A week ago, I went to my first homeschool convention. Everyone says it's one of those things you just really should do if you are going to give this homeschooling gig a whirl. You get to go and hear a lot of encouraging speakers talk about all kinds of things both encouraging and technique related. You get to go and actually see all of those curriculum options that you've been reading about and talk to the makers, designers and sellers about how to actually works in practice. Plus, you get to meet other homeschooling families.
I had attend a convention on my to do list last year, but it didn't happen. I heard about this one for nearly a year, it's one of the bigger ones in the Northeast apparently as I meet folks from New York and other New England states. Now, they told me it was big, but WOW it was big! The first day, I only managed to make three speakers and to see about 2/3rds of the booths, between 9 and 5. The second day I heard 3 more speakers, and managed the rest of the booths, but wow, there was just so much to see, I could have spent a week in there and not really got to look at it all.
I went with my short list: things to buy, things to check out, and people to hear. I knew I was going to buy math curriculum this year, and I knew I wanted Math U See, what I wasn't sure was what level Britt needed. I also considered getting a few of Critical Thinking's Mathematical Reasoning Workbooks for Ruth as an intro to Math since she has been after me to have real school books like Britt. I ended up deciding on getting both level of Math U See the Primer and the Alpha. After Britt talked with the gentleman who founded the company and came up with the method (and talking with me about my thoughts) he said Britt could start in Primer this fall, but he would probably be through the book by Thanksgiving, but that Ruth would really enjoy Primer too. So I opted for Primer for her and Alpha for him. I also looked to see if anyone was selling Sing, Spell, Read, Write, since Ruth wants her own books, but I didn't find them. I will by her some at the end of the summer online, I think. I also looked for a copy of "Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books" in the used curriculum sale, since it is out of print, but it was also a no go. However, I did find out that our local library has a copy that I can check out.
I wanted to look at Tapestry of Grace and Trail Guide of Learning, because I think they appear to be some excellent unit studies built around history. One of them is TOTALLY the way I would teach and learn history, but the other looks really good too, and I wanted to be able to play with a hard copy, not for right now, but for future reference. See, since I don't have to document anything officially till Britt turns 8, I can follow his interest and really have a very laid back approach, building my own curriculum as I go, I don't need anything too structured yet. Besides he's not ready for that sort of thing. I just wanted to get some ideas for down the road. I was also hoping to see someone with some Konos materials, because that stuff just looks SUPER cool, but I'm not sure if I want to shell out the money for it, without having a chance to really be sure that the activities in it are something I'm going to be willing to do. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find anyone selling those items.
The best part though, I suppose was two of the speakers. One talked alot about how to work with multiple kids at different levels. Some of the things she talked about I was already doing, kind figured out on my own. A few things will be more useful as mine get older. One of the suggestions, is to use unit studies, something I already really liked, and have been using. And that you include all the kids. You just hit the high points and after 5 minutes let the pre-k kid go and set them on a coloring sheet that relates. Then you go further in more depth for another 10 minutes and let the 1st grader go, and set them to copy work. You go for another 15 minutes, again in more depth, then let the 4th grader go with an assignment of righting a few paragraphs by the end of the day. Finally you go in the most depth for longer with the 8th grader, and ask for a 3 page paper by the end of the week. This way, you are teaching most everyone the same thing, but at different levels. You can do this with pretty much every subject but math which requires more one on one attention and since it's progressive, not everyone can learn on the same material. Language Arts can be done around the same idea, but you have to change the level of difficulty.
The other really great speaker talked about incorporating movement into lessons. She told us that as a 1st grader in 1987, her mother was concerned when every day she couldn't tell her a think she had done in school, and because she wasn't reading at all. She knew that she was bright, and always excited about learning, but now seem "dull eyed." Her mom made the decision to go up to school, and watch. So for the first 5 to 10 minutes she sat there great, but then the next 10 or 15 she was fidgeting worse and worse. All of a sudden she would hop up and run around her desk then sit back down. Her mom watched this repeat itself over and over all morning. At break, she asked the teacher what was wrong, and the teacher replied, some kids just need to move more, we've got her in the back, she's not disturbing anyone don't worry. It didn't take long for her mom to figure out that she was using all of her mental energy to say to herself "sit still, sit still, sit still" and she wasn't hear anything else or learning. She told us that it is often a misnomer that sit still and pay attention go together. She had lots of suggestions for using that movement to your advantage, and ways to direct it without it being disruptive, and also ideas about when it's ok do just do things differently. She also talked about the power of muscle memory, and how to incorporate movement and rhythm (both musically, and rhythmic movement) to add it higher retention. It was really fascinating and gave me tons of ideas for Britt. Ruth loves to sit right with me, and remembers so much, but not so much with Britt.
The whole weekend was really great. I highly recommend going to a convention if you are thinking about homeschooling. There's just so many resources.