Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Socialization - A trip to the store proves school is not necessary for socialization

One of the biggest arguments against homeschooling is socialization. They claim that public or at least formal schooling is necessary for learning social skills. Oh really? Have you been to your supermarket lately? How about the mall, the discount store, restaurant or any other public place? It does not take long at any one of these places to realize that very few people have mastered basic social skills. If most children go to school and school is necessary for learning proper social skills, why do so few people seem to have any? I was thinking about this at the store the other day as I noticed several areas in which people seemed ill trained to be in public. Here are a few examples that I came across that day.

Hygiene: You would think that since public schools spend tons of money on health and fitness classes that its graduates would at least have basic hygiene skills, unfortunately that is not the case. Don't get me wrong there are times when I run to the store and I am certainly not looking my best and could use a good shower myself. I mean, who doesn't have to rush to the store in the middle of scrubbing the toilets and floors? I know I certainly do. However there are some people that you can tell really need to learn some basic hygiene habits. Pride in appearance is something lacking these days. Not pride in expensive clothes, but in cleanliness and neatness.

Manners: My daughter has been saying things like "please" and "thank you" before she could even speak! (she used sign language before she could talk) They are part of her daily vocabulary and while she is not perfect, she knows when to use her manners. When she gets a sticker or cookie at the store she always tells them "thank you." Yet I watch other kids rush over, grab their loot with the only words out of their mouths being "I want a cookie!" You seldom seem to hear an excuse me or I am sorry at the store either. Walking down those ever crowding isles often leaves little room for one cart let alone three or four. It never ceases to amaze me how many people shove their way past without uttering the simple phrase "excuse me" or "sorry" when they have actually bumped your cart or gotten in your way.

Respect: People seem to have little respect for anyone else that may be around them. They will use foul language with no regard for who might hear. No one seems to feel it is inappropriate to speak like that around children let alone other adults. No, I don't get easily offended or put off, but there was a time when people understood that you were to show some sort of respect for other people and watch your mouth in public. The grocery store is not an appropriate place to tell sexual jokes or cuss out your kid (not that there is ever an appropriate time for that)! Kids these days do not seem to think about anyone else other than themselves. They run out and buy the most offensive clothes they can find to purposely show that they don't care. Don't even let me get started about how they won't pull up their pants or button up their blouses!

Hygiene, manners and respect are important social skills but it is obvious that there is no guarantee that going to school is going to teach a person that skill. In fact the problem seems to be that parents believe it is the school's job to teach their children these skills when in fact these are things children learn by example. Proper social skills must not only be taught in the home by the parents, but they need to be used in the home by the parents or you are losing a fighting battle. If you don't use proper hygiene, it is not very likely that a health class in school is going to teach your child to have good hygiene. They have already learned bad habits at home and one class is usually not enough to break them. If you use foul language all the time and show no respect to others around you, your child is going to do the same, even at school. Parents need to step up and start teaching their child proper social habits, because it is obvious that schools alone can not get the job done.

While schools have good intentions and try to teach some of these things, the fact of the matter is that schools often fail to do it. Yet most homeschool children seem to have great manners, are very polite and are very well groomed. For some reason this makes people think that there is something "wrong" with them because of it! This is actually the way the children are supposed to behave!

Think about it for just a moment. What about the school environment represents anything you do in adult life? At what point do you spend your day surrounded by 20 people your exact age from your own neighborhood? At what point are you forced to eat lunch with or shower with your employees on a daily basis? How is spending five days a week there necessary to learn how to function in the work place?

No, schools are not necessary for learning proper social skills. The only thing needed to learn proper social skills is to live in a society and interact with it. It doesn't have to be at school, it can be anywhere. It seems to me that a trip to the store is the best place to start teaching those skills to your children. That is what I have done with my daughter. Each trip to the store is a lesson in behavior because I do not let her get away with being rude or disrespectful while we are there. So the next time you worry about children lacking proper social skills remember to leave where they go to school out of the equation. I guarantee you those kids that annoy you the most in public places probably go to school anyway which blows your theory about homeschooling and socialization out the water. Instead make it your goal to teach your own child proper social skills, because believe me, if you don't do it, no one else will.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas

Christmas is an odd holiday for me. As a Christian that seeks to stay true to the Word I see nothing that tells me to celebrate the Lord's birth nor is there any proof that December 25th is His birth day. There are pagan roots to the holiday and there is no evidence of the early church celebrating this event until the 300sAD. That is a bit late to either give any credence to the date or the command to celebrate it. However, is celebrating it wrong? That is a subject I do not want to debate in this thread. Whenever this question comes to me I am always led to the 14th chapter in Romans which says

Rom 14:5, 14 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind...Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. NIV

So whether a Christian celebrates it is a religious holiday or chooses not to, we should not judge them for it. These are what Romans 14:1 refers to as "disputable" matters and allows us freedom in choosing what we do.

On a personal level we celebrate Christmas with some of the secular traditions of exchanging presents and putting up a tree. We do share the nativity story with my daughter at this time of year. What we do not do is say this is Jesus' birthday, because there is no evidence to support that it is. We do not get on the "keep Christ in Christmas" campaigns because we are not convinced that Christ was ever in it. We do not do Santa Claus because we do not care to lie to our child. But mostly we do not judge how others celebrate or refrain from celebrating this holiday. We pray that they give us the same respect in return.

With that said here are a few of the "Christmas" things we did for homeschool.

Crafts

Because of how I feel about Christmas I never know what parts of it to focus on or not so I did not do many crafts, but in Sunday School we did do a simple nativity scene craft from First School Preschool activites and crafts. She made a glitter Christmas tree and Christmas Card at the library story time as well.

