Kids Learn By Doing

Every child is going to learn differently.  All children use their senses to help them to explore the world and learn many different things, but each child uses this sensory input a bit differently as they process the information.

Most childrAnother Hatchett Job, adopt, adoptive family, adoptive parents, love, creative commonsen rely heavily on visual input.  Some rely heavily on auditory input.  It helps these children to hear about what they are learning as much or possibly more so than just seeing the topic or reading about it.  During the infant and toddler years, children put things into their mouths as part of their explorations.  For some students, adding experience through taste helps them to learn.  Other students need kinesthetic input to enhance their learning.  And to top it all off, most children use all of these sensory inputs to greater or lesser degrees than others.

The schools are supposed to take care of all of this educational stuff, right?  As a former educator, I strongly disagree.  Regardless of whether your child attends a formal school or is homeschooled, the parents lead the way when it comes to education.  Parents who value education and who love to learn will often have children who are more amenable to taking advantage of their education.  Parents who abdicate all responsibility for their child and his or her studies will likely (but not always) raise more lackadaisical students.

Parents need to understand that learning is not limited to a classroom setting.  Learning is just a part of living and exploring as we live our lives.  Learning is an active endeavor.  Some things may be learned passively, but the lessons that tend to stick with us into our adult lives tend to be made more memorable by our active participation in them.

So, how can parents possibly wade through the myriad of possibilities and know how to help their children learn?  It’s actually a bit simpler than you may think.  Another Hatchett Job, adopt, adoptive family, adoptive parents, love, creative commons

All children require some of each of these inputs as they learn, barring a major disability.  The key is to maximize the ones that your student enjoys while making sure they all get a little time at the educational party.

How?  Just follow the five senses for starters.  Here are some examples of things that parents can do with children of all ages to help foster learning by using the senses.

Sight.  This is easy.  Look at what you are learning.  Are there illustrations in a book?  Can you go outside and identify types of leaves or plants?  Can your toddler name the animals in a picture or in a field or petting zoo?

Hearing.  Read to your child.  Read with your child.  Let your child read to you.  Take turns reading.  Even when you are doing the reading, you are hearing your own voice say the words.  For many learners, this stimulates the formation of memory better than other sensory inputs.  Listen to music and learn about composers.  Learn to play an instrument.  Learn how to distinguish bird songs.  Encourage young children to play with the classic See ‘N Say toys to hear sounds and identify what made each sound.

Taste.  There is a great reason that many teachers let students add a cooking component to a lesson, particularly in Geography classes.  Getting the sample the cuisines of another culture is a fantastic way to explore another culture.  When you go on vacation to the coast, does your family try the local ‘catch of the day’?  Do you sample regional dishes and discuss why certain ingredients may be typical of that area’s dishes?  Nothing helps you remember a historic sugar plantation better than the taste from chewing on a piece of sugar cane.

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Home Ec is hard work! Photo by Jan Hatchett

Touch.  Children who rely heavily on touch often use movement (kinesthetics) to learn.  Tap a surface as you count with your child.  Let your child feel items that are related to the location you are visiting or a lesson in school.  Learning about Scotland, feel woolen fabric or even pet a lamb at a petting zoo while talking about where wool comes from and how it is processed.  Use manipulatives with math that the child can touch and handle.  Get outside and dig in the dirt to plant flowers or make rubbings of tree bark or leaves.  It’s okay to get dirty.  In some circles, a little dirt is much appreciated!

Smell.  Even been near a paper mill?  Particularly before the EPA regulated emissions, those were some stinky places!  Once you have experienced that sulphurous smell, you will never forget it.   The olfactory glands in our brains are located very near our memory centers.  This is why certain smells can evoke memories with shocking clarity.  The smell of theater popcorn or cookies baking in Grandma’s kitchen help us to recall information.  Students use this, too.  How many 40-somethings remember the smell of mimeograph fluid on school handouts?

Of course, this is not a definitive listing of methods for enhancing education, but it is a good start to encourage inquisitiveness and observation about the world around us while using the senses.  Learning is an active process, so get away from the television and cell phones and start interacting with the people and places nearby.

How do you use your senses to learn?

Till next time,

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I Want to Homeschool…Now What?

