Is it Time to Shake Up Your Homeschool?

Is it Time to Shake Up Your Homeschool?

Do you feel excitement, gratitude, and happiness for your family’s homeschool life? Or do you feel like something may be missing and would like a change?

I want to share with you some steps you can take to infuse joy into your homeschool.

  • Change Your Homeschool Each Year–Homeschool feels more like an adventure when we change it up each year.  It keeps learning fresh and exciting. A couple of years ago, we went to an enlightening class at Disneyland each Tuesday with our friends. Our minds were expanded to the tremendous value of learning in non-conventional ways.

    Now our core group of friends schedules our activities together for the entire school year. This past school year, we adventured on field trips together each Tuesday, did co-op on Wednesdays, and sailed each Friday. In the fall, we’ll do beach volleyball and marine biology together on Tuesdays,  co-op on Wednesdays and Family Nature School on Thursdays. It is fun to change things up each year.

     

     

  • Get Out of Your House–Are you making the most of your flexibility and freedom in homeschooling by playing and learning out in the world? My whole family is so much happier when we have someplace interesting to go. The kids are far more motivated to finish their school work so we can have fun. As aforementioned, we go on a field trip each Tuesday with our friends. It is as much fun for the parents to learn as the kids. We all also look forward to hikes, beach days, park days, and other events with friends. While the kids play, us moms have a great time talking to one another.
  • Evaluate Academics–Which academic work adds value and which does not? What can be trimmed so you can spend more time with meaningful, hands-on learning in the world or just plain fun with family and friends? Here are some questions to ask:
    • For tedious math programs with lots of repetition, can your child do every other problem instead of every single one?
    • Does every subject need to be done daily? For instance, can you alternate Spanish and geography every other day? Can anything be combined? Are there some subjects you can learn organically without a formal curriculum?map-pics-002 I spend a great deal of time reading to my kids at the kitchen table. We keep dry erase maps on the wall (a friend keeps her maps under plexiglass on the kitchen table). As we go on our literary adventures, we cover all sorts of geography. There is no need for a separate geography curriculum with the organic way we learn.
    • Is the computer-based learning program you are using effective?  Make sure you have selected a solid program if they are spending time on that. I have found many of them to be a waste of time with a lot of fluff or not synced up to the child’s level.  If it is not a good use of time, consider cutting it and engage in hands-on learning instead.
    • Is any part of your child’s curriculum making them cry on a regular basis? In most cases, I’d say ditch that book. I know it is hard because you spent money on it. However, it is not creating a love of learning and may be damaging your relationship. Research and find something else he enjoys more. Sometimes there is an undiagnosed learning disability.
    • What can be done in the car en route to field trips and other activities? My kids read a lot in the car. Some kids do their math and others listen to audio 1933339128books while riding.  This is a wonderful time to listen to Story of the World history CD’s.  Evaluate about some ways you can restructure your schedule so you can get our earlier in the day enjoying the world.
    • When you consider what type of learning is most memorable, it is not sitting at the kitchen table or desk doing workbooks.  It is hands-on learning out in the world. It is creating and collaborating. It is hearing from people who are passionate about something share their knowledge with you. Yes, there is great value in spending time in academics. However, what can be cut from your child’s workload for other types of more memorable learning?
  • Be Deliberate About Building Your Homeschool Tribe–During my first year of homeschooling, we were meeting with three different, unrelated groups each week. I realized we weren’t going to have deep relationships if we continued on that path. I asked my kids which group they preferred, and they unanimously said our co-op. So, we began focusing on joining and creating activities with that group. Now, we have the most amazing group of friends. We are out together learning in such incredible ways and from fascinating people out in the world. Check out the blog post I wrote on the topic of building your core group of homeschool friends.
  • Co-op–Joining a co-op was one of the most important things we have done. We were fortunate to have an established co-op in our area with lovely families who share our interests and values. We meet them each Wednesday for a fun-filled day of learning. My kids take classes like art and science because I don’t enjoy doing art projects and science experiments at my house. I’ve taught multiple writing and also Lego classes. It is a joyful day because we all share our talents and passions to create wonderful classes for our kids.  The friends we have made at co-op are the same ones we do life with throughout the week.

