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  1. #1

    Default A Secular, Eclectic, Academic Approach to Homeschooling

    A Secular, Eclectic, Academic Approach to Homeschooling
    Hi, my name is Blair Lee, and this week I will be hosting the discussion on From Soup to Nuts. I would like to leave the discussion open to any of the topics I write and speak about: secular, eclectic, academic homeschooling, how people learn, science, travel, service projects, and writing.

    As an educator who chose to educate my child outside the traditional venue, I represent a growing trend in the homeschool community. During the ten years I have been homeschooling I have observed that learning, on many different levels, is far superior when academics are handcrafted to fit the strengths, weaknesses, and passions of an individual and their family, as happens with homeschooling. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan or detractor of any learning method. I am a cherry-picker of methods, using, discarding, and sometimes coming back to methods, including those from traditional schools, depending on the subject and how my son accesses information using a method. This eclectic, academic approach results in a person who loves learning and who understands how to learn, the two most important components of someone who is a life-long learner.

    The question I get at conferences and via email is how to do it? Why to do it is easy. The hard part is figuring out how to handcraft a unique course of study. I’ll share a secret, sometimes when we implement something really unique, I feel like we are jumping off a cliff with no parachute! It sounds very dramatic, doesn’t it? But it makes me nail-bitingly nervous. What if I blow it?!? What if this handcrafted education keeps Sean from being able to… to… to… I have never been able to figure out what our eclectic journey through education might keep him from, but the concern of this still creeps in from time to time. These days I don’t worry as much. I have come to realize these are the best times of my son’s education. It helps that we have been at this for 10 years. I have the benefit of perspective.

    Before retiring to homeschool, I was a chemistry and biology professor at community college. This is where I first began thinking about eclectic, academic approaches to learning science. It was then I realized the way subjects are easiest to teach often does not coincide with how they are best learned.

    Teaching science also gave me insight into how mixed and varied people’s understanding of science is. At the beginning of every semester, I asked my students for a show of hands of who was taking my chemistry course as an elective. Not one student ever raised their hand. Every person taking my class needed it to get a job or degree. I had students, most of whom had been in the military, who had a good grasp of the foundational fundamentals of science. The vast majority of my students, however, found their science courses challenging. I cared about my students’ success. Can you imagine being the reason someone could not realize their dream of becoming a nurse, a veterinarian, or a doctor? I couldn’t either. When you are teaching to a group with a wide gap in their knowledge of a subject, and you want to teach to all your students, you have to be innovative and offer lots of office hours.

    I began to think about how people learn science, so I could help my students who were struggling be successful in their science courses. One of the most common stumbling blocks was applying math to science. This is something I am doing and thinking about now with my son. I would spend the first week of my chemistry classes reviewing the math my students needed to be successful in their science classes. These are the lessons I am using to incorporate math into my son’s high school science. This mixed approach, varying the traditional with the innovative to design unique courses of study is often the academic approach we use at our house. What approach do you use?



    Wouldn’t it be fun to spend the week sharing tips, strategies, and stories about handcrafting an education?

    Have you ever had a situation where the best way to learn something didn’t coincide with the easiest way to teach it?

    We also incorporate travel and service projects as a part of my son’s education. I would love to talk about travel and service projects with you! Where have you been, or where do you want to go? Have you done any service projects? Do you want to do any? These have brought so much to our homeschool journey!

    Do you have any questions or thoughts about how people learn science, specific science concepts, organizing a science co-op, or incorporating applied math into your child’s science courses?

    I look forward to talking about any or all of these with you this week. If you want to discuss something that isn’t on this list, that’s okay too. Don't be shy. I love to talk, and I promise you, I can't wait to discuss homeschooling with you!
    Blair Lee loves to read, cook, laugh, hang out with friends, and homeschool. In 2015, she co-founded Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers, SEA Homeschoolers blog and SEA Homeschoolers on Facebook. Blair writes for the Real Science Odyssey Series, RSO, as well as blogs and magazines. Blair speaks about eclectic, academic homeschooling, science, and travel at homeschool conventions. You can follow her at blairleeblog, Twitter, Facebook, and Katch.

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    Hi Blair! Id just like to say, first, thank you for putting together the RSO Chemistry curriculum. My son is really enjoying it, and I appreciate that it gives a gentle foundation to the subject. (I have a feeling if I were trying to wing it, Id be trying to get him to solve molarity formulas or something inappropriate.) Finding good secular science is so difficult for the elementary ages - I tried a half dozen unsatisfying curriculums before landing at RSO.

