5 Pitfalls to Avoid in Teaching Your Own

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By Maggie Dail, M.A. Learning Specialist

Homeschoolers that I work with and encounter conscientiously teach their own with the greatest of goals. While not all, but many of these families also face learning challenges in their children. When we work together to determine the missing pieces in the learning process or set up an academic plan, parents begin hopeful, but often times become overwhelmed and fall into a number of pitfalls. Sometimes parents set themselves up to fail when they adopt another person or school’s expectations. Here are some that I have observed:

  1. Forgetting that character matters. I have a little poster on the wall above my desk that lists about 31 “Important Things That Tests Can’t Measure” (All About Learning poster.) I administer many assessments, but they do not give the full picture of a child. We must keep things like determination, helpfulness and self-control as priorities.
  2. Binding yourself to someone else’s schedule. When possible, come up with a schedule that fits your family. If you homeschool all of your children, you do not have to think about a school schedule. Studies show that a schedule that is not too strict or too loose provides the best academic results. Your “perfect schedule” will not mimic that of another, but will be yours.
  3. Sticking to a nine-month a year academic schedule. While this must be a family decision, I highly recommend considering a year around program with shorter breaks. Yes, we need breaks, but THREE MONTHS? School textbooks typically spend the first 4- 6 weeks of school reviewing from last year. Why? Because people do not retain new information for three months. Taking this much time off at a time proves even more challenging for those with learning difficulties. For those working with us for Brain Training, we recommend shorter breaks throughout the year. Ask yourself, “What are the things I continue doing consistently throughout the year even if I am ‘on vacation’?” My list includes: personal hygiene, eating, sleeping, daily time of prayer and Bible reading, activities that I use to keep my mind alert as I age (word games, world language lessons, puzzles). One thing that should be on the list, but it is a struggle when away from home or if I am not feeling especially great: physical therapy exercises that help maintain my joints. For your struggling learner, some Brain Training should be on that list. If you choose or must follow a nine-month schedule, be sure to find time during the summer to review the basics in math, have them read much and go on field trips.
  4. Trying to implement too many new things at one time. When you add something new to your schedule, you want to be consistent, so that means you need to add slowly. We must remind those working on Brain Training to add some activities each day or so until all of the recommended activities have been added. Even then, it may seem like too much, so we recommend that they work through the whole plan evenly. For instance, if they do not complete the whole plan in a day, pick up where they left off the next day so that within the week the whole plan will have been completed 2 or 3 times rather than 5 times.
  5. Expecting to fulfill difficult academic goals without providing the proper foundation. I do not believe homeschoolers keep their children home from school because of laziness. They want the best for their children so they set high expectations. Often, at the expense of building that foundation, they keep demanding their children succeed in the academics. Believe it or not, children who follow through consistently on their Brain Training activities and spend less time on their academics, actually test higher than those who spend more time on the academics and barely get to the foundational activities.

As you approach the holidays, the summer or any break think about how you can maintain progress rather than find your child struggling to get back on track or losing ground.

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Preparing for Your New Homeschool Year: Annual Assessments for Homeschoolers

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By Maggie Dail, Learning Specialist

Homeschooling parents tend to think about the annual assessments for their children towards the end of the year. Unless your state requires a specific time of the year, consider doing at the beginning of the year – especially if this is your first year of homeschooling. No matter when you do it, you should use your child’s test results to plan for the new homeschool year.  In around 20 states these tests are required by their homeschool laws. Washington State is one of those and allows for two types – standardized and non-test assessments. When you have the option, choose the one which fits your family / child best.

  • Standardized tests – While some are administered in online formats, they have traditionally been administered by having the student fill in the bubbles on an answer sheet. They are then normed and standardized meaning that they tell you how your child compares to a representative 99 others. Further, they are to be administered according to set rules and times.
  • Non-test Assessments – In the Washington State homeschool law these are not defined per se, but they are to be administered by a certified teacher currently working in the field of education.  Since the assessments are not defined, qualified test administrators use a variety of measures – some more subjective and others more objective.

Whether your state requires annual assessments or not, you can gain valuable information from these experiences. Other than “the homeschool law requires assessments” these may prompt you to have your children tested:

  • Assess a starting point in your homeschooling (given before you begin or early on). Using the same instrument of assessment before and after provides comparable scores.
  • Assess whether the curriculum, learning styles or methods you are using are helping your child learn.
  • Provide preparation for your child to take college entrance tests in the future.
  • Provide objectives or ideas for study for the next year, semester or month.
  • Provides a “third party” assessment of the academic process.
  • Identifies areas that the child may need some additional help.

