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.
An elderly grandmother needing care.
An unexpected hospital stay.
A medical emergency.
There have been seasons in our homeschooling journey when we had to take education on the road, away from the house.
Often, those seasons weren't optional or even anticipated like the field trips we eagerly scheduled to local children's museums or park days with friends. And, generally those seasons were unexpected, not planned.
During one such season, great-grandma had multiple doctor's appointments. Learning looked different. Instead of reviewing math at the kitchen table, we answered word problems in the car or waiting in the doctor's office. And, of course there were life skills like holding the door while Grams pushed her walker through the entrance.
In those seasons, we schooled out of a canvas tote bag packed intentionally for unexpected moments when learning happened away from home. Included in the bag were
- review worksheets
- a family read-aloud
- plain white drawing paper
- colored pencils, and
- educational games
When we weren't on the road, the tote bag remained by the front door, ready to grab should we have to leave quickly. As children mastered concepts, finished independent reads, or bored of games, I replenished the contents.
There was also a season--years later--when Grammy was nearing the end of her life. Those four months were the most spontaneous of my twenty-three year homeschooling journey. In a moment's notice, we had to be ready to relocate and educate en-route or on-site. There were days when we were gone all day, spending hours in places where we had to be quiet and occupied. Though I re-instated the tote bag routine, often what was packed wasn't sufficient or appropriate for the situation. And, there were times we needed diversion, a change, something to divert attention if even for a few minutes.
During that season in our journey, we:
- Counted. For our littlest learners, counting always helped to pass time whether driving or waiting. We would count by ones, twos, fives, tens, and hundreds, depending on the skill level of the learner. I kept scrap paper and handwriting paper in my purse so that if we were in a place where we could write, we would practice forming numbers or writing numbers in sequence. To vary the game, I would say a number and the learner would say the number before and after the given number.
- Practiced oral math facts. With multiple ability children riding in the van, I gave the youngest learner an easy addition problem, the next learner a harder addition fact, and the oldest elementary learner a multiplication problem or oral word problem.
In doing so, each learner was able to work at whatever level he or she needed to. The oral review was good for everyone!
- Played "Starts With". This game was one of those which we could start or stop at any time. For the youngest learners, I would say a letter and ask for each child to say a word which started with the given letter. For example, I would say "F" and she would say "fish". For older learners, I would give a consonant blend (br, sl, sk, ch, bl, st, cr, etc.) or change the request, perhaps asking for a word that ended with a given consonant or consonant blend.
- Spelled most frequently misspelled words. I kept a list of words--varied levels because though a word on a list is placed in one grade, it may be placed in another grade on another list--in my tote bag to pull out when needed. To practice, I asked each learner to spell a word at their learning level. I would say the word, use it in a sentence, and then ask the learner to spell the word orally. After the learner spelled the word, I would repeat the correct spelling and ask the next child a different word. This would allow learners who were listening to either learn new words or review silently the spelling of mastered words. This activity helped pass the time in the van, waiting room, or surgery center. Click the button for a free printable of frequently misspelled words. Remember, use this list as a guide, in a manner most helpful to your leaner. A third grade learner might be able to spell fifth grade words and vice versa.
- Rhymed words. For this oral game--which we played in the car and in waiting rooms--I would say a word and whoever was with me at the time would say a word which rhymed with the given word. To change up the activity, we would take turns being the first to give a word. This game could be started or stopped at a moment's notice.
- Read and retold. Listening to and then retelling a story in sequence is an activity which is extremely beneficial for developing processing skills. I would read a picture book or a chapter in a chapter book and then ask learners to retell the story. To vary the game, I would start with the first event and then ask a learner to recall the next event. Together we would retell the story event by event.
- Matched states and capitals. Like the math and spelling drills, I would move around the van offering a new state or capital to each learner. In response, the learner would orally provide the match. Again, I would choose states or capitals based on the level of the child. Younger learners always started with his or her state, a relative's state, or a state we had recently studied. To change up the game, I would offer a state abbreviation and the learner would say the corresponding state. We played this game in the car while riding to great-grandma's assisted living complex. Click the button for a printable list of states and capitals.
