Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Bright Ideas (Page 2 of 3)

Newest Carnival of Homeschooling Is Up!

Thanks to Christine at Our Curious Home for hosting this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling and including us!

There are so many good articles in this week’s edition, and these are some of our favorites so far…

Montessori Print shop has some good tips on getting started with Montessori at home. We are a far cry from full-blown Montessori style learning around our house, but it’s nice to have a little area set up for the kids to come and do self-directed activities they enjoy.

Robin at Crack The Egg has a great idea on creating and using a robot book. This idea can be used for whatever subject your child is interested in. For us, that would be a flower book. Two of them.

And finally, some advice on dealing with people who are hostile to the idea of homeschooling from The Common Room. Bottom line–everybody has to do the best for their particular families based on their particular situation. In the end, you may not be able to help them see why it’s the best decision for your family, but it may help  you understand why they react the way they do.

Starting a Co-op – Finding Others

Thinking of starting your own homeschool co-op? Not sure how to find other people to participate? Not sure how to outline expectations? Here’s where we started…

We were really excited about the idea of homeschool co-ops long before Ana ever started one. But there were a couple of things we weren’t really sure about, like when we should do it and how to find other people who were interested. It had always been in the back of our minds, but was always one of those things we thought we’d get to sooner or later. We really started talking seriously about it when other moms in Pea’s loose-knit play group started asking about where/when she’d be attending pre-school. Our answer was always, “we’re homeschooling”, and since we sort of believe that education starts at birth, she was already “in” school as far as we were concerned.

We were discussing it one night, and Ana mentioned jumping right in and starting up a co-op for preschoolers. Why not? The beauty of a preschool co-op would be that even parents who planned on sending their kids to a traditional school later on but were currently staying home with them may want to participate. We also thought it would be a good time for us personally to shift Pea’s educational experience a little by exposing her to different teachers and other students. Playing the part of mommy and teacher at the same time didn’t always work out as planned for Ana.

Ana jumped online and went to our local MomsLikeMe site and wrote up a quick post, just to gauge interest, and the response was great. Actually, the response was a little overwhelming. There were a lot more people interested than we’d anticipated. We figured the ideal class size would be 6 or 7 kids, but there were way more initial responses.

A meet and greet was set up so that the moms and kids could get to know each other a little. This was one of the most important steps of organizing the co-op. Of course, not every family who responded showed up for the meeting. Not a problem–if you aren’t interested enough to come to the first meeting, you probably aren’t that interested long-term. The meetup also provided a chance to lay out all the things that would be involved in a co-op. Supplies and curricula cost money, so there would obviously be a financial commitment. More importantly, there needed to be a commitment to being heavily involved with teaching classes and providing care for younger siblings while their moms were instructing.

Most of all, there needed to be a real commitment to participate every day to help the kids establish a steady group dynamic in their school. Sure, kids get sick and scheduling conflicts come up, that’s understandable. But the kids needed the stable group and each mom’s unique creativity and perspective.

[imagebrowser id=2]

I wouldn’t go so far as to say anyone was scared off, but if anyone expected this to be just another playgroup or a chance for moms to get together and gossip while the kids played with letter blocks, their eyes were opened to a very different idea. The group of moms that decided to continue on with the project was fully committed, and the results have been great. The kids are now getting a variety of classes taught by different moms, and they are having a blast with it.

I’d say the commitment of the families involved, and that especially means the MOMS, is the single most important factor in the co-op’s success so far. If you are thinking of starting a co-op, don’t feel bad about being selective and laying out firm expectations from the very beginning.

Top Posts People Check Out Here

We were on a pretty long hiatus from posting here due to some big life changes like moving (twice) and having another baby, plus the general posting inertia that seemed to accompany those. But that hasn’t stopped people from visiting the site, thankfully. So here’s a list of the top 5 “old” posts people have been looking at for the last couple of months. I’m limiting this to lesson ideas and general info articles…

Reading’s Fab Five – an introduction to the basic elements of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension).

