Wednesday, 11 February 2009 10:00
-by Mimi Rothschild
Writing is an essential skill. While some worry that texting and instant messaging are causing our kids to lose their writing skills, the truth is that in the global marketplace, writing is a more essential skill than ever. With more of us working with people from other parts of the world, sharing jobs with workers who are in place at different times of day from ourselves, and working with information more than with objects, the ability to write is essential.
How can we be sure that our students are developing effective writing skills? While there are plenty of different ideas for teaching writing, the basic, most effective approach hasn’t changed since the earliest lessons on rhetoric.
• Start with good examples. While we might sometimes feel that getting our kids to read anything at all is enough of a goal, without trying to insist on quality, the truth is that what kids read affects how they write. If your kids resist reading classic literature, you can read aloud to them. Before TV, families enjoyed reading aloud together, and they still can. Start off with a great classic story like The Swiss Family Robinson or “The Gift of the Magi,” and make reading together a special time. Soon, encouraged by this experience, they’ll be open to reading excellent literature on their own.
• Encourage lots of writing. In order to write well, kids need to write often. Have your kids write journals, papers, letters to grandparents, stories, songs – anything they enjoy writing can be a good choice. If you have reluctant writers, let them start with shorter pieces and combine them with drawings, but get the kids writing every day.
• Give feedback. Unless we know what needs improvement, we can’t improve. You, another educator, or any trusted adult can help kids improve writing by helping them find errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Don’t discount the value of peer feedback, either. Let brothers and sisters help kids find the most exciting parts of what they’ve written, or the parts that are hard to understand and need clarification. Whoever gives the feedback, make sure that they mention what works as well as what needs work. Feedback is to help students improve, not to discourage them!
While study of grammar, spelling, punctuation and handwriting all have their place, the three steps above are the irreplaceable keys to good writing. Build them into your lessons for lasting success.
Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of LearningByGrace.org the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.
The Writing is on the Wall
Friday, 14 March 2008 14:58
By: Mimi Rothschild
Recently, the California judicial system has directed a two-part assault on Southern Baptist homeschoolers throughout their state. First, they have banned the words “mom and dad” and “husband and wife” from their schools – please read www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=58130 – and are forcing teachers to promote a more alternative sexual lifestyle.
The second part of the assault came last week when three judges essentially banned homeschooling, deeming 166,000 children truants – www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=25469 – and their parents as criminals.
This absurd ruling needs to be reversed. Please visit: www.ReverseTheRuling.com, and learn more information about this alarming issue, and have your voice heard by signing the petition. Our goal is to gain enough signatures to present this petition to the courts and let them know that America is watching. And we know what happens in California can happen anywhere in the United States!
More so, we know that this ruling has long-term ramifications of indoctrination on our children, diminishing the Christian Values that we’ve worked so diligently to instill in them. This is not a one-off case that only pertains to an isolated incident! No, it is a Ruling that eliminates a freedom that dates back to our forefathers.
Stay informed. Spread the word. Sign the petition.
History & Cooking
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 16:35
By: Mimi Rothschild
The civil war, also known as the War Between the States, is captured in our history books and our stories. Now your homeschoolers can get a little taste of it firsthand! Here’s a recipe that has been shared from generation to generation. It’s also a perfect early cooking lesson for your homeschooler!
Civil War Cookin’: Rumbled Eggs
2 oz. butter
1 tsp. cream or milk
Very convenient for a light dish for supper. Beat up three eggs with two ounces of fresh butter; add a teaspoonful of cream or new milk. Put all in a saucepan and keep stirring it over the fire for nearly five minutes, until it rises up like a soufflé; immediately dish it on some buttered toast and eat!
Adapted from Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the Pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Lily May Spaulding and John Spaulding, editors. Recipe from 1866.
Journaling Strategies For Homeschooling Students
Friday, 2 November 2007 09:14
By Mimi Rothschild
Homeschooling parents know that learning comes in a variety of ways. One way students can increase their knowledge of a subject is through journaling. Journaling is a learning tool that can be used in any class; it allows students to improve their writing skills, process information, and better understand a subject. Read more in this helpful article I found online.
