Notes from Joyce Herzog

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A few weeks ago I was blessed to hear Joyce Herzog, author of Learning in Spite of Labels, speak at a homeschool seminar. As the friend who was sitting next to me said, “I thought this was supposed to be encouraging, not convicting.”

Truthfully, though, it was both. It challenged my thinking and I left with some new tricks to add to my bag. Not bad for a few hours on a Thursday morning…plus, they fed us chocolate. Joyce spent a little bit of time talking about learning labels – namely disabilities. Do you know who defined learning disabilities? I’ll give you a guess.

Did you say, “The government?” If you did, you’re right. In the 1970’s, the United States Congress defined learning disabilities. Isn’t our government helpful? Nowadays, thanks to the government, kids can be labeled and defined based on what they can’t do, rather than what they can. Thanks, Congress.

As Joyce pointed out, once we begin to focus on a person’s weakness, their strengths become largely ignored, until, in some cases, the strengths disappear altogether. As Cheryl pointed out in her recent guest post, the area of struggle is often where we need to focus the least of our time, not the most of it. Let a kid get confident in what he’s good at and what he can do, instead of feeling like a failure. Encourage the strengths while shoring up the weaknesses.

Joyce also pointed out the fact that kids, like the rest of us, learn more readily the things in which they are interested, so make your teaching relevant and meaningful to them. Joyce, by the way, has no children of her own, but she taught in the public school system for over 25 years and, based on her experiences, is a strong supporter of home education. I wrote down what she had to say about schools and education. To me, this sums up, in my opinion, the goal and purpose of home education:

School prepares kids for one more year of school. Education prepares kids for life. — Joyce Herzog

After discussing learning labels for awhile, Joyce moved on to some ideas for making school fun. One of her ideas has quickly become a favorite of Megan’s: making a blank book without staples. First, you fold two sheets of paper in a “hamburger” fold:

002 (3)

Then, using scissors, snip a thin strip, about an inch long, off the crease on both ends of one sheet of paper:


Next, snip a thin strip off the crease of the second sheet, leaving only about an inch at each end:

006 (2)

You’ll wind up with two sheets that look something like this:

007 (1)
004 (3)

Next, gently fold the sheet that has to two ends snipped off into a “hot dog” fold and slide it through the large slit of the second sheet:


Carefully open up this sheet inside the one with the long slit and fold both sheets along the “hamburger” fold line to form the book:

012 (1)

I’d guess that most kids from around the age of 6 and up could do this by themselves with a little practice…and something about making your own book really encourages writing.

Another tip Joyce passed along was using those little 4X6 plastic photo albums that you can usually pick up at the dollar store to make various kinds of books. Just make the pages of the book on index cards and slide the cards into the photo slots. Brilliant!

I plan to use that idea with Easy Grammar next year. I thought we’d make a preposition book by writing each of the prepositions on an index card and either draw or paste from a magazine a picture that illustrates each preposition. The idea is easily adaptable for lots of different applications.

I really enjoyed the seminar. If you ever get a chance to hear Joyce Herzog speak, I strongly encourage you to do so. She shares her wisdom and insight with a good dose of humor…always a good combination in my book.

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  1. I didn’t realize she was a teacher with no children, that’s brilliant! We need the support of “outsiders”, someone other than homeschooolers to show homeschooling is a viable choice.

    LOVE, love, love the staple-less book. I need to keep an idea journal for when Littlest is old enough to start official homeschooling.

  2. Great post Kris! Love the photo album idea with prepositions…. I might use your idea here too!

  3. We’ll have to try that book making idea. My oldest boy went through a stage where he was bookmaking daily before he was old enough to write now that might just inspire him to write a story.
    And yes we do need to encourage our kids and let them spend time on areas of interest to them.

  4. While I agree on the whole concept of education v. schooling, I’m not so sure about the labels.

    I have two dysgraphics and a dyslexic. Before I had my dyslexic tested, the school told me he was a slow, mediocre student. Afterwards, I knew exactly what he needed and how to handle it.

    The dysgraphia diagnosis was also a real help. Before, we spent tearful hours over penmanship. Now he just types everything and he’s fine.

    And he gets accommodations for the SAT.

    I’m not saying we should paste a label on their foreheads and send them to a special school. But having your child evaluated and knowing how to deal with his problems can be a life saver.

  5. That sounds neat. Never made a hamburger-fold book!

    Thanks for tweeting my post today, too. ♥

  6. @ The Mother – Oh, I completely agree with that. My oldest is dyslexic and finding out what the problem was, exactly, was a wonderful day for us. She knew her struggles weren’t because she was “stupid” (her words) and we were able to know how to help her.

    I think what Joyce was getting at is that schools are quick to slap a label on a kid and,then, either use that as a crutch (well, he can’t do so and so because he’s [insert label]) or to medicate. Then, they stick a kid in an IEP and all the focus suddenly shifts off the kid as an individual with strengths and weaknesses to a kid with a “learning disability.” And, in the public school system, I firmly believe that learning disabilities (including ADD/ADHD) are very much over-diagnosed.

    I agree that labels have their place, but the labels should be for finding appropriate means to help a kid succeed, not as an excuse not to expect or not to equip him for success.

  7. Great Post. It so easy to focus on what a kid is doing wrong than on what they are doing right. I definitely need to spend more time on what my kids are strong at.

  8. Great notes, and picture tutorial. I stumbled it. (I need to do more of that, you often have great stuff here!) My mental wheels are spinning now with all the possible uses for this.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. I’ve ALWAYS heard great things about Joyce Herzog~*THANK YOU!* for sharing this! It further blesses me with my 9yo who is not yet reading. *I* am okay with it, as I’ve walked this out with two friends, but everybody else? ACK!

    Anyway, we’ve enjoyed one of her kids’ devotionals before, and I’ve heard GREAT things about her phonics program~would love to check that out! (((((HUGS))))) sandi~wondering if I can figure out the book thing… LOL!

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