Homeschooling Resources for Every Season of Learning

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Some of the questions I field most frequently involve inquiries about homeschooling and educational resources--the go-tos for the how-tos and what-ifs. Resources can be helpful as we all need boosts of encouragement and fresh ideas for the home education journey.  

When asked, I recommend the resources I've found most beneficial to us in the shifting seasons of our 25 years of homeschooling. Walking alongside a family, I try to offer recommendations which most closely address that family's unique questions and circumstances. Who has time to read through material which isn't applicable? We don't! We are a community of families with full days and many blessings.  

To that end, I compiled this blog of resources into categories. As you read through the list, you'll notice many of the selections incorporate multiple ages or facets of home education. Therefore, recommendations which are broad or could incorporate many seasons are listed in each potentially applicable stage. I hope you find this format beneficial. If you have additional questions, ask in the comments or connect with me via email. 

New to Homeschooling

Homeschooling for Excellence: How to Take Charge of Your Child's Education and Why You Absolutely Must, David and Micki Colfax (Warner, 1988) - one of the first books I read about the possibility and potential of homeschooling; helped me to see education outside the box

Home School Heroes: The Struggle and Triumph of Home Schooling in America, Christopher Klicka (B&H, 2006) historical account (with data) of homeschooling in America

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6; one of the resources I most recommend at evaluations when parents ask for this type of guidance

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace, Sarah Mackenzie (Classical Academic Press, 2015)

The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Daylight: Managing Your Days through the Homeschool Years, Heidi St. John (Real Life Press, 2012)

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

Most Likely to Succeed, Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith (Scribner, 2015) - philosophy of education and testing; opened my eyes to the myths I believed

Beyond Survival: A Guide to Abundant-Life Homeschooling, Diana Waring (Emerald Books, 1996) 

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; fits nicely in a diaper bag for quick reads; highly recommend

Preschool Homeschooling

Spiritual Parenting, Michelle Anthony (David C. Cook, 2010) - parenting with implications for home education; reading this book was confirmation of what Mike and I always believed about parenting and learning

The Three R's: Grades K-3, Ruth Beechick (Mott Media, 2006) - a definite TREASURE in our home

The Five Love Languages of Children, Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell (Moody, 1997) - love languages with parenting, learning, and teaching applications

Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home, Raymond and Dorothy Moore (Hewitt Research Foundation, 1981) - one of my all-time FAVORITES; read and reread many times over

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend 

Elementary Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell (Apologia Press, 2009)

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (2012, Jossey-Bass) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Teaching Children: A Curriculum Guide to What Children Need to Know at Each Level through Sixth Grade, Diane Lopez (Crossway, 1988) - my FAVORITE scope and sequence K-6

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted and dog-eared FAV of ours; highly recommend and often carry in our convention booth resources

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling, Durenda Wilson (CreateSpace, 2016) - one of my ALL TIME FAVS; highly recommend

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Middle School Homeschooling

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:Grades 4-8, Ruth Beechick (MDC Publishing, 1999)-one of my FAVORITE go-tos for how-tos in late elementary and middle school; empowering

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Sean Covey (Franklin Covey Co., 1988) - our teens appreciated this book, too 

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another highlighted FAV of ours; highly recommend

High School Homeschooling

Celebrate High School, Cheryl Bastian (Zoe Learning Essentials, 2015)

Now, Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton (Gallop, 2001)

And What about College? : How Homeschooling Leads to Admissions at the Best Colleges and Universities, Cafi Cohen (Holt Associates, 2000) one of the first workshops I attended about high school and one of the first resources I read

Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook: Preparing Your 12- to 18-Year-Old for a Smooth Transition, Cafi Cohen (Three Rivers Press, 2000) - another one of my first high school reads

Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenge of Becoming Authentic Adults, Tim Elmore (Jossey-Bass, 2012) - another one of FAVS; read and reread, dog-eared and highlighted

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Tony Wagner (Scribner, 2015) - another all-time FAV of ours; highly recommend

Learning Differences 

When the Brain Can't Hear: Unraveling the Mystery of Auditory Processing Disorder, Terri Bellis (Atria, 2003) - this resource became invaluable in my parent education

Different: The Story of An Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and Nathan Clarkson (Tyndale, 2016) - a comfort for parents of children with learning challenges

Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems, Jane M. Healy (Simon and Schuster, 2011)

Picture and Living Book Guides

Who Should We Then Read?, Jan Bloom (Jan Bloom, 2000) - volume 1 and 2 are two of my FAVORITE go-to's for Living Books; LOVE author and series information provided in this one-of-a-kind resource

Read for the Heart, Sarah Clarkson (Apologia Educational Ministries, 2009) - annotated and helpful for selecting just the right read

Honey for a Child's Heart, Gladys Hunt (Zondervan, 2002) - one of the first books I read about reading

Give Your Child the World, Jamie C. Martin (Zondervan, 2016) - listed by geographical location with helpful info about the content of each book

Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best in Children's Literature (Revised Edition), Elizabeth Wilson (Crossway, 2002)

Do you have a resource you recommend? Share in the comments so others can be encouraged!

 

What is a Picture Book?

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A picture book is a work which combines literary eloquence with artistic merit--words and illustrations--working together to tell a story. Generally, picture books are written with 200-800 words (depending on the age of the targeted audience) on 28-32 pages. Historically, picture books have been written to the preschool through mid-elementary audience, yet these masterfully crafted gems speak to the hearts of readers of all ages. 

Wordless picture books. A wordless picture book is just that, a book without words. The illustrations alone tell the story, unless, of course, the person holding the book chooses to imagine and craft the text. One of the Bastian's favorite wordless picture books is Jerry Pinkney's extraordinary The Lion and the Mouse, a retelling of Aesop's classic tale. This treasure won the 2010 Caldecott Medal for its illustrative excellence. 

If your younger readers enjoy visual storytelling or prefer to create their own storylines based on provided illustrations, these wordless picture books may add some spark to your morning read-aloud time. 

  • Briggs, Raymond, The Snowman
  • Spier, Peter, Noah's Ark
  • Spier, Peter, Rain

Concept picture books. Little learners devour information, especially if content is presented with a twist of fun or catchy repetitive phrases and rhythmic rhyme. With this engaging, low-stress presentation, picture books can teach age-appropriate concepts (colors, numbers, opposites, and letters) to eager, curious littles. 

Children ages 2-8 enjoy learning concepts through topics of interest, for example, cowboys, insects, or construction vehicles. Concept picture books make this possible and do so through relaxing moments with resources which foster both early learning and literacy.

  • Alakija, Polly, Counting Chickens

  • Carle, Eric, 10 Rubber Ducks

  • Demarest, Chris, The Cowboy ABC

  • Demarest, Chris, Firefighter A to Z

  • Emberley, Barbara, Drummer Hoff

  • Krull, Kathleen, M is for Music

  • Laroche, Giles, If You Lived Here: Houses of the World

  • McMillan, Bruce, Jelly Beans for Sale

  • Pallotta, Jerry, The Icky Bug Alphabet Book

  • Schnur, Steven, Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic

  • Wadsworth, Olive A., Over in the Meadow: A Counting Rhyme

Traditional picture books. I remember the librarian reading Blueberries for Sal as I sat imagining the smell of fresh muffins cooling in the kitchen. Through the unfolding plot of the the book, I could feel the fear Sal felt as she wandered off in the field and could no longer see her mom. Sal became my friend. I hoped she would find her mom, cheered her on as she met a mama bear. This is just one of the classics I associate with read-aloud time and school library visits. As a young mom, I couldn't wait to introduce my children to my literary pal, Sal.

