Recommended resources (not just for homeschooling)

resources.jpgWhen I visited Homestars in October, I shared a lot of information and it may have been overwhelming. As a reminder, here are the resources I had on display that day:

Alpha-Phonics, or How to Tutor, is essentially a book of word lists organized by phonetic pattern. The only difference is that Alpha-Phonics has large print intended for a child to read, and How to Tutor has additional sections on math and handwriting. I don’t recommend what he says about math and handwriting, but the advantage of using How to Tutor is that it’s easy to find used, and it causes you to use the methods I recommend instead of just having the child read from the book. With spelling practice, the game I’m working on, and UpWords (below) a beginning reader never needs to actually read the word lists. The best place to find this is on Bookfinder.

UpWords is similar to Scrabble, but instead of just building onto existing words, you can change them. MAT becomes MAP becomes MOP becomes FLOP becomes DROP and so on. This is a wonderful way for children to practice seeing the patterns in words, and much more fun than reading from a list. The best place to find this game is at thrift stores. If you’d rather not wait, it’s available at Wal-Mart/Kmart/Shopko/etc.

The ABCs and All Their Tricks is an encyclopedia of spelling patterns, based on analysis of over 17,000 common words. This isn’t necessary to teach reading, but it’s great for anybody who wants more detail. It’s more detailed than any phonics book I’ve seen. If I had had this book when I was ten, I might have made it to the national spelling bee. Which isn’t an important accomplishment in the whole scheme of things, but I would have been gratified. The best place to find this is on Bookfinder.

Cuisenaire Rods are a way for children to figure out how math works and understand more deeply than they would with traditional methods. Even when a child is playing with these, they’re learning math without knowing it. Rods are so versatile that I once taught binary to a fourth-grader, without even intending to! I can order these at wholesale prices, cheaper than you can buy them anywhere else.

Algebra models do for algebra what Cuisenaire Rods do for basic math. I can also order these at wholesale prices.

Fraction circles are a great way to represent fractions. You can visually demonstrate finding a common denominator, and why it’s necessary. I can order these at wholesale prices.

Geoboards are a hands-on way to learn two-dimensional geometry, allowing experimentation and correction without having to redraw. I can order square grid, isometric, and circular geoboards at wholesale prices.

Zome is a wonderful building system that can be a toy, or a tool for research scientists. People use it to teach geometry, chemistry, art, algebra, probability, physics, and intangible skills like critical thinking and collaboration. The best place to buy this used is probably eBay, but compare the prices there with new prices, because sometimes they’re close. If your budget is tight, you can start building with pipe cleaners and stir sticks.

Koosh balls or puffer balls help with concentration and lateral thinking, even for people who don’t have ADD. I’ve been amazed by how many people who don’t think they need it, think better with a toy in their hands. These are rarely available in stores, but I can order them.

Weapons of Mass Instruction is an expose of the traditional education system, written by a former teacher who had worked in a great variety of schools. After he had been named Teacher of the Year, he eventually quit in disgust, feeling he had wasted his time by trying to work within the system. He makes a compelling case for throwing out the script and encouraging students to learn freely. Even people who already encourage independent learning will be challenged by this book. The best place to find this is on Bookfinder.

Homeschooling doesn’t produce perfect kids

I once heard somebody ask, “Would you be more angry if you found out your child was smoking, or they had cheated in school?” Our attitudes and reactions often belie our stated priorities.

In the past several years, I’ve known of a number of homeschooled kids whose behavior changed as they grew up or when they started going to public school. I don’t know all the details, but I would bet some of the reasons are described in this article.

These are pitfalls common to all parents who have high standards for their kids. Perfectionism is endemic to our culture, and one of the terrible side effects is that even when we succeed in controlling all the details, we lose sight of what’s important.

The perverse nature of expectations

Many parents understand that if you have expectations for a child’s talents or accomplishments, you’re going to be disappointed. Even if they meet your expectations technically, the experience will be overshadowed by pressure. However, if you encourage whatever a child is interested in, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they accomplish.

The same is true of expectations in any area of life. Expectations can cause us to miss possibilities we didn’t expect, or to focus on details and lose sight of the true goal, or even to settle for less than what could be, when the expectation is met.

What expectations do you try to live up to, intentionally or unconsciously, and where do they come from? How have expectations been detrimental to your education experiences?