According to a study in Science Daily from last fall, researchers got a surprise when they compared the health of homeschoolers and traditionally-schooled children.
"Based on previous research, we went into this study thinking home-schooled children would be heavier and less active than kids attending traditional schools," said Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD, the study's lead author. "We found the opposite."
As researchers discovered, both groups got about the same amount of exercise, but homeschoolers were still less likely to be obese than the traditionally-schooled kids. The deciding factor? Homecooked meals. Kids who ate cafeteria meals got way more calories, sodium, and sugar at lunch than homeschoolers.
If you're having trouble finding time to prepare homecooked meals when you're also homeschooling, try some of these Cooking Tips for Homeschoolers. Research shows, it's worth it!
(Hat tip to the Free Range Learning Facebook page for the link.)
Image: Jamie Grill/Getty Images
Stories in The New York Times and Washington Post report that the College Board, maker of the SATs and other standardized tests, has faced reality. Nobody ever liked the Writing section the company tacked on in addition to Reading and Math (especially the hand-written essay), and many colleges simply ignored those scores.
So starting in 2016, students will only have to take the two original sections. To lessen complaints that it's weighted towards wealthy kids whose parents can afford expensive test prep programs, free online SAT prep lessons will be also available through Khan Academy.
I don't put much stock in standardized tests, and many educational experts don't either. It'll be interesting to see if these changes can quell the backlash against the over-testing of kids in school.
Have your kids taken the SATs, ACTs, or other standardized tests? Are you happy to see these changes?
Image: Creative Commons/Flickr user Alexandratx
Parents who send their kids to school and those who homeschool share a lot of concerns. But sometimes it's the differences that come out in ways that can be ... unpleasant ... for one or the other.
Not long ago, a friend on Facebook complained that discussions about school problems always seem to draw a comment along the lines of "And that's why I homeschool!" She's right -- homeschooling is not, and never will be, the solution for everyone. (Although for many families it can make some issues disappear overnight.)
But homeschoolers also have a few choice phrases we'd rather not hear again, either. To find out what they are, check out my new article, "What Not to Say to a Homeschooler (And How to Respond When They Say It Anyway)." And please share your least-appreciated remarks in the comments below!
Image: Howard Sokol/Getty Images
The article quotes pioneering math educator and curriculum designer Maria Droujkova, who has talked to adults and worked with students to find out what really works. Droujkova says:
Studies have shown that games or free play are efficient ways for children to learn, and they enjoy them. They also lead the way into the more structured and even more creative work of noticing, remixing and building mathematical patterns.
Homeschooling gives parents the freedom to throw out stifling worksheets and introduce kids to the wonder of math. You can find resources to take your kids where math is fun in my article How to Homeschool Math.
Image: Kathy Ceceri
An op-ed piece in the LA Times yesterday argues that we'll never teach kids to use math as problem solvers if all we show them is mechanics -- and not the ideas behind them. According to UC Berkeley math professor Edward Frenkel,
In elementary and middle school and even into high school, we hide math's great masterpieces from students' view. The arithmetic, algebraic equations and geometric proofs we do teach are important, but they are to mathematics what whitewashing a fence is to Picasso -- so reductive it's almost a lie.
I heartily agree. One day when I was in elementary school, a math professor subbed for our absent teacher. Instead of fractions, he spent the morning introducing us to Fibonacci numbers. It was only a single visit, and yet that day learning about ideas instead of filling out worksheets has stuck with me through the years.
My own children once got to sit in on a lecture at a local college from a "freelance geometer" who used what would now be considered primitive video games to teach them about four-dimensional space. As Frenkel says in his piece, the kids in the audience hadn't yet learned that this math was beyond them, so they followed it eagerly.
Don't believe traditionalists who tell you worksheets and memorizing are what math is all about. If you'd like some ideas for helping your kids to find the wonder and excitement in numbers, check out my article How to Homeschool Math.
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I've been enjoying taking part in the Parenting Roundabout Podcast, featuring some of my fellow parenting experts from About.com. This week the topic was "When Should You Worry?" That's a question many new homeschooling parents have, when their kids don't seem to fit the standard timelines. I'll be writing an article with some of the insights from that conversation in the near future.
Special Needs Expert Terri Mauro has a running list of new podcast recordings as they go live, so you can go back and catch up on any that you missed. You can also see what topics are slated for future episodes. One I'm looking forward to is "What Makes You an Expert?" -- something all parenting "authorities" must surely ask themselves when dealing with their own kids!