    How or when do you start getting your kid involved with service projects? Volunteer work that *I* used to do, I quit when I had my second child, so Im not leading by example - and I dont believe I would have the time or energy to do it now. DS9 has indicated hed like to help at the county animal shelter, or with our local feral cat coalition - but (reasonably) they dont allow kids this young to help. Any suggestions on meaningful community work he could do would be appreciated!
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.

    Atheist.

    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alexsmom View Post
    Hi Blair! Id just like to say, first, thank you for putting together the RSO Chemistry curriculum. My son is really enjoying it, and I appreciate that it gives a gentle foundation to the subject. (I have a feeling if I were trying to wing it, Id be trying to get him to solve molarity formulas or something inappropriate.) Finding good secular science is so difficult for the elementary ages - I tried a half dozen unsatisfying curriculums before landing at RSO.

    How or when do you start getting your kid involved with service projects? Volunteer work that *I* used to do, I quit when I had my second child, so Im not leading by example - and I dont believe I would have the time or energy to do it now. DS9 has indicated hed like to help at the county animal shelter, or with our local feral cat coalition - but (reasonably) they dont allow kids this young to help. Any suggestions on meaningful community work he could do would be appreciated!
    Thank you for the kind words about RSO Chemistry. It is funny you say that about advanced topics. I see it often in science education. People will understand some very advanced topics, without understanding the basic principles, the foundational fundamentals that support those topics. I have noticed it can lead to a disconnect when trying to relate the information across disciplines or on a broader scale.

    You have hit the nail on the head as to the problem with service projects for people under 16. Until this year, my son is almost 16, I would sign up to volunteer and he would come along and help me. There are some very meaningful projects you can do together depending on your child’s interests.
    For animal lovers of all ages, the Backyard Bird Count is a great way to volunteer, https://www.audubon.org/content/abou...ard-bird-count.

    You could sign up to read at your local library, which is a lot of fun. I read for many years for a pre-school reading session at our local library. When I did this Sean would help me choose books; he would listen to me and offer suggestions as reading in different voices; When he was your son’s age, he would help with the little ones. He would get them settled, help them with the activity after the reading, help the kids choose books, and keep them settled and quiet during the reading. We included songs after each book. He would also occasionally lead these.

    Your son might be able to volunteer behind the scenes or on stage at a local theater group. Sean and I were members of a little theater for years. My participation was not necessary for his participation either.

    Your family could foster an animal.

    You could volunteer for a wildlife rescue group. This would require you to be the primary volunteer.

    You could participate in clean-up efforts. Parks, lakes, and beaches all have clean up days.

    You could collect donations for a homeless or animal shelter or another organization. The two we donated to this year are Volunteer Organization on Pine Ridge Reservation | Re-Member and we sent school supplies to a group of school children in Guatemala. I asked my friends and family to help out with supplies, and many of them did.
    Blair Lee loves to read, cook, laugh, hang out with friends, and homeschool. In 2015, she co-founded Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers, SEA Homeschoolers blog and SEA Homeschoolers on Facebook. Blair writes for the Real Science Odyssey Series, RSO, as well as blogs and magazines. Blair speaks about eclectic, academic homeschooling, science, and travel at homeschool conventions. You can follow her at blairleeblog, Twitter, Facebook, and Katch.

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    Wow! So many topics to discuss!!

    Service projects:

    When my kids were very young, they would help me deliver Meals on Wheels, once a week. The clients loved having young visitors, and for my kids it was sometimes like they had extra grandparents. We did this for about three years.

    In elementary school, the three of us volunteered at the local National park. At 10 & 11 years old, they were given their own "stations" to man during school fields trips. It was great fun watching their public school friends arrive and realize my kids were going to teach THEM!

    During middle and high school, the bulk of their service projects have been through 4-H. Helping at workshops, visiting nursing homes, helping with holiday parties at local parks have all been activities they've enjoyed. They also LOVE to volunteer to sort food at the local food pantry once a year when the USPS does their food drive in May.

    I think by starting young and teaching by example, my kids picked up a sense of giving back to the community, however much they can.

