Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Teach Me From the Heart

It's time for another blog cruise! Every two weeks the Schoolhouse Review Crew is presented with a topic. This week's blog topic is: The Subject I Enjoy Teaching the Most. Can you answer this question? I bet you can't guess correctly. Well, some of my readers will know the answer. 

What is my favorite subject? Do you think you know the answer to the question? No peeking.

You might be thinking that reading is my favorite subject to teach because my daughter is a very eager reader. You might be looking at all of my older posts thinking ... well, she has a lot of reading activities posted. But, nope that is actually not my favorite subject to teach. I thought that before I revealed the answer to this question, I would give you a little background information and tell you the story of how I became interested in teaching.

How Did I Get Into the Educational Field?
I always enjoyed playing "teacher" as a child. I remember teaching spelling to my cousins in their garage. I loved school - it was my escape from reality. I loved learning many different subjects. I had a handful of high school teachers that were very influential and had an impact on important decisions that I made during high school. These teachers guided me and looked out for my best interests - they were like parents to me. I still write letters to one of my high school math teachers every Christmas. However, I never actually thought that I would become a teacher or for that matter a homeschooling mama. I had other plans in high school. I wanted to be a lawyer????

Fresh out of college, I walked into the New Life Treatment Center carrying my diplomas in one hand and my resume in the other. I applied for the job that I was pulled towards and was told I was overqualified. Can you believe that? I just wanted a job and felt I NEEDED to work at THAT particular location. I had a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and another Bachelor's Degree in Spanish. I won't tell you my minor because it is irrelevant. They actually tried to talk me out of working at the center. I was persistent because I knew for some reason I was meant to be there ... God was calling me. I also needed a job. My faith wasn't as strong as it is now but I knew I was supposed to be there. Well, they did end up hiring me and my first job out of college paid minimum wage rates. The pay was not as important to me as the cause. The New Life Children's Treatment or Residential Center is a home for abused and neglected girls between the ages of 11-17. I thought for sure that I was supposed to be helping abused children. I even applied for a job at Child Protective Services at one point in my life.

This was the year that God revealed His true plan to me. I was supposed to be teaching. The treatment center is a locked down facility which meant that the girls went to school on site. I occasionally had the duty of watching over them during school hours. One of the teachers at the time asked me why I was working at the center. We had a long discussion into the evening hours after school that day. She allowed me to assist her in the classroom instead of just sitting on the sidelines watching the girls for inappropriate behaviors and actions. After months of direct observation, she brought it to my attention that I should be teaching children because I had a love for learning and teaching. She encouraged me to get my Master's degree at a nearby university. Several days later after much thought, I made the hard decision to leave the girls behind holding our memories close to my heart. I took the giant step forward into a new career field. I taught second grade for three years and then my sweet baby girl came into this world. And that my friends is how and why I became an educator. I never imagined that I would eventually decide to homeschool, but I think it was all part of God's ultimate plan for me. I am a homeschool mom and I absolutely love my job! Ask anyone that knows me and I am sure they will agree!

The Absolute Truth
However, the absolute number one "subject" that I love to teach is my child ... my ever so eager daughter Alyssa. What's just as important is that I teach her with a loving heart. It is important as an educator and homeschool parent that we not only love the subject that we teach but that we love the individuals we are teaching. I know that you all love your children dearly and I am definitely not questioning that love here today. But, it can be hard at times teaching subjects YOU dislike. I always try to remind myself ... If you love the subject you teach and you teach it enthusiastically, then your children will tend to enjoy it so much more. Have fun with every subject even if you do not like to teach it. Your attitude will influence their attitude. Their viewpoint about the disliked subject can be adjusted or reawakened with a positive attitude and appreciation. My favorite "subject" to teach is my daughter but let me share with you what I enjoy teaching when it comes to subject content.

As soon as I heard about this blog cruise, I knew I had to participate. First of all, anyone that knows me well understands that I absolutely LOVE teaching and find it VERY addicting. Choosing just ONE subject I enjoy teaching the most is a challenging task for a person that loves ALL things educational. I haven't changed since high school ... I still love learning about all subjects. However, teaching a specific subject is another story. I was able to narrow my decision down to TWO subjects.