If you've got any suggestions for topics you'd like to hear discussed on the podcast, please share them in the comments below!
If your child is gifted and you are considering homeschooling, keep in mind that some of the issues that affected gifted kids in school may not apply at home.
For instance, it doesn't really matter which grade you say your child is in, as long as you provide them with material and opportunities that fit their abilities. In general, in states like New York where homeschoolers report to their school districts, there's no advantage to skipping a grade or providing extra paperwork to show your child is advanced. The school only wants to know whether or not your homeschool student meets the minimum requirements.
You can find more information in my article How to Homeschool Gifted Kids. And if you're looking for resources that can help you move along at your child's individual pace, here are some suggestions:
Image: Getty Images/Peter Dazeley
An article in yesterday's Atlantic says traditional ways to teach grammar not only don't work -- they also tend to make people afraid to write at all.
In "The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar," Michelle Navarre Cleary of DePaul University's School for New Learning says over 250 studies of students from elementary school to college make the same conclusion: "We need to teach students how to write grammatically by letting them write."
That's the same advice I have always given homeschooling parents. For suggestions on how to help kids enjoy writing while learning to write well, check out my articles "Should You Teach Grammar?" and "The Key to Creative Writing: No Rules."
Image: Creative Commons/Flickr user Alexandratx
One question that comes up as children approach college age is whether "mommy grades" -- the grades you give your own kids -- will have much weight with outside evaluators.
My personal choice was to avoid giving grades myself, but to include grades my children earned in credit-bearing classes at the local community colleges.
My new article "Do I Have to Give Grades?" suggests other alternatives to grading that will show others what your kids have learned.
Image: Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images
Every month I add a slew of new articles to help homeschoolers old and new. Here are some of my favorites from the past month:
- Learning About the Presidents
- Top 10 TED Talks for Educators
- 5 Great Books About Evolution for Kids
- Homeschooling in New York State
- 12 Ways to Be a Better Teacher
Want to make sure you see all my new articles as they go live? Subscribe to my About.com Homeschooling newsletter, "Like" my All About Homeschooling Facebook page or follow About Homeschool on Twitter.
Last night, critics of the organization Teach for America held a "Twitter Storm" to bring attention to their cause. The social media blitz brought up the issue of teacher training.
Does a five-week summer "boot camp" prepare non-education majors for the challenges of the classroom? What about teacher training degree programs? Do you need a teaching license to be a good teacher?
I believe that motivated people become good teachers through passion, experience, and educating themselves by reading and asking veterans for advice. My new article contains 12 Ways to Be a Better Teacher.
What do you think goes into creating a good educator?
Say what you will about national politics. Studying the presidents can be an excellent entryway into US history. My new article suggests books for Learning About the Presidents.
Use them to teach your kids about their nation's leaders, and how they affected the world they lived in.
Image: whitehouse.gov (Public Domain)
It contains some additional resources suggested by homeschooling parents, in addition to those from my earlier articles, The Science of Evolution for Homeschoolers and 5 Great Books About Evolution for Kids.
Image of Charles Darwin in 1881: Elliott & Fry (public domain) via Wikipedia
Lots of education experts lately are calling for more "rigor" in our children's education. Of course, that's just code for "tedious" and "time consuming."
But that doesn't mean kids should only learn things that are easy. My friend, homeschooling inspiration, and math evangelist Mary O'Keeffe recently said something I'd like to see on a t-shirt:
Barbie was right. Math is hard. But hard in a good way. Like mountain climbing.
If you'd like to learn how to make math challenging without turning it into a chore, I've collected all my math-related pieces into an article on How to Homeschool Math.
Image: Museum of Math
Very often homeschoolers thinking of moving to New York will ask if it's really as bad as they've heard.
Some states regulate homeschooling so lightly that parents and school officials need never cross paths. In other states, parents must meet certain requirements, and kids must take tests or undergo other evaluations designed to make sure they're not sitting home all day playing video games while their brains atrophy.
The fact is, New York does have a more burdensome set of regulations than many other states. But for most parents and children, the hour or so every few months that must be spent filling out paperwork is more a nuisance than a hurdle. Any method of homeschooling, including unschooling, is possible in New York. My new article explains the ins and out of Homeschooling in New York State.
What do you think is the worst state for homeschooling? Let me know in the comments!
Image: Camille Tokerud/Getty Images
Christian homeschooling materials aren't the only books that present a religious view of science. According to a company called My Father's World, they have been "impacting culture" by convincing mainstream publishers like DK and Usborne to create "evolution-free" versions of their books to appeal to a religious audience.
