Sunday, July 29, 2012

Math Made Easy

Of all the subjects I have to teach my sons, it's math that scares me the most. I'm determined to give my boys a solid foundation in math that will hopefully carry them well beyond my own limitations in the subject and prepare them for whatever secondary education they might choose.  In all likelihood this will mean employing tutors at the high school level, but during these early years it's been a matter of selecting the right program. 

At the kindergarten level, I freestyled.  I photocopied pages from many different workbooks, like Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills, Kindergarten (Comprehensive Curriculumà) and  Number Practice Pages (Write-and-Learn, Grades PreK-1),  used flashcards, and played counting games.  It worked out well enough, though no matter how many practice pages we did my son was still writing certain numbers backwards occasionally. 

For first grade I ordered this book from Amazon, and I'm so glad I did! (Click on the image to learn more about it and view some of the inner pages.)

The math programs recommended by The Well-Trained Mind seemed a little pricey and boring, and while I think a lot of repetition and practice are important, I also felt my older son would benefit from having some color and fun in his math workbook. (I should note that while I didn't feel these programs were right for us, many families have had great success with them.  Check them out; they may be just what you're looking for.)  I still photocopied the occasional page from another workbook or printed one from the internet when I felt my son needed some extra work on a particular skill or concept, but overall we stuck to this one book and it suited our needs very well.  My son was especially motivated by the progress chart in the beginning, which came with special gold star stickers.  For each page completed he added a sticker to the chart; seeing the progress he was making gave him a real sense of accomplishment.  I highly recommend Math Made Easy: 1st Grade Workbook, Ages 6-7.  I plan to continue to use the series, and have already ordered books at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade levels for my oldest boy, as well as Math Made Easy: Kindergarten Workbook (Math Made Easy) for my younger son.

To check out the books in DK's Math Made Easy Series, click on the images below:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Can A Homeschool Student Succeed in College?

The misconceptions about homeschooling families are like mosquitoes; extremely annoying and too numerous to count. One of the most popular myths about homeschooled kids is that they're not properly socialized, won't fit in with their peers, and aren't prepared for life beyond lessons from Mommy at the kitchen table. Here are some comforting facts and statistics for homeschoolers from The Journal of College Admission:

Homeschool Students Have Better College GPA's

The study conducted by Michael Cogan, the director of institutional research and analysis at the University of St. Thomas, shows that homeschool students not only earn a higher average GPA the first semester at college than other freshmen, they maintain the GPA advantage all the way through their senior year.

Homeschool Students Are More Likely To Graduate College

66.7% of homeschoolers who start college will earn a degree, compared to 57.5% of their peers.

Homeschool Students Do Better on the SAT and ACT

The homeschool average on both the SAT and ACT have been consistently higher than the national average. These standardized tests are an important factor in college admissions and financial aid.

Homeschool Students Are More Likely To Attend College

According to studies done by the HLDA, 74% of homeschool students will earn college credits, compared to 46% of their peers.

For all those well-meaning friends and family, (or those nosy acquaintances!) who fret about homeschoolers not being "socialized":

Homeschool Students Are More Likely to Participate in Community Activities, and More Likely To Vote As Adults!

This information comes from a study of over 7,300 adults who are homeschool graduates.

All in all, the data on homeschooling through to college is very positive. Because homeschooled kids can learn at their own pace in every subject, many are able to earn some college credits before they even finish high school. Many universities specifically seek out homeschool students because of their high success rates in secondary education, and most colleges will accept a portfolio in place of high school transcripts (including Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and other top-notch schools). Parents can feel good about their decision to educate their own children; when the achievements of homeschool students are weighed against those of their public-school peers, the kitchen table doesn't look so bad after all!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Curriculum Question

The first and biggest hurdle after deciding to homeschool our kids was deciding how to homeschool them.  We researched different methods and theories, browsed websites and educational supply catalogs, and read thousands of curriculum reviews. 

Some aspects of "unschooling" appealed to me; I definitely believe that providing kids with lots of life experiences is an important part of educating them, and I love the idea of indulging my sons' curiosities and following their interests.  However, I was uncomfortable with idea of completely abandoning standard curricula and grading methods.  My biggest fear as a homeschool parent is that one day my son will know exactly what he wants to do with his life, but be unable to pursue those goals because his education was lacking in some way.  I need to feel confident that I'm preparing my children for college. 

I wanted the best of both worlds; I wanted a program that was both flexible and enjoyable, but also demanding.  It was also important to me to have a basic plan from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation.  I floundered for a while, unable to find any curriculum packages that appealed to me, and quite put off by the high prices.  My oldest son was still only in preschool and my second hadn't been born yet so I had some time before I'd have to decide on a formal curriculum, but I was still feeling the pinch.  My anxiety mounted as I searched for and failed to find a program that met our needs.

One day while watching my son play in the childrens' room of our local library, I picked up a copy of The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer that someone had left sitting on a table.  Flipping through the book, I immediately realized that I needed to take it home for a closer look. It turned out to be exactly what I'd been searching for - not a curriculum in and of itself, but a guide, a structure.  This approach to education eliminated a lot of the problems that I felt were plaguing the American education system.  Up until I found The Well-Trained Mind, I had only goals and ambitions; the book gave me a realistic path to realizing them.  Due to the book's increasing popularity there are now many companion materials available, but using them is completely optional. 

I promptly bought my own copy, and it's the best decision I've ever made for our school.  Here's a link to find out more about the book:

This is the updated 10th anniversary edition, available in hardcover and kindle editions.  It's a little pricey by my standards (though certainly not compared to a lot of curriculum packages and textbooks aimed at homeschoolers) and while I think it's well worth every penny, especially considering you get twelve or more years of use out of it, I encourage anyone who isn't sure to check a copy out of the library and read it before buying.  Even if you can only get your hands on an older edition, you'll get the idea.

The Well-Trained Mind is by far the best purchase I've ever made for our school, and my first recommendation to any family that wants a challenging education that won't suck the joy out of learning.


Welcome to the Highland Heritage Homeschool blog!

Educating our children at home has been an exciting, fun, and sometimes frustrating journey.  Every day seems to bring new challenges and successes. We knew before our kids were even born that we wouldn't put them in public school, but we had the same concerns about homeschooling that most families do.  How would we find the time?  Could we afford it?  Could we prepare them for college?  Would we be depriving them socially?  What curriculum should we use?

Today we find ourselves answering the same questions we were asking only a few years ago.  Lots of people approach us wanting to know what we're doing, what books and materials we use, and how we make it all work.  Though we haven't been homeschooling long, we've learned so much in the last few years that we wanted to share our experiences with other families. 

Thanks for visiting our blog, we hope you enjoy it!