Category: Homeschool

School in Limbo? Here’s Help!

In our district, kids are going back to school only two days a week. WHAT!! That will leave a lot of parents with kids who want to do something fun and connect, as well as learn. Here is something that will help you out! : )

I began teaching and speaking over a decade ago. I focused on a learning tool that, at that time, was called The Closet. The printer said he loved my Closet Mastery Course but had to look inside because he wondered if I was training people to come out of the Closet. It also seemed odd to call this tool The Closet and then tell people they can use a box, a bag, or any old container that they would like – or even no container. So, the name was changed to The Spark Station.

When I began teaching this tool, my audience was almost exclusively homeschooling parents. The Spark Station initially helped kids want to learn so that the homeschool process would be less stressful. However, over the years, I realized what a fantastic, fun, and engaging tool it was for connection. My message morphed and eventually became a book, Becoming a Present Parent: How to Connect With Your Children In five Minutes or Less. 

The Spark Station has lived beyond homeschool because

it’s a beautiful way to ‘play’ and connect with kids. This is a boon for adults like me, who are a little play adverse.

Years ago, I created a 13-audio course about the Spark Station. This year I have offered the entire thing to all my readers FREE. It is in its original homeschool format, but all principles, rules of engagement, and outcomes apply broadly across the parenting spectrum. Over the next few months, I will create a multi-part series of articles on the Spark Station to help you use it in your home. It’s WONDERFUL, FUN, and EXCITING for kids! It is useful for toddlers, children, and teens.

The Spark Station – Part 1 What is The Spark Station

I used to say, “So what is the definition of the Spark Station? Simply put, it is a space where parents have put items that they think will inspire their children to explore further and learn.” Then I had a mom tell me she was on audio five before she finally understood what The Spark Station was.

Now I say it differently. The Spark Station is a tool you can create. It can be an actual closet or a box, a dresser, or any other place you can put new items to share with your children. It’s not the same as a storage space where you keep your learning materials, books, and craft items. Its purpose is to create a time and place when your children will be exposed to new and exciting ideas or be able to engage in things that already interest them, and where parents connect with their kids. It’s a time and space where both adults and kids can share what they feel joy or passion in, and what interests them, their SPARKS. I’ll share information on how powerful SPARKS can be.

You can use the Spark Station at a set time each week, say on a Sunday afternoon. You can also use it anytime you feel like it. You can use it as part of your school day if you homeschool. Dad can use it to connect after long days at work. However, it is not to be used by children alone because you want your own time. It’s important to remember that it is a connection tool and that can’t happen if you are occupied elsewhere. Another important thing is that when kids use it alone, it turns into a mess quickly, and then no one uses it. This is one of the five critical rules which I will cover in another article.

What I want to accomplish here is to encourage you to begin listening to the FREE course. If you don’t have time for a 13-audio course, then view this one audio. It will give you enough information to determine if this is something you want to have in your ‘connection’ arsenal. Or you can read each installment of the series of articles titles Spark Station Basics as they are published.

I’ll end today with some pictures of Spark Stations. You will see how diverse they are and how fun they look. : ) You will notice that they are large and small, fancy and simple, for little kids and big kids. They are all different!

But before I show the pictures, here is a letter from a mom who took the leap and gave it a shot. 

The  Spark Station and The Spark Station Mastery Course really work! I just had to share my experience with all of you. I finished lesson 5 of the Spark Station Mastery Course yesterday. I went through my home to see what I could find. I cleaned out the entertainment center (that is what we are using for our Spark Station). I was excited but nervous.

‘I found sand in the garage that I forgot we had, rice, material, art supplies, wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs, math wrap-ups, and the list goes on. I filled totes with the items I wanted to start with. The kids saw me doing this and were anxious to know when they could use all that cool stuff.

‘I dyed the sand; I dyed the rice, and I put the stuff in the Spark Station this morning. We did our devotional, and then we talked about how the Spark Station would work. I was really nervous.

‘The kids immediately went to the fabric and wanted to make capes. Unfortunately, the pieces we had were rather small, so we talked about using those pieces for other things and talked about how much fabric we will need to make a cape (it will appear in the Spark Station soon).

‘Then they found the colored sand, mason jars, and lids that I had in there. They used the funnel in the box to help pour sand into the jars and make beautiful designs with different colored layers of sand. While the older three were working with the sand, I pulled out the rice tub and set it up on a blanket. I had spoons, cups, bowls, etc. in with the rice. I just let it sit there, and as soon as my 18-month-old saw it, he was occupied until The older kids went to play with him when they finished.

