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.

 

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

Audio Books: A Great Way to Forget the Winter Chill

At our house it has become tradition to spend the cold days of our Iowa winters listening to books on CD. We are often finished with our schoolwork shortly after lunch which leaves the long afternoons to work together on a jigsaw puzzle while we listen to a book on CD. We have listened to some wonderful books over the years and I wanted to share our list of favorites with you.

As my children have grown we have chosen more challenging stories but while they were younger we listened to books like these:

The Magic Tree House Collection by Mary Pope Osborne ( many sets to choose from)

Little House on the Prairie Collection by Laura Ingalls Wilder ( there are several of these to choose from)

Your Story Hour collections (there are many of these to choose from)

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner ( there are many of these to choose from)

Charlotte’s Web by E B White

When the boys got older we listened to books that required a little more concentration like these:

The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis

Adventures in Odyssey by the AIO Team ( there are many of these to choose from and they are all good!)

Homer Price by Robert McCloskey ( this one is hard to find. Check your library)

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

The Great Turkey Walk by Kathleen Karr (this one is hard to find. Check with your library)

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck ( also by this author: A Long Way From Chicago, Here Lies the Librarian, and A Season of Gifts)

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Pinkwater ( and the sequel – Looking for Bobowicz)

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The Penderwicks by Jean Birdsall

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit

Right now we are listening to the third book in a series by Trenton Lee Stewart called The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma. This is by far our favorite series to date. The first two books are called The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.

These titles and many others are available at your public library. You might also consider using a digital download service that many libraries are offering. This service in Iowa libraries is called WILBOR and is easy to access from your home computer. For more information about WILBOR check out my Examiner.com article.

What I’ve Been Reading

You would think with the busyness of the holidays that I wouldn’t have time to read. Wrong! I always have time to read. It is definitely my sanity safety net.  This month I have been reading a variety of things. Sometimes whole books, sometimes just portions of a book. Either way, I have found some interesting reading lately.

One book I have been enjoying is Food Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe. This is a fascinating culinary tour of the world that highlights a vast collection of foods and places. From the cherries of northern Michigan, to vanilla from Madagascar, to the mushrooms of central France, you are treated to delicacies that will intrigue you. And the book is published by National Geographic so the photos are amazing. This book reminds me of the Peter Menzel books that I reviewed in an earlier post. You can find that review here.  Books like these allow you to experience the world from the comfort of your home. I know it isn’t quite like being there, but for large families like ours, on one income, the opportunity to actually travel the world is not really an option. This is one way to bring some of the worlds diversity to your family in a very satisfying way.

Another book I’ve been reading is called Homeschool Your Child For Free by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski. This book contains more than 1,400 resources that you can take advantage of for free.  The book is divided into subject areas and then further grouped in smaller subtopics. Every entry has a brief summary of what is available and then the web address. Most are totally free. Some do have subscription options that give you access to more of the website’s resources should you choose to pay the fee. I have found some great websites that I will be using with my boys.

Finally, a book that has given me much to think about is Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World by Dr. David Jeremiah. This book is sort of a follow-up to a previous book he wrote called What in the World is Going On? Last winter we listened to a series of Dr. Jeremiah’s messages (on the prophecies from the book of Revelation) that became the book What in the World is Going On? We were fascinated by the information he shared. Now I am reading this lastest book and find that his suggestions about how we are to live, in light of the end times message, are very helpful. His focus is on what we can do that is positive in an increasingly negative world. It has really helped me to redirect my energy to something more productive than living in fear of the future. I highly recommend any of Dr. Jeremiah’s books. He seems to have a very realistic view of how we can face the future with anticipation instead of apprehension.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I’ll have a new list in a couple of weeks when I finish these books and start on the pile I have waiting for me!

Happy reading!

–Sheryl

Fall Has Arrived! Time for Baking!

Baking

It is officially Fall as of September 22. I love this season. Actually, I love all the seasons! I am always ready for the next one just about the time it starts to arrive. In the Spring I can’t wait for the warm weather of Summer. The time when I can finally open my windows and leave them open for the next several months. Then at the end of Summer I am ready for cooler temperatures, crunchy leaves and I get in the mood to do some baking…pumpkin muffins…apple pie. By the time Thanksgiving comes around I am excited about seeing the first snowflake. And of course, by the end of Winter I am really ready for Spring.  The seasons change and I have learned to just anticipate the good things about each one.

