Welcome to Finishing Strong, the weekly link-up that focuses on homeschooling during the middle & high school years. Every Wednesday, readers share some incredible ideas and inspiration for schooling older students at home.
In case you missed them, here are some of the popular posts from last week:
The Value of Homeschooling High School by BJ’s Homeschool
How We Bring Life to German Language Studies by The Heart of Michelle
Older Students Need Attention, Too by Tea Time with Annie Kate
Middle School October Reading Challenge by This Sweet Life
Art Spotlight: Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fiji by Two Muses Homeschool
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When we think of working with multi-ages, many of us think of the unit study type arrangement where we work with the kids all together at different levels. Certainly, when all of our children were younger (though still multi-aged, of course), the unit study approach was the foundation of our homeschool. There comes a time when that approach doesn’t work easily anymore. At a certain point, what my older kids wanted to drive and learn became more important than my desire and convenience to keep everyone together. So, we have looked for other ways to come together as a family with our homeschooling.
Today’s post- Engaging Multiple Ages in Your Homeschool.
Using Collaboration to Bring Together Multi-Ages in Your Homeschool
Collaboration includes any activity where our students share ideas and receive feedback. I enjoy seeing my kids collaborate with their siblings to solve problems, gather input, and share accomplishments. Here are a few examples:
- My 11th grader might get feedback on his latest novel character from his siblings.
- An older sibling agrees to film a tutorial my 4th grader wanted to try making on making paper boxes.
- Our high school junior mentors our FLL team which includes his two younger brothers. He helped the 4th grader reach out to experts in a particular field last week by coaching him on phone etiquette and helping him to form interview questions. He was ready as a scribe while our 9yo made the phone call and could concentrate on the talking while Ethan would get the notes down.
- Our high school freshman will often give sewing tips and the use of her machine to a sibling who wants to make a costume- most recently a Union sash for a Civil War uniform.
- Our kids are great at lending a listening ear to a piece of writing.
- Any of the kids are eager to jump up to our slate chalkboard and have a go at an explanation- the receiver is always appreciative.
I love to watch our kids work together to help make each other perform better. It isn’t always in the form of the older kids teaching the younger ones. It goes much deeper than that! They offer feedback to help each other reach a goal in simple and not so simple ways.
Collaboration brings out some of our kids’ best qualities. Or the worst! It takes time to build the sort of homeschool relationships that foster this behavior. Sometimes you have to work with the stronger personalities to help them as they work through it. But, when you get collaboration in your homeschool right, it is GOLD and worth every moment to get there. It’s authentic and builds this life skill in a very real way.
Using Project Time to Team up Multiple Ages
No homeschool day is complete at our house without project time. Each of our students has a Project Workspace where they can leave out their work and spend a lot of time working and researching. Project time doesn’t always mean being completely independent. Sometimes our kids will choose to draw on each other to complete a task. Project time might include things like:
- Following a tutorial
- Learning a new computer programming language by reading and testing it
- Designing a new model rocket or custom mini-fig
- Pinning a new insect
- Drafting a fashion design
- Reading & Researching on a topic
- Building a machine like a catapult
- Testing a hypothesis
- Writing to add to stories and novels
- Attending seminars and workshops related to an area of study
- Collaborating with each other on progress of their work
All of these are born out of their interest in a topic & represent the amount of time we’ve poured into these interests. Much of our homeschool day is wrapped up in project time. Not only is this the time when I get to be a mentor and consultant and listen and encourage their efforts, but it’s a time for our kids to team up to solve a problem.
Taking Field Trips as a Family Engages Multi-Ages Together
My rule of thumb when it comes to field trips is to arrange them and take them as a family. Unless we don’t have the opportunity to do so otherwise, I avoid taking field trips with a group. What are the advantages of striking out on your own?
- Arrange a trip when it is most convenient to your family and with what you’re studying.
- Taking spontaneous field trips means enjoying the best weather!
- Smaller groups get more attention from curators and garner the most available to you from a venue.
- Many places will accommodate my family without having to be part of a group- I once called about a local public event and when I could not make it, I was invited to see the exhibit on off hours and the curator happily pulled out artifacts we’d see at the public time- and more of them! It was a golden opportunity!
- My students pay attention to the venue when they aren’t excited to be with their peers. It’s true. I often tell my kids that they can enjoy a playdate another time when it’s fun to play and you aren’t just sneaking it in while you are supposed to be paying attention to something else. For field trips to yield the most, go alone and make a playdate for another time!
- Allows me to help my kids focus on what we came to see through the lens of our personal studies without the distractions of their peers!
Learning Together During Our Homeschool Day
Of course, being a unit study family for many years and still today, we love to learn together with all ages. We come together on a few things whenever we can:
- Fred Math- With all of our students immersed in Fred’s world, there is always something to discuss about Fred at the dinner table. We can engage about Fred any time, but often he comes up at dinner where our kids share what they’ve been working on.