Use these journaling strategies in your classroom to expand the learning capabilities of your students. Included are articles to teach you about each concept and lesson plans with which you can implement the strategies.
Learn how to incorporate journaling in your classroom. Teachers can use journaling as a kind of window into how students are thinking about what they are learning.
Use a double-entry journal, a graphic organizer included with this article, to encourage students to organize their thoughts on a specific subject in a new way.
This lesson, to be completed after reading The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain, has students practice their journaling skills.
Learn how to incorporate journaling in while teaching Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Teachers can use journaling as a window into how students are thinking about what they are learning.
Reflective journals are notebooks that students use when writing about their own thoughts. This encourages the development of metacognitive skills by helping students sort what they know from what they don’t know.
A dialogue journal is an informal written conversation between two or more people (student-student or student-teacher) about topics of mutual interest.
Students will demonstrate a beginning understanding of how to use dialogue journals or written conversations to express themselves in a written format by identifying previous experiences and relating them to the story.
Writing about mathematics helps students articulate their thinking, and provides useful information for teachers about learning difficulties, incorrect assumptions, and student’s progress in communicating about mathematics.
This lesson is an introduction to comparing fractions with like denominators and unlike numerators, for students with a basic understanding of fractions as part of a whole, numerators, and denominators. Students use math journals to complete the lesson.
This is an introduction to comparing fractions with unlike denominators. Students will compare fractions represented by drawings or models with unlike denominators.
ADHD and Home Schooling Children Who Are Gifted
Monday, 22 October 2007 14:46
By Mimi Rothschild
Have you ever wondered if your child has ADHD? Have you ever considered the idea that he is just extremely gifted? Learn more about children with ADHD and children who are gifted in this thorough article I read this past weekend. Let me know what you think, I appreciate your thoughts! Thanks!
ERIC EC Digest #E522, Authors: James T. Webb and Diane Latimer, 1993
Howard’s teachers say he just isn’t working up to his ability. He doesn’t finish his assignments, or just puts down answers without showing his work; his handwriting and spelling are poor. He sits and fidgets in class, talks to others, and often disrupts class by interrupting others. He used to shout out the answers to the teachers’ questions (they were usually right), but now he daydreams a lot and seems distracted. Does Howard have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is he gifted, or both?
Frequently, bright children have been referred to psychologists or pediatricians because they exhibited certain behaviors (e.g., restlessness, inattention, impulsivity, high activity level, daydreaming) commonly associated with a diagnosis of ADHD. Formally, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-III-R (American Psychiatric Association) lists 14 characteristics that may be found in children diagnosed as having ADHD. At least eight of these characteristics must be present, the onset must be before age seven, and they must be present for at least six months.
DSM-III-R Diagnostic Criteria for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder*
Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat (in adolescents may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness).
Has difficulty remaining seated when required to.
Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
Has difficulty awaiting turns in games or group situations.
Often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed.
Has difficulty following through on instructions from others (not due to oppositional behavior or failure of comprehension).
Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
Often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another.
Has difficulty playing quietly.
Often talks excessively.
Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into other people’s games).
Often does not seem to listen to what is being said to him or her.
Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities at school or at home (e.g., toys, pencils, books).
Often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences (not for the purpose of thrill-seeking); e.g., runs into street without looking.
Almost all of these behaviors, however, might be found in bright, talented, creative, gifted children. Until now, little attention has been given to the similarities and differences between the two groups, thus raising the potential for misidentification in both areas – giftedness and ADHD.
Sometimes, professionals have diagnosed ADHD by simply listening to parent or teacher descriptions of the child’s behaviors along with a brief observation of the child. Other times, brief screening questionnaires are used, although these questionnaires only quantify the parents’ or teachers’ descriptions of the behaviors (Parker, 1992). Children who are fortunate enough to have a thorough physical evaluation (which includes screening for allergies and other metabolic disorders) and extensive psychological evaluations, which include assessment of intelligence, achievement, and emotional status, have a better chance of being accurately identified. A child may be gifted and have ADHD. Without a thorough professional evaluation, it is difficult to tell.