Traditional picture books invite readers into the story, into the lives of the characters. While reading, listeners develop empathy and understanding of others' feelings and circumstances, almost without knowing the transformation is taking place. For this reason, picture books become a child's first experience with the power of story. Together as a family, we've jumped into the plots of Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens, and Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.

Should you be a time and life season where you are building your home library, here are some must-have picture books to brighten up your shelves. 

  • Ackerman, Karen, Song and Dance Man

  • Brett, Jan, Town Mouse and Country Mouse

  • Brown, Marcia, Stone Soup

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, Katy and the Big Snow

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

  • Burton, Virginia Lee, The Little House

  • Cooney, Barbara, Miss Rumphius

  • Estes, Eleanor, The Hundred Dresses

  • Galdone, Paul, The Gingerbread Boy

  • Gramatky, Hardie, Little Toot

  • Hoban, Russell and Lillian, Bread and Jam for Frances

  • Keats, Ezra Jack, The Snowy Day

  • Keats, Ezra Jack, Whistle for Willie

  • Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed

  • LaMarche, Jim, The Raft

  • McCloskey, Robert, Lentil

  • Newberry, Clare Turlay, Barkis

  • Swift, Hildegarde, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

  • Ward, Helen, Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop’s Fables

  • Ward, Lynd, The Biggest Bear

  • Yolan, Jane, Owl Moon

Biographical picture books. Our older picture book readers (which includes mom!) enjoy reading about real people who solve real problems. With biographical picture books, young readers don't have to wait until they can read chapter books to read about and meet some of the world's most significant history changers. Our favorites have included

  • Dooling, Michael, Young Thomas Edison

  • Moses, Will, Mary and Her Little Lamb

  • Martin, Jacqueline Briggs, Snowflake Bentley

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Every child ought to know the pleasure of words so well chosen that they awaken sensibility, great emotions, and understanding of truth.
— Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart, Zondervan, 2002, p. 18

What is a picture book?

A picture book invites readers into learning and into the stories of others, gently, peacefully, and purposefully. There will be pondering. There will be wonder. There will heart-changing impact, sometimes so subtly it will go unnoticed for a bit of time. 

Some of our most treasured family read-aloud moments and discussions have come from the pages we've turned together. With each book selected, read, placed on our shelves, and the read again, a legacy formed. That legacy is sweet, precious, unique to our family, as it will be yours. That story legacy is a gift, a gift which will continue to span generations. It is just one benefit of keeping learning real and relational. 

Every. Moment. Matters. 

I recently presented Picture Book Treasures at the 2018 FPEA Convention. If you would like more information on picture books and building a home library, the MP3 can be purchased in the FPEA store

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Beating Afternoon Boredom

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Who doesn't battle afternoon boredom?

Let's not take a show of hands. Rest assured, my hand would be raised. 

You know the story. Three o'clock. Children squabbling. A high schooler STILL needs help with Algebra. And dinner? It's frozen on the counter! 

Afternoons can be hard. Yet, after years of beating afternoon boredom, I know the efforts I made toward defeating "I'm bored" syndromes--in myself as well as my children--mattered. In fact, hobbies launched and rediscovered interests became catalysts for entrepreneurial pursuits, high school courses, and career choices.

Beating afternoon boredom is worth every ounce of time and energy we can muster. 

At a recent mom's event, a group of ladies gathered after to ask me how our family beats the afternoon wearies. 

Our strategies varied with life seasons. 

When we had two eager, active boys, we: 

  • spent many afternoons outside. 
  • visited local parks. 
  • had Popsicle and wading pool parties--adding measuring cups, a bucket, and garden hose to change things up--as long as the weather allowed.
  • ran around outside playing with squirt guns.
  • played in the lawn sprinkler. Notice the hose and water trend?
  • read a book together while sitting on a blanket outside or on the couch inside.
  • took an afternoon bath with bubbles and wrote with shaving cream on the walls (great for practicing letter formation).
  • took nature scavenger hunts. 
  • played hopscotch or jumped rope. 
  • created with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. 
  • painted the garage door with water and paint brushes. 
  • tossed bean bags. 
  • bought a basketball hoop and gathered children from the neighborhood to play. 
  • played wiffle ball in the dead end street.
  • created with watercolors.
  • encouraged outdoor adventures and independent studies. 
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When we had lots of littles with a few bigs who needed afternoon help, we:

  • sat on the floor in the hallway across from the bathroom so I could supervise littles in the tub while also helping an older sibling with math or editing papers.
  • spread a blanket under a shade tree for afternoon tutoring while the littles rode bikes around the driveway or played hide-n-seek. 
  • listened to audio books, our favorites being Jim Weiss recordings and Your Story Hour, again while mom worked with the bigs.
  • offered play dough, pattern blocks, old magazines to cut, or watercolor paints. 
  • enjoyed playing in the sandbox while mom and older siblings sat nearby and completed math or mom edited papers. 
  • used masking tape to create a "village roadway" on the carpet so littles could build houses and garages for their toy cars and play "village". 
  • made a masking tape hopscotch on the carpet for littles to be active when weather wouldn't permit us to be outside. 
  • asked bigs to go on a date and take learning to new surroundings. 
  • discussed the plot and characters of a current read while running errands or taking a sibling to practice. 
  • encouraged bigs to work on independent studies. 
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When we had a menagerie of ages, we: 

  • enjoyed front porch read-aloud time. 
  • created with Lite Brite.
  • went to visit great-grandma. 
  • sat together on the couch and read books of interest. Farm study was always a favorite. 
  • took a teen or young adult on a date to talk about things that mattered to them. 
  • used a coupon and bought five pounds of clay at a local craft store. 
  • spent time at a local park or community swimming pool. 
  • made brownies for the elderly neighbor and went to visit. 
  • built a fort outside. 
  • dug a hole in the backyard (not my favorite or my idea, but it was sibling generated and encouraged collaboration and working together). 
  • made impromptu afternoon library runs. 
  • created something yummy in the kitchen, often to "surprise" Dad when he returned from work. 
  • made cards for family member's birthdays.
  • enjoyed spin art. 
  • cared for our porch science projects
  • spent the afternoon creating with watercolor. 
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Go ahead! Beat the afternoon boredom. YOU can do it! It will be worth your time and effort. 

And, in the process, your children and young adults will learn valuable life skills: time management; collaboration; communication and conflict resolution; work ethic; teamwork; working independently; and caring about others ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

Ant Study

Our ants arrived!

It felt like Christmas complete with shouts of hooray and looks of wonder. 

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"Look at them move!"

"How will we get them out of the tube?"

"Let's read the directions!"