Right or Wrong? Creative Commons, Another Hatchett Job blog, homeschooling, education, learning, curriculum, questionsAt one point, every homeschool parent has asked him or herself this very question and the reply they usually receive sounds like *crickets*.
This can be very disconcerting when you find yourself surrounded by articles on various schooling or un-schooling methodologies, a myriad of curriculum choices, and lots of uncertainty. Fortunately, in the last several years, many experienced homeschool families have been posting informative articles online that can help new homeschoolers navigate this brave new educational world.

I truly wish that these resources had been more available when I was starting out with my two sons.  My youngest is graduating from high school thisAnother Hatchett Job blog, Creative Commons year, and although we have tried public school, private school, and homeschool, and I am a certified teacher, I had all the same uncertainties that most new homeschool parents share.

Recently, I ran across a wonderful article entitled My Top 16 Tips for Beginning Homeschoolers on the Survival Mom blog.  This is exactly the kind of article that would have eased my fears and helped me to just jump right in.  I hope that you find it helpful, too.

Do you homeschool?  When did you decide to begin?  We homeschooled off and on throughout our journey.

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

Why Kids Don’t Play Outside Any More

Another Hatchett Job, outdoor play, nature, kids, family, homeschoolI am not sure exactly when it happened, but the entire world has changed.  Kids simply don’t play outside anymore and it’s a crying shame!

Perhaps parents are working more hours and aren’t home to supervise latchkey kids.  Perhaps video games and movies on demand are so much more common than they should be.  Perhaps the increase in global news coverage and communications has convinced parents that there is a pedophile lurking around every corner.  Perhaps we are too lazy to go outside ourselves and then our children follow our lead. Perhaps our lifestyles are overly scheduled and the only time that a kid gets to touch the grass is at an organized sporting event, and then that grass is manicured and sprayed to be perfect turf.

Perhaps we should just GO OUTSIDE!  

Kids need free play time outside in order to help to stimulate their sensory nervous system.  And, believe it or not, this stimulation also leads to a sense of calm in ADD and ADHD kids.  Kids need to run and play and swing and spin and roll and get dirty, sweaty, and stinky.  Looking at images formed in the clouds and laughing and dreaming while laying in the grass are not wasted times for a kid (or an adult), it’s all part of who we are meant to be…connected to the Earth, our home.

In generations past, children had chores to do, sometimes inside the house, often in the barn or yard.  After chores could come fun–swimming in a creek, traipsing around the woods, building Another Hatchett Job, kids playing outside, nature, kids, homeschool, family, creative commonsforts, playing chase or tag, etc.  This allowed kids to burn off excess energy, be connected to the dark/light cycles and seasonal weather changes that we experience.  It made them healthier, hardier folks who tended to understand the world around themselves in a more meaningful way.

I recently ran across a wonderful article by Angela Hanscom that explores what has happened to eliminate outdoor play from our children’s lives.  She begins with a tale of a trip outside with children,

The third grade classroom that was visiting our nature center for the day consisted of mostly boys–rowdy, loud and rambunctious boys. As we started out into the woods, the children spoke loudly to each other in anticipation of what was to come. After playing a quick game and explaining the ground rules, it was time for free play. As soon as the children realized they had the freedom to explore and build in the woods, something funny happened – they got really quiet. They dispersed and many of them started working together to build a large teepee.

Nothing gives me more pleasure then to see children contentedly building a structure using branches and logs out in the woodland. That is, until fear kicked in and everyone’s pulse increased a few notches at the shrill cry of alarm.

Another Hatchett Job, kids playing outside, family, kids, nature, homeschool“Put the sticks, DOWN!”

The article goes on to explain some of the many sensory inputs that children receive from outside free play and why they seek out and find certain ones at certain times in their lives.  It’s a great read and I hope that you will take a few moments and check out the full article here.

I love trail riding and playing in my tiny garden.  What is your favorite outdoor activity as an adult?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

Technical Colleges: A Solid Choice For Higher Education

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As a homeschooling mama, my long range view is ever toward my children’s futures. I want to make decisions to allow my sons to utilize their potential and achieve their goals and dreams. But, as the years creep closer to the day when I will no longer be my children’s primary educator, I am faced with deciding what avenues of later education I should encourage my son’s to pursue (knowing all the while that the ultimate decision is really not mine).

