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Teaching Multiple Ages, An Autumn Craft

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, October 06, 2006

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 41 October 6, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- An Autumn Craft
Helpful Tips
-- Incentive Idea
Website Winners
-- I Know That!
Question of the Week
-- Your Questions
-- Your Answers
Additional Notes
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

A Fun and Simple Autumn Craft for the Kids!

I am not usually a 'crafty' person, but my husband tells me he
did this exact art project when he was a kid... and he loved it!
It looks easy and fun -- and takes very few 'ingredients' -- so I
thought I'd pass it on to our readers. (All I ever did as a child
was leaf 'rubbings'... guess I missed out!)


Fall Leaf Collage
by Rachel Paxton

Fall is a great time for kids to do fall crafts. Leaf collages
are easy to make and can provide hours of fall fun. Kids enjoy
looking for the leaves as well as using the leaves to create
their creative collages.

Here's what you need for this fun fall craft project:

Fall leaves
Ornamental grasses
Flower petals
Waxed paper
Old crayons
Old cheese grater

This project can be done on two different days. One afternoon
can be spent outside looking for different colored leaves, pretty
ornamental grasses, and interesting flower petals. After the
kids have a good collection, have them lay everything out on
some newspapers to dry.

On a rainy day when there's nothing else to do or maybe on
Thanksgiving Day while you're waiting for dinner to be ready,
bring out the dried leaves and grasses to create the leaf

Start by choosing the size of the collage. Tear off two pieces
of waxed paper to the desired size. You will be pressing the
leaves between the sheets of waxed paper.

You will be using crayon shavings to get the sheets of waxed
paper to stick together. This also adds some color to the
collages. Choose some old crayons in a variety of fall colors
and use the old cheese grater to get some shavings from the

Working on a piece of newspaper, lay one sheet of waxed paper
down and arrange the leaves, grasses, and flowers as desired.
Sprinkle crayon shavings all over the sheet of waxed paper, so
that when you iron the sheets together, they will completely
stick together.

Next use the iron to press the two sheets of waxed paper
together. Unless you're using an old iron, you should use a thin
cloth between the waxed paper and the iron, or you might get
crayon shavings on your iron, which will transfer onto the next
thing you iron...believe me, I know!

That's it! These leaf collages look great hanging in a window as
a pretty fall decoration. You could also hang them on the
refrigerator, frame them, or even use them as placemats.

Photo of finished project:


Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of
What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick
easy dinner ideas. For more recipes, organizing tips, home
decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative
Homemaking at http://www.creativehomemaking.com.


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Incentive Idea

"My boys are 10 & 5. The age and maturity differences cause huge
sibling rivalries and this sometimes runs into our learning time. I
HAD to come up with some sort of incentive plan or I was going to
pull my hair out. I invented 'daily dollars'; these are small dollar
looking cutouts that I printed off my computer and laminated. They
earn one per day and at the end of the week they can buy stuff out
of the 'treasure box' (a cardboard box I let them decorate). I took
the boys to a store called Dollar Tree (everything is a dollar in this
store; I love it!!) and I allowed them to choose five things each to
put into the box. I figured this way they picked out the prizes and
they would work really hard to earn the dollars to buy the prizes at
the end of the week. I did find that I had to make a big deal out of
them receiving the 'daily dollars' to encourage excitement. I also
found that I had to make just as big of a deal when they didn't get
one because of their behavior. I also implemented an awards chart.
They receive a sticker for each day they do well and at the end of
10 stickers we go out for ice cream or to the park or something
fun, but again I sat down with them and had them tell me some
things they thought would be fun."
-- Judy in Texas (HomeschoolingBOYS group)


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Website Winners

I Know That!

With educational games and activities for grades PreK - 6, you
will want this site in your favorites for the kids to access on a
regular basis. Registration is free and the selection of activities
covers multiple subjects including language arts, math, science
and thinking skills. They do have a "premium" membership for
a fee that allows you to track your child’s progress and removes
advertising. We enjoy using the free version. :-) On a day when
I just don’t have my act together, it is nice to be able to send the
kids to this site for 30 minutes of focused learning in a subject,
or allow them to choose their activities -- either way, I know they
are learning or reinforcing important concepts.



Each Friday a "Website Winner" is brought to us by
Cindy Prechtel of http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I have a question I would like your readers to help me with. I am
new to homeschooling. I have a reluctant 5 year old son who I am
struggling to teach to read. I also have a very smart 6 year old in
first grade and an 8 year old third grader. My question is this: What
do your readers do when they have different grades to each give your
attention when everybody needs you to look at whatever they are
doing? I am easily burdened by their demands, not bad demands,
they just want me to see what they are working on, but I also want
to give attention to my son since he's the one who needs it the most.
Thank you; any help would be greatly appreciated." -- J. M.

