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Intro to 'Living' Books, Lego Therapy, Curricula for Dyslexics


Added Friday, February 03, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 5February 3, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net. All Rights Reserved.

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

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Notes from the Editor
-- Bookin' - Part Three
Helpful Tips
-- Lego Therapy
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Editor's Picks
-- 360 Panorama Site
-- Subscriber Information
-- Sponsorship Information

Notes from Heather

What books should I have in my home library?

In the last issue I promised to begin to introduce you to the specific
books that I look for when shopping a library sale or shopping online
at other homeschool moms' bookstores.So I'll dive right in!

The vast majority of books that I hunt for have been published
between 1950 and 1970.Most of the books were written by authors
who were dedicated to writing about topics they were completely
absorbed in and had thoroughly researched.Many had previously
written books for adults and were commissioned to write at elemen-
tary, junior high and high school reading levels.History, biography,
historical fiction, science and math -- all "living" books.

What do I mean by a "living" book?For me, the definition of a living
book is one that grabs your attention on the first page... even with
the first few sentences or paragraphs.It is exciting to read, not a dull
or dry narrative of facts to memorize, but a storyteller's delight!Even
non-fiction books in narrative form can be "living" books if the narrative
is exciting.Does the author seem passionate about what they are
writing?Is the story itself one that you want to keep reading after
the first page?Those are some questions to ask yourself when looking
over an unfamiliar book which you are considering for your home library.

Some books you find may not be obviously educational.For instance,
there are many wonderfully written fiction stories.Most of the books
you should be drawn to will be written by authors who have won
awards.Consider wholesome stories like Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
and All-Of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, historical fiction like The
Perilous Road by William O. Steele and Battle Lanterns by Merritt
Parmelee Allen, and animal adventure stories by Jim Kjelgaard and Walt
Morey.Books like these are great additions to your home library,
especially if you have younger children coming up through the ranks.

Ever wonder about biographies and why they are desirable reading?
One thing I love about biographies is that you get to see a segment
of history in a person's life.Watching Booker T. Washington grow
from a young boy in the salt mines to a full-grown man of great
accomplishment gives you a piece of history in slow motion as it was
happening from his perspective.It is a wonderful way to learn history
and it gives you a "human's eye" view of things.And nothing is more
fun than having a new friend you are reading about actually meet an
"old friend" within a book.For instance, my boys were floored when
Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell "met" in a biography of Bell.
It put that part of history into a concrete timeline in their heads.
You'd have thought that Peter Pan just met Little Red Riding Hood!
They really got a kick out of it.Once we were reading about the
famous Johnstown Flood.Guess who showed up to help?None
other than Clara Barton.It was so fun to put it all together."Oh,
yeah!That's just about the time the Red Cross in America began!"

Biographies, in my opinion, are a GREAT way for young children to
have an introduction to history.By far, the Discovery series by
Garrard Publishing is my favorite for elementary ages.Written at
about a 4th grade level, I read these aloud to my children until they
are old enough to devour them for themselves.Look for these at
your library and try a few!You can usually buy Discovery biographies
from booksellers online in the $3 to $6 range.

In the next issue I will share many more recommendations with you.I'll
also tell you why I avoid so many books published after 1970.

[Editor's note:In re-reading last week's article I was mortified to find a
horrific grammatical mistyping of a double negative.I obviously need a
proofreader.Please be assured that it won't happen again.The only
viable excuse I can provide is that I ain't got no grammar books in my
home library -- not to mention being public schooled. ;-) -- Heather]



[Here's your chance!Send YOUR ideas along to

This tip about improving fine motor skills for boys' handwriting came
from my HomeschoolingBoys.com email group.

Jill writes, "Whoever said boys age 4, 5, and 6 can't sit down and
complete a task with focus never saw a room full of them with
LEGOS!!Which, by the way, I highly recommend for the small
motor skills it takes to write with a pencil. My son had horrible
penmanship at age 5 and we did no work whatsoever with pen,
pencil or crayon (he does not like to color) and after 2 years of
intense lego therapy of his own design, he has beautiful letters."


Send YOUR ideas to:HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Last Issue's Question Was...