With cooler temperatures just around the corner, I have already had my cookbooks out looking for some new recipes. I found a really interesting book about the Amish that has recipes that follow a seasonal theme. The book is simply called The Amish Cook at Home and is written by Lovina Eicher, an Amish woman with 8 children, so her recipes are just right for my family. The book is divided into seasons and she talks about the family’s traditions for each time of year. She shares about gardening in the spring and summer and about harvesting and canning in the fall. She also talks about how they celebrate each holiday with special activities and recipes. In between the recipes she tells about the everyday life of her family and includes historical information about the Amish life.

Another good book for fall baking is The Pillsbury Healthy Baking Book.  It contains some great recipes for making muffins, quick breads and yeast breads. I like this cookbook because the recipes are designed to be lower if fat than the traditional ones. The book contains more than 200 recipes and each one has nutritional information included. The first section is cookie recipes and when I was looking at it yesterday, my youngest son came and looked over my shoulder. His first words were “Ohhh, cookies!” So I guess we will be trying some of those recipes soon!

Enjoy!

Happy baking,

–Sheryl

Getting Your Kids to Read

Books Children LoveA couple of months ago I wrote a post about the Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I hope you have had a chance to take a look at this excellent resource.  Now that it’s August, I am looking at what we will use for school this year. I have consulted several other resources similar to the Read Aloud Handbook that I think are also well worth a look.

Since our homeshool method is pretty relaxed, I usually use mostly library books for history. No dry textbooks for us. We’d rather find a story, be it fiction or biography, that helps us imagine what it was really like to live in a particular time period. So I am always looking for interesting titles that I can read aloud to my younger boys or recommend as independent reading to the older ones. I try not to assign them specific books but rather allow them the freedom to choose titles that they find interesting.

There are many resources available that help you choose a variety of books to interest your children. Since I have all boys, I have found a book called Great Books for Boys by Kathleen Odean particularly helpful. The author has organized her recommendations first by reading level and then by genre. She gives short summaries of each book and the age group recommended.

Another general title is What to Read When by Pam Allyn. This resource begins with a section of ideas to get your child motivated to read and then she gives a list of books recommended by age group. Finally, she lists suggestions of books that relate to 50 different topics that she has chosen to address. Some of the topics she deals with include adoption, death, divorce, siblings and loneliness. All the topics are things many children are going to face in their lives and the author has given several books in each catagory to help kids grow through the challenges they face.

Several other titles that offer help with finding good books for children are Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and Books That Build Character:  A Guide to Teaching Your Children Moral Values through Stories by William Kilpartrick.

I have also found a couple of more specific resources helpful. As I said, I often rely on historical fiction when I am talking about history with my children. A couple of resources have been designed to make this easier. One is Let the Authors Speak by Carolyn Hatcher.  This book goes through the eras of history with recommendations for books that are sorted by setting. The author has noted the reading age and type of book as well as a comment to help you in your search. There are hundreds of titles that you might not ever run across on your own. This book has been a valuable resource for us for many years. It is out of print now and available used at a pretty high price. The best way to get your hands on this book might be through inter-library loan. Check with your local library.

Another similiar title, Turning Back the Pages of Time by Kathy Keller is also out of print but available used at Amazon.com. This is just a small, 35-page booklet but it is packed with great reading suggestions sorted by era and then by reading ability. It is worth finding if you are using fiction to teach history.

That’s all I have for now. If you have come across other resources of a similar nature I would love to hear about them. Feel free to add a comment to this post with your recommendations.

–Sheryl

What I’ve Been Reading

BooksMy husband and children often tease me about how many books I have out from the library (sometimes over 100!). They also find it strange that I am usually reading several books at the same time.  But that doesn’t really seem all that odd to me. After all, when I was in college, taking several courses at once, didn’t I read more than one book at a time then?  I just tell them that they should try it too, maybe they could actually keep up with me!

I thought I’d share what I’ve been reading lately. There is usually no real pattern to what I read at any given time. I just follow my interests moment by moment. Here is what I have going at the moment.

I just finished a book called How to Find Selfless Joy in a Me-First World by Leslie Vernick. This book challenges the current cultural focus on self-centered living. It was a refreshing call to make some changes in my life that would help move me toward personal, relational and spiritual growth. I highly recommend it to anyone who is tired of the “looking out for number one” mentality.

I am also currently reading a book called Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons by Meg Meeker, M.D. This book looks at how we as parents can help our boys to truly enjoy just being boys. The author offers practical ways to teach our sons to become responsible, caring men of integrity in a world that often portrays men as weak and stupid. Just watch some prime time TV and you will see plenty of examples of men being made to look foolish. This book is a real encouragement to return to some of the old-fashioned forms of play for boys and turn away from the offerings of the current culture that seeks to make them less than they were created to be.  Great book!

