Friday, December 21, 2012

Reading Fluency

Silent reading is twice as fast as oral reading, but in order to become a better silent reader, you need to develop good fluency. Fluency is simply being able to recognize words automatically as you read, so that you can develop more expression in your reading and read smoothly with expression.

There are two common ways to improve fluency, the direct and indirect way. The direct method has a child read a passage of about 100 words at their reading level. The passage should be decodable but not predictable. The child will read and reread the passage with a certain amount of time until they are fluent. The indirect method encourages kids to read voluntarily in their free time.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Christmas is a very special time of year for most everyone. It is a time when young and old share, laugh, and love. Maybe this year your children can incorporate sharing into their homeschool studies.
You can use the idea of an Advent calendar to schedule special things for your children to do during December. Maybe they can bake goodies for a elderly person in your community, It is always helpful when kids shovel the snow-covered sidewalk for a neighbor or relative. Grandparents LOVE handmade pictures with lots of XOXOX’s at the bottom. Underprivileged kids might enjoy toys your child no longer plays with.
It doesn’t really matter what types of activities your kiddos plan, it is just important they show they care for others.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


November is "We Are Thankful" month! Thanksgiving and Fall are usually times to celebrate family. The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists (Pilgrims) and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast. This is a great time to emphasize sharing and being thankful for what they have.

Here are ideas you might useful:

  • Write thankful letters to soldiers.
  • Make a construction paper turkey. Write something you are thankful for on each tail feather.
  • Have your child create a poem about something they are thankful for and share it with the family at the dinner table.
  • Encourage your child to go through their toy box and select five toys they would like to give to a needy child.
  • As a family, make “thankful” placemats for Thanksgiving dinner. Give each family member a 14”X14” felt piece (or whatever size fits your dinnerware). Using fabric glue, attach pictures (either drawn or printed ones) that show thankfulness. Use a fabric marker to draw and write on the placemat.
  • Using the word THANKFUL, write something you are thankful for for each letter of the word.
  • Bake something tasty for a shut-in.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Homeschool Literature

Have you ever wondered if there are any literature books written by homeschoolers. Have you ever wondered if there are any books written about homeschoolers? Well, the answer is yes to both questions. Homeschool is a neat site that has books for and about homeschoolers and homeschooling.

The site offers a directory with reviews by homeschoolers, study guides, and ideas for further study.What a rare jewel that is for homeschooling families. I know that when I told my reluctant reader and writer that Eragon by Christopher Paoloni (one of her favorite books) was written by a homeschooler, it turned her thinking around. She suddenly realized that if he could write a book, she could too! She set out on her writing journey. She hasn’t’ finished her book yet, but what is important to me is that she believes in herself, wants to read more, and has finally realized that writing is not the enemy.

Challenge your child to read about or write about what they are most interested in. Maybe they will write a book and have it featured on Homeschool!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Who is the Teacher?--

One way for kids to have more ownership in their lessons and retain more of what you teach them is to let them be the teacher once in a while. My daughter loves it when we I let her do this.

Sometimes after she has read a story, I have her make a test for Mom to take. She doesn’t show much mercy to me either. I had a little trouble on one test. I can still see her face as she giggled about me missing some of the questions. What I got out of this was the ability to measure her comprehension of what she read. In order for her to make a good test for me, she had to know about what she read. I was impressed with the difficulty of her questions.

You can also let an older child teach a concept they are good at to a younger sibling. Let them make the lesson plans for a younger sibling. Once in a while will not hurt the younger child.

