A Simple Approach to Teaching Developmental Homeschool Writing with the Portfolio

Teaching Developmental Homeschool Writing and the Homeschool Portfolio Writing is one of those things that is just hard for some people. I learned a lot about teaching developmental writing in college and grad school. While it was an outstanding foundation, I have actually learned so much beyond that by actually homeschooling my own children. Each child is different and has unique hurdles he or she must overcome. This approach meets him where he is and walks him on to the next step. This is the writing approach I use in my homeschool for elementary aged children. I have found that this pattern can be modified and tailored to children as young as 3 or 4 and all the way up to the child who is ready for very formal, lengthy essays. The Weekly Cycle and Our Portfolio When you keep each phase in the child’s portfolio and you will both be motivated by the progress you will see. The weekly cycle looks something like this: Day 1- Prewriting using a graphic organizer Day 2- Copy the sentences into a first draft Day 3/4- Edit the draft Day 4/5- Final draft Prewriting in the Developmental Goal: Get your thoughts on paper. Modifications: For the very young child, your goal is simply to help them understand that writing is no more than moving their thoughts to paper. Believe me, they have a lot to say! While it sounds very simple, this step can take quite a while for some. If the child can not yet physically write three to four sentences with ease, the parent should write the child’s thoughts for him. Most elementary aged children benefit from graphic organizers to help them collect enough thoughts to form solid paragraphs. I can’t emphasize these enough. They are fun and who doesn’t like to think about a big hamburger while writing? (see sample photos). Older children can move to a more word based outline format for prewriting. First Draft Goal: Make it look like writing. Modifications: Again, if the child is very young, the parent can model how to transfer his thoughts from the organizer to lined paper. It is a great time to emphasize the mechanics of writing such as directionality, letter formation, and the concept of a sentence. For the slightly older child, all him to copy his work from the organizer onto lined paper. Encourage him to pay attention to capitalization and punctuation. The older child should be thinking more about developing a voice in his writing and the quality of his sentences. He, of course, should write the first draft...

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3 Rules of Keeping for Homeschool Portfolios

What to Keep In Your Homeschool Portfolio Ever wonder what to keep in your portfolio? I have and so have many of my friends. For years, actually, I have thought about this and tried to come up with a working formula to make this easier. Well, there’s no formula per se but I do have three rules that help me in my homeschool on a daily basis. Note: This is the third and final post in a recent series on homeschool organization. To see the first post: Homeschool Organization…Not Your Typical Approach and 4 Step Homeschool Planning see these. My crew of kids are all the time making masterpieces, projects, and special work that… well… melts me. It’s hard to determine what to keep and not keep. So here you have it folks, the 3 Rules of Keeping that will keep you sane, organized, and at peace with managing all your kids’ creations without renting a storage unit. 3 Rules of Keeping for Homeschool Portfolios Does this show progress over time? Does this show important prior learning? Does this show where we went, what we did, or what we learned in a meaningful way? Progress Over Time We all like to improve. If this writing sample or musical performance will encourage my student by showing growth over time, then it gets the green light. If it is a total bomb and the child is discouraged by his work, I usually don’t keep it. Your portfolio includes the highlights and other nuggets of success. The portfolio should communicate a positive message, no matter where he is on the learning continuum. Penmanship, artwork, character development, and math often meet this rule in my house. Prior Learning Whether I use these for review, launching a new unit, or just celebrating what we’ve done as a family, prior learning is SUPER important. Some current green light items in this category for my family include chapter summary notes for  our Child’s History of America reader, mid year math assessments, and photos from our recent trip to the caves. Each of this items are nuggets I want to pull out in the future when introducing new concepts. They give a quick reminder about what the child already knows and the discussion around them can show me gaps that I need to fill in before jumping into the next topic. Learning is all about connections between what we already know and what is going to be learned. If you haven’t noticed, I use pictures. Lots and LOTS of pictures, videos, and audio clips. Meaningful Experiences Meaningful experiences can include where you went, what you’ve done, and/or what you’ve learned in a meaningful way. Field trips, cooking together, family milestones, and reaching individual goals are a few examples. Currently our family is trying a new project to learn about investments.  Each child has been given fake money and chosen select stocks in which to invest. Over time we are charting, graphing, researching, writing about, and making decisions about how our investments have fared. These are meaningful experiences. The weaving of life and learning together is a good indicator of a meaningful experience. Make It Your Own Your “green light” items will be different from mine. These 3 Rules of Keeping can guide you as you make choices about what work to keep and what to toss without feeling guilty. My LearningKeeper portfolio lets me add tons of items over the year so I don’t worry about needing to rent a storage unit. I attach the related photos, videos, and other files to the Achievement in our portfolios. Then, I often pitch the paper...

