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Grow a Reader this Summer!

20 Apr

Have you already started mapping out your summer plans?  If you have kids who haven’t learned to read yet, consider using this summer to teach them!  All you need is a few minutes every day and this fabulous book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. In approximately the duration of your child’s summer vacation, you can teach them one of life’s most valuable – and fun – skills!

When my son (now 6 ½) was 3 ½, I wanted to start teaching him how to read.  He knew most of his letter sounds, and he would sit still for any length of story I would read him.  It seemed like the right time to get going.

But where to start?  I didn’t know the first thing about how to approach it.

At the recommendation of some moms I know, I bought the book mentioned above.  It’s a very specific method of teaching reading to children.  (The book states that it’s designed for 4- or 5-year-olds, but can also be taught to bright 3 ½-year-olds.)  Its huge size seems a bit daunting at first, but the layout is very easy to follow.

Just do one lesson a day (or every other day, whatever your child can handle and your schedule allows).  Each lesson is presented with exact instructions, down to a teaching script so you know what to say with each task.

Every lesson includes writing practice, and the whole thing only takes about 10-20 minutes to complete.  By the time you reach lesson 50, your child will be reading an entire paragraph!  This amazing book completely takes the guesswork out of this process.

One thing you MUST do before you start teaching your child with this book: read the parent instructions.  It is imperative that you have an understanding of how the lessons work before you begin teaching, or you will stumble around and lose your child’s interest – which we all know is the kiss of death!

An added way to make the lessons fun (and to incorporate a bit of math, too) is to make a chart of squares numbered 1-100.  Each time your child finishes a lesson, they can put a sticker or a stamp in the square for the lesson they completed.  Once they’re done with all 100, they earn a prize.  Or you can give them a prize after every row of 10 – whatever works for you!

My son reads extremely well now.  He’s become a real lover of books, and can read anything we throw at him.  Knowing how to read has given him  independence and confidence to start him on a path to success in school, which is something that will serve him well for the rest of his life!

That's my boy!

I’m now using my well-worn copy of the book, with its many wrinkled pages and a taped-up cover, to instruct my 4 ½-year-old daughter.  She’s coming along great!

If you’ve never taught someone the skill of reading, you’re in for quite an experience.  It’s tedious, frustrating, and sometimes seems impossible, but the end result is an accomplishment that both you and your little one will cherish.  Summer vacation is a perfect time to do it!

Websites for Homeschoolers…or for Anyone!

12 Apr

I’m not sure if I’ve ever technically been considered a homeschooler, but I do know that even before my kids were born, I never intended for them to wait until they got to school to start learning.

Their entire short lives (they’re 4 and 6), I’ve stocked up on educational supplies, created lesson plans, and scoured the internet for craft ideas.  We’ve made countless trips to museums and zoos, attended story time, and sought out just about every educational opportunity at our disposal.  Long ago, I also turned our office into a “classroom”—so maybe I am a homeschooler at heart!

Part of our "classroom" at home

Now that my son is in kindergarten full-time, and my daughter is in preschool part-time, I don’t need to put so much thought into planning out educational activities for them.  But I don’t think I’m capable of leaving everything in the hands of their teachers – it’s just in my nature!  I like to be involved as much as possible, which also includes volunteering at their schools whenever I can.

So from time to time, I still hit my favorite homeschooling-type websites for ideas on lessons, activities, crafts, and other ideas for fun things to do with my kids.

Check these out – I guarantee you’ll be inspired!

www.notimeforflashcards.com – craft ideas, book suggestions, and songs from a homeschooling mom

www.confessionsofahomeschooler.blogspot.com – activities and downloads from a homeschooling mom

1plus1plus1equals1.blogspot.com – lesson plans from a homeschooling mom

belladia.typepad.com/crafty_crow – art activities for kids of all ages

www.artprojectsforkids.org – art activities for kids of all ages

www.preschoolexpress.com – activities and printouts for preschool kids

familyfun.go.com – crafts, activities, and recipes from Disney’s Family Fun magazine

sippycupcentralmom.blogspot.com – crafts and activities from a homeschooling mom

www.schoolbox.com – educational supplies

www.learningpage.com – lesson plans and worksheets for various ages

www.worksheetlab.com – free printable worksheets for preschool and Kindergarten children

I like to have as much of a role in my kids’ education as I can.  Much of the time, education comes in the simple form of fun.  My kids won’t be little forever, and I want to fill up our time with as many enriching activities as possible to create a lifetime love of learning!