Who Let the Letters Out Song – a fun song to sing with your kids to help them associate letters and sounds.

Stump The Teacher – “trick” your young reader into reading a book for depth and detail in order to ask you questions you can’t answer about the book. This game really encourages them to read for comprehension.

Rhyming Down The Alphabet – I’m glad this one is popular, because our 3 year old loves this game. You give them a word, and they create words that rhyme with it as they move down the alphabet. This one seems to be great for a child who really (and I mean REALLY) likes to talk (and talk).

Exit This Way – another one that’s great for more advanced readers.  This activity encourages your child’s comprehension by having them come up with an alternate ending for a book or story.

Activities With “Mouse’s First Snow”

We read “Mouse’s First Snow” yesterday in our co-op as an element of our winter theme, and afterwards we did a couple of activities that tied in with the book.

In the book, Mouse goes outside to play in the snow with his dad and follows his lead as the father does all kinds of outdoor winter activities. We don’t exactly have a winter here in Central Florida, so we had to be a little creative.

First, we let all of the kids have a turn “being” a snow mouse by wrapping them in tissue paper and adding a hat and scarf.

Next the kids built their own snow mice out of marshmallows, raisins, pretzels, and peanut butter. Perfect segue into snack time, where they got to eat their project!

Sometimes you have to use your imagination a little to find ways to tie activities into a book, but the kids don’t mind. They have very active imaginations themselves, and the activities are great for tactile learners and to help them make connections between books and life.

December Giveaway – LeapFrog Fridge Words

If your pre-schooler is like ours, they love to be with you while you’re cooking. And if you’re like us, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen over the holidays. LeapFrog’s Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder can help! This educational toy makes your time in the kitchen more hassle-free, especially if you put it on the side of the fridge or the dishwasher, which allows you to actually open the door without interrupting play. Even if you are just starting on word groups, you can seed the toy with the word ending for your child (“_at”, “_an”, etc.) and show your child how changing the first letter can make a brand new word.

We’re giving away one of these toys in December. All you have to do to be eligible to win is become our fan on Facebook. Really, that’s it! And if you don’t have a pre-schooler, don’t worry. This makes an awesome gift for Christmas or birthdays!

We’ll be selecting a winner at midnight on December 15, which should give us plenty of time to contact the winner and have the prize delivered before Christmas. It also gives you plenty of time to spread the word!

Modeling Instead of Correcting

Yesterday I was listening to Pea ramble on and on about princesses and all of things that being a princess entails. She was using some of her own Spanglish words in her descriptions,  and I was reminded of something I heard a couple of years ago on an airplane.  The man in the row behind me was traveling with two small kids.  Based on the conversation I could overhear, these kids were obviously very sharp.  One of the kids mentioned that someone had “shutted” the door.  The dad was quick to correct him–“It’s ‘shut’, not ‘shutted’.”

This dad’s heart was in the right place.  He obviously wanted his children to speak correctly, and that’s a good thing. But his method was a little off.  The better response would have been, “Yes, he ‘shut’ the door.”  See the difference?  The second method is called modeling,  where the correct past tense of the word “shut” is demonstrated for the child instead of making a correction of what the child said.

In this case, the kid was actually a lot smarter than the dad realized.  The child is becoming fluent in the English language and has realized that the usual way to make a word past tense is to add the -ed suffix to it.  He incorrectly applied this approach to the word “shut”, but that’s ok.  He just demonstrated that he has a firm grasp on one of the rules of our language.  Modeling the exception for him is a way to positively reinforce one of the many complicated exceptions to the rule without pointing out his error.

Modeling is a strategy commonly used with students who are learning a second language to correct them without making them self-conscious and accidentally discouraging them from continuing to practice.  It only makes sense to do the same thing to help encourage fluency in a small child who is learning his or her first language.

