Category Archives: Home school

#FridayFavorite: Duolingo

duolingoI am so very happy that I discovered Duolingo at the end of last year. As a home schooler and life long learner, I am always looking to try new things, pick up new skills, and spark interests in my kids. This amazing site allows you to learn a host of new languages absolutely FREE, and the quality is very comparable to Rosetta Stone, which we’ve also tried. Thanks to Duolingo, my husband, 8- and 9-year-old, and I are all learning German and Spanish (in my case brushing up on the Spanish, which I had been meaning to do forever) this year.

The site offers brief lessons that are easy to keep up with, and you can select the pace at which you’d like to learn so that you receive reminder e-mails at the right frequency for you. Besides the regular lessons, you can engage in discussions with other language learners, and practice translating documents, so you get a pretty well rounded language experience.

I love, love, love this site and highly recommend you check it out if you’re interested in studying other languages.

Slowing Down to Speed Up

“I don’t want my children’s education to be so fast-paced and so abstract that there is not time to meditate on the fantastical. I do not want them to treat glorious facts as mundane.”
–Leigh Bortins, The Question

I was just meditating today on the concept of slowing down to speed up, and then I got this quote in a Classical Conversations e-mail, validating my thoughts. The slowing down/speeding up concept is that if you stop and think about what is really important to you and just focus on that one thing… or maybe one or two simple goals related to that thing, you’ll soon end up leaps and bounds ahead of where you’d be if you had a checklist of 10-50 things you’re trying to accomplish all at once. It’s so easy to get distracted and over-schedule these days, yet this “busy-ness” is getting us nowhere.

To share a personal example, last year all I really wanted to focus on was home schooling my children well. I just wanted to be a good mom, and a good teacher, and in a good mood, more often than not. Pretty simple conceptually, although all moms know that this is far easier said than done for nearly all of us. As I focused on just this one main goal–whereas I normally have a minimum of 6-7 challenging goals going simultaneously–I started to feel so light and unencumbered. I actually had time to think, and read for pleasure (!), and just sit and enjoy my kids. I was so unaccustomed to these luxuries that I kept feeling guilty or lost at first. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was forgetting something and that my bubble would be burst at any moment. But instead, what happened was that eventually other goals that I had not previously been able to accomplish when I tackled them more directly and distractedly, began to come to fruition as well. Consequently, not only are my kids and I now enjoying home schooling immensely, I am also in my best physical shape in more than a decade, and I have my own business that is actually bringing in money! And those are just two of the bonus goals–there are several other “lesser” goals that would never even have made my top ten list in the past that I am also making progress on.  WOO. HOO.

Slowing down is such an important thing to do. As much as we like to identify ourselves by our occupations or bodies or reputations, we are in fact vibrant, creative spirits that long for beauty and truth and love. In a world that constantly tries to suck the meaning out of everything, we are yearning to make our lives meaningful. For most of us, I’m willing to bet that our dreams are pretty much just sitting there beside us, waiting for us to turn and pick them up, but we’re just flying by, too oblivious to notice. If you think things are moving too fast, or you’re frustrated that you haven’t been able to accomplish things despite putting them on your “list” for years, try slowing down for awhile. Breathe, and assess your values and priorities. And then if you’re really feeling courageous, try organizing your life to actually support those top priorities, at the expense of lesser ones if necessary. I can almost guarantee it won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.

Classical Conversations Practicum & Foundations Tutor Training

It’s been a while since I’ve written about home schooling, so I thought I’d give an update on the latest. We’re just winding down to our summer schedule, which includes reading more great books at our leisure, practicing Spanish conversation, and lots of time in nature. We also just attended a Classical Conversations Practicum, which is a fabulous three-day, free training for parents (kids’ camps available at a very reasonable price) on classical education as well as the CC theme for the year. This year’s theme is rhetoric. I love these events because they are so encouraging and thought provoking, and I meet the most wonderful people. I can’t resist giving a little plug here, so if you’re interested in attending one near you, check out this link for more details, times, and dates: http://parentpracticum.com.

For CC tutors and directors, there are afternoon trainings during the Practicum for Foundations, Essentials, and Challenge. I attended the Foundations training at this Practicum, and I was really impressed. The trainer had brought a posse of extremely talented, close knit tutors from her community and incorporated lots of demonstrations of ways to present the content in the classroom. Even with a year of tutoring already under my belt, I learned so much from them! It was inspiring to see what good friends these tutors have become. They’re obviously helping to elevate one another to the highest standards of excellence while keeping it lots of fun. I hope to foster this same kind of environment as I direct my own community this year.

Another great thing about the Foundations tutor training was that issues like discipline and classroom management were brought to the forefront and plenty of ideas shared from experienced tutors. I hadn’t had any experience leading a classroom when I started tutoring, and I was primarily focused on creativity in presenting the content rather than setting classroom expectations and having a plan of action for disciplinary issues. I thought that since parents are usually in the classroom with their children, I could leave that entirely up to them, but I’ve since realized that every classroom needs clear expectations and some form of discipline in order to run smoothly. I later found lots of great classroom management ideas on Pinterest, but I wish I would have used them from day one. If you are going to be a CC tutor in the coming year, be sure to spend some time thinking about your strategy for maintaining order. The kids quickly become good friends and are excited to see each other every week, so it’s normal for them to be energetic and chatty when they come together. It’s important to keep things fun, but also to emphasize the importance of respect for others, respect for the property, following instructions, etc. for the benefit of everyone participating.

Review games was another topic we spent a good deal of time on, including more great demonstrations. This was an area I hadn’t anticipated spending so much prep time on as a tutor. Every week, I’d agonize over finding the perfect review game, and I felt like I had to come up with a new one every week (at least for the first half of our year). There was a lot of trial and error. Again, I found tons of stuff on Pinterest, but it was hard to gauge what would work with my kids until I actually tried it. I had kids who were very competitive, and kids who were not at all. I had a couple kids who rarely wanted to play any game, no matter what it was. I was tempted to take it personally when a game didn’t work out. At the training I found out that most of the tutors struggled with these very same issues. It would have been great to hear this last year just so I’d know I wasn’t alone or doing something wrong. Turns out I really only needed 4-5 good games for my class and there was one they requested almost every week. I had a fantastic first year as a tutor and I LOVED my class dearly — these are just little things I wish I’d anticipated to make the year even more amazing. I have no complaints — I just mention these things here to help others who may be preparing to tutor for the first time.

Our new community is growing nicely and I’m excited to see who the Lord brings to join us over the year. We have more Info Meetings to hold over the coming months, and it seems that more and more people are hearing about CC all the time. We had 70,000+ students nationwide last year! It’s really exciting to be part of this dynamic community, which is stretching my whole family on so many levels. I look forward to reporting more as our journey continues to unfold.