    If you don’t have a co-op in your area, then you can get with a few friends and start one. If you don’t know many homeschool families, is there a Facebook page with homeschoolers in your area? You could share your idea of starting a co-op and see who else may be interested.

     

  • Year-Round School–We school year-round, and here are some reasons why:
    • We don’t have to spend several weeks each September relearning what we already learned. In my view, that is a waste of time, and I’d rather use that time doing other things.  We use a lighter schedule during the summer and primarily keep up with math, reading, and writing.
    • Frankly, I don’t enjoy being out as much during the summer when places are hot and crowded. During the school year, the weather is nicer, parking is abundant and our favorite places often empty.
    • My kids still keep some type of structure for those relaxed summer days. I hear some parents talk about their kids’ bickering during the summer. We don’t see that too much at our house.
    • We still take off certain weeks of summer for camps, vacations, etc.
    • Year-round schooling takes pressure off of me during the school year to really enjoy all the opportunities available to us year-round. Image result for let this messy house image
  • Relax Your Housecleaning Standards–Are you meticulous with your house? Do you spend a lot of time tidying and cleaning? Do you jump on your kids often when the house is not looking up to your high standard? In my opinion, you can relax. I don’t think too many people will look back on the years with their kids and be glad they spent so much time cleaning and being uptight with them. Rather, they will look back at their laughter and memories. I say a messy house is a sign of living life to the fullest.

You know the saying: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”  I have found that most of us homeschool mamas are much happier when we are outside of our house learning together in the world with our kids and friends. It makes us such a joyful, adventurous, and grateful group of families.

How do you add joy to your homeschool? Please let us know in the comments below.

You may also be interested in:

Give Your Kids a World-Class Math Education for Free

Homeschooled Teddy Roosevelt Never Sat in a Classroom Until Harvard

Benefits of Experiential Learning

Ten Ways to Teach Your Child to Read and Love Books

The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

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The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

The State of California Pays Me to Customize My Kids’ Education

The state of California offers me, a homeschooling parent, $2600/year in educational funds for each of my kids. I, along with so many other homeschooling families in California, have crafted a customized and well-rounded education that reflects our family’s interests, priorities, learning styles, and values.

Thanks in large part to our educational funds, I believe homeschoolers in Southern California are at the forefront of 21st-century learning. We are empowered with financial resources to truly customize our children’s education. The network of homeschool vendors is huge because homeschoolers have those financial resources to pay for their educational offerings.  Most families would only be able to afford a fraction of these learning opportunities without the funds.

The ecosystem of classes, programs and enrichment opportunities for homeschool families in Southern California is enormous, and I credit much of that to the educational funds. With such tremendous infrastructure in place, it makes for a thriving and dynamic place to receive a 21st-century education and explore one’s passions.  Personalized learning is all the rage amongst education circles these days. Homeschoolers have been doing this for years. With educational funds, it makes it even easier to facilitate a top-of-the-line education for our kids.

I’d like to share with you how educational funds work in California for homeschool families:

  • Educational Funds–Charter schools for homeschoolers offer educational funds. There are multiple charter schools and each competes to attract and retain students. The charter school I selected spends, on each student’s behalf, $2600/year to use with vendors to provide for a well-rounded education. The parents direct what they want to spend their funds on and the choices are colossal. Funds can’t be spent on religious curriculum or classes. I don’t know any two families who spend their funds in the same way. Our options are vast. Here is how we are spending our funds this year:

