Make-it-Yourself Beginning Readers

Can there be anything more exciting than having those phonics lessons finally “click” with your little one and hearing him read his first words? I doubt it! Listening to my children learn to read is a thrill for me. I enjoy teaching them to read and I delight in hearing them read aloud.

Right away it seems that children want to “read a book” which, of course, is not quite yet possible. Just because they can blend a few phonics sounds doesn’t mean they are ready to read Huck Finn. Children just learning to read want to feel the accomplishment of reading a book, turning the pages and finishing with “The End”. I’ve used beginning phonics readers, such as Bob Books, Now I’m Reading or Decodable Little Books to fill that need. Here’s how to make your own!

In my homeschool, I wanted to customize reading for my children and so I started making my own little beginner readers. It is easy, it saves you money, and it can become a childhood memory especially if your little child illustrates his own books. Our homemade books have been used over and over again and loved by each child that I teach to read. Their older brothers and sisters remember those books with excitement and that makes it all the more motivational for little ones to be able to learn to read them. I use my children’s names in the book to personalize the story. Since every child can read his own name and most of the names of his family members, you have more words to work with than just those that can be easily decoded.

To make your own little readers, you will need cardstock weight paper to make a little book. I have used paper trimmings from the printer, old file folders cut-up, 4 x 6″ index cards, etc. Use whatever you can find: this is supposed to be a save-you-money project, so be creative. I  fold the paper in half, and then staple or machine sew 3 pages down the center fold to create a finished book of 6 pages. If I am using index cards, I staple 6 index cards along the left side so they open to a wide horizontal format. The first and last page can be fancier paper or a colored page decorated with stickers as it will be the cover.

Plan out 7 simple sentences, one for each page. The last inside page will say “The End”.  To fill my book, I choose words that will reinforce a phonic sound that my child is learning. For example, when I taught the phonic unit “ee”, I made a little book called “Weeds and Beets”. It was spring gardening time, so the subject was a natural. Since my daughter Emily (4 years old then) already knew the short vowels and consonants along with the words “a” and “the”, I focused on having her learn to decode that “ee” sound. Here is the little story page by page:

Outside front cover-Weeds and Beets
Inside front cover- blank
page 1- Weeds, weeds!
page 2- Emily has a beet seed.
page 3- A beet seed in the weeds.
page 4- Big weeds and a red beet
page 5- Emily gets a big weed.
page 6- A bee sees a beet.
page 7- Emily gets the beet!
page 8- The End
Inside back cover-blank
outside back cover-blank

With young ones, I draw simple illustrations and let them color them. Children that are a little older will be able to draw their own pictures to go with the story. Books that turn out to be a wonderful treasure can be unstapled, laminated, and re-stapled to make a sturdy book that will last many years. I have one of these that has lasted 22 years so far! The colors are still bright and the pages clean.

As your child masters phonics skills, it can still be fun to put together little books whenever a memorable event occurs in your family. When Nathan was 18-years-old, he was driving our little car home when a pickup truck hit him, totaling the car. After going to the emergency room to retrieve our son who was very fortunately not hurt, we visited the towing yard to see the damage to our car. Looking at that squashed-flat car made us amazed that Nathan had not been killed. This experience made a profound impression on my little ones, and Emily (then 7 years) wrote and illustrated a little book entitled Nathan’s Crash. She knew her phonics sounds well enough to be able to write it with very little help.

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To create little books for a new beginning reader, use the consonants that he has learned along with one short vowel. For example, you could use the short vowel “a”, along with the consonants “c”, “s”, “b”, “m”, “n” to make these words: cat, sat, bat, at, Matt, cab, man, can, etc. From these you can make up a short story with just a few words per page. Don’t forget to include your child’s name as a character in the story too!

It will amaze you how well your child will learn, and will love reading these books too! Have fun!

May I recommend:




Mad Kids & Work

Louisa was good-and-mad at me (and probably at herself, too). So, I did the unnatural thing: I assigned dishwashing duty to her. At first the pots and pans were being banged around and she was sulky, upset, and sure she was mistreated. Surprisingly, 10 minutes later she was humming happily.

Once again, I had witnessed the magic of work. Kids are wiggly and full of muscles that want to move and work and play. Sitting on a time-out chair can help them get madder. Put those muscles to work, and you’ll be surprised at how the anger dissipates!

Work seems to be a magic balm that can change a mood and make kids happy. Don’t choke! It is astonishing, but it is true.