How Can Parents or Teachers Distinguish Between ADHD and Giftedness?
Seeing the difference between behaviors that are sometimes associated with giftedness but also characteristic of ADHD is not easy, as the following parallel lists show.
Behaviors Associated with ADHD (Barkley, 1990)
Poorly sustained attention in almost all situations.
Diminished persistence on tasks not having immediate consequences.
Impulsivity, poor delay of gratification.
Impaired adherence to commands to regulate or inhibit behavior in social contexts.
More active and restless than normal children.
Difficulty adhering to rules and regulations.
Behaviors Associated with Giftedness (Webb, 1993)
Poor attention, boredom, daydreaming in specific situations.
Low tolerance for persistence on tasks that seem irrelevant.
Judgment lags behind development of intellect.
Intensity may lead to power struggles with authorities.
High activity level; may need less sleep.
Questions rules, customs, and traditions.
Consider the Situation and Setting
It is important to examine the situations in which a child’s behaviors are problematic. Gifted children typically do not exhibit problems in all situations. For example, they may be seen as ADHD-like by one classroom teacher, but not by another; or they may be seen as ADHD at school, but not by the scout leader or music teacher. Close examination of the troublesome situation generally reveals other factors that are prompting the problem behaviors. By contrast, children with ADHD typically exhibit the problem behaviors in virtually all settings including at home and at school, though the extent of their problem behaviors may fluctuate significantly from setting to setting (Barkley, 1990), depending largely on the structure of that situation. That is, the behaviors exist in all settings, but are more of a problem in some settings than in others.
In the classroom, a gifted child’s perceived inability to stay on task is likely to be related to boredom, curriculum, mismatched learning style, or other environmental factors. Gifted children may spend from one-fourth to one-half of their regular classroom time waiting for others to catch up – even more if they are in a heterogeneously grouped class. Their specific level of academic achievement is often two to four grade levels above their actual grade placement. Such children often respond to nonchallenging or slow-moving classroom situations by “off-task” behavior, disruptions, or other attempts at self-amusement. This use of extra time is often the cause of the referral for an ADHD evaluation.
“Hyperactive” is a word often used to describe gifted children as well as children with ADHD. As with attention span, children with ADHD have a high activity level, but this activity level is often found across situations (Barkley, 1990). A large proportion of gifted children are highly active, too. As many as one-fourth may require less sleep; however, their activity is generally focused and directed (Clark, 1992; Webb, Meckstroth, & Tolan, 1982), in contrast to the behavior of children with ADHD. The intensity of gifted children’s concentration often permits them to spend long periods of time and much energy focusing on whatever truly interests them. Their specific interests may not coincide, however, with the desires and expectations of teachers or parents.
While the child who is hyperactive has a very brief attention span in virtually every situation (usually except for television or computer games), children who are gifted can concentrate comfortably for long periods on tasks that interest them, and do not require immediate completion of those tasks or immediate consequences. The activities of children with ADHD tend to be both continual and random; the gifted child’s activity usually is episodic and directed to specific goals.
While difficulty with adherence to rules and regulations has only begun to be accepted as a sign of ADHD (Barkley, 1990), gifted children may actively question rules, customs, and traditions, sometimes creating complex rules that they expect others to respect or obey. Some engage in power struggles. These behaviors can cause discomfort for parents, teachers, and peers.
One characteristic of ADHD that does not have a counterpart in children who are gifted is variability of task performance. In almost every setting, children with ADHD tend to be highly inconsistent in the quality of their performance (i.e., grades, chores) and the amount of time used to accomplish tasks (Barkley, 1990). Children who are gifted routinely maintain consistent efforts and high grades in classes when they like the teacher and are intellectually challenged, although they may resist some aspects of the work, particularly repetition of tasks perceived as dull. Some gifted children may become intensely focused and determined (an aspect of their intensity) to produce a product that meets their self-imposed standards.
