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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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.

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.

Torn Paper Rainbows

"Cheryl, take the kids outside to see the double rainbow!"

Mom called, encouraged.

Out we went. Raindrops continued to fall.

Sun brilliantly overcoming wet shadows.

Children and I look up, mesmerized, awed!

Like a fresh watercolor. Radiant.

Learning moment launched.

"I want to make a rainbow!"

Pulling from my mind activity file, construction paper colors gathered. Glue found.

Together, thirty minutes, tearing paper-- fine motor strengthened--a colorful paper rainbow appeared.

Mesmerized, awed.

"Mom, look what we created!"

A together moment. A learning moment.

And a rainbow gleaming through water droplets started the process.

It was simple and it was glorious. 

Summer Reading List

Summer’s here!

Vacations. Mission trips. Summer evenings reading on the couch.

Summer brings new opportunities, needed refreshment and necessary refueling...and the TIME to do such.

Family members looking for summer reads?

Our summer reading list continues to grow, some titles added this month, others compiled over the years. My lists have been published magazines, state newsletters, Appendix D of  You HAVE to Read This One: Raising a Contagious Reader and Celebrate High School (high school lists categorized American, British, world and ancient).

Parents often ask, "How do we chose books?" 

Choosing a book depends upon many factors, some unique to an individual or circumstances, however the most universal depend upon 

  • a student’s reading ability, age and maturity
  • a family’s values and worldview
  • a whether a book is to be read aloud or read independently.

All these factors, or a combination of these factors, help determine what titles may be appropriate for your children. 

Summer picture books for little learners

  • Arnosky, Jim, All About Turtles
  • Arnosky, Jim,  Deer at the Brook
  • Berkes, Marianne, Over in the Ocean in the Coral Reef
  • Carle, Eric, A House for Hermit Crab
  • Carle, Eric, Mister Seahorse
  • Carle, Eric, Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth
  • Gibbons, Gail, Ducks
  • Gibbons, Gail, The Berry Book
  • Krauss, Ruth, The Carrot Seed
  • Lionni, Leo, Swimmy
  • McCloskey, Robert, Blueberries for Sal
  • McCloskey, Robert, Lentil
  • McCloskey, Robert,  Make Way for Ducklings
  • Zion, Gene, Harry by the Sea

Chapter books for middle elementary to middle school readers

The spectrum of age and maturity of students in grades four through eight is great. As a guide, selections marked (2-4) may be considered acceptable read-aloud titles for grades 2-4. I have marked titles considered more difficult—by vocabulary, sentence structure or content— with (M). Parents may decide to wait until grades 7-8 to introduce these books. As always, if in doubt, read the book first.

  • Alcott, Louisa May, Little Women (M)
  • Bagnold, Enid, National Velvet
  • Barrie, J. M., Peter Pan
  • Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz
  • Beechick, Ruth, Adam and His Kin
  • Brink, Carol Ryrie, Caddie Woodlawn
  • Bulla, Clyde Robert, A Lion to Guard Us (M)
  • Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland (M)
  • Crane, Stephen, The Red Badge of Courage (M)
  • D'Angeli, Marguette, The Door in the Wall
  • Dalgliesh, Alice, The Courage of Sarah Noble (2-4)
  • duBois, William Pene, The Twenty-One Balloons (M)
  • Edmunds, Walter D, The Matchlock Gun (2-4)
  • Forbes, Esther, Johnny Tremain (M)
  • Fritz, Jean, The Cabin Faced West (2-4)
  • George, Jean Craighead, My Side of the Mountain
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, The Tale of Troy (M)
  • Henty, G. A., For the Temple (M)
  • Latham, Jean Lee, Carry on Mr. Bowditch (M)
  • Lenski, Lois, Strawberry Girl (2-4)
  • Norton, Mary, The Borrowers (2-4)
  • Sheldon, George, The Cricket in Times Square
  • Swift, Jonathan, Gulliver's Travels (M)
  • White, E. B., Stuart Little

Summer reads for high school young adults

A comprehensive list is included in Celebrate High School.