- Played "I am Thinking of an Animal", taking turns giving clues and answers. Sometimes I made this game geographically or biome specific. For example, the parameters may have been jungle, rainforest, ocean, forest, etc. This allowed every learner to play, little to big. One of our favorite places to play this game was in the garden gazebo at great-grandma's assisted living center.
- Listened to audio books. Audio resources--music, books, plays--offered a calming diversion in otherwise disheartening circumstances. In addition, older learners were able to download audio books to a Kindle or reader and take learning with us no matter where we had to be. Our high schooler even used our experiences to earn high school credits (that's another blog post). Audio resources have been a means of continue reading or learning subjects we might not have been able to otherwise.
- Played games. Grammy loved games and was able to play up until just weeks before she passed. She loved BINGO (great for number recognition for my littles), UNO, Othello (great for strategy), and Scrabble (spelling!). We played, enjoyed our time together, and learned!
- Talked. There was much to process after every visit with Grammy: her health, her future, her care, the people we met, on and on. Our children always had questions and it was important to put down the books and talk through concerns and questions. Through conversation, sometimes tears, we process our journey together. The relationships deepened as a result.
I have to be honest, there were many valuable real-life learning opportunities in our unexpected seasons of education away from home--things we couldn't have learned at home.
During appointments we listened to nurses and doctors explain medical conditions, talked to patients in waiting rooms, opened and held doors for people who couldn't do so for themselves, and asked Grammy questions about her childhood. She was able to tell us about her life during the Great Depression. She remembered man walking on the moon and President Kennedy's assassination. She was a living history book!
When Grammy's health warranted stays in assisted living facilities and we visited several times a week, we made friends with nursing staff and residents. When we visited, we were able to help push resident's wheelchairs, encourage the nursing staff with treats and kind words, and visit and play games with residents who didn't have many visitors. During the holidays, we participated in an egg hunt with residents and made Christmas cards. In addition, we had important conversations about life, death, relationships, and medical care. We learned how to care for people, to extend love to folks who were walking through tough circumstances. Those months were a challenging physically and emotionally. However, relationally those four months were some of the most precious in our family's life together.
Those days had to be intentional, real, and relational because truly every moment mattered.
We wouldn't have experienced these precious times if we weren't homeschooling.
Have you had seasons like these, times when home education needed to be portable, moments when real and relational learning far outweighed the paper trail of progress?
What did you do? Please share in the comments.
Hot chocolate, a blanket, a cozy couch, and a few favorite holiday reads. Picture books welcome us to tables with families and stables under starlight where we can count and pretend. Other books invite us into history, to meet people and walk through events. As weather cools and the holidays approach, I look forward to moments of reading and learning together.
Thanksgiving reminds us it is time to pull Reeve Lindbergh's poetic Johnny Appleseed from our picture book shelf. It is definitely one of our fall holiday favorites.
Our family's favorite Christmas story is found in the gospel of Luke. It is central to our home. However, over the past twenty-seven years of reading to littles and bigs, we have also enjoyed other literary treasures. We've all come to anticipate the month of December, a time when we read, reread, and compare Christmas stories from around the world.
What are some of our favorite holiday reads?
We've compiled our list of holiday classics just for you!
Thanksgiving for Littles
- The Thanksgiving Story, Alice Dalgliesh
- The Little Red Hen, Paul Galdone
- The Very First Thanksgiving Day, Rhonda Gowler Greene
- Ox-Cart Man, Donald Hall
- Johnny Appleseed, Reeve Lindbergh
- Why Do Leaves Change Color?, Betsy Maestro
- How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, Marjorie Priceman
Thanksgiving for Middles
- A Lion to Guard Us, Clyde Robert Bulla
- Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, Clyde Robert Bulla
- The Courage of Sarah Noble, Alice Dalgiesh
- Landing of the Pilgrims, James Daugherty
- Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving, Eric Metaxas
Thanksgiving for Bigs
- The Mayflower Compact (primary source)
- Of Plimouth Plantation, William Bradford (primary source)
- The Courtship of Miles Standish, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (poem)
Thanksgiving Family Read Togethers
- Pocohantas and the Strangers, Clyde Robert Bulla
- The Matchlock Gun, Walter Edmunds
- We Gather Together, Adrianus Valerius (hymn)
- My Triumph, John Greenleaf Whittier (poem)
Christmas for Littles
- The Mitten, Jan Brett
- Christmas for 10, Cathryn Falwell
- The Stable Where Jesus Was Born, Rhonda Gowler Greene
- The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale, Angela Elwell Hunt
- 12 Days of Christmas, Rachel Isadora
- The Crippled Lamb, Max Lucado
- Gingerbread for Liberty, Mara Rockliff
- The Polar Express, Chris Van Ausburg
- Room for Little One: A Christmas Tale, Martin Waddell
- Owl Moon, Jane Yolen
Christmas for Middles
- The Little Match Girl, Hans Christan Andersenn
- The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry
- Silent Night: The Story and Its Song, Margaret Hodges
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
- The Call of the Wild, Jack London
Christmas for Bigs
- A Country Christmas, Louisa May Alcott
- Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Christmas Family Read Togethers
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson
- Christmas Trees, Robert Frost
- 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore
As the fall and winter holidays approach, gather littles and bigs. Enjoy the sights and sounds, but also the literary treasures of the times. Perhaps a new read will become your family's favorite.