Our Readers' Responses

"I have my 8 year old 'teach' the younger kids what she already
knows. She takes great pride in her spelling and math 'classes'
and remembers what she had trouble with and that helps her to be
a more patient teacher. When she does her 'Reading Power' she
reads it aloud and all three of them answer the questions. This
takes longer, because the little ones need help spelling and think-
ing through (i.e. the thought process to come out with the correct
answers) but they love trying to do what sissy is doing and she
loves the idea that SHE is the teacher. With the ages that they
are there are many subjects that they can all do together. The
ones they can't - just put sissy teaching one while you work with
the other and then switch. And be assured that when she is
teaching, she IS learning!" -- Deb


"I have 5 children aged 2 to 9 and pregnant with our sixth (yay!).
My 7 year old son couldn't read when he was six and is just start-
ing to now, which is very normal. If you have a good curiculum for
teaching him to read, just plug away at that...or stop. I had to
stop all phonics for a year because it was too frustrating for him.
I started again this year and it's amazing how well he's doing! A
lot of the reading he does do he taught himself because he's very
visual. So I wouldn't stress with the six year old -- read to him a
lot and then start up a program after he's seven. As for the older
two, I have a time in the morning where I focus on the little ones
while the two older do their worksheets (math, writing, etc.). After
I've played with the younger ones for an hour, I devote some time
to helping the older ones finish their papers and assisting with
things they don't understand. That usually takes about a half hour
each. What's nice is since I already spent time with the younger
ones, they are not so insistent on my attention! Later in the day
I do their short lessons and a unit study. By short lessons I mean
I try and find curricula that doesn't take more than 15 minute
chunks, (Spelling Power, quickgrammar, Alphabet Island). Then
the unit study consists of me reading a lot on a selected subject.
If the younger ones are awake, I have them sit with a lap tray and
something to color.

Mostly it sounds to me like you're concerned because your six
year old can't read and your older child was probably reading
fluently by that age. I encountered the same thing, and I worried,
but once I dropped it for a year and started again it was so much
easier and he's doing well. Try and find other fun things to keep
him going for now -- computer games, leap pad books, etc. He'll
be fine. And allow your other kids time to become independent
learners, too. Do not feel like you have to sit down and explain
everything to the ones who CAN read already! I know how you
feel -- it will all work itself out!" -- Crystal N.


"We have been homeschooling for 5 years now. I have a 14 year
old son, 7 year old daughter, and a son who is 3 1/2. My oldest
son can do most of his work on his own with the exception of his
algebra. When he has other questions, he waits until my daugh-
ter comes to a stopping point. I try to encourage my 3 1/2 year
old son to do his 'school work' -- which is the easier parts of pre-
school work that I purchase in workbooks at Wal-Mart or Sam's,
etc. He does not have to do his work if he does not want to, but
he usually loves it. Doing 'school work' makes him feel like one
of the big kids.

Even my 7 year old has work she can do on her own. I devote
this time to Baby Steven, the 3 1/2 year old. Sometimes I have
to help all three at the same time. When this happens, I just
make them take turns. This teaches them patience and to wait
their turn.

Because of homeschooling, I cannot spend as much one-on-one
time with my little one, so after supper and chores he wants me
to play with him. I play with him by himself for about 30 minutes
or so and it all seems to work out fine. You can let the children
help you with your chores -- which teaches them responsibility
and gives them time with you. And by praising them for their
assistance you make them feel needed and important to you.
It also teaches them what they will need to know to take care of
their own household. I have a degenerative bone disease which
has had me in bed a lot lately and my children have been tremen-
dously helpful to me. If you teach them to help you for no reason
except to spend time with you, they can be much more help when
you really need them."


"First of all, I would like to address teaching a reluctant 5-year-old
boy to read. I think that it is too early. 'Your Child's Growing Mind'
by Jane Healy, 'The Homeschool Answer Book' by Ruth Beechick
(wonderful book), as well as many others address the issue of
teaching reading, particularly to boys. Just last night, I was read-
ing and telling my husband that Ruth Beechick said, that for the
most part, most boys are not ready to read before age 7 1/2 -- and
for girls it's generally 6 1/2. That is when most (not all) children
are developmentally ready to read. Before that, you're really looking
at advanced children and children who naturally have a proclivity
toward reading. A friend of mine who has her master's degree in
reading instruction told me that she remembers reading this study
while doing her graduate work that showed that trying to teach chil-
dren to read before they are mentally ready (and this varies for each
child) can actually frustrate their progress in reading because they
are simply not ready to handle it! I always remind myself, do I want
my son to learn to read, or to learn to LOVE reading? If I rush it and
force it too much, I will frustrate him and turn him off. For some
children, reading takes longer than for others. Don't feel pressured
to keep up with someone else on this point. If your child is not ready,
don't rush just because you need to 'keep up' with the rest of the

Once he IS ready (and I would wait a while, or take it very slowly),
we love Happy Phonics from http://www.lovetolearn.net (a game-based
approach, that was created for a young boy), Explode the Code and its
primers of course (Get Ready, Get Set, Go), as well as easy readers -
MCP Readers (from Rainbow Resource) and Bob Books. Readers need to be
at the child's reading level. Many readers say, 'PreK' or 'K' or
whatever, but they are far too advanced. You will know what your son
can handle.