What Teachers and Parents Can Do
Determining whether a child has ADHD can be particularly difficult when that child is also gifted. The use of many instruments, including intelligence tests administered by qualified professionals, achievement and personality tests, and parent and teacher rating scales, can help the professional determine the subtle differences between ADHD and giftedness. Individual evaluation allows the professional to establish maximum rapport with the child to get the best effort on the tests. Since the test situation is constant, it is possible to make better comparisons among children. Portions of the intellectual and achievement tests will reveal attention problems or learning disabilities, whereas personality tests are designed to show whether emotional problems (e.g., depression or anxiety) could be causing the problem behaviors. Evaluation should be followed by appropriate curricular and instructional modifications that account for advanced knowledge, diverse learning styles, and various types of intelligence.
Careful consideration and appropriate professional evaluation are necessary before concluding that bright, creative, intense youngsters like Howard have ADHD. Consider the characteristics of the gifted/talented child and the child’s situation. Do not hesitate to raise the possibility of giftedness with any professional who is evaluating the child for ADHD; however, do not be surprised if the professional has had little training in recognizing the characteristics of gifted/talented children (Webb, 1993). It is important to make the correct diagnosis, and parents and teachers may need to provide information to others since giftedness is often neglected in professional development programs.
*Note: “DSM-III-R Diagnostic Criteria for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” is reprinted with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1987.
American Psychiatric Association (1987). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third edition, revised. Washington, DC: Author.
Barkley, R. A. (1990). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment. Guilford Press: New York.
Clark, B. (1992). Growing up Gifted. New York: Macmillan.
Parker, H. C. (1992). The ADD Hyperactivity Handbook for Schools. Plantation, FL: Impact Publications.
Webb, J. T. (1993). “Nurturing social-emotional development of gifted children.” In K. A. Heller, F. J. Monks, and A. H. Passow (Eds.), International Handbook for Research on Giftedness and Talent, pp. 525-538. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Webb, J. T.; Meckstroth, E. A.; and Tolan, S. S. (1982). Guiding the Gifted Child: A Practical Source for Parents and Teachers. Dayton: Ohio Psychology Press.
This ERIC Digest was developed in 1993 by James T. Webb, Ph.D., Professor and Associate Dean, and Diane Latimer, M.A., School of Professional Psychology, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education
Organization: Advice for Parents
Tuesday, 16 October 2007 15:26
By Mimi Rothschild
Below is a wonderful article I ran across which I wanted to share with homeschooling parents. The article looks at the importance of being organized and how organization helps people succeed in life. The strategies below are easy to implement and will help any child do well in school. I encourage all homeschooling parents to take the time to read this informative article.
Developing good organizational skills is a key ingredient for success in school and in life. Although some people by nature are more organized than others, anyone can put routines and systems in place to help a child “get it together.” Here’s a list of strategies that you can use to help your child get — and keep — his life under control.
Help your child get into the habit of keeping a “to-do” list. Use checklists to post assignments, household chores, and reminders about what materials to bring to class. Your child should keep a small pad or notebook dedicated to listing homework assignments. Crossing completed items off the list will give him a sense of accomplishment.
Organize homework assignments.
Before beginning a homework session, encourage your child to number assignments in the order in which they should be done. She should start with one that’s not too long or difficult, but avoid saving the longest or hardest assignments for last.
Designate a study space.
Your child should study in the same place every night. This doesn’t have to be a bedroom, but it should be a quiet place with few distractions. All school supplies and materials should be nearby. If your young child wants to study with you nearby, too, you’ll be better able to monitor his progress and encourage good study habits.
Set a designated study time.
Your child should know that a certain time every day is reserved for studying and doing homework. The best time is usually not right after school — most children benefit from time to unwind first. Include your child in making this decision. Even if she doesn’t have homework, the reserved time should be used to review the day’s lessons, read for pleasure, or work on an upcoming project.
Keep organized notebooks.
Help your child keep track of papers by organizing them in a binder or notebook. This will help him review the material for each day’s classes and to organize the material later to prepare for tests and quizzes. Use dividers to separate class notes, or color-code notebooks. Separate “to do” and “done” folders help organize worksheets, notices, and items to be signed by parents, as well as provide a central place to store completed assignments.