Questions. Comments. Ideas. 

Just a week before the ants arrived, we found the ant farm on clearance. Thrilled, the children marveled at the box as I I reminisced about the ant farm my older children experienced years prior. In fact, I had been praying I would find an ant habitat for study.  

Ant farms make learning come alive. 

In the process of getting the habitat set up and becoming acquainted with our new little friends, science intertwined with oral reading (reading the instructions and ant information), reading comprehension (following directions), math (setting a timer to measure duration and measuring water amount), as well as an experiential lesson in patience.


Put the ants in the refrigerator for ten minutes.

 

So much learning in a tiny vial of ants. 

Ants in the fridge, we watched as the timer counted down. When 10 appeared on the screen, we all instinctively began counting down.  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, , 3, 2, 1...

"ZERO! Get the ants!"

"Look at them! They are still."

"They must be sleeping. Time to take them out and put them in!"

Then I worked fast. (Hint: Ants wake up FAST! Be ready to move quickly.)

Once in their new home, the ants got to work. My children were enthralled. 

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The children sat, watching progress, for at least thirty minutes. As they observed, they asked questions. 

  • Is that ant dead or sleeping? 
  • What is that ant doing with the sand?
  • Why are they piling the sand at the top? 
  • Why do they crawl over one another? 
  • I wonder what they will do while we are sleeping? 
  • Did that ant die already?
  • Do we have a queen? 
  • What does a queen look like? 

Our ant study was just beginning! 


Extended ant learning study for all ages

Read a good book. Experiences help children understand written material and fuel further learning. If a child becomes interested in a topic, place books related to the interest in the home: on end tables, night stands, or book shelves. If a study pops up spontaneously, plan a visit to the library and help the learner find the section containing books about the interest. Some of the ant books we read:

   Fiction

  • One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor J. Pinczes
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper, Amy Lowry Poole

   Non-fiction

  • Are You an Ant, Judy Allen
  • Ant Cities, Arthur Dorros
  • The Life and Times of the Ant, Charles Micucci

Observe ants in their natural habitat. Take learning outdoors. Look for ants. Spend time watching their activities. Take pictures and make your own ant study book or journal. 

Make a sketch. Sketching integrates another learning modality into the experience. In an ant study, learners can go outside and observe real ants, sketching what they see. This will likely lead to wanting to know more about ant anatomy and environments. Add your sketch to your ant study journal. 

Learn and label body parts. Watching the ants made my children curious about the ant's body. From their questions, we researched and learned ant anatomy, drawing and labeling each major part (head, thorax, abdomen) as well as the more specific parts (mandible, antennae, compound eye, legs). Enchanted Learning offers a diagram of the anatomy and ant information.Life Studies site has a page devoted to ant study. Another great addition to an ant study journal. 

Study the lifecycle. Every living creature has a lifecycle. Ants are no different. In fact, one of my children asked if there were eggs in the vial. Enchanted Learning helped us here, too. 

Take a closer look. Magnifying glasses are great tools for looking at live ants. However, the Magiscope is a great way to take an even closer look. Do so with a few dead ants. Otherwise, you may get stung or they may crawl away from the stage. 

Have an older learner, perhaps middle and high schooler? Research myrmecology and entomology. How are these branches of science related? Who are the leading scientists in these areas and what contributions did they make to the field? How did their works impact science and the general population? If opportunities are available--perhaps through a local pest control service, zoo, or college campus--consider interviewing a myrmecologist or entomologist. We discovered how one scientist is studying ants and bees

Helpful sites

Arizona State University School of Life Science, Ask a Biologist page. 

Harvard Forest

Life Studies

We bought our ants through Life Studies

Ready to learn about ants? The process can be one of the most rewarding and remembered events of childhood learning. If you decide to introduce learners to this amazing creature, tell us about your experiences, or leave helpful resources your found, in the comments. 

 

 

 

 

Beans in a Baggie

Thirty years ago, several amazing, veteran, early childhood educators mentored me--a new teacher. I was ecstatic as they shared their tried and true lessons. One I remember vividly is growing a beans in baggies. Little learners ran to the window every day to see if their beans had sprouted. When they did, there was celebration. 

Since that time, I have recreated this activity with all of my children, each time teaching to their unique interests, their unique bent. One time I placed all the materials on the table and allowed the child to figure out the experiment. Another time I quickly drew picture instructions on scrap paper. Yet another time we read a non-fiction book about planting seeds. Each time we've done it a bit different. No matter the learning style or the prefered modality of input, every learner has loved observing his or her first sprouts in a bag. It's wonder! It's discovery! It's learning!

Every. Moment. Matters. 

These are the results of our most recent bean-in-a-bag experiment. 

Gather sandwich-sized zipper baggies, one per child. Write the child's name on the baggie with a permanent marker. 

Look for lima beans in the pantry. Purchase limas if necessary. 

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Fold the paper towel in quarters and place in the baggie. Place five beans inside the baggie and on the paper towel. Using a spray bottle, add ten squirts. Zip the baggie.

Tape to a sunny window. 

Carefully observe the bean several times a day. Baby sprouts are fragile. Ask questions.

  • What is happening?
  • How are the beans changing?
  • Do all the beans look the same? What is different?
  • What do you think the beans will look like tomorrow? 
  • What will happen to the sprout? 

Fostering the Excitement

Where there's interest, learning follows.

Enthusiasm breeds learning. Enthusiasm increases retention. If excitement has been building as a result of anticipating what might happen to the beans or if the beans have sprouted and shouts of joy rise to the roof tops, consider next steps to further learning. 

Consider:

  • Drawing observations in a blank book. 
  • Measuring--very carefully--the sprout with a ruler or tape measure (a personal favorite). 
  • Planting other seeds in starter trays, window boxes, or backyard gardens
  • Learning the parts of a bean
  • Researching what plants need to grow
  • Reading a few good books

What happens when experiments don't go as anticipated? 

Happens all the time. Failed experiments are a part of science. When things go awry, new opportunities present themselves. There are new problems, new questions, and potential solutions. These moments are equally important to our children as they learn collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Seize these learning moments. They matter. 

So, on Day 3--as soon as we woke--we checked our beans. MOLD! Ugh! I was disappointed. My learners were discouraged. What would we do? 

Brainstorm. Find an solution. 

We asked questions. Researched. Visited the local garden shop. 

The solution? Peat pods. 

We started over with new materials. The results were amazing. And, our discovery was so exciting we knew we needed to share the learning fun.

We decided to offer a planting station in our booth at FPEA. It was a huge success!

A failed experiment led to a solution and a new idea which benefited others.

That's learning at its best!

Make YOUR Own Math Books = Learning

My little learner decided she wanted to make her own books.

Math books! 

We'd been choosing and reading math literature from our home library shelves, borrowing others from the local library. Math was intriguing. Math was fun. She wanted to make her own books and apply her creative bent to master concepts. 

Thankfully, we had blank books on hand. 

My little learner chose a book from our stash, one which would match the fall leaf table toppers I found while grocery shopping. 

Once the leaves were sorted, we made piles of ten. 