Gotta LOVE Math!
Now ... down to the nitty gritty. I am a math-a-holic! I started college off majoring in Mathematics until I took the dreaded Calculus course. I was quick to quit and gave up the entire degree because I couldn't pass Calculus. I was also a teacher assistant for a College Algebra professor. I held class review sessions and was paid $15-25 an hour to tutor struggling individuals. I met several wonderful lifelong friends during that endeavor of mine. I was even a teacher assistant for a Psychology Statistics course because I loved Math.

However, over the years I realized that I prefer teaching children math! I love creating math lessons that involve interactive, engaging, worthwhile, meaningful, hands-on, and down right fun activities that explore mathematical thinking, skills, and concepts. I teach using an eclectic approach so that I can change things as often as I like using whatever method works. We both love trying new curricula to spice up lessons. I use a variety resources and tools to teach Alyssa Math including but not limited to core curriculum options, literature, online curriculum, Montessori Math, musical CD's, calendar time, worksheets, hands-on activities, commercial games, iPad apps, printable math games, physical education, and math tub explorations. I hope you have several minutes to visit the following hands-on math posts I have written:
The Bats Around the Clock Telling Time Activity
Unifix Cube Valentine's Day Bump Games (Several versions)
Montessori Stamp Game
Montessori Multiplication Bead Board
Skip Counting, Area, and Multiplication Oh My
Math-U-See Race to 100 Game
Candy Corn Math
Candy Corn Graphing and Fractions

Jack Hartmann can be heard several times throughout our homeschool day. I also use music from Shari Sloane and Dr. Jean. I learned about Mr. Hartmann's CD's at a teacher conference years ago. I bought several and played them for Alyssa when she was much younger. I was looking for high quality educational music with a beat. I definitely got what I paid for that day. I also photographed the Math-U-See Songbook and CD because she uses this to practice fact fluency and skip counting.

As I read literature aloud, I am constantly searching for ways to incorporate math lessons. Sometimes I choose to read math literature and then I attempt to bring the book alive. I have countless math ideas that I want badly to share with my readers but I do not always have the time. This is a photo of a conglomeration of math literature books I own - many of my books are still in storage until we move again.

I also use our calendar time to teach mathematical concepts. Our school utilized Number Corner Math when I taught in the classroom so I was very familiar with the idea. But what surprised me was that I started seeing bloggers creating calendars for their homeschool. I decided at that point - why not? I set-up a basic calendar when Alyssa was just a toddler. Check out my Calendar Pinterest board for more calendar ideas. You can teach about a zillion math concepts in one lesson ... well maybe not that many, but it is a fun way to learn math. If you haven't tried calendar time math - you should give it a try for a few weeks especially with younger children.

When I left the teaching field, I had accumulated a huge personal collection of math manipulatives. I spent a fortune trying to stock up my classroom with personal funds. In the beginning, I allowed Alyssa time to engage in exploratory play before introducing the math manipulatives into her lessons. We call this time Math Tub Explorations. She is give a tub of math manipulatives to explore before a lesson is taught. This reduces the number of distractions we have with manipulative play during an actual lesson. There are days that she will pull a tub down to explore the tub contents during her free time. I observe her thinking and how she interacts with the material. I pay extra special attention to any higher level thinking processes used when "playing" with math manipulatives. Several of her favorite math manipulatives are pattern blocks, money, counting bears, Unifix cubes, geoboards, and color tiles.
A Few of Our Math Tubs
I incorporate math printable games in our homeschool day to reinforce concepts taught. We are constantly using our Math Games in a Bag from Activity Bags. You can find information about them here. There are also a variety of FREE resources online if you do a simple Google search.

