The Stages of Play and Friendship

How to teach emotional intelligence

How does socialization work in homeschooling? Children play differently according to their brain development. They move from single play (babies play with toys by themselves) to parallel play (toddlers play side by side but don’t interact other than to grab a toy) to associative play (preschoolers begin to “play together”) to cooperative play (young children that really play together in free play or organized play) which is elementary school years. Children ages 4-12 have friends based on who is around them and shares the same interests. I remember my child telling me about his friend at age 6 but couldn’t remember his name or where he lived. As children move into the teen years, their friends are deliberately chosen based on shared interests but also shared values, beliefs and attitudes.

All children need is one good friend and siblings count, although they can have scads of them if they want. Most homeschooled children are still very much close to family and siblings because family comes first, but also see many outside the family friends because homeschoolers do not stay at home! They “community school.” Friends come from lessons, outings, group projects, co-ops, musical and art community groups, Girl Guides, church, neighborhood, etc. Friends are not just the same cohort as classmates. So homeschooling socialization is more diverse than an age-sorted classroom. Friends are from all cultures, races, genders, family shapes, and ages.

Friends also change depending on life cycles. My daughters friends in early childhood are not the friends she had in high school and not the same friends she had in university. There are new friends for every new life stage. We were looking at photo albums the other day and she doesn’t remember any of her childhood friends before age 12. Same with my other 4 kids.

Socialization doesn’t have to be a worry in homeschooling. Friends are everywhere!

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Ways To Learn Math Without A Workbook

Ways to Learn Math Without a Workbook

By Judy Arnall, BA

math cake

The birthday cheesecake looked smaller than a half.  Although the store sold the cheesecake in halfs and wholes, my children and I opened the box and immediately knew something was wrong. But, we had to figure out the calculation on paper with pi, to demonstrate to the store that an error was made.

 

As a humanities major, I used to be afraid of math, but no longer. Although my math proficiency ends at grade 8, I still wanted to homeschool my 5 children through high school and into STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) career paths if they so desired. With great interest, I watched how their understanding of math changed with age.

 

Children ages 0-12 learn math through visualization and thinking. We call it “mental math” where they figure out solutions to their everyday problems in their head using various strategies. You see this with babies using a shape sorter, or a toddler sharing cookies, or a preschooler grouping colored Lego, or a school-ager playing Battleship.

 

As unschoolers, we didn’t use any math curriculum. The children experienced mental math through games, toys and play. They started learning “paper math” at age 13 (grade 8) when they took their first formal math course, taught by a teacher, in preparation for their desire to enter STEM careers. They didn’t need to memorize the multiplication tables as they had already been using those mental tools since birth.

 

At puberty, the children’s brain development allowed them to understand abstract concepts such as a “variable.”  They had the brain computing power to work through 8 grades of math in one year, by applying learned paper math solutions to mental math problems. They learned the names of each math tool (fractions, decimals, variable, addition) as well as when and how to apply each tool to everyday problem-solving.

 

If you have a child in school, math homework doesn’t have to involve a textbook or workbook. Here are some handy ways children can learn math outside a classroom:

 

Adding and subtracting – Play board games such as monopoly, etc. Selling items and making change at a garage sale or lemonade stand. Paying for items in stores and noticing what change is given back.

 

Multiplying and dividing – Cooking, baking, sewing, workshop projects, and art projects. Sharing food and items among friends.

 

Greatest Common Multiples – Skip counting jumps on the trampoline.

 

Fractions – Baking and cooking from recipes. Dividing up food with siblings.

Deciding how much quantity of food to buy per person for hosting dinners.

 

Decimals – Shopping. Splitting restaurant cheques.

 

Percents – Calculating tips, taxes and sale prices while shopping.

 

Estimation – Shopping. Tracking travel miles.

 

Perimeter – Measuring for baseboards, or framing pictures.

 

Area – Measuring for carpet, paint or floor coverings. Sewing.

 

Volume – Measuring parcels for the post office.

 

Circumference – Measuring if half the ordered cheesecake really is half a cheesecake.

 

Least Common Factors – Lego pieces are named 2×2’s or 2×8’s so figuring out how many pieces are needed to build a model.

 

Integers – Monitoring temperature changes.  Counting money. Counting zero pairs with red (negative integers) and green (positive peices) Lego blocks.

 

Algebra – Computer games such as Graal, Minecraft, Zelda, etc. Shopping for packaged food items for a certain number of people. Figuring out problems.

 

Variables – Figuring out symbols  that stand in for concepts.

 

Place value – Sorting and grouping toys and items. Measuring liquids, distances, and weight using the metric system that is based on 10.  Counting money in games such as Monopoly. Writing out cheques. Cooking.

 

Coordinates and Ordered Pairs – Play the Battleship game.

 

Rounding – Figuring out how much allowance one has to pay for things.  Estimating price total when grocery shopping.

 

Angles properties – Making a sundial. Studying astronomy. Visiting historical sites where people made ancient contraptions to measure time and seasons. Calculating how far from the wall, the ladder must be for safety measures.

 

Degrees – Formatting photos that are upside down and sideways. Learning about astronomy to understand degrees related to a sphere. Questioning why the Xbox is a 360! Playing Hide and Seek game.

 

Temperature – Bake and cook.  Monitoring the weather.

 

Time – Figuring out the clocks at hospitals and airports help children learn the 24 hour clock.

 

Roman numerals – Read “Asterix and Obelisk” books. Visit monuments.

 

Reading graphs, pie charts, and figures – Reading newsspapers and magazines such as The Economist, Time, and MacLeans which include many charts and graphs. Discuss how the information is presented and if it is correct.

 

Even and Odd numbers – Reading maps and house numbers on a street. Dividing groups based on birthdays.

 

Properties of geometric solids – Playing with blocks and nets.

 

Slides, turns, rolls and flips – Formatting photos on the computer.  Playing with blocks.

 

Symmetry – Playing with mirrors, objects and prisms.

 

Perfect squares and Exponents – Examine a multiplication table and visually see the patterns. Making paper squares for cutting snowflakes and other paper projects. Seeing how squares fit into other squares.

 

Executive Function Skills – Playing video games, or chess helps children develop taking turns, planning the next move, toning working memory by holding multiple instructions in their heads, filtering distractions, and develop emotion self-control when they lose.

 

Math is fun! Cultivate a child’s learning math tools through experience and the mental concepts will stick when they finally learn it on paper.  Sometimes, pi is better than cake!

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X^2 + 4X + 3

 

Excerpted from the bestselling book, Unschooling to University, by Judy Arnall.   Judy is the author of the print bestseller, Discipline Without Distress, and Parenting With Patience. Visit Judy’s  blog at http://www.unschoolingtouniversity.com

10 Common Worries of Prospective Homeschoolers and Unschoolers

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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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