"We suspect that our 11 year old son may have dyslexia.I have
searched websites for curriculum geared for this but find it very
expensive.Does anyone know how I can obtain free or greatly
reduced materials for dyslexia?We are having him tested soon
to precisely determine if he has dyslexia or not." - Jacqueline in AL

Our Readers' Responses

I have an 11 year old daughter who, up until three months ago, was
attending a private school.Since November, my husband and I
decided to take her out of school and homeschool her.She was
just not getting the help that she needed there.We have recently
confirmed our suspicions that she has dyslexia.I have been
searching and searching for curriculum geared for dyslexic children
and I am not finding any one particularprogram that would suit our
needs.Dyslexia presents itself in so many different ways and has
so many different facets.That in itself makes it very difficult to find
curriculum for dyslexics.Once you have pin-pointed the specific
area or areas the child is weak in, it may be easier to find the
material that is needed. -- Ebelien in Canada


I just wanted to share what I hope to be an encouraging story of my
uncle, now retired from Kodak.He is dyslexic and was told he
should find a trade because he would never make it in college by
his public school counselor.He joined my grandfather working in
the shipping department at Kodak.He there impressed his boss so
much that they started sending him to school and he eventually
became an engineer/troubleshooter for a department of Kodak that
worked for the US government.

I too have a tendency to reverse things, especially while I was
younger (and I still can't spell!!), and I also gravitated to engineering
and was a drafter before I had my first child 4 years ago.I was
horrible in math (I couldn't memorize my times tables) until I got to
algebra, then it finally made sense and I excelled.I ended up going
all the way to Calc 2.Godgifts us all in different ways; isn't it

BTW, thank you all for the wonderful responses to my question last
issue!! -- Christine in PA


Scottish Rite Hospitals have an amazing program they specifically
designed to teach reading to children with dyslexia.When I was
teaching special education we could only get the curriculum and
videos from parents who had taken their children to the hospitals
and clinics and no longer needed to use them.And the best part
was that for the parents, this program was free of charge.There
are usually only 2-3 Scottish Rite programs in each state.For more
information on where to find one, contact your local Masonic Lodge
or do a web search. -- Laura


We also have a son (12) who was diagnosed as severely dyslexic.
We noticed a reading problem as far back as 2nd grade, but were
always told that he would "outgrow it".Finally inthe summer after
3rd grade, I sat down with my son and asked him, "What are the
words doing when you see them?"He told me they were leaping all
overthe pages and his eyes could not keep up with them.That got
the ball rolling.You are making the right move in getting him tested
first.Find someone who excels in diagnosing the situation and go
from there.There are many methods that are used to work with this
type oflearning disorder.I have not found any learning curriculum
online that has helped with dyslexia - there is a lot of work on the
part of the parent or teacher that has to be addressed and exercised
daily.For example, my son is excellent in math, so he is enrolled in
a math class at school.This is unusual, but the school system has
to work with you.Also, he loves music, so he is also enrolled in
band.All other subjects (Language Arts, Science, Social Studies
andReading) are done at home, one on one.We read all daily
lessons together and discuss at great lengths to see that he has the
concepts.As for Language Arts,we have a reading lesson for the
week.I have him read the lesson each day and time him to see how
quickly he progresses each day.Then we work on handwriting
(cursive only).I take small phrases from the reading lessons and
make him write them 3x each day.

I know this is alot to take in, but as I stated earlier, get thetesting
and see where he stands and at what level he may be at.Go from
there and just expect dedication on the part of parent and student.
I would love to assist in any way possible and share what I have
done in the last 3 years.Most of all, work on patience and just
know that thissituation takes time and conviction. -- Kim in TX


We also have an 11 year old ds with dyslexia.This year I
discovered AVKO ( http://www.avko.org ), which has a lot of free,
cheap, and/or downloadable resources.AVKO is anon-profit
organization directed by a man who himself has dyslexia and has
developed materials to help dyslexics learn to read, write, spell and
type. -- Jennifer in California


Our nine year old daughter is dyslexic (and gifted).There are great
books with suggestions.There is "Overcoming Dyslexia" and "The
Gift of Dyslexia".The latter shows how dyslexia is an advantage in
some things, like spatial understanding of complicated designs.

