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Andie M. Vasquez Intellectual Health

Utilizing Montessori at Home

By Andie Vasquez

I saw an article recently pop up about using Montessori techniques for homeschooling, especially since there has been such a sharp increase in families schooling from home this year due to the pandemic. Unfortunately the article didn’t prove to be very helpful. It was filled with telling parents to buy Montessori materials for your home. Something I don’t find incredibly useful right now.  Montessori materials can be expensive, and take up space, two things families may or may not be able to accommodate. Being such a firm believer in the Montessori learning strategy and being in a Montessori school, I see ways that the techniques can easily be used in a homeschool environment that don’t require large purchases. If you are truly interested in this, I strongly suggest The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies. She has written it to teach parents how to implement the methods in the home environment, and is perfect for this scenario. 

Since so much of the mind set of Montessori goes beyond, learn ABCs and do Math, there are many ways to teach your children in the home that do not involve “Teaching” materials of any kind. Have your children cook dinner with you, or if they are big enough, let them plan and cook an entire meal themselves. Take them grocery shopping with you and let them check out and pay. Have them help you sweep and mop and clean the house. Have them fold their laundry and make their beds. Get them a potted plant to care for. These are all ways to involve your kids in the day to day house function and gives them a sense of responsibility in addition to the various skills they are building. Doing something as simple as reading books to them helps build their language comprehension and imagination. Keep in mind that children absorb the world around them and learn from it. Your everyday life can be full of learning experiences. 

But let’s look into some Work that can be done at home that does teach ABC and Math. I’ve chosen a handful of things that can easily be done at home with items you may even have laying around to give you some tools to help bolster your Homeschool experience. 

Sorting Coins:

You will need a handful of random coins, a large bowl, and four smaller bowls.

Place the large bowl in the middle and fill it with your handful of coins. Put the smaller bowls around it in a circle. The child will then be instructed to sort the coins by type into the four bowls. The goal here is to recognize and be able to separate items by size and shape. You could do this with colored stones or beads or toy dinosaurs if you really wanted. Sorting prepares students for Math and Science. 

Numbers and Counters:

You will need a set of number flashcards and Aquarium Marbles.

Have the child set out the flashcards in order from One to Ten, then place the correct number of marbles underneath each number. You can then further use the physical marbles to explain Even and Odd. Odd has a single marble standing alone, like number one, while even numbers do not. This helps students to practice their numbers and counting in a physical way that requires movement and utilizes more than one of their senses. This is a Math work.

Sock Matching:

You will need several pairs of socks.

Mix up the socks, making sure each sock has a match. Allow the child to find the matches and then fold them together. The goal is to notice patterns and matches, which prepares for Math and Language, but also improves dexterity and fine motor skills in the act of folding

Moveable Alphabet:

You will need a few sets of alphabet flashcards. 

Once your child has mastered a few letter sounds, they can begin to build words with them. The moveable alphabet is wooden letters, but you could accomplish the same goal with flashcards. It won’t be exactly the same, but it would suffice in these crazy circumstances we find ourselves in. Pull out the sounds they know and tell them a word, sounding it out clearly. Have them sound it out back to you. Identify the sounds with them, and then have them find the letters that make those sounds. To start use only short three letter words like cat or hat. Identify the three sounds, beginning C, then the middle A, and the end T. If they use a K instead of a C don’t correct them. K makes the same sound as C in cat. At this point spelling is not that important so long as the sounds they are choosing are correct. Once they have built the word, give them paper and a pencil and have them write the words. In the beginning, you may need to use a highlighter to write them and have them trace your letters until they become more confident in writing. Use more and more sounds until they can use the entire alphabet. Eventually reading and writing will become the goals.

“I Spy”:

You will need several objects or toys.

Lay out a handful of items in between you and your child, and be sure they know what each item is. Say, “I Spy something that begins with (Letter Sound)”. If they have trouble, go down the group of items and ask if this begins with (Letter Sound) until they can choose the correct item. In addition, If they say something that you weren’t thinking of as a name but it is accurate, don’t stop and correct them, give it to them. For example, let’s say you have a dog, a bear, a toucan, a house, and a pumpkin laid out on the table. You ask for something that begins with “b” and your child says, “Bird!” give them the toucan. It may not have been what you intended, but they positively identified the correct sound. The goal is to help children learn their letter sounds and be able to know them confidently in words and sentences.

Tweezer Erasers

You will need a package of small erasers, tweezers, and a plastic ice tray.

Using the tweezers, have your child grasp the erasers and place one into each of the ice cube trays. Once they have accomplished this, have them pick them back up, with the tweezers and return them to the original container. The goal here is to strengthen the pincer grasp, which is fundamental to holding a pencil and develops fine motor skills.

Continent Matching:

You will need to print a map of the continents and then various animals that live on all of the continents. 

