Weigela: This is our oldest daughter’s webname. Rob and I had originally planned on home schooling our children for kindergarten only (like I had been). We ended up building a house during Weigela’s kindergarten years so my mom occasionally came to our place to “babysit”. While Grandma cared for the children on those busier days, she delighted in teaching our Weigela how to read, using her methods from past school-teaching days. We initially enrolled Weigela for grade 1 in a small, local school but it became apparent by August that her special medical needs and advanced reading abilities would be a better fit in a home schooling environment. A school representative from the small public school replied strongly on the phone, “Please do!” upon our suggestion that we were considering homeschooling instead. It was HARD that first year and sometimes impossible to find products that were really valuable to us for homeschooling. I began to write a beginner level Canadian-based science resource, publishing my first book at the end of 2007. I had been tweaking curriculum anyways and it was easier often to just start fresh. As a child, Weigela was a hands-on visual learner who struggled with traditional written work and tiny graphics on worksheets; but she was mechanically-gifted, “square peg that didn’t fit a round hole”, inventive, highly musical, and a quiet and thoughtful student. Depending on how math was taught, she was either a failure and hated it or it was a favourite subject. Today, she excels highly in the ACT and SAT testing and in many of her classes. Weigela was/is an independent learner with a healthy balance of academics and home life – she loves to bake (e.g. pies, breads), crochet, sing, play the piano, build (e.g. sandboxes, cupboards), garden, organize, read, and invent things. Weigela has now graduated from her high school years and continues to be excited to study at the post-secondary level with interests in math, physics, and design. Over the years of homeschooling and a few semesters in public education, she has really helped to shape our direction in business as she has been the main one to “test out” many curriculum resources, including our own.
What did we, as parents, learn from Weigela?
1. Teaching a student to be an independent learner at a young age really helps her to love learning and retain eagerness in discovery, helps her to gain responsibility and trustworthiness in time management, and helps to cement-in important things because an independent learner is able to “teach it back” to friends or younger siblings and to discern when something is not as important.
2. Curriculum really DOES matter a lot! Your choice of how a skill or topic is taught makes such a huge difference in whether or not a lesson will actually “stick”. Curriculum – with its methodology, sequencing, and even layouts on a page can help or hinder a child or teen’s success. Thank you, Weigela, for all of the previewing you did with us over the years, your comments and honest input into your education! You have been a delight to teach, mentor, and watch, as you have grown in your schoolwork, home life, and in your personal faith! All the best in your future endeavors!
Petunia loves stories—listening to them, reading them, telling them verbally or in long writing pieces. While her older sister was quiet and thoughtful, Petunia was determined to be more dramatically expressive , spontaneous, and humorous. Fun and giggles seemed to be her learning style as an eager youngster. She’d bumble around with tenacious spunkiness for learning new things and still anticipates new topics and experiences with a vivid excitement. If a resource we were testing was taught in a boring manner, she’d try it but roll her eyes and let us know clearly that just wasn’t something SHE’D want! While we have a number of books already on our shelves, Petunia often has been the one to ask, “When are you ordering more storybooks?” or “When/do you think you’d write curriculum on that subject for MY grade?” She helped with some art ideas in Art for Grades 1 to 8 and edits some of my work now because she works diligently to get her assignments done so that she can do other stuff like sewing, independent projects, or yes, read another book! After a year of French, she asked if she could also learn Spanish like her friend (she excelled at both). When missionaries who knew about 5 languages stayed with us, well, Petunia absolutely had her interest tweaked even further. She has also liked studying about Canadian government and maps, playing musical instruments/doing theory, and studying ecology/bugs/creepy crawlies (fireflies, crickets, worms, and other bugs brought into the house in a bug catcher to identify). In more recent years, she’s also interested in learning more computer and people-related skills.
Lessons we have learned:
- We needed to have more bookshelves! And buy more storybooks!
- Literature study curriculum can be very boring. Reading novels for “school” can be fine without an actual “study” report or written activity about them. Literary devices/techniques sometimes are better taught as a summary note with short examples and generic activity rather than in a unit on a “specific title by author format”. When you think about it, the whole point of why we want kids and teens to study literature is to practice how to understand something that is written and to learn to like reading on a regular basis. So, once they’ve caught those skills, do we really need to continue with lots of read-alouds and written Q & A or literary essays on such? Why not allow them to freely read upper-level material without having to giving a written response at that stage and then focus on other kinds of essays like research-based reports which are more in line with today’s use in career training and work???
