Monday, March 19, 2012

Tis is a necessity of thine?

Recently I have been in conversations about whether or not children still need to be exposed to Elizabethan language. This is the language that is found in writings like Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible.  I am of the opinion that it is still a good idea for several reasons.

1.       This language of “Old England” is enough different that it has a similar effect on the brain that learning a new language has. That is, is “stretches” the brain and in layman’s terms, creates more space for learning than just that new language. People who learn a second language have more success in math, reading, art, and other cognitive skills.

2.       While I don’t believe that children should only be exposed to the King James Version of the Bible, there are no doubt some scripture passages that are truly beautiful in that language. One of my favorites in the KJV is the 23 Psalm. It is really poetic said in the words of Ole English.

3.       Many of us still desire for our children to attend a university that provides them a liberal arts education. Presently, universities of this caliber are still requiring students to interact with some literature in English, and even Science courses that are written in this old version of the English language.

I presented a workshop last weekend on reading and had the privilege of meeting a gentleman who engaged me in thinking about this very subject. He said that when he was growing up, he used the KJV of the Bible primarily. When he got to college, he found himself in a class where they were studying Shakespeare. His professor found quickly that he understood the meaning of Shakespeare’s writing when the other students weren’t getting it. The professor took him aside and said, “I bet you read the King James Version of the Bible when you were growing up, didn’t you?”

So is it worthwhile to work “Old English” into your child’s curriculum, or is it much ado about nothing?  

Monday, May 16, 2011


I saw a class advertised through a local community college's offering of summer education courses called: Storytelling 101.  I wanted in. The dates of the class conflict with our summer plans, so this momma won't be officially polishing my story telling skills as of yet. But, I did think that perhaps I could share a few ideas that I have picked up here and there which can make storytelling a helpful reading tool in your home.

Storytelling invites imagination. It focuses the attention. It engages the audience.  Any activity that invites, focuses and engages my children without them even knowing it, all the while they are entertained and absorbed in creativity, is something I want in my home often.

We story-tell by reading aloud chapter books. We ask questions. What might happen? What would you do? How would you feel if?   Both my husband and I muster up imaginative answers and encourage dialog while we all four lay in our big bed drawing the evening to a close through the pages of a books, often interrupted with  some good old fashioned wresting matches, before returning to  snuggling over a story. It is fantastic to hear the insight that children have on subjects. Even when Moose does not fully comprehend what is happening in the story he has an understanding of what he thinks is happening. And, he has thoughts and feelings about it to share! Right now we are reading a fantastic chapter book for our before bed snuggle time. It is called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It is both story and graphic novel, with art work that my children stare at intently and find a real sense of knowing the story and its characters through. The art in this book makes the book a friend, and that is so powerful for children.

Other ways to story tell......

1. Sit your children in a cozy space, on the swingset, in the car and begin to tell them a tale you have made up on your own. 

2. Share stories of your childhood or moments of theirs in vivid story form. Kids love to hear stories about themselves. Provide little twists in the story and see if they catch on! 
3. Have someone in the family suggest a topic and take turns creating a story together. 
4. Listen to books on tape together. 
5. Create playscapes (let the kids go at it with shells, blocks, leafs, dolls, cars, anything they can get their hands on) and make up a story together as they go along. 
6. Play dress up and act out characters in your own story. 
7. Take advantage of dark rainy days by keeping lights low and the stories flowing. 
8. Ask those gifted in story telling to share their talent with your family. Invite grandparents or friends over who can story tell for an evening of entertainment. 
9. Make wild art, where there is no wrong way to create it, and come up with stories for each creation. 
10. Sit back,. Be quiet. Listen to your kids. They tell stories all day long. Let them know those stories matter and that you adore them.

The possibilities are endless. Relax, its story time. Doesn't that sound nice?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Read what you love!

A few posts ago my mom wrote about teaching children to read through using the words that are meaningful to them. If your child likes Buzz Lightyear, then /b/ can be for Buzz! This can start at any age. My littlest one is a toothbrush nut. If he sees a toothbrush, bet your bottom dollar that he will find a way to get it into his hands. There is hardly a day that goes by that someone is my family is not hollering out, "Where is my toothbrush?".....and we all know the answer!  The Boo-Boo took it!

I came across this book, all about brushing your teeth, at the library and I knew we had to check it out. Now, in addition to hording the family hygiene products my sixteen month old baby wants to read the toothbrush book all day long. And, that puts a smile on my face...even if I can't find my toothbrush!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Desert: A Unit Study

Our family just returned from a trip to Arizona. While traveling we visited the Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sodona, and the desert. I decided to use this trip as an opportunity to make my, "The World" study come alive.  Several weeks before the trip we began reading books about the desert, all kinds of deserts not just limited to the deserts in the southwest United States. After we scavenged the shelves at our library and then had books ordered from all over the place through the inter library loan system the three favorites that I used for our formal lessons are the above pictured, The Desert Alphabet Book, The Grand Canyon, and A Walk in the Desert.They featured history, animal, landscape shots, and more.

