Friday, April 28, 2006

What Is Your Goal? - Part 2


Homeschooling is not an easy choice, and it is not for everyone. It is a decision, a commitment, and a life-changing challenge. It was pretty unnerving to make this choice, and when I came across the poet Robert Frost’s words, it was as if I had my answer and the journey began.


"I am not a teacher, but an awakener."

Robert Frost


Take some time to write down your educational goals for each child, both short and long-term goals. These goals are as individual and unique as each child. For example, this year might be the year to focus on improving your seven year old son’s handwriting, or having him read more aloud to you instead of you doing all of the reading aloud. These are specific goals for him. Other goals for this year might be related more towards his spiritual education, focusing on Bible verse memorization or participation in your church’s youth educational program.


While these are all good yearly goals for a child’s education, you also need to remember to keep an eye on the big picture of your child’s total education. By the time they complete high school, perhaps you would like for them to have excellent communication skills, or be ready to apply to a college that can help them continue their education or training.


In engineering, there is a saying that if you will tell me the answer, I’ll back into the problem. In other words, if you know what you would like the finished product to look and act like, just take some time and you will soon be able to back into the steps that you need to undertake during their education to achieve this goal. While you are at it, try to develop a few goals for yourself, ones that will help YOU stretch and grow in areas of interest.

Here’s an article that I wrote about the importance of taking care of ourselves – hope it helps YOU:


Taking Care of the Caretaker


Join me next Tuesday here on the TOS Front Porch for some lemonade and a new topic to encourage you!


Until next time,

Amanda B.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

What is your goal - why do you homeschool?

“If you’re not sure where you are going, 
you’re liable to end up someplace else.”
Robert F. Mager

Goals, goals, goals. We hear over and over again how important goals are to our success in life. While it is an important concept to most of us as it applies to our lives, it should also be very important to us as we educate our children. We need to set some educational goals as we proceed with their education. Like any goal, we need to remember that they will have to be somewhat flexible and allow for adjustment as the child changes and grows to adulthood.


Also, like other goals, educational goals can be short-term and long-term. For example, short-term goals might include learning to read during the upcoming school year. Long-term goals might include gaining an understanding of the child’s gifts and talents in the years to come. Education is made up of many components, and these components fit together like puzzle pieces. A child needs a spiritual education as well as an academic education.


 When we began our homeschooling journey, I read so much at once, trying to absorb and understand as much as I could possibly get in as short an amount of time as possible. I’m sure that many of you know exactly what I mean. I was not a “degreed” teacher, but I knew that homeschooling was something that I was supposed to do for our children, and for our family. I kept reading about the importance of setting educational goals, and so I began to put together a set of goals for each child – fitting the goals to help with each child’s weak spots or growing interests. Over the years, these notes in a spiral notebook have helped keep us on track, and have been adjusted along the way when necessary.


Keep thinking and I’ll share more on this next Tuesday – don’t forget to join me on the Porch!


Until next time,
Amanda B.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

For those of you wondering if I am the same Amanda Bennett...


Yes, it's me! Apparently some of you visit this website for parents or receive their newsletter --

A few months ago, I wrote a piece to enter my very first "creative writing" contest - just as an effort to make myself stretch to a new area of writing and have some fun. And lo and behold, I came in second place.

After 14 years of writing curriculum, it was great fun to write in a new direction, and very satisfying. This all comes under the heading of "Taking Care of the Caretaker" -- an article I wrote for homeschool moms several years ago:

I am still learning, and I hope that YOU are too!

Amanda B.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Unit Studies vs. Textbooks



To investigate this topic, we need to take a close look at what we are trying to accomplish as we homeschool. Here are two key concepts and definitions from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:


Educate:  To bring up, as a child; to instruct; to inform and enlighten the understanding; to instill into the mind principles of arts, science, morals, religion and behavior. To educate children well is one of the most important duties of parents and guardians.


Learn:  To gain knowledge of; to acquire knowledge or ideas of something before unknown. We learn the use of letters, the meaning of words and the principles of science. We learn things by instruction, by study, and by experience and observation. It is much easier to learn what is right, than to unlearn what is wrong.


            Interesting definitions and just how and where do they apply to what you are trying to do for your children? Everywhere! You are trying to find the best way to educate your children, instilling principles of arts, science, morals, religion and behavior – and you are considering unit studies as an effective way of doing just these things. You want your children to learn in a meaningful way, enjoying the process instead of dreading it and creating strife as the days go by during the school year. Using unit studies, you can do this, by providing a balanced learning experience, where the students learn by instruction, by study, and by experience and observation. Unit studies are a hands-on type of curriculum, providing a well-rounded educational opportunity to the students.


            One of the things that I feel is missing in a textbook-only type of curriculum is the development of that precious and priceless mental ability called “creativity” or “imagination.” Creativity and imagination – slowly but surely squashed down into a box, a very small box, and shoved to the very bottom of the pile of “important things to use” as we obtain an education. One of the easiest ways to demonstrate this is when a child is handed a coloring page in kindergarten and told to color the picture using specific colors. Well, as a parent, you know how each child has different ideas and abilities at this age. Some children can color fairly well at this age, while others love to scribble all over the page or freely draw their own picture. And yet, they are corrected or even laughed at if they color outside of the lines, or scrawl on the paper instead of coloring the picture the “right” way. So, imagination is set aside, conformity begins.


            With a textbook curriculum, the students are all to learn the same material, in the same way – forcing an artificial uniformity on the students. While one child might be fascinated with whales, precious little space is allotted them in most textbooks. And yet, if you use unit studies, you can learn all about whales, why they are classified as mammals, gain a better understanding of the food chain, read “Moby Dick” together, investigate the whaling industry of the nineteenth century, sketch several kinds of whales, and perhaps visit a zoo or large aquarium to learn more. I’ll never forget the time that we paced off and sketched several different kinds of whales in a parking lot so that the children could get a feel for the size of these animals! Their imagination soared as we did all of these things, from what it would be like to have been Jonah in a whale for three days to picturing life on a whaling ship as a family. Unfortunately, in most textbooks you will not find much coverage of whales that will hold many children’s interest or attention for very long.


It is so important for a child to be able to use their imagination as part of the learning process. Can you imagine what Monet’s art might have been like if he had been forced to color inside the lines as a child? I wonder if he would have become a painter at all, or been as curious about light and color, and on and on. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that Edison was labeled as “addled” at the ripe age of six years old – I can’t imagine that he was a follower at all. He had an active imagination and was so creative. Can you imagine trying to get him to read a science textbook?


From the time of my early childhood, I have enjoyed the art and stories of Beatrix Potter. Here is a favorite insight from this very creative lady:


“Thank goodness I was never sent to school;

it would have rubbed off some of the originality.”

Beatrix Potter


Until next time,

Amanda B.