The choices were easier in centuries past. Poorer families could continue on with subsistence farming on their Lord’s property or perhaps be lucky enough to be sold into an apprenticeship to learn a trade. There were no wages during the time of apprenticeship, but a solid career awaited at the end of training. Richer families became scientists, poets, or just rich hangers on at various Courts. They could also manage their lands and go hunting, perhaps taking some of the poorer subsistence farmers along as guides for the day. There were no middle classes to speak of.

It would have been much easier to choose a path in those days, but the options were (especially for the poorer families) somewhat grim. Now, we have a plethora of options available to our youth, but we tend to only recognize one, the four year college education.

Please go to Molly Green Magazine to read the entire article.

Does your community have a Technical College?  Do you plan to utilize it?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

Things to Consider When Beginning Your Homeschool Journey

Another Hatchett Job blog, Creative CommonsA couple of weeks ago, I received a comment from a reader asking about the “how to’s” of getting started.  Wish I could have gotten this article published a bit sooner, but perhaps it will help someone that is starting out.

To start with, a lot depends on the age(s) of your kiddos.  Younger kids will need different types of materials and parental instruction than older kids will.  Have the children been in school prior to your starting to homeschool?  If so, that will shape both your and your child or children’s expectations going into this new adventure.  Do any of your children have any identified learning deficits or excel in certain areas?  That will help you to gauge how much information will be covered at each lesson.  A child struggling in an area will often move a bit more cautiously through material and may not enjoy it.  A child who has a particular interest in or who excels in a certain subject will consume great amount of information each day with joy.  Neither situation are bad, they just help you to be mindful not to go too fast in some areas or too slow in others.  Let your child guide the way.

Read, read, read!  Read everything you can find at first about homeschooling.  You will want to try different ideas and curriculums.  It can even seem overwhelming.  Just relax and try one new thing per year.  If you purchase a curriculum, use it.  Don’t try it for a week and toss it aside for something else.  Keep it simple on both yourself and your child.  Especially if you are starting with an older child, bear in mind that your new curriculum may have covered information in previous years that your child didn’t cover in school yet.  Be patient with both of you and just go slowly.  Just about anything you need to brush up on can be found by doing a simple Google search.

I am by no means an expert in homeschooling, but my sons (one gifted and one LD) have made it through high school with plans for the future under my guidance.  So, while I can’t tell you exactly what will work in your family with your unique situation and children, I will share a few things that worked well for me and a few things that I wish I had done to improve our homeschooling experience.

 

Things that worked for us:pencil, eraser, Another Hatchett Job blog, homeschool, education, writing, creative commons

Read alouds–all kids love to be read to.  Some auditory learners need to hear the material in order to fully comprehend it.  Biographies and stories can make great family time before bedtime.

Talking about real happenings in the world.  Current events can create good discussion topics.  Let your children form their own opinions, even if they are questionable.  Encourage logical thinking and give them ideas to think about.  Before you know it, your child will have strong, reasoned opinions to be proud of.

Field trips, even those through Boy Scouting or church activities aided in my kiddos curiosity and their knowledge of the world around them.

Encouraging time spent outside in both structured and unstructured activities.  We did everything from Boy Scout camping, hiking, and rappelling to berry picking, horseback riding, and assisting at a bird banding station.  In fact, these trips encouraged one son to desire a career with horses and the other son to begin apprenticing for his Federal bird banding license.

Keep it interesting and fun (unit studies are great in middle school).  Read alouds can just happen to cover similar topics as your unit studies.  Field trips can be tailored to the subjects currently taught as well.  Sometimes, current events can spark a little historical or geographical debate.  Learning can’t be in a vacuum.  It must be out in the open so that kids can see that it actually applies to real life.

Letting the kids see that we are lifelong learners.  Hubby and I discussed books and blogs we read in front of the kids and as they got older, shared some with them.  They saw us learn how to do things like build raised garden beds, can food properly, or fix the car.  It takes away a lot of excuses that start with, “but we will never really NEED to know these things.”  Learning is expected as a part of life, not a punishment.

Getting our kids involved at church, through volunteering, and in Scouting to gain social skills, leadership skills and just to make friends.  It’s that socialization thing that people will always ask you about!

