Seeing the Bigger Picture : Use Creative Summaries!

Oh, homeschooling can get so detailed. We can bogged down with the most minute thing. Rightly so, for Pete’s sake, we teach Spelling and Math Calculations and for those tasks, it is really all in the details.

However, we do need to periodically see the bigger picture in all this.  For those who are into homeschooling for the longer haul, a “bigger picture” mindset is easier to achieve on a daily basis. Oh, it’so ok if my student can’t get the lesson now, or isnt as motivated in a particular subject area, we can always try again next time.  But then, how do you remind yourself that this specific lesson needs to be revisited or presented again somehow?

Well, let me suggest, taking time to just jot down notes as you go along your day.  Let me share with you what I have done the past weeks.   You see, I love Arts and Crafts, and it has been some time now that I have been trying my hand ( haha literally that is) at the art of beautiful lettering ( brush, brush pen, pen, markers, calligraphy with Nib and pen holder). I really don’t have the time to attend workshops and do formal training so I just try to learn as time and opportunities allow.   Youtube overflows with lettering tutorials, it’s crazy!

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So, why not hit many birds with one stone. Summarize your lessons via a written ” brain map” of sorts and practice your lettering.  You may  also  allow your children/students to share in the doodling and jotting. Use this summary as a creative way to journal your learning homeschooling journey. Use it to get a bigger picture. Use it to encourage more ideas and application points as you tie up lessons and see amazing connections. Use it as well to filter out  and weave in ” activities, invitations, materials”  ! You may also review this before beginning the new homeschooling session the next day

Seeing the main points of your homeschooling day/ sessions help in being convinced ( if you continue to doubt) that a great amount of learning  is indeed happening!

Processed with MOLDIV
Processed with MOLDIV

 

So what goes into your CREATIVE SUMMARY?***  Here are a few suggestions:

1. Write down the main CHARACTER/SPIRITUAL/ TIMELESS truth  lesson of the day. It could be a verse , a quotation or simple just ONE word that may say it all.

2.  Write down vocabulary words in the main languages being learned ( English, Tagalog, Mother tongue or even foreign language).

3.  Jot down the main lessons (in phrases or simple sentences)  on various subjects and see connections across all subjects.

4.  Record any funny or memorable line/ event/ comment.

5. Drawings are allowed!

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Depending on the age of your students, try to do this as a joint activity:)  Children in Middle School or High School, can do this on their own !)

So go ahead, try it!  (and use unused pages of old notebooks!)

 

Luke 14: 27-29 And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. 28Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? 29 Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,…

 

Homeschool Room Dreaming Part 1

Featured Image courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens ( www.bhg.com)

In all our 12 years of homeschool, we’ve done our classes in a spacious but quite dark basement,  in a 6 sq meter hallway along the railing of stairs in a rented townhouse, in a 3×4 meter  ground floor room with lots of windows and now in a 3×3 meter bedroom subbing as a homeschool room as the kids have opted to share rooms to sleep and play.  I’ve always dreamed of having a gazebo with floor to ceiling windows in a huge garden as our homeschool room .  I always imagined that the children still “dressed up” for school and walked to their “school”.  But, we don’t have a huge garden, and even if we did, I don’t think we could afford to create a separate homeschool room with my “dream” specifications.

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thelushome.com
Outdoor-Playroom-Dwell
http://blog.modernica.net/

 

 

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Oh to be able to homeschool in such an environment with lots of space, greenery and yes, cool climate!  I am so glad that studies show that the success of education still lies in in the  quality of one on one engagement of the student and the teacher. They have shown that the  strong bond of student and teacher  and the dynamic learning that takes place in lively discussions outweigh the other factors of the learning environment: facilities, materials, technology, etc.

