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Excerpts from College-Prep Homeschooling 
(2nd edition) 
by David and Chandra Byers

Chapter 9
Readiness for Learning


In 1977, psychologist Albert Bandura published a paper about self-efficacy, which he defined as people affecting their own abilities to succeed at specific tasks or activities, as well as life in general by believing in themselves. Or, as an old saying goes, “Those who seem to have good luck the most also seem to be the ones who work hardest at getting it.” 

People with self-efficacy are more likely to overcome the fears that keep others from even trying. Self-efficacy may help keep people more involved and committed to what they are doing—even when there is a chance of failure; failing is not seen as permanent, but rather something to be overcome by trying again after learning from the situation.

Bandura claimed that self-efficacy can be developed through four primary means: 1) Mastery of experiences, 2) Role Models (or what he called social models), 3) Verbal (social) persuasion, and 4) Reducing the stress and both the emotional and physical reactions that come with the stress of failing. 

We can easily see that when our children master tasks in schools, such as memorizing the multiplication tables, they are likely to be less concerned about attempting times-table problems in math class. A child who has learned how to swim would likely be less concerned about going to a friend’s swim party. Mastery of tasks helps us realize we can do it—whatever “it” is. 

In the second area for developing self-efficacy, Bandura describes “social models”, which are defined as people like us that we see succeed. It’s sort of like, “Well, if she can do it, I can do it, too!” 

Yet, if we see people like us “fail” even after trying their best, we might become fearful about our own success and have lower efficacy as a result.
What we might call verbal encouragement, Bandura called “social persuasion”. We have all probably told our children, “You can do it!” followed by other comments or general cheers of praise to keep their spirits up and their efforts going. 

Of course, verbal encouragement alone won’t make your child succeed, but verbal discouragement is almost guaranteed to help your child fail. Children who have difficulties in one or more subjects in school and who have been yelled at, been made fun of, and punished for their mistakes are going to have a very difficult time developing self-efficacy—if they ever do. 

So, should we encourage our children to try something no matter what—even if we are pretty sure they might fail at it? Should we build them up through verbal encouragement despite the possibility that they might fail no matter how much we praise them? The answer to both questions is “YES!”

We don’t ever want to encourage our children to do something that may be potentially harmful to them or that they simply don’t stand a chance of being able to do successfully for reasons beyond their control, but if they want to try something that won’t hurt them physically or devastate them emotionally, we should encourage them to try. 

What if they fail? That’s no big deal as long as you are there to help your child deal with the failure by keeping it in the proper perspective, which is part of Bandura’s fourth means of developing self-efficacy. 

When a failure occurs to someone with self-efficacy, she may instead become motivated to try harder. You know the old saying, “When you fall off, you have to get right back on.” 

Cognitive processes really boils down to confidence in ourselves; the higher the confidence, the bigger the challenges we are willing to take on and the less likely we are to easily give up on them. Of course, this in turn relates to our motivational levels with what we want to do in our lives and how we learn to figure out ways to achieve our goals. 

Although we may not achieve our goals or we may find it more difficult to achieve them than expected, if we feel capable of handling stress and let downs appropriately, then we aren’t likely to be overcome by obstacles and in turn, we don’t become our own obstacle to success (affective processes). In fact, using what Bandura calls “selection processes”, we work to create an environment that is conducive to our success. We surround ourselves with encouraging rather than discouraging people. We work in places where the tasks we have to perform fit in with our skills and interests. In short, we actively try to help ourselves succeed rather than waiting for it to happen to us.

There is, of course, so much more to Bandura’s ideas than we can cover here. If you read about his work, we recommend you start first with his own work and then explore other ideas and theories that relate to it. A nifty site we found that you may like is: http://des.emory.edu/mfp/self-efficacy.html

So, what does all this have to do with homeschooling, especially in high school? Well, believe it or not, it applies not only to your child, but to you, as well. 