This is a great way to increase retention of lessons being taught and create interest and curiosity before the lesson. Be sure to let your child know they are going to the be teacher before you assign the task of reading and creating a test for you or planning or teaching a lesson to a younger sibling. When they know what is expected, they will do a much better job.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Visual-Spatial Learners

My daughter has dyslexia and is a visual-spatial learner, a right brained learner. She is bright, but definitely learns differently from me. She thinks in pictures rather than words. She needs the whole picture first and doesn’t work in sequential steps.
The left hemisphere is sequential, analytical, and time-oriented. The right hemisphere perceives the whole, synthesizes, and apprehends movement in space.
If you think you might have a visual-spatial learner in your home, here are things to look for:
  • Thinks primarily in pictures
  • Has visual strengths
  • Relates well to space
  • Is a whole-part learner
  • Learns concepts all at once
  • Is able to learn hard things easily and easy things are hard
  • Is a good synthesizer
  • Sees the big picture; may miss details
  • Reads maps well
  • Is better at math reasoning than computation
  • Learns whole words easily
  • Must visualize words to spell them
  • Prefers keyboarding to writing
  • Creates unique methods of organization
  • Arrives at correct solutions intuitively
  • Learns best by seeing relationships
  • Has good long-term visual memory
  • Learns concepts permanently; is turned off by drill and repetition
  • Develops own methods of problem solving
  • Is sensitive to other people’s attitudes
  • May have very uneven grades
  • Enjoys geometry and physics
  • Is creatively, mechanically, emotionally, or technologically gifted
  • Is a late bloomer

Friday, September 21, 2012

I’ve Decided to Homeschool, Now What?--

I’ve decided to homeschool, now what? Have you ever been there or is that where you are right now? It is okay to be anxious about it. Give it time to sink in and most of anxiety will fade away. After all, if you have made the wrong decision, life IS NOT over and your kids will rebound. You can always send them back to public school.

Most folks tend not to give their efforts enough time. You should really try homeschooling for at least two years before you consider throwing in the towel. It takes a bit to get used to the new way of learning and it takes awhile to learn what works for you and your child. The first year is the hardest!

Try to find a good local homeschool cooperative to join. Your child will be able to take classes you might not want to teach and you will make new friends, find support and encouragement, participate in filed trips and parties and more.

Try to attend a homeschool convention. Buy used curriculum until you know exactly what you want to use. Join online homeschool forums, read homeschool blogs like this one.
Believe in yourself. You know your child the best, have his best interests at heart, and are his best cheerleader. You can do it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vocabulary Games

Does my child really need to practice vocabulary skills? How important is it? Mastering words in essential to academic success and being able to communicate effectively. Building vocabulary skills improves reading comprehension and reading fluency. Without building a large vocabulary, students cannot read successfully and their future is in jeopardy. Good jobs demand a good vocabulary.

Kids are influenced by what is around them. If you want your child’s vocabulary to grow, be aware of how you speak around them. Play vocabulary games at home with them. One thing I have my daughter do for her vocabulary lessons is to draw and color a picture of the vocabulary word, write the meaning, and use it in a sentence. She also plays fun online flash vocabulary games.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Phonics and Sight Words

When I was a little girl, I learned to read by sight words. Dick and Jane was all the rage. When I entered third grade at a different school, they expected me to know phonics. I was so upset that I didn’t know what they were talking about. I was a great reader, but didn’t have a background in phonics. I had to catch up in a hurry in order to complete my worksheets correctly.

Since reading is a vital skill and a necessary component of learning other subject matters, repeated practice is necessary. A healthy blend of phonics and sight words seems to work for most kids.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back to School Plans

Do you need a battle plan to get ready for back to homeshool? I find that a checklist of some sort goes a long way with me. I tend to work off an agenda or calendar. If you do too, then maybe the following will help you as you get ready for a new year of schooling.

  • Ask the kids what they are interested in learning this year. By letting them pick a few of the things they are going to learn, you have conquered lots of the un-motivation you sometimes experience..
  • Clean and organize the main study area in the house.
  • Discover your child’s learning style and adapt your teaching style to match it.
  • Read curriculum reviews before you shop for yours.
  • Begin gathering your curriculum or building your own. Try to buy used curriculum when you can.
  • Make sure your library cards are not lost.
  • Think about extra-curricular activities your children might want to participate in.
  • Formulate a list of possible field trips.
  • Shop garage sales for board games, flash cards, art supplies, books, and yes, even used curriculum. I see it at yard sales all the time.
  • Go over your chore charts for the kids and make revisions where needed.
  • Set up a tentative schedule.
  • Relax and breathe!

