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Mother’s Journal – July 2017

My lack of posting here on Harmony Art Mom should have clued you in to the fact that life sort of ran away with me. The days were filled to the brim with good things, both here at home and on the East Coast as I visited with my kids. I know many of you subscribe to my Handbook of Nature Study blog and follow me on Instagram, so you saw some of the highlights as they unfolded.

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Selfie with 3 of my 4 children- July 2017

But, here in this entry, I am going to keep my focus and talk about my mama thoughts. For those that keep track, I now have two children in their early 30’s and two in their early 20’s. Hardly seems possible!  I’m still anxious for them as they navigate the world on their own. The two younger boys will be coming to stay with my husband and me for a short time starting in late August. They have not led conventional ‘after high school graduation’ lives. There has been no real college. Much of what they’ve done is volunteer work. But, in my estimation, they have both grown in skills and qualities that will make them amazing men.

I hate to talk too much about them and their specific paths on the internet for their privacy’s sake. But I will relate an experience that made me know this has been the right direction for these two particular boys.

Mr. A is my child that was always busy building things, creating things, and tinkering with tools. He is a visual spatial learner who spent lots of time figuring out how things work. Everyone loves Mr. A because he’s an easy going and friendly sort of person. College would have squashed Mr. A, but it has worried me that he couldn’t find the kind of job he would be happy in unless he did some kind of college, perhaps a technical trade school. Mamas worry about things like that.

I was also worried when he decided to move so far away from home that I couldn’t “finish” training him. He was only 19 when he moved to New York. He seemed too young to be off on his own.

I needn’t have worried.

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He started with one job and switched several times, landing in his “dream” position. Remember, this is the RC helicopter, airplane pilot, video making, LEGO maniac child. What do you get when you mix all that together? You get a drone camera operator! This was a sweet spot for him and he balanced that with being the head of a crew of women old enough to be his much older sisters.  As this position unfolded, I could see the drone operator part easily enough but the leading of four women sort of made me raise my eyebrows. Mr. A supervising four women? We talked several times on the phone about how to handle the emotional side of leading women…something he had little experience with.

Well, a few weeks ago when I visited him at work, I was greeted by these 4 young women with big hugs. They had actually asked if I could come in and meet them because they wanted to thank me for raising such a great son. They all had nothing but good things to say about how he treated them, how they felt he listened, and how he created a team atmosphere that got things done. One of them told me how they appreciated Mr. A’s diverse skills and willingness to learn.

This humbled me and made my heart soar.

It’s all going to be okay.

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Love this girl!

I don’t care what my children do for work if it allows them to grow in skills and character. I walked out of there with my head and shoulders held high. I had learned a valuable lesson. Create in your children the eagerness to learn and grow, to be humble when they need to learn something, and to allow them to take a chance on a job that might not be exactly what you want in the beginning and see where it takes them.

For homeschooling moms that are in the trenches of homeschooling young boys, hang in there and remember that working on good character qualities will be the foundation of any future success your child will achieve.

I continue to be humbled as a “homeschool” mama.

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Helping The Visual-Spatial Learner

wildflowers mcgurk meadowEvery wildflower is different but beautiful in its own unique way. Who could pick the best or most valuable wildflower? I would hate to think of a world filled with just one species of flower to see all year round.

I have come to feel that way about people too, my children in particular. Each one is different but beautiful in their own unique way. One of the differences that I have come to embrace is the idea of learning intelligences or learning strengths. I have been actually brewing this post for weeks but Brenda at The Tie That Binds Us wrote a blog entry this week about this topic and it spurred me to finish my entry up as well.

I grew up and went to school at a time when the idea of “multiple intelligences” was not quite yet filtering into the school system and teaching methods. I was introduced to it when my children were very young by my aunt who is a retired school teacher.  She sent me a book (The Everyday Genius) and it changed my whole way of thinking about how to offer learning experiences to my children.


I think I have read this book about twenty times…each time I glean a little more from the pages. It started my quest to find a more meaningful way to help my children learn and enjoy learning. I discovered a whole new way of thinking about learning and the value in determining how each of my children engaged life.

