Welcome to LOLIPOP

LOLIPOP began as my master's thesis - an experiment in group learning with twenty homeschool families, including over sixty kids between six and fourteen years old. I coordinated 2-4 projects happening simultaneously, in 6 week sessions. The kids had a lot of fun, and the parents learned a lot about how this energetic and enthusiastic age group can have a successful learning experience. Since this first experiment, I have conducted seminars and webinars based on the LOLIPOP concept, and published For the Love of Learning: Giving Your Child a LOLIPOP Education.
This BLOG is for all those out there, trying to give their children and students the foundation they need to grow into great scholars, thinkers, and leaders. The principles align with the Leadership Education model and foster a love for learning, build individual confidence, and teach learning strategies that apply to a life time of great learning.
Check out more info about the book, seminars, webinars, and more at www.sdlaa.com.

Lolipop Learning, and terms and concepts such as "Love of Play", "Love of Sampling", and "Love of Producing" are the sole property of Amy Edwards. “TJEd", "Leadership Education", “Love of Learning Phase”, “Inspire, not Require” and other similar terms and concepts are taken from the works of Oliver & Rachel DeMille, and are used by permission and under license. For more information, visit http://tjed.org/.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This is Just a Test

     What comes to mind when you hear the word "test"?  Most people don't get happy or excited about tests. Most home schoolers despise testing, and many cite it as one of the main reasons their children do not participate in public school.  Even the families who do allow their children to participate typically take great pains to explain to the children how meaningless the standardized testing process is. I am not a fan of State Standardized Tests, but I do believe that "testing" is an important learning environment.

     Why do we test? If you ask that question to most mainstream educators, the response is to "assess learning and comprehension" or to "asses readiness" of a student to move into a particular subject or onto the next level.  But testing should be used primarily as a learning environment--just one more tool to enable learning.  When a student thinks hard about what he has been learning, digests it, and then reproduces it in the form of a test, that helps his brain fully process the learning. Making connections is what solidifies learning. Here are two views of testing--think about which one you hold currently, and which one you feel is correct.

1  Testing is how students prove what they know to the teacher.  The teacher wants to uncover what the student has NOT learned yet.

2  Testing is one of many tools a teacher uses to help students connect personally with what they are learning.  The teacher wants to uncover what the student has learned, and build the student's confidence by showing him how much he has accomplished.

     What is testing?  When I say "test", do you think of Scantrons and multiple-choice worksheets? Do you imagine a student who is questioned under pressure? These are forms of testing, but they fall under the first view of testing described above.  I use testing every day as I teach my own children and the students in my classes.  But if you asked my children, they would tell you that they never take tests.  You would get the same answer from my younger class students (I will explain about my older class students a little later).

     Here are some ideas to consider.  I give "oral exams" when I stop reading a book and ask questions:
"What do you think is going to happen next?"
"Do you think he's a bad guy or a good guy?"
"Why do you think he said that?  What did he mean by that?"
"Are there any clues about how this will end?"
I give oral exams when I ask a child, during a science experiment, "What do you think will happen next?"

   I give "written tests" when I ask my children or students to do tasks such as:
Draw a picture of your favorite character (go back through the story to find out details about him/her).
Write another story about the same characters.
Write a story in the same genre (a fairy tale or adventure or historical fiction).
Rewrite the ending (if they didn't like the author's ending).
Write out what happened in our science experiment, so we can remember what we discovered.
Draw a picture of that flower or tree or bug we are looking at outside.

     I am asking my children to digest the learning on a deeper level and interact with the book or experience, rather than passively receive knowledge.

     I also teach classes for students between 12 and 16 years old, and they participate in tests as well.  For the younger students, about 12-14, most of my "tests" are in the form of Quiz Games, and the students work in pairs or teams, so no one student feels all the pressure.  For my older students, I do administer formal oral and essay exams.  But these students know that the purpose of these tests is to help them learn the material and articulate what they know, and to build their test-taking skills.  I teach test-taking strategies and give feedback to help them do better the next time.  The process is helpful and confidence-building, not demeaning and frightening.

     Life is full of tests.  Help your children and students gain the confidence and skills they need to succeed through life's tests, but keep it appropriate for their age, developmental stage, and individual needs.  Give them the chance to shine!

To learn more about development stages and how they impact a child's learning, read For the Love of Learning, available here.