You may be very afraid to try homeschooling through high school, but with a little time and effort, you may find yourself mastering your experiences in no time. If you call on the expertise of others (either in person or via books) who have or are currently homeschooling through high school, you’ll get the role models you need. Those role models and others will probably be giving you verbal encouragement along the way and be working to help you reduce your stress and to help you keep everything in perspective even when it’s not going perfectly. Eventually, you’ll develop some self-efficacy as a teacher!

For your child, it’s much the same thing. You become the role model, source of encouragement, and perspective manager as you help your child develop her learning skills and academic knowledge. The more you help her to succeed, the more success she will want and be willing to work to get. Can self-efficacy be far behind?
Excerpts from College-Prep Homeschooling 
(2nd edition) 
by David and Chandra Byers

Chapter 8

Developing Skills for the Future

Like many homeschoolers, we often field questions from non-homeschooling friends, family, and strangers about whether or not we are giving our children the skills they need to succeed in college and life. We hear, “Can you really prepare your children for college by teaching them at home?”

The answer is, “Yes, as homeschoolers you can prepare your child for college.” It is important to realize that it is not simply a matter of teaching certain courses and covering specific subjects that prepares a child for college. What is as important as academics, if not more so, is helping children develop the life and learning skills they will need to be successful in college and in life, which can be summed up in one word—discipline!

The term “discipline” is often thought of in conjunction with “punishing” children for some action or inaction. Yet, the true meaning of discipline is to build self-control, develop efficiency, and to follow rules of orderly conduct. When we “discipline” our children for behavioral issues, we are really teaching them to control themselves and to behave in accordance with the rules of society—particularly our house rules.

As parents, we often have to “discipline” our children reactively—after the fact, such as when we find out they cut each other’s hair or pushed a sibling out of the swing. Yet, we also proactively teach our children self-discipline by teaching appropriate behaviors for various situations, such as looking both ways before crossing the street, reviewing our expectations of using manners before we visit someone’s home, or just teaching them to flush and wash their hands. 

In much the same way, children need to be taught academic discipline, which is really just teaching them to learn how to learn, to have self-control as learners, to develop efficient and effective learning skills, and to behave or perform as skilled learners. As homeschooling educators, we are not only responsible for teaching subject-matter, but are also responsible for helping our children develop academic discipline—the skills that will help them succeed in higher education and life. It’s our job to be consistent in our high expectations for our children’s academic work and our low tolerances for poor work. We need to teach basic learning skills, to be specific in our directions, to set appropriate rewards and consequences for our children’s academic work, and to follow through. By doing all of this, we help children prepare for the expectations their college professors and employers will have of them.

Having taught college for several years, I have worked with a variety of students. The students have included individuals just out of high school, young people who have already tried college with varying degrees of success, and adult professionals in their twenties, thirties, forties, or fifties who either never attended college or never obtained degrees. A few students in each of these groups have excellent learning skills. However, even among the older students, the majority has under-developed skills, and a few have very poor skills. 

The students who struggle with learning in college do so because they are forced to fight two battles simultaneously: 1) Learning the skills necessary to succeed in college and 2) Learning the information in the assigned material. Once they acquire college-level learning skills, learning the information in the assigned material is often much easier. Collectively, these skills are what we refer to as “personal and academic discipline,” which we’ve broken into the following categories:

• Readiness for Learning
o Intelligence
o Motivation
o Emotional intelligence (and self-awareness)
o Self-efficacy

• Learning Styles--Learning how to learn

• Self-directed learning 

• Critical thinking

• Self-discipline (which includes the skills below)
o Time Management (self-control)
o Communication Skills
o Demonstrating Responsibility

Although it may seem that there are as many homeschooling approaches as there are homeschoolers, the skills required to succeed (not just survive) in college remain relatively constant. The chapters in our book, "College-Prep Homeschooling" will help you understand these skills and will prepare you for later sections about creating lessons, activities, and learning experiences to help children develop these skills. You don’t have to wait until high school to start developing these skills in your children—you can get started in the elementary years, really ramp up during Jr. High, and hit the road running during high school.
Excerpts from College-Prep Homeschooling 
(2nd edition) 
by David and Chandra Byers

