Favorite Chapter Books Your Kids Love to Read – Thursday Topics

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July 16, 2009

children_books

Have your kids discovered a chapter book or series of books that bumped them from the “Do I have to read?” stage to the “Turn off the light.  Stop reading, and go to bed!” stage?

My 7-year-old daughter is still turning her nose up at reading, so I’d love some new ideas for a ‘princess’ reader.

Here are the ones that sparked my oldest son’s love of reading:

superman_comic

  1. Comic books – To get over the big change from picture books to ones with pages of just text, the classic comic books were perfect for my son.  We found the hardbound “Action Comic Archives” at our local library, which I was much happier with than current comic books.
  2. magic_treehouse

  3. The Magic Treehouse Series – This series was tons of fun for my kids.  Jack and Annie discover a magic treehouse where books transport them to all kinds of places and adventures.  The series mixes a bit of history, mystery, and adventure, plus frequent illustrations that together keep things fun for a beginning reader.  I would consider them at the 1st to 2nd grade level.
  4. animorph

  5. The Animorphs Series – What a great science fiction series for kids!  The kids in the series are given the power to ‘morph’ into any animal they can touch in order to help fight alien invaders.  My son loved learning what it might be like to be a hawk or a dog first hand.  The plots are full of battles, adventures, and mysteries.  A great read.
  6. harry_potter_7

  7. And no kids ‘love of reading’ list would be complete without all 7 of the Harry Potter Series.  There is something great about seeing a 9-year-old kid curled up on the couch with a book thicker than a dictionary and loving it.

I’d love to hear your book suggestions.  My son just finished the 7th Harry Potter book and is in the middle of the Hobbit, but I need some new ideas for my boy adventurer.  Please share in the comment section.  Thanks!

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Posted under Books to Read, Reading Curriculum, Thursday Topics

Looking For New Math and Homeschool Ideas?

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July 15, 2009

Bright Idea

Grab a snack and a drink, and spend a few minutes perusing these excellent blog carnivals.

If you haven’t seen a blog carnival before, they are blog posts full of great ideas and links from many different homeschool and math bloggers who share their ideas and tips with all of us.  Like a carnival with booths, there are lots of interesting things to see, all in one place.

  1. The Math Teachers at Play Carnival is up at Math Momma Writes Blog.  Check out the post on the “Michigan Smith” game, a simple idea for math and fun with a printed game page, some rulers, and colored pencils.
  2. The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Tami Fox’s Blog.  There’s a fun idea for a whole unit study on the kid’s picture book: Chocolate Fever.  I think I’ve had that illness before!  🙂
  3. And if you didn’t catch last weeks Carnival of Homeschooling, it was a Founding Father’s Edition in honor of the 4th of July.  Some great reading there on freedom, independence, responsibility, and more.

Enjoy!

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Posted under Blog Carnivals

School in the Car! Learn While You Commute – Tuesday Tips

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July 14, 2009

 car_kids

If you find yourself spending more and more time in the car, try preparing a few portable school activities ahead of time to take with you.  It’ll make the travel time more fun for everyone, and you can squeeze a little more learning into the day.

Here are some ideas we’ve done:

  • Books on CD from the local library
  • Listen to Story of the World CDs – this series tells history in a chronological order and in a story format that my kids love to listen to.
  • Try out Brain Quest Card Games if you haven’t before.  They fit easily in your hand, have fun questions geared toward grade levels, and cover many topic areas.
  • Keep a box of story and/or picture books in the car.  Have older kids read the stories out loud to the rest of the family.  If you keep an exciting chapter book only for the car, the kids will look forward to car trips to hear the next part of the story.
  • Use fact card sets to teach, quiz, and play question games with, like this selection of Brighter Child Fact Cards.
  • Print up a map for the older kids, or get a Kids’ Road Atlas to help teach navigation.

We also like having an activity book or two to keep in the car:

travel_activity_book

Best Travel Activity Book Ever (Backseat Books)

miles_of_smiles

Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games and Activities
 

are_we_there_yet

Are We There Yet (Backseat Books)
 

Do you have a schooling, parenting, or household tip to share with us?  We can all use new ideas!  Please share in the comment section.

