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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!

Superhero 5K and Family Fun Run

5 Apr

Check out my guest blog over at www.northtexaskids.com!

Click here for my story about the upcoming Superhero 5K and Family Fun Run benefitting Dallas CASA.

-Jennifer

Melt a Rainbow

15 Sep

I saw this really cool painting/art thing on pinterest.com the other day, and decided to give it a try.  It looked easy enough – a bunch of crayons glued to the top of a canvas (in rainbow order) and then melted so the colors are running down in a big drippy mess.  I had to try it!  I showed my kids a picture of it, and they were really excited to try it, too.

A friend of mine (who also happens to be a kindergarten teacher) made one of these on an old chalkboard, using an embossing gun for the heat.  It turned out great!  But as I had neither an old chalkboard nor an embossing gun (what is that, anyway??), I had to improvise.

It's already beautiful!

I bought a large piece of black foam board at Target and a 64-count box of Crayola crayons.  The kids helped me line all the crayons up in rainbow order the best we could.  (Initially, we took out all the browns and grays, but ended up adding them in at the end of the rainbow, to fill in the board a little better.)  The only color I didn’t use was black, since it wouldn’t show up on the black foam board.

Once all the crayons were laid out, I cut off the extra bit of board at the end, so the width of the board was exactly the same as the crayons.  Once my kids went to bed, I got out my hot-glue gun and got going.  I glued all 63 of those little suckers on there, and of course I faced them all neatly where the “Crayola” label was showing.

Ready for the sun

As I mentioned, I don’t have an embossing gun.  A hairdryer might have worked, but I decided to use something even more readily at my disposal – the blistering sun!  After a cool snap last week (the temperature got all the way down to the 90s, wow), our highs in North Texas have gone back up over 100 degrees.  Today was projected to hit 107!  So all I did was lean that board up against my fence – on top of an old sheet so it wouldn’t get the grass all yucky – and wait.

Getting drippy

It didn’t take long at all.  After about half an hour, the blues and purples had started dripping.  My son was with me, and we both felt like we were catching a rare glimpse of something magical!  Another hour or so later, and it was definitely done – maybe a little too done.  I think I probably should have brought it in sooner.  The crayon wrappers were mostly empty shells, and the hot glue on one of them even melted and it fell off the board!  (Like I said, it’s HOT here.)

After round one in the sun

But even if it’s not “perfect,” it’s really cool.  A beautiful, melted rainbow, that my kids and I made for about six bucks.  And now we have a beautiful piece of art that we can hang in the house!

And the most amazing part, according to my son, is that the white crayon didn’t melt at all.  Not a drip.  I tried to explain to him about light colors reflecting heat and dark colors absorbing it, but his 5-year-old eyes sort of glazed over.  But even if he didn’t understand it, he still thought it was cool.

After another round in the sun - blobby but really cool!

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