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Note from the Editor:

Have you ever struggled to know when you should structure your children’s learning and when they should be given freedom? Does your child show a strong disinterest in certain subjects, or worse an apathy toward learning in general? In this post, WinterPromise author and founder as well as mother of seven, Kaeryn Brooks offer some advice on this topic for homeschool parents.

 


 

A foundational goal of Charlotte Mason-style homeschooling is to create a love for learning. An important part of growing this learning love is having the freedom to investigate and self-motivate. But kids also need structure and direction, especially as they begin their homeschool journey. How can a parent strike the right balance?

For many parents, this might instantly bring to mind a conversation like this:

“Buddy, we can study anything you want — really — anything! What would you like to study?”

“I don’t know….”

“But you’re interested in a lot of things. What do you want to learn more about?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on, yes you do! Let’s put some ideas down on paper.”

(Paper begins to be filled with useless doodles as parent badgers child to come up with ideas. Score one for student as parent ends up frustrated and student has proven his “point.”)

“Come on, there must be at least one thing. Just tell me one thing you’d like to study. Anything.”

“Okay. Bagpipes. You know, like I saw that guy play last weekend at the Irish festival.”

(Parent leaps upon this idea.) “Irish music! You want to study Irish music?”

“No, I want to learn to play the bagpipes.”

“Bagpipes? We don’t have bagpipes! And I don’t know how to play the bagpipes! How are we going to do that?”

(Child, with more despondency than they actually feel, and a whine for good measure.) “But you said anything!”

Oh, is this familiar! And any experienced parent will tell you that this is the conversation that most parents have with their kids when they are offered a world of choices. Either the choices seem so limitless that they can’t make a choice, or they attach to an idea that (an adult knows) was never really on the table. Or both.

The only fix is a principle I call “Choices within Options.” That is, that children are given options from which to choose, and then they have the ability to choose what is to their liking. This is not strictly a homeschooling principle, of course, it is a parenting principle. I know, for instance, that my son should not be given unlimited control of what to wear to a funeral, as flip flops and pajama bottoms don’t make the cut. So I present to him the only pair of dress pants he owns, and say. “You have to wear these blue dress pants. Would you like to wear this sweater, your new shirt, or that button-down one you like so much?”

This principle of “Choices within Options” examples to students that even when we ourselves are making choices, not everything is a reasonable option. It provides the structure and direction that kids might not have on their own, and offers parents a point at which to provide meaningful input. And, in making their own choices between a limited number of options, children learn to weigh the pros and cons of each option and make better and more thoughtful decisions. In short, it teaches them to be decision-makers.

And because kids are making their own choices, they receive:

  • the benefit of self-motivation (“I like doing this because it’s what I wanted to do.”)
  • the opportunity to grow in perseverance and grit (“Even when I like it, it is still hard work.”)
  • the chance to learn to value the input of others (“I’m glad you gave me this option.”)
  • and, the opportunity to practice submission to the oversight of others.

Finding ways to provide “Choices within Options” allows you to provide your students with some well-thought-out options, and allows them to exercise control and practice good decision-making.

Do you have other ways to balance freedom with structure in your homeschooling? Be sure to share your strategies!

 

Kaeryn Brooks
Founder and Author of WinterPromise Publishing

How Long Does A Day With WinterPromise Last?

knight-on-horse

This question seems like a very simple question at face value. It is simple at first, but behind this question are there are questions like: What will you be doing? How long are you reading? How demanding is the program? How de we fit in Science and Language Arts? There are a lot of practical questions that are behind this question. We hear this all the time. So in this post we will talk about the practicals of WinterPromise. How long it will take, how to fit in other aspects of WinterPromise and how demanding it is.

 

How Long Does A Day With WinterPromise Last?

Here at WinterPromise one of our greatest joys is that we can encourage and comfort our families when they have fears. There are two motivations for this question.