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Posted under Homeschool Curriculum, Tuesday Tips

Could You Help Me Out With Some Video Ideas?

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July 10, 2009

retro_tv

I’d love to add some homeschool videos to my blog, but I’m having a hard time deciding what would be the most helpful, interesting, and/or entertaining to all of you awesome people who read my blog.

Would you take a moment to comment and give me an idea of what kind of video you’d like to see?

Here are some I’m thinking of.  What do you think?  Do you have any more/better ideas?

  • Science Experiments
  • Craft and Art How-to’s like making playdough, flubber, etc.
  • Toddler and younger ages hands-on activities ideas.
  • Actual lessons with ideas – like, “Here are three ways we practice the times tables.”
  • Kid productions: puppet shows, poetry readings, ‘special numbers’, talents, etc.

I’d love to make a few videos that are not only fun to watch, but also teach something.  Anyway, I’d love your input if you have a second to help me out.  Thanks in advance!

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Posted under Homeschool Bargains

I Need Gift Ideas! My Kids Have Too Many Toys – Thursday Topics

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July 9, 2009

toy_box

photo by tomeppy

When the kids’ bedroom floors are covered with toys and I’ve got a painful imprint of a lego on the bottom of my bare foot, I vow to never buy another toy until the kids can take care of the ones they have.

What should I buy for gifts instead?  With birthdays coming up, I could really use some good gift ideas that AREN’T toys.  I’d love to find some ‘educational’ gift ideas that will keep my kids busy playing and learning, instead of toys that end up on the floor or stuffed under the bed.  Is it just wishful thinking?

Here are some ideas that have worked for me in the past:

What about you?  Is there a ‘non-toy’ gift that your kids really enjoyed?  I’d love to get some new ideas.  Please share in the comment section. 

Thanks!

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Posted under Homeschool Tips, Thursday Topics

Potted Plants – Fun and Responsibility for Kids – Tuesday Tips

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July 7, 2009

seedling

If you’re looking for a project to get your kids outside, teach some responsibility and science, try a tomato plant!

I normally dread my kids seeing commercials on TV, but when my 6-year-old begged for a ‘Topsy-Turvy Tomato planter, I was intrigued.  It’s a hanging sack that holds the tomato roots and potting soil, while the plant itself grows out of the bottom of the sack, in the air and off the ground.

What a great homeschool project!

We quickly figured out you can do the same thing by cutting a hole in the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket.  We gathered 4 buckets, each kid chose a plant, and the buckets are now hanging from a couple of 2 x 4’s suspended between the slide structure and our fence.  One of the kids chose a zucchini plant.  Who knew they could all grow upside down?

tomatoes_buckets

Each child is responsible for watering, fertilizing, and . . . picking and eating the produce – the best part.  It’s a fun introduction to responsibility, work, and its rewards.  Not to mention a good precurser to getting a pet.  If they can’t keep their tomato plant alive and watered, they aren’t ready for a pet.

Did you find something that worked well for you this week?  Share your tips with the rest of us!

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Posted under Science Curriculum, Tuesday Tips

How Do You Get Your Kids to Enjoy Writing? Thursday Topics

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July 2, 2009

writing

Being asked to write seems to get some of the biggest groans from my 9-year-old son. (Yes, even more than math!)  He always says that he HATES to write.  I think some of his difficulties are that he doesn’t spell perfectly and has to go back and correct a lot.  He also doesn’t like how slow it is to write and the actual process of putting letters on paper with a pencil seems like too much work for him.

So, I need some help.  I was wondering if you could give me some suggestions on ways you’ve helped your children get excited about writing.  I’m also trying to find something to stimulate his interest instead of assigning work he hates and grumbles about.

Here are some of my ideas (but, I could really use some more!):

  • Find a pen pal and start writing letters:  A cousin or a friend who has moved away are easy to start exchanging letters with.
  • Write and illustrate a comic book.  Since they are heavy on illustration and light on text, the actual writing is less overwhelming and the project is more fun.  A simple comic book can be made by stacking blank paper together, bending it in the middle, and stapling along the fold.
  • Pick a topic and start a blog.  It doesn’t take much computer savy to start a free blog at a site like www.Blogger.com and distant family members will love the updates.
  • Start a journal.
  • Use a story starter – sometimes a question or fantasy idea can help kids start thinking.  “What if . . .” questions are a great place to start.  Here is a fun list of story starters.

