Organizing Our Days: The Part Reading Plays


Fall is my favorite time of year. The changing colors, a cozy sweater, a good book, a warm cup of tea: These things make me happy! So naturally, I am excited to share my love of reading with my children, and this season is the perfect time to spend more time reading together.

I started reading to my oldest right out of the womb. You could say I was reading to him before he was even born, since it has been proven our children hear our voices while they are still in utero. In the first few months of his life, I would read my own books out loud. Usually these were devotional or parenting books that I was squeezing in now that I held this precious bundle in my arms with so little experience under my belt.

I don’t remember how old he was when we started reading picture books to him, but I do remember that as time progressed he was able to sit for longer periods of time as I read more to him. Now he is one of the readers in our home, and reading is a big part of our family’s day.

I spent a lot of time praying over our schedule and working the layout to be one that enabled us to teach each other throughout the day. This means my oldest spends up to 30 minutes reading and teaching his younger brother, and then my middle son has the opportunity to instruct and work with his little sister. These are fun and hands-on learning opportunities! I am learning from my children throughout the day, and I see them eager to learn as they have opportunities to learn from and teach each other.

We clock in more than three hours of purposeful reading on a daily basis! It’s lovely and not forced at all. The children all have personal devotions in the morning (15-20 minutes).  During our morning family worship, we take turns singing hymns and reading Scripture (20-40 minutes). In the late morning we begin school with cookbook reading (dinner preparations), applied math concepts, and character stories (30 minutes). We continue this pattern during our nature walk as we bring along a blanket and our nature lesson for the day (15 minutes). After our walk, we curl up on the couch and my son reads from his third grade True Education reader (15 minutes), then I follow with something from our Read Aloud Basket (15 minutes). We follow this with quiet time, and my older two can look at books or read/color during this time (15 minutes). In the evenings, we read from our Read Aloud Basket again for the longest period of read aloud time (30-45 minutes). This has become my favorite time of day, which says a lot because I’m a morning person and I have really struggled to find joy in the evenings when my energy is waning.

I hope this post encourages you to incorporate more time reading into your day in ways that can nurture a love for good books in your children. My next post I will be sharing more of an inside look to our Read Aloud Basket.

In the meantime, here is my favorite inspiration as we developed our Read Aloud Basket which we use throughout the day: http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/search?q=Morning+basket

How often do you read with your children throughout the day? Please share your favorite read-alouds that your family could read again and again in the comments below.

Blessings,

Allison

 

Exploring a New Year…

 

The most frequent response I get when I tell people I homeschool has been, “Wow, I don’t have the patience for that,” or “You must be a very patient person!” My answer is that it takes a lot of patience to parent. Homeschooling isn’t that different, just extended.

One thing that has really helped me to be patient in our homeschool has been to remember my children are people first. When I remember that they are people, I can be more compassionate. Jesus told us to “let the little children come to Him” in a time when children were thought to be a nuisance and in the way. Things haven’t changed much in that aspect. Adults tend to want children to do what they are told, when they are told to do it, how they are told to do it. In fact, when I was a young girl if I was told to jump, the reaction expected was to ask “how high” as I was starting to jump.

One of the blessings of homeschooling our children is that they are able to develop their own sense of identity…except we don’t always appreciate that independence when it comes against us. It is possible to harness that independence, to use it to enhance their educational experience.

I don’t want a carbon copy of me. It would certainly be easier to predict their desires, interests, and actions, but it would be boring. My sons have different interests, different life goals, and they are still discovering them. My job is to help them discover their path in life, to discover God’s calling on his life. When I remember this, it puts life, and school, into perspective.

Our homeschool journey includes exposing the children to many different options. Sometimes we do weird, crazy things to explore those options. We’re often researching topics of interest, no matter how strange they may seem to be. You can use all of those options to teach all of the subjects needed. We’re stepping into junior high this year, and that makes it a transition year… It’ll be an interesting journey as we move forward.

My advice as we move into a new school year: Don’t be afraid to throw out the books sometimes and explore the weird things in life. Let the kids find their own passions and use those passions to teach what they need to know to succeed in life. Get hands on, and discover what’s available in your community to reach your child’s interests. Forget about the path you had planned, and let them discover their own.

