Monday, January 28, 2019

Homeschool Advice that Saved Me

Homeschool Advice that Saved Me
Homeschoolers often debate: Mastery or Spiral Curriculum?

When I first began homeschooling, I read a wide variety of articles, books, an advice. Some of it was great, much of it was a waste of time.

A few gems sparkle in my memory as earth-shaking, life-changing, wonder-working bits.

One was a short passage I read in (if I recall correctly) this book. I can't be sure if it's even the same book, as that's been a number of years ago. And I don't remember anything else about the book except this one concept.

It introduced the incredibly important concept of "Over Learning." 

I had heard of "Mastery" and "Spiral" learning - but this concept truly brings the best of both worlds. It is not enough to "master" multiplication, then never look at the facts again. It is also not enough to keep touching on the principles, concepts and logic of multiplication, do a few sums, and look at them again a few months later -without ever truly mastering them.

REAL learning - especially with essential concepts, basic skills, and foundational knowledge means knowing it inside out, backwards, forwards, and being able to do it in your sleep.

Missing this concept explains one of the reasons so many homeschool parents say things like, "My son mastered addition. He knew all his facts in seconds. Then a few weeks later he was back to counting on his fingers." or "My daughter knows all of her letter sounds pretty well, and she knows her sight words, but I think she might be dyslexic. She really struggles with reading." (this is not to say that some children don't have a severe inborn dyslexia - just that there is also "acquired dyslexia," and dyslexia is also sometimes misdiagnosed.)  or "We learned all about the skeletal system last year, but now he acts like he's never seen that before." or "We did letter-of-the-week, but at the end of the year, my daughter didn't recognize half of the letters!"

Other Moms tell me that their kids don't have to "do all those boring, repetitive math problems." After all, that's not fun! Once they understand the concept, they just move on to the next concept. All too often for these kids, math really isn't "their thing."

Traditional schools - public and private - and online teaching services introduce calculators to very young children. Once they've "learned the basic facts" (which often means simply being able to figure out the right answer in any length of time) they never really use them again. It's all done on a calculator for the rest of their math education.

This explains why a professor-friend of mine noted that many of his graduate university mathematics  students could not spot mathematical errors on the board. Only a small handful were able to "think" mathematically, and truly follow along well enough to see an obvious error on the board.

Needless to say, the calculator-dependent students were not the ones who really "got" math.

This has led me to have a lot more emphasis on LOTS of coverage of the basics.

  • Reading not just ONE Bible story book, but a stack.
  • Reading the Bible itself, not just once, but over and over.
  • Doing basic math facts by hand, or in the head, EVERY DAY - not using a calculator when it's not approprate. (we DO use a calculator for things like the square root of 792 ; )
  • Going "deep" with history and science, rather than reading some boring textbook's 3-page summary of the Revolutionary War or a three minute summary of the Periodic Table of the Elements. 
  • Drilling the skill of sounding out words until a word like "anthromorphism" or "Melchizedek" begins to look simple.
  • Practicing Typing until you can think and write at the same time, rather than having to think about typing while you type.
etc, etc, etc.

How does this play out in real life? We often work on two different levels -one very challenging, and other super-easy. My daughter loves playing behind grade level on educational games (where she frequently wins ; ) , and reading easy, fun books. I indulge that. But we also have a part of the day that is hard work! She often uses a variety different resources in the same subject that would be considered to be in multiple "grade levels" in a traditional school.

The hard work becomes easier as the easy work becomes more and more automatic : )

For us, this one concept has made a huge difference. Next time someone says, "Mastery or spiral?" reply "Over Learning!" 

If this interests you, you might also enjoy these posts:

Teach Reading with Confidence

Bible Memory Music, Our Favorite   

Rethinking Learning Styles  

How to Start Homeschooling - TOMORROW! 

What Creates a Love of Learning? 

Divisibility Song, Easily Memorize Divisibility Rules 
Fractions Rules Memory Song 

Math Videos, Homeschool Fun Video Day 

Multiplication Quick Tricks Memory Song 

Teaching Math: Home School for Cheap or Fre

Great Ways to Homeschool History 

History & Geography Videos, Homeschool Video Fun Day

American History Fun Parody Songs

This is being shared on:
Literacy Musing Monday
Inspire Me Monday
Gracefull Tuesdays
You're the Star
Welcome Heart
Wise Woman
Encouraging Hearts & Homes
Practical Ideas for Homeschooling Moms


  1. Quite a bit of wisdom here. Thank you for sharing. Maree

  2. This is insightful, Anna. I feel like I would have benefited from this when I was in school. There are so many basic things I don't remember (math things, in particular, and important historical dates). I hope to use an approach like this with my kids so these things are reinforced.


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