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7/6/2006 1:54:42 PM
Home School Legal Defense Association
HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru High School Newsletter--Unschooling Approach

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HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru High School Newsletter--July 2006
Unschooling Approach
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Dear Friends,

Summer is in full swing, and although we know that homeschool moms
never really have a "down" time, we hope that you are enjoying the
lazy, hazy days of the season. Your teaching time may decrease during
the summer, but most moms we talk to use the summer to think about and
plan for the next school year. So, while you are reflecting on the
big picture of what your homeschool will look like in September, we
thought you would benefit from considering perhaps a new approach to
your schooling.

This month we asked Elizabeth Smith, wife of HSLDA President Michael
Smith, to share with you ideas and information on alternatives to
traditional styles of teaching in the homeschool setting. These are
ideas and concepts she developed and tested with her own children. So,
let's listen to what she has to offer:

"My assignment is to write about my 'unschooling' approach to the high
school years. I prefer to call our method an alternative to
traditional style teaching rather than unschooling because we did have
measurable education goals. Although we were a little less structured
than the usual textbook approach, we were not quite as freewheeling as
some 'unschooling' families.

"As a child I found school boring. Little of what I learned was
stimulating or motivational. Homeschooling, however, provides the
opportunity for creative ideas as well as the intellectual stimulation
that the traditional classroom method sometimes misses. Early on I was
intrigued by the chance to 'create' a lifelong learner by teaching in
such a way that my children would love to learn.

"Much of this article will share the teaching ideas we discovered
along the way. If you are going to step out a bit with innovative
methods, it's helpful to remember the history of formal education.
Before the 1850's, mandatory attendance in public schools and the
traditional classroom was a rarity. For the greater part of history,
tutoring, mentoring, apprenticing, and lecturing were ways young
people were taught. This practical approach slowly was phased into our
educational traditions of today. As homeschoolers, we have the
opportunity to think outside of this box and incorporate methods more
beneficial to the various learning styles and abilities of our
children.

SO, WHAT DID OUR ALTERNATIVE METHOD LOOK LIKE?

We began with two essential courses of study and every other course
built upon them. Math and English were the common threads. Out of
English evolved history, penmanship, grammar, composition, literature,
creative writing, and even science. In essence, English became history
and history became English. My question was always, 'Is there a more
interesting way to teach this?' For instance, in the early teen years
I wanted our children to learn how to analyze what they read. I wasn't
interested in their learning facts only, but in using the learning of
facts to stimulate their minds.

"Reading aloud was a part of our school day every year of our
homeschool experience. There is no better way to discuss and dissect
ideas with your children than by sharing opinions about what you read.
One book I chose to read aloud was 'A Tale of Two Cities.' Each of my
children kept a small spiral notebook to record his or her analysis of
each chapter. As they listened, they knew they were required to write
out the main theme of the chapter in their own words. Part of their
assignment was to restrict their description to two or three
sentences. Though in the early chapters they faltered, through this
process, they became adept at picking out the main points, major
themes, and key facts, concisely recording their analysis. Along with
learning to analyze literature, the children were
reading beautiful literature by one of history's greatest authors and
studying the art of fine writing, a skill which proved invaluable in
college.

"While learning how to analyze, the children were also reading a
historical novel. Since 'A Tale of Two Cities' centers on London and
Paris at the time of the French Revolution, we also investigated the
facts and causes of the French Revolution along with the geography of
England, France, Western Europe and the surrounding seaways. As you
see, the list of things taught and learned were extensive.

"It is significant to note that we did not create a lot of paperwork.
Except for the notebook analyzing each chapter and spelling words
taken from the pages of the book to increase vocabulary, there was
little written work. This project lasted for several months and took
up a fair amount of time. There were no tests, but with Mom constantly
interacting with the children, progress and intellectual growth was
easy to see and measure. (The purpose of tests is to evaluate how well
the child is doing and may be necessary when teaching a larger group
of children or in instances where children are working independently
of the parent.)

"In our non-traditional approach to literature, reading, as you can
see, was an important activity in our home. I was intent on keeping it
a pleasurable activity. At the same time, though, there were lots of
discussions over reading assignments, and the open exchange of ideas
proved to be a stimulating, mental exercise.

"Another way we blended literature, composition, history, and
geography in a fascinating and enjoyable learning opportunity was to
latch onto the interests of the children. When our son was 13 years
old, he became fascinated with the Civil War. He picked up a book
about the war and pored over it until he memorized the names of all
the major generals. Seeing his interest, I created a course rich with
history and literature during this era. He was assigned to read four
biographies, two of Abraham Lincoln and two of Robert E. Lee. Then he
wrote a paper on the theme of why God chose these two men to lead
their armies in the Civil War and what character qualities equipped
them for this calling.

