Our Family Unit
  • Homeschool
  • August12th


    school-1 school-2So excited to begin another school year with these two!

  • November15th


    This is a very interesting article, originally found here.  Just how young is too young to move from “playful learning” to “formal education”…

    Tell me what you think.

    Earlier this month the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, Cambridge researcher David Whitebread, explains why children may need more time to develop before their formal education begins in earnest.

    In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously

    David Whitebread

    In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four.  A recent letter signed by around 130 early childhood education experts, including myself, published in the Daily Telegraph  (11 Sept 2013) advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven (in line with a number of other European countries who currently have higher levels of academic achievement and child well-being).

    This is a brief review of the relevant research evidence which overwhelmingly supports a later start to formal education. This evidence relates to the contribution of playful experiences to children’s development as learners, and the consequences of starting formal learning at the age of four to five years of age

    There are several strands of evidence which all point towards the importance of play in young children’s development, and the value of an extended period of playful learning before the start of formal schooling. These arise from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies.  Anthropological studies of children’s play in extant hunter-gatherer societies, and evolutionary psychology studies of play in the young of other mammalian species, have identified play as an adaptation which evolved in early human social groups. It enabled humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers. Neuroscientific studies have shown that playful activity leads to synaptic growth, particularly in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions.

    In my own area of experimental and developmental psychology, studies have also consistently demonstrated the superior learning and motivation arising from playful, as opposed to instructional, approaches to learning in children. Pretence play supports children’s early development of symbolic representational skills, including those of literacy, more powerfully than direct instruction. Physical, constructional and social play supports children in developing their skills of intellectual and emotional ‘self-regulation’, skills which have been shown to be crucial in early learning and development. Perhaps most worrying, a number of studies have documented the loss of play opportunities for children over the second half of the 20th century and demonstrated a clear link with increased indicators of stress and mental health problems.

    Within educational research, a number of longitudinal studies have demonstrated superior academic, motivational and well-being outcomes for children who had attended child-initiated, play-based pre-school programmes. One particular study of 3,000 children across England, funded by the Department for Education themselves, showed that an extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households.

    Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. In a separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries, researchers showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age.

    This body of evidence raises important and serious questions concerning the direction of travel of early childhood education policy currently in England. In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously.

    - See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age-the-evidence#sthash.Pl4ZOHWi.dpuf

  • September6th


    Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up
    Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

  • June26th


    park with 3-4

    We’ve had so much success with our Obedience Chart that I thought I’d share what it is and how it works…maybe it would be helpful to some of you.  Surprisingly, my genes did not produce a single perfectly behaved child!  I know, you’re probably as shocked as I am!  Instead, they all need lots of guidance, correction, and praise…not to mention a good example to follow…in order to learn how to obey.  Talk about a time intensive task, it’s never-ending!  The Obedience Chart is a tool that I dreamt up to help me stay consistent and keep us all on track.

    park with 3-6

    Kids go through stages in everything, including discipline.  As young as 6 months, you’re teaching them the word “no”.  Then at a year, you want them obeying simple rules or following your directions.  At two, you have to go through the frustrations of lack of language skills compounded with increased physical independence.  But as they get older and start to develop their reasoning skills and abilities to make choices, it seems like everything gets kicked up a notch.  I felt like my entire day was filled with just correcting, saying no, or dreaming up some creative punishment that would hopefully get the message through THIS TIME.  Enter the Obedience Chart.

    What It Is

    In Excel, I made this chart

    obedience chart-1

    and we have it on our fridge.

    At the top I wrote out Ephesians 6:1-3 and over the first week or so that we used this, I had Woody memorize it.  Kids ask WHY about everything, and obedience is no different.  They need to know the reason and logic behind WHY they must do what I ask them to do, otherwise frustration and resentment build up inside of them.

    Next I put in very clear terms what I expected – First Time Obedience and Respect.

    Each time I “catch” him doing something right, he gets to make a green mark, but if he chooses to disobey then he has to put up a red mark.  For every 25 green marks, he gets a prize.  Originally this was a basket of Dollar Store prizes that he picked from, but now it can vary from a special prize to extra time with a game to his choice of rare activity.  The most recent one was doing a project with Dad (building this wooden car from a kit I’d picked up at a flea market).

    obedience chart-2

    For every 10 red marks, there’s a consequence.  These vary too, from a favorite toy being banned for a few days to a time out to chores…just about anything that I can think of to keep him on his toes.

    Why I Set It Up This Way

    He is the primary mark-maker.  I want him to be very aware of whether he is choosing right or wrong, this provides a tangible way to do that.

    25 Green vs 10 Red.  Life doesn’t always pat you on the back when you do right, but there are always consequences to doing wrong.  I want him to be rewarded for making right choices, but not “expect” a reward for every good deed, if that makes sense.  So I have the reward be harder to earn, not to mention that I don’t want the bad behavior to go on and on and on before a punishment is enforced.

    The Unknown Consequence.  10 red marks does not always result in the same punishment.  I don’t want him to weigh out the consequence in his head and choose to disobey.  (ie. I don’t mind losing my transformer for 2 days, lieing about picking up my toys is worth it)  When it’s unknown, the risk is greater.

    park with 3-8

    Why It’s Working

    I’m more consistent.  All disobedience (aside from something really major – “I bit my sister and stole her toy”) gets the same reaction – Put Up a Red Mark.  It’s easy!  I can do it if I’m cooking dinner, if I’m in the grocery store, if we’re at the park, if I’m feeding Buzz, whatever.

    • Did you talk back?  Put up a red mark.
    • Did I have to ask you three times to pick up your cars?  Put up a red mark.
    • Did you throw a fit in the middle of Target?  You’ll have to put up a red mark when we get home.

    It goes the same for green.

    • Thanks for helping your sister find her shoes.  Put up a green mark.
    • Thanks for obeying the first time.  Put up a green mark.
    • You used great manners at dinner.  Put up a green mark.

    It also reminds me to notice the good and praise him for it.  Sometimes my tendency is to only notice the bad because that’s when I get tired or frustrated, but reinforcing the good benefits us both.

    I realize it’s not rocket science, but it has revolutionized our home and saved my sanity.  Maybe it’ll help you and your kids out, too.  If you’d like a copy to try it for yourself, click here.

    park with 3-5