Our parents come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have been homeschooling for 10 years and are very experienced in managing their kids and the homeschool lifestyle. These families are usually concerned about having a day that would end up being too short, or not demanding enough. While other families have been homeschooling for only a year or two, or even shorter! They are still trying to adjust to and manage the challenges that the homeschooling lifestyle brings to the table. WinterPromise is unique in the fact that inside of our curriculum we can comfort and excite those on both sides of the question.

If you are doing a WinterPromise Themed Program, and depending on the age level of your program you can have a range in the time you will spend ‘doing school.’ Usually you will spend an average anywhere from 2-5 hours a day. This includes your time with them and also their own independent studies.

The beauty of WinterPromise is that inside of our programs we have so much rich material that if you wanted to do more, we have extra resources, tons of activities, online resources, research projects, DVD suggestions and so much more! If you want to be more rigorous we offer the opportunity and the resources to do so. At the same time if you want to take it easy and experience your education with your children in a more relaxed atmosphere, you can scale back and still get a great experience! WinterPromise can be as rigorous or as relaxed as you and your family need it to be.

“WinterPromise can be as rigorous or as relaxed as you and your family need it to be.”

How Does Your Science and Language Arts Fit Into That Schedule?

Now we often get a follow-up question to the above answer. If you spend 2-5 hours a day on your Themed Programs (History, Social Studies, Geography) then how do you fit in Science and Language Arts? That is a great question!

WinterPromise is designed in a 4-day schedule. Our Language Arts can easily be added as an extra 30-60 minutes each day. Our Science Programs have been designed so that they can be done in a day in just a few hours! Meaning your 5th day could be spent just doing Science!  This means that you get a wonderfully rich science experience and it doesn’t feel like a huge burden. Families also sometimes do their Language Arts and Science in one day so that the rest of their week is lighter. We want this work for you how you need it to. Therefore our science and language arts are designed so that while it is scheduled for you, you can also do some tweeking if you need to.

WinterPromise does as much work for you as we can so that you can worry less about preparation and adjustments and more about what matters. The reason you started homeschooling was at least in part because you wanted to individually invest, mentor, and educate each one of your children. To see them grow as people, to teach them about life and the skills to be successful in life. This is where your time be invested and not into hours of preparation and busy work.

WinterPromise wants to work with the parent and to work for the parent.

knight-on-horse

As a company we are new to a lot of people. This year a lot of you have called into our office for the first time, never hearing about us before recently! We love the opportunity to be able to impact so many families and to see our WinterPromise family grow!

With so many new families contacting us we get a lot of questions, and some questions we hear more often than others. For that reason we wanted to write an article that dealt with a few of the common questions that we hear on the phones, in emails, on Facebook and beyond! Our desire is that this helps you understand us as a company better, and what you can expect when you choose us as your homeschool curriculum.

This will be split into a few posts, this week we are only answering one question!

What kind of curriculum is WinterPromise/What makes

WinterPromise unique?

This question we have heard a lot this year and have really enjoyed being able to tell people what kind of company we are, and what sets us apart. The answer to this question is not a one sentence answer, so please be patient and read along.

1. The first thing that comes out of our mouths when describing WinterPromise is that we are Charlotte Mason inspiredEverything we do starts with the foundation of the ideals and philosophies of Charlotte Mason. (If you don’t know who she is please Google her!) She was a British educator in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She has had a profound impact on education in general and we endorse her ideals whole-heartedly. They are central and foundational to everything we do. What are her ideals you ask? (or maybe you weren’t asking but you may as well read!)

There are many ideals that Charlotte Mason held too, but we will highlight just a few key ones. The first is: Curiosity and Discovery. Charlotte Mason believed that curiosity and discovery should be the primary motivators and backbone of learning. Young children have a deep curiosity about the world around them. This curiosity should lead to an active discovery on the child’s part during their education. They should be on an adventure of discovery while they are at school. But it shouldn’t stop when they get older It should continue throughout their childhood and even into adulthood.