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4 Step Homeschool Planning: Where are we going again?

4 Step Homeschool Planning is the second in the Homeschool Organization Series See the first post here were we discussed the number one enemy of homeschool organization. We’re All Going Somewhere… Homeschooling with Purpose and Direction Pretend you announce to your kids “Go pack your bags, we’re going on a trip”. They bounce of the walls, more than normal, and head off with their suitcases. You all pile in the van, back out, and you stop… not sure which way to turn. Your precious first born says “Hey, where are we going anyway?”. You realize, you  missed that step in executing this trip, so on the fly you decide to go to the beach which is 10 hours away. Kid 2 says, “I didn’t pack my swim suit, but I packed my ski pants for the mountains”. Kid 3 says, “I packed hiking boots and our pop up tent. I was going camping”. Chaos ensues and you pull back in the driveway and go nowhere.   Sound ridiculous? Yes. Unlikely? Maybe not. Sometimes we approach schooling with a general vision, just like the mom who said, “We are going on a trip”. However, when she lacked specific direction, her children were all going different directions and making preparations that were less than helpful. Having a clear, common vision is foundational in organization.   Homeschool Organization and Planning: Chart the Course Taking time this week to be intentional about where you are going this semester will reap one hundred fold. Let’s keep it simple!  Reflect Look back at what went well for each student in the last term. What went well? What didn’t? Use this this free guide to get the most from your look back. Objectives With your reflective thoughts fresh, look forward to the time left this year. What you do want to change? Determining objectives is not as complex as many think. Basically, what do you want each child to master by the end of this time? Be specific. Determine objectives for at least the next quarter. Several free printables can be found at Donna Young’s Homeschool Goals page. Go through each subject you use and list what you would like your students to master. These objectives should then drive your resource selection… or help you weed out what you are currently using if it is not working. A clear vision has good, developmentally minded objectives as a foundation. Sample Objectives: add with carrying memorize all multiplication facts tying shoes understand the importance of the American Revolution write a well developed paragraph improve penmanship Determining objectives is an often skipped over step when someone goes to purchase curriculum. Early in my homeschooling I was guilty of buying curriculum by the grade level and having a very traditional approach to academic subjects. Those years were the most frustrating and burdensome in terms of artificial expectations. We had busy work, redundant activities, some lessons went too quick while others went on WAAAY too long. If you set the objectives, it is your foundation upon which you can strategically build your family’s educational plan. LearningKeeper portfolios makes tracking these objectives super easy too. You can add them in one easy step and tag each sample of student learning with the appropriate objective(s) as the year progresses.  Curriculum Armed with your objectives you can compare your main goals with the scope and sequence (or table of contents) in curriculum you are considering. This includes all the supplemental books, supplemental activities, and smaller resources you might use, even if they are not a standard ‘curriculum’. If you are continuing with what you were using in the last term, how do your...

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Homeschool Organization… Not Your Typical Approach

