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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Great List of Crafts for Kids!

I don't know about you, but we are in Idaho... and it's raining. A lot. This is not usual weather for us and so I was kind of taken back. I had nothing planned. *sigh* So I checked my email and lo and behold, I had a list of craft ideas sent over from my good friend, Cynthia. She's awesome like that and always has a ton of resources for homeschoolers.
Just in case you were looking for something to do inside with your little ones, I thought I would share the wealth. It's always good to find crafts for kids anyway - especially with the winter weather coming. Whether you are looking for interesting ways to keep kids entertained during the winter or you would are just looking to add on to your elementary / toddler lesson plans, here is a huge list with a lot of craft information.
This list includes crafts for toddlers to older children, with many of the sites appropriate for a wide age range. There are also individual crafts and group projects that can be easily adapted for homeschool children. I went through the list and added a few of my own as well and hope that you find this a pretty comprehensive and helpful list for art ideas.
Crafts for Toddlers and Smaller Hands
Sticker Glue:
Art project that is geared toward younger kids. It involves making an edible glue that little ones can apply to the back of paper to make their own stickers. We have begun using this recipe to make an alphabet sticker book :) Pictures should be coming soon for that one!

Home Made Paint - I actually posted this a while back, but thought I would include it in the list since it is a great way to do art with smaller kids and a cheaper option to buying your own finger paint!

Craft Projects for Elementary Aged Kids (and beyond)
A great way to reuse old plastic bottles is to make jewelry out of them! This site has a craft project using sharpies, plastic bottles, and a bit of creative know how. Simple projects that require some supervision.

Plastic Bag Beads: I know I have more plastic bags than I can ever possibly use stored under my kitchen sink. Here's a creative use for some of them. Because this craft requires the use of open flame, it is suitable for older kids only.

More Beads! Can't get enough beads? Do you have magazines lying around collecting dust? Well, here's a link to a craft where you make beads from paper.

Self Made Clay: (Homemade Clay) Polymer clay is amazingly versatile, but a bit pricey. Here's a recipe where you can make your own.

These next few links are yarn and weaving crafts:
Paper Plate Weaving -- Great for little hands and teaching dexterity.  

Bracelet Crafts:

If you still want more crafts suitable for teens, here is a collection of links with tons of resources:

Of course, there are many more craft ideas for kids out there but this should be enough to get you started. If there is a page that you love, please share! We'd love to add more ideas to the list!



Monday, November 11, 2013

A Freelance Writers View on Teaching Kids to Read and Write

I hear it all the time, "How do I get my child to read or write?" They want to focus on a secret way to teach homeschoolers English and it seems to make no sense to me. Every time, every single time, I shake my head. I just don't understand the concept of a child needing to be got to read or write. I was pretty much born with a pen in my hand. I remember wanting to know how things were spelled as a toddler. When I was five, I went to work with my father on a regular basis. I spent that time typing on an old typewriter and being happy as a clam. Figuratively speaking of course. Who knows how happy a clam is anyway?

I digress.

It's a foreign concept. Apparently it is a common question though and I would like to share my thoughts on English homeschool curriculums and what I feel their values are. First, I would like to say that I definitely see a point to having them out there. I do realize that there are two children currently and watching their interactions with books and the written word has been interesting. One already has a love of books and takes charge in reading to himself. He thinks that words are cool. The other, I had to force feed comic books until he was about 9. However, the older one would never have a problem with me reading to him. That being said, I get that different kids have different needs.

Who needs a curriculum?

That being said, not all kids need a pre-formulated plan on learning the language that is spoken around them all the time. Many kids out there have parents thinking that they do and because of this they are forced to sit down and suck down a litany of worksheets and beginner books that are boredom times a million. What better way to kill a child's interest in learning than to set them in a box and tell them to occupy themselves. There are kids out there that simply don't need it. It is far better to encourage a love of learning and exploring as the child sees fit versus what we as parents seem to think is needed. Before any parent goes out and buys a boxed curriculum and spends money on it, I think it is important to talk to the kids first and see if an interest is there. Ask them questions about what they want to know about and provide literature that fits those interests. Children that learn under structure and strive for grades and approval in a more traditional manner will do great with a curriculum and that is what they are there for. Other than that, save your money on other tools and go from there.

Learning to Read

Learning to read can be done in a number of ways. There are many jobs as a freelancer that I didn't know how to do from the start of the job but by the time the project was finished, I was a bonafide expert. I learned WordPress this way. I mastered transcription this way. I have watched my own son master reading this way. In his case, the learning aspect came from the love of comics. While learning to read is a process and it won't happen overnight, my point is that a curriculum is not the only way to do this. There are other methods which focus on phonics, tactile learning, and trial and error. This isn't the full list, but the point is this... when a child wants to learn they will.

Challenge is Good

As I said, some of the ways that I learned my own trade was by jumping in. This can be done with English as well. When my son was learning how to read, since he was older, I handed him "Hatchet". He was not to a fourth grade reading level, but his maturity was at this level. Did he struggle with words? Yes. Of course he did. However, he also had interest in camping, hiking, and the other aspects that the novel offered. The point was that I wanted to find something that he wanted to read. I didn't give him a time limit but I did ask him daily questions to challenge his understanding. Sometimes he surprised me and had caught something that I had forgotten. Other times our talks inspired him to go back and read again. As he has gotten older I have offered more challenging readings on different topics. A love of war machines has given us "All Quiet on the Western Front" and interest in politics has inspired readings of "Animal Farm" and "1984".