The next time your child misbehaves and needs a punishment, don’t choose the time-out chair. Skip the lecture and the scolding. Pass by the guilt. Instead, try good, old-fashioned work. The results can convince the most unbelieving parent that America’s fine citizenship has been built on farm chores.

May I recommend:




First, a Relationship

“First we have a relationship, then we have an educational method.” —Karen Andreola

And so it is. As homeschool moms, we sometimes get involved trying to figure out what philosophy to follow, what type of teaching we should do, or what curriculum we should select. We eagerly read books, buy curriculum, and “try on” educational methods as if we were shoe shopping. But no “shoe” fits until we have a relationship. No method can make up for a strained relationship with your child, your student. Until the relationship is working right, the educational approach doesn’t really matter very much at all.

So, instead of focusing on what educational philosophy or curriculum you are going to use in your homeschool, think instead of how you are going to build your relationship with your child. Brainstorm ways to reach each child’s heart. Co-operation and a desire to follow you will come naturally when the relationship is strong! As you bind your children’s heart to you in love, you will be creating the very best environment for learning, no matter what method you end up choosing.

Here’s some ideas for knitting your hearts together:

*Listen and give eye contact when your child talks to you.

*Take a walk and hold hands.

*Give a sincere compliment.

*Smile.

*Lay on her bed and talk while she is getting ready to go somewhere.

*Look at what he has put on his bedroom walls and comment positively.

*Say “yes” whenever you possibly can.

*Give her a shoulder rub when you are sitting together.

*Ask him to cook with you, and let him choose the meal.

*Sit on the floor next to your child while she is building with legos or playing dolls.

*Tell another how capable (or kind, or helpful, etc.) he is—loud enough so he can overhear you.

*Resist the urge to set something straight (his hair, his room, the way he set the table, etc.)

*Actively encourage your child in following his special interest by getting him the necessary supplies, mentor, books, and opportunities.
(This, more than anything else I have done, has spoken “love” to my eager, curious sons.)

*Read aloud together.

*Remember your child is young and trying to figure out life. Be forgiving.

*Go swimming together.
(Sometimes we moms are a bit reluctant to get our hair wet or to put on a swimsuit, but it really is a playful, bonding time.)

*Don’t criticize ever. If he needs instruction, do it privately and kindly, reassuring him of your love.

*Make something together—a candle, a skirt, a clay sculpture, a pizza . . .

*Listen.

*Listen.

*Listen.

My Day at School

I am a behavior problem.

I never dreamed I would be until I decided to go to school with my 14 year old son, Ammon, who took a few classes at a local charter school along with our daily homeschooling. I was interested in a pilot program class that he was involved in, and the teacher welcomed parents into the classroom, so I decided to go and observe. When I first arrived, I was alert and interested. After 45 minutes, my mind was seriously wandering.

The students who were giving oral reports were ill-prepared and were giving erroneous information speaking in monotone with their eyes glued to their notes. Students were walking to the front of the class next to the reporting student to noisily sharpen their pencils seemingly oblivious to the disturbance they were making. I found myself asking Ammon questions, whispering to him. He finally told me that he couldn’t concentrate well with me talking to him. Then I started to doodle. I raised my hand and answered questions in an effort to correct the misinformation and possibly change the subject to something more stimulating. I fished in my purse for something to eat. I fidgeted. I tried to engage students sitting by me by making little comments to them. I checked my watch continually. I even felt like making a paper airplane and sending it soaring. Okay, I was over the top. I was definitely being a behavior problem!

That was an “ah-ha!” moment for me! I’m a grandma and I have hopefully matured and gained greater self-control over the years. Here I was—I had only attended an hour of school—and I was going nut-sy. Having to sit still, listen, not talk, not leave my seat, be mentally bored and fatigued . . . well, it proved to be too great a challenge to me! I had to leave, after just one class. I couldn’t stand it! How do they do it all day long?

Children were meant to move and run and build things and use their big muscles. They were meant to have their eager minds fed and their curiosity satisfied. All that sitting, sitting, sitting gets extremely tedious! Dulls their minds, dulls their bodies. Think about what you are requiring your children to do when you consider sending them to school.

Nice reality check for me.

 

Pronunciation Poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh, and through.
Well done! And now you wish perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead—it’s said like bed not bead—
And for goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not the moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dead and fear or bead and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose—
Just look them up—and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart—
Come, Come! I’ve hardly made a start!

