Homeschooling Gaps

You may recall that we enrolled Jonah this fall at the local community college.  He took one class (Intro to Statistics) that met twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes.

We had several goals for this class:

  1. to learn a different teacher’s style
  2. to learn to us web-based class materials (homework assignments, schedules, review materials and grades were all accessible only on the web)
  3. to learn to take the bus
  4. to learn to sit in the classroom
  5. to learn some math


The class was rigorous.  Two thirds of the class had dropped by November first.  The teacher gave good feedback and didn’t seem to make any special accommodations for Jonah just because he was young.  All of that was really good.  This semester met all five of our goals.

When we planned our trip to Guatemala, it became clear that he was going to miss some core material for the final, as well as the last quiz.  The teacher was happy to accommodate him by letting him reschedule the quiz, but the final was going to be an issue.  It was too much to ask him to miss a chapter and a half of material and then take a final on it.  We prioritized the trip to Guatemala over the class and withdrew.  He’ll do an online math class this winter/spring, since we’re moving in the middle and don’t want to commit to a commute of any kind. Ever. Again.

In the course of the class, I saw several gaps in my homeschool program thus far.  Jonah didn’t know how to take notes from a lecture, and he didn’t know how to study for a test of given material.  Of course we take standardized tests, but we don’t study for them.  And I do most of our course testing via narration and timed math problem sets.

So how do we teach note-taking?  Jonah made notes in his phone.  Newsflash: they didn’t seem to help him any.

There is a huge push now to give high school and college students laptops and tablets, as if technology is going to make all things better.  And two studies recently have shown that students who use cellphones or laptops during class (even when they are ostensibly using them for note-taking) get lower grades than those who do not.  My kids were really blown away by Cliff Naas’s TED talk about how multitasking actually changes our brains.

We started with a section of history reading.  The boys had a blank sheet of paper and a pen.  As I read, I pointed out the things I would have written down (dates, places, names- all those details we forget as we narrate later.)  They were both able to identify the details that they normally would not retain, and after the first few paragraphs of reading, they were off and running with their notes. Owen’s paper was very doodle-full, but his narration was so much better than usual, filled with the details that make the retelling of history fun.   Jonah found that after writing the names down with his own hand he didn’t actually need to refer to the notes; he had retained the names and even some of the dates simply from writing them down.

I don’t claim that one day’s exercise will make all the difference, but the kids were pretty impressed.  I hope that we will extend our note-taking practice from history into science and sermons and even some of our reading. Owen has started making notes here and there as he reads for school, and it has improved his retention.

Next, we will start studying our notes and see where that takes us.

Have you noticed gaps in your curriculum/style?  How do you remedy them?


One thought on “Homeschooling Gaps

  1. That’s such a good point, Annie. My kids get practice at taking notes on Sunday mornings with the sermon, but I see how that is different than taking notes while listening to a lecture, which is basically the ONLY thing you ever do in college. 😉
    I’ll have to incorporate that as the kids get older…

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