Chapter 12

Critical Thinking

Subject-Specific Ideas for Developing Critical Thinking Skills


• Don’t settle for just names and dates—focus on causes, effects, and motivations for historical events. 
• Learn more about the people of history through biographies, autobiographies, and other books beyond textbooks.
• Find out what was happening in other parts of the country and world during the same time period as the one being studied. 
• Learn how people and events influenced other people and events. Trace events forward and backward in time to see the connections.


• Find out why things happen. 
• Create hypotheses and test them by conducting experiments.
• Spend time making observations and just wondering about the world. 

LANGUAGE (English or Foreign)

• Play with the language to see what effects small changes can create on meaning. 
• Explore languages by reading and writing poetry, literature, creative writing, letters, and essays.
• Create your own language.


• Find real-life examples and activities that relate to the formulas, theorems, and problems being studied. 
• Learn about number-related discoveries that are being made by scientists and mathematicians.
• Investigate the relation that subjects such as music or architecture have to mathematics.

 Critical Thinking Rubric 


There are 5 levels in the Critical Thinking Rubric

LEVEL 5: Master Thinker 

• Risks trying to answer intractable, perplexing, and complicated questions 
• Reinterprets the history of thought in the relevant area 
• Redefines the assumptions and premises from which all valid reasoning must proceed in the relevant area 
• Creates an original synthesis of diverse perspectives 
• Reaches conclusions that others acknowledge as foundational for all subsequent reasoning in the relevant area 
LEVEL 4: Advanced Thinker 

• Tackles questions that arise from profound cognitive dissonance 
• Challenges conventional, received wisdom responsibly in search of new perspectives 
• Reaches original conclusions through creative and imaginative lines of reasoning; draws vital distinctions and creates new categories 
• Internalizes contrary positions; makes the arguments of opponents for them 
• Actively cooperates or collaborates with others to test and expand the universe of knowledge 

LEVEL 3: Practicing Thinker 

• Seeks the most reasonable among the several reasonable answers possible 
• Delays judgment until all of the relevant information is known and assessed; admits ignorance when necessary 
• Constructs sound lines of reasoning based on a fair and accurate assessment of the evidence; examines his or her own presuppositions and assumptions 
• Concedes points to those with opposing positions 
• Believes all sides should recognize his or her attempt to be reasonable and fair 

LEVEL 2: Beginning Thinker 

• Seeks to justify his or her position rationally 
• Accepts any information that supports his or her position, regardless of quality 
• Presupposes the truth of the conclusion to be reached; employs logical fallacies 
• Dismisses opposing points of view after only cursory examination 
• Believes that, given the same evidence, all reasonable people should arrive at the same conclusions; those who disagree are unreasonable or worse 

LEVEL 1. Egocentric Thinker 

• Believes there is no single right answer to any question; each person must discover what's right for him or her 
• Relies on limited facts and information 
• Offers personal opinions only; little or no evidence of reasoning 
• Ignores contrary points of view 
• Does not attempt to persuade others because all are entitled to their own opinion 
Based, in part, on Paul & Elder (1999). Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking. Foundation for Critical Thinking 

An excellent site to learn more about critical thinking skills is at
Critical Thinking.org

Study Tips to Help Your Homeschooled Teen Learn

1. Purchase your books and materials at least a couple of weeks before the class starts if possible so you can organize your materials, review the books, and possibly read ahead.

2. Buy a calendar or planner and record test dates, due dates for papers and reading assignments, as well as your class schedule itself. Put time for studying on your calendar too! Most students don't plan to fail--they fail to plan!