On a piece of paper, I wrote numerals 1-10 alongside corresponding number words. From the sample, my little learner copied the numerals and corresponding words, giving each number a page in her book. By the time she was done copying, she felt very confident in her ability to form the numerals and count objects into sets. The more her book took form, the happier and more excited she became.

"I'm writing a book!" 

She wanted to write the number words. I wrote the words on a piece of paper and she copied them into her book. The final step was to count out leaves to correspond with the numbers on each page. 

I showed her how to set her book--open like a fan--on the kitchen table so the glue could dry. This prevented pages from sticking together. 

In the end, my little learner had not only written her first math book--she was quite proud of her accomplishment--she had also learned to match number words with a set of objects and mastered one-to-one correspondence--all foundational math concepts.


Shopping for Christmas wrapping paper, I discovered stocking table toppers. I immediately thought of my eager book-making learner and added them to the conveyor in the check-out line. 

Arriving home I told her there was a surprise in the  bag for her. 

She was thrilled.

Once again she chose a blank book from our collection and started to work. 

Before long, she added another counting book to her collection. 

She was ready for addition--adding two small sets to make one big set. 

As the weather cooled, I found foam snowflakes online. I knew they could be the makings of her next book, Adding Snowflakes. I pulled one of our favorite reads, Snowflake Bentley, from our home library shelf and sat side-by-side on the couch, engaged in the unfolding plot. 

When we finished reading, she sorted the foam snowflakes by size, shape, and color--three attributes--another foundational math skill. This was a perfect start to making sets!

Once the snowflakes were sorted, I asked her to make sets of two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight. 

I explained the concept of addition--the combining of two sets to make a larger set and wrote some addition facts on the two-page spreads of her blank book. She read the numbers and glued the set required on each page. When gluing was complete, my little learner added the two sets and wrote the sum on the bottom right-hand corner of the two-page spread. 

Book complete--now three in total--my little learner had the makings of a math library!


The next concept, addition with three addends--three sets. 

With Valentine's just around the corner, I knew what we would do--add three sets of hearts. 

Again, she chose the blank book--red stripes this time--sorted hearts by size and color, counted sets, and started adding. For this book she wrote the equations vertically. I explained that equations could be written horizontally or vertically without changing the answer. She was intrigued by the tidbit of knowledge. I wrote an equation both horizontally and vertically on a piece of paper and proved the concept by adding foam hearts. Indeed, the answer was the same.

In the end, she completed the book and added it to her collection! 

Perhaps we will tackle subtraction next season?

I love that we were able to work side-by-side on these projects and that she was engaged and eager. She enjoyed math and wanted to learn more.  

Time well spent.

Indeed, intentional, real, and relational. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interests Fuel Life-Long Learning

Dogs.

It's everything dogs for our littlest learner. 

She's curious about what dogs eat (getting eye level--but not too close--to watch ours furry friend eat). She's curious about how why they pant, how they feel to touch. She wants to know everything about every dog she sees, large or small.

Sitting in the dentist office last week, waiting for big sister to finish her appointment, I found a treasure--an attention grabbing-just-what-we-needed-at-that-moment treasure. 

A book featuring photographs of dogs. 

I handed it to our youngest. I knew it would keep her attention. 

It was a "mom hung the moon" moment.

She looked at me. Her eyes seemed to say, "Thank you for caring about my interest!"

The excitement on her face. The eagerness in her learning. The pure joy!

As she paged through the book, I engaged with her about the pictures on each page. She'd look at me and smile. With every smile, I thought about two workshops I have been writing for an upcoming speaking engagement; one workshop for parents of elementary learners and one workshop for parents of middle schoolers.

Relationships and curiosity fuel learning.

Like adults, children need relationships. Couple that with natural curiosity--questioning anything and everything--and there is a recipe for building a love for life-long learning. 

How do we keep a person's natural curiosity aflame for life?

Ask questions. When the art of questioning is modeled, it is readily available for learning.

I am not natural questioner. I like to teach; to tell. As a consequence, the parenting years hit me hard. The more I told and commanded, the more frustrated my children became. And, I noticed they stopped asking questions and waited to be told to do things--waiting to do school work and chores until they were told. Stepping back from the situation (and asking for Mike's input) I realized my children had valuable ideas, valid questions. They needed a mom who listen and then ask questions; a who would practice the art of questioning. At that point, I decided to be intentional about asking more questions and encouraging my children to to the same. I asked questions like:

  • I wonder how that works?
  • I wonder why the hermit crab needed a new shell?
  • I wonder what will happen if we add more soap?

I had to work hard at replacing my teaching/telling bent (saving it for where that bent was really needed) with an intentionality to listen and engage my children in thoughtful questioning. Though it took a bit of time to turn the cart around, I began to hear my children returning to their natural bent of asking questions. Definitely worth my effort.

Find answers. With questioning comes the need to find answers.

If I was going to be intent on encouraging critical thinking skills and the art questioning, I would also have to purposeful in helping my children find answers. And, as the children grew we had to have conversations about where to find accurate information; to ponder whether an author had the knowledge and experience to speak to a topic. 

We began to build a home library of reference and resource materials--field guides, a Magiscope, a heavy-duty magnifying glass, kitchen scales, history books, classic literature. In some cases, we found apps to be the best resource, for example Sky View and Sky Map. We talked to our children about the importance of primary source documents and role played how to carry on conversations with people--should they want to ask questions of someone. In addition, as our children entered middle and high school, we discussed volunteering and job shadowing. These opportunities encouraged our young adults to answer their questions about career interests by talking to professionals in the field.

Be observant. Interests are not always obvious.

Some interests are obvious, like my daughter's curiosity with dogs. Others are a bit more hidden, sometimes even unknown to the beholder! To discover the interests of some of my children, I had to watch, listen, and be open to how they spent their time (versus controlling every minute of their day).  In my watching and listening, I began to ask myself questions. 

  • Was my child wanting to take things apart and put them back together?
  • Was a particular career intriguing to my child?
  • When we were at a church event or field trip who did my child gravitate toward certain people--children or adult?
  • What did my child do to fill extra time in the day?
  • Did my child have an ability to put together colors, lines and shapes or craft inspirational poetry?

My littlest learner is not yet old enough to verbalize her questions, yet her curiosity is evident in her facial expressions and gestures, through her hand clapping and dancing. Her reaction--her joy in learning--invites us to ask her questions, interact with her excitement, and fuel her curiosity by providing resources (like finding her dog books at the library). In doing so, her siblings, Mike and I are learning to help her dig deeper into her interest. As a result, our curiosity about how she learns is fostered. It is a cycle of interest-fueling learning. 

 

And it is a beautiful life-learning cycle. 

It's intentional, real, and relational. 

 

 

 

Most Popular Posts of 2016

2016 is marked as significant.

Why? Because every moment of our days mattered--the triumphs and the trials. We lived and learned together being intentional about using what was real and relational--from cradle to shingle--toddler to adult. Thank you for walking that journey alongside us! We are grateful for you, our readers! 

As a recap of our year together, I compiled our top 15 posts of 2016. ENJOY! 