    • Piano, flute and saxophone lessons
    • Flute and saxophone rental fees
    • Basketball clinics and gymnastics lessons
    • Weekly field trips
    • Weekly project-based learning classes that correspond with our field trips
    • Weekly sailing lessons
    • Technology classes
    • School and office supplies
    • Curriculum–Amazon and Rainbow Resources are two examples of curriculum vendors. The options and combinations seem almost endless allowing for a wonderfully customized curriculum.
  • One-hundred Percent Personalized Curriculum–We can use any method or program of our family’s choosing.
    • I select the mix of curriculum that fits each of my kids’ needs and am free to change it up as needed without permission from anyone. Here is what we do for math.
    • Faith-based materials can’t be purchased with state funds.
    • Some people use funds for core classes like math, language arts, etc. The parents can choose the teacher and program that best fits their kids’ learning styles. I  prefer to use our funds on experiences and activities. I expect as my kids move into middle or high school that I will begin to use some of the funds for writing and math classes. For now, however, my children are thriving academically, emotionally, and socially. My 10-year old son’s blog and my 9-year old daughter’s blog offer a glimpse of our incredible homeschooling lifestyle and educational opportunities in SoCal.
    • If a child or family is fascinated by a subject, then it is our option to linger in it and dive deep without making sure we are hitting all the quick and shallow standards of public school.  This creates passion and love of learning.
    • There is no state-mandated curriculum.
    • One of the benefits of homeschooling is instruction is individualized. If a child learns quickly then s/he can jump ahead. For example, my oldest two kids are above grade level in virtually every academic subject freeing them up to move at an accelerated pace. This is not usually an option in conventional school. Additionally, kids that do not learn as quickly are able to slow down until they understand it without being made to feel dumb. One nice thing about homeschooling is most of the kids have no idea at which rate their friends learn math, read books, etc. Instead, they are learning together joyfully on hikes, field trips, in science classes, etc.
    • We are also part of a weekly homeschool co-op with about 60 families. Parents volunteer their gifts and passions to teach classes so we only pay for supplies. We do not use funds, and about half the families file independently and not with a charter school. I teach Blogging and 21st-Century Skills. My kids take art, science and other classes here with other wonderful homeschool families.

Thanks to educational funds for homeschoolers, a tremendous infrastructure of classes, programs, and opportunities have emerged allowing kids to learn and thrive in such diverse ways that best fit their needs and passions. The funds have created a competitive market that has dramatically amplified opportunities. 

  • Standardized Testing–Since we accept funds, homeschool charters prefer that we take the same standardized test in the spring that public school kids take beginning in third grade. I have no problem with that. I do not spend any time teaching to that test, and the charter school does not put any pressure on us to do so. So far, my kids have been in the top tier of each standardized test we have taken. Many of my homeschool friends also score much higher than their district school counterparts. I find this interesting considering how much time public schools spend teaching to the test, and we spent none.  Rather, we focus on a well-rounded, quality education.
    • I am not pressured to teach to the test at all.
    • There is no reward or repercussion for test results.
    • I tell my kids to do the best they can on the tests and advise them they will probably see some unfamiliar language and terminology. We do not follow a Common Core curriculum or use classroom lingo. If they don’t know an answer, they can use process of elimination.
    • Last year’s standardized tests only took about 3 hours total and was divided into two days. Our wonderful teacher surprised them with homemade lollipops with encouraging notes attached for their hard work after test completion. We also went to her house a few days later to watch her ducklings hatching. We witnessed a duckling peck its way out of its shell. She is an example of the many caring teachers who support homeschool families.
    • You simply get the results in the mail. It is your choice to open it up and look at the results. Some parents choose to not look at the results because they do not believe in standardized tests for their kids.
    • Most people will need to take tests throughout their lives. I see this as good preparation and a partial barometer of how we are doing. However, I don’t believe those tests account for many important successful life skills or for the uniqueness in each of our children. Many brilliant kids don’t test well.
  • Meeting With Your Assigned Credentialed Teacher–We are required to meet with our assigned teacher approximately once every 3 weeks. However, some families who prefer additional support may be in contact with their teacher more often.
    • Samples are required. Each student is required to provide one to several samples per month depending on the charter school. All samples must be secular.
    • I have always worked with supportive teachers who have trusted me with my children’s education. They are simply there as a facilitator and to offer guidance for those families who need it. I have occasionally heard of some demanding teachers. In that case, a family simply switches teachers or changes to another charter school. It is the free market in action.
  • Educational Vendors–We have thousands of products and vendors from which we can choose from to use our homeschool funds. One thing I love about homeschooling is that my kids are out experiencing the world in a variety of settings and learning from different instructors who are so passionate about their field. Families are empowered to ask their favorite provider of services or products to become a vendor. Here are just a few of the vendors in Southern California offering programs for homeschool kids:

Amazon and Rainbow Resources are my two favorite vendors for curriculum. The prices and selection are great, and shipping with Amazon is fast.  We can create thousands of combinations customized to our children’s learning styles and abilities.

