When a Good Plan Goes South…

Shaving Cream for spelling or handwriting practice...

Ever had an idea that you were sure would be a big hit only to find it tank?  Homeschooling provides me many of these.  I like to keep our learning literature-rich, engaging, multi-sensory and as effortless as possible.  You know, the kind of learning where they don’t even realize they are doing any active learning until later???

While that is my overall goal, sometimes an idea doesn’t always come off as planned.  And sometimes you just need to put in some good, hard work whether you want to or not!

Case-in-point: Today.

Since you can’t major on everything, I pick something that no matter what life throws at us that day, we try and get THIS done.  Our Phonics/Spelling program is my hill-to-die-on for this year for the bigger two. {Faithful follow-through in obedience is it for the four year old!}

With the craziness of the holidays behind us, I find myself wanting to ease back into routine.  So this week, the boys started back with that. After a morning spent at the zoo, I decided to add a fun, {messy} twist to our spelling practice time.  Remember when I posted about our ‘taking a snow day’ a couple of years ago?  In the midst of their ‘play’ they engaged in some impromptu handwriting practice. As I prepared for our activity, I could hear the cheers of excited little boys!!! Plus, taking the pencil away and turning the handwriting in a more ‘gross-motor’ direction typically makes it easier for us to squeeze in more words than usual.

And really, what could be more fun than cookie sheets, shaving cream and some good ol’ spelling practice?!?!?!


Spelling1 Spelling
{Keegan’s favorite picture.}
It was fun for the first couple of words, but the novelty wore off quicker than I anticipated.  Whining and complaining commenced, punctuated with the joyful boasting from the 4.5 year old that he got to play with dinosaurs…
Spelling6b Spelling6
The boys learned an important lesson: even if the ‘fun’ has dissipated, the work still remains and must be done.  Those that apply themselves get to play.  Those that don’t, run out of time.  A lesson in perseverance and working hard.

Mama learned that maybe something like this might seem more rewarding when compared to the usual routine instead of the joys of vacation.  I’m planning a do-over in a few weeks!  Poor timing can derail even some of the best ideas.

Sometimes life’s lessons are tough.

Thinking OUTSIDE the School Desk

There is just something about 6 year old little boys, or at least my 6 year old little boys…  They have a high desire to practice their spelling and improve their reading skills, but very little desire to pick up that little pencil.  The desire is especially potent right now because my middle son wants to join his big brother in playing Ticket to Ride.  But his reading skills need to improve a bit more before he can play completely on his own without help…

So penmanship practice took place largely outdoors this summer – even in our intense summer heat.  ICE kept us cool for about 15 minutes before we meandered back indoors, leaving our words to quickly fade away.  Even the 8 year old begged to do his spelling words outside too afterwards!  The four year old lasted a couple of minutes before abandoning ice in favor of his stick horse and some far-off battle.  And of course Greta is pleased to be wherever we are and happily played next to us…

The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to be tethered to a desk.  We can go outside, write with ice-cubes, spray messages with squirt bottles and take advantage of any and every location imaginable!

Have you taken your learning adventures into any new venues lately?

Seven Benefits of Reading Aloud!

Seven reasons why we should read aloud to our kids EACH AND EVERY DAY!!!  Even to our older kids!

With summer here and summer reading programs starting up in full force soon, we get frequent reminders to read to our children.  Reading together is such an intimate activity that we get to do with our children.

But I’m a WHY person and sometimes it is good to have a reminder of WHY it is so important to read to our children!  Am I alone in this???

There are so many benefits to reading aloud.  One of the best gifts we can give our children is shared experiences with books!  The benefits are numerous and profound.  Let me share a few with you.

Reading aloud, EVERY.SINGLE.DAY, is so important because it:

1. Promotes Relational Intimacy

  • There is something so special and intimate about curling up with your child/children to read a good book.  When tempers are short and we are on edge with one another, I frequently turn to reading aloud.  It is amazing how it calms everyone down and gets us to a place where we can address what is going on in our hearts.

2. Feeds the Imagination

  • The imagination is a powerful tool in the learning process. Reading aloud feeds and nurtures this as everyone is transported from the couch into the story at hand.

3. Cultivates an Interest in Books

  • There is something magical about sharing the joy of reading by communicating pleasure in the story.  This goes a long way in growing an interest in books.

4. Develops a Taste for a Variety of Good Literature

  • As parents, we have a powerful opportunity to shape their taste for good books and a variety of different KINDS of books.  This can be key, especially as children get older when introducing them to literature that might not be something they are naturally drawn towards.

5. Increases Attention Spans

  • Drawing them into the story helps to focus their attention for increasing lengths of time.  This not only helps with reading, but with many other areas of their lives.  This can be especially important for those really active children.  I’ve found that busy hands make for focused minds.  As such, I’ll often give my boys paper to doodle on, play dough or pipe cleaners/wiki sticks.

5. Builds Phonemic Awareness

  • Reading builds phonemic awareness and an understanding of the general cadence of our language.  Phonemic awareness is simply being aware of how sounds combine to make words.  This is such an important precursor and ongoing strengthener of reading skills.  Reading to our children introduces them to words and draws them into listening how they are put together.
  • An early childhood longitudinal study found that children who were read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness.  Imagine the effect when we read to our children daily!

6. Builds Vocabulary

  • Reading aloud is one of the most powerful ways to build our children’s vocabulary.  The size of a child’s vocabulary when they start formal academics is the single greatest predictor of school success or failure.  The words they know before this point determine how much of what is taught will be understood.
  • Once they begin reading, personal vocabulary either feeds or frustrates comprehension.  And that leg-up in vocabulary will keep them at an advantage as material grows increasingly more complicated.
  • Even as kids get older, research has revealed an increase in vocabulary acquisition by 15-40%.  So it is important to KEEP reading to our children, even after they can read on their own.

I’m just getting started…  I’ll continue on with some tips on ‘how’ to help your children enjoy the read-aloud times more, talk about the importance of different types of books and anything else that comes up!

Related Post: Cultivating Read-Aloud Time

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