‘When they bored with the rice, my older son pulled out the art box. He found cupcake liners in the box. Immediately the girls wanted some too. They asked me what they could use them for, and I told them anything they wanted. They seemed unsure; I told them I could see making a pretty flower. My son immediately said he wasn’t going to make a flower; he thought his would make a great head for a lion. They glued their cupcake liners to the paper and used the chalk in the box to draw the rest of their pictures.

‘I just sat there and grinned the entire time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Why was I so afraid of this, it’s not scary, it’s incredible? I now have a…tool at my fingertips that gives me the perfect way to my kids. I can’t wait for tomorrow, and neither can my children.” Stacey S.

Please take a look at The Spark Station Mastery Course; it’s FREE.

Does your family have a good way to connect and do you use it consistently?

How would it impact your family if you added this one thing – consistent family play for connection?

Focus on what ties you together and your family can never fall apart. family.lovetoknow.com                                                       

Tips for Successfully Homeschooling Special Needs

Learning about the letter “M”

Deciding to homeschool a special needs child can be challenging and rewarding. My granddaughter, Maggie, has severe cerebral palsy. Some of Maggie’s CP symptoms include – she can’t verbally speak, use her arms and hands well, walk, move on her own, or express herself in words. That can be challenging when it comes to homeschooling her along with her siblings. Despite the challenges, when Maggie was 5, her mother decided to teach her at home.

Maggie’s now 12 and attends a regular middle school. She still has all of the same physical difficulties that she had when she was five, however, schooling at home for a number of years was one of the reasons that Maggie was able to transition so well into public classes.

During those homeschooling years we learned some things that made our efforts more successful:

• Be patient
• Let them do everything they can even if the results don’t meet your expectations
• Help as much as they need, they will still feel accomplished. Sometimes, Maggie needs a lot of help. However, at the end of any project, even if she has needed a great deal of help, Maggie smiles as if she did it all by herself.
• If your child is non-verbal develop a system so they can answer questions. (Maggie can point to one of two or three fingers to answer yes or no questions and even more detailed questions. For example: Do you want to color the shirt in red, blue or something else?)
• Remember, they are just like any child in their need to do and learn.
• They are interested in the same things as other children their age.
• Don’t be afraid to let them try. They aren’t afraid to try!
• If possible, find others who can help you a day or two a week.

Here is an example in one of those early at home, school days with Maggie

One of the things that increased the success level for Maggie was finding her a special friend who would come and help one day a week. This gave Jodie a break or allowed her to work with the other children. Cindi Walker was a neighbor and went to church with Jodie and her family. She became a good friend and then transitioned to being a very special friend to Maggie.

The photos and example below occurred when Maggie was six, her brother Jack was four and her sister Mary was 2.

A homeschool day for Cindy and Maggie

When Cindy came she had learning activities that she could help Maggie do despite her physical limitations. She included Jack and Mary if they were interested. Sometimes they were but Maggie was 6 and so many of her activities just didn’t hold their attention.

On this day Maggie was learning about the letter “M”. Her lips do not close like most children’s so it was an

Making an “M” collage

extraordinary challenge for Maggie. We hoped she would eventually be able to say this important letter. (Maggie is still non-verbal but the effort to teach her to speak was fun for both her and those of us who worked with her. She does say the letter I perfectly.)

In order to practice using the ‘m’ sound Cindy helped Maggie make a collage of many different pictures all starting with M. Cindy had pre-cut the pictures but helped Maggie use the glue stick and stick them on the paper. When the collage was finished Cindi would say the M word and then Maggie would give it a try.

Discussing what to write in Maggie’s journal.

Next, they read a darling picture story about “Mary, the Mouse with Measles” which Cindi had written. Maggie loved reading the story and so did her siblings, Jack and Mary.

Cindy and Maggie were putting a “Learning Journal” together. Cindy would help Maggie hold a pencil and write. On this day they wrote about the trip that they all had taken to the Utah School for the Deaf when Maggie’s had her ears tested. Here is what they wrote together: “Jack and I had our hearing tested. We can hear.” (Cindy asked Maggie, “Do we need a period or an exclamation mark?”) Then they practiced saying “We can hear” with emphasis!

While Maggie was busy learning Jack was all over the table and chairs

“Luke I am your father!” Yes, Jack does say that with just the right amount of breathiness. : )

blowing his train whistle, eating cookies and making comments. He also turned the popcorn popper lid into a Darth Vader mask. Cindy is VERY patient with Maggie and all her siblings.

Maggie drew some “M” pictures with special crayons. She loved and still does, working at holding on to things with her hands and seeing the result.

Of course, they ended their “m” session by eating marshmallows. Maggie enjoyed that the most!