Our Co-op For Preschoolers In Action!

Ana isn’t going to toot her own horn about this here, so I’m going to step in and toot it for her. A few months ago, she posted on a local website asking if there were any other moms in our area who would be interested in starting up a home preschool co-op for a small group of kids. The response was great, and before they knew it they were having a meetup so the kids and moms could all get acquainted.

The results have been so much better than we could have hoped for! I can’t speak for any of the other families/kids, but we’ve seen a huge acceleration in Pea’s learning since she started going to a “real school” with other kids who have different talents and abilities. The biggest benefit has been the different skill sets and creative ideas the other moms have brought to the group. Of course, Ana is teaching reading, but other moms are in charge of math, writing, science, cooking, calendar time, art, etc. Every session has a lead teacher and a helper which allows the moms who aren’t teaching to help take care of the smaller siblings.

The school meets Monday and Tuesday mornings for instruction, and Fridays are for field trips and play time. It has been an incredible supplement to the things we work on every day at home, and the introduction of other kids and teachers have had an impact on Pea’s behavior and interest in learning from other people.

I’m so thankful for Ana and the rest of the moms in the group for their huge efforts and contributions to our children’s educations!!!

Questions Help Your Young Child Develop Comprehension Skills

There is a big difference between being able to read individual words and being able to comprehend what you read, and this is one of the common issues older readers struggle with. One of the best ways to prevent issues with comprehension is to help your young child develop comprehension skills by asking questions while you’re reading to them.

Relax…we’re not talking about grilling them about plot development or character motivation. After all, “Very Hungry Caterpillar” doesn’t exactly have subplot or a source of conflict. But there are questions you can ask your child as you read it that will encourage them to think about what what the words mean on another level. For example:

  • “The caterpillar in the story likes strawberries. Do you like strawberries?”
  • “Do you think a pickle and a cupcake would taste good if you ate them at the same time?”
  • “Did the caterpillar eat more on Tuesday or Thursday?”
  • “Would it be fun to wrap yourself in a blanket like a caterpillar in a cocoon?”
  • “Why do you think the caterpillar was so hungry?”

Obviously, these are very simple questions–mostly yes/no, and mostly subjective. But they help your child relate to the characters (or animals) in the books you are reading and make connections between the story and their own lives. Try to keep it fun and silly, and if your child needs help with questions that have right and wrong answers give them a little nudge. For instance, if they answer that the caterpillar ate more on Tuesday than Thursday, or if they aren’t sure, help them out by giving them a strategy to find the right answer: “Let’s count and find out!”

Cutting Back on Screen Time

From today’s Tennessean, Dr. Frank Boehm calls for replacing t.v. time with book time:

If we began to encourage our children to replace screen time with reading books, they would be more able to counter ignorance in themselves and others by being able to enter conversa­tions with real facts rather than sound bites from television programs and the Internet.

I won’t pretend our kids don’t watch any television. They do. But we’ve found it easier to limit their tube time by getting rid of cable and only using a Roku player to stream Netflix. This allows us to limit what they see to very specific programs and zero commercials. An added benefit of using only a streaming player is that when a show ends, it’s over. There aren’t any “Coming up next…” announcements. Pea usually gets up and turns the television off when her show ends, saying, “We don’t watch t.v. all day.”

It’s been good for us (the parents) as well. We watch considerably less television now. Gone are the days of flipping through channels looking for something to watch. The only time the television is on at our house is when we sit down to watch a specific movie or an episode or two of a television program we’re streaming after the kids’ bed time. If you thought DVD was the best way to watch a series, you should try streaming it!

Again, no commercials, and we spend a lot more time reading and talking than we do staring at a screen.

We’re also saving a ton of money. For the cost of one month of cable we were able to buy the streamer to connect to the television, and Netflix is less than $10 per month. Cutting cable completely may not work for every family, especially if you like to watch sports live, but we love it!