Homeschool Fruit: Sharing…& More

One of the best things — a true fruit — of homeschooling, to me, is being able to glean information from other homeschoolers about how they are doing things, how they have overcome problems, and how they have gotten their kids excited about learning. We have a community that seems to be inherently supportive, and generally homeschoolers are eager to share what has worked well for them.

The “& More” in the title is about something I’d like to share with you, so we’ll veer from general sharing to a specific topic. I have several homeschooling friends who have talked to me about how their kids have problems writing essays, how they seem to freeze and their minds go blank. This really resounds with me. I’ve been a writer and editor for more than 30 years, but I am NOT a creative writer. It just doesn’t flow naturally. And, probably not surprisingly, neither is my son. I have a nifty little formula and writing style, though, for those of us who are a little more at ease with reporting straightforward facts, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you have a hesitant writer, introduce them to newswriting and the “Inverted Pyramid.” This is probably the most basic, building-blocks part of journalism taught in college, and yet it is also very graspable for a young writer — particularly middle-school age and up. The inverted pyramid is merely writing/reporting your story with the most important facts at the top, narrowing to the least important at the bottom. And, it is easy to start off with five basic questions.

Let’s create a scenario that you could work through with your child. Say you ask them to write a report on the church service this coming Sabbath. But wait…

SIDENOTE: Does it seem odd to have an assignment that incorporates the Sabbath? Think about the last time you read your local Union Conference magazine. Did you notice interesting articles about a special children’s service at one church? Or maybe a Sabbath outreach mission? Or possibly a Sabbath concert offered to the community? Somebody who attended wrote those. I see multiple benefits to a Sabbath report for our kids, including better listening and observation skills in church, and maybe even the planting of tiny seeds of interest for future communication work within the Adventist Church. Back to the report…

Besides making sure they take their notepad and pen to church, have them write down the 5Ws the day before:
Who … was involved?
What … happened?
Where … did it happen?
Why … did it happen?
When … did it happen?

Now they have a ready-made list of things to look for. They will probably want to take a church bulletin for themselves to help glean information, including the name of your church, address, time of service, and participants. You could also have them listen carefully to the sermon, and make notes about the main point and primary Bible text used.

They might also look around to see if there are things they think might be interesting. Is the sanctuary decorated especially for Easter? Are there any kids in attendance? Was there a special part of the program aimed at kids? Were there guests present? Any special music? How about a potluck after church?

Young writers will not necessarily think of all those things, but you can help them come up with a list during the preceding week, and have them jot down things they will look for to incorporate in their story.

Another useful thing is to add a quote from someone who was there. Maybe they’d like to interview their best friend to find out what their favorite part of the service was. Remind your child to write it down word for word, and include their name and age. Or, maybe after the service they could tell the pastor what they are doing (the pastor will probably think this is fantastic, by the way), and ask how the pastor picked the sermon subject. There again, they can carefully write down the response, as well as the pastor’s name and title.

Your pastor would probably be delighted to answer a question or two for your child. Kids showing active engagement in church is good news!

Now you can take your sheet of facts home to work on later. It’s easier to write when the event is fresh in your memory, so consider having your child  start in on Saturday night or Sunday, and take some time off during the regular school week.

First, have them organize the facts into three groups:

  • those that they will definitely include in the article (i.e., 5Ws, sermon title or theme, etc.),
  • those that are interesting but not terribly important (i.e., the special music performer was visiting from another church),
  • and those that are related but not necessary (i.e., there were four casseroles at potluck).

Create an article outline. Your outline (and, next, your article) will follow the inverted pyramid. Put the most important information is at the top. Since you’ve already organized the facts, this will be easy.

Time to write!

  • Start with a strong leading sentence.
  • Give all the important details. These are the from the first group of facts in their “organize the facts” list.
  • Follow up main facts with additional information. These draw from the second group of facts.
  • Finish your article. Leave the reader with an interesting point, or maybe an invitation to attend an upcoming event at the church.

