Fun at the Library: The Flexible Homeschool

Have you ever gone to the library with a well-researched book list, only to discover that they don’t have 75 percent of the books on your list? I’ll still do this on occasion, but today I’d like to share another method I’ve been using to find books at the library in a non-conventional but semi-organized way. Think highly flexible, fun, and rewarding!

Here it is, very simple, though not scientific in any way:

  1. Go to the kids’ picture book or easy reader section of the library.
  2. Choose one small section, say two or three short shelves.
  3. Find a step-stool to sit on.
  4. Browse through this section thoroughly, choosing books that meet your criteria for good literature for kids. I don’t ask my kids which books they want. Sometimes they wander by and chime in.
  5. Check them out and enjoy reading together.
  6. When you find a gem, turn it into a project.
  7. Repeat on the next visit, moving to the next section. Our library organizes children’s picture books alphabetically by author. We started with the A’s and are working through. Sometimes I go to the Z’s and work backwards.

With this simple method we find some wonderful books, and I’m never disappointed because a book isn’t available.

Here are two sample projects we loved:

Book: What’s Alive? (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 1) by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld.
Subject: The difference between living and non-living things.
Project: Cut out pictures of living and non-living things in magazines and paste on categorized paper.

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Book: If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche.
Subject: Different kinds of houses people in various places live in.
Project: Choose one of the houses in the book and make a collage home.

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I love “school” ideas that are simple, flexible, fun, and educational. Do you have any tips for utilizing the library in a fun and simple way? Share in the comments below.

 

Passionate Rewards

My youngest son, LMB, has a tendency to develop obsessions with some things. Lego Movie, Lego, Angry Birds, Hot Wheels, Star Wars, etc. Currently, his obsession is Pokemon Go. Every child finds something different that they become passionate about.

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LMB has been a late reader. He struggled hard to learn how to read and has finally succeeded, much to his delight — and mine! To encourage him to branch out and explore reading more, to discover the real world of books, I plan to use Pokemon Go to inspire and reward him. I found pictures of the various Pokemon characters, and printed and laminated them. For every small book he reads, or for every chapter in a chapter book, he will earn a Pokemon picture to post on a bulletin board. When he’s earned ten, he’ll be able to trade them in for a larger reward…we haven’t decided on what yet, but he’s bargaining for cash.

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While he’s excited about reading now, he’s still uncertain of his abilities, he’s still lacking in esteem in this area. He is excited about earning the Pokemon characters and the possibility of a greater reward as he collects them.

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When we can find the things our children are already interested in and utilize them to encourage them and excite them to pursue learning, we both gain an advantage! When he’s excited to learn, there is less of a battle to get his work done. When he has a reason beyond “because I told you to,” he’s more willing to cheerfully get it done.

I’m blessed with LMB, he truly enjoys learning, but even then he sometimes needs a little more incentive. I guess you could call this is our personal “Reading Plan.” It could be developed to be used with any area that a child needs encouragement in — Scripture memorization, math skills, spelling words, etc. Finding the “currency” in your child’s passion helps. Help them use that passion to collect larger rewards and see how they find their own incentives, their own passion for learning.

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Charlotte Mason Education, Part 1

When I first began homeschooling my children just over a decade ago, one of my favorite things to do with them was to read aloud. I loved sitting in a cozy space with my children all snuggled around me while I read great adventures and heartwarming stories of old. I was drawn to vintage curriculum used in the late 1800s to early 1900s, and I stumbled across Old Fashioned Education online. Little did I know this would be my introduction to Charlotte Mason education. I taught my children to read through McGuffey Readers and spent hours reading stories aloud to them after lunch. We used a grammar curriculum from the early 1900s, along with Dick and Jane books. Plus, we spent a lot of time reading aloud. I loved this time in our education.