I also made sure we had storybooks about the desert and we read, read, read them! If you are doing a study about the desert for young ones I highly recommend: The Three Little Javelinas, Tortoise and the Jackrabbit, and the classic Clementines Cactus. These great storybooks made learning about the desert fun. From these storybooks we learned more than we bargained for about  desert animals and that was without even trying!

So, in addition to reading these books we also did art, music, and watched a wonderful Reading Rainbow (throw back to my childhood!) video on Native American art called The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.

My son's favorite art projects:
Making a cactus out of green playdough and toothpicks.
Using a ruler to measure out and draw a life size tarantula, cutting it out, and hiding it around the house to "spook" us.

Our favorite desert song:
We put this to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus

The tortoise in the desert eats prickly pear fruit, prickly pear fruit, prickly pear fruit...all day long. 
The hare in the desert goes hop, hop, hop.....all day long. 
The tarantula in the desert goes creep, creep, creep...all night long. 
The owl in the desert goes hoot, hoot, hoot....all night long. 

You can keep the song going. We ended up having upwards of fifteen verses to our song. I used this as a good opportunity to teach nocturnal and diurnal too. So, we ended the song with "all night long" or "all day long" depending on if the animal is nocturnal or diurnal.

We did a study on Native American art from the southwest and while in a Grand Canyon gift shop the Moose found examples of the pottery. He was so excited to have made this discovery. It really made the lesson we did at home come to life for him, which is what this teaching Momma was hoping!  Upon coming home we have created a travel scrapbook, written in our family adventure journal, and read once more all of our desert books now that we can combine the pages of the  books with our experience in Arizona.

Up next on our gigantic unit study, "The World" is a study on rivers, lakes, and oceans.  Fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I am continually asked to suggest a curriculum for homeschool parents to use with their child. I know that I disappoint every time I aswer this question. I don't suggest a specific curriculum. You see, I don't know their child. There are quite a few good curriculum choices on the market, but not every one is best for every child and none of them are developed for an individual child. This is why I believe it is so important for a parent to understand the process of reading aquisition so that they can apply this process and the pieces to the process to any curriculum they choose. Then, if they find that a specific curriculum doesn't work with their child, pick another one. One of the main factors of a reading curriculum is whether or not the reading text in the curriculum interests and motivates their child. Instead of a curriculum calling the instructional shots, it is my hope that the parent as teacher will call the instructional shots and use the curriculum as a support!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Skills in Isolation

Several parents at the Great HomeSchool Conference talked to me about theirs and their child's frustration when they were working on specific skills such as letter sounds or sounds of chunks of letters (th, ph, tion, ea, etc...). When I asked them to tell me more about how they were instructing these skills, I found almost across the board that they were just working on them by themselves, in other words in isolation from anything meaningful to the child. To be honest, most kids have no reason to care why letters have certain sounds. But if you teach them that a letter has a specific sound and it's used in the word _______ (fill in something your child knows and LIKES that has the sound in it that you are trying to teach), then the learning will have much more of a chance to stick because it suddenly becomes relevant to that child. For me, I would love to learn what sound ch makes and that it is in the word CHOCOLATE! Toss the premade alphabet cards that have the letter and a picture (A-apple, B-ball, C-cat, and so on, you get the idea) and instead make your own. It's not to be economical, it's to be relevant. HAve your child decide which picture best represents for him/her what the sound is. For one little guy I know, T is for Thomas Train, and his picture on the card is of Thomas. Another one is a B card that has Billy, a picture of his little friend on it. Now every time he needs a hint about the sound that B makes, the parent pulls out the B card and the connected learning kicks in so that he can say, "Oh, buh."


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Anxious to make a reader

Many parents came to me this weekend with concerns about their preschooler not making specific advancements in reading. Examples were they didn't know all of their letters, they didn't recognize little words, they had no interest in trying to read on their own etc... My answer to these questions was quite similar. Reading is a process not unlike other human processes such as walking, riding a bike etc...The truth is that people are ready to read, or even ready for specific readiness knowledge at different times. If your child is not learning hierarchical pieces in the reading process- letters, chunks, words, despite your time in teaching them, it is highly possible, no, highly probable that your child is not yet ready. It isn't even a maturity issue. Readiness supercedes even maturity. My advice is this is your concern is to back down on the formal instruction and begin doing more play with phonemic awareness: silly songs, making letter characters (draw a letter on a page and make a creature or other thing out of that letter), fun rhyming, environmental print (I'll bet they can "read" McDonalds!), and stop putting the pressure on yourself and your child. Read books together just for fun and make sure you are having genuine conversations with your child about your reading. This will build vocabulary and comprehension in a non-threating environment. Gently work your way back to some minimal instruction. Sometimes going back several steps gets you miles further in the long run.  

Happy reading!