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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Activating a Love of Reading in Kids? Is it possible?

I read an interesting blog today that talked about the reading habits of children. The blog was Principal Joey. Mark it in your favorites because that site has a lot to tell you. The article I found was focused on making children read, a topic that I have struggled with my own children. Personally, I love to read. I try to pinpoint the moment when I found a love of the written word and I have tried to encourage homeschoolers to read for over ten years now. So far, my oldest is not impressed. Granted, there have been those moments where he picked up books. The Percy Jackson series was devoured. He likes reading zombie books now and then. But, I wouldn't say he has a love of reading.

So far, my youngest shows no interests in books.


There used to be a time when, at the end of the day, children were not forced to read. Rather, stories were a special time. Not all kids had this, I know. But there was a standard. It was not because we were told as parents that we had to read to our kids. We read with our family as a way to bond and in this there was something special to books. Then there are those that escaped through the words and into fantastical realms that they couldn't find elsewhere. Others simply enjoyed the intricacies of words. What it came down to was that there was a reason to read.

Are Video Games and Television to Blame for a Lack of Reading? 

Some would say that video games cause a lack of reading. The same could be said for movies and television. Why read when you can just press a button and there is a visual adventure, comedy, or anything else the creative mind requires at your finger tips? I say this is bull. I grew up in a video game era. My brother and my cousin loved games and from them I learned to love them too. That didn't mean that was all that I did though. I think part of the issue was that there was a time to read when I was growing up. Plus, my parents liked to read and I did learn through example.

With each generation, as reading wanes, children are less likely to be interested. Never mind the fact that in the last ten years we have been bombarded by parents refusing to let children read certain books designed and meant for kids, simply because they didn't like the plot or morals. Ahem - Harry Potter and Twilight anyone?

Let the kids read what they want! 

As children we grew up on books that our parents didn't always like. The generation before my own devoured Flowers in the Attic, which was not initially intended for the junior to high school audience. They loved them and read anyway. My generation had a variety of trash books to choose from. Personally, Interview With the Vampire and the subsequent Vampire Chronicles caught my eye. My love of Lestat is so apparent that even my eldest has the French Vampire's name as his middle name. Teens aren't going to have the same interests as adults and while I think it is great to encourage reading outside of the scope, there also needs to be a place for reading for pleasure. Allowing kids to read what they love and finding inspiration within books for their own passions is the only way that they are going to find passion therein the pages.

Don't force your kids to read! 

Stop it. This is my own call to action. Seriously, why would you want to squash the love of literature? Do you know if your child is going to be a budding wordsmith? Perhaps they will find their passion later in life. That is okay. As a parent guiding by example and encouragement is enough, but for the love of all that is sacred, don't force it. This is especially true for the teens. Think back to when you were a teen and told what to do. You wanted your own freedom to explore, right? Teens today are no different and by encouraging your kids to read rather than making them do it you are giving them the choice.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How We Forged Our Own Homeschool Curriculum

T practicing his guitar
Finding a homeschool music curriculum - joys and concerns...

As a homeschooling family, music has always been an important aspect of our curriculum. The problem that I have always had in this though is that I am not really musically inclined. I mean, I took classes when I was younger and with effort, I can still remember how to read notes. However, the problem that many face with teaching their children to sing or to love songs is finding a homeschool music curriculum that works best for them. It can be challenging when the teacher (in this case, the parent) is not well versed on a subject, and music is no different.

How We Did It - A Personal Homeschool Music Lesson Story

When our oldest was about six, he claimed that he wanted to play the guitar. Personally, I thought it was a fleeting idea. Afterall, while he liked music, he never really had any inclination to play. He wouldn't sing in front of people and he was nervous about even dancing. I told him that he had to learn notes and that it would take a lot of practice. Before I was willing to pay someone to begin teaching him, I wanted to make sure that it was going to be money well spent. So, I made a deal. Remembering my own woes of trying to learn guitar - it hurt my hand, it was difficult, I felt awkward holding a guitar... I told him that if he wanted a stringed instrument that he would have to start with something easier. He chose the piano.

We were able to barter for piano lessons. Lucky us, the husband is a massage therapist and apparently that is a barterable skill. For almost a year, until we moved, T had a weekly lesson. He kept up on his notes and he showed us that he was serious. Rarely did we have to remind him to practice. He kept to his word and we kept to ours. We got him a guitar. Oddly, while he says that he liked the guitar more, he wasn't happy with the homeschool music curriculum we had planned out, which was hiring someone to teach him. He wanted more. We decided to include sessions with a friend and encouraging band play. Unfortunately, we moved a lot and he didn't get as much of this as he would like, but to this day he is still playing. Currently, we are looking for a new guitar teacher in Boise and starting over on his homeschool music curriculum. Now that he is older, we are incorporating music history into the mix. Thankfully, we know how to look for a new teacher and have had a lot of experience in making homeschool music curriculums work for our family.

How Much Do Private Guitar Lessons Cost? 

One of my initial questions, especially since we started off bartering, was how much this was all going to cost. I found that depending on where we lived, prices for guitar lessons differed. Denver guitar lessons cost us about 45.00 an hour. Boise guitar lessons were closer to 20.00 an hour. Guess it's a good thing that we moved to the "Gem State"!

Encouraging Online Learning

There are many places online that help with homeschool music curriculums. One of the best resources that we found for history lessons. Luckily, we found Confessions of a Homeschooler early on in our search. They have a great guide to what works and what doesn't. My son found some help from Khan Academy as well. If your child is in an online school such as K12, they also have a comprehensive program. Of course, you can also look around online and find the right fit for you too. Much of what is available online is geared towards kids of different ages. Looking back, I should have begun with all of this earlier than I did. This is a mistake that I will be correcting with our youngest child!

What about you? Do you have any good online music programs that you like? Please feel free to share! We are trying to find out more too!

Monday, February 17, 2014

We're Going to the Life is Good Unschooling Conference!

Have you heard about the unschool conference called Life is Good? If you haven't and you are an unschooling family, then you will certainly want to check it out. There are a number of conferences being held this year, but this is one of the ones that we are most excited about. Held from May 22 to May 25 in Vancouver, Washinton this conference is going to be great! Geared towards families with children of all ages, there is going to be a lot going on throughout including a talent show, funshops a pajama party, and a "prom". Additionally the Life is Good conference is going to have a number of presenters that are bound to inform and inspire.

One that I am really excited about is Robyn Coburn. She is such a positive person and I love reading her blog. If you haven't checked her out, she is an amazing writer and she has a number of great craft ideas on her website. As we have gone from more structured homeschooling to unschooling, I have found a wealth of inspiration on her page and now I get to hear her speak in person! Woohoo!

Kimya Dawson - of the famed Moldy Peaches - is also going to be there! You may have heard her sing in the movie Juno. We love her. My older son was actually a bit worried since he didn't know people that were going to be going and then I told him that she was going to be performing and he was hooked.

Unschooling is a great way to educate. It is an option that encourages a loving environment and children to learn on their own. If you don't know much about unschooling or this philosophy then you may want to check out the conference too. Just because you haven't been doing this kind of home education, doesn't mean that you can't attend. What better way to immerse yourself, make new friends, and learn about the style than by checking it out firsthand?

This is going to be able to be a family vacation for us. As a bonus, we haven't been to Portland before and the convention is not far away. It is going to give us a chance to be able to see people that we haven't seen in a while (we have friends in Eugene and they are coming up) and we plan to also explore the area. We are super excited about this unschool event!

Are you planning on going? Share your excitement with us! We'd love to meet new people while we are there!