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But, somewhere along the way I got burned out, life got hectic, the kids were getting older, and a new little one was on the way. I tried a bunch of different types of educational methods and just couldn’t find what worked. So, I resorted to worksheets. While it was easy, it was lacking in depth and passion. The kids weren’t enjoying it and neither was I. I craved something meaningful, enriching, and beautiful. I longed for that simpler time when the kids were younger and all we needed was a good book and time outside! And, then it happened! I was perusing Pinterest and stumbled across Charlotte Mason. I don’t remember exactly what blog post, quote, or picture drew me in, but it was like a fire was lit! All of a sudden I was excited again! I spent hours researching and reading everything I could get my hands on. The Charlotte Mason method of education was exactly what I had been craving.

So, who is Charlotte Mason and what was her method of teaching? Charlotte Mason was a British educator who believed there is more to education then just learning to take tests. She believed that each child is their own individual person, capable of dealing with a multitude of enriching ideas. She believed they are not just a blank slate ready to be molded. She said that education is a discipline, an atmosphere, and a life. True education is about finding out who we are within this world that God created and how we fit into it.

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“An Atmosphere, A Discipline, A Life”

Charlotte Mason had three main principles that her method was built around. “Atmosphere” refers to the surroundings in which a child grows up. A child absorbs so much from their surroundings. In fact she believed that the rules that govern us as parents make up one third of a child’s education. “Discipline” is also referred to as “Habits,” specifically good character habits. This is another third of a child’s education. The last third of a child’s education is “Life.” This portion applies to academics. Charlotte Mason believed that we should give children and education that is full of living books, thoughts, and ideas, rather than dry textbooks, worksheets, and facts. The application of her educational method is based on this idea.

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Charlotte Mason believed in teaching subjects through living books. She encouraged including topics that were lovely, like poetry, composer and artist study, and nature studies. She was a huge proponent of children spending lots of time in nature, and believed formal education should wait until the child is 8-10 years old.

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I am still in the learning phase of this method of education, but I found that I could immediately apply her method while still learning. There are so many wonderful resources out there that have helped me.

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Further Links for Reading:

Next month I will cover Part 2 on how we are applying the Charlotte Mason Method with our children from toddler to middle schoolers.

 

Foundational Resources

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We have been reading so much about character training as the foundation of true education, and it has enjoyably become the bulk of our homeschool focus with teaching young children (and some parental retraining)….

I loved the analogy I read on another homeschool blog speaking of character formation in an illustration of how much a mother watches diligently over a child who is sick. The encouragement was for mothers to be as diligent to the formation of habits, just as they would tend to a sick child. What a perfect picture!

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“The lessons learned, the habits formed, during the years of infancy and childhood have more to do with the formation of character and the direction of the life than have all the instruction and training of years after,” CG 184.

Did you catch that? Character formation is the most important lesson we teach our children, and from babyhood is the best starting place. What a beautiful responsibility we have in this.

I’ve been collecting character training resources for a few years now, and am excited about a group we recently were able to start in our home which we call Character Club. My post today will be to share with you what’s on my bookshelf under this subject.

First, I want to talk about how grateful we are for the free resources from www.characterfirsted.com, which we use on a weekly basis. Our favorite Self-Control-Downloads(1)part is the Family Connection pages, which we use to remind ourselves of what we “will do” throughout the day to display that particular character. A while back I made a poster on self-control with pictures of choices displaying self-control and also those associated with acting out in anger. I then included pictures of what those particular choices would lead to: consequences or blessings. I have yet to take this poster down, because it has been an awesome regular visual aide for us all (and many visitors have shared they enjoyed the visual themselves)! Even my 2-year-old can walk you through it when I need to bring her to evaluate her choices.