Hitting the Books: Homework 101

6 Sep

To my great delight, my Kindergartner has homework this year!  So far, he has embraced the novelty of doing the teacher-assigned worksheets and projects during the evening, but I expect one of these days to hear him say, “Not now, Mommy. I want to play!”

When that inevitable reaction comes, I want to respond in a way that further motivates him and doesn’t, say, beat him down at the notion that, depending on his educational path and pursuits, he might just have homework for the next 20 years!

I found this piece from professional organizer and mother-of-four Mandi Ehman very helpful.  Check out these tips to keep your kids on task and on target this academic year.

1. Set up a homework area.

Have a dedicated space for homework time so that your kids can focus on their homework without being distracted by clutter or chaos.  For older kids and teens, this might be a corner of their bedroom with a desk and computer.  For younger kids, it may just be the kitchen table or a corner of the counter.

2. Gather all the supplies they might need.

Fill a basket with extra lined paper and pencils as well as a ruler and any other supplies they need on a regular basis, or use a drawer in your kitchen or coffee table to hold their supplies.  The key is that they won’t be able to use looking for supplies as an excuse to procrastinate!

3. Set up a daily routine for homework.

Kids like routines (even the routines they don’t like), and having a routine in place that includes an afternoon snack, a time to rest and then tackling homework is a great way to set the expectation for homework time so that there’s less arguing and whining.

4. Use natural consequences.

Rather than having to fight with your kids each day to get their homework completed, try using natural consequences to motivate them to do it quickly and without argument.  For example, they may miss out on playing with the other kids in the neighborhood or watching TV with the family if their homework isn’t done first.  It may take a few times to see that you’ll really follow through with the consequence, but it really puts it in their hands to get it done.

5. Use a daily planner.

Give older elementary students a daily planner where they can keep track of homework assignments and projects.  Show them how to use the planner for the homework that is due each night as well as long-term projects that they should be thinking about ahead of time.  Or help them enter these projects into your Cozi family calendar so you’re aware of them as well!

As parents, we still need to be involved with younger kids to make sure their homework is done on time and well, but giving them more responsibility over completing it will create good habits now that will help throughout their time in high school and college.

For more tips, check out Mandi’s website at http://life.yourway.net/about/.

Post-Stress Back-to-School Syndrome

23 Aug

You’d think I would be turning cartwheels right now.  For the first time in six years, I have two children in full-time school.  My 15-year-old daughter with autism started her sophomore year on Monday.  My Kindergartner son had his first day last week.  Both my offspring are out of my hands nearly eight hours a day.  And I like where they’re spending that time.  I worked to find good classrooms for them, devoting significant research and networking to the task.  I know my children are safe in the care of talented teachers.  Each is poised to thrive this year in their respective situations.  So why am I not singing for joy like a character on “Glee”?

Because I am suffering Post-Stress Back-to-School Syndrome!

All that work, planning, assembling of school supplies, purchasing of uniforms, reading of paperwork, discussing expectations, signing of forms…it all took a toll on my nervous system and psyche.  The goodbyes were no picnic either, though both kids seemed genuinely happy to head off on their respective educational adventures.

My task now is to do more than merely fill those hours.  I need to readjust my mindset so I can get as much out of their time at school as they do.

But first I hope to take one big, long breath.  I know I need to heal from this “break up” of sorts as my kids go their way—and I try to find mine.

Creating Kindergarten Memories – for Mom

28 Jul


ACK – my first child is about to start kindergarten!  I’m completely freaking out, of course.  But the good news is, he’s so excited he can hardly stand it.  He’s constantly asking me to remind him when the first day is – he can’t wait!

Besides the obvious question of what to do with myself (and my tears) on his first day of school, I’ve been brainstorming about what I can do to make the first day of kindergarten really memorable for him.  Can’t get a special outfit – his school wears uniforms.  Can’t go out for a special breakfast – his school starts really early.  I guess I can just take lots of pictures and tell him I’m so excited for him!  Hopefully just walking into his new school with me, his dad, and his sister will be memorable enough.

My aunt does this really cute – and simple – thing each year.  On the first day of school, she takes a picture of her kids standing on the front porch of their house right before they leave in the morning.  Every year it’s the same setting, same picture – but you get to see from year to year how the kids are growing.

I would also like to create a memory notebook for Kindergarten (and for every year at school).  I don’t really want to buy a pre-made one – I just like the idea of having a simple 3-ring notebook where I can store his artwork and any other special items from the school year.  A friend of mine’s son was at an amazing preschool last year.  The teachers created a notebook for each child, commemorating his or her year.  The notebooks contained pictures, drawings, questionnaires – they were adorable!  I’ve been thinking of a few things to put in my son’s notebook on the first day of school that might be interesting to look back on at the end of the year:

a hand tracing

a photo (of him, of his teacher)

favorite books, tv shows, movies

favorite color

friends’ names

3 things he wants to learn during the school year

height/weight

handwriting sample

Any other suggestions?  Yes, I realize that this is mostly about creating memories for ME.  But I can’t help it – my brain is getting slower and my kids are growing faster!