"In order for writing to improve, grammar instruction was necessary.
Rather than using some of the traditional materials, I taught a
working knowledge of grammar using Winston Grammar
(http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3146). The children learned to
identify parts of speech and punctuation by placing clue cards under
various words in a sentence. There is also an advanced version
available that teaches students everything they need to know for
college-level writing and all at a fraction of the cost of other
curriculums.

"In teaching math, I viewed games and hands-on projects as learning
tools. Up until fourth grade, games and math manipulatives were used
rather than a textbook. A favorite was Math-It, a wonderful tool you
seldom see at homeschool conferences anymore. The reason I like
Math-It is that it teaches all the basic math facts. The child
competes against himself to improve his own abilities. Math-It teaches
short cuts that I use even as an adult, and it helps children learn to
'think numbers.' By the time my children began using textbooks, they
thoroughly knew addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Advanced Math-It also covers decimal, fractions, and more difficult
concepts. Any high school student will benefit from playing these
games. The student is not always learning new concepts, but is always
sharpening his or her mind.

SOMETIMES WE LIMIT OURSELVES BY THE WAY WE DEFINE EDUCATION.

"A saying I like is 'School is never out.' As I mentioned above, one
of our favorite activities is playing games that teach. I have a list
of over 15 things we can learn from playing Monopoly, such as real
estate concepts, budgeting, and mercy. Another tool I enjoyed using
was puzzles, especially in teaching geography. We kept puzzles of the
United States and of the world in the family room where we read aloud.
(I found that children often listen better if their hands are
occupied.) These puzzles taught them all the states and state
capitols, mountain ranges, major waterways and natural resources and
crops for each region. The puzzle of the world taught them latitude
and longitude, continents, and features like the ones they learned
with the U.S. puzzle.

"As you can see, my alternative approach to traditional classroom
teaching included not only textbooks, but also games, puzzles,
hands-on projects, and a variety of teaching methods. Our children
began taking courses at the local community college at the age of 16
and gradually transitioned into full-time students who graduated from
university. I believe that much of their success in doing college work
came from the way we approached learning.

"As we honor the individuality of each homeschool family we can sample
from the best ideas for educating our children. Our own children's
ability to perform well in college proves that families can be
flexible as they pursue the goal of creating a lifelong learner.

"The goal, though, stays the same: Stimulate the child's mind so that
he or she will want to learn. When your student wants to learn, you
have won the education battle at home.

"Thank you for this opportunity to share with you my thoughts and
ideas this month."
-- Elizabeth Smith

We hope you found Elizabeth's ideas as interesting as we did. If you
are feeling less than able in stimulating your children to learn,
remember that moms have distinct teaching styles just as their
children have learning styles. Trying to replicate another's style
unlike yours may prove discouraging and the struggle will create more
tension inside you. Some of us are "book-oriented" while others are
"unschooled" oriented. We can learn and benefit from each other,
taking ideas from all approaches and incorporating them into our own
style. So, remember that the Lord is fully able to use any method to
fulfill His purposes so that your child receives the education you are
capable of providing. The Lord has fully equipped you to not only to
be the best mother for your child but also his best teacher. Trust
Him and know that He is faithful.

In August we will be talking about the college application process.
We'll provide you with tips on the types of information you'll need to
gather for the application, give you a timetable for charting your
course, and answer some frequently asked questions about the process
to make your job as your child's guidance counselor a bit easier.

Blessings to you,
Becky and Diane

What's new on HSLDA's Homeschooling Thru High School website?

Two helpful high school brochures:

Developing a Plan for High School--Sample 4-Year Plans
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3147

Recordkeeping for High School--Simplifying the Process
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3148

We've added a number of entries to the High School blog including tips
and info on time management for your teens, SAT Photo ID, PSAT
registration for homeschoolers, and ideas for evaluating your
student's written compositions. New entries are posted weekly and
entries of previous months are archived for your convenience. Check
it all out at:
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=3149

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For us, good customer service is both an art and a science
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our members say about us:

The freedom HSLDA allows me to have as I homeschool is wonderful!
They handle the law and I get to dedicate the time to my daughter.
- National City, CA

HSLDA members since 1993, our membership is just as important to
us as our children's curriculum. Thank you HSLDA for all you do on
our behalf! - West Valley, NY

More reasons to join HSLDA...
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=1941

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