Archive for category science
By Jennifer Nairne
When I envisioned homeschooling my children, I wanted to create a safe and fun environment for engaged learning that inspired my kids to go beyond the traditional classroom restrictions in search of knowledge. It has not always been easy – grammar, for one, seems increasingly less applicable in everyday life and the subject does not lend itself to creative teaching. But we have always managed to incorporate the interests of our children and the content they need to learn to achieve our goals. That is, until we hit Chemistry.
As anyone with homeschoolers in high school will tell you, Chemistry is one of the most difficult and rigorous courses, prior to college. Dr. Suzanne Lahl has created a primer, Chemistry For Everyone, that is perfect for homeschoolers, as well as parent-teachers who may need a refresher on the finer points of the periodic table. Rather than peppering the book with practice questions and experiments, Dr. Lahl has focused on the conceptual understanding that forms the foundation for the course. Using “plain English” (rather than scientific gobbledygook), she frequently uses metaphors to explain many of the basic topics in chemistry in a very relatable way.
The book offers a “big picture” view of chemistry – reviewing fundamental concepts and how those concepts fit together. Even students that perform well on tests and love science can struggle when it comes to chemistry. This can be attributed, in part, to the traditional teaching and learning methods used in the classroom. Most Chemistry textbooks are incredibly technical and read more like a text on mathematics – dry and with little real-world applicability. Rather than promoting rote memorization and “plugging in” numbers into equations, Dr. Lahl wants students to gain a deeper understanding by encouraging learning and applying that knowledge. Using metaphors that make sense to high school homeschoolers, she walks each reader through the basic concepts of the Chemistry course and builds on each one to form a larger picture.
Homeschoolers and parent-teachers will appreciate Dr. Lahl’s approach in Chemistry for Everyone. Each chapter is succinct and contains informative illustrations that make complex concepts more approachable for young students. While there are content-based review questions available in each chapter, the problem-solving advice and test-taking tips are invaluable guidance for any subject, not just chemistry. Students who have previously struggled with science would find her suggestions especially helpful and even parent-teachers, including yours truly, can benefit from the strategies offered. JN
By Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow
The statistics are daunting and the challenge is huge: almost 40 percent of fourth-grade students in the United States read below grade level; many more struggle with subtle writing and spelling roadblocks. As a homeschool parent, how do you make sure your child does not become part of that statistic? In addition to the right materials and a good attitude, it’s also a matter of understanding your child’s brain!
Most people learn to read and write quite effortlessly. Modern brain science shows that in the first three years of formal education, specialized circuits in the left brain develop lightning-fast interconnections that link speech sounds, letter symbols and meaning. By the fourth grade, this neural network allows reading and writing to “run in the background,” leaving the bulk of the child’s cognitive resources free to send and receive information. Neuroscience also reveals what is different about the brains of people who struggle with reading and writing, including inherited factors, and pinpoints instructional routines that establish more efficient brain activation patterns. Still, sorting out how to help a struggling reader or writer can be overwhelming and stressful for parents.
What Causes Reading & Writing Problems?
By the time a child is in early elementary school, parents may observe that the child’s reading and/or writing skills are not developing effortlessly. Recent neuroscience shows that there are two main types of struggling readers and writers:
- Those with good listening comprehension but weaknesses in aspects of the writing code (word reading, spelling and/or writing);
- Those with weak listening comprehension, with or without difficulty with the writing coding.
The first is described, broadly, as dyslexia and is far more common than the second, known as specific language impairment. Children with dyslexia may twist or omit sounds in certain words (e.g., amunal for animal or busgetti for spaghetti) or have trouble learning certain language patterns (e.g., ABCs, phonics or multiplication tables). In some cases, the only clear indication of trouble is spelling. In dyslexia, the difficulty begins with the sound structure of words. Children may be able to memorize words for a spelling test but soon forget how to spell them.
The first step
The treatments for dyslexia and specific language impairment are very different. The first critical step is a professional language processing evaluation, which is different from a psycho-educational evaluation and, since it is focused, can be a fraction of the cost. Professionals who are qualified to test for and diagnose language processing problems include appropriately trained psychologists, speech-language pathologists and clinical educators. A language processing evaluation involves gathering detailed background information from parents and then administering a battery of standardized and descriptive tests for such things as speech sound awareness, working memory and naming fluency. The results are collected in a report that includes all of the data, an initial diagnosis and a treatment plan outlining: 1) how treatment should be customized, 2) which assistive technologies are most appropriate 3) and mandated accommodations (such as extra time on tests).
The next steps
Dyslexia is not outgrown, but it improves with structured practice. The “gold standard” for dyslexia treatment is the Orton-Gillingham approach, which has been used, tested, researched and validated for more than 70 years. With its emphasis on specific language content, the Orton-Gillingham approach is multisensory, structured, individual, explicit and analytic. It is logical and cumulative, helping the child to progress toward benchmarks as he or she gains control of predictable language patterns.
Successful use of Orton-Gillingham treatment is not just a matter of having the right materials and step-by-step instructions. No two dyslexics have exactly the same processing problems so even good, off-the-shelf programs can be difficult for parents to apply without professional guidance.
Lexercise solves this problem using technology, bringing an experienced professional into your home, via web-conferencing, to perform a language processing evaluation and then to guide you in weekly, online Orton-Gillingham therapy sessions. It is private, secure, interactive and highly motivating.
June is a turning point in many families regarding school. It offers the perfect time to investigate options and consider improvements in the homeschooling program – or even to begin planning a move out of a public school into homeschooling. The Harvey School in Westchester, New York, has been teaching children in its bricks-and-mortar facility for 95 years, so they know instruction and learning.
Now, this venerable school offers its experience and teaching know-how via the modern world of the Internet, with its eHarvey Online School, www.eharvey.org.
Among the interesting and useful courses offered by eHarvey are Psychology, Physical Education, Consumer Math, Art Appreciation, and Music Appreciation. eHarvey also offers AP courses, Advanced Math, such as Calculus and a wide array of other courses, suited for the high school student. They also offer credit recovery courses to fill out missing or incomplete credits from other schools. eHarvey is fully accredited and its instructors are fully certified by the State of New York. Please visit their website and investigate how eHarvey can be a significant part of your homeschooling work.
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