Elise Kennedy aka Canadian Winter, shares her top tips and talks about the challenges of creating resources for homeschooling.
Tell us about your professional background and what you enjoy most about teaching?
I’m a homeschooling mother of a gifted and highly sensitive 14-year-old daughter. I had a chance to warm up to the idea of teaching my own child, luckily, having previously taught piano, English as a second language, arithmetic and breathing methods for relaxation to people of all ages. I firmly believe that supporting a student emotionally is the most important part of teaching.
What are the challenges when creating resources for homeschooling?
Home educators are a wildly varied group of people. Some are very regimented and focussed, using specific approaches and communicating a specific worldview to their children. Others rely on diverse methods and sources for learning, mixing ‘life lessons’ with book learning and other things. I try to create resources that can be used by anyone. For example, a book that includes a specific worldview can be studied either to reinforce that worldview, or as a point of departure for a discussion about that worldview.
Which resource are you most proud of?
Out of sheer love of the stories, I put together four Sherlock Holmes reading comprehension titles, and I think these are still my favourite resources. Each one is divided into ten separate sections, more or less of equal length, and followed by reading comprehension questions, vocabulary (with synonyms offered for words that might challenge the reader) and a short page of text about a topic relevant to that section – perhaps to describe an object like Holmes’ pipe in greater detail, or explain how something like a pawn shop functioned. Sir A. C. Doyle’s prose is a treat to read at any age, so parents and teachers are likely to enjoy the stories as much as their students!
What are your top tips for creating high quality resources?
A high-quality resource should be easy to use. I’m immediately turned off by complicated graphics and lengthy instructions, so my resources are simple and to-the-point. For example, when I put together a reading comprehension course for ‘Treasure Island’, I kept in mind that the novel itself is very rich in concepts and events that will be brand new to a young reader; therefore there’s no need to offer excessive explanations and information – it becomes overwhelming. Instead I guide the reader to note major concepts and plot events, to improve their vocabulary, to engage their imagination, and to relish the story’s atmosphere and mood (which are what make it such a classic, in my opinion). Students also write a diary-style summary of each chapter on notebook pages that look like something Jim might have used; these make a nice ‘keepsake’.
Why share homeschool resources with the larger teaching community?
One thing that seems to apply to both home educators and classroom teachers right now is a growing demand for level-specific (as opposed to age- or grade-specific) resources, such as ‘Intermediate Dictées and Tests’. I read a lot about how teachers work so hard to connect with their students and tailor lessons to their individual needs. Homeschool teachers have a special opportunity to be with their students through thick and thin, over many years. Classroom teachers and tutors might also appreciate resources that grew out of this type of teaching experience.