Kindergarten Readiness: Color Me Obsessed

26 Jul

Kindergarten starts in 23 days.  Not that I’m nervous—ha!  To assuage my anxiety, I’ve done a fair amount of reading on how best to prepare my 5-year-old son for full-time school.  Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, I stayed home with my mom until that fateful first day.  And then I only went mornings so I was home for lunch and naptime.  My teacher (the aptly named Mrs. Love) was more surrogate mother than demanding instructor.  It’s no wonder I loved school.

Fast forward to an era when Kindergartners log 35 hours a week in the classroom—and then have homework!  I knew I had a lot to learn about current expectations.

I came upon this tip sheet from National Kindergarten Preparedness, a resource site for parents and professionals.

Ten Steps Parents Need to Take to Prepare Preschoolers for Kindergarten Success

In order for children to be prepared for Kindergarten, children should be capable of the following skills:

Strong Communication Skills

Children need to be able to communicate their needs, verbally, in class and also follow the process in order to communicate, such as raising a hand and waiting to be called on.  Children will also have to share in small groups.

Ability to Listen

Children will need to be able to be quiet and listen to the teacher throughout most of the day.  If children have not learned to sit still and listen to directions, the child will have an adjustment period.

Follow Directions

From the time children are very young, they learn to follow basic directions, but once they reach their preschool years, they will need to be able to listen to several step directions and then follow the steps.  This is a skill that is easily practiced at home and during play.  Following directions will allow children to finish their work, learn the proper steps to doing an activity and how to order things.

Work with Peers

Most Kindergarten classes have time during the day when children will work in small groups or at stations.  As an example, there may be several reading groups in the class and small groups of children may work at the computer station or on a science activity together.  Kids will need to be able to take turns, speak to other children, and be patient.

Work Independently

Throughout the day, kids will need to work independently to get specific work done.  This will require children to listen, follow directions, and ask questions if they are not sure how to proceed.  They need to be able to write, practice tracing, cut/paste, or even use the computer on their own.

Fine-Motor Skills (pencil grip, cutting skills, picking up small items)

Children will begin using pencils in Kindergarten and will need to be able to cut with scissors, pick up small objects for counting, and begin writing every day in class.  The more practice a child has had cutting, holding a pencil, marker, or crayon, drawing, and picking up small objects, prior to beginning Kindergarten, the stronger his/her fine-motor skills will be for the increase in writing and fine-motor tasks they will be asked to do each day.

Basic counting

Although counting to 10 or 20 is not required to enter Kindergarten, knowing how to do some basic counting and manipulating of number objects will set a child up to begin the school year more prepared.  A child does not have to know a lot, but some very basic math concepts is a good starting place.

Basic Number and Letter Recognition

Children should be able to recognize all or most of their letters and numbers and write their name.  Those children that know their letters and numbers when they begin Kindergarten will be able to move onto reading much sooner than children that begin the year with no letter or number recognition.

Basic Life Skills (put on and take off jacket/backpack, zip jacket, put on gloves, hang up items)

Children who go to Kindergarten being able to put away and take on and off their jackets, hats, gloves, and backpacks will be more independent.  Also, if the majority of the class is able to do these basic things, the teacher will have to spend less time on getting kids started in the morning and ready to leave in the afternoon and be able to spend more time on valuable teaching opportunities.

Basic Computer Skills

Most classrooms have computers available for students to use.  Children are beginning to use computers even as toddlers, so children going to Kindergarten with basic mouse skills already have a beneficial skill that will set them up for school success.

For additional tips plus worksheets and more, visit www.NationalKindergartenReadiness.com.

Home School Book Fair at Arlington Convention Center

6 May

Friday, May 6, and Saturday, May 7, the Arlington Convention Center hosts a Home School Book Fair.  You can shop for books, sit in on one of the many featured speakers, or just chat with other homeschoolers for encouragement and inspiration.

Schedule:

8:00 am – Registration opens

8:30 am – Exhibit Hall opens

9:30 am – 11:45 am – Morning Workshops

11:45 am – 1:15 pm – Lunch Break

1:15 pm – 4:45 pm – Afternoon Workshops

5:30 pm – Exhibit Hall closes

Registration at the door is $20.  For more information, visit www.homeschoolbookfair.org.

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