 

Another Hatchett Job blog, Creative Commons, homeschooling, tutoring, education, Mother and Child,Things I wish I had done better:

Keep to a schedule.  Some days my dislike of early mornings didn’t help my kiddos get up and started as well as I would have liked.  They took their cues from me and I wasn’t consistent.  Pick a starting time and stick with it.  Even if it is noon.  Things just feel less frantic that way.

More field trips.  You just can’t have enough.  They don’t have to be elaborate.

More “homestead” type skills.  Home Economics is a good thing, but I wish I had been a bit less “college minded” and encouraged a bit more building things, making forts, planting things together.  My kids can do laundry and cook, but still need to learn more skills (don’t we all?).

Encouraged my kids to write for fun.  We wrote lots of essays and we read loads, but I actively encouraged reading for fun.  I wish I had heard of  National Novel Writing Month earlier.  That would have been fun to do with my kids.  And now that one of my kids is learning to write screenplays, it would have been helpful.  I strongly encourage everyone to try it with their kids.  Who cares if it doesn’t get published?  Express yourself.  We all have to communicate in life and the more ways you learn to do it, the better.

In the same vein, encourage younger kids to submit essays to various writing contests around your state and the blogosphere.  In Georgia, there is a Fire Safety Essay contest each year that any student can enter.  Sometimes, you get some praise and an award.  Sometimes you don’t.  It can be fun either way.  Make a collection of your kids writings and drawings and publish them up for grandparents for Christmas.  It’s totally good stuff!

I wasn’t great about taking “back to school” pictures and I wish that I had been more consistent.

 

Some tips for every parent:

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Home Ec is hard work!
Photo by Jan Hatchett

Don’t ever say, “It’s too hard” that just gives kids a reason not to try.  This is the single biggest mistake that I have heard over and over among homeschoolers who are working with older kids.  It doesn’t matter if you liked the subject in school.  It doesn’t matter if you thought it was too hard as a kid.  What matters is that you give your child every opportunity to master the information and to be good at it.  Don’t put your negative ideas on your child.  He or she may love that subject if you give them a chance!  Hire a tutor to teach it for you or use an online program if you must, but if your children hear you complaining about the subject and about teaching them, don’t be surprised if their overall work ethic may suffer.

Don’t give up!  Every child is different.  Every child will take a slightly (or extremely) different path from others.  That’s okay.  In fact, that is the way this is supposed to work.  Homeschooling (like life) is messy and full of ups and downs, but you keep on going.  It’s a life lesson for your kids as well as a way to show them that they are valuable and loved.  Don’t get mired down in the comparison game.  Celebrate each success.

You can’t give enough hugs, kisses, pats on the shoulder or praise!  Give freely of the happy emotions and let them bubble up through your children.  Put the good grades papers on display in your home.  Frame some drawings and finger paintings.

Let go of anxiety and preconceived notions of how to educate children and enjoy your kids.  Time passes so quickly.  You will never regret spending happy times with your kids.

What is your favorite homeschooling advice?  Please share it in the comments.

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

Considering Homeschool This Year?

Another Hatchett Job blog, Creative CommonsAs Back to School sales begin in earnest in the stores, some parents struggle with the decision of whether to send their child to public schools. Private schools are an option for those who are open to them. Homeschooling is another option, but it is often difficult to make the decision to homeschool when faced with little understanding or support from your family and friends.

Even worse, it is hard to consider doing something when you are filled with self-doubt about whether or not you could actually be successful at it.

Let’s face it, every homeschool parent has felt this way at one time or another. I did. And, I have taught both public and private high school classes. And, I worried about teaching my sons at home. Honestly, there are parts that went really well and parts that, in retrospect, I would do differently if I could do them over. But, I am satisfied that for my children, I did as well or better than the schools in our area could have done.

In an effort of full disclosure, I have one gifted student and one special needs (but smart as a whip) child and we didn’t seriously homeschool until the oldest was starting high school and the youngest was in middle school. We had done one year of homeschooling in the elementary years.

My boys both began in a public charter school when I was teaching public school. After a year of homeschooling and being home with them, I was offered a high school teaching position in a local Christian school that was k-12. My kids were right down the hall from me and I could keep track of how they were. For several years, that worked really well for us.