Saturday, July 21, 2012


There are many different types of poetry for kids. The following are just a few:

  • Alphabet (ABC)-Each line in the poetry begins with subsequent letters of the alphabet. The poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.
  • Ballad-Ballad is one of the types of poems for children that has to rhyme. The poetry retells a historical event or you can write about a personal experience in the form of rhyme.
  • Acrostic-This is a typical form of poetry where the first letter of each line form a word itself. The letters are vertically aligned to form a word that is usually the subject of the poem.
  • Autobiographical-This is really an essay about yourself in rhythm. It can rhyme.
  • Cinquain-A cinquain is composed of only 5 lines. The 5 lines are a noun (title), description, action, feeling (phrase)and the title (synonym).
  • Diamante-A diamante is a diamond shaped poem about whatever you want it to be about.
  • Haiku-Mainly a Japanese nature poem. It usually has 3 lines of poetry with the first line containing 3 syllables, the second line having 7 syllables, and the last line having 5 syllables.
  • Limerick-Poetry of 5 lines. The last word of the first, second and the fifth line rhyme and the last word of third and fourth line rhyme.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Patriotism means love and devotion to one's country. There are many ways to show patriotism, so it is important to make sure kids understand the basics.

  • Define patriotism in their language
  • Learn about the American flag, look for flags in your town, and learn how to fold a flag
  • Invite a veteran to talk to your child and share stories from their past.
  • Read the Declaration of Independence to your child. Have him pretend he is starting his own country. Tell him to and try writing his own Declaration of Independence.
  • Read through the Bill of Rights and discuss why they think our founding fathers thought these rights were important. Develop a Bill of Rights for your home.
  • Learn about voting rights and make a pretend voter’s registration card.
  • Discuss immigration. Trace your family tree.
  • Sing patriotic songs together. Write down the lyrics and discuss what they mean. Write your own patriotic song.
  • Learn what the words to the the Pledge of Allegiance mean.
  • Write a thank you card to a soldier.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Handwriting Help

Handwriting seems to be a dying art, but there are some of us who still believe in it and want our children to master it.

If your child hates handwriting, try to discover the cause. Have you unknowingly criticized your child’s handwriting too much. “That is too sloppy.” “You still are not making that letter correctly.” Evaluate what you say to your child. Maybe your child has dysgraphia or ADHD and handwriting is a big challenge. Maybe your child’s fine motor skills need some work.

Here are some activities that will help with the fine motor skills needed for handwriting:

1.Give your child clay or play-dough to play with to strengthen the major muscles used in handwriting.
2.Have your child push a thumb tack into a wooden yard stick at every inch mark.
3.Encourage her to play with Legos, miniature cars, small blocks, action figures, and other small toys.
4.Do puzzles with your child.
5.Have your child practice walking on a balance beam.
6.Provide fun art projects that involve using crayons, marking pens, scissors, and finger paints, as well as tearing paper.
7.Play games with your child that involve handling cards and small game pieces.
8.Ask your child to sort collections of loose coins into stacks of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Outside Learning

The weather is perfect for learning outside in June. There is so much to explore all around our home. Children are natural scientists and are eager to explore and discover how things work. Use this natural curiosity in children to broaden your homeschool curriculum.

Indoor and outdoor learning and playing are vital academics. Kids need to be able to test theories, ask questions, apply their skills and so forth. When the weather is good, we need to head out the door and hit the hiking trails, the park, go geocaching, catch tad poles, fly kites, visit the zoo or farm and encourage our children to learn something new. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cinco de Mayo Mini Lesson

Let’s celebrate. There is always something to celebrate every month. This month we will focus on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico’s victory over the French armies in Puebla on May 5, 1862. Many people get confused about this holiday thinking it celebrates Mexican independence, which is celebrated September 15th.

Cinco de Mayo was started in 1967 by a group of students from California State University who decided that there were no Chicano holidays. They wanted to celebrate their heritage, their history and identity. These students decided that the battle of Puebla was symbolic and would also help them establish Chicano studies at their university.