 

Unlocking Learning Potential provides a number of assessments for homeschoolers in any state via video conferencing year around. For more information:

https://www.unlockinglearningpotential.net/services-1

One more thing: Remember that testing is only part of your evaluation of your educational program. These assessment tools may tell you much, but remember many of the things that assessments cannot measure.

Important Things Tests Can't Measure

Preparing for the New Homeschool School Year: Missing Pieces in Elementary Math Curriculum

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As your new homeschool year approaches (or has arrived) you may still need some help for a math curriculum that works for your elementary aged child. You need to remember that there are three areas of math to cover: facts, computation and concepts. If math has already become a struggle for your child, then you will especially want to break math down into these three areas. Spread math over the course of the day with short sessions covering these areas in separate sessions.

 

  1. Math Facts – Math facts are primarily a function of auditory memory so be sure you present this new information to your child auditorily as well visually. Whether you have a full math curriculum or find materials that cover the different parts, you must include this in your child’s day.

 

My Best Recommendation for Learning Math FactsRapid Recall System 

 

  1. Math Computation – At a different time of the day work on computation skills. Computation is primarily a function of visual memory so I recommend 75% visual instruction. That is you do three problems for your child as he watches. You say only a few words to identify steps as you go along. Then your child does the fourth one. Repeat for the duration of the session of say, 10 minutes. You start with simple addition and work up to long division, fractions etc. If the child doesn’t remember a math fact, tell them so that the process of computation is learned without interruption. You work on the math facts during a separate time. You can get the computation problems from any math book, but if you just want to pay for the computation problems, get a book that has only those problems in it.

 

My Best Recommenation for Learning Math Computation: Remedia Press – Straight Forward Math and Key to….. (Decimals, Percents, Measurement etc.)

 

  1. Math Concepts – The first two items are the nuts and bolts of math. Concepts are how the basics are applied to real life. If you want a regular curriculum, look into Math U See, Singapore Math and Right Start Mathematics. They cover the whole spectrum of math in a fresh way, but it makes it harder to separate out the three parts and concentrate on one at a time. There are a host of math games available that apply these math concepts in an interesting way. You can spend big bucks. Perhaps a better way is a book of games that you can play as a family. My best recommendation is actually a series of books, but the original is the best overall for K-8 math games. Family Math arranges the games in sections according to the different math concepts. Each game has an objective, instructions and sometimes a page that serves as a game board. You may need to add some household items for game pieces. Each game is labeled for one or more of the three age groups within K-8.

 

My Best Recommendation for Learning Math Concepts:  Family Math

Bonus Recommendation for Mental Math / Auditory Skills:  Verbal Math Lessons Series

 

Since math skills build on each other, home educators find it helpful to use a “Scope and Sequence” for navigating through math. Downloadable lists of skills can be found on the Internet. By including math facts, computation and concepts you can prepare your children for Algebra, Geometry and beyond.

Preparing for the New Homeschool Year: Record-keeping

FA-Online-logo-w-tag-1Whether you  homeschool in Washington state or in another state…think about record-keeping. 

By Maggie Dail, M.A.

I have often asked graduates of Able to Teach, a state-approved parent-qualifying course for those wanting to teach their own children in Washington, “Based on your understanding of the homeschool law, what records do you plan on keeping?”

Generally, I get parts or all of the following:

  1. Copy of Declaration of Intent
  2. Copy of the Able to Teach certificate
  3. Planner / portfolio that reflect the time spent on the 11 subjects (K-8) or graduation requirements (9-12).
  4. Annual Assessments

Since the only document that the law requires you to submit is the Declaration of Intent (or maybe in your state nothing is required), one might ask, “Why keep records at all?” Here are my answers:

First, and most importantly for yourself:

  • To help you plan and assess how you are doing.
  • To help you on one of those “bad days”- when you or someone else is “beating you up”- (you know the kind of day that every parent has whether you are homeschooling or not).

 

Second, it is always better to have records if any one of the following occasions mentioned below occurs. Do not let this scare you, because if you are ready you will have the records to show the appropriate authorities (not just anyone who comes to your door).

  • CPS – Even if a well-meaning neighbor makes a call with erroneous information, CPS is required to investigate. If you have records it will more than likely be a brief investigation.
  • Custody battles – Sadly, in my experience, this is the most frequent request for records.
  • Homeschool child is in trouble with the law.

 

Finally, transferring to a school. It is always the receiving school that decides the requirements for enrollment and what they will accept.

