Homeschooling

Treasure hunting

While I taught a workshop last Saturday, I was asked a question that has had me thinking ever since.  We were discussing curriculum, and they were looking over a few books I had pulled off my shelves, and writing down titles.  Then they asked if I preferred to order books online or purchase at second-hand stores.  Really made me think!  The answer: second-hand stores.  Why?  While they are generally cheaper, that is not the main reason.  I often find such treasures I didn’t know existed that it is worth my time to sort through the piles.  It is easy to order titles with which you are familiar from an online source (and I do from time to time), but there are books I have found while looking for something else which I now love and yet would never have known to purchase before I held them in my hand!

Here are a few of my discoveries:

  • Exploring Your World: the Adventure of Geography published by National Geographic Society.  This encyclopedic volume of geographical terms and pictures is beautiful and easy-to-use.  A must for geography study.
  • Mommy, It’s a Renoir published by Parent Child Press.  This paperback is full of ideas and activities to enhance your family’s art study- ways to study the Masters, and activities to help you appreciate what they accomplished.
  • If You’re Trying to Teach Kids to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank.  While this book was definitely written for use by a traditional classroom teacher, the hints, ideas, and other great information helped me approach the writing process from an entirely different angle!  Need help thinking outside the box?  This book does that!
  • We Had Everything But Money published by Reminisce Books.  This collection of stories and pictures from the Great Depression in America speaks to the greatness and resiliency of the American spirit.  While the Depression was a difficult and trying time, it allowed people to come together, work with what they had, and still manage to often build a happy life.
  • Milestones to American Liberty: the Foundations of the Republic by Milton Meltzer.  This volume contains beautiful artwork, copies of original documents, and the stories behind some of the most important writings in our nation’s history dealing with equality and freedom.
  • Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.  I love the study of grammar and syntax; words are captivating for me, so this little book makes me smile every time I see the title on my shelf!  Truss picks apart the history and usage of punctuation for the English language.  While published initially in Britain, she has added information that applies to American punctuation as well. (Yes, they differ.)  Quite tongue-in-cheek, quoting classic and more contemporary pieces of the written word, and with obvious affection for the nuances of punctuation, this book is fun to read and always makes me think!

I am sure there are dozens more titles on my shelf that could be added to my list.  Maybe I will later!  But this sampling helps me recognize how much I gain when I take the time to explore the possibilities around me.

Happy hunting!

Home and Family, Homeschooling

The Children’s Story

During my third grade year (when the dinosaurs roamed the earth), I had a wonderful teacher.  Class was held downstairs next to the boiler room in the old elementary school just a few blocks from my home.  The ceiling was low; there were odd noises; we could smell lunch before anyone else in the building.  I loved that class.  Mrs. Suehr was amazing.  In a day when tolerance was not generally considered a necessary virtue, she taught us how to work together with those who were different.  In our class were children of different colors, religions, economic status, and abilities.  We sat in groups of six desks which rotated regularly.  I was not best friends with everyone in my class, but we all learned to get along and appreciate one another.  She was also doggedly determined that no one would leave her class without the ability to read, write, and understand math appropriate to grade level.  (It was years before I realized how much time she spent with each of us.)  She taught us to think critically, and encouraged us to express opinions.  She encouraged those who were struggling, and cheered on those who were advanced and needed enrichment activities to keep moving.  I loved this woman!

My memories of third grade are many, and most are quite delightful.  One, though, has almost haunted me into adulthood.  We had returned to our classroom after lunch and the desks had been shifted to make room for the other third grade class to join us.  That generally signaled to us that we would be watching a film strip or television clip, but no tv or projector was in sight, so we all sat down on the rug and wondered what was happening.  She read a book whose name I would not learn for 25 years, but whose story has stayed with me from that day forward.

Fast forward 25 years.  I am attending a home school convention class on government, and the presenter takes 15 minutes to read a small volume to the attendees.  Within a few sentences I recognized the story and had a difficult time containing my excitement.  It was the same book read to us that long ago day in third grade.  This time I was able to better understand the story and its implications.  And I was able to speak with the presenter afterward to get the title and author.  The book is The Children’s Story…but not just for children by James Clavell.