Today this holiday is more of a celebration of Mexican culture, food, music, and beverage unique to Mexico. Here is a link to a great Mexican recipe and science activity--making guacamole and growing an avocado pit.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Math Anxiety OR Math Fun?

Does your child have math anxiety? I was full of math anxiety when I was in elementary school. My teacher told my mother I had a mental block. All I know is that it sure didn’t feel good.

I truly believe the real reason I had a block or any kid has a hard time with math is because it hasn’t been taught to them according to their learning style. Kids need a solid concrete foundation in order to succeed in anything, math included. So, discover your child’s learning style, then present math to them the way they learn best. Math can be fun!

Saturday, April 21, 2012


It seems cursive handwriting, well actually, any handwriting is slowly slipping away in today’s world of rapid technology. Computers have word processors to help us write stories and reports, email has taken the place of snail mail, texting is overcoming talking on the phone.

Kids today must have a solid foundation in keyboarding skills if they want to compete in the job market. More and more kids begin keyboarding in kindergarten. I didn’t take typing until I was a freshman in high school. Wow! Times have surely changed.I thought I was in high cotton because I learned to type on an electric typewriter rather than a manual one. Most kids today have no idea what a manual typewriter even looks like. Ha HA

There are lots of great free keyboarding game sites on the Internet. Set up a schedule for your child to include this important skill in their homeschool lessons.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Unmotivated Child

--“I don’t want to do this lesson!” “I hate school!” “Susie, you have to complete your school work. Stop just sitting doing nothing.” “John, I am going to have to take away something you really like if you don’t get your school work done.”

Do you have a child who doesn’t seem to be motivated? Have you heard statements like these before? Maybe you have said things similar to the statements above to your own child. I sure know I have! You are not alone.

There is a difference between a child who is unmotivated to learn anything and a child who is unmotivated to do the things we so diligently try to teach them. Knowing which fits your child will go a long way to solving your problem. It is usually that you and your child have a different idea of what is important as far as motivation is concerned. Most kids are motivated by something, whether it is reading their favorite books, playing the Wii or DS, playing their favorite sport outside…

Examine your expectations for your child. Have you considered their learning style, needs, abilities, interests, or talents when planning his lessons? Also, remember to pick and choose your battles. Some are not worth fighting about.

In short:
  • Consider your child’s areas of strengths and areas of weakness, as well as his learning style when making lesson plans.
  • Include your child in some of the lesson planning or curriculum choosing
  • Measure progress rather than failure. Notice I say progress, not success.
  • Evaluate whether your child needs help with issues of the heart (character, relationships, self-control…) You might need to focus your attention on these so you can later focus on academics, besides, learning will happen while working on issues of the heart, too!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Does your child need to expand his vocabulary? Building a good vocabulary is crucial to good reading and writing skills. There are four main types of vocabulary:

  • Reading Vocabulary-the words you recognize when reading
  • Listening Vocabulary-words you recognize when listening to speech
  • Writing Vocabulary-the words you can use when writing
  • Speaking Vocabulary-the words you use in speech
The average student learns about 3,000 words a year, or about eight words a day. Vocabulary is important not only because it helps with reading and writing, but it aids expressions and communication, linguistic vocabulary is synonymous with thinking vocabulary, and folks are often judged by others based on what their vocabulary.

I have my daughter work on vocabulary by playing online vocabulary games and other activities. One activity we do is play the dictionary game. Have one person (the leader) look up a word in the dictionary (something unusual) and write down the definition. The person who looked up the word says the word to the other player who write down a fake definition. They can write a funny definition or a serious one, it doesn’t matter as long as they try to write something believable. The leader then reads each definition, including the real one. Everyone tries to guess what the true meaning is.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kite Fun

Who says playing around doesn’t include learning? How is it that something that is heavier than air can fly? Kites are a great way to explore science, art, history… Kites must be important, after all there are museums about kites and even an Android app for your phone!

It is not certain where kites came from, but people of the South Sea Islands used to use them to fish. They attached bait to the tail of the kite and a web to catch the fish. Many people think kites may have originated in China or Japan.

A super history lesson can be based on the origination of the kite. Science can definitely be worked in while you learn about drag, lift, pull.. and more. Art plays into the lessons by decorating the kite you build. Even literature can be explored while learning about kites as you read myths about where kites came from. You can also have your child write a poem on a kite shape.

Little kids can work on developing their scissor skills, cutting and pasting technique, art embellishments, paper folding, design ideas…as they build paper kites.

Kite building for older kids can demonstrate basic aerodynamic principles such as the aerofoil and the dihedral, and factors affecting stability of flight. Science and kites just go together like peanut butter and jelly. Although you don’t have to know about aerodynamics to fly a kite, it can help you control your kite if you do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Author's Purpose

I LOVE a good book, don’t you? The word literature most commonly refers to works of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Literature allows your child to explore new worlds full of new experiences.

Authors help readers discover meaning by the way they say things in the story. Discuss author’s purpose with your children. Show them lots of different types of writing (persuasive, informative, entertaining).

Now it is time to put together our learning activity.
First, make thinking caps for each child. You can make any kind of hat or cap you wish out of construction paper and such, or if you don’t want to make caps, modify baseball caps to work for this activity.
Next, get a box or container to hold strips of paper that have the different types of literature written on them (persuasive, informative, entertaining).
Tell your child to put on his thinking cap because he is going to have to write a paragraph that will either persuade, inform, or entertain everyone playing this game. To help the kids get started on their paragraph, furnish something visual to act as their topic. This will help kick start their thinking. It can be something as simple as some type of snack food, a funky antique object, a weird piece of clothing from yesteryear, a smelly old shoe… Be creative so they will be creative.
Now, have the kids each draw a strip of paper from the box, but tell them not to show anyone what it says. Whatever the paper has written on it is the purpose they must use to write their paragraph.
When everyone is finished, each child will read his paragraph and the others will try to guess if the paragraph is supposed to persuade, inform, or entertain.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Presidents' Day, originally known as Washington's Birthday, falls on the third Monday of February. This year Presidents' Day falls on February 21, 2012. President’s Day combines Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday since they are both in the month of February and are so close together.
Discuss a little about each president with your child. Include what each is best known for and why. What monuments, buildings, money…are made in honor of Washington and Lincoln?

For fun, have your child dress up as Washington or Lincoln and give a short speech as to why they are a good president. If your child chooses Washington, try making a powdered wig. If your child chooses Lincoln, try making his hat.

If your child is too shy to dress up or give a speech, you can still have fun making finger puppets of Washington and Lincoln. Maybe they can have the puppets do the acting for them!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Art Smart

Research says children who spend time in school doing visual art, performing music or dance, or even acting in a play gain a whole set of creative and analytical skills that are quickly disappearing from the rest of the curriculum.

A 2008 study by the nonprofit Dana Foundation, neuroscientists at seven universities found that:

Musical training improves reading by helping children distinguish the sound structure of words.
Acting boosts memory and the ability to articulate ideas.
Strong interest in performing art leads to better attention and memory.

Do you include art in your homeschool curriculum? Are you intimated by trying to teach about different artists or styles of art or music? Maybe you just don’t feel you have the time to devote to planning for those lessons.

Don’t give up just yet. You can expose your child to art via online art games. Games teach about warm and cool colors, different artists, museums, instruments, the orchestra… and best of all, they are free to use and easy to use. Kids love playing games because they don’t think they are doing work. Shhh! We will keep that our little secret!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Winter Water Fun

Jack Frost might be nipping at your nose quite a bit in January. What better time to focus on the different states of water. So break out the hot chocolate and light the fire in the fireplace...let’s begin.

A chilly game of Melt the Ice Cube teaches children that salt, warm water, warm air, and warm hands help ice melt faster. Here is the PDF for printing the instruction sheet. You might want to follow this activity up with watching and timing ice melting in a pan. Be sure to boil the liquid water and watch for steam.

That is a super way for your visual learner to understand solid, liquid, and gas. When you are finished, let the hot water cool down and then freeze it so your child fully understands the whole process. Have your child illustrate the process of going from solid to liquid to gas.