  • Aristolte, Complete Works
  • Austin, Jane, Pride and Prejudice
  • Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, The Canterbury Tales
  • Chesterton, G. K., Favorite Father Brown Stories
  • Cierco, Orations
  • Cooper, James Fenimore, The Last of the Mohicans
  • de Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America
  • Dickens, Charles, The Tale of Two Cities
  • Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury
  • Foxe, John, The Book of Martyrs
  • Graves, Robert, Claudius, the God
  • Green, Roger Lancelyn, Tales of Ancient Egypt
  • Hamilton, Edith, Mythology
  • Hemmingway, Ernest, Farewell to Arms
  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • Hurston, Zora Neale, Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Keller, Helen, The Story of My Life
  • Lewis, C. S., The Screwtape Letters
  • Mc Cullough, John Adams
  • Plato, The Republic
  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, The Yearling
  • Scott, Sir Walter, Ivanhoe
  • Shakespeare, William, Julius Casear
  • Steinbeck, John, The Grapes of Wrath
  • Stevenson, Robert Lewis, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Thoreau, Henry David, Walden
  • Verne, Jules, Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Virgil, The Aeneid
  • Washington, Booker T., Up from Slavery

Happy summer reading!

"Let Me Do It!" - Little Learners Become Independent

Little learners are industrious! They can accomplish much in a short time: unloading cabinets. emptying bags of flour for "snow", unwinding tape rolls. Their industry may not be what we define as true betterment. 

However, in those tough to see times, it is important to understand a little learner's definition of industry is key to developing independence.

Given a task, an important one, one they care about, they will accomplish much and feel incredibly empowered, eager for the next "job".

Mr. Red, the fish we inherited from great-grandma, needed a clean bowl. The water had become a science culture--I am sure, though I didn't test it. Poor Mr. Red!

Sick children needed care. Mr. Red had to wait.

I moved the fish bowl to the kitchen counter, near the sink, grabbed an extra large coffee cup from the cabinet, scooped Mr. Red into the cup, and within seconds our little learner "wanted to help".

"Let me do it, too!"

What toddler doesn't like to play in water?

Mr. Red was swimming happily in the coffee cup I placed out of reach. I dumped the yucky water in the sink, poured and rinsed the ornamental  rocks. Chair pushed to the sink, a smiling eager and confident helper turned on the tap and began cleaning rocks. One squirt of soap. Two squirts of soap. Fine motor muscles were getting a work out. Three squirts, four.  

Thirty minutes later, my assistant had cleaned every rock and placed them back in the bowl. She beamed with pride. She had contributed to the care for our beloved Mr. Red--her pet!

A first step of responsibility. A first step toward independence. 

My little learner knew she could be a productive, contributing member of the family, accomplishing tasks of importance. Her smile spanned ear to ear, dimples dotting each corner, for the next several hours. 

Little learners wants to contribute, to serve, to care. In doing so, each time they take another step toward independence, they catch another glimpse of a much bigger picture, one much bigger than oneself. 

What started as "let me do it!" ended with

"I like being a part of a family!"

You may have little learners, or not so littles, eager to contribute, eager to work alongside. 

How can your child contribute?

How can he or she make a difference and catch a glimpse of a greater community?

Imagine the possibilities!

  • help organize the pantry, cylinder cans on one shelf, rectangular boxes on another. 
  • water the plants, inside or out, with a pump spray bottle (great for fine motor skills)
  • fold washcloths in half and half again
  • match socks
  • sort laundry
  • organize the plastic container cabinet
  • feed pets (with supervision)
  • sort coins- pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters
  • roll coins (get paper rolls at the bank)
  • collect the newspaper from the end of the driveway
  • carry a neighbor's garbage cans to their designated area
  • fill ice cube trays with fresh water
  • make sandwiches (spreading is a great skill)
  • peel carrots or wash potatoes (with supervision)
  • empty bathroom trash cans into the larger garbage can
  • carry hangers to the laundry room
  • make cookies (with supervision)
  • help put seeds in seed beds
  • refill bird feeders
  • help wash the car (and clean out the inside)
  • put library books in the bag to go to the library

Embrace the industrious little learner at your feet! His or her inquisitive energy can be productive, taking one step closer to responsibility and independence. 

Cultivate, then celebrate, the milestone--together! 

Want to learn more about little learners? Join me at my Teaching Preschoolers and Little Learners workshop at FPEA 2016!