Image Credit

Weaving Literacy Into Learning Numbers

Here’s a fun way to help your child expand their vocabulary when you aren’t even “working” on reading.

Chick Pea is working on a weekly art project that is geared towards helping her learn the numbers that are multiples of ten. Each week, she gets to glue the appropriate number of objects onto the numbers, counting them out (with Ana’s help when needed). There’s also a corresponding sentence that accompanies each number that describes what’s going on in the picture. These will later be put into a book that she can look through on her own for review.

She loves to do art projects, and it’s really helping her get a concrete idea of amounts of objects. That alone makes this a great activity. But while I was admiring her work last night, Ana pointed out something very interesting about the project that I hadn’t picked up on. Can you see it?

Notice that the words “speedy”  and “fierce” are used to describe the animals in the project. This is important because Chick Pea doesn’t know what these words mean–at least she didn’t before. She knows what “fast” and “angry” mean. Those are words she can naturally understand because they are used so often. And even though she may not make sentences with the new words on a daily basis, just being exposed to them is helping to expand her vocabulary.

Another activity Ana has planned once an entire book is finished is to point out to her that all of the sentences start the same: “I am as…”. Notice how those small words are one line by themselves. This can be used to help her expand her bank of sight words and also introduce the concept of similes.

Word Group Hunt

Chick Pea loves to play hide and seek, so we made up a fun game to help her with her word groups. Right now we’re working with the “-at” words (cat, hat, mat, rat, etc.). The game is pretty easy–make up cards with the words on them and put them in various places around the house. Next, we go to “base” and look at a group of pictures that represent the various words. For each picture, we send her off “hunting” for the word that goes with the picture.

The words don’t really need to be hidden. In fact, it’s probably better if they can see the several different words as they are looking for a single word, just to become familiar with the differences. It’s also a memory exercise since they can spot words they aren’t looking find them quickly when the appropriate picture shows up.

If you have a group of kids, you can make it a contest–send them all out hunting and see who can find a word first. It’s a great game for outdoors as well!

Animal Letter Crafts

Chick Pea has really been enjoying a weekly craft day that allows us to work on letters and sounds. It’s a great way to not only teach kids the letters and their sounds, but also give them a chance to work on their fine motor skills by placing the animal parts onto the paper. She’s also very proud of the them, and loves to look at them displayed on the wall.

So far, we’ve made it through “I for Iguana”, and the quality seems to be improving every week. The excitement builds up every week because she now knows which letter is coming next and which animal she’s going to be constructing.

Here’s a list of animals you can use, but feel free to come up with your own creative ways to go through the letters with different animals or a different set of objects altogether. TIP–spend 10 or 15 minutes after bed time the night before you plan on doing the craft to prepare everything, cut out the shapes you’ll be using, etc.

  • Alligator
  • Bee
  • Caterpillar
  • Dog/Dragon
  • Elephant
  • Flamingo
  • Giraffe/Gorilla
  • Horse
  • Iguana
  • Jaguar
  • Kangaroo
  • Llama
  • Monkey
  • Nautilus/nest
  • Octopus
  • Penguin
  • Quetzal
  • Rabbit
  • Snake
  • Tiger
  • Unicorn/Umbrella Fish
  • Vampire Bat
  • Walrus
  • Fox
  • Yak
  • Zebra

More Tips For Advanced Readers

Thanks to one of our readers for seeking advice for this great problem. Great problem, you ask? Yup…it’s a great problem to have a child that is an advanced reader! Here’s our reader’s question posted as a comment on our last post about advanced readers:

I have a second grade daughter reading at a 4-5 grade level. She devours chapter books at a rate of 1-2 per day. She is tested on these books and her comprehension is incredible. She’ll read 4 books, test on them and not confuse story lines or content. I am in awe. The problem is I want to challenge her-but many books in her level are not age appropriate. What can you suggest-titles or activities?