  • Elementary /Middle School – usually children are placed according to age, but they may want records.
  • High School – Credits and graduation requirements now matter. (State Approved Private Extension programs like Academy Northwest, which is also accredited, help with transcripts, diplomas and so much more.)
  • College Entrance – varies with college – survey your desired colleges as soon as possible. See pages 53,54 in Homeschooling the High Schooler Available through Homeschool Resources Also see: www.academynorthwest.org

I also encourage parents to consider having a conversation with their children about their “grade level and school.” While Washington State’s truancy laws (Becca Laws) do not target homeschoolers, occasionally they might be mistaken as truants. Older children may be out of their home during school hours if they are part of homeschool activities or even work. More than likely any one questioning them will be satisfied with “I homeschool” at the least or “here is a copy of my declaration of intent” at the most.

Parents may want to talk with their children to be sure they understand that homeschooling is legal and a good choice for their family. Also, if the child is working at a different grade level for different subjects they may not know their grade. For the most part it doesn’t really matter, but if someone asks a child, “Where do you go to school?” or “What grade are you in?” they will be more confident if they know how to answer.

There is no one right way to keep records! You can keep what is most helpful to you and that reflects that you follow the homeschool law in your state. Happy Homeschooling!

 

Maggie Dail has taught for over 40 years and worked with homeschoolers full time since 1994. She has been teaching Family Academy’s Able to Teach, parent qualifying course since 2003. www.familyacademy.org

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 22)

A Book Review: Younger Brains, Sharper Minds by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

We have finally arrived at Braverman’s final chapter and recommendations:

Chapter 14- The Daily Smarts

Once you have followed the six steps, Braverman recommends the Daily Smarts:

Stimulate brain and body with daily exercise

Monitor diet and mood by keeping a journal

Actively engage in life to stay mentally fit

Read something every day to increase intelligence

Take your medication, nutrients, and hormone therapies as prescribed.

Sleep to restore and reset your brain. P. 253

I recommend that you purchase this book to get the many specifics that I left out including the Braverman Brain Advantage Test.

What parts of this book have you found helpful?

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 21)

A Book Review: Younger Brains, Sharper Minds by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Part III – Your Brain, Your Body

Chapter 13 – Reversing Disease Makes You Smarter

Braverman reminds us that “almost every illness of the body wears down the brain. The brain burns up when metabolism is out of control; it swells in an inflammatory response to an immune system issue; it dries out as it calcifies from bone density loss; it rusts from exposure to metals and toxins and it gets choked to death from a diminished ” P. 229

“This is why the cascade of poor health is so often experienced in the following order of events.

  • Loss of brain power and speed
  • Loss of visual, verbal, and working memory
  • Loss of complex attention
  • Loss of cognition, abstract thinking ability, inductive reasoning, and spatial orientation
  • Glands and organs of the body begin to fail” p. 230-231

The body ages when brain speed declines– over the next few pages Braverman lists the physical health breakdowns and the brain chemical deficiency. P. 231-233

Then on pages 234-235, Braverman has a chart that shows diseases that affect cognition.

Frequently, he has mentioned things like, “By following the Braverman Protocol, you can take your health into your own hands by first making small but significant lifestyle changes.” P. 236

Dr. Braverman spends extra time on the following: cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels, hypertension (high blood pressure), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizures and epilepsy, sickle cell disease, stroke, thyroid disorders.” P. 237-248

One interesting thing Braverman said: “Seizures occur on a continuum: anxiety, depression, insomnia and panic are on one end, and epilepsy on the other.” P. 243

“Brain Training reverses tinnitus” according to a Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (2011) p. 243

Dr. Braverman counsels the reader to “work with your doctor to reverse disease and restore your memory.” He says to “start with the very best physical.’ He lists 12 different ultrasounds and scans that he would include in such a physical. P. 248-250

After dealing with life-threatening conditions, Dr. Braverman would use his “steps of care” using the mildest options first and progressing as needed. P. 250-251

Next time we will finish up the last chapter of the book with Braverman’s “Daily SMARTS.”

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 20)

A Book Review: Younger Brains, Sharper Minds by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Chapter 12: Step Six – Brain-Balancing Medications

We have finally arrived at Braverman’s sixth and final step for “preserving and improving memory and attention.” (cover)

Braverman spends this chapter listing medications that he uses with his patients when other things do not work by themselves. These medications enhance the brain chemicals mentioned in this book.

