While I am on a year-long walkabout with my husband and two children, we are homeschooling. As fun as it sounds, the perpetually close quarters can be stressful sometimes. After surviving the first few weeks of homeschool (or road school!), I have learned some important lessons about myself, my children, parenting, and teaching. 

1. Parents are harder on their kids than their teachers would be. No one is as invested in your child's academic success as their parents. I have high expectations for my children. I want them to shine and succeed in life. I also don't have thirty other kids demanding my attention. All my focus is on my kids and I can tailor our homeschool curriculum to meet their needs. We are essentially completing a math curriculum one grade above their level for the year. I push them because I think highly of my kids. I push them because I love them. 

2. Kids get stressed when their parent/teacher not prepared. On the first day of homeschooling, Kara's Pre-Algebra exercise was on number sets. After reading the introduction, I was lost. I could not explain the material clearly to her, but I still wanted her to complete it. We also had trouble downloading the videos from Khan Academy that discussed sets because our Wi-Fi in Bolivia is so slow. Eventually, Kara and I worked through the problems together and finally understood the lesson, but by then she was in tears. She was not crying because the material was too difficult, she cried out of frustration because her teacher (me!!) was not prepared. I learned an important lesson that day: Homeschooling requires a lot of work beforehand. I handed off Kara's pre-algebra education to Chris so that I could focus on Tristan's Signapore Math and he could focus on pre-algebra. OK, I also did it because my daughter and I are too much alike. This seemed like a good way to avoid matricide. Chris works through the pre-algebra lesson the night before Kara does it & uses the Kahn Academy application which seems to download the videos more easily. I also look over Tristan's math, spelling, and reading comprehension exercises before he does them. Preparation is key to successful homeschooling. 

3. Children don't want their parents to see them struggle. Tristan has a natural affinity for math, but reading is not easy for him. He struggled with agony during a reading comprehension activity on timelines and that ended with tears too (his, not mine). He was so used to being praised for math that struggling through a reading lesson in front of me was unnerving for him. I gave him lots of hugs and told him that I was prouder of him for working hard through the reading than for getting a 100% on his math. Struggling through a problem makes kids smarter, even though it is uncomfortable. 

4. Homeschooling is a privilege. When my kids were in private school, I knew very little about what they were learning. It wasn't that I did not care, but I was bogged down with working full-time and trying to feed them that I did not take the time to find out. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be the parent and teacher this year because I am aware of their knowledge strengths and gaps. We can talk about what they are learning and reinforce attitudes, knowledge, and skills during day to day activities. I realize there are parents who homeschool for the wrong reasons or do it haphazardly. Honestly, we sometimes fall into those categories, but I will always cherish this year. I am learning more from my children than they are learning from me. That is a privilige! 

5. Teachable moments are found everywhere. While traveling through the Uturuncu and Licancabur volcanic areas in Uyuni, Tristan asked why volcanoes form. Chris and I launched into what we could remember from our fourth grade geology lessons. Luckily, our knowledgeable guide was also able to join in teaching the lesson in the context of the local geothermal history. While in Cusco, Peru, which is the birthplace of the Inca nation, we read about the history of the nine Inca kings. You do not need a classroom or a dry erase board to teach your children new things. We have been able to teach them while riding on a bus, visiting a museum, or simply walking through a park. That is the best type of learning there is. 

If you are homeschooling, what lessons have you learned in the process? If you have any recommendations, resources, or suggestions to make this a positive learning experience, let me know!

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AuthorNoemi Gamel
CategoriesEducation

I am about to confess one of my deepest, darkest secret.  This is a painful admission for a children's book author to make, but I feel I must come clean.  

My son hates to read.  

There, I said it.  Tristan, the 7 year-old apple of my eye, is what Chris and I euphamistically refer to as a "reluctant reader".  Both of us were in denial of this fact for a long time, especially because big sister Kara was born with her nose stuck in a book.  Chris and I are both voracious readers, educators, and I write children's stories for goodness sake. Yet, here we are the parents of a boy who has become a master at negotiating reductions in his required reading time.   

The first clue that we had a problem was that Tristan never picked up a book unless I put it in his hands and told him to read it.  When he finally would because I did not give him a choice, he insisted that I sit next to him while he read aloud.  He hated reading on his own. Then he would haggle with me to get his assigned reading time reduced.  "How about I read for just 10 minutes instead of 15?" or "Mom, please, just 5 pages instead of 10?".  

AAAAHHHHH!  While Kara was taking books to bed with her and reading until the wee hours of the night, Tristan was haggling down to the last paragraph.  

As with all problems, the first step towards coming up with a solution was admitting that we had a problem.  Once Chris and I waded out of the river of denial, we brainstormed ideas to get Tristan to read more.  The problem became a bigger issue when we decided to go on a round the world trip in which we would be home schooling the kids.  Their curriculum will include a lot of reading on their own.  Our strategy was the use the shotgun approach and toss all kinds of books at him to see what he liked.  We made two important discoveries with this scientific methodology.

The first discovery we made was that Tristan does not like to read for the sake of reading.  He needs to learn something or be wildly entertained by the story.  The second thing we learned was that our son's interests (violence, astronomy, math, adventure, fantasy) are topics that are written at a higher level than his current reading ability. 

After figuring these two issues out, we came up with a beautiful solution for our "reluctant" reader:  Comic books!  

Tristan loves to read comic books.  He reads them on his own, and he does not insist that I sit next to him while he reads because he can figure out a lot of the unknown words from the context provided by the graphics.  If he gets really stuck, he spells out the word for me and I tell him what it is.  

Kara loves to read classics like Flowers for Algernon and Because of Winn-Dixie, but she can also curl up with comic books......and The Dork Diaries. I am so grateful to Comixology because we can download comic books to the children's tablets, which is such a gift to us because we don't live in the USA and our nomadic lifestyle demands that we pack lightly.  

I know many of Tiger parents out there will probably look down on us because we let our kids read comic books.  All I can tell you is.... 😝

Comic books are an excellent strategy to get your "reluctant reader" to read and love it.  They are well-written, spark imagination, and most of them are conducive to the child expanding their vocabulary.  

What Chris and I learned in the process of finding books that Tristan would read is that we need to get over ourselves.  If our child is not learning from the way we teach, we will change the way we teach.  As parents, we need to get off our high horse and modify our teaching strategies to meet our goals.  At Tristan's age, the main goal of reading is to learn comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary.  Any written material accomplishes those goals whether you are reading a Newberry Honor book or Judy Moody.  In addition to comic books, Tristan also reads Captain Underpants, the "Stink" series, and interactive e-books on his iPAD. Once again I say this to you Type A professional Tiger parents...  😝

What strategies have you used to get your reluctant reader to read?  Please share them in the comments section because we have run out of ideas!  

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Posted
AuthorNoemi Gamel
CategoriesEducation