- Geography- We are using NorthStar Geography this year and while our two high schoolers will earn a credit, our younger boys will join in when they can.
- Read Aloud Time- We love to hear stories together. Often times I have my teens read to us and my 11th grader loves to read to me! Reading aloud is a great way to begin your homeschool day and to get started and focused again after lunch. The benefits of building this time into your schedule are numerous.
- Earth Science- This year we’ll be tackling earth science as a family. The younger boys (4th & 7th grades) will be studying earth science with their Adventures in the Sea & Sky curriculum while the high schoolers will be following the course set by CK12 Earth Science for High School. You might like to read more about our curriculum choices for 2014-2015 if you missed it in August.
- Current Events- We often discuss what’s happening in the world around our dinner table or whenever it comes up as our day moves along.
If you’d like to see more about how we implement our homeschool day, click in to How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day.
Bright Ideas G+ Hangout on Homeschooling Multi-Ages at Once
Join us today, October 14, 2014 at 3pm EDT for a Bright Ideas Press Hangout on Homeschooling Multi-Ages at Once. You watch it live here or you can return later to watch it at a better time.
All of these tips & techniques come together to make our typical homeschool day. You’ll find many of our moments working together in Ten Things That Make a Great Homschool Day.by
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If you have a high school senior, chances are you helping them to navigate the college application process right now. Or maybe your aspiring middle or high schooler wants to enjoy a special program requiring a personal statement. It’s time to sharpen our skills with Writing the Personal Essay.
Reasons to Write a Well Composed Personal Essay
Why take the time to master the personal essay? There are many reasons. Here are some:
- Applications for Special Programs- Summer camps, gifted programs, and other opportunities often require an essay from the student stating why he or she is qualified and why they want to attend.
- Job Applications- Depending on the job, your student may be asked to tell why he or she wants to work there.
- Job Interviews- Being able to talk about oneself in a confident manner is an important life skill we all need to have.
- College Applications & Interviews- If your student is college bound, then without a doubt she will be asked to write a personal essay for the college application. He may have to write many depending on how many schools he is applying to. Some schools follow up the application with an interview.
Qualities of a Well Written Personal Essay
The organization or college receiving the application will deterine who your student is and how well they write by reading this essay. Often it is the only part of the application process which allows your student to share his personal voice. Ready for some advice?
- Be self-reflective. Your student wants to be thoughtful and honest. The institution wants to see she has gained a clear perspective on her experiences.
- Personalize the essay to its purpose- for the individual college, program, or job.
- Take the time to plan, write, edit, and revise until the essay is perfect in topic and composition & grammar. This is not meant to be a quick process, so make sure you leave time for the task.
- Give a unique perspective of yourself (written by the student)
- Be authentic.
- Give a vivid & compelling picture of yourself.
- Strive for depth, not breathe- you don’t want just a list of accomplishments, but an essay that well supports the them with your experience (think quality vs. quantity).
- Hits & conforms to the target guideline- did you answer the question the application is asking?
- Contains compelling introduction- which makes the reader want to keep reading.
- Transforms challenges into positives- it’s ok to have flaws. Remember to be authentic.
- Avoid repeating information from the essay in other parts of the application- I read this from several different sources. Must be important!
- Avoid sarcasm & snark- even if that is authentic!
- Demonstrates confidence- to overcome obstacles and achieve goals.
That’s quite a list! However, it’s pretty specific. Based on this list, I can see how the personal essays we’ve written can be improved dramatically. Focusing on the quality of the essay and its uniqueness is desired over the laundry list of accomplishments. Remember, those will be enumerated in other parts of the application process.
Other Benefits of a Well Written Personal Essay
Taking the time to write about oneself has many benefits. What other activities help to do the following:
- Helps students to reflect on what they like to do
- Gives students pause to formulate who they are & what they are about in a succinct manner.
- Gives voice to their talents
- Refines the skill of finding a niche when they retool the basic essay for various venues
Using a Mentor to Write the Personal Essay
It’s good practice to start practicing good personal essays before you need them! It’s a great high school writing task no matter what grade your students are in. How about resources for getting the job done? The list above is a tall order. Perhaps you need some help.
- Tips from Websites- a simple search yielded a lot of results including this one. While we focused on the qualities of a good essay, it might be good to check on the non-examples too. Make sure to avoid the pitfalls!
- Books on Preparing for College- There are so many on the market from the College Board to Homeschooling books aimed at helping your kids get into college.
- Personalized Mentoring- Fortuigence offers an Essay Rockstar course in Mastering the Personal Statement Essay. Even more than knowing what makes a good personal essay is practicing it and refining it until it’s neared perfection. If you are not confident in your expertise in this area, outsourcing can be a solution. The one on on mentoring through Fortuigence offers your student additional feedback and as a parent you are not left out of the loop. Working with Essay Rockstar courses can help you, as a parent, to be a better mentor for your kids as writers.
Is it time to approach mastery of the personal essay in your homeschool? Make use of these tips and get one step closer to achieving your future goals!by