 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by Real-Life for High School Credit: Care and Concerns for the Elderly.


Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by "Let Me Do It!" Helping Little Learners Become Independent


5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Legacy: Learning Alongside


The Possibilities of Elective Credits - Part II

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work.

If the information in this post was helpful, you might want to continue on and read Part III.


32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational 

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

If you are being intentional about keeping learning real and relational, you might also be encouraged by the practical life lessons (and history!) in this post-- Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life


8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Rainy days are natural wonders which intrique little learners. If rain is falling at your house and you are waiting for a safe pause in weather, try this indoor art activity--Torn Paper Rainbows


Grades...In High School

"How do I give grades in high school?"

If designing a transcript is your next step, this post may be helpful--Transcript Matters


Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

If you have middle school learners and are wondering how you can help them manage time, organize belongings, and pursue interests, this post--Magnificent, Make-A-Difference Middle School--might be helpful. 


Preschooling, Intentionally

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

If you are seeking ways to help your little learners do what they can, 3 Things They Can DO on Their Own, might be helpful. 


Living Books and Independent Studies

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

Science--especially animal science--is particularly interesting to little learners. If you have little learners with a zest for all things living, check out the book list in Vintage Science Readers for the WIN! 


Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse into Part of Our Day

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

Looking for a way to learn math outdoors, in nature, where children crave? Check out Math Adventures!


Using Living Books in High School for Credit

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Interested in earning credit for writing college essays? This post--High School Made Simple: College Essays for Credit--might offer some insight. 


SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

Keeping early learning active and fun!

Picture books can encourage learning. Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills lists some of our favorite math picture books. 


Intentional Cursive Handwriting

Oh yes, there is good reason to teach cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.

Interested in hands-on, real-life, spelling activities? This post--What About Spelling?--has lots of practical ideas. 


Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

If this post made you curious about interest-based learning, The Benefits of Interests: Motivating Learners, may answer a few more questions. 

Want to know more about how your days can be intentional, real, and relational? Click below to sign up for the Celebrate Simple Newsletter. 

Our FAVORITE Farm Picture Books

This year marks more than 30 years of working with little learners; 27 of those years watching our little learners grow and learn daily in our home (yes, we still have some little learners!). 

I watch the wonder in their eyes and listen to the curiosity in their questions.

Along the way, I've come to understand that young children have innate interests--many of them! One of those interests is animals; all animals, big and small. Couple a young child's natural curiosities with inviting picture books and non-fiction reads and you have the makings of a learning frenzy!


I am sure you have watched your children--or those you work with--choose books off a shelf. First one, then another.


Reflecting on my years of watching children gather farm books--a combination of treasures they've found in the local library and our home collection--here are the books chosen most often. 

Fiction

  • Big Red Hen, Keith Baker
  • The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown
  • Rooster's Off to See the World, Eric Carle
  • The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle
  • The Very Busy Spider, Eric Carle
  • Growing Vegetable Soup, Lois Ehlert
  • Market Day: A Story Told with Folk Art, Lois Ehlert
  • The Little Red Hen, Paul Galdone
  • Barn Dance, Pat Hutchins
  • The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss
  • Barn Dance, Bill Martin, Jr.
  • The Turnip, Pierr Morgan
  • The Little Red Hen, Jerry Pinkney
  • Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens
  • The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza, Philemon Sturges
  • Winter on the Farm (Little House Picture Book), Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

Non-Fiction

  • Milk: From Cow to Carton, Aliki
  • From Grass to Milk, Stacy Taus-Bolstad  
  • Food from Farms, Nancy Dickman
  • Jobs on a Farm, Nancy Dickman
  • Cows: Watch Them Grow, Lauren Diemer
  • Chickens Aren't the Only Ones, Ruth Keller
  • Chicks and Chickens, Gail Gibbons
  • Farming, Gail Gibbons
  • From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons
  • Horses, Gail Gibbons
  • Milk Makers, Gail Gibbons
  • Pigs, Gail Gibbons
  • Chickens, Julie Lungren
  • From Kernel to Corn, Robin Nelson
  • One Bean, Anne Rockwell
  • Chicken, David M. Schwartz
  • Plant Stems and Roots, David M. Schwartz
  • Where Do Chicks Come From?, Amy E. Sklansky

Do you have multiple children at multiple ages, preschool through elementary? We do, too!

One of our favorite family read-aloud treasures is the timeless classic Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Pop some popcorn or serve some hot chocolate and enjoy listening together as Mom or Dad reads. 

Reading aloud is intentional, real, and relational. It matters!

Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years. If learning is rushed--pushed--it becomes burdensome, hard, uninteresting, and often irrelevant. When learning flows naturally from that which is real and relational--interesting and personal--there is joy and wonder which leads to unending curiosity.

A love of learning is nurtured and begins with the items and people little learners love most.

How is a love of learning fostered, nurtured, and cultivated?

Read aloud. Reading aloud has been one of the most rewarding activities we've done in our 27 years of teaching and parenting littles. There are so many benefits to reading aloud: setting a template for the English language, building vocabulary, bolstering listening skills, understanding parts of a story, retelling events, the list goes on. Interestingly, there have been times when our little learners are seemingly off in their own world--playing, stacking blocks, coloring. However, when we talk about the stories hours later, they remember EVERY word. So, as you embark on the read aloud journey, read even when you think your learners are not engaged. Your reading matters! They are listening. 

Play pretend. Preschoolers learn by imagining and doing, by role playing and creating dialogue in relaxed and uninterrupted environments. Pretend play utilizes the senses and engages the mind, building language and thinking skills. Even as young as eighteen months old, little learners can be found feeding baby dolls, talking on pretend telephones, and mixing marvelous meals in a play kitchen. What's needed? Props! Some of our favorite pretend play items have been:

  • measuring cups and spoons
  • calculators, adding machines, and toy cash registers
  • dress up clothes and hats, backpacks and purses
  • fabric pieces or old costumes
  • magnifying glasses and binoculars
  • rulers, tape measures, protractors, and shape stencils
  • aprons,chef hats, pretend food, and dishes
  • stuffed animals and dolls
  • receipt books, stickers, and play money
  • old telephones, computer keyboards, and monitors
  • puppets and make-shift card table theaters 

Enjoy games. Playing games allows children to learn important life skills, naturally, in a relaxed (assuming there is not an over competitive) environment. While playing, littles learn turn taking, deferment to another person, waiting for others to make decisions or complete a turn, as well as a multitude of cognitive skills. Our favorite preschool learning games include:

  • BINGO (number recognition 1-75)
  • Matching cards (similarities and differences)
  • Dominoes (matching similarities, quantity recognition 1-6, counting 1-6)
  • Scrabble Junior (letter recognition, introductory phonics, initial consonant sounds)
  • Uncle Wiggly (number recognition 1-100, counting)
  • Guess Who?
  • Hi-Ho Cherry-O (early counting, addition and subtraction concepts)
  • Barrel of Monkeys (GREAT for motor skills!)
  • Busy Bee (an oldie but goodie introduced to us by great-grandma)
  • Rivers, Roads, and Rails (another oldie by goodie)
  • Hopscotch (great for motor skills)
  • Simon Says (listening and following directions)
  • Checkers (thinking skills)

