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 storytimes 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.

 

Free Kindle Books!

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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.

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

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.

This book is not a curriculum that you can pick up and use directly for instruction. What you will find is page after page of sensible, practical suggestions on how to teach the subjects you need to be teaching your children. The author gives you dozens of examples of ways to teach using books you already have or books from the library. You can still choose to purchase a standard curriculum like Abeka or Sonlight and use the ideas in this book. But you can also use this book as a guide to help you create your own personalized curriculum that meets your student’s unique learning style.

The book’s approach is simple, natural learning. It focuses on taking what is available to you and making it a tool for learning. The author doesn’t give you lesson plans and information to teach. Instead, she helps you find ways to gain confidence in yourself and your student and helps you relax in your homeschool journey. That makes it less stressful and much more enjoyable. Learning becomes a natural part of everyday life and not something artificial and irrelevant.

Ruth’s methods are easy to understand and easy to implement. You will find that you refer to this book over and over. My copy is falling apart!

Audio Books: A Great Way to Forget the Winter Chill

At our house, it has become a 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.

 

What I’ve Been Reading

You would think with the busyness of the holidays 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. We’ve enjoyed two of his books.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait 

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

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 latest 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

Creation Science Resources

creationThis year marked the 100th birthday of Charles Darwin. With that fact drawing attention again to his work, there has been a renewed interest in the age-old conflict  – Evolution vs. Creationism.  My older boys have shown an interest in this topic and have read several books about the subject. We have had an opportunity to discuss what a Christian worldview is and how it is in conflict with the other popular worldviews of the current era.

We have found several resources that have been particularly helpful in our studies of Creation and of the ongoing controversy surrounding it. I have listed some of the best that we have examined so far. We are certainly not finished with this subject and will probably find many more reference materials being published in the near future. Therefore, consider this a list in progress, subject to change as more information becomes available.

Probably THE best source of information concerning the study of Creation comes from Creation Ministries International. They have the most up to date information and the greatest presentation that I have seen so far. You could spend days on their website and still not see everything.

Another great resource is Answers In Genesis. Founded by Ken Ham, this organization has spent 30 years sharing information on topics such as the age of the earth, the flood and the significance of archaeological discoveries. There are many answers to the questions that people have been asking for decades.

Creation Resource Foundation website also has lots of great information.

 

Some excellent books on Creation include:

The New Answers Book 4 volume set for adults. There is also a version for kids.

In the Beginning by Walt Brown

Unlocking The Mysteries of Creation by Dennis R Petersen – This book is a wonderfully illustrated volume of information concerning Creation.

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 in 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 homeschool 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 category 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 Kilpatrick.

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 similar title, Turning Back the Pages of Time by Kathy Keller is also out of print but still available used. 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