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Home School Teaching Tools Tips

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How can I promote and encourage my child's thinking skills and instinctive curiosity as a natural part of our homeschooling curriculum?

Invite Verbal Interaction: Regularly Ask and Encourage Questions and Answers

Build your youngster's thinking and language skills by asking questions and encouraging thoughtful answers and additional questions. Talk about what you are doing, and how and why you are doing it. Have discussions. Ask "what if" questions. Answer all those "why" questions, and if you don't know the answer, look it up together.

How long does homeschooling take each day?


How long homeschooling takes each day depends on your approach or philosophy. Many people consider simply living and interacting with the family each day to be "education" enough. Other families follow a rigid or semi-rigid daily academic schedule that can accomplish the basics in two to three hours. However, this doesn't mean the child covers the same amount as in six hours of "regular" school per day—homeschooling is far more intense and time-productive.

Homeschooling can cover in one week (of two- or three-hour days) what can take two weeks or more in a traditional school setting. One-on-one teaching and the advantage of flowing, uninterrupted focus and attention on the part of the student make homeschooling very efficient.

*When you consider the field trips, park days, and other extra-curricular activities available to homeschoolers, the benefits speak for themselves.

How do I begin creating my portfolio?

Collage Portfolio

1. Collect Materials:

•Poster board
•Glue sticks
•Small artifacts
•Glue gun

2. Paste stuff from magazines and catalogs onto poster board.
3. Glue objects onto poster board also.

You just created a collage portfolio. What did you learn as you observed the process? Did you or your child:

•Use the whole piece of poster board just as it came from the store?
•Fold it?
•Cut it?
•Use scissors to cut pictures from magazines and catalogs?
•Rip pictures out?
•Paste down whole pictures?
•Cut out specific parts of pictures to paste down?
•Include words or phrases?
•Glue on many 3-dimensional objects?
•Lay out the items in a particular format?
•Arrange things in what appears to be a haphazard way?
•Overlap things?
•Paste things so that they go beyond the edge?
•Cut everything out first, then arrange everything before pasting?
•Paste each item as soon as it was cut?
•Finish in an hour?
•Complete the project over several days?

What did you learn as you observed the finished product? Did you see:

•A particular theme?
•An eclectic mix?
•Someone you recognized?
•Aspects of yourself or your child that you hadn't seen before?

Reflect on your or your child's choices. You probably had a rationale for each item's inclusion in your collage. However, once the final collage is complete, you can view the project as a whole—rather than just the sum of its parts. Your thoughts and interests have been made visible, perhaps in new ways. Even the manner you chose to arrange things may indicate themes and connections that you hadn't perceived before. And, because the task was so open-ended, you might have discovered something about your learning style and how you instinctively approach a task. This is what happens when you create a paper portfolio, too. Your thoughts and thinking processes become clear to both your audience and yourself.

How do I determine grades for my kids?

Figuring Precentage and Letter Grades

Simple steps to figure out the percentage and letter grade of an assignment or test.

1.Correct the paper.

2.Determine the number of total questions (some questions can get more than one point - if there are multiple answers or if it is a particularly long answer).

3.Count number of correct questions.

4.Take the number of correct questions and divide by the total number of questions.

5.Multiply this number by 100 to turn it into a percentage.

6.Typical grade scale: 93-100% = A; 85-92% = B; 77-84% = C; 70-76% = D; 69% and below = F.

Note that this is not a rubric. Instead, it is a basic grading scale as is used in "regular" school. If you are grading a simple paper and pencil test, this is a great method. If you are grading an in-depth project, however, you should have devised a rubric before your child began the work.

What types of portfolios are there?

Types of Portfolios

Portfolios can serve a variety of functions:

Product: What I Have Achieved
Process: How I Learn
Progress: How Far I Have Come

Every time you put together a portfolio, consider what kind you are making and whom the audience is.

What is a good rubric for writing assignments?

A Rubric For Writing

Here is a sample rubric for writing:

Criteria - Title
Excellent - Title piquest the reader's curiosity by using unique vocabulary
Acceptable - Title is based on the vocabulary of essay's content
Not Too Good - Title reiterates name of book or assignment
Starting Over Again - No Title

Criteria - First and Final Paragraphs
Excellent - Strong engagement, and sense of closure
Acceptable - Avoids the template, but doesn't grab the reader
Not Too Good - Flat, template-like beginning and closure
Starting Over Again - Not distinguishable as beginning and ending paragraphs

Criteria - Paragraph Sequence
Excellent - Uses tect to effect transition from one pargraph to the next
Acceptable - Transition achieved, but by an overuse of traditional words (likewise, so, therefore, et al)
Not Too Good - Paragraphs ordered, but no sense of transition
Starting Over Again - No logical sequence to paragraphs, disjointed

Criteria - Sentence Contruction
Excellent - Variety of sentence forms used to achieve balance
Acceptable - Complex sentences, but too much prose
Not Too Good - Declarative and compound sentences
Starting Over Again - Short declarative sentences

You can easily apply a letter grade to this rubric if that is your preference. It is always handy to word the rubric in such a way that you can hand it to your student in advance and let him know what you are looking for.

What if my child just wants to read all day?

Keeping Track of Grades

If you have MS Office on your computer create a simple spreadsheet listing all the subjects your child has during the day. Then, enter all of the grades for the week right into the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet can double as a report card and helps you with accountability when the state is checking up on you!

*Typically, updating the sheet once a week (every Friday is suggested) is the best method.

Make a movie, book report

Make a Movie!

Want a fun project that keeps history from seeming so boring? Instead of having your kids write a boring old report, have them make a "movie" instead. Give the kids some butcher paper, two empty paper towel rolls, an old cardboard box, and some markers and crayons. Tell them to draw scenes, in order, on the paper along with a storyline. Then, wind the paper along the roll.

If you don`t have butcher paper, you can tape together sheets of copy paper or of construction paper for the same effect. Recommend that the kids only draw one scene per piece of paper.

Where do I start in creating a portfolio?

Creating a Mini-Portfolio

Choose an area of the house you feel comfortable in and look around the room (or area). Begin choosing items that reflect you. Your list should be a miniature picture of who you are. Answer the following about five items that you chose:

Item #1 -
Why I chose it:
What it shows about me:

Item #2 -
Why I chose it:
What it shows about me:

Item #3 -
Why I chose it:
What it shows about me:

Item #4 -
Why I chose it:
What it shows about me:

Item #5 -
Why I chose it:
What it shows about me:

Study the list you made and consider the connotation of each of the items that you chose. What does it say about you? What are you trying to tell people? Use this information to begin compiling items for the real thing.

How do I get my child interested in history?

Audio Recordings

My son loves to make tape recordings. I use this fascination to educational advantage by having him create taped "interviews" of famous scientists or historical figures.

Your child could pretend to be a field journalist covering some major event in history such as the Pompeii eruption or D-Day. How about interviewing a Pony Express rider? Or Martin Luther following his visit to the Wittenburg Door? The child could expand this technique and create whole radio dramas including historically accurate advertising.

*When homeschooling, be creative and work your child's interests into the learning process.

What is a documentation portfolio?

Documentation or Accountability Portfolios

A documentation portfolio is for use outside the home, communication with others and accountability to school officials. A documentation portfolio is designed for the person who reviews it. Therefore, it is necessary only to include those materials that the officials require.

Who is being held accountable with the portfolio? Is the school using the portfolio to assess the student? Or is the portfolio used to evaluate the parent, teacher, or homeschool program? Make sure you know what your school has a legal right to assess.

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Guru Spotlight
Joe Wallace