Character-Sketch---open-bookset_250x250I appreciate the three volume set of Character Sketches from IBLP and their booklets, as well as coloring books. These have added a rich depth to each animal and character we have learned about. How beautiful is God’s book of nature! It’s not just for the children, but often I find I could spend several evenings reading these thick books like a good novel all on my own. I bought all three of mine used on Amazon, but paying full price online ($140 for the set) still would be worth it for the value and information you receive from each.

powerLastly, my new favorite book was given to me by a friend, and I literally almost sleep with this resource. The Power of True Success can be purchased on IBLP as well, or Amazon for $35, and you will be buying many copies of this book to share with friends of all ages. It’s a priceless resource and guide for homeschooling parents! It lists all 49 character qualities taught by Christ, alongside quotes, Scriptures, applications, and evaluations for a greater understanding in how to assimilate these characters into our life.

Lastly, I’d like to share another FREE resource that I only recently discovered that has been excellent in reinforcing and expanding what I’ve been doing to build character in our home. Section one of the Ten Principles of True Education from Sonlight Educational Ministries is titled “Character Building,” and it is motivational to say the very least! It brings you through an excellent study of the Mount of Blessings and the rich/foolish builders. What character are you building in your hearts and the hearts of your children each day? You can find it on their website under Google Drive link in their Downloads: http://www.sonlighteducation.com/downloads.html.

I’d like to think of myself as a character building enthusiast! And, I hope you find some resources that can aide you in restoring Christ’s character into your homeschool. That all being said, I’d like to add one more thing. Wherever we go, we are exhibiting either the character of God who created us or that of our carnal nature. I am praying more and more it will be the first and not the latter.

Blessings,

Allison

Reading as a Base to Learning

reading 1We’ve officially been a homeschool family for more than two decades. Each of our nine children have been homeschooled since their birth or adoption. While I consider a full spectrum of subjects to be very important, I have noted that each of them hinges on one very special skill — reading.

Reading skills actually begin at a very early age, with listening and responding to others, usually parents and siblings. These conversations are so important that research has noted that babies raised without them, such as in many orphanages, will have a more difficult time learning to read as they progress.

reading 2We continue to encourage reading by reading to our children long before they are capable of reading on their own. Reading to young children and developing their ability and love of reading has an integral effect on learning. A child who is a skilled and confident reader will find learning new material much easier and enjoyable.

While these building blocks are important in building strong readers, they also contribute largely to other skills, including learning. We’ve found with our own children that strong readers find learning in any field easier. A child that struggles with reading will often have difficulty learning new material in other subjects.

I’m not suggesting that a poor reader cannot learn; some of our adopted children have reading issues, but have shown abilities to learn certain subjects in other ways. There is a strong correlation, however, between strong reading skills and ease and enjoyment of learning.

We parents will note that some children just do not like reading, even if they are good readers. The correlation remains; when they are ready to learn new material, the reading skills will enable them to learn more easily.

read 3Does it matter what a child reads? I believe it does. God calls us to seek that which is good and avoid that which is not. Reading uses multiple senses to integrate what we read into our brains. What a person reads becomes imprinted into his brain, good or bad.

Will reading a story such as Beauty and the Beast be detrimental? Not necessarily. Discuss the positives and negatives. Help the child critique each book and its characters, in an age appropriate way.

When our older boys were reading chapter books, other children their ages were reading a series that was considered scary. I read enough to know that our children would not be reading the series, and it helped that they didn’t really want to read them. Later, some Christian families regretted allowing and even encouraging the series with their children. The books were not occult based, but they did have a slant in that direction and led to the children reading other such books, in addition to watching movies that led them away from God’s ways.

Like so much in life, our choices in books can be addictive. Some find evil compelling and will seek out such choices. Others might find detailed romance novels or other non-Christian stories will draw them.

But, just as negative influences of books and stories can have detrimental effects, stories of hope and of God’s ways can have favorable outcomes. Reading weaves the messages into the brain, and children are most vulnerable to receiving them.

reading 4Reading is the gateway through which so much learning can take place. It’s important to ensure that our children are reading well and reading materials that will bring them closer to God and His ways and His World.