Blog

How to Take Your Children from Dependence to Independence

At the end of this month, I’m back to school (literally) for some continuing education.  I do this to maintain my certification as a part-time snowboard instructor at Mt. Hood Meadows. There’s a lot of similarity between the methods I use when teaching/tutoring here at Basic Skills and the way I instruct on the mountain.  ...

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Why There Are No Shortcuts to Mastering a Skill

When my dad saw that I was interested in playing golf, he gave me a book to read written by Ben Hogan. Ben was one of the all-time greats in professional golf in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Critics attributed his success to two things: a repeatable swing and an unstoppable work ethic. That would support ...

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The Most Neglected, But Powerful, Educational Tool

In this current time of “educational enlightenment,” the use of repetition as a learning strategy is sometimes scoffed at. We’re led to believe that technology has replaced archaic practices such as memorizing, drilling, and reciting. This idea couldn’t be more wrong. My thinking on this subject was challenged a few years ago at a continuing ...

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Keep Your Eye on the Horizon and Experiment!

Keep your eye on the horizon and experiment…. and use a variety of teaching methods! Like most of you who traveled any distance to see the eclipse two months ago, the drive home took a very long time. You may have tried various alternative routes to beat or avoid the traffic. Maybe your choices saved ...

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You’re the Decision Maker

If you were asked, “What will you teach this morning,” you might answer something like, “Math, spelling, vocabulary, penmanship, and reading.  That answer is a start, but math, spelling, vocabulary, penmanship are simply content areas.  What specifically are you going to teach this morning?  In other words, what part of the above content are you ...

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Tip of the Week: Teaching our Children to Question Authority (Revisited)

Did you survive the predicted “end of the world” on Saturday?  Yeah, me too.  I think I’ve survived a dozen or so announced events. Even so, I had my Saturday to do list completed by 2:00 p.m. so Jenny, my wife, was happy. Jenny and I grew up in Southern California. We’re used to this sort ...

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How to Know If Your Student is Really Learning

How do you know your student has gained the knowledge or skill he or she has studied or you have just taught?  Savvy students can often “game the system” and bluff their way to completing learning activities or passing tests without really knowing the content. Sometimes this happens because publishers underestimate students’ ability to detect ...

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Tip of the Week: Set Deadlines

The fifth and final tip of the week that is foundational to your success as a home school parent is that of setting deadlines. Setting deadlines for work, projects, tests, quizzes, etc. gives you and your children something to aim for.  If you don’t set deadlines, your daily experience is likely to feel like a ...

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Tip of the Week: Use Incentives to Motivate Your Children (But Not All the Time)

Last week I presented the third of five tips that I consider to be foundational to helping insure your success as a home school parent. This week I present the fourth. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all respond to incentives or rewards in one form or another.  Even for those of us ...

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Tip of the Week: Seek Out Social Support

Earlier this week I presented the second of five tips which I consider to be foundational to helping ensure your success as a home school parent.  That tip was, Have a Plan. The third tip is, access social support. Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the government school system had yet to wake ...

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Tip of the Week: Have A Plan

As you begin the school year, here’s another tip which I consider foundational to helping insure your success this year as a home school parent. Have a plan! There’s truth in the saying, “fail to plan, plan to fail.”  Plans should be written down so that you know what the target is and if you ...

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Why It’s Smart to Seek Support and Accountability

Want to increase the likelihood that your homeschooling efforts will be successful this year? Be accountable. Being accountable means making your plans and goals known to someone you trust and who is supportive of you as a homeschooler. Think about it. When you want to reach financial goals, you see a financial planner who will ...

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The Burden of Perfect Parenting

Below is some helpful advice from one of my favorite authors, Chad Bird. I think it’s timely as we begin a new year of home schooling. He writes, One of the best gifts we can give our children is to stop trying to be perfect parents. Don’t set out to be a hero to your ...

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Avoid Using Christian Textbooks…

. . .exclusively. Just because the word Christian appears in the title of a textbook, you have no guarantee that the content is educationally sound or developmentally appropriate. It’s not a guarantee that the textbook follows a proven teaching method, or that the lessons are sequenced correctly. I’ve evaluated text books from “Christian” publishers in ...

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Tip of the Week: One Bad Reason to Quit Using a Textbook

This happens to all of us. You find what seems like a great curriculum. But halfway through the textbook, you come across something with which you disagree. Maybe you think it’s wrong, or maybe you just don’t like the point of view represented. Whatever the reason, don’t throw that textbook out just yet. I’ll give ...

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Tip of the Week: Avoid This When Choosing Math Curriculum

Math texts are largely made up of computation and problem solving tasks that increase in difficulty as the student proceeds through the book.  Change in the difficulty level of problems is usually gradual.  Continuity between one lesson to the next, from one chapter to the next, from one book to the next, can be seen ...