Lay the map out and give your child the pictures of animals. Allow them to place the animals where they think they live. Discuss the various climates and why the animal may thrive in that kind of environment. The goal is for children to learn about the different places in the world and what they are like. It familiarizes them with nature and its many different creatures.

Art Folder:

You will need Blank Paper, Markers or crayons, and a Folder.

Something pretty simple you can do with your kids is craft projects. Both art kits with specific pieces and instructions and unstructured creating. Give them some glue and paper and googly eyes and watch what they create with it. Build a birdhouse together. Creating art is excellent in bolstering their imagination and creative thinking, but also develops fine motor skills. One work is to give your child an Art Folder, which is a three pronged folder with blank paper in it. Have them draw and color until the folder is full, then take out the paper and staple it to look like a book. They’ve made an Art Book! 

With everything happening and many children now learning from home, I am sure parents are concerned their children are getting the education they need. These are simply a few Works I think could be successfully used in the home without too much out of pocket expense on the parents. Pulling one of these out can break up the usual school routine and even be fun to do with your child. Always remember that children soak up everything around them, so even when you don’t think you are teaching them, you probably are. Get a footstool and teach them how to make the secret family recipes this Holiday season. Dump out the box of Legos and build a city with them. You can teach your children so much by engaging in activities with them.

And remember to give yourself a break. Its been a stressful year, and you deserve to give yourself some slack. As parents we fret over our children and how to give them the best opportunities. I know, I do it too. My hope is that by giving you a few more tools and ideas, it will boost some creativity, and help ease your mind a little bit. You can do this.

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Intellectual Health Jackie Badger

Education Options for Families During Covid and Beyond

by Jackie Badger, MA Ed

Are you finding yourself stressed and frazzled, trying to figure out the best learning scenario for your family?  You’re not alone!  So many families who are not satisfied with the “distance learning” or hybrid models offered through public school districts are seeking out alternative scenarios for their children.  

Now more than ever, the hot topic being discussed is educational options and alternatives for families.  Once reserved for the homeschool community, families are now considering learning environments outside of traditional school settings for a variety of reasons. The current situation with Covid 19 has families looking for safe and healthy opportunities for children to learn, that opt out of the “distance learning” typically offered through school districts.  

Whatever the reason you have for seeking something outside the normal box of public or private school, congratulate yourself for wanting the best possible situation for your family!   You can do this!  Let’s consider the following alternatives for providing education for your family.  Public School, Distance Learning, and Homeschooling.  

Public School

Tried and true, it’s what most of us grew up with:  getting on the big yellow bus and going to school.  Pros are it’s easy, it’s free, and it’s reliable.  The curriculum has been chosen for your children, and the teachers and staff hired.  If any of your children have special needs, your school district will provide services for them.  Nobody is going to say to you, “What about socialization?”

With Covid 19, parents are concerned with the transmission of the virus and the effects of masking, social distancing, and isolation on students.  Other common concerns regarding public school include large class sizes, behavior both in and out of the classroom (bullying), lack of control of curriculum, and amount of time spent in school versus the amount of actual instruction time.  

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Distance Learning

You may want to consider enrolling in the distance learning program provided through your local school district or other online classes.  Distance Learning provided through your school district is tuition free, as are other online schools (ie Connections Academy or K12.com) which operate under public school “umbrellas” and receive state and federal funding.  These virtual schools operate much like public school, following a typical 6 hour/day schedule, employing teachers to teach curriculum, report to, take attendance, and issue report cards. 

Some drawbacks to Distance Learning are the lack of flexibility in scheduling and curriculum.  Students are required to attend during school hours, and are required to complete the curriculum and assignments chosen by the Distance Learning program.

There are virtual schools that operate independently of public school.  Some are tuition free and some charge a fee.  Think of these courses as “cafeteria style” classes to pick and choose from, and create your student’s individualized education plan.

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Homeschooling

Homeschooling is no longer the stereotypical isolated family; it is gaining huge momentum and popularity with mainstream, regular people.  There are plenty of options to meet your children’s schooling needs, whether it’s for a year….or for the duration.  Homeschooling enables families to “jigsaw” the perfect educational program for their child/children and families, and allows them incredible flexibility in terms of freedom and time.

There are many approaches to homeschooling; from creating a schedule similar to traditional schools, facilitating unit studies or project based learning, or abandoning “managed” education for a student led unschooling approach.  

Homeschooling can absorb a substantial amount of parent’s time, planning and implementing curriculum and activities.  It can create financial implications for families in that one parent may have to give up their job in order to oversee homeschooling.  Some homeschool curriculum, also, can be costly (although it doesn’t have to be).

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Options to Make Your Choice Work for Your Family

Take time to consider what your family values, and what aspects of your family life need attention.  Perhaps this is the year to focus on time with family and nurturing sibling or extended family relationships.   Is this year an opportunity to focus on academic skills?  Do you have a family business that your children could potentially help with?  