Another book I am reading is called Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck. This is a sort of laid back textbook on creating fiction. If  you are interested  in learning the craft of writing stories,or have a teen who is interested in writing, this is a great book to help you create memorable characters. This is the third time I’ve read this title which is out of print, but still available used at Amazon.com.

I just picked up a new book from the library last week called Simple Food for Busy Families: The Whole Life Nutrition Approach by Jeannette Bessinger and Tracee Yablon-Brenner. I have only read the first few chapters but these two authors have already given me some  great ideas about making healthier choices when it comes to feeding my family. The book is loaded with nutritional information, tips and recipes that will help you find the confidence to try a new healthier way of eating.

Finally, I always have a fiction title in the works as well as all the others. Right now I am reading Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I’ve read this book before, probably 8 or 9 years ago. It is definitely worth reading more than once. I love this story because if reminds me that no one is ever beyond God’s reach. A great story based on the Old Testament story of Gomer in the book of Hosea.

Well, that’s it for the moment. In another post I’ll tell you about the genealogy books and the quilting books and the cookbooks…maybe I’ll make this a regular monthly post. I know I’d never run out of material!

Happy reading!

–Sheryl

Make Summer Memories — for $20 or Less!

In the Pool

Well, summer is slipping away. If you are like me, you start the summer with the goal to have a great summer, full of activities that will leave your kids with lasting memories. But now, with the summer more than half over, you are still looking for the time and the money to create these special moments.

I am here to tell you that there is still time and you don’t need a lot of money to make it happen. Remember back to your own childhood summers. It’s probably not the expensive vacations that you remember. It’s more likely the simple things that bring you the fondest memories. For me, some of my greatest memories are included in this list of things I’ve also done with my kids or still plan to do.

So take a few minutes to plan a little and then start making some memories. And be sure to have your camera ready!

1. Have an Ice Cream Party. Buy a gallon of ice cream, a bunch of bananas, and some toppings like chocolate syrup or whipped cream. Invite the neighborhood kids over and have fun creating amazing sundaes.

2. Host a Water Balloon fight. Buy several packages of water balloons and…well, you know the rest!

3. Go on a Nature Adventure. Plan a simple picnic and take a walk at a nature park. Bring along your insect, tree and bird identification books. You could also bring sketch books and colored pencils to capture what you discover.

Sidewalk Chalk

4. Host a Sidewalk Art Show.  Purchase a couple of large boxes of sidewalk chalk.  If you have sidewalks, have each child choose a square ( it’s a good idea to leave empty squares in between so the artists have room to work without stepping on each others masterpieces). No sidewalks? A paved driveway can be divided into squares too. If you live in the country you’ll have to find a friend in town with sidewalks! When the artists have finished their work invite the neighbors to visit your outdoor gallery.

5. Make some homemade bubbles. There are tons of websites with ideas for this activity. Here are just a couple to check out:

http://www.sabine.k12.la.us/ZES/bubbles/

http://www.tooter4kids.com/Bubbles/Activities_Recipes.htm

You can also just do a search for bubbles and bubble wands and find many more.  Cool humid days with little wind are the best days for bubbles.

6. Create a Photo Album of summer friends.  Buy an inexpensive miniature photo album and have your kids take picturse of all their friends. Print the pictures on photo paper on your home computer or take them to a quick print photo lab like those at Target or Walmart. Add captions and decorate the albums with stickers or other art supplies that you might have on hand. You could make this an annual event and years from now your kids will have lasting memories of their summer friendships.

7. Plan an outdoor games event. Invite some friends and play games like relays, tests of skill and other old-fashioned birthday party type games.  Who needs a birthday in order to have some fun?  For most games you can use various household items. A great book called Play with Us: 100 Games from Around the World is a great resource. Many of the games will be new to your kids. Most require a few props and those can usually be found or made at home. This book may be available at your public library. It is also available new or used at Amazon.com.  you can also check out this website for some fun, easy games.

8. Build an outdoor tent village.  Using old sheets and blankets, a few deck chairs or folding chairs and some clothes pins you can creat a small city of tent dwellings. Hours of imaginative fun can be found inside these temporary dwellings.  Think about the indoor tents you have made in the winter and adapt it the great outdoors.

For even more ideas for inexpensive activities to do with your family, click here.

Go have some fun!

–Sheryl

Save Money with Old-Fashioned Homemade Gifts

I am always on the lookout for frugal gift ideas. Even without the recent economic woes, we have needed to be careful in this area. It is easy to go way over your budget for gifts in a hurry!  With my large family and fast-growing extended family, finding a way to give gifts to those we love while keeping expenses down has always been a challenge.