 

  • Charter School Options–Charter schools compete to attract and retain students. Each year, the choices, funding and options seem to get better. Here are just a few examples:

I know some people vehemently opposed to accepting educational funds from the government. In California, you have the option to stay independent instead of receiving charter school funds. However, sometimes they give out false information and say you can’t teach what you want if you accept funds. This simply is NOT TRUE. I customize my kids’ education every bit as much as a family who does not join a charter school. I find their misinformation confuses new homeschool families. If I ever felt dissatisfied with the charter school, I have the freedom and choice to file independently again. I have multiple friends who were fiercely independent and resisted joining the charters. However, when some amazing opportunities opened up two years ago for students in my charter, they signed up. They are enjoying their activities and extra funds and have not looked back. crown-group-shot-end

In summary, the educational funds have played a tremendous role in creating a huge infrastructure for homeschool families. I am in charge of what and how my kids learn.  If I ever believed it impacted my ability to teach what I wanted, then I would simply go independent. I am so excited and hopeful that homeschooling families across America will also have the opportunity to receive educational funds, if they desire, and see an even greater expansion of the homeschool infrastructure and learning opportunities.

I would love for Secretary DeVos to come to Southern California to see what has been built for homeschool families–in part due to educational funds. It is learning for the 21st-century at its finest!

 

You may also be interested in:

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

Need Some K-6 Math Inspiration?

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Top Read-Aloud Picks for Your Family

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Note: I have updated this post to answer readers’ questions and provide deeper explanations for you.

Where Do Your Homeschooled Kids Learn?

Where Do Your Homeschooled Kids Learn?

After a beautiful day looking for marine fossils led by our favorite naturalist, I came home to these words in a book I am reading:

“To keep students in school and engaged as productive learners through to graduation, schools must provide many experiences in which all students do some of their learning outside school.”

“Most young people find school hard to use. Indeed, many young people find school a negative learning environment. Not only do schools fail to help students become competent in important life skills, they provide a warped image of learning as something that takes place only in schools, segregated from the real world, organized by disciplines and school bells, and assessed by multiple-choice, paper-and-pencil tests. Schools have scores of written and unwritten rules that stifle young people’s innate drive for learning and restrict their choices about at what they want to excel, when to practice, from whom to learn, and how to learn. It is no wonder that so many creative and entrepreneurial youth disengage from productive learning.”–Charles Mojkowski in Living to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates

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I am thrilled, as homeschoolers, we have so many different opportunities to learn in such a wide variety of environments. My favorite learning takes place in the great outdoors! Additionally,  as educational facilitators, we can pick the best teachers for our kids. They are not confined to one teacher in the same classroom for an entire year. With our naturalist, for instance, we have one of the premier teachers available to learn about nature and ecological responsibility.  I love the tremendous diversity in learning opportunities we engage in together with our friends.

Homeschoolers, let’s make sure we are not squandering our wonderful freedoms and benefits in homeschooling to simply stay at home all day recreating school. Yes, do your math, reading, writing or whatever academic subjects you feel are critical.

Ditch what “school work” does not seem to add value in exchange for real edification out in the world. Learn from people who are passionate and want to share that with your kids! By giving your children such tremendous exposure, they will have a greater ability to understand what they are passionate about in addition to a fine education. In my experience, we are a much more joyful family when we are out learning together and not sitting at home all day doing school work.

Enjoy your journey and carpe diem!

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You may also be interested in:

Do Parents Need More Patience for Public School or Homeschool?

How to Build Your Homeschool Tribe

Homeschoolers Choose Free Market Over One-Size-Fits All Classroom Education

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!

 

Homeschoolers: Originals and Non-Conformists

As a homeschooler, you are an original and non-conformist ready to move the world! Instead of your kids attending conventional schools like 96% of the K-12 population in the USA, you have demonstrated the mettle to provide your children a different experience and opportunity. 

 

school-at-disneyland
We immersed ourselves in the  genius of  the Walt Disney Company last year at a weekly class inside Disneyland.

 

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”–George Bernard Shaw

I love to read a wide array of books, synthesize the information, and apply the lessons to education and homeschooling. I will share many of these synapses with you on my blog with hopes you will have take-aways for your homeschool. Today, I will discuss the #1 New York Times bestseller, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. 

http://amzn.to/2e0Q31P

 

Foreword by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

 

According to the book: “Conformity means following the crowd down conventional paths and maintaining the status quo. Originality is taking the road less traveled, championing a set of novel ideas that go against the grain but ultimately make things better.”