A dreadful language? Man alive!
But I had mastered it when I was five!

Author Unknown

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle

 

 

 

 

 
 

Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace,
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh, no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Infancy’s the tender fountain,
Power may with beauty flow,
Mother’s first to guide the streamlets,
From them souls unresting grow—
Grow on for the good or evil,
Sunshine streamed or evil hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Woman, how divine your mission
Here upon our natal sod!
Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky—
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

William Ross Wallace (1819-1881)

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Are we having fun yet? That’s a question I ask myself regularly. Why? Because “happiness is the object and design of our existence”. Because “men are that they might have joy”. Because homeschooling is supposed to be fun! Because learning is fun! Being with your children is fun. Teaching them the truth in every subject, from the principles of the gospel to science to math brings joy! And “men are that they might have joy”. Watching your children grow and learn and enlarge their talents is wonderfully joyful.

I can’t think of a richer, fuller, more fun and joyful way to live than to homeschool, to have your precious, impressionable children as your best friends who prefer your company best and haven’t yet discovered your shortcomings. What better daily work than learning about God’s world and his laws and how to grow into a righteous influence for good among your brothers and sisters on this earth? I think this lifestyle can bring us to say, as the scriptures tell us, “and it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness”.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t often feel overwhelmed as mothers, or feel the heavy weight of our enormous task before us. It is a challenge to homeschool your children. But it can be fun and most rewarding. Yes, we do have an occasional day that never seem to get started and it is 11 o’clock by the time we are ready for school. And there are days when math frustrates my teenager to tears. But, as parents we have assurance that there is no job as meaningful, as worthy than to be consecrated to doing the best for your children so that they may develop into righteous men and women.

There is tremendous joy in moving steadily forward to the realization of this goal. There can be joy and fun in every day of homeschooling. The way I see it, my children and I get all the fun. I feel pretty bad for my husband as he doesn’t have a fraction of the fun we have. Together my children and I explore the nearby river bottoms, we sculpt things out of clay, we read an exciting new library book about how Mt. Rushmore was carved, we cook and invent new recipes together, and sing and laugh in the kitchen until we can hardly read the cookbook for the tears from laughing. We read story after story about how it pays to be honest. We play math games, and learn to be polite and sensitive to each other. We laugh over the baby’s funny antics, we memorize scriptures, and collect wildflowers to press, we find different kinds of leaves, and all race outside to see a newly discovered rainbow together. We read book after delicious book, making friends with all the inspiring characters of great literature. We take care of our chickens and ducks and cow. We grow huge pumpkins. We discuss politics. We learn to identify God’s signature in all of his creations. We talk and talk and talk and talk together. We are together. Don’t you feel sorry for my husband too—that he misses out on all of this fun?

Let’s talk about ways to maximize the joy and happy times. What can you do to increase your chance of saying, “Yes” to the question, “Are we having fun yet?”

1. Commit Yourself

First of all, I think it takes being committed to the noble calling of Mother/Teacher. That means taking your children’s education seriously enough that you say “no” to the things that would distract you. For ten years, my visiting teachers have been invited to come in the late afternoon. I don’t make dental appointments. in the morning. I try not to talk on the phone during school time. I just try to keep that time sacred in the sense that the children know that school is important and won’t often be bumped. Interuptions and distractions lessen our chance of having a joyful time together.

2. Catch the Vision

It takes catching the vision of the delightful occupation and lifestyle of raising righteous, intelligent children; spending each day’s best effort training and teaching them. Remember that love is spelled “T-I-M-E” to a child. They want and need your time and attention. Learning how to live, development of character and virtues, their disposition and attitude—these are the things they learn their teacher and companion. That companion needs to be you. Spending your time with them is how they become like you. If you aren’t perfect, then you can point the way to all of history’s great heroes to hold up as models. This is why studying history and classic literature is such a wonderful way to learn: we can be surrounded with greatness in spite of our own weakness.

Daniel, my oldest son, comments or complains from time to time that I have raised clones of my daughters. He’s wrong: in many ways, my daughters are better than me. But, he is right in the sense that we are our children’s mentors, their tutors. Whether for good or bad, they watch and follow us. “The greatest and loudest sermon that can be preached or that ever was preached on the face of the earth is practice. No other is equal to it.”  Richard L. Evans has said, “Abstract qualities of character don’t mean much in the abstract. It is how we live, how we serve, how we teach our children, what we do from day to day that both indicate what we are and determine what we are; and all the theory and all the speculation, all the quoting of scripture. . . don’t in the final and saving sense amount to very much.”