  • GABA medications lessen anxiety and increase confidence
  • Anti-depressants are common types of serotonin-enhancing medications
  • Aspirin may be good for your thinking
  • Other medicines restore memory
  • Dopamine medications help increase attention
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors may help improve Alzheimer symptoms
  • Leptin – enhancing medications help balance your brain chemistry
  • “Medical Marijuana Won’t Help Your Thinking” – while he has used the pill form with a small set of his patients, he still considers it a “neurotoxin”

This reviewer is not a medical doctor and for her, personally, prefers using all of the other possibilities before taking prescribed medications.

We are set to finish up with Part III – Your Brain, Your Body

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 19)

A Book Review: Younger Brains, Sharper Brains by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

 

Chapter 11- Step Five: Natural Hormones Jump-Start Quick Thinking

“The correlation is particularly important because your hormones control different aspects of cognition at each of the developmental stages of life.”

  • Highest peak for memory and attention – just after puberty – increase of hormones
  • Memory and attention wane at hormonal decline – menopause or andropause p. 195-196

“Bioidentical hormone supplements work as nutrients that feed an aging brain.” P. 196

Different hormones decline at different ages.

Nonbioidentical hormones to avoid: Methyltosterone (Android, Testred, Virlon); Conjugated estrogens (Prempro, Premarin); Medroxprogesterone (Provera); Cadaver growth hormones (cadaver-GH); birth control pills Highlighted text box, p. 199

19 Hormones You Need to Know –  From A (Aldosine) to V (Vitamin D) – Braverman introduces the reader to each of these 19 hormones.p. 199-206

Natural Hormones are one choice for menopausal women – “We now know that MCI and menopause are dynamically related.” P. 206 Braverman writes about “what menopause looks like” and that “perimenopause precedes menopause.” Then he speaks of “men menopause too.” P. 208-211

Next time: Step Six – Brain-Balancing Medications

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 18)

A Book Review: Younger Brains, Sharper Brains by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Chapter 10: Step Four: Exercises That Boost Your Brain

Health Benefits of Physical Exercise Include:

  • Losing weight and keeping it off
  • Improving sexual function
  • Strengthening cardiovascular health
  • Maintaining bone density
  • Improving brain function

“If you constantly engage in mental and physical activities, particularly those that get more difficult as you progress, you can increase your cognitive reserve.” P. 178

  • Braverman Brain Workout –choose a domain or domains
  1. Enhancing Memory –Visual Memory
    1. Drawing maps from home to varying locations – farther and farther away
    2. Take 5 playing cards from a deck; look one at a time; memorize number and suit; turn cards over and write down what you saw and in the correct order; keep adding.
    3. Select a photo (album, Facebook etc.); Write down as many details as possible from memory
  2. Enhancing Memory– Verbal Memory
    1. Listen to the news for 2 minutes. Write everything you remember. Add more time as you go.
    2. Think of songs that contain the word blue in the title or lyrics. Keep adding; after 4 days go on to another word.
    3. Memorize a haiku, repeat from memory. Increase in complexity.
  3. Enhancing Memory -Improve your Immediate Memory
  4. At bed time make a list of everything you ate that day.
  5. Close eyes and describe what you are wearing; more challenging describe what others are wearing.
  6. List 5 people you spoke to during the day. Gradually increase the number.
  7. Enhancing Memory-Improve Your Working Memory
  8. Using an address book or e-mail contact list; remind yourself how each person looks and when you saw them last.
  9. Write down how much money you spent during each transaction.
  10. Chunking sorts large amounts of information into subgroups. For example: a grocery list can be remembered by what is in each aisle. P. 182-182
  11. Enhancing Attention
  12. Tapping a table as many times as possible in 30 seconds; increases by 15 seconds until you get to 2 minutes – faster all of the time.
  13. Practice reading with different kinds of background sound – music, news programs, etc. Increase by 5 minutes each time.
  14. Play: Game of Five Differences – looking at two images with 5 differences (apps available). Begin with 2 minutes and reduce gradually to 15 seconds.
  15. Take a walk – increase your speed as you progress.p. 183
  16. Enhancing IQ –
  17. Abstract IQread a newspaper from cover to cover.
  18. Creative IQ – Flexibility “What if…challenges.
  19. Emotional IQ – getting out of the house; listening to lectures or sermons
  20. Perceptive IQ – be a good role model and teacher p. 184

 

Braverman also includes activities for becoming more sensitive or intuitive; becoming more rational and how to break bad habits. P. 185-186

He suggests rotating through the types of activities on different days of the week.

