Sonia Nelson
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Homeschooling mother and HomeWorks consultant Sonia Nelson was born in California. As a military wife, she has moved to numerous states, with the most recent move landing Sonia and her family in Colorado. Sonia’s husband, Chris, was stationed at the Air Force Academy, teaching advanced level math courses to cadets. Because the family’s move to Colorado happened near the beginning of their children’s school year, Sonia and Chris decided to homeschool their four children until they could find a new home church and Christian school. Chris and Sonia soon discovered that homeschooling was one of the best ways for them to be able to nurture and care for the children the Lord has given them, so they continued to homeschool throughout the years.

The Nelson children use the BJU Press Distance Learning products. Sonia loves how the videos provide high-quality lessons for her children at their level and area of interest while providing hands-on opportunities for deeper learning and engagement. Chris appreciates the advanced level math and science concepts that are introduced and taught consistently throughout the grades. Recently retired from a 22-year career with the United States Air Force, Chris teaches engineering at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs. He and Sonia just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

Sonia has been a consultant with HomeWorks since 2012. Her goal is to be an encouragement and support to other homeschooling families. She spoke with us via phone interview and shared some of the things she often shares with other parents.

Math and the Need to Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Our transition to BJU Press came when our son, James, was preparing to begin fifth grade. He had always been strong in math and science, but he began to exhibit frustration in his math course. He often felt unchallenged and began to show a great level of discontent with “busy work.” I had taught previously at a Christian school, and I saw the disconnect with students transitioning from elementary to junior high as they began working with classes that use higher math skills. I realized that it was time to consider some different schooling options for James. My husband, who was teaching math at the Air Force Academy at the time, and I evaluated which math skills were needed by the Air Force cadets. Our goal became to find the curriculum that was going to help provide those skills to our son. We discovered BJU Press with its engaging graphics, updated and relevant materials, but most importantly, its emphasis on critical thinking skills.

When you are transitioning from elementary math to junior high math, you transition from literal numbers and rote memorization to more conceptual ideas like adding polynomials, manipulating equations, word problems, etc. Rote memorization, facts and skills are important, but at that level, children have to start thinking deeper and develop more understanding in math. This transition from facts to deeper learning also correlates with literature, history, and other subjects. Critical thinking may not be a natural process for most, so the earlier our children learn this skill, the better off they will be. When our children develop critical thinking skills, they begin to understand at a deeper level. Algebra and Chemistry become less difficult to master when using these skills.

Due to their developing critical thinking skills, my children now apply what they are learning in their schoolbooks into their everyday lives. What a gratifying experience to see a principle taught in a class become a guide in their lives, a transition from what was once “head knowledge” to “heart knowledge.” This paves the way for biblical success and is so rewarding! Our children need the advantage of developing critical thinking skills!

Gifted children

Intelligence in your children is important, but it is only one part of their persona. There are many different facets of their personalities and growth that need to be developed. To live successful, rewarding lives, children need character as well.

For children who have exceptional intelligence or abilities, school struggles may not come from the academic arena as much as from the need for character training. Gifted minds can sometimes become prideful hearts. We cannot assume that a child who is gifted has already learned all that they need to know. Some of the simple processes can sometimes be a challenge: learning to complete projects on time, sitting patiently through a lecture the child is sure he already knows all about, etc. As you deal with children who have exceptional intelligence or abilities, instead of advancing them one or two grade levels above their age level, try getting them involved in learning another language or skill. Try adding other subjects or electives into their daily routine, as this can help “round” out their personality and help them mature.

Sometimes, advancement grade-wise causes more struggles for a gifted child than it helps the child. For the 8th grade boy who is really at a 6th grade age, peers can be brutal, as they may not understand that the 6th grade boy is advanced. They simply see that he is smaller than they are and bully him. The gifted child may not be prepared to deal emotionally or physically with some of these types of challenges. We need to be sensitive to this long-term.

Schooling is not supposed to be exceptionally difficult. When you are looking through material for the next school year, and you may sense that one subject class might be easy for your child. This could be a blessing in disguise. Your child needs an area where they can excel. If they have a simpler subject that they enjoy, then the difficult subjects can be offset by easier subjects. I am not speaking of wasting a year on a class that is too easy, but when transitioning into a new curriculum, there will be a lot of adjustment. Take the time to adjust into the new curriculum before making the decision to skip a grade level.

I think one advantage of homeschooling--and there are many--would be the ability to tailor and really work with your child’s weaknesses and strengths. Tailor your child’s education to encompass their interests, as much as possible. This keeps them more engaged and is simply more practical.

Our Responsibility

As a homeschooling family, you definitely adapt to the mindset that EVERYTHING is a “teachable moment”. There are always opportunities to learn, whether it’s cooking dinner, doing activities, visiting a museum, etc. Our family is always trying to see what new concept we can pull from everyday experiences.

One aspect of being a homeschool representative that I most enjoy is working with families. I want to offer parents encouragement and guidance as they commit to teaching and training their families. Homeschooling is a big responsibility, but it affords a relationship with your children that is special and precious. It is a challenge, but with some help and encouragement, it becomes a joy.

Sonia is just one of many HomeWorks consultants throughout North America. If you have questions about curriculum or homeschooling challenges, you can find and contact your local consultant through the Consultant and Event Locator.

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