“Originals are people who take the initiative to make their visions a reality….When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins. Rules and systems were created by people.”

As homeschoolers, we have not followed the conventional path but have taken the road less traveled and created a better education and lifestyle for our children than the status quo. By demonstrating this vision and initiative, we have modeled for our children not to conform and to think critically.

I hope my kids will move the world  with their passion and ideas. As we have embraced a lifestyle with plenty of time for learning out in the world in a variety of ways as well as a home rich in literature and discussion, they are learning to be original and not follow the crowd or a set of codified rules in a classroom.

 

Continue reading “Homeschoolers: Originals and Non-Conformists”

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Dear Secretary King,

Earlier this week, you stated you were concerned many homeschoolers were not getting the socialization and educational opportunities as their peers.

You must be unfamiliar with contemporary homeschooling. Not only are many homeschool families excelling in academics but are also on the cutting edge of 21st-century education. In fact, the education world could learn a lot if they spent some time studying what contemporary homeschoolers are creating. In many cases, it is educational entrepreneurship at its finest! Regarding socialization, I find the opportunities for homeschoolers as vastly superior to those in conventional classrooms.

Let me break down and address your reported concerns:

  • You worry that, in a lot of cases, students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of the breadth of instruction experience they would get in school.

     

We are able to provide our kids with truly customized, high-quality educations. We don’t use a one-size-fits-all curriculum, and we aren’t bogged down by hierarchies and bureaucracies to make change. We don’t teach to the middle or to a test. I never planned to homeschool but had to pull my son from public school because he was so far ahead of his peers. He was bored, and our local public school in an upper-middle-class area was not able to provide adequate rigor or challenge.

There is a large and impressive ecosystem in place for homeschoolers to take academic and enrichment classes. Some classes my kids , currently ages 6-10 years old, have taken with their homeschool friends over the past several years include physics, chemistry, public speaking,  NASA engineering, art, Spanish, aviation, Meet the Great Composers, chess, engineering structures, Lego Writing Club, cooking, botany and violin. In my view, our kids are exposed to so much more and in a much more enjoyable way than their conventionally-schooled counterparts.

  • They’re also not getting the opportunity to build relationships with peers unless their parents are very intentional about it.

I love the way my kids are socialized with our homeschool friends. They are not confined to the same desks, playground and cafeteria  day-after-day. Instead, they are often out in nature enjoying the freedom and purity of those landscapes together. Other times they are interacting in places as diverse as museums,  nature centers, restaurants, galleries, workshops, performing arts theaters, farms, planetariums,  and more. This stimulates tremendous creative interaction amongst the homeschoolers.

They are more actively engaged in conversation, thought, movement and play with friends. Their friendships are strengthened as they learn and play together in a wide variety of interactive environments. This is in stark contrast to the humdrum of being in the same classroom with the same teacher in the same desk each day.

Additionally, homeschooled kids build relationships with peers of a wide age range. Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, wrote in The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined:

 “There is nothing natural about segregating kids by age. That isn’t how families work; it isn’t what the world looks like; and it runs counter to the way that kids have learned and socialized for most of human history…..As anyone who’s ever spent time around children can tell you, both younger and older kids benefit when different ages mix. The older ones take responsibility for the younger ones. The younger ones look up to and emulate the older ones.  Everyone seems to act more mature. Both younger and older rise to the occasion. Take away the mix of ages and everybody loses something. “–From The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Sal Khan

 

http://amzn.to/2djh0BL

  • Students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of “rapid instructional experience” they would get in school.

I don’t know exactly what you mean by this. One of my friends, who is a former science teacher, replied to your comment, “That just means they go so fast and shallow that many kids don’t get it, and the others don’t care about it.” The typical homeschooler takes a different approach. We go deep into subjects. The lifestyle of learning in the homeschool community is a beautiful thing. It goes beyond our academics and can be found in the vacations we take, types of birthday parties we have, weekend activities and more.  Two of the most important skills of a 21st-century education are curiosity and a love of learning. If you spend time in the homeschool community,  you will see children who are frequently out in the world joyfully learning in a variety of environments from people who are passionate about their field and craft.