Follow LOLIPOP on Facebook here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Inspiring a Love of Reading & Writing

     Did you know that C.S. Lewis read Beatrice Potter's stories as a child, and that inspired him to create his own stories with talking animals (Narnia series)?  Great writers begin as readers of great books.  Reading and writing should be learned, and taught, as integral components.  So, the best way to inspire your children to write is to first inspire your children to read.  Begin by simply reading books aloud to your children.  Even after they can read on their own, they will love to listen to you read to them.  I still read aloud to my teenage daughter and to my husband.  Reading aloud to them will allow them to relax and enjoy stories that they would struggle to read on their own.
     In the book, For the Love of Learning, I give a detailed description of what parents and teachers can do to inspire learning in specific subject areas, such as: reading, writing, math, science, and history.  All children need a foundation of love for learning, confidence, and strategies in order to grow into great scholars and thinkers.  Ideally this happens before puberty, but if you have an adolescent child who hates learning, lacks confidence, or lacks learning strategies, these practices will help fill in those holes.
     To nurture a love for reading and writing, read aloud to your children often.  Choose from a wide variety of genres--fiction, non-fiction, biographies, short stories, chapter books, plays, poetry, speeches, etc.  As you read, share your own feelings about the piece.  Why do you like it?  What does it make you think about?  Keep it simple but honest.  Then do some writing together.  If children are reluctant at first, you can lead by sharing your own writing with them.  Write short stories about your children.  Make up fictional stories with your children as characters.  This will show them the power of stories and of writing.  Don't worry about their spelling or grammar.  You can even write for them, as they dictate a story.  It's all about getting their ideas onto paper and showing them how wonderful writing can be.
     To build confidence in reading, allow children to choose what to read on their own, and you read aloud to them from stories that are above their current reading level.  Don't push them at this point in their education.  They will get there.  We want them to associate reading with positive emotions.  We don't want them to associate reading with "work" or something they are forced to do.  Here's a little trick that I did with my oldest that inspired her to read more on her own.  I would read aloud from an exciting chapter book each night, and sometimes I would stop on a cliff hanger..."Oh, well, it's time for bed.  I'll read the rest tomorrow."  I would kiss her good night and leave with a smile--leaving the book there.  She would grab the book as soon as I left and work hard to read what happened next.  She didn't think of it as work, although it was.  She pushed her own reading ability, but she wanted to do it.
     A quick word about audio books...I love audio books.  We listen to them in the car and sometimes just for fun.  My whole family listens to audio books--my husband, me, and all of our children.  However, you don't want to replace reading aloud with audio books.  Children at this stage in development need to bond with family, and reading aloud is a great bonding activity.  These children need to associate positive emotions with reading, which will happen as you read aloud to them, curled up together on a comfy couch, but not as they listen to an audio book.
     To build confidence in their writing, simply allow them to get their thoughts onto paper, without criticism.  Remember, all unsolicited "help" is criticism!  
     A parent recently asked me, "When do I stop teaching spelling and grammar?"  The real question is when do I start teaching spelling and grammar.  I don't teach spelling or grammar until my children ask for it.  Some parents have expressed concern that their children will never ask to learn spelling and grammar.  Well, they may never ask for those boring grammar lessons that are completely disconnected from any real reading or writing, but they will eventually care that the spelling and grammar in their own writing is correct.  If they are exposed to many great books, they will learn spelling and grammar from example.  Of course, I do point out, as I read to my children, little grammar point in the stories as they are relevant.  For example, I will say, "Oh that ends with an exclamation point, so he must be yelling.  Let me read that again with the right voice."  They begin to see how punctuation helps to communicate the writer's message and tell a better story.  When my children begin to write on their own, I may ask honest questions about what they are trying to say and help them choose punctuation that communicates their message.  I don't do it in a way that criticizes them.  I realize this is a tough one for many parents.  Your child may not ask or care about spelling and grammar until he is in his teens.  Allow me to reassure you, as a literature and writing teacher of middle and high school students, spelling and grammar can be learned very quickly when students have a foundation of great books (either they have read them or they have listened to them read aloud), and they care about their writing and have confidence in their ability to learn anything once they are ready.
     To teach children strategies for learning to read and write well, show them that there are many ways to interact with a book.  It's not just about sitting down and reading and remembering everything.  Help children make their reading real by acting out favorite scenes, reciting fun poems together, drawing pictures of characters or settings.  Show them that reading is a great strategy for learning about anything that interests them, but it's not the only way.  Show them that writing helps us in many areas of our lives--not just "school."  Make out lists together for shopping or birthday wish lists.  Make lists of pro's and con's to help make a tough decision. Show them, through example and gentle instruction, that writing is a way to organize our thoughts, share our ideas with others, and solve problems.
     To end, here is a list of resources to help you inspire readers and writers in your own home or classroom.

If you really want to introduce some grammar, try these fun books by Lynne Truss.
Twenty-Odd Ducks
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Girl's Like Spaghetti

A very inspiring book for writing, when they're ready, is Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic.

And check out the monthly Jr. Classic on www.sdlaa.com.  Each month, a new classic book is featured.  Just click on the title, and you will access a pdf full of activities and discussion activities based on that book. Completely free.  You don't even need to register for anything!