Charlotte Mason also believed that the books that children learn from should be what she called, “Living Books.” Dry textbooks that merely communicate facts do not engage children. This impacts learning. We all learn something quicker if we are having fun doing it! They also do not insight curiosity or a desire to discover in the child. We here at WinterPromise have chosen books specifically designed to be exciting, engaging, educationally rich, and feed the curiosity of those reading. DRY BOOKS ARE A NO-NO!

I am going to mention only two more ideals so that we don’t drowned in Charlotte Mason information! Another ideal that Charlotte Mason held to, was the strong exposure to nature and the direct observation of it. Nature walks and observation are a huge part of education for children! WinterPromise offers animal and nature studies, and in our nature studies (for example Animals and Their Worlds!) we encourage the active engagement of nature. We want our kids outdoors and engaged with the world around them!

Finally, Charlotte Mason also held to the ideal that learning should be as joyful as possible. Although with Algebra, I am not sure how joyful it can be! 😉 Learning should not be joyless. Learning can be challenging and full of hard work but it should never be joyless. We here at WinterPromise always strive to present the information in a way that excites, engages and puts a smile on the face of those learning. Just a few examples are: Your students can go on adventures with Quest for the Ancient World, see what life on a ship is like in our Adventures in the Sea & Sky, learn to read while meeting new friends in our Early Language Arts and much more! We want to make learning fun!

Everything we do at WinterPromise seeks to include and be underlined by these ideals! Joy, Curiosity and Discovery, Living Books, and Nature Study.

2. We are multi-faceted in our method!

There is a great graphic on our website that summarizes how we incorporate all the different homeschool methods into one curriculum. You can find that here!

When Kaeryn started on this journey of writing curriculum it was for a very personal reason. It was for one of her sons. This son is very unique in how he learns. He is really smart, logical, great at putting things together, but struggled in a lot of different homeschooling curriculums! Because of this Kaeryn tried out just about everything that was offered at the time and none of them really fit. What was the problem?

Each curriculum had a method, and it did have benefits but for every benefit there were also weaknesses. This led to frustration for Kaeryn and her son. For example: one problem was that if she went with a curriculum that was Literature Based she found that at a certain point her son’s attention span and general boy-ness distracted him from really having a rich learning experience. Besides the fact that her son did not learn nearly as easily when hearing something read to him as opposed to other more hands-on ways. It worked for a while but as we know, in a literature based curriculum you read and read and read and Kaeryn needed more.

On the other hand, she then found that if she used a curriculum that was very hands-on and activity based,  it was successful at keeping him busy and engaged but that created other problems. The problems were two-fold: 1) the activities created a lot of prep work that then led to busy work. This was exhausting considering she had 5 kids to handle! 2) The activities did not offer a truly rich educational experience, and therefore the busy work and prep work were just that. Busy and prep work.

Kaeryn found that she wanted wonderfully rich books and she wanted great educationally beneficial activities. She also wanted as much of the prep work done as was possible because she was busy enough! Kaeryn wanted these things for her son and herself but could not find them!

This inspired WinterPromise. Kaeryn designed WinterPromise to offer rich learning experiences through books, activities, multi-media, observation, notebooking, interactive content. This would create curriculum. Kaeryn was inspired to bring together the unique strengths of all the different homeschool approaches while using those approaches to offset the weaknesses! This was a lot of work. But now we have done the work so you don’t have to!

3. We offer full programs!

WinterPromise offers history, social studies, language arts, science and math. In all of our programs we underline everything with the ideals listed above. We also have designed the programs so that if you were to get one of our Themed Programs (which include history, social studies and some science!) you could include multiple students within the same program that are in different ages and grades.

WinterPromise is unique in how we create each program so that you can easily tailor is to your students needs. Whether that means you have a slightly lighter work-load for one student or you do every single project, activity, and reading assignment for the student that is older. We make it easy for you to include multiple students into one Themed Program, and this saves you money and time!

There may be lot more questions you may have and if so please visit our FAQ page or call us if you have a more specific question: 802-372-9200! We are open weekdays, 9-5, EST.