One of my favorite homeschooling scriptures is found in Deutronomy 11: 18-19: “Lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul and ye shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when thous sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up”.

We have been listening to the original book of Pinocchio on tape as we drive around this summer. This is nothing like Disney. It is the story of a very naughty and naive puppet, who without the influence of a mother and unwilling to listen to those who would advise him well, gets into horrible and constant trouble. As soon as he gets out of one ordeal and feels repentant, Pinocchio meets up with evil companions: a fox and a cat. Pinocchio is on his way to beg forgiveness of his father for his naughtiness, and has 5 gold coins to give him. Unfortunately, the conniving fox and the cat convince the trusting and naive puppet to bury the gold coins in the ground, so that he can grow a money tree laden with thousands of gold coins. Over and over again, I hear my children exclaim while we are listening, “How can he be so foolish?!”

Whether a puppet or a real boy, all children need guidance! They need teaching and virtues and values to live by. No one loves and has such interest in your child’s outcome as you do. You are the best teacher. “Mothers, teach your children the gospel in the home . . . this is the most effective teaching that your chldren will ever receive. This is the Lord’s way of teaching. The church cannot teach like you can. The school cannot. The day-care center cannot. But you can, and the Lord will sustain. Your children will remember your teachings forever. . . Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time—lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part-time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling.” (Ezra Taft Benson)

“As our children grow, they need information taught by parents more directly and plainly. Unfortunately far too many parents in today’s world have abdicated the responsibility to teach these values . . . to their families, believing that others will do it: the peer group, the school, church leaders and teachers, or even the media. Every day our children are learning, filling their minds and hearts with experiences and perceptions that deeply influence personal value systems. It is our solemn duty to set a powerful personal example of righteous strength, courage, sacrifice, unselfish service and self-control. These are the traits that will help our youth hold on to the iron rod of the gospel. . .”(M. Russel Ballard)

Here I would put out a plea to fathers. I am not asking you to tutor your children, in the sense of teaching them classes. Life seems to be way too busy for fathers trying to earn a living. But, you can work side by side with your children while you are cleaning up the yard, or fixing the car, and in the process teach them so much about how to live and how a man should act.

3. Use the Best Tools

Get the best tools you can for the job. You can’t run a carpenter shop with a dull saw, a broken hammer, and bent nails. Neither you nor I want to go to a dentist with an outdated old fashioned hand power drill. Yet many mothers try to wrench an education out of garage sale books that are outdated and dull. I love to go to yard sales and sometimes I find great teaching stuff. But when it comes to teaching my children, I want the best I can get. These children grow up so very fast. The number of teaching hours and books they can work through is a finite amount. Your career is short. If you do a good job with homeschooling, you are going to work yourself out of a job. Children grow up. Just like I want the healthiest, most life giving food for my children’s bodies, I want the best quality food for their minds.

I’d like you to imagine that your are a 9 year old boy in my homeschool. Today we are studying “China”. You can take your pick of resources, or learning tools. I have a comprehensive, black and white textbook that I picked up at a thrift shop. I know you could learn a lot about China from it if you tried hard. Or, you could learn from many interesting things: a CD of Chinese singing, a costume from China, a film, a doll in Chinese dress. “Oh, look at the color photos of China in this book! Let’s try these chopsticks and Chinese food for lunch”.

I plan my budget so I have money for the best school supplies, because it makes learning so much more effective and joyful.

4. Take Advantage of the Power of Patterns

Patterns, good habits, and routines make life go smoothly. If you get children into a good pattern, they can operate on “cruise control” and they will go about their day and their work without nagging from you.

All of us have probably known someone who holds their pencil wrong and struggles to write. It is just like the tree without a stake that bends in the wind until it has grown into an inflexible trunk. Good patterns taught early to children can make all the difference in the amount of joy you have in your homeschool.

My children know the pattern of the school day from the time they are toddlers. They know that after breakfast, they do their chores, bath and dress and come to school. They have wall charts in the school room that show the littler children exactly what to do each day. They come into the schoolroom, get their daily work out and do it.