For more inspiring ideas, follow LOLIPOP on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LolipopLearning

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Inspiring a Love for Math

The focus this week on the LOLIPOP Learning Facebook page is MATH! So, how about a blog entry all about MATH!

How do you get your younger child to love...enjoy...ok, just not scream at the mention of...MATH? Can you inspire an older child who has already developed a hate of math?  Here are some ideas.

Throughout my elementary and high school education, I was always placed in the "advanced" math groups or classes.  But I never felt competent at math.  The only way I could succeed was to memorize a ton of information and then spit it back out on tests.  Sadly that worked, and I received good grades in math.  The reason I say that is sad is because I never got out of math its true value and beauty. Many years later, when I was studying with a small liberal arts college, I began to read stories about mathematicians, theory about math, and I learned how math is all around me, in the arts, in music, in nature!  That's when I fell in love with math.

So the first step to inspiring your children is for YOU to love (at least appreciate) math.  How do you do that?  Start with some stories about mathematicians.  A great place to start is with the series Mathematicians Are People Too.  A few other books that I love are Men of Mathematics by Eric Temple Bell, The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe by Michael Schneider, and The Joy of Mathematics by Theoni Pappas.  When I read about how and why math is all around me and affects my life, and how beautiful it is, I fell in love!  And then that love began to spill over to my children. Get reading! 

Then share these stories with your children.  They can only love ideas they feel a connection to, so introduce them to some mathematicians. Show them that these "geniuses" struggled, sometimes failed, and kept moving forward slowly.

"If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is because they do not realize how complicated life is."
--John Louis von Neumann

"The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple."
--Stan Gudder

Keep it simple!  Show your children math all around them as you go through your day. Young kids can do math through sorting laundry, setting the table, counting (real) money, examining sections of an orange, sorting M&Ms or Skittles and graphing how many of each color, doing puzzles, drawing... Older kids can create scale models of their bedroom furniture, measure for new flooring, measure for a garden, calculate money needed for an item they want to buy.

"...mathematics is the sister, as well as the servant, of the arts and is touched with the same madeness and genius."
--Harold Marston Morse

"Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting."
--Gottfried Leibniz

If your child is struggling with math, take a break from the math book and explore some art--drawing, sculpting, combining shapes, or simply observing shapes in art, or have them learn a musical instrument.

There is an expression that no one should attempt algebra until they have hair under their arms.  The brain changes significantly during puberty.  Physical changes actually enable the brain to think abstractly in ways it cannot before puberty.  Algebra requires abstract thought, and so is best saved for after puberty has begun.  But adding numbers on a page can also be abstract to a young child.  Be sure to do concrete mathematics with your kids.  When adding, use manipulatives.  These can be anything you have around the house.  They don't need to be fancy or expensive.  Use candy bars to teach fractions.  Measure items they live with and care about.  Find shapes in their every day lives, not just in a math book. Play board games that require both dice and a spinner, so they learn the connection between quantity and those symbols we use for numbers.  Make your own 10 sticks with popsicle sticks and dried beans instead of buying expensive place value manipulatives.  Keep it hands-on!

Lastly, here is a list of some math resources and reading books that I like.  There are many more out there, but here's some ideas to get your started.

Mathwise, James Overholt and Laurie Kincheloe
The M&Ms Brand Counting Book, Barbara McGrath
The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar Fractions Book, Jerry Pollatta
Spaghetti and Meatballs for All, Marilyn Burns
The Greedy Triangle, Marilyn Burns
Sir Cumference series, Cindy Neuschwander
One Riddle, One Answer, Lauren Thompson

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P.S.  The picture at the top of the page is my 10-year-old daughter doing her math in a tree.  Math makes her anxious, but nature (especially our tree) makes her calm.  So, she likes to climb up in our tree to think about math.  In the Love of Learning Phase, it's not about how much math they can learn.  It's about learning to love math.  And this is a great way for her to associate positive emotions and experiences with "doing math."


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Going to School before LOL Phase

In the Leadership Education materials, children under the age of 8 are considered in Core Phase.  This is a phase during which they learn about core values - right, good, true.  They establish their bond with family and learn about healthy relationships.  And they learn the value of hard work (even if it takes a few more years to truly appreciate it).  Raymond & Dorothy Moore, often called "the grandparents of home schooling", and the authors of "Better Late Than Early" also support keeping younger children close to home.  I agree with all of this, which makes today's observation interesting but also a bit of a "duh" moment in my education journey.