    Looking forward to what others have done as well!
    Carol

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward


    Daughter (22), a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son (21), a Purdue University senior majoring in Computer Science, minoring in math, geology, anthropology, and history

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    My daughter is 13 and volunteers at our public library. She does the holds, shelves books, arranges displays, etc. She started when she was 12. In the summer, she is also a book buddy where she is paired with a young student who sits and reads to her for an hour a week.

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    Hey Blair,

    Sean is in high school. It's often been discussed here on this site that many parents are worried about homeschooling for high school, and that even middle school is intimidating, academically...that the kids' abilities outstrip the teaching parent's knowledge base. Was there any point in which you "outsourced" part of Sean's learning? Has he done co-ops, etc., or had--I dunno--a tutor for something tricky? I mean I consider myself a relatively well-educated person but it would be a stretch for me to relearn and teach trig...! Many parents consider dual enrollment in community colleges for access to lab-based science classes, etc., but those classes are mostly open to kids who are 16 and older. Online classes are also an option (I believe you and Sean have done some).

    So can you tell us about the things you felt you couldn't teach him, and had him team up with others? We all have our knowledge gaps!! And as the mom of an only, I think collaborative learning is really important once they hit middle school...

    Thanks!
    El
    Eclectically homeschooling 8th grade dd, who likes science as much as art...

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by inmom View Post
    Wow! So many topics to discuss!!

    Service projects:

    When my kids were very young, they would help me deliver Meals on Wheels, once a week. The clients loved having young visitors, and for my kids it was sometimes like they had extra grandparents. We did this for about three years.

    In elementary school, the three of us volunteered at the local National park. At 10 & 11 years old, they were given their own "stations" to man during school fields trips. It was great fun watching their public school friends arrive and realize my kids were going to teach THEM!

    During middle and high school, the bulk of their service projects have been through 4-H. Helping at workshops, visiting nursing homes, helping with holiday parties at local parks have all been activities they've enjoyed. They also LOVE to volunteer to sort food at the local food pantry once a year when the USPS does their food drive in May.

    I think by starting young and teaching by example, my kids picked up a sense of giving back to the community, however much they can.

    Looking forward to what others have done as well!
    Those are fantastic ideas! I love this sentence, "I think by starting young and teaching by example, my kids picked up a sense of giving back to the community, however much they can." That is the crux of it. I think by doing however much they can kids can get a sense of accomplishment that is hard to get any way but volunteering. No matter their age, when someone volunteers, they really are making the world a better place through their own actions. LOL, can you tell this topic gives me the warm and fuzzies!
    Blair Lee loves to read, cook, laugh, hang out with friends, and homeschool. In 2015, she co-founded Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers, SEA Homeschoolers blog and SEA Homeschoolers on Facebook. Blair writes for the Real Science Odyssey Series, RSO, as well as blogs and magazines. Blair speaks about eclectic, academic homeschooling, science, and travel at homeschool conventions. You can follow her at blairleeblog, Twitter, Facebook, and Katch.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ebh87 View Post
    My daughter is 13 and volunteers at our public library. She does the holds, shelves books, arranges displays, etc. She started when she was 12. In the summer, she is also a book buddy where she is paired with a young student who sits and reads to her for an hour a week.
    Did your library let her volunteer without you? If so, how awesome of them. The volunteer work we did at our local library, really gave Sean and I a sense of community. The book buddy made me wonder if a boys and girls club would take teens as volunteers?
    Blair Lee loves to read, cook, laugh, hang out with friends, and homeschool. In 2015, she co-founded Secular, Eclectic, Academic Homeschoolers, SEA Homeschoolers blog and SEA Homeschoolers on Facebook. Blair writes for the Real Science Odyssey Series, RSO, as well as blogs and magazines. Blair speaks about eclectic, academic homeschooling, science, and travel at homeschool conventions. You can follow her at blairleeblog, Twitter, Facebook, and Katch.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blair Lee View Post

    It was then I realized the way subjects are easiest to teach often does not coincide with how they are best learned.


    This.

    This is why we are homeschooling my LD son.
    Mom to two boys
    14 year old/9th grade homeschooler
    Non homeschooled son heading to Reed College this fall, and proudly wearing his Reed/Atheist t-shirt.

    I spend a lot of time sitting in an ice skating rink - still

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blair Lee View Post
    People will understand some very advanced topics, without understanding the basic principles, the foundational fundamentals that support those topics. I have noticed it can lead to a disconnect when trying to relate the information across disciplines or on a broader scale.
    I'd love to hear more about this - examples, more thoughts.

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