It seems that there aren't a lot of suggested curriculums -- especially
not geared for all types of dyslexics.At his age, technology seems
to be the answer.Laptops with spell check are one thing considered
a necessity for dyslexics in public and private schools.Computer
programs suggested are Cowriter, Draftbuilding, Write Out, and Alpha
Smart.Perhaps you could get them used on line or borrow them
from a library.There are many adults in high profile jobs using the
voice technology on their computer to take care of writing.

Some websites you may find useful are:

The curriculum that is priced good enough for me to order soon is
Sequential Spelling through AVKO.

The AVKO site also has a page with free curriculum.

I am suspicious that our daughter's dyslexia may be more of an
ADHD issue.CHADD has a video on writing that shows how ADD
can look like dyslexia or even cause dyslexia because the eyes
are jumping around on the page trying to keep up with the compre-
hension part of reading and writing.If you think about it, details are
important in reading and writing, and if it's hard to sit and focus both
physically and mentally, it's going to be difficult to do the reading
and writing.The ability is there, but the day to day performance
isn't.It's partly their mind is so much faster than their physical body.

Also, we tried vision therapy which some eye doctors do.Some
people rave about it's results.They did seem to help my daughter
a lot.It's expensive, but some insurance companies will cover it.

There are online homeschool curriculum borrowing club web sites.
Also, anything you do want to use could be available to borrow from
libraries, not just public, but university and school districts as well.
Check into inter-library loan.All libraries are interconnected and will
help you locate what you want and get it delivered to your closest
library, usually free.Most school districts will be glad to talk with
you and let you borrow curriculum (believe it or not)because you
pay taxes.I guess you know how "friendly" your school districts
are.I hope something here will help. -- Heidi


I found that my son had a vision problem, even when he had 20/15
vision. He hadeye teaming problems and tracking. I would
recommend you look at www.childrensvision.com. The doctor and
therapist who helped my son were wonderful. He improved in all
school areas and in addition improved in attitude, being able to sit,
and feeling not dumb.One big thing I saw with him is he didn't
sit up straight and rested his head on his hand.The doctor said
this helped him see.If he cannot cross his eyes then he doesn't
have control of them to read.I downloaded a free test for dyslexia
off the internet and he tested fine even when he wrote and read
things backward.Many dyslexic and learning disabled students
need vision therapy.The book "Helping Children Overcome Learning
Difficulties" By Jerome Rosner can be ordered on www.half.com.
This book has a test you can give that goes over all the things that
you need to consider when more help is needed and recommends
ways to overcome some learning difficulties. You're doing great by
just inquiring. You will find an answer. -- Lisa in PA


[Editor's note:Speaking of dyslexia, I had an encounter last night
with a 50-something police officer who pulled me over for allegedly
clocking me doing 64 in a 45 mph zone.When I told him I was
sure I was going just about 45, and had even just checked my
speedometer as I entered that zone (coming from a 35 mph zone),
he seemed to take on a softer approach.After checking my driver's
license (and nothing else) he let me go with a warning.As I drove
away I figured out he must be dyslexic and had read the displayed
number "46" as "64"!Needless to say, I was just so grateful he
realized his possible mistake and I didn't get a ticket. -- Heather]

Answer our NEW Question!

"I am not actually a homeschool mom yet; my first child is a
15-month old baby girl.Right now I am exploring schooling options.
I am certainly intrigued by homeschooling, and my local church has
quite a few homeschooling parents.But there is also a very good
private Christian school in the area.Right now my husband and I
are pretty sure that we do not want to send our child/children to
public schools, but that is as far as we have gotten.So I was
wondering how you and your subscribers arrived at the decision to
homeschool?What were your thought processes?Did you
consider other options?Any insights would be appreciated.
Thanks. -- Karen in TN


Do you have a special insight for this mom?
Send your responses to:HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a burning question that you can't ask just anyone?
Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if our readers can help you out.



Visit this cool 360 degree panorama site when you want to take a
virtual fieldtrip or enhance a geography or current events study!

It is updated frequently, as this helicopter pilot makes his way to
interesting places, including landmarks and countries around the
world.Fasten your seatbelt!

Interactive Email Group

In an effort to help our readers become more of an interactive
community, we have set up an email loop at YahooGroups called

Please sign-up for the group and take our poll, even if you want
to go "no mail" for the loop.This will help me to understand what
ages your children are, how you school, etc.(The information will
be kept anonymous and private, of course.)

Here is the link to sign-up and take the poll:



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