Also, a large chunk of homeschool families have at least one parent who is currently or was a teacher. This really should raise some eyebrows as to what is going on in public education when so many who have taught in the classroom have decided they can do better by taking them out of the system.  A veteran public school teacher with decades of experience is the person who really encouraged me to pull my son from public school and homeschool him.

  • They’re often not getting those relationships with teachers and mentors other than their parents. You worry whether home school students are getting the range of opportunities we hope for all kids.

Homeschoolers are able to get their academic work done in about half the time of their conventionally-schooled peers. This gives them far more time to be out in the world engaged in their passions with mentors. If they love birding then they can volunteer at the Audubon Society and learn from the naturalists there. If they are passionate about fossils then they can volunteer with a paleontologist. My homeschooled cousin is the youngest docent at our local aquarium. At just 10 years-old, she leads talks throughout the aquarium for visitors.

 

Additionally, there is a huge infrastructure of classes for homeschoolers. Homeschool parents are educational facilitators for their kids and often sign their kids up for classes. They have the flexibility to find the best teachers, tutors, and mentors they can. They aren’t stuck with whatever teacher they end up with at conventional school. True educational customization!

You did concede there are some families doing it well and you knew of some homeschoolers in college who had “very tremendous academic success.”  I am thankful for our freedom in homeschooling and agree with you that “it’s up to families if they want to take a homeschool approach.” Homeschoolers, in my view, are by far the most entrepreneurial segment of the U.S. education system, and homeschooling is superior to any public or private school when done well. Nothing beats the level of customization homeschooling parents can offer their children with all that is available to us today.

Respectfully,

The Contemporary Homeschooler

You may also be interested in:

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

Benefits of Experiential Learning

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part One

Academic Scheduling for More Experiential Learning Part Two

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Is Screen Time Like Digital Heroin?

Earlier this week, a provocative article came out in the NY Post titled It’s Digital Heroin: How Screens Turn Kids into Psychotic Junkies. The author, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, presented brain imaging research showing screens impact the frontal cortex the same way that cocaine does. Additionally, he described kids becoming “bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.” Similar results have been described in many research papers and articles.

He described kids becoming “bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

Over the past several years, I have taken a keen interest in this topic and have learned a lot through research, listening to parents discuss their experiences, and observing kids who spend a lot of time on screens and kids who don’t.

both kids on screens

As their brains become more consumed by their virtual worlds, they are less interested in the types of activities that are so important for physical, intellectual and social development.

The biggest problem I have seen with kids who spend great quantities of time on screens  is just what Dr. Kardaras states in the article. These kids get bored easily when they do not have their screens. The world becomes less interesting to them.  As their brains become more consumed by their virtual worlds, they are less interested in the types of activities that are so important for physical, intellectual and social development including playing outside, participating in sports, building Legos, drawing, scouting, and so forth. Concentration levels decrease making even reading a book challenging.  WebMD found “grades began to decline steadily after just 45 minutes of screen time and dropped even more significantly after 2 hours. More screen time led to greater sleeping problems, too.”

On the other hand, the kids I have seen who engage in little or no screen time are some of the most creative, well-mannered, and happy children around. I don’t hear “I’m bored” come out of their mouths often or if ever. Instead, they find many interesting things to do at home and when they are out with friends and family. They aren’t thinking about a screen because it is not part of their routine or a big part of their day.

smile fort
Kids are more likely to be creative and social at home when they can’t jump on a computer whenever they want.

I believe excessive screen time and physical inactivity are responsible for many kids’, though certainly not all,  ADD and ADHD diagnoses. Children as young as kindergarten and 1st grade are now being prescribed psychotropic drugs like Ritalin so they can sit still in class and not be disruptive. Before I put my children on any type of mind-altering drug, I would do some heavy-duty research about long-term consequences and other side effects. Furthermore, I would go cold turkey on screens and spend copious amounts of time out in nature before even considering those drugs. I would also look at educational alternatives such as homeschool before my kids began ingesting them.

