what we are going to do, I am met with skepticism, silence and negative comments. How do I handle being judged? It is undermining my confidence.
Unfortunately, until homeschooling becomes more widely understood, you will be judged! Most people hold stereotypes of the “social” and “academic” aspect, and are misinformed by homeschooling portrayals in the media. Many homeschoolers just smile and say, “It’s the best choice for our family.” Grow a thick skin and let comments bounce off of you.
10. My child is so social. How will I provide friends for her?
Friends are everywhere, not just at school. Some kids love being with other kids. Some kids love being home without a lot of people around. You can provide both in homeschooling where you set the pace for social activities. There is enough going on in your city for homeschooling clubs, events, classes and outings that there is something organized for everyone – the outdoor enthusiasts, the sports crowd, writing groups and even the Friday afternoon Minecraft club at my house! Not to mention the usual community organizations such as Boy Scouts, church groups, community classes, and more.
Relax, seek out a mentor for the bad days, and most of all, enjoy your children and learning. It really is a great ride you and your children won’t regret!
Be sure to visit APCA’s website for homeschooling articles, a sample education plan and a sample parent-child contract.
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by Judy Arnall
Your ten-year old daughter is wasting another beautiful summer day inside the house, playing Minecraft. You fear that her brain is becoming atrophied for lack of academic stimulation. You worry about education company warnings that children can lose a month of their school year learning during the summer. Will summer fun and a “break from formal learning” cause kids to fall behind academically in the Fall? Is there another way to keep up with academic learning other than by text books and lectures? Could video games support education? Hey, isn’t Minecraft educational? Yes, of course it is! Any type of toy or game is educational, in that it teaches children knowledge, life skills and the competencies outlined by Alberta Education in the new curriculum redesign.
Often, parents are critically conscious of the time spent on computer games, and assume that video games and toys are a frivolous waste of time. They think that if the game doesn’t directly teach math or language skills, time is wasted. However, indirect teaching of communication and math skills may be the best feature of gaming, along with enjoyment of plot, graphics, music and gameplay. A game can develop academic learning and competencies, even though not marketed as an “educational game”.
As a parent of five gamers (both genders), I learned early that my children hated the “educational games” that have primitive graphics, poor logic, clumsy interface, are non-multiplayer and just plain lame. “Educational games” seem to be marketed to parents that aim for functional use of time, rather than fun. When my kids immersed themselves in games like World of Warcraft, Nox, Spore, Gizmos and Gadgets, Age of Empires, Graal, Runescape and League of Legends, they learned not only reading, writing and math skills, but also knowledge of social studies, mythology, history and science. They learned valuable social skills such as cooperation and conflict resolution with other players in the same game, and with buddies outside the game playing with them in the same room. They learned personal skills, such as resilience during adversity, perseverance and commitment to continue and finish for the team despite discouragement. They learned how to deal with problems, team members and competitors under time pressure. They learned how to win gracefully, and how to face losing with dignity and without throwing a keyboard across the room.
Indirectly, games and toys teach some academic concepts in a way that is compelling to children, aided by the focus that is essential for game success. Parents who don’t play the game may not realise how their children have learned these competencies. Here is a brief overview of how toys and games teach children within the framework of the new curriculum redesign by Alberta Education.
Of course, children still need exercise, fresh air, and breaks from screens, which are also great life skills, but if your daughter chooses to spend her quiet time playing Minecraft, relax! She is counteracting summer learning loss in a fun, educational and engaging way.
*Competencies retrieved from Ministerial Order on Student Learning (#001/2013), Alberta Education and adapted for this article. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/goals.aspx on April 29, 2014
Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional certified parenting and teacher conference speaker, and trainer, mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, To University from Unschooling, to be published Fall 2014 http://www.professionalparenting.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org, 403-714-6766 Sign up for notifications of free monthly parenting webinars. Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety. Sections may be deleted for space constraints.