My youngest is currently 6-years-old.  He has attended a charter school 2 days per week this school year. I never intended to send him there, but when we went to the open house to check out the program for my 9-year-old, he was so excited at the idea of a "real school",  and he begged to go!  So I figured that we would give it a try.  If he didn't like it, he was always welcome to come back home with me.  Throughout the school year, we have taken lots of days off, staying at home or going on field trips instead of going to "school", so there truly has been no pressure on him to attend.

Every day that he is supposed to go to his school, he is so excited!  He gets himself all dressed and ready to go, and when we have parked the car, he literally runs to his classroom.  His teacher is a sweet and patient home school mom who nurtures his love for learning.  The learning is all project-based and student-driven, with a lot of choice and play time. He has never complained or asked to stop.  And if I ever suggest he stop, he objects strongly.

However, around lunch time, at least once a month, he gets tired and frustrated and decides he wants to go home.  He has even walked out of his classroom and away from his teacher, much to her dismay.  Again, I offered to have him stay home with me or do another activity with me instead of go to "school", but he begged to continue going.

So, my solution was to go with him to school.  I've been in and out most days, but lately I've stayed right outside the door the whole time.  Today, it really hit me what he needs and why most kids under 8 should probably wait to start school.  Although he had a great time, he came out to hug me or check in with me several times during the day.  He never wanted to leave.  He just needed a little reassurance.  A couple of times, he came out for consolation after a disagreement with a friend.  Although his teacher is very kind and willing to help resolve issues, and he is very comfortable talking to her, he truly needed a "mommy moment".  I didn't do much.  A squeeze and a kiss, and he was quickly back in the classroom.

I wrote about children under 8 in my book, and that was based on a lot of research.  But I just love it when real life illustrates the points I so strongly encourage and teach to others.  Today I was reminded that even if children under 8 ASK to go to school or ASK for group classes, they truly need to stay close to mom and stay within a family environment rather than an "institutional" environment.  That doesn't mean that they can't participate in such groups.  Some children need and even thrive in such environments, especially if they are extroverted, have performing personalities and need more social outlets.  Here are a couple of suggestions - dare I say warnings.

1.  Make sure it is something they need (ask for) and not something you do out of fear of "lack of socialization".  There is always time for socialization when they are older. How old depends on their personality and learning style.  One of my children, who is extremely introverted, needed to wait until she was almost 10 to participate in group learning.

2.  Be sure to keep it limited - time and group size.  For young children, one group per week is a good start.  Be sure they still have plenty of free time, at home, with family.

3.  Stay close by.  These children need to return often to the security of family.  Don't think that just because it's a quick check-in that it's not important.

4.  Choose a group with other moms who understand your philosophy and goals about educating your child.  I once had an unfortunate conflict with well-meaning moms who were trying to help by "teaching" (aka forcing) my young child to sit through a class without me.  Communicate clearly, and don't assume that they share or understand your point of view when it comes to your children or your educational approach.

I know that those early years can be overwhelming.  But they really do go by quickly, and you'll miss them once they've passed.  Enjoy the bonding time with your children.  Let other things go for now.  Focus on these precious moments with your little ones.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Inspiring Science

Today we had a very inspiring science day, so I thought I would share that with you.

I have several Ask magazines.  These are magazines published by the same company who publish Cricket, Spider, and Lady BugAsk is specifically about Science, and is aimed at 6-9 year olds.  So last night I looked through a few old copies, and found something interesting that I wanted to share with my kids today.  The issue I chose had a story about some hikers who found a body in an melting glacier.  Scientists used carbon-dating and other investigative techniques to determine that this man died about 5,000 years ago.  The ice had preserved his body and several of his belongings, making him a great discovery for archeologists.

I read the story to my children, and then we did our own experiment.  We filled up several plastic cups with water.  Then my kids chose some items to submerge - a strawberry, a twig, a leaf, and a piece of paper.  They used rocks to hold the items under the water.  Then we placed the cups in the freezer.  We will take them out after a week, observe them, let the ice melt and compare them to the same items set aside but not frozen. 

One key here is that I did not approach this as if I had something I wanted THEM to learn.  I approached it as though I had something that I found really cool and interesting and I wanted to SHARE it with them.  We learned together. 

We finished up our morning with a math activity.  We took a bucket of coins to the Coinstar machine and traded them in for paper money.  Before we put them into the machine, we all guessed how much money it was (I won, but I wish that my 6-year-old's guess of $6,000 had been correct).  The machine was great, because it printed on the receipt how many of each coin we had.  We took our paper money home and put it into our family vacation fund (a lesson in life skills and goal setting).

Remember to take advantage of those natural learning moments that occur simply in the course of family life.  And consider investing in some of those magazines to help inspire learning. 

Here is a list of a bunch I like. 
Lady Bug
Baby Bug
Highlights Puzzle Mania
Highlight's Math Mania
Ranger Rick

And Superhero comic books are great for inspiring boys to read!