There is however nothing wrong to dream and maybe even work towards creating an organized and positive space that is conducive for learning as your homeschool area or room. Now, who wouldn’t want to work, even overtime on these areas I have chosen as I searched online for  my best homeschool rooms ever:

Imperfectlyperfect.com
Imperfectlyperfect.com
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justanightowl.com

 

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landofnod.com
blog.tealbirdconcepts.com
blog.tealbirdconcepts.com
mysmallpotatoes.com
mysmallpotatoes.com
timelessandtreasured.blogspot.com
timelessandtreasured.blogspot.com
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bhg.com
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bhg.com
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moffatgirls.blogspot.com

Though I am swooning and drooling as I view  all of these,  I  have resigned to the fact that I will just have to keep our area organized and more clutter free.  We have graduated 2 older students who are now in high schools in regular schools and there are no more preschoolers who benefit from lots of space, educational toys and hands on activities.  So our homeschool room now is more practical. It   also becomes a work area for the older kids after school when they need a bigger area to work on.

Our "current" homeschool room
Our “current” homeschool room
We do most messy activities and experiments in the kitchen.
We do most messy activities and experiments in the kitchen.

I still have to find our older photos but this is what I gathered from the past years. More or less, this is what our homeschool room looked look from 2007 – 2011

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Look at my preschooler bursting in the seams, it seems! Chubbiness at its cutest!

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We go to our small garden when we need to get wet!
We go to our small garden when we need to get wet!
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This was the most students I have had in one room ( except for the times when cousins would come and join our homeschool sessions) . This was a crazy season but truly fun and memorable.

As I looked for ideas, this article was very helpful in summarizing what makes a cool homeschool room .  Though we may be limited by space and our budget, there are many DIY and inexpensive ways for sprucing up your homeschool area/ room.

However, as mentioned, there is nothing wrong with dreaming right?  Stay tuned for part 2 of this Homeschool Room Dreaming series  as I share with you a newly opened store  with lots of amazing homeschool and home office furniture and accessories in our next post! Happy Homeschooling!

Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

HomesCool’s Emergency Kit

Just go ahead and do it.  Go ahead and put it together.  We need to take heed of the call of News and  Disaster Agencies including Red Cross to make our own’s family’s Emergency Kit. Some may call it “Lifeline Kit” or “Disaster Bag”.

You can turn this “preparation” into a HomesCool learning session.  Our students need to know  the reasons behind this “Emergency Kit”.   We should be a bit more considerate and wary in discussing “disasters” to little children so we do not create unnecessary stress and fear.

The following can be part of our discussion:

  1. Typhoons
  2. Floods
  3. Earthquakes
  4. Fires
  5. Bomb Explosion
  6. Stampedes

We should explain these situations (the science behind these, the causes, the effects, etc) to our children  and clearly communicate the family’s guidelines on what to do. Of course, we hope and pray that we will never find ourselves in these situations and that we would have no need of using our prepared “emergency bags”  but then it is much better to be prepared than finding ourselves in situations where we wish we should have prepared. Remember Ben Franklin’s famous line, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

I checked a few suggested lists online.  Please click on the highlighted link to go the actual online site.

1. CNN Philippines Emergency Kit

2. Philippine Red Cross Lifeline Kit

This is what you will see from the Philippine Red Cross:

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The following are screenshots of the list put together by the Philippine Red Cross:

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These are the items that we put together.  For the toiletries, we made use of the many mini toiletries giveaways from hotels (toothbrushes/toothpaste, shampoo and soaps)  We still have to include a few clothes, writing tools/paper, snacks and identification labels with contact details.   Family season will play a big part on the contents of ones emergency kits. Infants and toddlers will need their milk, diapers and baby food. Experts suggest including some toys and forms of entertainment like cards or carry-on games for the kids. If you have helpers living with you, you need to also prepare enough to include their needs.

 

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Can you see somethings that are not supposed to be in this bag?
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These bags must be placed in areas of easy accessibility like the garage or near the main door. Regularly check the bags to protect the perishables from expiring.

Again, remember Ben Franklin’s advise!  Let’s do it!

 

Proverbs 6:6-7 Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,  Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.

Homeschool Portfolios : The Process and the Product

 

A  week or so ago, I had posted this photo on the Homeschoolers of the Philippines Facebook page.  Little did I know that it would end up as my being “MOST LIKED” post ever since setting this Homeschool FB Group early last year.

Thank you for the 202 likes on Homeschoolers of the Philippines FB page!
Thank you for the 202 likes on Homeschoolers of the Philippines FB page!