What ideas do you have? 

I was thinking my son might need something to make the actual process of writing a bit easier so he doesn’t get so impatient with how slowly he writes. 

Thank you for your help!

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Posted under Thursday Topics, Writing Curriculum

Make Meals Your Kids Will Eat – Tuesday Tips

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June 30, 2009

spaghetti_ingredients

“I don’t like that!” 

“Is this what we’re having?”

“Why did you make this?”

Some of my least favorite reactions to dinner.  But, like most parents, I’m interested in having both healthy food, AND food the kids will enjoy eating, which isn’t easy. 

Here are a couple tips that helped me:

  • Try my favorite recipe website:  www.Allrecipes.com   It’s like having everyone on your block (or in your city) try out a recipe, rate it, and write informative reviews before you invest your time and ingredients.
  • Score recipes at dinner.  Give everyone a vote:  0 – didn’t like it, 1 – ok, or 2 – loved it.  Write the total right on your recipe and you’ll begin to collect high scoring recipes that appeal to almost everyone at the table.
  • Let the kids cook a dish – they’ll have a harder time criticizing something they make themselves, and they’ll be a lot more appreciative of the amount of time and effort a nice dinner entails.  Not to mention the life and school skills that cooking teaches.

How about your house?  Do you have any quick tips to share with the rest of us?

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Posted under Homeschool Life, Tuesday Tips

What’s Your Favorite Reading or Phonics Curriculum? Thursday Topics

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June 25, 2009

stack_books

Teaching a child to read seems to be the first big scholastic hurdle for homeschoolers.  But there are so many books and reading programs available that it can be a bit overwhelming.

So, I’m asking you experienced homeschoolers if you would share  your advice with the rest of us – especially for those who don’t really know where to start.

Here are some of my ideas:

  1. First is simply a book, The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise.  Instead of spending lots of money on expensive phonics kits, you can buy this book for around $20 and it will guide you lesson by lesson through a very complete and fun phonics program.  I’ve had great success with it and wrote a book review here.
  2. My kids have also enjoyed the beginning readers set:  “I See Sam” – I really like that each book only uses words that have been introduced in previous books, so the child can read every word in the book, not just the ones teaching the current phonics principle.
  3. Finally, the amazing phonics and reading website:  www.StarFall.com If you have an early reader, you have to check this website out.  It’s the best I’ve seen to grab a child’s interest while teaching reading at the same time.  And it’s all free – the Schutz family’s contribution to children learning to read.

Would you mind sharing some of your tips on selecting a reading and/or phonics curriculum?  What are your favorite books, early readers, and websites?  And why?

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Posted under Books to Read, Reading Curriculum

Venn Diagrams – A Fun Math Lesson

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June 24, 2009

venn

Venn diagrams sound like a fancy and difficult math concept, but instead they make a great math activity for toddlers and up:

  1. Grab a handful of candy, colorful cereal, a set of toys, or anything else you can think of that can be classified into groups.
  2. Make two circles with shoelaces, cut-out from card stock, chalk on the sidewalk, etc.
  3. Have your child start describing characteristics of your set:  colors, sizes, shapes, number of legs, clothing, etc.  Pick two.  Then start sorting them into the appropriate circles, with items that have BOTH characteristics in the middle where the two circles intersect.

Here are a few examples:

  • Colors:  Blue candy in the left circle, red candy in the right circle, purple candy (it is BOTH red and blue) in the center where the circles intersect.
  • Shapes:  Shapes with straight lines in the left circle, shapes with curved lines in the right, a shape like a heart that has both in the center.
  • Toy animal:  Animals with hooves in the left circle, animals with tails in the right, and animals with both hooves and tails in the center.

More fun ideas:

  • Eat the ones in the middle when you’re done.
  • Close your eyes and the other person moves one item to the wrong section – see if you can figure it out.
  • Sort without telling the other the criteria and see if they can guess your sorting rules.
  • Add a third circle to make it more tricky.

Enjoy!

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Posted under Homeschool Activities, Math Curriculum