Best known for his novels Gai-Jin and Shogun, Clavell wrote The Children’s Story as a response to an experience he had with his young daughter when she returned home from school one day.  It is effectively written, and has a message every adult who values freedom needs to hear.  Just be prepared to be slightly disturbed, and have someone to speak with afterward.  Sometimes truth resonates with agitating clarity.  While I would not read it to a seven or eight-year-old child, adolescents need to hear its message as well.  I read it to my teenagers each year as part of our “beginning of the school year” routine.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, you may find a copy in your local library.  It can also be purchased online for just a few dollars.   (It was also made into a film that can be watched online, but I would read the book first.  The written version is slightly different, and I prefer it.)

Sometimes life comes full-circle.  It certainly did for me with this book.  Looking back, it is apparent that the message of this story affected actions I took and some I didn’t.  It definitely had an effect on the things I felt it was vital to teach my children when they were young.

If you find a copy, let me know what you think.

Homeschooling

Handcart list- odds and ends

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on items not listed anywhere else which I used as part of the backbone of my children’s studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-282013.)

Discovery level-

  • One Smart Cookie and Cookies:Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer.  These books are wonderful introductions to terms and ideas for character education discussion.  We would read 2-4 pages at a time and then talk about the traits listed, how to develop them, and situations where they are used.  Cute illustrations.  Great read!
  • Manners books by Munro Leaf-  This series of 5 books originally printed in the 1950’s uses simple text, quirky illustrations, and straight-forward language to teach the rules of civility to children.  Another book to read in snippets and discuss.

Analysis level-

  • Vocabulary From Classical Roots by Nancy Flowers and Norma Fifer- I used this series to teach Greek and Latin roots to my children.  We would work through a lesson or two, make a 3×5 card for each root taught, and then drill the cards before moving on to the next lesson.  (As you create cards, add them to the pile you have already learned; drill all of them.)  The card pile got taller and my children learned became more and more comfortable with each root and its meaning.   As you complete the series, you will have learned hundreds of root words.  Great for vocabulary development and comprehension.

I am sure this list will be ever-expanding as I discover new resources.  I am always on the look-out for quality, user-friendly curriculum.  Sometimes what I find helps me love what I already have even more; sometimes I fall in love with something I had never seen before.  Who knows what wonderful things I will find next.

Homeschooling

Handcart list- fine arts

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on fine arts and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh- tell the stories in this book as you listen to the music of each of the twenty composers about whom Kavanaugh writes.   The history of each is written in a style that makes a great read-aloud book.  No need to research, and compile.  He has done it for you.
  • Recordings of a variety of musical genres.  One good starting point can be Beethoven’s Wig volumes 1,2, and 3.  Beethoven’s Wig is a fun, easy introduction to classical music.  Each composition is on the cds twice, once with silly lyrics and once as it was meant to be played.  Love them!
  • Copies of visual art pieces.  Find calendars or other inexpensive resources for prints with the work of famous artists.  Dover Publishing has prints in 3×5 card form for art study.  The book Mommy, It’s A Renoir!  has activities to teach art appreciation to young people.
  • An art anthology (or two) with pieces of classic and religious art- You can study time periods, or individual artists; but make art study part of the exposure you give your children.   Lift their sights as they see the vast array of art created by gifted, inspired individuals.  (Classic art study is a good introduction to the ideas of celebrating the beauty of the  human form vs. form for arousal’s sake.  There is a difference.)
  • Various art media for experimentation-crayons, chalk, clay, pencils, paints.  There are so many great, messy ways to experience creating your own masterpiece.  Let them get in there and try a variety of methods.  They may well surprise you!  Try your hand at it too.  Make it family experience.

Analysis and Application levels-

  • Experience with playing a musical instrument- This can help with brain development, self-image, focus, and self-discipline.  Don’t set things in concrete for them.  Let them dabble a bit if they need.  Piano, strings, brass, whatever calls to them.  Give it a year or two.  Some will continue.  Some won’t.  That’s okay too.  The experience may teach them that serious musical study isn’t for them, or it may begin a love that lasts through their lifetime.
  • Continue with experience through various art media.  Sculpting, whittling, and other forms which require the use of sharp implements are better suited for these stages.  If your child is interested, consider art classes through Community Education or the local school.
  • Attend community events which focus on the fine arts.  Museums, concerts, and other venues can allow for and expanded appreciation for the creative process.
Homeschooling

Handcarts list- science box

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on science and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

All levels-

  • A globe- seeing the earth as it appears as a whole, and learning to locate places on it, is an interesting and vital ability.
  • An atlas- closer study of the various places on the globe requires a copy of maps that are larger than a globe would allow.  Look for an atlas that has different maps containing geographical and political information.
  • A book of outline maps, both blank and labeled, for labeling and review.
  • Nature notebook, field guides, and pencils or watercolors (one per student)- Scientific study requires the ability to observe, focus, and think about the world around us.  A nature notebook can facilitate that skill and give you and your children a place to record thoughts, pictures, and any other information related to your science study.  Use the field guides as you go out into the world around you to record the common and Latin names of those things you sketch.  We use our nature notebooks as our science notebooks; we do not have a separate one for textbook/formal study.