Bachelor Button (B.B.) was an “end of year” baby so we delayed his kindergarten years as if he had been born at the beginning of January instead. By the time he finished grade 4, he was ready and wanting to quickly cover grade 5 as well, so he did two grades in one year, making him grade 6 level matching with his “peer-school” age. At that time, he also wanted to “kinda” study the public education system and, with this in mind, a local public school principal arranged for B.B. and two of his sisters to sit-in on classes for a few weeks one fall, rather than just giving him a school tour. B.B. gained a fair amount of insight on how the public elementary system works these days (in comparison to past stories from grandparents and parents) and he too, values home schooling much more than what the public school has become today, even though he had a nice teacher and friendly class. (“Definitely!” he sighs, as I read this to him.) Beyond the same reasons as his sisters, he was bothered with the wasted time doing “extras” (videography, etc.), the lack of expectations in writing assignments (no due date given, no direction to research topic, write an outline, edit a draft, then type it—no, they were just to start typing whatever into a computer for a writing assignment—he did it our “normal” way and submitted his assignment by e-mail when he was home sick with a cold to a surprised teacher), and observing his peers with their way of doing math—just a series of weird games on a computer. But B.B. liked riding the school bus and meeting a good friend who came over later to experience a few days of homeschooling at our home during some “snow days”. At home, the flexibility is superb! For example, Bachelor Button has always loved plants (and other science) and can be outdoors on days his peers have to stay in class, yet he accomplishes far more learning in various subjects than if in a regular school.
Lessons we have learned:
- For learning to read, boys find reading “real life” information-type simple sentence books more motivating than relationship-based stories like Dick and Jane’s family so it is a good idea to include books describing tractors, trains, etc. in the stack of books to read. Humorous stories in old readers also hold interest.
- Nature walks are nice but outdoor “work” is so beneficial to a young fellow’s sense of purpose and they really love to put what they know into real life practice.
- “Surprise Mom and Dad!” Never under-estimate the growing interests or friendly competition of a pre-teen or teen boy —he loves to surprise you (e.g. with his baked pies, bread, attempts to fix stuff or solve problems like Dad without you knowing, suddenly getting a research topic done really well, being creative in a craft, singing a solo, etc.). OK, he’s NOW just said, “Hey Mom, did you know that I fixed ___ and it works?” (No, I had no clue.)
- He has helped in designing some PSLC curriculum too (e.g. the PSLC printing program has letters where his idea of driving around them was included; he drew the pictures for the advanced penmanship book since he was the one it was originally developed for).
Hollyhock began early—far earlier than I had planned. At the age of 2, she was more interested at times to listen in on her siblings’ lessons (especially B.B.’s) than playing with her dolls. In fact, she was THE main motivation for B.B. to read and do HIS math. She’d tell us the right answer first and he’d just LOOK at her, stunned! (He knew the answers but just wanted to be silly and say things like “January, February, bananas…”. The “problem” was that once our eager toddler had picked up reading skills, she just couldn’t stop and so read and read and was quite able to read at the grade 3 level by the time she “started” JK at home/age 4! Then she decided in her “spare kindergarten time” to write a multi-page storybook personifying a flower character, complete with a plot line. I “slowed her” down by “going deeper” and by having other “subjects” (e.g. “baking”) for her “school” rather than moving her on to older grade levels too soon. (I had heard that it is better to expand a topic deeper rather than add older-level skills too quickly to avoid having a young student getting frustrated with materials that are designed for older students (e.g. small print, few visuals/manipulatives, etc.)). Years later, with a sister and brother, she took the opportunity to see what a grade 3 public classroom experience was like in comparison to home-schooling (in other words, a multi-day school tour with kind permission of the principal and staff). Her basic opinion on the matter is that she’d so much rather be home-schooled and had felt academically held-back in the grade 3-4 class. From primary to present teens, Hollyhock has been a caring, empathetic one who has retained a keen interest in living things and physical activities (including climbing trees)!