I had been summer cleaning lately, and decided to unearth these from storage boxes. I realized that this was like our HomesCools version of a “Trophy Cabinet”. I didn’t expect the overwhelming, positive feedback in seeing all this displayed in such a manner. But then again, like they say, “When the going gets tough, always look up. ” I love looking up at these and marveling at God’s faithfulness and the blessed opportunity to homeschool, and remembering the good and the bad days captured in every page of these binders. I also didn’t expect the flood of inquiries regarding ” portfolios and how to create them”. So I decided to just open the Trophy Cabinet of the Simpao HomesCool and share with you our portfolio experience through the years.

To date, we’ve done more that 50 quarterly porfolios for the four Simpao children. As mentioned, they’ve been recently displayed and arranged by child in one of our big shelves. I can’t wait to have unhurried time to look again at these, page by page.

From simple title pages to amazing works of Art
From simple title pages to amazing works of Art

 

Not all homeschoolers are required to present portfolios. However, I do see the immeasurable value of chronicling your journey in this manner. Some may opt for the traditional 2-3 ring binder, a clear file folder or a scrapbook. Others may do digital “electronic” or “e-porfolio.”

I was an independent homeschooler for around five years and so just kept our homeschool output in bins/ folders. I wasn’t keeping them for any requirement but I just knew it was worth keeping for a whole number of reasons.

As we opted to accredit with the Department of Education, I was faced with the humongous task of collating four years worth of “homeschooling” as requirement for validation tests (I don’t think this in required now) for my eldest who completed level 3 and 2nd son who competed level 1. Could you imagine my stress and horror at that time? As I was trying to beat the deadline, I kept asking myself, “Why or why, didn’t I ‘document’ our homeschooling work in an organized and timely manner?” During this time, we did everything the ‘hard’ way, or should I say that “hard copy” way? No digital reports yet. Projects, seatworks, tests, artworks, and printed photos were all in a giant 3 ring binder. Call it a CRASH course on making portofolios! And yes, I almost actually CRASHED due to fatigue, stress and exhaustion.

I truly praise God back then because He gave me a partner in crime. One who has doing a portfolio for six years (yes plus 2 years to my load!!!)worth of “homeschooling”,  my homeschooling BFF, Cielo Vilchez. That experience bonded us, I believe, for life!

Oh my, that experience brings so much laughter (and the never again tears) as we try to recall, those days of unearthing and filing work! And the most hilarious day was when we went to meet with the Dep-Ed officials with our trolleys of balikbayan boxes and suitcases of textbooks, workbooks, projects, folders and binders! Imagine having to ask two passionate, self-sacrifing mothers to defend that learning has indeed taken place as they’ve given up their lives to homeschool their children? It is surprising we didn’t bring our shotguns instead (Just kidding here)!

Part of the of my homeschool provider’s (The Master’s Academy) requirements is a regular portfolio review/assessment where the child will present what he has learned and applied the past quarter. As he/she presents, her projects are considered part of the “evidence” that indeed learning has transpired and the child was able to create some output as an application of his lessons per subject.

I have never attended any seminars in creating portfolios. I guess that CRASH course six years ago taught enough for me to survive and eventually enjoy quarterly portfolios for the years to come. Many more came as many more children came as well!

If we we’re not required to make a portfolio, would we still make one? We would probably still do but there would be no “external pressure or deadline” for which we are thankful to TMA for. We need that pressure, otherwise, just like any other scrapbook or family project, these  will just be shelved when Mommy teacher has more “free” time (which we never have!) to put them together. With a quarterly set up, it is actually the children who do the bulk of their portfolos. Teacher Mommy just guides them.

Let’s discuss the “basics” of porfolios in the form of questions.

What is a homeschooling portfolio?

It is a summary or collection of “learning” that has transpired in homeschooling as seen in: seat works, quizzes, tests, essays, and projects (where learned lessons are applied). The assumption here is that learning to some extent can be considered as “having transpired” as seen in these “evidences”. (So, it does not make sense for a parent to labor and lose sleep over “creating” his/ her student’s portfolio because it is not the parent’s work, effort or “learning” that is being assessed here, it is the child’s). Some regard portfolios as a way to record the student’s educational progress.