When it didn’t, we began to homeschool again, eventually leading to my running a co-op for a year and teaching high school Science and Literature courses for various homeschoolers.

So, you can see that I have tried all of the alternatives that were local to us and they all have strengths and weaknesses. However, homeschooling is where my children have blossomed.

There are myriad reasons to consider homeschooling in the first place. The following articles are from a series that I wrote outlining the most common reasons that I know of that people choose to homeschool. I hope that they can help you to learn if homeschooling may be of benefit to your family.

Why Homeschool?

Why Homeschool?  Academic Excellence

Why Homeschool?  Appropriate Socialization

Why Homeschool?  Field Trips

Why Homeschool?  Child Led Learning

Why Homeschool?  School Safety

Why Homeschool?  Religion

Why Homeschool?  Learning Styles & Multiple Intelligences

Why Homeschool?  Life Long Learners

Do you homeschool?  Are you considering it?

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett

2014 Youth Birding Competition

Another Hatchett Job, baby birds, creative commons attributionGeorgia has a competition each year for kiddos from 5 to 18 that encourages them to get out into nature and learn about birds. That competition is the annual Youth Birding Competition where kids from all over Georgia will race to find the most unique species of birds within Georgia state lines in a 24 hour period of time.

From what I understand, this is the first state-wide competition of its kind.  The original concept premiered in Cape May, NJ as a spin off to go alongside an adult competition.  A biologist with Georgia DNR in the Non-game Division, named Tim Keyes, brought this concept to a larger scale in Georgia.

My son, Ethan, with Eddie as his team mentor, has participated since he was in Elementary school.  Every year, his birding identification skills have increased, as have his awareness of the ecosystems that the birds live in.  He has traveled to Maine to study Puffins with the National Audubon Society.  He answers questions for many local people who have seen birds and want to know what kind of bird they saw.  He even volunteers as “Chippy” the Chipping Sparrow who answers identification questions online for Atlanta Audubon Society.  He assists local biologist, Charlie Muise with bird banding as schedules permit and he travels to Jekyll Island, Georgia in October to assist with the migratory birding station there.

Much of this interest has been fostered by the people he has met and the experiences that he has had during these competitions.  Ethan always liked birds and tried to name them.  Eddie realized that this could be a fun way for Ethan (and himself) to learn more and meet more like minded people.  And they truly have succeeded on both counts!

Team members have changed over the years, but the Chaotic Kestrels birding team has solidified around some really interesting and talented teenagers.  Outside of birding, they play sports, make videos, shoot rifles competitively, sing rap music in a Scottish brogue, ride horses, and just are plain ol’ good kids.  There is not a single one of these kids that you wouldn’t enjoy spending time with.  They are personable, intelligent, and funny.  They make up a great team!

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2014 Chaotic Kestrels Birding Team with Mentor, Eddie Hatchett

 

These kids worked together to plan a route, identify birds, and record them accurately during a single 24 hour period of time during migration.  They identified 156 unique species, including one rare dove and broke the previous YBC Georgia All-Time Record!  They came in 2nd place overall in the State of Georgia and I couldn’t be more proud of them!

Next year will be the final year for this incarnation of the Kestrels team as two members will graduate and be ineligible for the program after the 2015 season.  One of them has already begun mentoring another young group of Elementary School birders who competed for the first time this year.  Did I mention that these are some awesome kids?

This program is also free for participants.  Many wonderful sponsors (Atlanta Audubon, Albany Audubon, Georgia Ornithological Society, T.E.R.N. just to name a few) donate time, funds, and prizes for the kids.  But, the payoff for this program is far more than just a free t-shirt and prizes!  These kids are spending time with a mentor and/or a parent, out of doors and enjoying nature.  They are developing observational skills and coming up with questions about things they want to know more about.  They are learning research skills to answer those questions and seeing the information with an eye toward application of that knowledge.  No classroom experience can compare with the skills and experiences that happen with hands on learning.  Many of these kids will go on to support Conservation efforts, become Biologists and other scientists and teach others to love the world that is around them.

That ain’t gonna happen tethered to a video game, folks!  In life, you’ve gotta get dirty to get the payoff.  These kids are the payoff for the next generation and, with luck, generations to come.

Till next time,

Another Hatchett Job blog, signature, Jan Hatchett