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Tip of the Week: How to Identify Your Child’s Reading Level

Are you conflicted over choosing the correct level in a reading series for your younger child? Uncomfortable with simply choosing a grade based on his or her age and hoping it will work out? Don’t want to simply “guess and go,” (the popular trial and error approach)? You’re not alone. While all reading series are ...

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Tip of the Week: Parse, Parse, Parse? No, No, No.

In last week’s Tip of the Week, I suggested that improvement in writing is often “caught” by continuous exposure to good writers. However, at a basic level you may be asking, can a student’s grammar be improved through direct teaching? I would answer yes, but not as a result of the common methods you find in ...

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Tip of the Week: Read, Read, Read to Improve Your Writing

When I was completing undergraduate studies in California, I took an advanced writing class. I was consistently pulling B+’s to A-‘s. Because I wanted to earn an A for the class, I gathered up the courage to ask the professor what I was doing wrong and how I could improve. She was quiet for a moment.  While she couldn’t put ...

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Tip of the Week: Give Up Your Big Ambitions? Pause and Reflect.

My wife and I are native Californians. As young adults and new Christians, we grew up in Orange County, a densely-populated part of the state filled with mega churches and a continuous stream of end-time teachings and rapture frenzy. We wanted to re-locate. We wanted to find a simpler and slower pace of life. We ...

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Tip of the Week: Will My Student Be Testing Over Common Core Standards?

Will my student be required to take a test that is Common Core aligned? The short answer, at least here in the Northwest, is… that depends. Students enrolled in any of the online public school programs such as K-12, Clackamas Web Academy, or Connections Academy will definitely face tests that are Common-Core specific. For privately ...

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Tip of the Week: Cultivate a Productive Attitude Toward Testing

Spring testing is here! Perhaps you’re in a state that requires achievement testing.  Or, you test regardless of state requirements in order to gain the valuable information it yields.  Either way, your student’s attitude toward and during this important activity is a vital key to doing well and showing what he or she knows and ...

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Tip of the Week: Limit Two Things

Twice in the last four months I’ve gotten text messages from my carrier that I’m about to exceed my data limit. Twice I paid overage fees. The warning didn’t work. Maybe I should have listened to that Sprint commercial that told me “I have the right to be unlimited” and changed plans. Our culture is ...

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Tip of the Week: Three Keys to Learning Almost Anything

Here’s something to try at home with your elementary age children. Ask them this question: “If you could receive one million dollars right now or a penny doubled every day for 30 days, which one would you choose?” Some will take the “million dollars right now.” Others may sense this is a trick question. Regardless ...

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Tip of the Week: Why We Must Teach Our Children to Question Authority

I don’t know about you, but by Sunday night I’d had my fill of media coverage of the last three days of “events.” And you, like me, probably have some strong feelings one way or another over what’s taken place. The thoughts below are not an invite to debate; they’re simply my reflection and serve ...

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Tip of the Week: Consider Laying Your Badges Down

I’ve been thinking about what it was like when we were home schooling our children back in the 90’s.   Back then, distinctions beyond simply being part of a group that had decided to teach their children at home began to emerge.  In other words, sub-groups began forming. Members or advocates of these groups would say ...

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Testing Tip of the Week: Choosing the Wrong Answer May Be the Right Approach

Spring achievement testing officially begins March 1. Normally I would wait until then to tell this story, but since I just heard it, I want to share it with you before I forget it and let it slip away. Here it is: A tutor was working with a student helping her prepare for the SAT. ...

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Tip of the Week: Focus, Pay Attention, and Be Present

When you think about it, the time just after Christmas and the start of the new year naturally lends itself to re-thinking our values, goals, and commitments- in other words, the whole New Year’s resolutions thing. The buzz, which has largely died down, was all about “what are you going to start doing or what ...

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Four Resolutions I’m Making

We all know this is the time of year for making resolutions. I’m not against them completely- I’ve been to the gym two days in a row which is not my normal pattern. But, tomorrow is a work day for me as it is for many of you, and our commitments to do this or ...

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Tip of the Week: Use Your Words

When children are frustrated, they often throw tantrums, at least that’s the way it was when my children were growing up. Sometimes to bring order and calm, we’d say, “Use your words!” Sometimes it worked, and sometimes other means like “time out” were necessary. So the election didn’t work out the way you wanted? It ...

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Tip of the Week: A Simple Way to Celebrate Advent

I’ve been thinking about how some friends and relatives complain about the commercialization of Christmas. No argument there. But, in their attempt to keep “Christ in Christmas,” some go so far as to not exchange gifts.  They think that by avoiding gift giving, the focus will be on Christ and Christ alone on the “big ...

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