Child Number Three Shook My World
I started homeschooling feeling quite confident in my ability to teach. My oldest two children made me look pretty good as far as being a teacher. My daughter is a linguistic learner which fits a more traditional school model. She can read, narrate, and write with ease because words are her strong-point. My oldest son is a quiet intrapersonal/mathematical learner. This also fits a pretty traditional way of schooling. Then along came my third child, Mr. A. All the old tricks didn’t seem to work with him no matter how hard I tried.

Trumpet practice 9 21 10
Mr. A started playing the trumpet at age seven which seemed young but it has proven to be a great outlet for him. We found a trumpet teacher that loved his energy and she is still playing trumpet with him ten years later.

Turns out Mr A is a Visual-Spatial Learner and since this is very different from how I learn it has been one of my biggest challenges in homeschooling. (He is also a musical learner but that is a whole other post.)

Here is a wonderful website that is devoted to the idea of this one kind of learner:
Visual-Spatial Resource

A brief list of attributes of a VSP learner (complete list HERE)

  • Thinks in pictures and sees the big picture
  • Learns concepts all at once
  • Better at keyboarding than handwriting
  • Visualizes words to spell them (words misspelled will not “look right”)
  • Better at math reasoning than computation
  • Generates unusual solutions to problems

These qualities and strengths make using traditional schooling methods difficult.

Working on Airplane Design
See the colored pencils? They are a useful tool in teaching a VSP. He also fiddles with the models there on the desk as he works on his schoolwork. I add educational posters in the work space. He also likes sitting at the window where he can watch the birds in the feeders.

A Few Examples From Our Experiences
For instance, visual-spatial learners can give you the correct answer in algebra without writing down all the steps. Writing the sequence is difficult for them since they visualize the answer and many times don’t understand exactly how they got there. My son will explain his thinking and I will look at him blankly. I want him to write the steps exactly like the text outlines but he finds it near impossible to duplicate their thinking because he solves the problem correctly using his own methods.

Another example came to light last year when we were preparing for the SAT. We discovered that multiple choice tests are like riddles to this VSP child. He has a way of reasoning many answers to be correct. I can remember when he was little and he had a worksheet that asked him to number a series of pictures in the correct order (story sequence). He would agonize over the pictures and rarely get the “correct” answer but he could explain exactly why he ordered the pictures the way he did and it would make sense. He has never been happy with the idea that there is only one “correct” answer.

Writing skills came late to this particular child and it was only after we started using IEW and making key word outlines and using rubrics that this child began to bloom as a writer. He does not think in words but pictures so allowing him to doodle on the outline and in his written narrations has been a great way to tap into his thinking strengths. He also likes to use notebooking pages where he can sketch or add images to his writing. He has often told me that he cannot take notes at our Bible Study because it is hard to listen and write at the same time. He ends up making mind maps and doodles instead.

Bike Riding
If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Mom, can we go for a bike ride today?” I would be a rich mom.

Lately I have noticed that he will alternate between his reading assignments and assignments that allow him to be moving or use his spatial faculties like playing his trumpet or watching a DVD lesson. He also has begun to space out his writing assignments each week. Allowing him this freedom has made him a much better student.

How Do We Adapt Our Homeschool To A VSL?
Here are some more tips that I have found work for Mr. A in his schoolwork and learning in general.

  • Math is done on graph paper instead of lined paper…with room for doodles.
  • Writing is done with charts and outlines, graphically showing how to put the pieces together.
  • Liberal use of notebook pages to allow sketches and images.
  • Use of more visual texts when needed like Math-U-See.
  • Include art and music as part of the core curriculum.
  • Outdoor time is essential….movement and photography have helped Mr. A as he as grown into a teen.
  • Sketching skills emphasized and included in core courses like science and history.
  • Take advantage of their ability to memorize.
  • Include video courses for building interest in subjects like history and science.
  • Give opportunities for more visual-spatial courses like auto mechanics, robotics, woodworking, and painting.
  • Provide time and space for hobbies that fit their learning styles. Mr. A is learning to fly an airplane and he uses Flight Simulator to relax. He designs and builds RC airplanes where I see many of his skills come together.
  • Use colors to organize notebooks, folders, and notes.
  • Allow colored pencils and markers for writing narrations and spelling words.
  • Give lots of visual clues during the day to keep on task like a checklist or agenda.(We use Homeschool Tracker.)
  • If you are planning on taking major tests like the SAT, prepare them by practicing with a timer. This was an area that was difficult for my VSL. Timed tests are more difficult because they tend to lose track of time.