Summer and vacations always prove to me just how important the routine and pattern is to children. It seems my children can follow the pattern faithfully day after day all winter long, and yet a week of goofing off seems to take another week of so much stress and reminding the children, just to get back on track. If you want peace in your homeschool, teach your children some good patterns. Be very consistent in training them what you expect every day in homeschool, and you will find that they enjoy the pattern and managing their own time, and you will get far more accomplished in learning together.

One of those good habits needs to be obedience to parents. Without this, it is impossible to be your child’s teacher. It is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children.

5. Build Meaning into their Schoolwork

Accumulation of information is not our goal in teaching homeschool. We want to help our children grasp God’s great plan for mankind, and how we fit into it. Busy work isn’t the way to do that.

I want to show you how I teach my children to write. I have tried a lot of methods over the years. We have done worksheets, and games and penmanship practice and creative writing workbooks. But teaching the children to write with a God-given purpose has proven far more successful than anything else.

Ammon's journal

This is my son Ammon’s journal. He began keeping his journal when he turned 5 years old. I start by having him tell me a sentence that he wanted to write in his journal and I wrote it down for him. Then he drew a picture of what he said. We progressed to writing the sentence in yellow felt pen so that he could trace over the letters in pencil. As he matured and learned to write his letters, I helped him spell and write his own sentence. Incrementally, year by year, he learned the mechanics of writing: letter formation, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, good sentence structure, writing a paragraph, and other English skills.

But this writing is meaningful. At the end of each year, we take these journals to the printer to be bound. He knows his children and grandchildren will read it someday, and learn to know him through his writing. I often remind them of how delighted their children will be. It helps him feel motivated to do neat work. He often makes lists of important things he wants to remember so he can write them in his journal. This journal is becoming a Book of Remembrance for generations to come. He is learning to read and write as well. Adam taught his children to read using a book of remembrance. “And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam. . . and by them their children were taught to rad and write . . .” If you can get your child to catch the vision of where he is headed in homeschool—that we aren’t just doing English, but that we are writing a book of remembrance for our posterity, for example—then there is a greater chance for joy in learning.

6. View Opposition as Good Practice

Training children is rigorous work. I don’t think any of us thought it was going to be so hard as it is. Yes, parenthood also has its moments of great joy. But each person comes to earth with an independent will and trying to help them bridle and use it for good can be an exhausting job. If we could just see opposition or difficulty with our children as good practice, practice in learning or teaching to obey, practice in refining our communication skills, practice in keeping the commandments better . . . perhaps we wouldn’t feel so bad about the hard times. We on here on earth to prove ourselves. We have to experience the “whole enchilada”. Trying to duck out of it doesn’t seem a practical way to become more Christ-like.

Whenever people find out that I homeschool, it seems that their immediate reply is, “Oh, I don’t have the patience for that!”  I have found myself secretly wanting to answer back to them, “When do we plan on developing the patience with our eternal family? Better now than later. This life is the practice time. Let’s do it until we get it right.”

7. Look to Revealed Truth

If we are looking for joy, we must look to the Lord. I have never experienced greater joy than when I feel the Spirit—that warm, clean and full-of-light feeling. Whenever truth is taught, the Spirit promises to witness to it. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth . . . “ (John 16:13). As we inculcate the principles of the gospel into every subject, we will be blessed with the joy that comes from having the Spirit testify of truth. No subject is boring when the Spirit is present!

We are in such a unique position. Never before in the history of the earth has mankind lived in such a time of revealed truth! We have access to truth. When we teach astronomy, we have Abraham’s great understanding of the galaxies and solar system to enrich us! When we discuss political issues of the day, we have the scriptures to tell us that God approves of our Constitution. When we teach countries and peoples, we have the scriptures to remind us that we are all literal brothers and sisters and all are alike unto God—black and white, bond and free are invited to Him. When we wonder why we have to even study and learn anything at all, we can turn to the doctrines that all knowledge and intelligence rises with us in the ressurrection. “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come”.

Practical Help

Emily, my 10 year old, advised me what to speak about today. She told me, “Those moms want to hear how to make math fun so that their kids want to do it and ask to do it instead of hate doing it. They want to know how to make English fun so that their kids love it. Tell them that, Mom.” So, I’ll try to finish up with some practical ideas for making school more fun.

Multiplication Math games

Math
Math is so easily made fun by games. And who doesn’t love games? Start kids early playing with math, and it doesn’t hold the same dread when they see it in black and white. Another great way to make math fun is to use manipulatives. I taught one of my children how to subtract (regrouping) by using shampoo bottles while I was taking a shower. Manipulatives stick in the mind.

