Teaching kids about the Electoral College

I personally feel like children should be involved in voting, to an extent. This political season has been a lot messier than seasons past; I have had friends commenting on family members no longer speaking to each other, and even in my own home we disagree on candidates and policies. I like taking my children along to my local polling location when I go to vote so they see voting in action. However, I do not involve them in political discussions because of my families differing opinions and I feel it is important for each individual to make up their own mind. 

Our learning also continues at home on Election day with results tracking as polls close.

This year we will be tracking the electoral college votes as they come in, using a handy worksheet, so the kids can understand a little better about how someone becomes the President.

How do you teach your kids about the Electoral College and elections in general?


Homeschooling When The Parent Is Sick

On a normal day with homeschooling, children do their lessons and mom/dad/etc, is there to teach new concepts, answers questions and whatnot. But what happens when you take the teaching parent out of the equation due to illness? Does school still happen? 

For the most part, that depends on the family. For my family, it does, but to a lesser degree. Thankfully, my children also have their dad who stays home (though doesn’t school) and I can adjust their lessons. For those who don’t have another adult home while you’re sick, this might be a good time to call in a grandma, auntie, babysitter, whoever you know can watch the kids, at your place or theirs, and don’t fret if homework doesn’t get done.

We actually started our homeschool journey with me being sick. Back then, the entire local school district-and our home, apparently-was hit with something called Norovirus. It was literally day 1 after I had pulled my kids from public school, and while the kids were fine-I wasn’t. 

Here I was, just one day into homeschooling, 7 months pregnant with kid #5 and hit with a virus that knocked me off my feet for a couple days. I think, because my kids didn’t know homeschooling looked any differently, it worked.

I sat in a recliner in the living room, alternating between sleeping and being awake (probably more awake with the number of kids home). Instead of working at the table, page by page through their books like I had planned, I wrote out one day’s worth of assignments on index cards for each child. I asked them to attempt all the pages before coming with questions.

This method still mostly works for us, though we don’t use the index cards. (I have considered it at times though.)

I think the main things to remember when homeschooling when the teaching parent is sick are these; you’re human, you have limits; you need breaks and so do your kids; rely on (or build) your support system and remember, this too shall pass.

Have you ever homeschooled through sickness? What are your tips?

Teaching 9/11 with Homeschoolers

One of the beautiful things about homeschool is as the parents, we choose the message we pass on to our children and especially with events like 9/11, that is all the more important. It was and still is a huge event for Americans. And while we do not live in fear because of what happened on that day, in the eyes of some children, the events of the day are terrifying. (Armed terrorist hijacked planes using them to kill and injure thousands of Americans, on our soil).

A resource I found awhile back explains 9/11 to children in a short clip with paper cut outs. It does mention religion towards the end, so if that’s not how you’d want to explain it to your kids, probably stop the video after the explanation of the fourth plane or shortly thereafter where it says a lot of people were hurt on that day.

The important thing is that it allows us as parents to judge how much we feel our children are ready to know. Teenagers are ready to know more. (There is a picture floating around Facebook saying that high school freshmen this year are the first ones who will be taught 9/11 as something that happened before they were born.) Younger kids definitely need it in smaller amounts.

A friend of mine put it a good way in that, his kids know that “bad men took over planes in ordee to hurt Americans, but we’ve fought back.”

How do you teach 9/11 to your children (if you choose to)?

Encountering Homeschool Bias

For the most part, I am used to people questioning homeschool and my choice to do so when they know me and it is their first time hearing that I do so. This most recent time was a different story…

I was on my way home and decided to swing into our local Barnes and Nobel because it is on the way and because we needed some things. Granted of course I grabbed more than what I told myself on the way in I was going to grab, but then when I had my purchases in hand, I made my way to the counter, waited in line and then walked up to the cashier when it was my turn.

She rang up my items and then asked about my discount card. I have an educator discount card through their store chain and that all showed up on her computer just fine, but then she asked if I was with one of the programs up here.

In Alaska, you can join with a program and receive funds for homeschooling your kids but havs to go along with a number of restrictions and requirements, which I have never been okay with. So we’re not with a program; we’re independent.

When this cashier heard this, she proceeded to say that because I was not with a program, I needed to show my lesson plan as well. I told her I had already turned in what was needed, she seemed skeptical and asked a few more questions but eventually rang up the purchases and I left the store ticked.

At home I checked their website and it said nothing about lesson plans, so I knew the requirements hadn’t changed since I had gotten my educators card.

Have you ever any sort of bias or restrictions due to homeschooling? How did you handle it?

Creative Electives

Most of my children have done what seems typical for what we call elective classes, extra classes based on their interests, that until now have gotten my children out into the community, learning, socializing. But last year I had two students who outright refused to go to the classes we put them in, and each in their own way, would not behave in class.

This year, they will be doing their own elective courses at home. Things we will purposely work on with them.