If you think you have a VSP learner, you may be interested in reading and then printing this document out for your planner:

This document is a little more scholarly but I really like page 3…great reference for planning activities for your homeschool:


One thing that has helped me be a better teacher and mentor to Mr. A is to have continuing education about his learning style. This book is the best of the best out there right now as far as I’m concerned. See if your library has it and then purchase your own copy if you think your child learns this way.Visual-Spatial Learner by Alexandra Shire Golon.

If your library has this one, I highly recommend it as well. It gave me lots of insight into how my children think and how I can better offer learning in a way that makes sense to them. A Mind at a Time by Mel Levine.

Weekly Wrap-Up: Random Goodness

Primroses in January
Primroses in January!

We have been experiencing amazingly beautiful weather. Warm temperatures have allowed open windows and doors, hanging laundry outside, and long walks with the dog. This has been the best January as far as moods go that I can ever remember. No winter blahs yet so perhaps that is why school seems to be progressing well.

Modern History: I spent the better part of a day this week reading through Mr. A’s history book to glean topics for notebook pages and writing assignments, find speeches to read, YouTube videos to watch, and to decide on a few areas for further research. I’ve decided that 20th century history is something that you can not really dig into until the child is in high school. The issues and events are very complex and because they are not in the distant past they have a big effect on our everyday lives. Here are a few of the topics scheduled for the next term: Apartheid, Stalin, Fidel Castro, Civil Rights Bill, The Great Society, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK and MLK’s assassinations, Vietnam War, Space Race with Russia, PLO, IRA, Watergate, Ayatollah Khomeini……yikes! Can you see what I am talking about? These are topics that high school age children really need to read about, think about, and then talk about, responding and making sense of it all. Hold on to your seats, it is going to be a rough ride.

Art and Music Appreciation: Both boys started new artists and composers this week. Although it is nice to listen long enough to one composer to become familiar with their music, it is always refreshing to start a new composer. Mr. A is listening to Francis Poulenc and Mr. B is listening to Franz Liszt.

Have to share a funny YouTube….Victor Borge playing Franz Liszt.

It is only 2 1/2 minutes long so gather the kids…they may like it too.

Creative Writing: I haven’t updated you on our creative writing course in awhile. Since I couldn’t find anything as far a pre-planned course that fit our needs, I am making it up as we go along. Do you want some examples?

  • After reading The Cay, I assigned two short writing pieces. One was to write Old Timothy’s obituary and the other was to write a travel article for the island Timothy and Phillip were shipwrecked on together. 
  • After reading the first four chapters in The Giver, one assignment was to write a scene showing how it would be to have a “Speaker” in your house. (You need to read the book in order to understand what the “Speaker” is all about.)
  • After reading the short story, The Minister’s Black Veil, the assignment was to write the prequel to the story, explaining why Mr. Hooper decides to wear the veil. 

The process of pulling your own plans together is difficult. I try to come up with ideas that give jumping off spots and allow for creativity on my son’s part. He is enjoying the assignments and I wish I could share what he is writing but he doesn’t want me to share. 🙁

Here are some other images from our week.

Skateboard Trick
Skateboarding on a beautiful afternoon

Astronomy Photo of the Day notebook page
Astronomy Photo of the Day notebook page

Working on building RC plane Wing
Designing and building the wings for his new RC airplane

RC Airplane Wing in Progress
I have been teasing him that this is “recreational math”.

Chemistry Video Watching
Watching the videos that I linked to last week as part of their study of the periodic table has been wonderful!

School stuff 1 26 11 (3)
Doodling for my visual-spatial learner is a big part of his watching Thinkwell’s Government course.

So there you go…another week wrapped up and concluded. My thoughts are turning to my garden since I ordered some new seeds from Renee’s Garden. She is having a 10% off sale through 1/31/11…promo code EARLYBIRD.

How do you like the names of these flowers?

  • Watercolor Silks Dahlias
  • Chocolate Cherry Sunflowers
  • Bling Bling Zinnia
  • Hot Crayon Colors Zinnia

Those are a just a few of the new flowers that I am planning on putting into my new garden boxes (yet to be built). I can dream can’t I?

Hope you all had a great week…leave me a comment if you did a Weekly Wrap-Up and I will come over and see what you did this week!

Barb-Harmony Art Mom



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