Science
Science is so wonderfully fun! Nature is full of delight, and just getting out in nature, you can have the most marvelous hands-on science lessons. I love books, and we use science textbooks, and lots of picture books and library books. But learning hands-on is by far the thing that my children prefer. We got a kit on that teaches how to use a microscope and we spent the morning looking through a little hand held magnifier that introduced us into an unknown world. It was thrilling! We looked at fabric under the microscope, and coins, and hair, and salt and the carpet . . .and we just couldn’t get enough. The children were dashing off and coming back with some new thing to view and oohing and aahing over how it looked. My husband happened to be home, and he was drawn into this excitement and had to spend some time enjoying science too. It is hard to find a child who doesn’t beg for science when it is done this way.

Art
Art is too fun already. Kids love it. Take the time for it, Moms. It is a mess, but you can teach kids to clean up after themselves. Art really pays off in enjoyment, developing creative minds and hands. I like to have a lot of art supplies around, such as modeling clay, paints, colored pencils, stencils, construction papers, etc. plus “how-to” and idea books. We take an afternoon once a week and create and do new projects. We have learned to recognize some of the works of the great masters and have tried out some of their styles. Who can forget Renoir when you’ve painted a watercolor picture with brushes strapped to you hands, as he had to, plagued with arthritis in his old age? I love art just as much as the kids. If you, the mother, create something too, your ideas and their watching you will be an inspiration and a model to your children.

English
I’ve told you how we do our writing journals. We also have a lot of fun with poetry, writing stories and plays, and writing letters to relatives and friends. I teach my children grammar using Winston, a game-type program. Literature is thrilling! I have learned so much about truth and human nature from great stories. Reading aloud can turn reading into shared enjoyment and learning. So often we pause while reading and teach truth. At one point in the story of Pinocchio, the puppet is feeling very badly and sorry for his mistakes. He wails, “Oh, if I could be born again!”. I paused at this point and asked my smaller children if this is ever possible. We had a good talk on the beauty of baptism, repentance, and how we can truly be reborn because of Jesus Christ!

There is so much in good literature to be bless us! Once when I was reading aloud Charlotte’s Web to my children, it suddenly dawned on me that Charlotte, the spider, was actually a Christ figure. She was willing to lay down her life for her friend. What illumination this cast upon the whole story. How her love changed Wilbur the pig. How Christ’s love changes us!

Music
Here is another subject that is so much fun. I am not musical, but any mother, musical or not, can teach her children to sing songs at the beginning of school each day. Even the toddlers love to sing along. We learn new songs for each season and holiday. At Easter last year, we learned a negro spiritual called “Where You There When They Crucified My Lord” and we all got great joy out of singing it. I don’t have the skill to teach my children parts, but we sing everyday and have fun with it. We have learned about the great composers and can recognize some of their great works. There is piano playing: duets are so much fun. We have not been very successful at playing the recorder together, I regret, as we all end up laughing too hard at each others’ mistakes and you really can’t blow while you are hysterically laughing.

History
Oh, history is the most fun of all! What could be more fun than reading aloud to your children as you learn about all the marvelous people and events of this earth? I began teaching my younger children American History this summer. We started by reading a book on Lief Erickson, the Viking explorer who first found America. The book was a children’s picture book called Leif the Lucky. I loved reading it and so did the children. We incorporated some art projects into studying Leif Erickson, and we talked about his good virtues and character. I don’t focus much on dates, except to orient us to what else was happening in the world at that time. We moved on to Christopher Columbus and his exciting ship’s log and journals. He was inspired by God to come to this land of America. Oh, history is wonderful! There is no reason for history to be dull.

I am a structured homeschooler. I use textbooks, and workbooks and assign my children their daily work that must be done. But, every subject can be enriched and a joy to learn if you are there learning right along with them.

I do hope that you will have “fun” in your homeschool, and that homeschooling will be a great joy for your family. Joy comes from the companionship of the spirit, the company of your precious family, and being an instrument to raise intelligent children that love the Lord.  It has been an incredible blessing to me to homeschool my children, and I thank my Father in Heaven for the privilege often.

 

Keeping A Nature Journal

Every day I walk in the river bottoms, across the road and down the country lane from my house. It is so breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful there. I am all alone, and very rarely see another person in the 45 minutes that I am wandering through cornfields and along the banks of the river. What I do see, however, is wildlife! As I come home and describe what I have seen to my children, they take great interest in each day’s discovery. I have even taken them along, one by one, in hopes that they might happen upon the red fox and her 2 babies frolicking in the morning sunshine, as I once did.