For those who need to present their portfolios, consultants who interview students don’t focus on “fact questions”, rather they give the students the opportunity to share what they have learned and to explain the ways in which they have applied these lessons in projects or even in real life. 

What do you need to create a portfolio (hard copy/electronic)?

  • 3 ring binder (have found this easiest to use for both young and older kids)
  • Subject dividers with labels – Let the kids label them!
  • 3 ring plastic jackets (bond size or A4)
  • 3 holed puncher
  • A cover page (could be done by the children) as title page
  • An easily accessible gadget to take photos during homeschool time
  • Homeschooling photos
  • A document/file that can showcase these photos (Pages, Powerpoint)
  • For those who have regular portfolio presentations: Laptop or flash drive and borrow your consultant’s laptop
  • Tests, worksheets,  essays, book reports, experiment reports, artwork, notebook or journal pages, tickets or programs to field trips, museums, plays and musicals etc.

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3 ring binders are the easiest to use as you can easily arrange and update as you go along.
3 ring binders are the easiest to use as you can easily arrange and update as you go along.

A subject may have 2-3 seat works, 2-3 tests/assessments and written work/project related to the lessons covered. Some projects can involve many subjects.

Here are some sample materials that you can you include,  Some may be added directly using a 3-holed puncher or you may opt to use plastic page protectors.

1. Tests/Quizzes/Seat works

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Some tests/ quizzes

2. Extraordinary Ways of Note-taking

Some interesting ways to take notes.
Some interesting ways to take notes.

Portfolios03Portfolios09

 

Portfolios12 Portfolios13

3. Travel Journals

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Traveling Paraphernalia

Portfolios05

4. Written Essays/ Poems/Stories

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Summary of Books Read

 

Portfolios22
Another way to summarize a book:)
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Poems of favorite things
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Creative Writing exercises

5. Charts/ Tables

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Chore Chart

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6. Special Projects

Portfolios15 Portfolios14

"Jupiter News" - A newspaper project
“Jupiter News” – A newspaper project
Page 2 of the newspaper
Page 2 of the newspaper

7. Certificates/Awards

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How are portfolios divided?

A portfolio is divided into different subjects. It would be good to purchase or make “dividers “ using board paper or recycled paper products. Label these dividers. Most binders can hold 1-2 quarters.

Schedule wise, I prefer submitting and presenting on a quarterly (8-10 week) basis. I find that a quarter’s worth of lessons are just enough for the child to present in a smooth, relaxed and non-overwhelming manner.  There is just too much to present in 2 quarters, either the child is overwhelmed or there is not enough time to properly report about the lessons learned.

Portfolio reviews are good because it gives the child opportunity to speak, to summarize, to be confident in discussing and to sort of “tie up” the whole quarter together as he reports his past 8-10 week. Don’t they say that “learning” has indeed occurred when a student can “teach” back what he has learned?

Who does the portfolios?

The student.

Generally, younger children like preschool and levels 1, 2 will need some guidance and help in preparing their portfolios. Older children may also create e-portfolios alongside. Powerpoint/Pages can be used to document photos of experiments, lessons, field trips, travels and projects too complicated to bring to the review. This can be tied up with ART/ HELE in using a software to create presentations. Videos of PE, Music lessons, games or recitals can be inserted as well. The student may use his electronic portfolio as he presents his 3 ring binder portfolio.

Parents should refrain from “creating” their student’s portfolios. Smaller children may need help and we give it as we deem appropriate.

When do you do portfolios?

The key is to ready the binder/folder, dividers and plastic sheets so you can file as you go. Some however, may opt to put all output in like envelopes and just file all in one go. It really depends on what works for you. But for proper organization, portfolio material needs to be easily accessible and arranged in an orderly manner. There is nothing more frustrating that losing important material that documents the student’s progress!

I guess one  thing I  may have failed to do so was to to talk to children about portfolio making. Sorry!!! I think, they just learned the ropes as I guided them to build them through the years. Looking back, it would be good to explain your students a few “must knows” about portfolios 🙂

I really, really hope this helped.  Remember, when the going gets tough, always look UP!

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.