Here’s a very short sample article, but one that a middle-school age student could easily put together. It might give you ideas for an easy writing assignment for your child.

Sample Article:

“Reaching Up, Reaching Out” was the theme for a special community outreach planning day at Mount Bountiful Adventist Church, 123 Happiness Lane, in Somewhere, Alaska, Saturday, March 12, 2017. Members gathered to discuss ways to share God with the surrounding community. (See the 5Ws in the first paragraph?)

The special Sabbath program included music, praise, worship, and a chance for members to share ideas for reaching out to their neighbors. Joe Schmoe, pastor, said that he was excited to see nearly every member present, and appreciated how important outreach is to the small church.

The Juniors and Earliteen Sabbath School classes joined to present a skit about helping children in the neighborhood. “It was pretty neat to think of ways to help,” said Janey Doe, age 12. “I hope that we can help some other kids.”

After church the members enjoyed a potluck, and discussed how they might use food and nutrition to reach the community.

Everyone is invited to attend a follow-up planning session for outreach, Sunday, March 20, at 2 p.m. in the fellowship hall.
————

Newswriting is factual and tends to be chronological. It also helps young writers start to decipher what is fact versus what is opinion, and what is important versus what is “fluff.” And, it helps them develop organized thought. It is a skill which you can help your child develop, which might ease the fear of “coming up with something to write about.”

There are many other types of writing — creative, essay, research, etc. — which may be developed in the future, but newswriting could be a good place to start.

Thanks for letting me share!

~

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered,” Proverbs 11:25 ESV.

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

Homeschool Fruits: Freedom

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study...

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study…

I just love freedom! I love the freedom to make my own decisions. (I especially love nobody telling me what to do. Ha!) I love living in a country that operates, for better or worse, on the principle of freedom. I love serving a God who gives me the freedom to choose Him or not — no coercion.

I love the freedom of homeschooling, too. In fact, when we chose our official homeschool name this year, we picked a name based partially on freedom. I asked my son to tell me his very favorite things about homeschooling, and his top two were “freedom” and “doing my own thing.” Hence…Freedom Solus Academy.

Since my son and I are on the same basic wavelength, it gives extra freedom to our homeschooling. If he seriously dislikes something, he tells me. Then we either discuss why he should keep doing it the same way, or, more frequently, change it to something that works well for him. Likewise, if I’m not pleased with how a certain subject is going, I feel free to research other possibilities with his input, and change directions immediately.

An example of homeschooling freedom for us this year was my 7th-grader’s history. We signed up for a free online program, and he started in. Boring. Seriously boring. How many of us sat comatose through history classes when we were in school? If there’s one thing I really wanted to make come alive for my child via homeschooling, it was history.

So, I took their basic daily outline as a guide; substituted an awesome history series I found, produced by public television but available on YouTube; and supplemented with an interesting book of children’s literature set in that time period.

This semester is nearly over, and he recently finished that unit. Rather than go back to a provided program, though, homeschooling freedom combined with this semester’s success gave me the courage to do my own thing. (Wait! Wasn’t “my own thing” one of his favorite things about homeschooling too?!? Genetics, temperament, parental programming…? LOL.)

We have the coolest encyclopedia of ancient history. Each page also includes many links to interesting maps and videos and projects. Between that and a couple books a friend gave us on Greece and Egypt, I’ve created a semester plan on ancient worlds. Here’s what’s so awesome: It looks so cool and interesting that I want to learn it all, too! No more “history coma” for me or my child. Truthfully, it did take a little longer to prepare than the boxed curriculum — but, oh, the freedom…

Homeschooling offers us the fruit of freedom. If you still feel a little bit afraid to branch out and create your own curriculum, or to go from more structured to less structured for less stress, or to go from less structured to more structured if that’s what your child needs, or to simply change course midstream if something isn’t working — that’s totally okay. Relax and pray. Let that fruit of freedom ripen a little more within you, and you might be surprised and gratified at where it leads.

~

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV.

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

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.

img_6840

whats-alive-collages

 

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.

log-house

pueblo

 

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.