Conduct a weekly clean-up.
Encourage your child to sort through book bags and notebooks on a weekly basis. Old tests and papers should be organized and kept in a separate file at home.
Create a household schedule.
Try to establish and stick to a regular dinnertime and a regular bedtime. This will help your child fall into a pattern at home. Children with a regular bedtime go to school well-rested. Try to limit television-watching and computer play to specific periods of time during the day.
Keep a master calendar.
Keep a large, wall-sized calendar for the household that lists the family’s commitments, schedules for extracurricular activities, days off from school, and major events at home and at school. Note dates when your child has big exams or due dates for projects. This will help family members keep track of each other’s activities and avoid scheduling conflicts.
Prepare for the day ahead.
Before your child goes to bed, he should pack schoolwork and books in a book bag. The next day’s clothes should be laid out with shoes, socks, and accessories. This will cut down on morning confusion and allow your child to prepare quickly for the day ahead.
Provide needed support while your child is learning to become more organized.
Help your child develop organizational skills by photocopying checklists and schedules and taping them to the refrigerator. Gently remind her about filling in calendar dates and keeping papers and materials organized. Most important, set a good example.
Adapted from “Tips for Developing Organizational Skills in Children” by the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD).
Texas Charter Schools, Part Two: Failing and Cheating
Friday, 6 July 2007 15:48
By Mimi Rothschild
The problems with charter schools in Texas are not limited to just one or two schools. There are charter schools all over Texas that are robbing students of a quality education, but state officials are having a tough time closing them down.
For example, Texas state officials are trying to close down the American Academy of Excellence charter school for four straight years of low ratings and financial mismanagement, but two bills that would have closed the American Academy of Excellence, and dozens of other struggling charter schools, didn’t make it very far at all. There are now a total of five bills which would’ve have closed failing charter schools in Texas that never passed due to a large number of opponents. But why do people oppose closing down charter schools that fail to educate the next generation of lawmakers, politicians, scientists, teachers, doctors, accountants, laborers, etc?
“Opponents of the bills say they would have punished campuses that are reaching out to dropouts, teen parents and other students who couldn’t make it in traditional public schools. Republican Representative Sid Miller said the school can’t be expected to meet traditional standards when its students arrive three to six grades behind other children their age.”
And what do Texas supporters of closing charter schools down say?
“Schools that can’t boost students’ test scores and get them to graduate aren’t doing young people any favors.”
I definitely agree with the last statement. Not only are charter schools wasting taxpayers’ money, but they are also setting their students up to fail once they graduate. Receiving a diploma is great, but a diploma from a Texas charter school most likely symbolizes a sub par education that was possibly influenced by cheating. Texas charter schools are doing a disservice to their students by staying open if they aren’t educating them or giving students the proper skills to succeed in life.
On the other hand, homeschooling offers hundreds of benefits. One of the most important benefits of homeschooling is that homeschooling delivers first-class customized educations to homeschooling students which equip them with skills that will allow them to be successful for the rest of their lives.
Explaining the Virginia Tech Massacre to Your Homeschoolers
Thursday, 19 April 2007 09:44
By Mimi Rothschild
Your homeschoolers may ask, “Why would God let a tragedy like this happen?” This is a tough question to answer, and one that even the greatest theologians disagree about.
I believe the best way to approach this issue is to explain to your children the ramifications of sin. Ever since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, humanity has suffered the consequences of their sin. We toil under the sun for our sustenance, we suffer diseases and death, and we experience grief and anguish.
God gives us free will. As a result, we must deal with the consequences of other people’s sin. Tragedies like the Virginia Tech Massacre are an extreme result of sin.
Remember to explain to your homeschoolers that God has a perfect plan for this world. Even though it may be hard to see it, it’s imperative that we trust him. If we truly believe that “He’s got the whole world in His hands”, then we must recognize that God knows what’s best for humanity as a whole. Let’s try to focus on that bigger picture.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:6-8