Happy, intentional, real, and relational holidays to you and yours!
Want to learn more about how to simplify your holiday season? Check out this blog post.
"Mom, what is a preposition?"
A great question to start the day. Impromptu language arts lesson.
Curious minds are ripe for learning!
A preposition is a word that connects or shows the relationship between two nouns or a noun and pronoun. Prepositions are always with an object or person.
We reviewed nouns and pronouns. Then, I gave examples of each and used them in a sentence.
Together, my little learners and I looked around the room and chose two nouns for our preposition play, mice and cars.
Paper mice were made from 3x5 cards, each child coloring a mouse family. I found some Duplo cars from our collection of blocks.
Once all the mice were colored and decorated, tails in place, our preposition discovery began.
For our play we would act out sentences, stating the relationship between the mice and the cars. I demonstrated by placing the mice on the cars while stating,"The mice are on the cars." I wrote "on" on a 3x5 card and placed it near the cars.
Then, I asked each of the child to place their mice in some relation to the cars, stating the position in relation to one another.
The mice are under the cars.
The mice are on the cars.
The mice are aside of the cars.
The mice are behind the cars.
As the children placed the mice and verbally expressed their position, I wrote the preposition on a card. Before long we had a handful of preposition cards. By the end of a few hours, we used our creative thinking, worked on spatial relationships, applied artistic uniqueness, and UNDERSTOOD prepositions and how to use them in sentences.
Int he end, we also had a handful of spelling cards to use for other lessons.
Learning started with a question.
"Mom, what is a preposition?"
Click to download your FREE PDF printable!
"Those tricky Ys! They make all different sounds. They are so confusing!"
A little learner, quite confused by all the "Y" words on a recent workbook page, voiced her opinion about why "Y" shouldn't have so many sounds. Those tricky "Y" words!
I decided to take learning off the page and put it into her hands.
And we learned TOGETHER!
I made a list of words ending in "Y" which took on the ending sound of either long e or long i. Then, I created a document which would provide 2 x 3 inch cards when printed on 100 pound card stock (colored card stock made our game more fun). Once printed, little learners used a blunt-ended scissors to cut the words apart.
Once cards were cut, I designed a pocket Y using two envelopes--one business and one letter. To make the Y, I sealed the envelopes. Then, I trimmed 1/4 inch off the top edge of each envelop to make two pockets. Next, I formed the "Y", gluing the envelopes together and traced around the outside edges with a black permanent marker to make the "Y" more pronounced. Finally, I wrote "long e" on one envelope pocket and "long i" on the other.
Before we sorted the words according to ending sound, each learner read the words on the cards. We reviewed rhyming words as words that sound the same and sorted the cards in rhyming words piles.
After reading the words, learners took turns choosing a word card from the draw pile, read the word, and placed the word in the correct pocket. Turn taking continued until all words were placed correctly.
This game was a hit!
In fact, this game was requested for several days straight until one of the learners discovered the words could also be used as spelling words. Great idea!
Every learner had either learned or reviewed the Tricky Y concept, sorted rhyming words, and practiced spelling, all from printable cards and two envelopes.
Intentional. Real. Relational.