Do life together. One of the things I love about parenting preschoolers is watching their faces light up, indoors and outdoors, around the home and away from home. Every moment is a marvel, especially when preschoolers are engaged in doing life with those they love. Getting the mail might lead to a conversation about stamps, addresses, states, or modes of transportation. Setting the table teaches one-to-one correspondence. Folding laundry offers opportunities to make fractional parts by folding in half and in half again. Matching shoes and sorting toys provides real-life situations for identifying similarities and differences. And, there are those kitchen experiences, some of our favorites: measuring, comparing, weighing (math skills) as well as muscle skills, scrubbing potatoes, stirring, and kneading together. Doing life together allows preschoolers to learn alongside

Talk and listen. Preschoolers are relational. They want to engage in face-to-face conversation and hand-in-hand exploration. When we talk to our children, listen to their questions, concerns, and ideas, we model interpersonal skills and they learn how to process information, feelings, and emotions.These skills are some of the most valuable nuggets our little learners will internalize in their early years. 

Ask questions. It is no secret that little learners are natural questioners. They wonder what will happen next, how things happen, and when things will happen. It is in this inquisitiveness that they learn how life and people work, interact, and interrelate. Questioning is one of the most important life skills parents can foster and nurture. Mike and I foster inquisitiveness with commentaries and questions which invite our children to do the same. 

  • I wonder how the (insert animal) stays warm.
  • What comes next in the sequence?  
  • I wonder if (insert item) will work better with this or that.
  • Do you think will happen next?
  • I wonder where that trail leads.
  • Let's watch the (insert animal). I wonder what it will do next. 
  • How long do you think it will take to ...?

Looking for a guide, a resource to encourage you through the preschooling years? One of my favorite resources for understanding the needs of little learners was Home Grown Kids by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Once our children entered first grade The Three R's by Ruth Beechick became a go-to resource. 

The preschool years are the wonder years, full of life and discovery, ripe with curiosity.

When learning flows naturally from that which is real and relational--interesting and personal--retention follows closely behind. 

 

 

 

Preschooling, Intentionally

Life is learning. Learning and life go hand-in-hand, everyday!

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

Math

  • Identify colors
  • Understand and demonstrate one-to-one correspondence
  • Make sets of 1 to 5 objects
  • Identify sets of 1 to 5 objects
  • Associate a number with a set of objects
  • Recognize numerals 1 to 10
  • Recognize and draw simple shapes--circle, square, rectangle, and triangle
  • Count to 20 orally
  • Recognize similarities and differences in objects (Comparison is a foundational pre-number skill.)
  • Recognize and identify coins (This is an easy one. I haven't met a little learner who isn't interested in how much money is in his or her piggy bank. Capitalize on this interest by sorting, counting, and identifying.)
  • Identify tools of measure (Tools of measure include thermometers, speedometers, scales, Knowing the purpose of each is important to later math skills.)

Language

  • Recite the alphabet (Why not sing the alphabet song while jumping up and down.)
  • Recognize letters
  • Recognize similarities and difference in letter formation
  • Recognize similarities and differences in sounds
  • Speak in complex sentences
  • Hold a book and track from left to right (One of the best natural ways to learn this skill is by modeling others, doing as they do. As you read aloud, trace a finger under the words, working from left to right, top to bottom.) 
  • Retell a story (This is a foundational skill for reading comprehension and vital for auditory processing.)
  • Follow a two-step direction
  • Hold a pencil with correct grip
  • Write lower and upper case letters (There are so many ways to learn letter formation. Some of our favorites are writing in shaving cream on a bathroom wall while taking a bath, finger painting on easel paper, forming letters in a salt tray, and writing with a stick in the mud. 
  • Spell first name
  • Recognize cause and effect (Offering explanations if every day cause and effect will help your little learner do the same. If we leave the door open, kitty will run out. If we put all the cold groceries together they will help each other stay cold until we get home.)

Science

  • Recite phone number and address (This is a safety life skill. While learning this information we explain to our children why they may need it: emergency, calling 911.)
  • Name basic colors
  • Identify living and non-living
  • Identify parts of a plant: roots, stem, leaf, flower, pedal
  • Make simple predictions
  • Develop observation skills
  • Form questions and find solutions

Social Sciences

  • Order daily activities
  • Locate home state on a United States map
  • State the significance of and the similarities and differences between people who work in the community: police, firefighters, librarians, grocers, etc.
  • Learn left, right, straight, and diagonal (When entering your neighborhood, speak the directions as you drive. For example, we turn right at the stop sign. We will turn left at the corner, and so on. Once you have repeated these directions several times going in and out of the community, ask your child to tell you how to get home using left and right.)
  • Identify basic geographical formations: river, mountain, cliff, ocean, and continent

Physical

  • Draw a person with a recognizable body
  • Use utensils properly
  • Catch a ball
  • Kick a ball
  • Run
  • Gallop
  • Skip
  • Use a scissors (Providing a cutting box, old magazines, or newspaper ads for cutting along lines and curves.)
  • Identify body parts. (Play Simon Says. Simon says touch your nose. Simon says touch your elbow.)
  • Walk a balance beam (Okay, so most of us don't have balance beams in our homes. However, there are curbs and lines to walk. See a line, seize the moment and walk, carefully as a tight rope walker does.)
  • Dress and undress
  • Personal responsibility (Taking care of oneself and the areas in which he or she works and plays. Tidy up the toy room. Use a tooth brushing chart to encourage consistent care.)

In the early years, our homes provide a place--a haven--where our children can gain a foundation for future cognitive, physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual health.

 

Preschooling- Relationally

People were made for relationship. Each of us, no matter the age, has the basic need for relationship--for other people who will care, listen, walk alongside. 

Children are no different.

Relationships are essential to a young child's development and academic success. 

The family provides the venue for this vitally important relational element to life and learning.

Learning together. Children learn best when learning alongside people who care greatest for them. Learning together might include reading a book snuggled on the couch or retelling a story and talking about the character's choices. Learning together can be writing letter or sending an email thank you to a family member or friend. Learning may also be writing numbers in fresh mud after a rain shower, marveling at minnows as they swim around a pond's edge, or listening to baby robins chirp for mama bird. Skills learned together are remembered. 

Work together. Children want to be a contributing part of a community. For small children, this begins in the family, working together to accomplish a task--perhaps emptying a dishwasher or making cookies for a sick friend. Working together sends the message, "We can do this together!" When working together in a family unit children come to understand that members--gifted differently--can contribute to a greater cause. In the family unit, children can be invited to join in, to solve problems together, and help a unified cause. Working together might mean raking leaves, pulling weeds, painting a fence, or planting a garden. Often working together also offers opportunity to build life skills and develop muscle strength. For example, wringing out sponges while washing the car not only results in a sparkly clean car, but builds muscle and motor skills. Children feel empowerment when they can contribute. The family is a perfect environment for contribution. 