One way to record nature’s wonders is to keep a “Nature Journal”. You don’t have to take a walk in the countryside to see evidences of God’s handiwork every single day. Having your children keep a nature journal helps them be alert to nature’s changing display and aware and more interested in animal life, as well as providing the best possible science lessons.

All seasons hold interesting potential entries. You may want to sketch and describe an electric storm and its eventual rainbow, autumn’s changing leaves, the praying mantis on the front porch, or the wild sunflowers in bright bloom.

To create a Nature Journal, fill a 3 ring binder with heavy white paper, or buy a spiral bound artist’s sketch book. Each time you or your child sees something interesting to enter, sketch the creature or plant and then describe it briefly. Later, go to the internet, encyclopedia or field guides to make sure you are identifying it correctly. If you keep a Nature Journal yourself, it will be an inspiration to your children in keeping their own. This book can become a source of joy and education for your family.

Take A Walk!

I really didn’t want to go. I had far too much to do, but I had committed to try to take better care of myself, so I was going. I had to yank myself up off the couch, and put on my walking shoes and force myself. I pleaded with family members to go walking with me so we could talk, as I had so much busy-ness on my mind. No luck. So I was alone on my walk.

I am fortunate that across the street and down a little path past the farmer’s corn fields and horse pastures is the river bottoms, an isolated area where the trees grow next to the river, muskrats and birds abound, and it is very serene. The stillness and solitude washed over me and slowed down my rattling mind with each step. The sun warmed up my shoulders. Nature seems to whisper, “Don’t hurry. There is a time for every season under heaven.”

Problems that had been fussing in my mind for some time now seemed solvable. I didn’t have an answer, but that walk made me feel like I could cope with things, and that solutions would be possible to find.

When I had 7 children in my homeschool including a prickly teenager, toddlers and a nursing baby, my daily walk was so very crucial to my well-being, emotionally and physically. It was extremely challenging to get away—I’d have to work on finding a way every single day. But once I left the house, I would walk far down in the river bottoms to a spot where I could look back up at my house, looking so small on the edge of the bluff. I would lift up my hand and use my thumb to cover my home from my sight. “See, it isn’t so big and insurmountable. I can do this!”, I would remind myself.

Ah—the value of some solitude! Even a short 20 minute walk can make a world of difference in our perspective and our inner tranquility. I hope you can find time to take a walk.

 

Sing Christmas!

I’m not quite sure how the tradition started in our homeschool, but for as long as I can remember, we have learned a new Christmas song every single December. Not a common song but a unique song that we may have heard the melody of, but have not learned the words.

I choose songs that focus on our Savior’s birth and we look forward to singing it every morning in our homeschool. My kids end up learning to play it on their instruments too, for fun. Once you know a wonderful new song, it seems there are chances to perform it, even if only in a family talent show.

As December nears, my children are asking what song we are going to learn this year. I thumbed through our Christmas carol book, and realized just how many we have learned through the years. Here’s a few of the ones we’ve enjoyed:

Good Christian Men, Rejoice!

Fum, Fum, Fum

The Holly and the Ivy

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella

Unto Us a Child is Born

One in Royal David’s City

It is so fun to be able to sing along whenever we hear Christmas music playing, and to think about the words, too, which are often very focused on the good news of Christ. If you have little ones, learn the more traditional songs first so your kids can enjoy singing along at church or caroling. Older children enjoy the challenge of a lesser known song.

This year I found an old traditional carol that we have never heard before: See Amid the Winter’s Snow. It talks about Christ’s birth with some lovely lyrics that include:

Lo, within a manger lies
He Who built the starry skies;

and in another verse:

Teach, O teach us, holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.

If you’d like to learn a song with your family, there are great resources! There are websites where you can both read and print off the lyrics as well as hear the tune.

You can see the lyrics, hear the melody line, hear a 4 part orchestra play the carol, print off free sheet music and more for several traditional carols here:
http://www.christmas-carol-music.org/

This website has lots more titles and most you can listen to:
http://wackyanne.tripod.com/musicrm/xmusicrm.htm

This site has more carols that you can imagine and free sheet music too!
http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/HTML/index_of_carols_ij.htm

Have a singing Christmas!