A child who loves to read so much that she/he devours books at record speeds is a wonderful thing indeed! Yet it can be quite challenging for parents to keep up! How far ahead should I let them read? Should I keep some books off limits? How do I keep him/her engaged and interested without exposing them to innapropriate content? The questions go on and on.

As I started to write a response with suggestions on things you can do as a parent, I remembered an article I read a while back that did a great job addressing this issue. So instead of reinventing the wheel, I strongly encourage you to check this article out because it has great ideas on choosing books for your advanced reader along with some suggested titles.

Along with Bochan’s great ideas, I’ll add my own suggestions for some series titles:

Series:

  • Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time trilogy is one of my favorites!
  • American Girl History Mysteries series are written by different authors and explore American histories from a fictionalized young girl’s perspective. While not necessarily humerous, they are mysteries which are a bit more complex in language than the Magic Tree House books.
  • Backyard Wonders series by Nancy MacCoon is great for kids curious about animals and natural history.
  • Five Ancestors books by Jeff Stone (Crane, Snake, Tiger, Monkey, and Dragon). It’s the same story set in China, told from 5 different character’s points of view. The author even has a cool site that shares history, activities, and news that relate to the books.
  • The Misadventures of Inspector Moustachio by Wayne Madsen. I havent’ read this one yet , but it is highly recommended for avid readers. Here’s B&N’s synopsis: A riveting tale that is full of adventure, suspense and humor. This book will hold particular appeal to children ages 8 to 12 who want something more engaging and compelling than what typical chapter books offer their age group. Already being endorsed by educational professionals, The Case Of Stolen Time will become a classic favorite of children and educators alike!

In addition to choosing great titles, you may also want to consider doing some pre, during, and post reading activities with your child to extend their experiences with the books they love. I’m currently working on more lengthy articles to share specific ideas with you, so stayed tuned!

Eat Up These Literature Tins!

Looking for a great idea to do with your kids to tie in some of the literature you’ve been reading? Well then you have to head over to Sycamore Stirrings for one of the most innovative ideas I’ve seen in a while! She shows you how to tie in food and treats with the books you read in a really fun and cute way…and your kids can help!

Here’s a preview:

You can see more examples here.

Katy has ready made tins for many popular books and she also hosts contests for her readers with different themes. Be sure to check this out!

Reading Kits Help Comprehension

Reading Kits are something really cool and easy that you can make for your kids. Even if your kids are good readers, these kits can really enhance your literacy instruction while making it lots of fun for your child! They can be used to boost vocabulary instruction, make note of clues during reading, help kids visualize things, and much more!

Reading Kits can include:

  • highlighters and highlighting tape
  • sticky notes
  • bookmarks
  • color markers
  • pens and pencils
  • index cards

Here are some quick ideas on how to use the reading kits:

  • Color Coded Highlighters can be used  by your child to highlight  words they don’t know or interesting passages that he/she likes. You can use a different color to go through and highlight vocab words you want your child to focus on, interesting characters, or sections of a chapter book that you’d like to discuss later. You can also do this with colored sticky notes if you don’t want to write in the book.
  • Sticky Notes can be used by your child to write questions or thoughts about what they are reading. These can be used for discussion later. You can use them to write down your own questions or pointers that you want your child to think about while they read certain sections of a book – just write them ahead of time and place them on the pages throughout the book.
  • Index Cards have lots of uses! Have your child write short sentences, phrases, or even pictures on the cards to summarize a paragraph or page. You can assign sections of a book for your child to write retells or reactions to something in the story (an event, character analyzation, a prediction, etc.).
  • Time Lines can also be made using index cards and sticky notes. Have your child make a time line of the events in a story/book (either with words or pictures or both). This really helps them with the comprehension skill of sequencing!

Reading Kits are really easy to put together, yet they can really make a difference in the way your child understands a book or text. Plus, they love to have their little “tools” while reading their book!

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2022 Scott Adcox

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