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In early Colonial days there were no public schools. Children learned from their parents at home.

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Homeschooling Interview: Cindy Wiggers

How did you get started writing materials for homeschoolers?
We started as home school educators selling geography materials for curriculum money. I taught vendor workshops on geography and atlas usage at home school conventions and our sessions were so well received that Josh began to encourage me to write a book to make the information more readily available. When folks came to us looking for timelines, I created an interactive one. We've just mostly responded to needs expressed by home school families.
What is the most important thing you want home schoolers to know about learning geography?
Geography is a part of nearly every subject that you teach. When you recognize and teach the relationship of geography to history, science, missions, everyday life experiences, and more, your students will really learn geography and gain a better understanding of those other subjects as well. Using this approach, geography studies become the highlight of the school day for many students.
When I heard you speak, you shared many personal examples from your own homeschooling. What did you learn homeschooling your own children that has been applied in your approach to geography?
After chucking the traditional textbooks before finishing the first year, I tried unit studies. This enlightened me to recognize that my different ages of children could learn the same subjects together while providing individual assignment levels. Although I was never proficient with the Unit Study approach I discovered that various areas of study can be taught together as a whole rather than juggling 4 or 5 different subjects at once with 3 different levels of students. When I applied this concept with geography, wow did it make loads of sense!! Student comprehension soared, critical thinking skills developed and we had some pretty awesome notebooks of our studies, besides.
I know learning geography can seem intimidating to those of us who are not particularly good with a map. What can we do to feel more comfortable teaching this subject to our children?
Once you recognize that geography is not just about map reading but about people, places, landforms, climate, animals and oh, so much more... you lose that uneasy feeling that you can't teach something you don't understand. You just learn it along with your students. I love what Joyce Herzog says all across the country when she speaks: " Homeschooling is God's way of teaching two generations at once."
The best advice I can give is to get a copy of The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide and read over the Teacher Refresher Course. There you'll gain a fuller understanding of what geography really is and how to teach it in cooperation with other subject matter.
What do you suggest as a method for helping children remember what they have learned?
Students who create their own notebooks always remember what they learn better than those who spend their school day filling in workbooks. The student notebook becomes a reflection of the student's natural gifts and takes on the personality of the students themselves. When children can record what they learn in the way that is natural to them they enjoy learning - and anytime you enjoy what you're learning you remember it better. Artistic students have more drawings in their notebook, writers more writing, computer geeks more computer-generated print outs.
Could the notebooking method be used to cover other areas such as language arts, science and history?
Absolutely! Notebooking can be used for any subject of study. We used them for everything. My children's notebooks were filled with maps, drawings, diagrams, charts and graphs. Many were taken from the science textbook or a result of the history topic. When your child writes about what he is learning you have the perfect opportunity to teach grammar, punctuation, parts of speech, selecting more interesting words and so much more. Spelling lists can come naturally from words they can't spell in their daily writing activities - or misspelled words can be added to your weekly spelling lists.
Could the notebooking method be used with students who are less developed as writers?
Oh, yes. Less developed writers can dictate stories, captions to pictures they draw or that you took with a camera at the field trip. You write what they say and let them copy it in their notebook. Teach parts of speech and more from their own words. As they develop more proficiency in writing give them more responsibility. Many who are less developed as writers will be more advanced in other areas. Let the notebook reflect their strengths. (ie: art, photography, computer skills...)
Since you have many years of experience working with homeschoolers, and homeschooling yourself, what do you consider the best homeschooling advice you have ever heard or been given?
Recognize that you'll never be able to teach your children everything there is to know. No one is doing it: the private schools, public schools, charter schools - none. There is too much information in today's world. Teach them how to learn and how to think for themselves. Develop in them a joy for learning. When they run upon something they didn't learn in school they'll know how to find out for themselves.
Really get to know your children and encourage their natural gifts to develop. Learn to recognize the way your child learns best and find ways to teach him in the way he learns best. Read aloud together daily and look up words you don't understand. Enjoy your children and learning together with them.

Want to learn more about the resources in this article? Click here to discover additional resources from Cindy Wiggers.

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