3. Have all of your materials available when you are ready to study.

4. Study where you won’t be distracted.

5. Study when you are most alert. If you are a morning person study in the morning!

6. Study for brief periods and take frequent breaks to refresh your mind and body.

7. Allow time to conduct an overview of the material, to read it, to think about it, and to review it at least once.

8. Find a method that works for you for reviewing facts and other types of information on which you might be tested. Some ideas include:

o Look up the meanings of words you don’t know
o Ask your professor questions or for help if needed
o Talk to your friends to get help
o Create flash cards
o Participate in study groups
o Have a study partner
o Listen to audio recordings of you reading notes or specific information
o Write notes or explanations such as definitions
o Talk to yourself (best done alone)
o Re-read related sections of the book or handouts
o Review notes you took during class/lectures
o Some students like to audio record a professor’s lecture to listen to later—ask permission first!
o Figure out what types of questions you missed on the last test and figure out how to not make the same mistakes again
Check out this site to learn more about 
David Kolb's experiential learning theory (ELT), 
and Kolb's learning styles inventory (LSI)


Try this link to take a free quiz 
to see your index of learning styles 
by Barbara A. Soloman and Richard M. Felder


Pedagogy versus Andragogy

In the early twentieth century, as researchers—primarily psychologists—began to better understand how children developed physically, mentally, and emotionally; educators began to apply this knowledge to better understand how children learned. Subsequently, various models for teaching children were developed; these models are sometimes unofficially grouped under the term pedagogy, a term which came from the Greek language, which loosely translated means “leading student”.

The pedagogical model is based on the concept of the teacher being the subject-matter expert who directs all the learning that occurs in the classroom. In this model, the teacher determines what will be learned, when it will be learned, and the best method for teaching and learning any given subject. 

In terms of pedagogy, it is generally assumed that student know very little about anything, including how to learn, and that they require a teacher to lead them through their educational experiences. Since children have little or no experience from which to draw when learning about a new subject, they are sometimes described as tabula rasa (blank slates) to be written upon or empty vessels into which knowledge can be poured. It is important to note that although pedagogy is often related to teaching children, it also has an application in adult education depending on the subject matter and the method with which the subject matter is taught.

A separate approach for teaching adults, called andragogy, was popularized by Malcolm Knowles in 1970. However, the first use of the term is accredited to Alexander Kapp in 1833.

The andragogical model utilizes a set of assumptions which describes adult learners as being responsible for their own learning and subsequently wanting to help direct their own learning experiences. Another assumption is that adult learners have a variety of real-life experiences into which they want to incorporate new learning experiences and new information for immediate application in their personal and professional lives. 

Theoretically, when a student becomes an adult, an andragogical teaching approach should replace a pedagogical one. However, this view is limited because it does not take into account the physiological and psychological differences of an individual’s development, which can be factors for determining whether a pedagogical or andragogical approach is appropriate in any given situation. It also doesn’t take into account that students at every age and grade level have to first learn the basics about a subject, which means that pedagogical (teacher-directed) approaches are often more appropriate for entry-level and introductory courses.

In the United States, one of the factors used to determine when individuals have reached adulthood is their chronological age, which is usually considered to be between 18 and 21 years of age depending on the context of the individual’s freedoms or responsibilities being discussed. However, considering individuals to be capable of learning in an adult fashion simply because they have attained a socially-defined status of adulthood is an erroneous assumption. Adult students may lack sufficient learning experiences to be taught via an andragogical approach, no matter what their ages are. 

One possible factor for determining when an individual is ready to move beyond pedagogy may be the maturity of the learner. Andragogical approaches may be appropriate when learners, no matter what age they are, become actively involved in their learning experiences, including wanting to decide for themselves what will be learned, how, and why. 

In most college courses, a combination of pedagogical (teacher-directed) and andragogical (student-directed) activities often work best so that you can meet the various learning needs of your students. Let’s further examine both teaching and learning theories so you’ll be even more able to meet your students’ needs.


If your homeschooling group is holding an event and would like 
some door prizes to give away at your event, please let me know, 
as I am happy to donate generous gift certificates for my courses. 

Please email me for more information.