It all started after realizing they still weren’t doing anything out of the home, and then my 5th grader saw quilting materials at our local Walmart and asked to learn, so the goal for him will just be to make a couple, hopefully getting trickier as he goes.

As we were starting his first quilt on the first morning, before any of his siblings were awake, we started laying everything out on the floor of our living room so he could see it and imagine it. Then his sister came out. She used to take ballet and Irish dance, but tends to get too nervous and shy in larger groups so that wasn’t working well for her.

She asked if she could learn how to quilt too.

I told her she would need to start smaller, like her brother did, with making a pocket and sewing on a button. Her first project was born. She will eventually make a little handbag….hopefully.

As things progress, we shall see how this goes. 

What do your children do for electives? What if they’re unwilling?

Review of TinkerCrate 

I purchased TinkerCrate for my oldest this year. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll see that each of my children have gotten box subscriptions based on either where I felt their interests lied (such as with this choice) or that lined up well with what they are learning this year. The other subscriptions we have done are to Raddish and to Little Passports (World and USA). This is the final one I will be reviewing, though all will be updated as we go since most were introductory kits.

He received his box in the mail and was very excited as his was one of the last to be received so he was waiting to see what he was getting this month. I had originally thought that TinkerCrate did a trebuchet kit for their starter kit, but apparently it’s totally random: we received a kit to make a rubber band car while a friend who also just started received kits for 3d view finders for her children. 

So if you get this subscription, it is a total surprise as to what is coming, but it gets kids building and thinking. For example, in this kit, he had multiple sets of wheels and it encouraged him to try different wheels to see what would happen.

This box subscription not only comes with everything needed to make the item inside, but also with an accompanying magazine on the topic of the kit, called TinkerZine. One thing we learned is it is helpful to read through the magazine before making the item in the kit as it gives helpful advice and he had to redo at least one part of his car after reading it.

All in all, he was excited to receive it, and was able to complete the kit without parental assistance (he’s 11) though I still kept asking him questions to keep him thinking as he built it. More reviews coming as we get more kits.

How I Am Teaching My Homeschooler To Read…

I started out this year with big plans. I bought a fancy curriculum with a shocking price tag that talked about teaching reading, promoting literacy, etc. I thought it would be the perfect thing for my 5 year old who was otherwise doing 1st grade work, but didn’t seem to grasp reading with traditional workbooks. It showed tracing pages, readers and cute little crafts, every moms dream, right?

Apparently, not mine at least. The first week, I struggled through the book not sure what it was wanting. Some instructions were confusing even to me, some things seemed way below her ability, like tracing shapes or making patterns. I just didn’t get it. She didn’t get it. It kind of got pushed to the side and was only getting pulled out at the end of the week when I felt like we still needed to check off that subject.

It just wasn’t working for us.

I had kind of an epiphany moment in thinking back to her older sister who had also homeschooled from day one, but had started reading at age 4. That’s when it clicked for me. If I could teach her sister to read without a set curriculum, I could teach her as well. I don’t even know why I had wasted my money on the curriculum in the first place.

Here’s the big secret: I taught her older sister how to read with being consistent, working with her on what she knew, adding a little bit more until it was mastered, and then building confidence. All of this translated into a lot of reading with mom though.

Let me explain my method a little better. I started her out with homemade flashcards of 3-5 sight words for kindergarteners. We would go through these every chance we got, waiting during errands, appointments, spare time at home, you name it. If she could make it through the stack of cards perfectly, I’d add about 2-3 more, depending on her familiarity with the words and how big the stack was already.

This is the main thing I talked about above except for what I feel is the key: building confidence. With my 5-year-old, her siblings would occasionally point out to her that she couldn’t read yet, and I always made them rephrase it with a yet. She isn’t able to yet, but she will. I firmly believe in 1) building confidence and 2) not allowing others to bash it. 

How I build confidence for children while they are learning to read is starting with words that go together, no matter how awkwardly, in a sentence. I want to be able to end a lesson with, “good job, look at you, you’re reading!” Even if all a child can read is “I go,” they’re beginning to read and no matter how small, it is reading.

I worked with my daughter during her most recent lesson and we were able to put together some pretty big sentences like, “I can see the cat go up and down.” They’re little words, but they’re reading, and I watched my daughter on some of the words trying to sound them out or remember from the last time we had done them and it reminded me of a quote (pictured below) as to how fortunate homeschool moms are to be able to have these moments with their children, to teach their children these things instead of expecting someone else to. It allows you to know your child so much better.

Once my daughter gets better at more sentences and a few more words, I will end up putting together a book for her using the words she has been working on, only I like to throw in new words, but using pictures, like maybe your child knows, “I see dad go in the” you could draw a house to introduce the word house, or colors can be introduced if they know car, draw a yellow car for example. Then they get to practice with their book. They can even practice with friends and family who come over.

This builds their confidence with reading.

What have you done to teach your child to read?