It’s important to surround yourself with a support network of like minded friends and family.  If enrolling in some form of public school is the right fit for your family, it’s important for students to continue to see friends and participate in activities.  If you have a student who gravitates towards athletics that are not offered this year, encourage them to consider other activities, clubs, or lessons your school or community offers.

There are plenty of opportunities to connect with other homeschool families.  Homeschool co-ops offer incredible support for families.  Some offer classes, recreational activities, sponsor field trips, or sponsor social activities (ie board game day, seasonal parties).  Search your local social media pages to find groups that align with your family’s needs.

The current situation with Covid 19 is certainly challenging and merits thought and planning.  However, there is no need to agonize and overthink what is best for your family.  It’s easy to get caught up in “analysis paralysis” as each situation has pros and cons.  Make a decision based on the best knowledge of your unique family and children.  No decision is permanent and if you make a choice that isn’t working, rest assured that you can always change your plan.  

This pandemic has a silver lining in that it has given families an incredible opportunity to slow down and do life at a less frantic pace.  Whether you chose public school, distance learning, or homeschooling…..you have the gift of time to do life with your family the way you want to.  Slow down and take time to read the books, take the nature walks, and essentially “smell the roses” with your family.

****Jackie Badger is a former public school teacher and longtime homeschool mom.  Having worn many teaching “hats” through the years, she is currently employed by her school district’s Community Education program.  Jackie resides in Minnesota with her family.   You can learn more about Jackie at her website, jackiebadger.com.

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Intellectual Health Keli Kirwin

The Choices that could Transform your Child’s Life

by Keli Kirwin

Is there more to health than sex, drugs, and rock and roll?

Is there more to life than diet and exercise? 

Lifestyle choices are sometimes overlooked as the choices that they are. Local customs influence laws by setting a social standard. Some choices are effectively eliminated whenever the social norms become so ingrained that anything counter causes fear or distrust in the larger public. The restriction might then become prohibitive at the legal level. 

Recently, schools nationwide moved to online distance learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some parents are using this experience as verification that they cannot homeschool. Others are choosing to leave public education and become home educators (pointing out that distance learning with a public school is not homeschool). Private school families have also been impacted. Online charter schools were already established with home learning via online distance learning so the epidemic has not been as large a disruption for those families. 

The way in which our children are educated directly impacts our daily life. Each day is a building block of health. The things we do every day build up our wellbeing, or chisel it away.  We know that cardio is good for heart health, even if we ignore it and choose to be sedentary instead. What about the lifestyle choices beyond diet, exercise, and vice? Health is multidimensional and multifaceted. Overall wellbeing is not dominated by physical health alone. For many, it has become clear that their children’s education is a lifestyle choice far too important to be made by established social norms.

It is a misconception that the average parent is not smart enough to teach their child well. Some believe that it might be ok for a teacher to become a homeschool parent because that teacher spent so much time learning to manage a classroom that they will be better prepared to educate their own children. On the contrary, many homeschooling parents consider themselves to be reclaiming their education. They find the process of teaching their own children to be empowering. Their intellectual health is nurtured and strengthened.

Living on one income while one parent stays home full time may be a financial challenge. That does not necessarily mean that home education will be the downfall of a parent’s financial health. Many homeschool parents are self-employed, work odd shifts, or otherwise have flexible hours which allow them to be home during school hours. Adjustments often can be made to accommodate financial needs. Financial sacrifices such as long term opportunity loss should be carefully weighed  whenever choosing to step away from the workforce. 

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Health and safety in the workplace absolutely applies to homeschooling families. A safe learning environment is beneficial to parents as well as children. Homeschooling families may participate in weekly co-ops or meet for social outings and those locations must be safe in addition to the home. Co-ops may require minimum commitment or be more formal and include a board of directors and act nearly as a private school. Some are academic focused and others are formed for social gatherings and field trips. Group hikes and sports teams add a social aspect to physical health. One homeschooling method or philosophy even encourages swedish drills throughout the day to maintain the level of activity necessary for focused lessons. Participating in the right co-op, or choosing not to join, is individual to each homeschool family. They can be a fun contribution to the social and even mental health of the family. But, being part of a community regardless of schooling choice is important for every person.

 A common myth is that homeschool is dangerous for a child’s social health and that homeschooled children will turn out ‘weird’ and unable to socialize with their peers.Some critics of homeschool believe that children will inherently be in danger without the checks of mandatory reporters, specifically public school teachers. A recent essay published by Harvard asserted the very thing. An upcoming symposium invites only those with traumatic family experiences who were schooled at home and those who are fearful of homeschooling. Renowned homeschool leaders and other experts were not invited to the discussion. 

Many families choose home education as a part of their home culture. Parents feel that being together as a family and being in charge of their children’s education is part of who they are, an aspect of their identity.It certainly is a lifestyle choice that every dimension of health is built upon every day.

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