Greed is Good

Money is a good motivator. Do I spend more time on clients that pay more? Sure, it's been known to happen. While I have a love for all of my clients, sometimes money talks. The same can be said for learning. Of course, you don't want to make it a constant. However, offering money to read something outside of the scope of my son has given him and I the opportunity to learn about new avenues and get writing. I once had a project for my own college class that I didn't want to do and I paid him to help me research. He ended up enjoying it much more than I did and he helped me get a better grade in the class. Every now and then he will ask if there is anything he can earn money by doing and I'll tell him he can write a report.

Finding Common Ground

At the end of the day it is up to you to decide what is going to work best for your kids. I have found that teaching children English is a task and that you do need to get them involved in the process. Once you find the way they learn, run with it. Don't let anyone else tell you how to do it and don't freak out if they don't meet a deadline. There is no need that a child needs to learn their letters by 3 or that they need to be reading at level right on time. Remember with homeschooling there is no standard and that because you spend one on one time with your child, chances are that they are going to catch up in their own pace. However, if you have concerns, don't be afraid to ask for help. Just don't take advice as the end all of the conversation. You know your teaching and you know your children. You are ultimately going to know what works best for them.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How Time Management Made Us a Happier Homeschooling Home

I always mean to update on here. I need to make a pact with myself... I will update. However, in the past I have failed this... because at the root of it all, I am horrible with time management! So in light of this, I am going to start putting it on my calendar. That's right, I said calendar.

For those that know me, they know that time management is not my strong point. It's difficult. I have a 3 year old and a 13 year old in the same house. I have schedules for both while trying to teach the both of them at different ages. I still don't know how you guys with 3 plus kids do it! But in all honesty, keeping up with a schedule and planning a curriculum is pretty impossible in this house. Recently, I thought about this whole concept. I mean, I am teaching a couple of kids how to live and eventually they will have to have jobs, go to college (or whatever else they choose) and essentially how to function in the real world... Perhaps, just maybe, it is time to get on the ball about showing them what it is like to be a functioning adult that shows up on time to things. Teach by example, they say... right? So here we go! These are the steps that we took to take our lives and have a happier homeschooling household.

Step ONE: Declutter and Simplify

Above all else, one of the biggest things that gets me behind in life are all of the distractions around. I have instilled a couple of tools to help organize the household and to help us be able to find what we need when it comes to schooling. Decluttering the house, for homeschooling purposes, began with the office. Unfortunately, I don't have a before picture... but here is the after pictures.

Now before you tell me, "That's not organized!" Remember, we have no before pictures! HA! Seriously, it was a crazy mess up in here! I actually had some very astute friends come in and help me.

Step TWO: Schedule Stuff

Scheduling is a difficult task for me. Scheduling and putting things on the calendar mean that I need to be accountable for my actions. That's not always easy! But we did a few things. One, I set up my Google calendar to be a bit more formulaic. I color coded for the boys gymnastics, date nights, lessons, and even days off. Next, I got those updates coming to my phone. After that, I have someone now to remind me when things are. We also set up a family calendar. Unfortunately, to date it has been up for about 2 weeks and it has yet to be utilized. The important fact is that it is there!

Scheduling homeschooling isn't always easy when you have two kids out there needing completely different tasks to keep them busy and engaged, either.

Step THREE: Lowering Standards

One of the main reasons that I used to get all crazy about scheduling was because I had these high expectations that everything had to be just so. Truthfully, I wanted to get the oldest into Latin, Boy Scouts, sports, and a 6 hour lesson. We unschool, for the most part, and the anal retentive planning that went with my expectations just isn't reasonable considering our homeschooling style. I had to sit down and talk with the boys and figure out what they wanted to learn and what I was cramming down their throats. The younger one was easy, but the older has a varied interest pool and I needed to make sure that his learning was representative of his own interests. Otherwise, why bother with homeschooling in the first place? That is not to say that you should follow our lead. I mean, if you have things that you teach because you feel your kids should know and you follow your own curriculum or are planning oriented, then you might not find that it is shoving or anal retentive. I'm just saying that for me to implement what I wanted to, I had to be those things because it goes against the grain around here.

Step FOUR: Schedule Cleaning Before Learning

I am not one for a spotless house, however, I found that when I put off chores... so did the boys. I make sure that all necessary chores are done before schooling starts. I also began bartering for someone to come over and help clean. It's certainly okay to ask for help. You would be amazed what people will do for baked good, co-ops, or baby sitting. In my case, I have a massage therapist for a husband... it made bartering and organizing easy!

Step FIVE: Make Time for the Husband and I

Seriously, up until a month ago, the first real date night my husband and I had was over a YEAR ago. We were losing touch and grumpy. Mind you, I had surgery earlier in the year and we've been through the ringer in the last couple of years. In the end though, the family starts with the adults. If it weren't for adult time then the kids wouldn't be here. Having this time with my husband has made all the difference because we are in a place of friendliness rather than grumpiness. He knows what is going on in my world and we actually... gasp... talk again! It has not only brought us closer and been a benefit for the whole family, it's brought back some fun and spice. This makes for a happier mommy and in turn a happier teacher. It's truly win-win for everyone.