Play together. Playing together offers natural opportunities to share, to defer to another person, to take turns. Playing with another person, especially one who can model sharing, turn-taking, and deference, invites children to move toward associative and cooperative play. For example, building play dough sculptures together allows for discussion and collaboration--co-laboring to create something new. Bouncing a ball back and forth develops motor skills but also provides opportunity to take turns and share. Some of our favorite play together times include swinging while singing a fun song, working puzzles, and playing board games. 

Eat together. Meal time is gathering time, time to talk about the events of the day, to verbalize the goodness in the moments of the day, together. What were the favorite moments? Which moments were the least favorite? Eating together not only provides for face-to-face conversation but also provides real situations for practicing table manners and deference toward other people.

Worship together. Worshiping together grows spiritual bonds. Singing together also allows children to experiment with their voices--highs, lows, louds and softs--or follow a tune and experiment with musical instruments--real or homemade (nothing like pots and pans). 


As I reflect on the the early years of our now adult children, I smile. Those days we spent reading aloud, observing the life cycles of butterflies, emptying the dishwasher, building block towers, preparing fraction sandwiches, and serving at church....MATTERED! Those moments of intentional interaction while living and learning together built--block by block--the foundation for the relationship my adult children and I enjoy today.  

A strong relational foundation prepares a child for life.

Dear Mom Who Worshipped in the Lobby

Dear Mom Who Worshiped in the Lobby This Week,

After spending many Sundays worshipping in lobbies with littles, you would think I could have a better attitude.

Well, today I forgot my years of wisdom and experience--the very things I would have told my younger momself when she came face-to-face with this morning. 

It all started with an escaping toddler who walked over three worshipers in our pew to get to the aisle. She had an escape plan, determined. 

I wasn't in the mood.

However, I followed my daugher because honestly, she had already disturbed three people and I didn't want to disrupt worship for anyone else. We scurried to the back sanctuary door as fast as her little feet could carry her. We eventually made it to the lobby.

I should clarify. 

I know where the nursery is located. 

However, for reasons which would make another blog post, toddler number eight spends Sunday morning with me. 

When we arrived in the lobby my daughter made a direct path to the checker game on the coffee table. At first she and I sorted checkers--light and dark colors. She smiled as she sorted and then placed each checker, one-by-one, in the provided draw string bag. I interacted with her while keeping an ear tuned to the worship audio feed. 

Ten minutes into our worship experience, my daughter calmly sorting, dumping, and stacking, I decided to step over to the coffee kiosk just arms length away. I selected a cup and filled it, leaving a half-inch for cream. All of a sudden, while moving my cup closer to the cream carton, I saw checkers flying through the air! Everywhere. In my haste to see where the checkers where landing, I tipped my cup and coffee flooded the coffee station. AND, at that very moment, with checkers still landing, my daughter decided to follow (read, run!) a small friend who had captured her attention. 

I retrieved my daughter and cleaned up the coffee. Together, she and I played checker hide-and-seek, looking in the nooks and crannys near the coffee table. As we searched, I counted checkers thinking surely I would have to make a quick trip to the local Target to buy another checkers set for the church. 

That's when my attitude slipped. 


"Why did I even come to church? I could've stayed home and cleaned my house!"


When calm returned to the situation, I thought about my mom friends--YOU--who spend Sunday mornings in church lobbies. If you are like me, you don't particularly like worshipping apart from your husband and family, yet for reasons likely unknown to others and unique to your family, you worship in the lobby.

Reflecting on my past experiences with lobby sitting and countless conversations with moms I've met while worshiping in the lobby, I pondered what I would tell my younger momself had I had an opportunity. I would tell Cheryl:

YOU are doing a great work. Mothering matters, but it may also be hard, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. You will turn bright shades of red when checkers fly and coffee spills. However, the time you spend mothering--every moment--will be worth the effort. Cheryl, your mothering matters not only today for your children but it also makes deposits for your future grandchildren. None of your mothering moments will be wasted, not even worshiping moments in church lobbies. 

The season is short. Cheryl, though life seems to stand still when your are in the middle of trial--when seams in socks cause tempers to flare and all the sippy cups are hiding somewhere in your house--you will someday be on the other side. Your children will be adults and you will have a different perspective. In fact Cheryl, that biter you are nurturing in the lobby today--the one you can't even fathom putting in the nursery--will indeed grow into an amazing, caring young adult who will love people well. Caring for people will be that adult child's life work! Someday you will reminisce on your seasons of lobby worship and realize those were special times, times which really did pass by quickly. 

Enjoy the one-on-one time. Cheryl, your toddlers will only climb in your lap for so long. Embrace the moments. Snuggle while listening to the sermon or read a board book. Those face-to-face moments--those heart moments--are precious. Don't wish them away!

Be prepared. Preparation will save your sanity. I know there will be mornings which will not go as planned. However, be intentional about preparing for times--including Sunday worship--when you may have to entertain a little unexpectedly. Consider filling the diaper bag the night before. Cheryl, some of the things I found helpful when I sat in the lobby were small snacks (quiet snacks, not crumbly), board books, a coloring book and crayons, and an educational card game. One of my children's favorites was Busy Bee, an old card game my grandmother gave us. 

Encourage another person. Cheryl, you are not alone! In fact, there might even be moms in the lobby with you. When there are, respect the moms who don't want to engage in conversation--they may be listening to the sermon--but also be open to engage and connect. There may be a mom sitting next to you sporting a coffee stained shirt and whose toddler has just tossed checkers around the lobby. That mom might need an encouraging smile, a warm hug, or a comforting complement. Camaraderie is important. 


Dear mom who worshipped in the lobby this week, YOU are not alone and your mothering moments matter. I was right there with you, yes in a different church, but I experienced the same thoughts and feelings.

One day you will be able to worship again with your family. In fact, someday when the young adult years are upon you, you may look down the pew filled with the friends your once-little-lobby-worshiper has invited to church.Three weeks ago, I had that experience.

My lobby moments mattered. YOURS will, too!

 

 

 

Vintage Science Readers for the WIN!

There is something to be said about tried and true. That's one reason our family enjoys older books.

This week we rediscovered Follett Beginning Science Books. 

Three learners, Kindergarten to middle school, have been glued to content as I read aloud Frogs and Toads by Charles A. Schoenknecht. During our time together, I heard "I never knew that." and "That's so interesting!" more times than I can count. YAY!

In fact, I am still learning. I didn't know that frogs pull in their eyes to help swallow caught insects--which they ingest WHOLE! Fascinating!

There's more I love about this series--at least the ones we have managed to find. Large font, simple text packed with content, invited my budding reader to give independent reading a try. I mean-- interesting content, large font, hardcover--she was excited!  

"It's a real book and I want to read it!"

She is motivated to become a more fluent reader and will learn science in the process.

That's a WIN!

I will add, these gems are difficult to find--published by Follett Publishing Company in the 1960s--but well worth the hunt. In fact, we have more coming this week! And, my learners can't wait.

In case you've been intrigued to find one to find out if your learners will be enjoy this series, here is a list to help your quest. Consider starting with a title of interest. For example, my learners are more interested in the animal titles, hence our beginning point. 

