Friday, July 3, 2020

A Little Bit of (Homeschool) Educational Philosophy

Google Images led me to this perfect image.

For those of you who do not know me, I used to be a schoolteacher.  After graduating with a B.S. in Science Education, I taught secondary science in a public school for seven years.  I then began teaching everything-but-Bible in my church's Christian school for three years.  From there, I moved to Indiana to go to Bible college, worked in the area, met my husband, got married, and moved back to the Mid-South area.  I taught part-time in the same Christian school for about 1-½ years before the school closed.  By that time, I was pregnant with my daughter, and it was time to trade in "Miss Ava" for "Mama" -- a very welcome trade!  (I had already long given up my "Miss Gunn" moniker from public school days quite happily.)  Since I've been homeschooling my daughter (who is going into 5th grade), I have learned that all those years of being in education were for the sole purpose of teaching my little girl who is my favorite student!!

Through the years, my philosophy of education has morphed and grown, and I'm sure will continue to do so.  In this blog post, I want to focus on something I developed a few months ago.  This is pure "Ava Kinsey" philosophy - not based on anyone else's thinking.  (So take it or leave it, but feel free to share your perspective.)

I am a life-long learner and I married a life-long learner.  We love to learn new things.  I always enjoyed school, and my brothers did as well.  I credit my mother for my love of reading.  She surrounded us with books even when we were infants barely sitting up.  It was always a given that we would attend and graduate college -- and we wanted to!  As a homeschooling mom, it would be great to be able to teach ALL the things and DO all the things and learn everything about everything.  But there is never enough time, and it's just not possible.  (I am looking forward to Heaven when I will have eternity to learn everything!)

Before Gracie entered K-5, I went to a Homeschool Workshop and the most important thing I learned was to provide lots of exposure but do not necessarily go deep; instead, go wide and shallow.  Later, one can go deep in the subjects that the children are interested in and that will benefit their chosen career path.  That was life-changing to me.  I learned that it's ok to not do all the hard academic subjects if your child is not destined to be an engineer or medical doctor.  I do believe, however, that it's important to provide lots of exposure to many topics and to develop the necessary skills to make it easier for my child to pursue whatever God has for her.

A few months ago, I was having trouble making decisions about what is most important to include in our studies (because we can't do all the things) and wanted to make sure that the essentials are included.  But what is essential?  And why is it essential?  I came up with four main categories of subjects plus a general list of Independent Skills Practice (also known as homework).

Categorizing School Subjects

I have come up with four main categories:

Essential Academic Skills -- These are the skills that are necessary to progress with any schooling as well as with life.

Essential Academic Knowledge -- These are knowledge-based subjects that are essential to know.

Essential Life Skills -- These skills are not academic in nature but are important to be successful in life.

Enrichment Subjects and Projects -- These subjects are not "essential," but serve to make life more enjoyable. 

Essential Academic Skills include the three R's (Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic) plus Bible (if you're Christian, which we are) plus all that promotes effective communication skills.  These should be studied on a daily basis if at all possible even if each session is short and sweet.
  • Bible

  • Bible Memory

  • Storytime (aka Literature - listening while being read aloud)

  • Reading (practice reading aloud, independent reading)

  • Reading Comprehension

  • Handwriting/Penmanship

  • Language Arts (Grammar, Composition, Vocabulary)

  • Spelling

  • Speech

  • Math Facts

  • Math Application

  • Math Puzzles

Essential Academic Knowledge subjects do not necessarily have to be studied every day but should be incorporated several times a week.
  • Geography (plus the skill of map reading)

  • Science

  • History/Social Studies

Essential Life Skills subjects are to be incorporated when it is appropriate for the child to learn.
  • Personal Finance

  • Home Economics (Cooking, Sewing, Managing a Household)

  • Outdoor Skills (Gardening, Yardwork)

  • Home Repair

  • Typing

Enrichment Subjects and Projects subjects are sometimes left off due to a lack of time. I personally believe that everyone should develop a skill in music whether it be singing or playing an instrument. My cousin, who teaches piano and strings, once told me that music is one thing we know we will be doing in Heaven, so it makes sense to learn and get ready now on earth! I also believe that music is a universal tool to be a blessing and spiritual help to people.
  • Music Performance and Music Theory

  • Art Appreciation

  • Music Appreciation

  • Poetry


  • Arts & Crafts

Lastly, here is a general list of Independent Skills Practice (aka Homework) that children should do on a regular basis:
  • Bible Memory

  • Language Arts Homework

  • Math Homework

  • Independent Reading 

  • Handwriting

  • Math Facts Practice

  • Music Practice

  • Typing Practice

  • Geography/Science/History Homework

  • Other Memory Work

  • Hands-On Projects

I don't know if this is a help to anyone else.  I would enjoy hearing your thoughts about this or any other education-related topic.