Discovery level-

  • DK Publishing has multiple series of books which young children love.  Eyewitness Books, Why….?, and Look Inside are just a few.
  • Science picture books- some of our favorites include H. A. Rey’s books on the constellations, books published by Golden Book on various life science topics (Nature Around the Year, Wonders of Nature, etc.), Gail Gibbons has a series of books on a variety of science fields of study.  Ask your librarian, book store clerk, or other homeschool moms what they love.  There are so many great reads for young children in this genre!
  • Janice Van Cleave has a great series of experiment books for young children that are simple to follow, well thought out, and fun to do.
  • File folder games by CarsonDellosa- fun and effective ways to reinforce vocabulary and concepts.

Late discovery and analysis level-

  • Reader’s Digest How……..Works series- this is not a textbook series.  Each book covers a different discipline of science and is filled with pictures, basic definitions and diagrams, and experiments that reinforce the concept being studied.   These books do not contain enough detailed information to constitute a high school level text, but are an interesting and inviting introduction to the various branches of science.
  • Kids Learn America by Gordon and Snow- We used this book to teach the states and capitols.  There is a USA map to color, as well as regional maps, trivia about each state, and a little something to help you remember the capitol.
  • DK Science Encyclopedia- Written primarily in two-page spreads, this book covers most of the scientific disciplines, i.e. chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, etc.  Each spread provides information on a specific area within those disciplines.  Students gain basic information, and can learn to take notes, outline, as well as creating a framework for science study.  When used in conjunction with the Reader’s Digest series, it allows for comprehensive, in-depth study for the middle/upper grades.
  • Exploring Our World published by the National Geographic Society- This book is an encyclopedic list of geographical terms and photos, maps, and cross-referencing makes geographical studies easy and interesting.  A great reference book!

Application level-

  • High School texts by Apologia, RonJon Publishing, or another homeschool supplier can be effective and clear for high school-level study with a creationist worldview.  (I have read some reviews expressing concerns about misinformation in the science used.  If your children are headed for a traditional university, look for a text written by a more secular company.)  Use in conjunction with hands-on kits for all branches of science. (Timberdoodle is my favorite supplier for anything hands-on.)  To spend less money, or if you are looking for a scientific approach closer to the mainstream, look for second-hand books in you town or on the net.  I used the DK Science Encyclopedia/Reader’s Digest Series and was happy with the result, but I know some parents feel more comfortable with a text for high school.
  • If you choose to send your children to the local high school for science, ask their teenage friends who take classes there.  Which courses are interesting?  Is there time in the lab?  Are the teachers interesting and involved?  I have found my kids’ friends to be honest-to-a-fault and much more helpful than most parents.
Homeschooling

Handcart list- math box

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on mathematics and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • a good math course with objects to use as manipulatives  (we love Math U See for visual and kinesthetic learners if you have the money).
  • Saxon Math is also good, and can often be found second-hand.
  • Manipulatives- young learners need to learn that “5” is the symbol for a group of five things.  One… two… three… four… five.  Teaching math in the abstract is not only not helpful, it can create a host of challenges when math becomes more difficult and they need to understand how the “real world” relates to their math assignment.
  • Family Math and Family Math for Young Children published by the Lawrence Hall of Science.  These books contain learning games and activities which encourage mathematical thinking and exploration.  We loved to take one day a week of our studies for non-traditional math time.  These books provide LOTS of ideas!
  • Picture books- many authors including Cindy Neuschwander and David M Schwartz have written entertaining books which explore and play with a whole host of mathematical concepts.  Illustrators Stephen Kellogg and Phyllis Hornung are also names for which to look.  There are also great picture books which introduce mathematicians and math history such as The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kevin Hawkes.

