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Homeschooling Spotlight10

Micronations: A Fun New Way to Learn Geography

Tuesday April 22, 2014


My new article Geography Teaching Tips suggests ways to help kids learn map skills. But there's a lot more to geography than just maps.

"Cultural geography" is the study of all the things that make a country unique -- its government, its topography, its language, food, clothing, and other aspects of daily life.

Several years ago I created a workshop that taught kids about "what makes a country a country" by introducing them to micronations -- little countries that kids and adults create themselves.

Now that idea has been turned into a book, just released by the homeschool-friendly publisher Nomad Press. Micronations: Invent Your Own Country and Culture explains all the different aspects of real countries, and includes 25 activities that encourage kids to make their own. I'm very proud of my latest book, and can't wait to see what creations homeschooling families and others come up with!

How to Be a Homeschooling Role Model

Friday April 18, 2014

Jefferson Award

Over the years, I have met a few homeschooling parents whose kids accomplished extraordinary things. It's natural to want to look up to those parents and try to follow in their footsteps.

But not every parent of a gifted or talented child makes a good role model. Some I've known were so competitive that any conversation turned into a contest of one-up-manship. One actually suggested that hanging out with my kids was making her kid dumber! (My impression? He needed no help acting dumb.)

Other parents have been just the opposite. Generous with their time, willing to share their wisdom and experience, and able to talk about their kids' attributes without making other parents feel diminished.

Luckily, I've known many parents like that, too. One of them, Mary O'Keeffe, was honored this week with a Jefferson Award for Public Service. Mary runs the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in her Upstate New York community, helped found local Math Circles that sent homeschooled and public school students to competitions at the highest levels, and organizes summer workshops in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for economically disadvantaged students from the region. I have written about her advice about homeschooling math which urges parents to approach it with a playful attitude.

Mary has always been one of my homeschooling role models, and it's great to see her service to the community acknowledged. Congratulations!

Do you have a homeschooling role model?

Image: jeffersonaward.org

If Homeschooling Looked Like Homework, I'd Quit

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Girl studying at home with her mother

You may have noticed that About.com is redesigning its look with bigger and better photographs. That means we Experts have to find lots of interesting, appealing images to go with our stories.

The problem is, when you go to a photo service like Getty and search for "homeschooling," what you find is a lot of photos like the one above: parent hunched over child doing homework at the kitchen table.

It's a perfectly good image, but it's just not accurate -- thank goodness. Is there anything parents and kids hate more than struggling together over a worksheet? I know I'd never have lasted this long if homeschooling meant hour after hour of homework.

My new article "What Homeschooling Really Looks Like" tries to present a more balanced view of what it's like to teach your kids at home (including a few shots of my own kids busy learning). What's your favorite image of homeschooling?

Image: ONOKY - Eric Audras/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Can Kids Teach Themselves to Read?

Monday April 14, 2014


How to help kids learn to read is one of the most heated topics in education. A few years ago, the debate was over whether to teach phonics or whole language.

Today, the push seems to be getting kids to read early, to give them a "head start" over the competition in their own country and abroad. And reading instruction programs are big business in schools and among homeschoolers, as Google's recent purchase of Accelerated Reader shows.

But there's also a school of thought that says most kids can teach themselves to read, given enough time. The question is whether letting kids learn at their own pace handicaps them down the road.

My new article Early Reader/Late Reader: Does it Matter? looks at some of the research and anecdotal evidence about whether sooner is always better.

Image: ONOKY - Eric Audras/Getty Images

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