How do they do it? One way is to replace phrases like "millions of years" with "a long time ago." For a new edition of an out-of-print DK book called History of the World, for example, My Father's World created an exclusion version that was "based on the 3rd (green) edition, but begins with "The First Civilizations" (B.C.), omitting 22 pages of prehistoric man and animals found in other editions."
For homeschoolers looking to teach the science of evolution, there are alternatives. My new article lists 5 Great Books About Evolution for Kids. Together with other resources for teaching the Science of Evolution, they can help you put together your own curriculum on the basis of modern biology.
Have you used homeschool curriculum that includes evolution? If so, please share your recommendations in the comments below!
Come join us today at 11:30 am EST on the Parenting Roundabout Podcast to hear About.com parenting writers Terri Mauro (Parenting Special Needs), Catherine Holecko (Family Fitness), Katherine Lee (School-Aged Children) and me discuss Parenting Book Hits and Misses. Find out which books we swear by (and which we swear at).
Update: The Parenting Roundabout podcast is now also available on Stitcher, a service that allows people to listen from an app without downloading. It's like Pandora for podcasts. Happy listening!
I was pleased to discover that About.com has a site devoted to the science of evolution. Science teacher Heather Scoville has a wealth of resources for teachers and parents.
She also has an article offering Tips on Winning an Evolution Debate. It will be interesting to see if Bill Nye the Science Guy follows her game plan in tonight's debate with the founder of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham.
For more resources for homeschoolers and other educators who want to cover evolution, see my new article, The Science of Evolution for Homeschoolers.
Image of Charles Darwin in 1881: Elliott & Fry (public domain) via Wikipedia
Do homeschoolers teach evolution? Yes! Although it can take some searching to find good resources. That's why my new article "The Science of Evolution for Homeschoolers" contains a list of suggestions for useful websites to get you started.
One staunch champion of teaching evolution in school and at home is TV personality Bill Nye the Science Guy. Tomorrow, he will debate the question "Is creation a viable model of origins?" with the founder of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham.
His decision to do the debate has some supporters of science education worried. But as he told the Huffington Post, "If the United States produces a generation of science students who don't believe in science, that's troublesome."
You can watch the debate live, online, tomorrow, Tuesday February 4, at 7 pm Eastern Standard time. And please share how you handle the topic of evolution with your children in the comments below.
Yesterday's topic on Parenting Roundabout, the podcast where parenting writers at About.com discuss topics of interest to families, was Overscheduling Madness. Participants were Terri Mauro (Parenting Special Needs), Laureen Miles Brunelli (Work-at-Home Moms), Catherine Holecko (Family Fitness), and Amanda Rock (Parenting Preschoolers).
And next week I'll be joining the podcast again to talk about Parenting Book Hits and Misses -- great and not-so-great books of advice. Be sure to tune in!
The website Physics Central came across my feed today. A free site from the American Physical Society, it has a collection of Physics@Home activities, physics comic books you can download for free or buy in print form, and other resources you can use for learning science at home.
One subject that gets a lot of new homeschoolers nervous is science. It's really not necessary to equip your home with a full-fledged laboratory to do fun and meaningful experiments and activities.
My new piece How to Homeschool Science is easy way to find all my articles on science and related subjects. It even includes links to my favorite science sites elsewhere on About.com. Take a look!
Image: Kathy Ceceri
If you're going to spend time surfing the Internet, you might as well make it productive. So I asked parents and teachers to name their favorite TED Talks -- short videos of lectures given by passionate experts -- that relate to how children learn and the best ways to teach them.
And here's a bonus: children's author Kate Messner gives tips for budding fantasy and science fiction writers in a five-minute animated video, How to Build a Fictional World, adapted from her TED Talk in 2012.
What are your favorite TED Talks?
Some recent stories I enjoyed writing that you may have missed:
- Improve Learning With Hands-On Activities
- Unit Studies: Tie Subjects Together With a Theme
- Learning on the Road
Have ideas for future topics you'd like covered? Let me know in the comments!
Image: Kathy Ceceri
The kids and I haven't gotten to see the new Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips yet -- but when we do, we'll be bringing a lot of background knowledge on the history of piracy.
Thanks to unit studies, we've spent many weeks learning that piracy was once a respectable business practice. Pirates operated under government licenses that gave them the freedom to attack ships from unfriendly countries.