Analysis and Application level-

  • A good math course-Even if your students are not planning on a career where math is heavily involved, the discipline and logic required for algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is beneficial.
  • How Math Works  published by Reader’s Digest- This book deals with topics not often covered in standard math books including statistics, measurement, shapes, and some logic.  (Could be used for an advanced late discovery learner who loves math.)
  • A tutor (barter is often a good option for this if money is tight), or enrolling your youth in a math class at the local school is recommended if you are not fully comfortable with upper level math.  Do not allow the subject matter to be so intimidating (to Mom) that your youth fail to continue in their studies!  (And yes, you could benefit from learning it too, but you have a family to raise, a house to keep, and other things that require your attention.  If you have time– great.  If not, that’s okay.)
Homeschooling

Handcart list- language arts box

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on language arts and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • McGuffey’s Readers (Revised Edition, set of seven books)- the Primer begins with the alphabet and very basic beginning reading.  The books progress through to the Sixth Reader, which is a great text for teaching vocabulary, comprehension, elocution, and vocal reading on a high school level.  I have used the books as readers,  a dictation source,  presentation pieces, and a resource for excerpts to incorporate into our history study.
  • McGuffey’s Speller- The companion to the McGuffey Readers, this book covers spelling lists beginning with basic reading/spelling words through vocabulary for high school learners.  I don’t have my students study every word on every list.  Some are archaic, and unnecessary; others are already known by the students, and can be skipped.  The lists in the back of the book contains foreign words and words that are not used every day.  These lists are some of my favorites.  Look them up in a dictionary, and you can have a vocabulary list for Mom for that week!
  • Phonics rule flash cards- the English language is much more phonetic than most people think.  Over 90% of the words we use follow phonics rules, and if your children are taught  the sounds of each letter and the rules that govern that letter, reading and writing will be so much simpler.  Phonogram cards should have both the sounds for the individual letters and the rules for them, as well as the sounds and rules for the most common blends i.e. “ea”, “th”, “ough”, etc.
  • Reading phone- two elbows, and one straight 3 inch piece of PVC makes one of the handiest reading/elocution tools ever!  Put them together so they look like a phone receiver and talk into it.  If your young one is struggling to move from decoding to fluency, or your teen needs help cleaning up the “um”, “like”, and “you know” from there public speaking pieces, have them speak into it as they talk.  They will be able to hear themselves clearly; it will make smoothing things out much easier.  My daughter even discovered that having her son use it on the days when he can’t seem to “quiet down” works wonders.  He can hear how loud he actually is and is able to correct it.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.  Use these with older discovery learners.
  • Mad-Libs- I love these priceless, silly gems in tablet form.  You can find them at book stores, second-hand, or on the web.  Help your children learn the proper terms for the various parts of speech as you giggle your way through these fill-in stories.  I am still giving them as gifts to my adult children.  They are just fun.
  • Lots of paper (lined and unlined), pencils, erasers, crayons- having the tools for writing, creating, and experimenting with letters and words encourages growth;  not having them can prove to be frustrating to Moms and budding authors.  Doesn’t look good?  No problem.  Toss it, and start over.
  • Quality picture books- look for well-constructed phrases, clear pictures, and text that is fun to read.  Illustrations can be watercolor, photographs, pencil drawings, or any other media.  Be aware of harsh, creepy, or distasteful pictures, or texts that are mindless, dark, or introduce unsavory topics.

Analysis level-

  • 1828 Webster’s Dictionary- the ORIGINAL American Dictionary.  Definitions change with time and usage.  In order to understand what was meant in centuries’ old documents, you need a dictionary that defines words the way they were defined when used.  Make use of it when studying early European or American documents/speeches, or even your scriptures.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Solid literature- There is so much great literature out there.  From board books to the classic books for adult reading, there is no way to read it all.  Don’t even try.  Not everyone will fall in love with the same book, or author, or genre; that is as it should be.  Dabble a bit, and find the ones that you love, just make sure that it is good reading, not twaddle.   Does it connect with you on an emotional level?  Does it teach you something?  Does it have real words, complex sentences, and require thought?  Then enjoy!  Leave the dumbed-down, dark, and junky books alone.  Don’t waste your time.  Great reads are out there!
  • Lit. cube- I have two.  One for discovery learners.  One for older learners.  Using them can encourage discussion about the books you are reading, and can take the fear out of writing about them.  (See post dated 4/12/2013 on Lit. Cubes for full instruction.)

Application level-

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White- This small book will help keep your writing clean, clear, and readable.  It covers the fundamentals of writing better than anything else I have found.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Classic literature- See solid literature above.