Thank you for teaching our child this year. We as a family strive to live a balanced life that includes a variety of activities. Those activities include volunteering in the community, family social time, rituals and celebrations, part-time jobs, music and art lessons, sports, fellowship clubs, church and much-needed downtime. We value those activities as much as learning academic subjects in school.
In order to make time for these activities; we need to establish boundaries that provide a fair division between school instructional time and homework that encroaches upon outside-school time. Therefore, our family homework policy is as follows:
_________(Your Family Name Here) Family Homework Policy:
The school assignments that are not given adequate instructional class time to complete in school hours, will not be completed at home.
We expect our children to give their best effort and concentration in the ___ hours of instructional class time that the government legislates and the school provides in order for our children to complete the required credits and marks. They can also use any school spares they have to complete school work between the hours of 9:00am and 3:30pm. I expect the school to provide adequate time and instruction in class for the student to complete the government requirements of the entire course.
We expect that our children will not be socially penalized within the classroom for our implementation of the Family Homework Policy, and will not be academically penalized in terms of marks for work that can’t be completed within the allotted school time. The current available research supports our belief that supplemental homework is not required for adequate mastery of the subject matter. We appreciate that you respect our decision on how to spend our time at home as much as we respect your decisions regarding your time/curriculum management at school.
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
“Help! My Child won’t do Homework!”
Suggestion and Ideas for Getting More Homework Co-operation and Less Power Struggles
- Give choices in subject matter, time, or place of study. E.g. Would the child like to do Math or English today? When is their best, most alert time of day? Would they like to study in their rooms, outside, or on the couch?
- Alternate bookwork days with outing days. Consider helping the child learn in a different way with an outing or field trip instead of researching books.
- Consider giving tests first and if the concepts are mastered, eliminate the text material. Cuts down on boredom and busywork. If you know your child knows the material, talk to the teacher and request less homework.
- Present the material in a fun way and geared to child’s learning style. Use learning aids such as movies, cookie fractions, board and action games such as multiplication tag. Children in elementary school love to learn through play.
- Follow interests as much as possible, if not in format, then in content. For example, if the child has to write essay or book report, perhaps he could choose the topic or book.
- Use rewards if they work for your child. Stickers, passes for fun outings and computer time are some choices from parents. Have a jar of 200 dimes (one for each school day). Any day the child does homework, put in one dime. The child can keep the money at the end of the year.
- Avoid power struggles. Put your relationship building first. Try and approach learning another way. Listen to why your child doesn’t want to do the work.
- For those hesitant writers, try being the scribe while the child dictates ideas. Or try letting them write on the computer, which is easier on little hands.
- For those hesitant readers, try picking up an enticing children’s book and reading out loud. Your child might come join you if it’s not forced. Model reading yourself. Cuddle on the couch with a child and make reading a fun, cozy, exciting time. Use vocal variety and stop when the child is not longer interested.
- Keep a routine going when you figure out the best time of day for bookwork. This has to work for you and your child. Not all children are “right after school” people”. Be kind but firm in sticking to a routine. Children need some structure.
- Have a written contract each week, month or year that is signed and agreed to by the parent and child, about what work must be completed for that time period.
- Children often learn better by discovery than by being told. Lead them to an experiential activity that would reinforce concepts.
- Some months are better than others. Children go through spurts and plateaus and most do not learn in tidy sequential steps. During a plateau, trust that the desire and motivation will come back.
- Assimilation of material takes time. Plan for playtime, down time and many breaks (minutes, days, weeks and even months).
- Create a learning environment of fun, curiosity and good feelings. Make sure everyone is fed, rested, comfortable and non-stressed!
- Never punish for not doing the work. You want to create a climate for lifelong learning and enjoyment of the pursuit of knowledge. Remember, your job is to facilitate learning. Nudge, but don’t force!
Judy Arnall is a professional international award-winning Parenting Speaker, and Trainer, Mom of five children, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” She specializes in “Parenting the Digital Generation” www.professionalparenting.ca (403) 714-6766 email@example.com
Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety.