March 22, 2014

Homeschooling: 1st Grade Art Explorations

When it comes to art, I’m extremely grateful that we’re homeschooling. This may not make me popular, but I have to admit that “crafts” make me cringe.  I rarely look at Pinterest because it makes my head swirl in a bad way.

Don’t take me wrong – I don’t think crafts are bad.  In fact, my kids love them just like most children love them.  My son loves them so much that he likes to look up crafts when he has something in mind he wants to make – I don’t mind that at all. It’s his idea after all, and he’s choosing which craft idea to follow.

I have on occasion (maybe twice?) looked up a specific craft, usually for a holiday like Native American Day. I wanted to teach my son a little bit about Native Americans, and I thought he would enjoy making a “totem pole,” which he did. I have also used crafts and specific art lessons for other reasons, which I’ll explain below.

In general, I don’t like the “Here kids…let’s all make this.” I would much rather give my kids a bunch of paint and paper and let them have fun with it. Let them explore. Experiment. Be creative and come up with their own ideas…not someone else’s idea. If they make a mess, that’s fine with me. (This is one of the reasons that Project-based Homeschooling appealed to me so much. It’s an important tenet in this educational philosophy.)

We are not just bound to paint and paper either. I’ve written about all the supplies I keep on hand, and you can find that here. Also, The Power of Time and Materials is one of my popular posts on this subject.

I realize that most art teachers and facilitators of craft projects would also want exactly what I want… to let these projects lead to the child’s own exploration of art. Get the children excited about creating and making things…. Yes! Exactly. If crafts are used in that way, I think it’s a great idea. But I think they can be over-used, and if the facilitator tries to prevent the child from veering off in another direction (maybe making the craft into something entirely different), that’s bad.

Try putting some art supplies in front of a bunch of children and telling them to have fun. Can they get started on their own? Or do they look at you, helpless because they need instructions? It all depends on how much freedom, time, and materials the children have been given!

I’ve created a room in my house where all our art and craft supplies are accessible to my kids, and at any time, they can say, “I want to paint,” and they can do it. I’ve taught them how to be careful – I usually help them get the paints out, and I have laid down some ground rules such as “the paint stays on the table.” Likewise, I have taught (and I’m still teaching) my kids how to hold the scissors and how to clean up after they are finished.

I’m really happy that by doing this, I’ve fostered some very creative kids. They don’t “create” everyday or even every week, but when I look over all the photographs I’ve taken of their artwork and building projects, I know we’re off to a good start. (And I have a bunch of little child-led projects that I need to blog about. In good time!)

This year my oldest son is in “1st grade,” and I want him to learn more about art. By that I mean formal art – about artists and their techniques. We don’t have time for formal art lessons on a regular basis, but this is a subject that we’ll be building on during his entire education, so that’s okay. And if it becomes an interest of one of my children, we’ll definitely make more time for it.

It’s also important in project-based homeschooling to teach your student how to use tools, different mediums and introduce them to different experiences, so that’s exactly what I’m doing here too. And yes, sometimes it includes a ‘craft.’ See? I don’t think they are all that bad.

I’m going to write about our art lessons in separate posts, but below I’m listing the resources I’ve used and plan to use as we continue our life-long exploration of Art.

  • Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters by Mary Ann F. Kohl and Kim Solga – I use the Kindle version of this book, and I like it.  There are lessons and activities about artists starting from the Renaissance and until present time. We have skipped some of them, finding activities that I think my boys would enjoy. (And finding the ones with easy on-hand materials too.) The lessons are simple and short, which is a good fit for my very young children. (This book also has an excellent list of art resources; it’s worth the price just for that!)
    • My main goal with these art lessons is exposing my son to great art. I don’t think he’ll remember the artist’s names (I don’t) or the tidbits about their lives, but it’s a good starting-off place. This book does not contain photographs of the artwork by these artists. I have to look them up online, but I think my seven-year-old and I like that the best: just skimming through some images and seeing something new and interesting. (My four-year-old usually likes doing the art projects, but he doesn’t give a hoot about looking at the art yet.) So far we have studied:
  • Right now my favorite resource for art instruction is Amy Hood’s e-zine {Art Together}. So far Amy has written three magazines, and I’ve purchased them all. They are full of information, activities and encouragement for making art with your children! I have picked activities out of the magazine that I knew my boys would enjoy now, but there’s information in there for deeper study, so I know I’ll be able to return to them in the future. My seven-year-old has enjoyed reading parts of the magazine with me too. My four-year-old just likes to try his hand at the art making. I have not yet had the chance to read her latest e-zine on printmaking (I just purchased it!), but I have read and done these activities from the first two:
    • Making a Color Wheel inspired by {Art Together} Issue One: Color (and I also referred to her very good blog post on the same subject, Make A Simple Color Wheel)
    • Line Art inspired by {Art Together} Issue Two: Line (and I have a great story to go along with this one.)

(I will follow-up with posts about these art lessons and add links as they go up on my blog.)

Future Art Studies

Here are some things I have in mind for future art studies.

  • Oxford First Book of Art – I found this great little introductory book used on Amazon for under $7. Perhaps I need to lay it on the kitchen table and just let the kids discover it! It has some beautiful images of famous artist’s work. It also has some activities and commentary.
  • Museums – My boys are going to have to get a little older (UPDATE: We did take them to a museum!), but I look forward to taking them to some nearby art museums such as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens. I know the High Museum has Homeschool Days, and the Georgia Museum of Art has some great kid’s programs too. I just haven’t looked at them closely enough yet.
  • And I can’t help but give a plug for home / school / life magazine. (Disclaimer: I’m the senior editor!) We will be offering art resources in this magazine, particularly Amy Hood’s regular Art Start column.
March 20, 2014

Is Happiness a Skill?

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on March 19, 2014.

I just watched a fascinating documentary titled “happy” and directed by Roko Belic. I would recommend that everyone watch it because who isn’t trying to be happy? The documentary showcases the latest research on what makes humans happy, and it’s full of interviews with researchers in this fairly new field of inquiry.

Twenty years ago psychology was about helping people with their problems, but in the 1990s it finally became more acceptable to study what makes people flourish. This “positive psychology” has produced a slew of books and other media on the subject.

Ed Diener, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois, and he started his research in 1981. He said, “The first thing to realize is that happiness can actually help you get your other goals, have better relationships, make more money, do better at the job. People on the job are going to like you better if you are happy.”

So what does it take to be happy? Although I expected the researchers to say that success and money don’t buy happiness, I was still surprised to hear what they have found out.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, 50% of what determines whether we will be happy or not is genetic. She says that we all have a kind of “set point” or a range of feeling happy that we continue to fall back into after the effects of our good and bad experiences wear off.

This surprised me. Are we doomed to unhappiness because of genetics? As pointed out in the documentary there is still the other half. Lyubomirsky goes on to say that 10% of what makes us happy is our circumstances: our income, social status, where we live, and our age.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that all those things we typically “strive” for do little to make us happy, but Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D. and author of Stumbling on Happiness, says that money can buy happiness when we’re talking about lifting someone out of poverty. Once our needs are met, however, there isn’t much difference in the happiness levels of someone who makes 50K a year and someone that makes 500K a year.

Lyubomirsky says that 40% of what determines how happy we feel is our actions and intentions.  There are things we can do to help ourselves become happier.

One action we can take is to get more aerobic exercise. This is because physical exercise helps to release dopamine in our brains, a chemical necessary for happiness. From our teenage years onward, we start to lose dopamine, but exercise is one of the best ways of producing it.

They also said that getting exercise in fun and novel ways is an even better way of releasing dopamine, and in our everyday lives, we need variety and change.  For some that may be taking a different route to work, but for others, they may need more changes. Having new experiences and keeping up that “spice of life” is another action we can take to help increase our happiness.

Not surprisingly, people who are happier tend to have a strong network of family and friends. (This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has to get along all the time though.)

“Social bonding, social interactions is programmed to be intrinsically rewarding to humans,” says P. Read Montague, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine.

Doing something that we feel is meaningful is an important step in trying to feel happier. When we concentrate on relationships and our community’s overall feeling of well being, we stop thinking so much about ourselves.

The final “building block” in happiness, as the documentary’s narrator calls it, is appreciating what we have. Since I’ve spent a good portion of my life concentrating on what I want instead of appreciating what I have now, I can attest that shifting my focus to others and appreciating every moment has done quite a bit to elevate feelings of satisfaction and contentment in my life.

I appreciate that the film also noted that there is no one formula for happiness that fits every person, but it does a good job of finding people who live in dire circumstances around the world and showing that happiness can be found even in these places. The film doesn’t go into problems such as chronic depression that can affect a person’s brain, but that didn’t seem to be the point of this particular film. The “building blocks” may seem simple and common sense, yet the average person could benefit from learning about them. It’s something many people in our culture could use.

What makes you happy?

March 13, 2014

Winter Siestas

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on March 12, 2014.

I love Georgia winters because the weather here always offers us a few “siestas” or breaks in the cold weather. This winter has been especially cold, but that hasn’t stopped us from getting a few days of spring-like weather sprinkled here and there. I have even seen some trees blooming.

The blooms I’ve found always give me mixed emotions because I know a freeze may come and mess up the blooming cycle, but every spring Georgia seems to have plenty of beautiful blooms anyway. I can’t wait until the warm weather is here to stay, but I’m glad we’ve been taking advantage of the warm days in winter.

The boys are finally old enough to enjoy longer hikes, at least when the terrain isn’t too rugged. We usually go to Fort Yargo, and recently we were happy to discover that there is a trail that goes all the way around the lake – years ago when my husband and I hiked there while we were dating, the trail didn’t go all the way around.

We haven’t yet hiked the whole trail in one visit, but we’ve done parts of it, and my seven-year-old really wanted to see the dam, so we walked all the way from the parking lot near the beach to the dam and back. Ft. Yargo is a beautiful place, and if you live here in Barrow County, you’ll want to visit as often as you can.

Last week we went to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens, which has several miles of trails too. My boys love to hike on the trail that goes along the Middle Oconee River the best. Sometimes the river is high, but occasionally it’ll be low enough where they can venture down to a large sandbar and play by the water.

As soon as they saw the sandbar last week, there was no keeping them on the trail. My husband and I found a log to sit on, and we watched our boys build a “beaver dam” with driftwood and mud. Two little girls and their mother came out onto the sandy area, and we were delighted to watch our four-year-old chatter away with one of the girls who joined my boys in their pursuit to build a strong dam.

We were too far away to hear what our youngest son was saying, but later my seven-year-old told me that he was telling the girl what his favorite foods were, among other things. I guess for a four-year-old, there are only a few topics of conversation!

As for the cold days, they are perfect days to get more work done. More library books are read, math games are played, and of course, my son continues to work at this Legos and cardboard building projects. I recently introduced him to the game Minecraft, which is an app you can download on the iPad. It’s a popular game with kids, and it’s like building with blocks on the screen. He is hooked on that now too.

But I can’t wait until spring is here to stay. Park play dates, more hiking, and our annual attempts at gardening – while the gardening usually isn’t very fruitful, the attempts make me happy.

These hints of spring are full of promises. The birds are inspecting the birdhouses on our porch, and I’ve heard the frogs begin to sing. The budding plants and occasional warm days are just what I need to get me through the weeks of cold.  May the true spring come quickly this year, and may it fill us all with a fresh, cheerful spirit!

February 27, 2014

Sound Bites

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on February 27, 2014.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

In the mornings I’m lucky if I wake up to a quiet house. Usually it’s the galloping of the dogs’ paws on the floors as the canines leap up at the slightest sound of movement from my husband. They follow him into the kitchen, eagerly waiting their breakfast.

Other mornings I may wake up hearing one of my boys calling me from their bed or the seven-year-old’s footsteps as he runs down the hall and jumps into bed with me. Sometimes I hear a bird singing outside my window. Every once in a while, I wake up and hear nothing, and I savor the quiet.

Today at the park I heard snatches of my children’s conversations with their friends. One boy was explaining to my four-year-old that they would pretend they were dinosaurs and chase each other. They were trying to decide which dinosaur they would be, and my four-year-old wanted to be an Argentinosaurus. “Okay,” said the other boy, “you chase me then.”

“Actually,” my son said in his four-year-old and still sometimes hard to understand speech, “the Argentinosaurus wasn’t very fast.” I smiled at his good attempt at trying to pronounce Argentinosaurus, and I told the other boy’s mother how the word “actually” has become very popular in our house lately. She said it was gaining momentum in her house too.

It’s fun to hear how children will learn a new word and then play with it often as if they are trying to get to know it better.

While we were at the park we walked down to the shoals, and the kids played near the water. Running water in a creek or river is my favorite sound in the world. I could sit beside a river all day and just listen, but kids don’t let me sit for long. We were walking down the trail, and I was too busy keeping an eye on the boys who were running far ahead of us to listen to the wildlife.

I was happy to hear them talking, chattering and laughing as they asserted their independence and tried to get away from their mamas. I did catch the loud sound of a frog croaking from somewhere in the marsh.

On the way home from the park, I wanted to listen to the news on the radio, but my boys kept interrupting the broadcast. Some days I make a point of turning off the radio and just listening to my son chatter about his observations or ask his complicated and often-times unanswerable questions.

“If we walked just one atom at a time, would it take a year for us to walk a foot?” He laughs at himself and I shake my head. I hope he’ll grow up and learn the answer for himself and then tell it to me.

Sometimes in the evenings while my boys are watching T.V. my husband will call me to his office to watch his latest find on YouTube. He listens to music to relax, and he’ll listen to anything from classical to folk to pop music.  One of his favorite things to do is watch YouTube videos of auditions from the British X Factor talent show.

It’s not something you would ever find me doing on my own, but I’ll sit with him and soon be sucked into the inspiring stories of these talented young people who are finally being discovered. We’ll listen to their best songs and then watch whatever other talented musicians he may have found.

If it weren’t for my husband, I would be completely cut off from pop culture and sometimes even the latest news. That’s what happens when you keep turning off the radio to hear your kids chatter. But their young voices are only here for a brief period of time, and as much as I would like to listen to the news or even my own thoughts, I know I won’t regret spending a little time listening to them.

What have you heard lately?

February 20, 2014

Winner of the Give-Away

give-away

I’m sure those of you who entered my drawing for a free, one-year digital subscription of home / school / life magazine was wondering when I was going to get around to posting the winner! I’m sorry I didn’t specify a date. Honestly, I’m so busy I wasn’t sure when I’d get to it! But it’s been over a week, and I had a little time this morning to write all your names down on a slip of paper and put them in a basket. I asked my four-year-old to pick out one of the slips of paper, and as you can see, Amy G. is the winner! Congratulations, Amy!

If you didn’t win, or if you didn’t get a chance to enter the drawing, I think you’ll be happy to know that digital subscriptions to the magazine are reasonably priced, and we are having a special discount right now, if you subscribe before April 1st. Click here to read all the details.

A print version will be offered too, but we’re still working out the details on that!

We will be offering bloggers a chance to get a free subscription to the magazine by posting information on their blogs (and doing a give-away, if they want) until April 1st as well. So just e-mail me if you are interested in that! And I’d like to thank all of those who have offered to do this. I’m pleasantly surprised by how many have offered, and I appreciate it so much!

Now, if you still aren’t sure you want to invest in a subscription, I’m happy to point you to *this page* that will give you more details about what will appear in our magazine. I wouldn’t be working for this magazine, if I didn’t think it was going to be a great resource for you! I hope you’ll check it out.

February 17, 2014

What Is Homeschooling?

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on February 12, 2014.

The other day I was eating with my family at a restaurant in Winder, and we started chatting with our waitress. Like many people do, she asked my boys if they were in school, so we told her we were homeschooling. She was interested. She said she had a two-year-old, and she had considered doing something like that because she is concerned about everything “that is happening at schools.”

What she meant by that, I’m not sure, but I do know many parents have concerns about the state of our public schools whether it be too much pressure to teach to the test, peer pressure, violence or other reasons.

Then she asked, “So what happens when you homeschool? Does a teacher come to your home?”  The waitress seemed like a bright, young woman, but she did not understand what homeschooling is about, and there are probably many people like her.

Once I spoke to a representative at the Georgia Department of Education, and he told me a woman had just called him to say she was fed up with her kids’ school and wanted to homeschool. “So where do I send them?” she asked.

Let me make it clear: If you want to homeschool, you will be completely responsible for your children’s education.  You will be their teacher. You may decide to hire a tutor for a particular subject, or you may find some community classes or a co-op to enroll your child in, but you are completely responsible for making sure your child gets what he or she needs to make it in our society as an adult. Not only that, your child will be at home most of the time. That’s why it’s called “home” school.

There are many different philosophies and approaches to homeschooling. Some parents are strict “school at home” homeschoolers, and they make their children do everything exactly as they would at public school, but they do it at home. There are also online courses that provide a public school education in the comfort of one’s home, and you and your child would be in contact with a public school teacher from time to time.

The opposite extreme is “radical unschooling.” These parents believe that their children will learn everything they will need to know through life experience, and they follow their child’s lead when it comes to what they will teach. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about unschoolers because people think the children aren’t learning anything. This is not true, and I know that to unschool a child, a parent has to be willing to work hard and learn alongside their child.

Most homeschoolers fall somewhere between those two extremes, and most homeschoolers love their lifestyle because it gives them the opportunity to tailor the education to their child’s interests and needs. If their child has a learning disability or needs more time in a particular subject, they can go at the child’s pace. Likewise, gifted children do not have to be held back because a teacher has to make her class accessible to a wide range of children’s abilities.

There are homeschoolers who call themselves “Waldorf-inspired” or “Montessori-inspired,” or a mix of any number of educational philosophies. Most homeschoolers start out doing one thing, and then realize that they can relax because children are amazing, and when given the freedom and offered a range of experiences, they want to learn.

I’m not one to push aside the fact that you can find cases where children have been abused in homeschooling families. But as a friend of mine told me, school children are abused too, as she was. Going to school didn’t stop it.

Without fail, uninformed people always maintain that “socialization” is the big problem with homeschooling. I don’t really understand this when I remember the “misfits” in my high school who were ostracized by their peers.

Education is supposed to prepare our children to be productive, stable adults, and public school just doesn’t work for every child. Homeschooling may not work for everyone either, but at least it’s a viable option.

When considering homeschooling, parents should remember that no one, homeschooling family is a good representative of the homeschooling culture at large. Start doing some research.  Join local, online homeschooling e-mail lists such as those on Yahoo Groups or Facebook, and start asking questions.

It takes time to find a community when you homeschool, so start early. Now that we’ve been homeschooling for a few years, I’m happy that we’ve met some great families who are homeschooling not for extreme reasons but just because it seems like the right choice for their children.

Sometimes we get crazy looks when we tell people we are homeschooling, but I have noticed that more people are interested and supportive. Not long ago we met a woman who is a grandmother, and when we told her that we were homeschooling, she smiled and said emphatically, “Your kids will get to see the world with you.”

Yes, exactly. Homeschooling offers a lot of possibilities. It’s worth thinking about.

February 14, 2014

Did you think you knew everything about me?

This month on the home / school / life blog, we’re posting an “About Me” on everybody who will be working on the magazine. Today my “About Me” page went up. Click here to check it out.

February 10, 2014

Offering free, digital subscriptions to home / school / life magazine

Layout 1

As I announced before, I accepted a job as senior editor of home / school / life magazine.  home / school / life magazine is going to be a high-quality print magazine, but we will also offer digital subscriptions. And I’ve been given permission to give away some digital subscriptions! Please read on to find out more.

I have been working on several items for the magazine, and I’m privy to some of the other pieces that will appear in our premiere issue this spring. I can sincerely say that I think it will be a great magazine for homeschoolers and even non-homeschooling parents who want to be involved in their children’s educations. We are touching on all the things that homeschoolers need and want and a little bit more. There will be regular departments and columnists that will continue to bring informed advice and inspiration in future issues. It’s really exciting to see this come together.

Just to give one example of a section in the magazine which I’m very excited about, and which I’ll be in charge of, is “Career Path.” In each issue, we’re going to interview someone in a professional field and find out what kind of education and experience they needed to get their job. We’re doing this so that our homeschooled children will be informed when they decide they might be interested in XYZ career.  I want them to know what academic subjects they may need to focus on, and I want them to know what kinds of volunteer or other job experience might be required. I also want them to know what kind of salary they can expect. Will it be worth it to them to pay all that money into a higher degree, if the starting salary is only $35,000, and there’s not much career growth in that field? Alternatively, your children may find out about careers that they were not aware of! I hope these interviews will help parents and students better plan their education so that they won’t have any surprises as they enter the work force as young adults.

I would buy the magazine for this section alone, but that’s just me! The magazine will also be full of project ideas, unit studies, book and media recommendations, and other resources. We have four regular columnists who will write about curriculum, books, art and science. In another section, we’ll look at one subject and offer four different ways of approaching it, and there will be regular articles pertaining to the early grades, middle and high school years. We’re also going to offer a Homeschooler’s Toolbox and highlight one educational philosophy in each issue. So as you continue to read home / school / life magazine, you’ll become an expert on all things homeschool!

And this is just a part of the magazine! I haven’t mentioned yet that we will include three feature articles in each issue. (And yes, we’ll be accepting queries from freelance writers, and yes, we will pay for any article we accept.)

Right now we would like to get the word out about our magazine to as many homeschoolers as we can. If you have a homeschooling or parenting blog, and you wouldn’t mind writing about home / school / life on your blog, we would like to offer you a free, digital one-year subscription to the magazine. Not only that, we’ll also give you another free, digital one-year subscription that you can give away on your blog to one of your readers. This offer will be available for a limited time.

Below is a flier I made about the magazine that you can share with your readers, if you decide to do this.  Let me know if you would like to share this on your blog, and I’ll send it to you. You can e-mail me at shelli (at) homeschoollifemag (dot) com or leave  a comment. Thank you for considering this!

(Note: The drawing for a free subscription is closed and the winner will be announced soon. Bloggers may still earn a free digital subscription by sharing our magazine on their blogs!)

HSL flier jpeg

February 6, 2014

Magic Tree House Books

Magic Tree House BookNote: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on February 5, 2014.

For over a year, my husband has been reading the Magic Tree House Books by Mary Pope Osborne to my seven-year-old every night before bed. There are over fifty titles in the series, and currently they are reading #39, Dark Day in the Deep Sea. My son is thrilled because the two protagonists, Jack and Annie, are going to meet an octopus! Though I haven’t read the series with him, I’m privy to many retellings of the stories.

Jack and Annie are a brother and sister, and in the first book, they find a magic tree house and travel back into prehistoric times. In every book, they are sent on an adventure throughout time to different places and even to mythical places.  Through these books, my son has been introduced to Ancient Egypt, Leonardo da Vinci, the Civil War and the American Revolution, William Shakespeare, gorillas in the Congo rain forest and so much more.

The books are a great introduction to history and mythology, and there are even companion non-fiction books that will teach children more about the people and places Jack and Annie meet in their adventures, though we aren’t using those.

Starting with book #29, the books are referred to as “The Merlin Missions.” They are longer and the reading level is higher, so children can continue to be challenged as they grow with the series.

I have heard some criticism from other parents about the quality of writing in the books, which can make them unappealing for adults to read. But my husband has enjoyed reading the series with my son. He says the writing is simple and appropriate for kids, and he considers them to be fantasies and adventure stories for children. He thinks the author does a good job of getting kids excited about history, and he appreciates the author’s attempts at depicting the daily life of everyday people in the time periods the characters visit. From a history professor, that’s not a bad review.

Though we discovered the books while browsing at the bookstore, we only own two of them. My husband has been able to find all the books at nearby libraries by checking online first to find where the next book in the series is located.  No library seems to own all the books, but he has found them all by searching for them at the Winder, Auburn, Statham and Bogart libraries. Since they are short books, he checks out three or four of them at a time. That way they always have something to read each night.

Since I haven’t read the books myself, I thought I would interview my son about them. This is what he said:

Me: Why do you like Magic Tree House books?

My son: I like it because they do all these adventures, and there’s magic, and they meet all sorts of giant animals like a cloud dragon and an octopus and a sea serpent.

Me: What is your favorite book in the series so far?

My Son: Dragon of the Red Dawn, #37

Me: Is there a subject you wish she would write about?

My Son: She already has lots of cool books, but maybe one about going to a volcano and seeing a fire-breathing dragon.

Me: Are you glad Daddy is reading the series to you?

My Son: Yes.

Me: When you finish the Magic Tree House books, what series will you read with Daddy next?

My Son: I want to read Robin Hood with daddy. It’s not a series though.

Me: Anything you want to add?

My Son: They’re really good.

So there you have it from the seven-year-old himself.

Have you or your child read these books? What did you think?

February 3, 2014

Finished 100 Easy Lessons!

(We had a rare snow day here last week!)

Just an update here to celebrate that the seven-year-old finished all the lessons in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I’m really proud of him, and I can sense that he’s become more confident and has a different feeling toward learning how to read. Though sitting down to do his lessons is not his favorite thing to do, I think he’s excited to gradually be able to comprehend the written word.

Not much but a little…I have noticed him reading on his own without being asked to.  Once he sat down with me at my computer as I was writing my column, and he read a sentence that I had written!

So where do we go from here?

Well, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons has a list of books that they recommend starting with, and they offer a word list to go over with the child before they attempt read it. The first few books, I have discovered, are so easy that I’m skipping some of them, but I’ve ordered some of the others from the interlibrary loan system.

While we wait for those, I’m also using something else:

I inherited a Hooked On Phonics set from my aunt who is a retired elementary teacher. She had passed it on to her sister when she retired in case she wanted to use it with her grandchildren, and she never did, so that aunt asked me if I wanted it. Though I’ve heard some criticism of Hooked On Phonics, I never pass on something that is free, so I took it. It’s a huge set, and as soon as I laid my eyes on it, I thought it was too intimidating, and I probably wouldn’t use it. But my son walked into my room as I was looking through it. There are workbooks, tapes, etc. that I will probably never use. (But never say never!)  Then there are these single-page, folded workbooks with just a small piece of fiction or non-fiction on them and some comprehension questions. There must be a thousand of them, and they go from 1st grade level up to college level reading!

Though I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, I told my son I was probably going to give the set away. My son wanted to see it. (Maybe the fact that I said I was going to give it away made it more inviting?!) He wanted to see those single-page workbooks, and I said casually, “You wanna try to read these?” He tried reading the first one, and he read it just fine. He said after we finished 100 Lessons, he wouldn’t mind working on these. Who woulda thought?

So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re just going read these little passages (that get bigger as the level gets higher). Before he reads them, I have been typing up a list of words that I think may be hard for him, and we go over them.  Armed with those words, he’s been able to read the passages very well, and they make a short and sweet lesson.

At some point he may get bored with these, but I’m hoping by then, he’ll be well on his way into reading books of his own choice.

(I know my aunt is probably reading this, so THANK YOU FOR THE HOOKED ON PHONICS SET!)

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