50 States Notebook

notebookingIf you are familiar with the concept of notebooking, you will enjoy this website full of ideas for creating a notebook of the 50 states.  If you have never considered doing notebooks with your students, this topic lends itself very well to learning the ropes.

By doing one state at a time, you can easily get into a rhythm of working on it a little at a time. Here are some possible plans.

              • You can work as fast or as slow as you want. You could do one state every couple of days for the entire school year and get a simple overview of each state.
              • You could stretch it out and do one state a week and cover  everything in two years. Perhaps pulling in a little history in the process.
              • You could also allot several weeks to each state and use it for geography and regional studies for all of your middle school years.
              • If you wanted to work with several students who are in different grades you could start the oldest one and when the next one is ready, have them work on each new state together until the oldest one is done and then complete the states the younger ones haven’t done yet. You could probably work with students from grades 5-9 at the same time, just requiring a little more effort from the older ones.

There are many subjects that work quite well for notebooking. Try the 50 states and then go on to other topics. Soon your students will have a collection of their learning adventures to share with others.

Motivating Kids to Read – Part 2

IreadingIMG_3794n our highly technical age, we are all aware that the love of books and reading takes more effort to build in our children than it used to. There are so many other things that compete for their time that reading gets pushed aside.  Renaissance Learning published a great resource listing ways you can encourage your kids to love reading:

  1. Read to and with your child every day.
  2. Make reading meaningful.
  3. Dedicate time to read as a family.
  4. Show your child how much you love to read.
  5. Set up a reading area in your home.
  6. Let your child choose the books of interest.
  7. Pair books with activities your child enjoys.
  8. Visit the library often.
  9. Revisit the books you loved as a child.
  10. Practice writing with letters to family members.
  11. End every day with a bedtime story.
  12. Celebrate your child’s success.

You can download the detailed list here.

You can also take every opportunity to involve your kids in library programs. It’s a step beyond just taking them to get books. Most libraries have regularly scheduled story times as well as special events throughout the year. Many libraries also offer reading programs in the summer and some even during the school year. Check with the children’s librarian at your local library to find out what is available to you.




Motivating Kids to Read – Part 1

There’s an excellent report published by Renaissance Learning who studied reading among school-age kids. The name of the report is What Kids Are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools. In the introduction, Roger Farr, Ed.D., Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus of Education at Indiana University states:

Motivation to read is the result of the interaction of three conditions:

(1) a student’s interests and experiences,

(2) a book or article that matches those needs and interests, and

(3) a student’s success in reading.

The goal is to bring those three conditions together. It is not an easy task to accomplish but it is not only possible, it is accomplished by successful teachers all the time as the reading lists in this report suggest.

A great thing I’ve found, if you have more than one child, is to get the older ones to share their favorite books with the younger ones. One way to remember what books were especially enjoyable is to keep a log of what has been read along with a brief — and I do mean brief — comment about what the reader liked or didn’t like. I’m not talking about book reports here. Those definitely do not motivate a child to read.  Most of us have memories of the dreaded book report. Better to allow book recommendations to come in a more natural way since most of the time, having to analyze a book makes it much less enjoyable.

The goal here is to connect the three points listed above. One way to explore interests is to spend time at the library browsing the shelves. Sometimes we’ve come home with stacks of books in all different subjects just by finding things that sparked our interest at the moment.  Once kids have books that interest them, they will be more motivated to pick them up. The more they read, the better readers they will become and the more they will want to read. If you can get this cycle moving it can build momentum all by itself.


Is it Time to Take a Brain Break?

A couple of years ago there was a new phrase added to the educational buzzword collection. The idea of brain breaks isn’t new. But with the heavy push for academic achievement at an ever accelerated pace, it’s a good time for a reminder that some sort of regular rest period is important.

What is a brain break? It’s a pause after a learning session when the student (and the teacher) take a short break to let their brains rest.  The idea of recess in a school setting attempts to meet the same goal. But one or two breaks for recess in a school day isn’t really enough. Students will benefit from breaks that are much more frequent. Some experts say that a young child actually needs a break every 10-20 minutes. Older students and adults need a break about every half hour. That seems like a lot of time away from learning.

When your brain takes a break from the task you’ve been focusing on, it really doesn’t just quit thinking. When you change activities for even a brief time it allows your brain to continue to process the information you were just learning in a less intense way. Your brain is still working on the task but using a different method.  Some research suggests that while you are taking your short break your brain is moving the information into your memory banks so you can use that information later. The idea is that if you take in too much at a time your brain doesn’t have time to process all of the information before you lose it. So regular breaks are when your brain catches up and becomes ready for the next upload of information.

So what do you do during a brain break? There are many resources available that are full of ideas. Many suggest that the activity be physical in nature. This also helps with the students who get restless when they have to sit still for extended periods of time. Something simple like doing ten jumping jacks or some sort of simple contest such as seeing who can hold their breath the longest are possibilities. Anything that allows for a few moments to breathe and even laugh together are great moments of refreshment that help get everyone ready to go back to their lessons. These breaks don’t have to be for extended periods of time. A break that lasts one to five minutes or so is usually sufficient.