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Picture Books for American History

In a previous post, I told about American History chapter books that I am reading aloud to Gracie over the next few months.  I recently found a blog (Thrive in Grade Five) by a lady who teaches 5th grade in a public school in Oklahoma.  She wrote a blog post that shares books to read aloud to students.  I went to my library's website and put a number of books on hold.  I think I must have found another source of American history picture books because I have more books than what she mentioned; however, I don't remember what the other website was.  (I think I probably searched for the author's names and found other titles that looked good.)

Here are the books that we will be reading over the next few weeks.  Yes, we read a good bit.  I will give a short review of each as we go through them and will update this blog post.

(1773) Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters
Both Gracie and I really liked this book!  Gracie loved the illustrations and thought they were well done.  I, too, liked the illustrations and I liked how there was just enough information in the text for someone to learn about life was like for a typical person who had that particular job.  Each two-spread page represents a different person:  an apprentice, a basket trader, a barber/wigmaker, a Son of Liberty, and several others.  I highly recommend this book!

(1739) George Washington's Birthday: A Mostly True Tale by Margaret McNamara and Barry Blitt
This book was just ok.  Some of the information was interesting.  I did like how each page or two-page spread had an informational box that declared if some statements were Fact or Myth.  Neither Gracie nor I were impressed with the illustrations.  Gracie declared this book to be a "never again" book, and although I'm not sorry we read it, I do agree that it was a "once in a lifetime" experience.

(1770-1790) Independent Dames by Laurie Halse Anderson
I read half of this book and said I would read the rest later tonight (we read twice a day), and Gracie said, "No keep," which is her way of saying she didn't care for it.  I really like the premise of the book:  to highlight what women and girls did during the American Revolution did since a lot of emphasis is placed on the men.  I thought it was entertaining and informational.  However, Gracie did not like the illustrations (my apologies to the illustrator).  I may read the rest of the book myself later on.

The Scarlet Stockings Spy (Tales of Young Americans) by [Trinka Hakes Noble, Robert Papp]
(1777) The Scarlett Stockings Spy by Trinka Hakes Nobel
We both liked this book!  The young lady has a clever way of getting information to her brother who is serving George Washington's army.  Gracie liked the illustrations.  The story was touching; I had to have her read the last page because I knew I wouldn't be able to do it without crying.
*Also on Kindle Unlimited

(18th century) John, Paul, George, & Ben by Lane Smith
This was a cute and funny book about John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.  It tells a brief story about when each was a kid and how it related to something they did as adults.  In the back was a listing of facts and myths.

This was a very simple book.  Gracie didn't really like the illustrations.

(1770s) George Washington's Teeth by Deborah Chandra and Madeleine Comora
This was a silly story about how George Washington lost all of his teeth.  We didn't really care for it.
(Late 1880s) Cheyenne Again by Eve Bunting
This is a book I liked because it was sad.  It gives a look at how homesick an Indian boy was after being forced to go to school and give up his native culture.

We both liked the story although Gracie thought some of the pictures were a little creepy.  It's a good story of friendship between an Indian girl and an enslaved boy.

Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (A Big Words Book (5))
We liked this book and the illustrations.

The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale (Tales of Young Americans) by [Trinka Hakes Noble, Robert Papp]
(1861-1865) The Last Brother:  A Civil War Tale by Trinka Hakes Noble
*Also on Kindle Unlimited

I liked this book about a young, eleven-year-old boy who joined the Union army as a bugler along with his older brother Davy after their two oldest brothers had been killed in the war.  He forms a brief, otherwise-unlikely friendship with a young boy from the Rebel army.  With a flash of inspiration, he saved lives during the Battle of Gettysburg.

(1800s) Dandelions by Eve Bunting
This was a very good book about a family who left their home in Illinois to make a new life in Nebraska.  The mother is homesick and concerned about loneliness.  The older daughter finds a way to bring comfort and hope to her.

(late 1800s-early 1900s) To Dare Mighty Things:  The Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport
We enjoyed this brief overview of Teddy Roosevelt's life.  I admire his tenacity and desire to do right in spite of opposition.

This was a cute story and very suitable for today's time since it is set in 1918 during the influenza pandemic.  I admire stories about children who rise up and take charge to do what is needful.

(1920s) Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport
This book was ok.  Gracie didn't care for the illustrations.  The story was very informative about important women in America's history.  I knew it would be a bit more liberal than what we personally believe, but it wasn't over-the-top and I think I explained some things to Gracie.

(1943) Diana's White House Garden by Elias Carbone
This was a cute book.  I think Gracie was neutral, but she did like the dog.  I had never heard of Diana, so I enjoyed reading a true story that I was not familiar with.  I liked how she became an inspiration for others during WWII.

This was a good book.  Gracie thinks that JFK looks like Donald Trump because of his hair.  This book gave a good overview of his life and told us about his successes and failures.  Of course, we adults know him to be an inspirational part of our history.  It mentioned his tragic death, but, thankfully, told it simply and without details.

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