Organizing Your Homeschool and Charting Your Course We won’t discuss labeling, bins, and sorting. We won’t even bring up the status of your garage or basement. I’m talking here about real life, busy mom homeschool organization. In all honesty, I don’t have time to be disorganized and here is why. It’s a new year, but if you generally follow a traditional schooling schedule like us you are half way through another school year. So how has it gone? This time of year many moms do a ‘reboot’ and start fresh after winter break. This means looking both back and forward at the same time. You have a matter of months left this school year, so what would you like to accomplish and how will you get it all done? Jamie of The Unlikely Homeschool said it best, “I never want to be tied down to a sinking ship.” Make. It. Count. Why get organized? You get one, and only one shot at your years with your kids at home. This blog is here to support you in making it more meaningful and less stressful. Won’t you join me in this three post series on homeschool organization so you can accomplish bigger and better things with your kids this year? The Love/Hate Relationship with Paper The #1 nemesis in my homeschool is paper… I have a love hate relationship with it really. There’s nothing like a finger paint masterpiece or a beautiful piece of handwriting, but what do you with it all? Multiple kids, many years of school, and a sentimental tie to each beautiful creation. If you look around, are you likely plagued with piles of: sweet kid creations like: artwork, worksheets/workbooks, writing samples, and projects stuff you ‘might need’ to document learning personal papers like mail and bills books, Books, and MORE BOOKS! Paper is great but if you don’t rule it, it will rule you! Clutter and chaos are best friends. It drowns you physically and mentally and is keeping you and your kids from being your best. Win the Battle Homeschool paper clutter can be managed, easily. How? Your portfolio. Yes. That dry, boring, often meaningless pile (or binder if you are on top of things) can be the hub of your success. Homeschool organization that goes with and isn’t limited to two dimensions. Solution: The Portfolio Power You and your kids are setting out to do some really exciting and memorable things in the coming months. Do you stress about homeschool record keeping? How do you determine what to keep, and what to pitch? What about the year-end review that your state may require? Maybe you can’t decide so you pile it up or shove it in a box and let it weigh you down. “I can’t throw away their work”… It’s a battle of sentimentality mixed with a fear of needing it. I use my LearningKeeper ePortfolio to solve these problems. I capture learning as it happens and save the stuff that matters without taking up three closets.  My portfolio is a central tool in my homeschool. From planning and curriculum choices, to assessment and documentation your portfolio should be the heart of it all. Not sure how to do that? Join me in the next post: “Where are we going again?” Rebooting Resources for Homeschool Organization Cut personal clutter Cynthia Ewer at The Organized Home has a step by step process to help you de-clutter and stay that way. Learning Space and Resources Homemaking Organized has complied some great inspirational photos of learning spaces to inspire your homeschool organization. Make it your own though and stick to your budget. Look for little areas to...

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What I Learned from Gum Drops and Gingerbread

What am I really teaching? Every year I approach the holidays and vow that ‘this year will be different’. I will make those cookies with my kids, take time to play in the snow, and build gingerbread houses that would be the envy of the block. I would be ‘that kinda mom’ to make a mess and love it.  Every year though, I would plan to do that tomorrow… after we got through with school. I would separate academic and play to ultimately teach my kids that ‘learning’ and ‘life’ are mutually exclusive. Learning only involves only books and being boring is just part of the deal. I would also end up with a mammoth size case of mom-guilt for not being the fun mom, all in the name of real education. Days would come and go. We would be working away at ‘school’ but what was I really teaching?   Last year I had a bit of an awakening. Learning and life are NOT mutually exclusive but I lived in fear of having nothing to document what we actually did all day. LearningKeeper has changed that, and ‘this year IS different’. LearningKeeper lets me document that hands on activities that reinforce academic concepts. I thrive as mom because of it. No more guilt, no more fear, and no more feelings of inadequacy.   Learning Behind Making Gingerbread Houses Take today for example. Math got messy at my house. We ditched the textbook for today with the goal to build those gingerbread houses that had previously been skipped over. So what did we learn? Building gingerbread houses can teach the following: Patterns Colors Geometric Shapes Combining Shapes Dimensionality Measurement Following Directions Listening Visual Arts, Creativity Turn it into a writing project by building a setting around your creation. Create a story that happened in this setting. Read some books about gingerbread houses and make it a thematic focus for the day. Recipe We used graham crackers rather than making gingerbread. You know, some shortcuts are just worth it. Here’s my NO-FAIL Gingerbread House Glue: 2 lb bag of powdered sugar 12  – 14 T of cold water 3 T of cream of tartar Dump the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add water and cream of tartar. Stir… gently! I use a stand mixer because this is…well… glue-like. Place about a half cup to a cup at a time in freezer grade quart zip-locks.  This makes enough for about four kids.  Want to free yourself as a mom and teacher? Get LearningKeeper Free Trial with No Credit Card Make this year different. For real this time. Easy Homeschool Record Keeping Video  ...

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