Substantive Education

March 9, 2011

Homeschooling Jr. High

Vintage Levi (11, or 12 here) Playing Bass for Tried and True

When Steve and I were first married he was working as a youth pastor in Santa Barbara. At that time we came to the conclusion that working with Jr. High kids is a controlled riot. I love this age, the energy, the silliness, and the endless questioning. It’s a transitional period of life, that gap between childhood and teen. Some children breeze through adolescence, and for others it’s a difficult period of self doubt. Academically Jr. High presents a unique opportunity for you and your student.

In elementary school we are giving our children the basic building blocks of education; reading, writing, and arithmetic. We also expose them to basic science concepts and vocabulary, and begin to build an understanding of the flow of history. If we make this framework strong and solid our children have a good base upon which to build advanced knowledge and wisdom.

In high school our children’s studies become more focused and intense. If they have that solid foundation they will be able to move, rather painlessly, into these more focused studies. Students at this age are expected to be able to work independently through material, to read, absorb, and analyze new information. By high school we should be past the ‘hand-feeding’ stage where a teacher is needed at every step. New concepts may well need explanations, but students have come to ‘own’ their education.

So, what about Jr. High? Jr. High is a great opportunity to evaluate our child’s progress up to this point and to take 7th and 8th grade to fill in any gaps and to drill those skills that are going to be necessary in High School. Probably most of you know your child’s weak areas, but here are some thoughts on where you child should be.

Trudenwilk, the early years.

1. Reading. By Jr. High your child should be reading fluently and comprehending most of what they read. In elementary school it’s important to give your child adequate practice at ‘easy’ reading so that they develop fluency, but in Jr. High it’s time to challenge them. Think of the reading they will be doing in high school…Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Fitzgerald…you don’t want them to have to jump from easy reading straight into these authors. In Jr. High they should be easing their way into the classics, reading challenging works that cause them to think critically and learn new vocabulary. I don’t mean you should overwhelm them, but a little struggle now will pay off later. If your child is still having trouble with the basics of reading, it’s time to have them assessed and maybe do an intensive phonics review.

2. Spelling. By Jr. High your child should be spelling most words correctly, if they are not it is time for some review. Many times I find that students this age, who are consistently making spelling errors, are just being lazy. You will have to determine if this is the case with your child. If they are just being lazy you need to crack down. My suggestion would be if a paper or paragraph they have written for you has multiple spelling errors (and you know (more…)


March 5, 2011

We should be less concerned with the answers they know, and more concerned about the questions they ask.

Filed under: Education,Homeschooling,Parenting,Uncategorized — kbagdanov @ 10:25 pm
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Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Phillipians 4:8

My greatest fear when we began this homeschooling journey was not that the boys wouldn’t get into college, or even that I would miss some crucial bit of information, (that was inevitable); it was that when they finished high school, they would breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’m done.”

Over the years I’d met many frustrated and discontented 20 somethings who felt that completing high school meant they knew all they needed to know. Post high school, many of these kids never read another book, and what passed as intellectual stimulation came in the form of reality TV and video games. In talking with these young adults, it became evident that their world was very small and self centered. Frequently they were struggling with issues of identity and worth, but didn’t know why.  The lessons they had internalized were that school is a waste, reading is a chore,  teachers are uncaring, and history is irrelevant…the school system had failed them and it was not just their education that suffered.

When our minds and spirits are starved of good healthy ‘food’ we don’t function as we were meant to, our growth is stunted and every area of our life suffers. This is not what any of us want, we want our children to live the full life that God created them for. We want them to enjoy life, to excel in what they do, to find satisfaction in relationships, and to contribute to their communities. When we make homeschooling and parenting decisions we need to keep these goals in mind. Proficiency at math and reading are a start, but we also want children who are prepared to take on all the challenges of the next stage of life.

What do you want for your children? How can you help them get there? Philippians 4:8 gives us a beginning point. This verse points out that whatever is true, right, beautiful is about God, and it would benefit us to dwell on these things. As I consider this verse I am struck by how inclusive it is…all that is beautiful is worth studying, not just that which makes a profit. All that is just, true and right should be our focus…not only that which is expedient or has an immediate application.  By providing a ‘diet’ for their minds and spirits of the beautiful, the just, the excellent, we give our children a strong foundation, a good beginning…and instill the desire to continue learning and experiencing all that God has for them.

Caleb during his semester abroad studying literature in the UK

For me, I wanted my children to love art, and to play music. I wanted them to be in awe of the beauty in nature. I wanted them to be curious about past civilizations and engaged with current events. I wanted them to experience other cultures and to appreciate that diversity. I wanted them to have an education that was rich and full, an education that encouraged curiosity and critical thinking. I was less concerned about the answers they knew and more concerned about the questions they asked.

Approaching education this way is both exciting and uncomfortable. It’s exciting because it’s alive; changing us and challenging us. It’s uncomfortable because very little of it is going to come through on some standardized test. It’s hard to measure the ‘educational’ benefits of art, or where enjoyment of a nature walk fits into a science scope and sequence. How does reading a great work of fiction that brings us to both tears and laughter, translate into a grade?

As homeschoolers we have been freed. We are not enslaved to the almighty ‘standardized test’ we do not have to view education in a dry, compartmentalized way. We can focus on the whole child: mind, body, and spirit…and feed them all. What a wonderful opportunity, be sure you don’t waste it.

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