Here are some resources to help you find brain breaks that work for you and your students.

Free Kindle Books!


I think most homeschoolers look for bargains when it comes to buying curriculum. That’s why the market for used curriculum material is so hot.

I ran across this post this morning for free educational books you can download for your Kindle. You don’t own a Kindle? No worries…you can download Kindle apps for your browser, smartphone, or tablet here. This means you can download and use these books even if you don’t own a Kindle. All you need is an Amazon account.

Take a look at these books on Frugal Homeschool Family. But don’t wait…they won’t be free for long.

Large Families are a Blessing

It still happens. I still get negative comments about how many kids I have. I still get those raised eyebrows when people hear that I have seven sons. Some just say, “I don’t know how you do it.” But some comments are much more hurtful.

In the early days, when I was still having children, I would get the question “are you still trying for a girl?” I was never  trying for anything but a healthy baby. Actually, I wasn’t really trying for anything at all, just welcoming each little boy as God sent him.  And God was so good to us with the arrival of each son. Some came with complications but nothing we couldn’t handle with the Lord’s help. My oldest turned thirty this year and with each passing year I can tell you that having a large family is still a blessing. And now with grandchildren arriving and the family growing, I can see that our lives will be rich until the end.

Why do some people have so much trouble with large families? Is it that they have bought into the “over population” propaganda? Or is it that they are too self centered to imagine sharing so much of themselves with someone else?  Those could be likely answers.

But I found  this article about the connection between the anti-large family position and the pro-abortion message that made me see a new side to this issue. The article talks about how, as a society, we’ve come to believe that it is a responsibility to limit our family size and not just a personal choice. We’ve been taught to believe that it’s irresponsible to have more than two children. This thinking has only become popular in the last fifty years or so. Strangely, about the same time as the free thinking 60’s began which paved the road to Roe vs. Wade.  Our parent’s and grandparent’s generations didn’t have an opinion about how many kids a family  had unless those kids weren’t being taken care of properly.

There is also something else to consider. In previous generations, there was an understanding that in order for a family to prosper or sometimes even survive, there had to be children. Families depended on their offspring to help with the family farm or business. And the parents also looked to their grown children to help take care of them when they became old and unable to care for themselves.  Now, people are all about self-sufficiency. We don’t need anyone, we can manage all by ourselves.  This doesn’t just effect individual families, it effects our entire society. This article talks about how as the birth rate continues to drop there is concern that there won’t be enough people contributing to the economy to support our country. And it’s not just our country, it’s happening worldwide.  I don’t think that is the way God intended it to be. He said for us to be fruitful and multiply for good reason.

Things have definitely changed as our society as become more about the individual an less about community. But those of us who have experienced the joys of a large family know that there is nothing like a crowd of people to love all at the same time! And we likely won’t be alone in our old age!

Resources to Help with Visualizing Large Numbers

Here are a couple of  great resources that will help students visualize very large numbers.

One is a book written for early elementary ages called How Big is a Million? published by Usborne. It gives a simple illustration about understanding large numbers that young children can grasp. It comes with a poster to further help children  visualize what a million looks like.

And for older students, we recently found a very interesting website called the MegaPenny Project that shows large numbers by using stacks of pennies. The first image is one single penny and by the time you get to the end of the illustrations you are at a Quintillion. While we will,  in all likelihood, never actually have to use a number that big, it’s still quite fascinating to see the stacks of pennies grow to that enormous number.

Have you found other sources that help with this concept? I’d love to hear about them.


Iowa’s New Homeschool Law is in Place

The new Private Education Handbook and 2013-2014 CPI forms are now available. If you are submitting a CPI you need to have that to your school district by Sept. 1.  The form for the new option called Independent Private Instruction only needs to be submitted if requested by your school district or the Department of Education.

HomeschoolIowa.org has all the forms that are required as well as the handbook explaining everything. There is a chart on page 4 of the handbook document that simplifies the comparison between the options.

If you choose CPI option #1 you will fill out a form much like those in the past. You must arrange for a supervising teacher to use this option. If you choose CPI option #2 you can opt to use a supervising teacher OR some other form of assessment such as portfolio or standardized testing. Make sure you are choosing the correct option to meet your family’s needs.

If you choose the Independent Private Instruction option you are not required to submit anything to your school unless they request it. Then you submit the form available on the link above.  You many still arrange for a supervising teacher or another form of assessment on your own terms and for your own information. You do not have to submit any assessment results to your school or the Dept. of Ed.

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 by Ruth Beechick

51aG9UoISCL__AA160_If I had to pick one book on homeschooling to recommend it would be You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick. In my twenty-two years of homeschooling, I have never read a more useful book for grades 4-8. Actually, the concepts Ruth discusses in this book will be useful for your entire homeschool journey. Continue reading