What we did do was bake some cookies. Since presents are being given at Christmas I want my daughter to think of giving as much as receiving. Since I am not talented when it comes to "making" gifts I figured we would bake cookies to give away. Now I realize that I am not talented at baking either! I admire all those homeschool mothers who have oodles of homemade goodies on their blogs. I was lucky to pull off some sugar cookies myself. It took two tries to get this to work and it was an exhausting process but in the end we made some cookies to give to family and friends for Christmas. Since I may not ever attempt this again, here is proof that we did it once!



Books

We checked out several books from the library. I found these two particularly good because of our views on the holiday. It shows why these items are part of a Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. It allows the child to understand that these traditions are not part of the Bible but that they, like any other resource we have, can be used to help explain it.

The Legend of the Christmas Tree


The Legend of the Candy Cane


Videos

The Star of Christmas is a Veggie Tale Movie that is really good. My daughter loves it. Our AWANA kids watched it this year too.



The other video my daughter really loved was the Beginner's Bible Series "The Story of The Nativity." She loves all the movies in this series.



My daughter has been counting the days until Christmas on her calendar every day. She had a party with our Down Syndrome support group which she really enjoyed and she is looking forward to opening her presents. She also knows that this time of year we celebrate when Jesus was born. She does not say it is Jesus' birthday, but she knows that this is the time of year when people choose to celebrate that wonderful event.

That is how we choose to teach some of the materials for this season. We had our final school day on Friday and will not be back to school until January. So until then, we pray (no matter how you celebrate the day) that all of you may you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The concept of sight

I am on a mission to teach my daughter the concept of the five senses. We have studied them this year and last and she can tell you what she uses to see, hear, taste, touch and smell. If you ask her what do you hear with she says ears, what do you see with, she knows it is the eyes. However, when you ask her did she see or feel the color blue, she always says she felt it! If you ask her does she use her eyes or hands to find the color red, she will say her hands. Now I know I have been telling you that she is a hands on learner, but really, her eyes do work. So now it is my job to find a way to explain that to her.

This is one of the greatest challenges of teaching a child with special needs. Most children seem to grasp certain abstract concepts pretty easily, but we have to find ways to teach them to our children. Some of it just does not come naturally and more often then not, when a child does not pick up the concept it is assumed that it is beyond their reach. I, however, do not always believe that to be the case. I am sure Gess can grasp the concept of what this all means, but it is going to take time, patience and dedication to get it done. I am off to find those hands on activities to help teach my daughter that she needs her eyes to know what color something is, or to read the words on the paper and wonderful things like that. So, what would be a week long lesson in the senses for some children is probably going last a month or more for us. That is alright, we will have lots of fun doing it.

I will be spending a couple of weeks researching ideas and planning some lessons and then probably after the first of the year we will start really delving into each of the senses. It may take some time, but we will accomplish our goal. I will keep you posted as to what activities I find that seem to work. In the meantime please feel free to share any activities that you have used or just ideas that come to mind. That is why I am here, so we can share and learn from each other!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Getting our hands on place values

Math U See is an awesome hands on curriculum. You can buy blocks to represent the numbers and they have them in values 1-9, tens and hundreds. To learn place value they have a thing called "Decimal street." They teach that there are three houses on the block. The units (ones), tens and hundreds. They have different color blocks for each place value and of course each house is the appropriate size to hold up to 9 of each kind of block. I was really worried that my daughter would struggle with place value, but this is taught in such a way that it was really easy for her to grasp and is also fun to do! Here is how it works.

We have cards 0-9 in three different colors. Green for the units, blue for the tens and red for the hundreds (which is the same color as the corresponding blocks). She draws one of each card and places it below the appropriate house. Then, starting with the units she places that many blocks in the house. (They call the ones units for the sake of accuracy and to avoid confusion. It is explained that one is a counting number which tells us how many, and units is the place value to tell us what kind)


When we have all the units in place we go on to the tens.


Then of course next is the hundreds.


Now we have all the houses in place on Decimal Street.


Math U See wants you to do three things: build it, say it and write it. This allows the child to use their eyes, ears and hands to learn. If your child does not write well yet you can either write it for them, have them use stickers or as I do, let them attempt to write it even if it does not come out well. When we use the workbook, I let Gess attempt to write the numbers copying what I write on the board. For this, I usually do the writing.

After we have built the number we work on saying it. I ask Gess how many units there are, and have her tell me and we do the same for the the tens and then the hundreds. As she tells me I write the number down on the chalk board. Then I ask her what the number is called. (She has learned that while we build the number starting with the units, when we say it we start with the hundreds.) At this point her response is generally "two hundred, four tens, four." While she says it incorrectly I actually love this answer because it shows that she not only knows what the number is, but why it is called that! I find that completely amazing!

In the videos and the materials they do explain that the "ty" at the end of tens numbers (such as sixty, seventy, etc) actually means "tens." So, to help Gess learn it correctly I write the appropriate response under the number and help her as she says it. She is starting to get better at it and sometimes will now say "two hundred forty two" like she is supposed to. Below is how I present the number to her. Remember I wrote each number as she told me how many of each place value there was. When I asked her how many units and she said four, then I wrote the four in that place, etc.


Another thing I do to practice is give her random numbers and ask her how many tens are in it, or how many hundreds, units, etc. It just thrills me that she always knows! She has also counted the amount of units that are on the tens and hundreds blocks so she understands why they are called that.

Math U See also comes with a video that is for the teacher to view to see how to present each lesson, but they say that you can view it with the students as well if you want. Gess loves watching the videos and on more difficult lessons like this it is good for her to watch them more than once. She always asks me to watch the video, so I know she likes them. We are going to be reviewing the lessons on tens to help reinforce the way to properly say the word. As it stands now though, she seems to grasp the place value of units, tens and hundreds. There is nothing like putting your hands on a lesson to implant it in the mind!

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