  • Air by Edna Mitchell Preston      
  • Animals without Backbones by Robert E. Pfadt   
  • Ants by Charles A. Schoenknecht            
  • Beavers by F. Dorothy Wood     
  • Birds by Isabel B. Wasson             
  • Birds That Hunt by Willard Luce
  • Butterflies by Jeanne S. Brouillette          
  • Climate by Julian May   
  • Comets and Meteors by Isaac Asimov           
  • Deer by John Feilen       
  • Electricity by Edward Victor        
  • Friction by Edward Victor             
  • Frogs and Toads by Charles A. Schoenknecht     
  • Galaxies by Isaac Asimov             
  • Grasshoppers by Robert E. Pfadt              
  • Heat by Edward Victor  
  • Hummingbirds by Betty John     
  • Insects by Jeanne S. Brouillette
  • Light by Isaac Asimov    
  • Machines by Edward Victor        
  • Magnets by Edward Victor          
  • Mammals by Esther K. Meeks   
  • Molecules and Atoms by Edward Victor
  • The Moon by Isaac Asimov         
  • Moths by Jeanne S. Brouillette  
  • Plants with Seeds by F. Dorothy Wood  
  • Robins by Edwin A. Mason           
  • Rocks and Minerals by Lou Page
  • Snakes by Esther K. Meeks         
  • Soil by Richard Cromer  
  • The Solar System by Isaac Asimov           
  • Sound by Charles D. Neal            
  • Space by Marian Tellander          
  • Spiders by Ramona Stewart Dupre          
  • Squirrels by John Feilen               
  • The Sun by Isaac Asimov              
  • Trees by George Sullivan             
  • Tropical Fish by Loren P. Woods               
  • Weather by Julian May
  • Whales by Val Gendron               
  • Your Wonderful Brain by Mary Jane Keene  

Reading and science? Yes, please. And that's a WIN! WIN! 

8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

Rain poured.

Five years ago. One solid week of on and off rain. Our learners caught cabin fever. Petty arguments found themselves frequent visitors to play and learning time. My children and I needed outside time, desperately. When thunder and lightening pushed away, I announced it was time to find the raincoats.

Out we went!

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Catch. Look in the puddle when the water is still. Do you see insects? Do you see any tadpoles? If there are tadpoles, try to catch some in a container. Once home, place in a larger container or fish bowl and observe over the next week or ten days. What happens to the tadpoles?  Draw pictures of each change. This is an amazing first lesson about life cycles. 

Jump. Who doesn't love to jump in puddles? Puddle jumping allows little learners to learn about the properties of water. If the weather is particularly rainy or cold, a raincoat will help keep little learner warm during his or her discoveries. Experiment with stomping. How does the force of stomping effect water displacement?  These experiences build physical skills while placing important files in the brain for later science learning. 

Listen. Listen to the rain drops hit the water. Listen to the rain patter on the house roof. How does the sound of rain change? Once inside, make a rain stick. Find a paper roll. Cover one end with wax paper. Measure (another great skill for littles) 1/4 cup of rice. Pour into the tube. Cover the other end to keep rice contained. Decorate. Shake. Try to replicated the sound of rain. While making music, chant Rain, Rain, Go Away or sing The Eensy Weensy Spider. Differentiating sound, replicating sound, and moving to music are important to auditory and physical development. 

Measure. Take measuring cups and spoons out to the puddle. Experiment with measuring. How many 1/2 cups can be poured into 1 cup? How many tablespoons can fit in a 1/4 cup? If you have a balance scale, compare the weight of 1 cup of water to 1 cup of mud. Compare 1 cup of wet leaves to 1 cup of broken sticks. Measuring and comparing are important math skills for little learners. 

Sink and Float. Collect objects. One by one, choose an object and guess whether the object will sink or float. If the object sinks, place it on one pile. If it floats, place it on another. This is a great activity for children to experiment with making predictions.

Write. Use a stick to write numbers, letters, or words in soft mud surrounding the puddle. For littlest learners, begin with writing the first letter of the child's first name. From the first letter, move to the whole name. 

Count objects. Are there object floating on the puddle's surface? Are there objects around the puddle? Count objects. Are there more objects in the puddle or on the edge? 

Evaporate. After rain, puddles disappear. However, evaporation happens at different rates. Be sure to go back outside to check on the puddles. Are they still there? How are they different each time you return.

Read. Once inside, place wet clothes in the laundry and redress in dry. Choose a few rainy read-alouds while sipping on hot chocolate. 

Some of our favorite rainy reads have been: 

  • From Tadpole to Frog, Wendy Pfeffer (one of three books available in the Math Adventures Math and Science Combo Kit)
  • Frogs, Gail Gibbons
  • Why Frogs are Wet, Judy Hawes
  • Ducks Don't Get Wet, Augusta Goldin
  • Peter Spier's Rain, Peter Spiers
  • Weather Words and What They Mean, Gail Gibbons
  • Down Comes the Rain, Franklyn M. Branley and James Graham Hale
  • Clouds, Ann Rockwell
  • Feel the Winds, Arthur Dorros
  • Flash, Crash, Rumble, Roll, Franklyn M. Branley
  • Weather Forecasting, Gail Gibbons
  • Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, Arthur Dorros

As long as it is safe to go outside, rainy, puddle-filled days can provide memorable learning moments.

It's intentional, real, and relational. And, it matters!

Want to learn more? This Psychology Today article offers further explanation about what really happens when little learners play in the rain. Fascinating!

Tried-and-True Homemade Play Dough

Tried-and-true for over thirty years!

Play dough. Hands-on creative fun with the ability to build motor skills. It is a staple in many homes and schools.

 

As a high school student employed as a teacher’s assistant, I was introduced to an amazing homemade version of a timeless childhood treasure.

Play dough.

Part of my role as the assistant was to make sure the play dough was fresh, every day. Sometimes that meant making a new batch of pliable goodness. Over thirty years later (and counting) I am still using the same recipe with my littles.

Gather

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar (cream of tartar acts as a preservative)

2 cups cold water

Food coloring

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon OR a few drops of essential oil

Wooden cutting board or clear counter space

Air tight plastic bag or container

Make

1. In a medium saucepan, mix together the flour, salt, vegetable oil, cream of tartar, and water. Stir well. Add 5 to 6 drops of food coloring and 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon or essential oil. 

2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the dough is the consistency of mashed potatoes; about 5 minutes.

3. Spoon onto wooden cutting board or wax paper covered counter top.

4. Knead until smooth.

5. Store play dough in an airtight plastic zipper bag or container up to 6 months.

Knead, roll and pat to build fine motor skills.

Play dough is not just for molding and making. 

Consider

  • Make a long rope and form into letters. Begin with the first letter of the child's first name (this is important to them). 
  • Make a long rope and form into numbers.
  • Make a long rope. Ask the child to cut the rope into specified number of equal parts. This can be used to introduce and reinforce the concept of fractional parts. 
  • Make a long rope. Ask the child to divide the rope so that each person in the room receives an equal number of pieces. This reinforces the concept of division. 
  • Cut circles from the play dough. Cut the circles into equal parts, fractional pieces. 

Perhaps this recipe will be a new favorite in your home.