Many years we have made the decision that hand-made gifts are our best option.  There is something about being able to creat a gift for someone that goes beyond simply going to the store in search of the perfect gift at a bargain price. I think we get a chance to really savor the anticipation of how the gift will be received and are able to feel the love we have for the recipient  going into the process.

Some years we have made food items and other time it’s been Christmas ornaments or household items. Lately I have been sewing a lot of gifts since I have granddaughters.  I think finally having girls around has awakened a love for creating things from fabric that I never new existed until now!  I’ve made dolls, quilts, aprons and puppets and have a great time coming up with new ideas for the next project.  Right now I am finishing a little doll quilt for my granddaughter’s birthday in a few weeks. It is made from the same material that I made her baby quilt from when she was born so she and her dolly will have matching quilts.

Usually — at least at Christmas time — I involve my sons in the creating. Each time the satisfaction that shows on their faces when they present a gift that they helped make is  priceless.  There are shelves of books full of ideas for making the perfect gift. We have used many books and websites over the years that have had great ideas. I’ve compiled a list of a few that I think have some good projects and contain easy instructions.

The first three titles are out of print but available from used books sellers on Amazon.com.

201 Craft Bazaar Best-Sellers is a book packed with easy projects that you might find at any craft bazaar. The projects are simple to create and would be fun to do with children.

55 Country Doughcraft Designs has almost twenty pages of basic instructions and technique before they get to the projects. After reading the clear directions you will feel confident to try your hand at doughcraft.  The projects range from very simple to challenging and there are plenty of illustrations to show you the finished products.

Crafts to Make and Sell is another book full of projects you might find at craft bazaars. The instructions are clear and the variety of projects is amazing. The cover says “more that 1000 projects, tips and ideas for marketing or giving your crafts”

Finally, a much newer title is Painting and Decorating Clay Pots.  This book had 150 fun step-by-step projects using terra-cotta pots that you can find at any craft or garden store. You might even find some on clearance toward the end of summer.  This book is laid out in an easy to follow format. Each project has the instructions, a list of materials and a picture of the finished product. Projects range from small ornaments to household decorations to larger outdoor decorations. They are fun to make and fun to give.

Now is the time to start thinking about Christmas gifts!  You can take your time and make some wonderful gifts if you start early!

Have fun!

–Sheryl

Mama, Let’s Color!

Coral Reef

One of my favorite activities, especially on rainy or snowy days, is to color with my kids. Now I’m not talking about the box of crayons and the dime store coloring book sort of coloring. I am talking about artist quality colored pencils and Dover Publications coloring books. Dover Publications has hundreds of coloring books on a huge variety of subjects that can really enhance your child’s learning experience. Some of the titles ar just for fun and for the joy of creating art but others are very informational. There many historical titles that could be incorporated into unit studies.

Comparing this type of coloring to the old fashioned crayon variety is like comparing sirloin steak to hot dogs. Hot dogs certainly have their place but for real quality you might look for something a little more sophisticated. In the realm of coloring books, Dover definitely is the quality you are looking for.

Prismacolor

You can purchas a set of 120 Prismacolor colored pencils on eBay or Amazon.com for a fraction of what they cost in even discount art supply stores. Then we gradually put together a pretty impressive collection of books. Some we ordered new and some we picked up at yard sales for a quarter. We have books that cover all different time periods, nature topics and geometric figures.

We don’t worry about who colors in which books for the most part. We usually just choose a book and a picture that suits us at the moment. There is one exception — Mom has a Victorian House book thatis off limits!  I have worked my way slowly through this book one room at a time and am almost finished with my masterpiece.  I also have one which contains pictures of the outside of houses that I am enjoying. Of course I  like the nature ones, too especially the ones with flower gardens in them. My boys aren’t too picky but they really aren’t interested in my house coloring books. They prefer the historical and the natures titles.

Another title that has been particularly useful is the Human Anatomy book. It shows the body systems in very detailed illustrations so you can learn how our bodies are designed as you color. A great resource to combine with biology or health studies.

There are a couple of tips I’ve learned that will help the experience to go smoothly. One thing I would suggest  is to purchase a pencil sharpener that is strong enough to handle the harder lead of the pencils.  We ruined an electric one with overuse. I finally just bought a metal  hand-held one designed for artists. It works fine, just remember to give your artists a place to collect the shavings while they are sharpening. A paper plate or something like a piece of poster board will work fine.  Also, we have learned that if we want our books to look good when we are all done with them, it’s a good idea to use a piece of plain white paper between the pages so the pressure you exert while coloring on your current page doesn’t “transfer” the colors on the previous pages onto each other. The white paper picks up any color that is transferred by your pencil pressure.

Happy coloring!

–Sheryl