I am not anti-screens with my kids. Though, I admit, I always cringe a little when I see they are playing a computer game. They earn their screen time just like a person earns a paycheck. For a full load of school work and chores, they earn 25 minutes per day. If they have less work then their earned screen time decreases. I don’t ban it altogether. Sometimes things become even more desirable when they are entirely forbidden.

I do not buy the argument that video games  are good because they help you to understand technology. On the other hand, strategic use of technology has great benefits. I welcome teaching kids how to use technology to make them more productive and professional.

I do not buy the argument that video games  are good because they help you to understand technology. I agree there is excellent technology to enhance work and learning. I embrace that. However, sitting around playing video games is not an effective tool in teaching one to use effective technology.

On the other hand, strategic use of technology has great benefits. I’m teaching a blogging and 21st-century skills class at our homeschool co-op in the fall. We will incorporate some strategic uses of technology including creating and delivering Power Point presentations, developing blogs, conducting research and graphing it with Google Sheets and much more. I welcome teaching kids how to use technology to make them more productive and professional. This is a smart use of technology in my opinion.

I am not a doctor. I am  sharing my opinion for your consideration. I believe this information is important with all my heart. I urge you to do your own research on this topic and draw your own conclusions. If your screen-addicted kid’s behavior is not satisfactory by your standards or is not interested in too much beyond his tablet, consider setting limits or getting rid of it altogether. I think 30-45 minutes per day is more than enough. You may try going cold turkey for 3 months. I bet you’d be surprised how your child started to find the world and other people interesting again after getting over the initial shock of losing screen time.

In the article, Dr. Kardaras states, “The key is to prevent your 4-, 5- or 8-year-old from getting hooked on screens to begin with. That means Lego instead of Minecraft; books instead of iPads; nature and sports instead of TV.”

Kate smiling

One of the most important and impactful parenting books I have ever read is The Last Child in the Woods:Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. I wish all parents would read it. You can buy it on Amazon through this link here or perhaps get it at your library.

http://amzn.to/2bWTx5Y

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There are so many book excerpts I’d love to include here from Last Child in the Woods. Here are a few:

TV in the Car?

Constructively Bored Mind Versus a Negatively Numbed Mind

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Teaching Public Speaking with Legos

Legos offer an enjoyable and non-threatening way to teach public speaking. What are some of the benefits to gaining effective public speaking skills? 1) Improved communication; 2) Increased self-esteem; 3) Planning experience;  4) The power of persuasion. The skills children acquire in this pragmatic class will benefit them throughout their lives.

Public speaking is one of the most important and dreaded forms of communications.

Many studies show more people fear public speaking than anything else.  Here is some good news. I created and taught a class at our co-op incorporating Legos. Many kids are thrilled to do anything when Legos are involved.

Here is how the class works:

Each week I teach a brief lesson about a public speaking skill. Topics include making eye contact, projection, inflection, and speaking clearly. After each presentation, peers respectfully offer feedback as to how the presenter fared incorporating those skills into his presentation.

http://amzn.to/2b9DOR3

The Historic and Fairy Tale Minifig set from Lego Education has been extremely popular in my Lego classes.

 

 

My class has two Lego-building components:

  • Partner Build

The kids are given a very broad theme like nature. They are partnered up and build a Lego together. They then jointly get up in front of the class for a brief 1-2 minute non-rehearsed, impromptu presentation. They are required to work with all the personalities of the class over the course of the semester.

  • Home Build and Speech Practice

The kids are given a different theme for a Lego they will build for homework without a partner or team. They go home and build a Lego creation to bring and share with the class. Each student is given 3 minutes for his presentation. He prepares and practices his speech at home, integrating skills I have taught, ensuring he does not go over his time allotted. Peers offer feedback about how he did with incorporating the public speaking skills.

http://amzn.to/2bE0VRY

 

My Lego classes also loved this Community Workers minifig set created by Lego Education.

 

21st-century skills developed in this class  include Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity.

I hope you found this post useful and can use it in your co-op, classroom or with a group of friends. Stay tuned for Part Three of this Teaching with Legos series.

For more ideas about teaching with Legos, you may be interested in Lego Writing Club:

Lego Writing Club

 

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Note: If you decide to make a purchase through my blog link, Amazon will pay me a commission for it.  This doesn’t cost you anything additional. These commissions help to keep the rest of my content free. So, thank you!