To finish off the day Cindy read to the children from the classic “The Secret Garden”. This book did NOT appeal to Jack or Mary but Cindi remained patient with their wiggles and giggles.

Homeschooling a special needs child can be a successful adventure. It is worth giving it a try. If your child comes to a point where they need more than you can give them at home, their time at home will be a great foundation.

How do you make homeschool work for your special needs child?

 

Your shares are the best compliment!

WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT ON-LINE SCHOOLS?

 

I learned two new words that relate to online schools, asynchronous and synchronous.

Asynchronous classes allow students to work without a live instructor via materials, lectures, tests, and assignments that have been provided. Synchronous online classes are when students and instructors are working together live.

The topic came up during a conversation I had with Adam Hailstone, CMO and Director of Leadership at Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  I was asking him about the school because online schools are such a hot topic right now and I wanted to know more about how they work, the value to students and about Williamsburg in particular. I learned a lot!

I loved the fact that at Williamsburg https://www.williamsburgacademy.org/  they have mentors rather than teachers; the fact that students and mentors see each other and interact during class via a chat option; that they use a ‘smart whiteboard’ (this is sooo cool); they have students from all over the country and mentors from all over the world.

If you have been considering an online school for your middle school or high school age youth let me share what I learned About Williamsburg and it might help you make your decision.

Mentors rather than teachers

At Williamsburg, teachers are called ‘mentors’, because they do more than just dispense knowledge––they inspire, challenge, listen to and guide students as they learn how to learn. They help youth learn how to lead themselves and others.

Mentors spend a lot of in-class time with the youth. Students have access to mentors live in office hours, via email as well as in live classes. They can receive live feedback on assignments.

What intrigued me was that mentors, because they teach in a virtual classroom come from all over the world. Mentors at Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  live in the USA, Europe, and many other countries. Last year they had a mentor from Nepal. How cool is that!

This idea of worldwide teachers is certainly 21st-century style learning. Because teachers are not locked into a geographical area the school can vet or head hunt from anywhere in the world. This makes it possible to have world-class mentors.

One last bit of information that I gleaned about mentors at Williamsburg, they are able to give students more one on one time than they might get in a brick and mortar building. That can mean the difference between doing OK and thriving for some youth.

What and How Youth Learn

Williamsburg (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  focuses on teaching youth how to think not what to think. It is a liberal arts program coupled with a leadership program. The culture is not just academic but is larger in scope and includes helping young people determine how to live a meaningful life and how to reach their full potential.

One of the things that I considered a perk at Williamsburg was that kids can do most of what gets done in a brick and mortar school. They can talk live with their mentors and with the others in their class. They can get almost instant feedback.

Mentors create breakout rooms during live classes so that students can collaborate in small groups. They participate in group projects, peer presentations, student government, simulations, engaging videos and readings, challenging projects and assignments, and oral, written, and project-based assessments.

Williamsburg https://www.williamsburgacademy.org/  works to create a culture of thinking and problem solving through the wise use of mentors, dynamic classes, and in person social engagements which are designed to lead to a meaningful purpose.

Classes run 50 minutes but not all learning time is screen time. There are plenty of reading projects and all sorts of assignments to help kids learn to think and to accomplish.

There is a lot going on inside every virtual Williamsburg class and just in case your family has to be away every class is recorded. This gives individual families the flexibility they need.

What About The Social?

We all know that kids want to be with their peers so how does that work at Williamsburg? (https://vimeo.com/195837948)  Socialization is part of a larger learning culture with punctuated social experiences rather than day to day socialization. They have what they call ‘in person’ social engagements.

A few times a year students gather live to learn, work, and interact with each other. This can be in the form of summer camp, conferences, travel adventures, etc. Recently students went to Germany to learn about WWII. This summer students will be going to Guatemala and this fall to Nepal. What a way to spend time with your peers!

The need for social interaction with peers is also satisfied as students work in teams and classes on projects on-line each year.

I was amazed to learn about a recent project that a group of 6th graders completed. They had heard of a charity that wanted to provide a school for a village in Bolivia.  However, after some research, they realized that without a water pipeline kids wouldn’t be able to go to school. This was because children spent much of each day carrying water from a lake to their homes. There was no time for school.

The pipeline was going to cost $11,000. The sixth graders decided to raise $4000 of that cost. So they came up with a plan and put it into motion. They used what they were learning at school – creating a website, writing, e-commerce skills, working as a team, leading, reaching out for donations using rhetorical skills, and so forth.

When the project was finished they had raised $19,000 which paid for the pipeline and part of the school. These were sixth graders!

These kids really got to know each other. They spent real time and virtual time together. They learned that even young people can do powerful things across the world.