Commercial games are great ways to reinforce learning. Every Christmas Alyssa will get one or two new games. These are usually math or logical thinking games that we play as a family. We play math games on family game night. My daughter doesn't even realize the games are educational games because we have fun using them anytime we want. The games aren't just meant for school time; they are played whenever we want for fun and are stored in the game cabinet. Please head over to this post to read about a few of our favorite math games.  
What's your favorite Math game? 
Math surrounds us ... it can be seen everywhere in our world. There are so many curriculum options to choose from and many approaches for teaching math. Find out what your child's learning style is before choosing a method. They will be more successful if you teach them based on their preferences. Sometimes as parents and educators we tend to teach the way we want to be taught and it is not necessarily or always the way your child will learn best.

Second Subject: Hola Mis Amigos!
The second subject that I adore would have to be Spanish. When I was a second grade classroom teacher, I snuck in mini Spanish lessons whenever possible even though it was not required by the school. I wanted to expose the children to the language daily and not just once a week during their scheduled Spanish class. However, I am not fluent enough to teach older children or adults nor am I confident enough. I feel comfortable teaching young children because children are forgiving.

I loved Spanish so much so that I earned a Bachelor's Degree just for fun in undergrad school. Yep - that's what I said! Crazy huh? How can one person love a subject this much. I was fascinated by every aspect of the language. I took courses where I studied dialect and methodology. I was immersed in the language and required to speak only Spanish in the environment. I noticed that I would take class after class so one day my counselor suggested that I major in Spanish because I only needed two more courses to complete the degree. I did end up earning that degree. It is useful today because I use my knowledge to teach my daughter. Who knows? I may even consider teaching fellow homeschool children Spanish in the future. Alyssa has developed an intriguing interest in the language too.

I love that I can read Spanish literature to my daughter and create hands-on activities to extend her learning of the language while relating the lesson to familiar stories in English.
My Growing Collection of Spanish Literature
You can read about this and several other Spanish shape activities on my blog. If you are interested in other Spanish activities that we have done in the past, please check my categories for the word Spanish. It will take you to a majority of the lessons we did long ago.
Shape attribute sorting activity after reading a book in Spanish about shapes. 
I make use of all types of puppets and props while teaching Spanish to children. We enjoy singing and dancing to cultural music while playing musical instruments. These are just a few of the props I utilize during lessons.
I love changing commercial games into Spanish games. Check out my post on how I changed the Pick and Draw Game into a Spanish game here. Well-known games can be easily played in Spanish such as "I Spy" and "Hide and Seek" to help reiterate vocabulary and concepts learned.

Calendar time is also done in Spanish! She has loads of fun acknowledging the similarities and differences between the languages. Coloring pages serve as vocabulary visual reminders and are used when available.

I haven't decided whether I have a preference for the immersion method or bilingual method. I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I have had to use code switching to help get my point across, yet I know how important it is for children to be immersed in the language. There are also a variety of other methods for learning a foreign language. Again since I am very eclectic in my teaching ways ... I can choose whatever method or approach works for our lesson that day.

There it is ... written in stone ... my two MOST favorite school subjects to teach are Math and Spanish. Did you guess correctly? But deep down inside the truth is that children are what matters most when teaching and they are my number one subjects. At this point I have just my one daughter, but I may be blessed with more children in the future.

Alyssa's Favorite Subjects Today
I asked Alyssa what her favorite subjects were and today she said, "Spanish and Math." No, she is not standing behind me reading this post. She most likely chose those two subjects because my love for teaching those subjects pours out abundantly. She can feel and see the enthusiasm! She also feels successful when attempting Math problems and speaking in Spanish.

My tip for today is "Love What and Who You Teach" and you will be greatly blessed.
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." (1 John 5: 1-3 ESV)

Prayer Time
Thank you Lord Jesus for giving me the ability and knowledge to teach my (your) daughter. Teaching her is a blessing every single day. I thank you for giving me strength when things are hard and for helping me make the right decisions with regards to her education. Thank you for filling my heart with love and helping me teach from the heart.

Please stop by the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to hear about subjects other homeschooling parents love to teach.

1 comment:

  1. I always wanted to be a teacher too, and taught before having children and homeschooling, seems we have similar teaching styles as well :D Thanks for stopping by!