  • Braverman Recommendations for Physical Activities
  • “The point is to get out of your comfort zone for as little as 15 minutes to see what sparks your interest.” P. 187
  • Addresses anxiety and depression
  • Increases serotonin and GABA
  • Aerobics increases blood flow p. 188
  • You need muscle mass for better thinking
  • Competitive sports make you think faster p. 189
  • Consistently increase expectation; but not to the point of pain.
  • Braverman cautions by asking a series of questions to determine whether you are ready to exercise (heart condition, pregnancy, dizziness, bone or joint – etc. ask doctor) p. 190
  • Mix it up – a routine should not be the same all the time for ever. p. 190
  • The PATH to Exercise – 5 Phase Program
  1. Stretching and warm-up – work up to walking 15 minutes daily
  2. Dynamic combinations of stretches that induce blood flow and heart pumping.p. 191
  3. Aerobic/cardiovascular training – rhythm and synchrony of whole body. P. 192
  4. Weight lifting/resistance training – for bones and muscles
  5. Cross-training – combines #3 and #4.

Braverman gives further advice that will maximize this process. P. 193-194

Next Braverman talks about Step Five: Natural Hormones Jump-Start Quick Thinking

How Does the Brain Affect Our Lives? (Part 17)

A Book Review: Younger Brains, Sharper Brains by Eric R. Braverman, M.D.

by Maggie Dail, M.A., Learning Specialist

Step 3 – Diet and Nutrition (continued)

Now for Braverman’s 10 Rules for a Younger, Smarter You:

  1. Add spices to every meal (provides nutrients and antioxidants plus it allows your foods to metabolize better – He lists 24 herbs and spices from A(allspice) to T(turmeric). 1 teaspoon of dried herbs equals 3 teaspoons of fresh. P. 149-152.
  2. The right caffeine improves cognition –should be regular, but not excessive – daily in moderate doses; tea is better than coffee or caffeinated sodas; most research on Green Tea – “can increase metabolism, decrease appetite, and provide energy for exercise. It is also linked to preventing a host of diseases that are associated with cognitive decline, from heart disease to cancer to allergies and diabetes.” These teas have brain-enhancing properties: Chamomile, Lemon balm, passion flower and roobibos. P. 152-154
  3. Eat yogurt every day to enhance brain speed – Braverman recommends low over no fat and Greek version as they are less processed. Avoid flavored varieties because of sugar content. Can create a smoothie adding some fresh fruit. P. 154-155
  4. Lean Proteins create the most brain power – “The foods you eat influence levels of both glucose and insulin, and their levels affect your ability to think clearly.” p. 155-156

Top 5 Brain-Boosting Snacks:  (highlighted text box on p. 155)

  • 1 handful of raw, unsalted nuts
  • 1-2 hard boiled eggs
  • ½ hummus and raw carrots
  • 8 oz. of unflavored low-fat Greek Yoghurt with fresh fruit, ice, and whey protein
  1. Kick the sugar habit. – First – switch to sugar substitute; Then – reduce by half each time to remove from diet. P. 156-157
  2. Choose fiber-filled foods to cleanse your body – good sources: oats, beans, dried peas, fruits, vegetables and legumes. To promote regularity and soft stools: wheat bran, whole grain products and vegetables, especially leafy green. P. 157-158
  3. Drink Water – p. 158
  4. Eat colorful fruits and vegetable to slow cognitive decline: red, orange and yellow, green, blue, violet and purple. P. 158-159
  5. Choose High-Quality Produce – local and organic p. 159-160
  6. Include all three basic food groups (carbs, protein, and fats) at every meal. P. 160-161

Regional Specialties are also brain-boosting agents – Braverman continues this step with charts on dining in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Europe. He continues with helpful points on what questions to ask when eating out. P. 161-167

Dr. Braverman provides charts of nutrients that make you smarter. He recommends a supplement called “Revertrol.” He calls it “Reverse it all.” P. 168-169

Choose Treats Wisely – but don’t overdo: blueberries, cranberry juice,  dark chocolate, grapes, hops, peanuts, pistachios, pomegranate juice, port and sherry, red grape juice, red wine, white grape juice, white wine. P. 169 – highlighted text box.

Braverman finishes his discussion of Step 3 by listing nutrients that lower stress, fight depression, encourage faster thinking, and boost attention. P. 170-174

He recommends the following supplements for “enhancing exercise performance:” Coenzyme 10, Creatine, Glocosmine and/ or chondroitin, Glutamine, L-carnitine and whey protein. P. 174-175

He also reminds us that “not all supplement brands are equal.”  He has his own brand: Total Health Nutrients available on www.pathmed.com p. 175

Next time we will learn about Step Four: Exercises That Boost Your Brain