My daughter (age 8) is a very advanced reader. My son (age 6 1/2)
struggles. I teach English and Math separately. We combine the
other subjects - History, Science, Geography, Religious Studies,
etc. I rotate between each child. My daughter is now able to work
more independently. Rotating between each child allows them to
get mini-breaks also." -- Negin in Grenada


"I have 2 sons - one (grade 4) who sits well to do his work when
asked - is quite independent, the other (grade 2) tends more to be
very active and 'strong-willed'. I'm available til 3 pm, then he has
to get help wherever I happen to be. We do separate Math, English
and Social Studies - for which I give them their assignment respon-
sibilities for the week. We do Science (we work within grades K-4
instead of a specific grade for each), Bible, History, etc., together.
This is on my planner sheet. We do school 4 days with Friday for
a catch-up morning. Then there are incentives to get it done - one
being if all their work is not done, they don't get to help bake on
Friday afternoon." -- Dawn in BC


"Have you thought about moving your reluctant reader's class
time? When my son didn't want to read, I started working with
him at night - when Dad was home with the other two. Also, it
seemed to make it less of a struggle. I stopped with the phonics
worksheets and we would work out of 'Alphabet Theme-A-Saurus'
book, or I would print activities from any of the free websites
(such as www.dltk-kids.com). I also had a Montessori type moveable
alphabet (letter tiles and beads I got from WalMart) and we would
play with the letters. It helped to go less book, more hands-on
and to make the time special." -- Lisa S.


"I have 3 boys I am homeschooling (11, 9, and 6) and a new baby,
so I can relate to everyone needing you at once! I was a teacher
before being a homeschool mom, and I've found one thing that helps
me when teaching children who are at different levels -- rotate!
Think of different areas of your home as interesting learning centers
or places where you can vary what each child is doing while you
work one-on-one with your son who is learning to read (perhaps on
the sofa cuddled up together?) An example might be that during
reading time one child is up in his/her bedroom reading a book you
both have agreed on, while the other reader is at the computer rein-
forcing some reading skills with some interesting, creative software.
Perhaps you can have one child at a 'listening center' in another
spot that is all cozy with books on tape (from the library) -- and later
you can have the child re-tell you the story to check for comprehen-
sion, or do an activity based on the story. If the other activities you
have set up are fun and stimulating, hopefully the other two children
are able to do these activities without your help so that you can give
your new reader undivided attention and quiet so he can concentrate.
After about 20-25 minutes or so, switch everyone around so that
another child gets undivided attention, and change the book-on-tape
to your youngest child's level or the software on the computer so that
it is his turn to be independent and enjoy the different activities.
When you have had time with each child, you can also bring every-
one together and read aloud to them while they have a snack or
draw while listening to the story. Math can work the same way --
one child at the table with you working one-on-one, another child
reinforcing skills either with manipulatives or at the computer, and
maybe another child having a break and relaxing a little bit... then
rotate! Sometimes I have all 3 at the table doing math and find that
it works pretty well because each child is working at the table around
me, and they just take turns having me explain or check their work.
If the others have to wait, I have something like their journals or
handwriting practice next to them to work on until I can get to them.
And there is always the famous 'Why don't you take a break and I'll
call you in a minute' or letting them draw while they wait. I really
want my sons to like to learn, and it seems that little doses of con-
centrated time with mom is enough for them! They like moving (boys
like to be in motion!) and the change of scenery going to the com-
puter or another room. I find that I look forward to one-on-one time
with each child, where I can give him all of my attention and let him
know I am interested in him as an individual and not just one of the
gang. The mix of rotating children and then teaching times all
together makes homeschooling fun!" -- Anne


"I am homeschooling 2 gifted demanding children. My son is 12
and my daughter is 7. They are at very different stages. I have tried
several things to meet their needs. #1 -- I train both children to wait
patiently or move on to the next problem if it is my time with the other
child. We are still working on this but it has helped. #2 -- I have
tried to schedule their work so that while with one child the other
child is doing work I know they can do independently. For example,
during history time while reading to the youngest the older is reading
on his own. Then the younger will color or craft something pertinent
while I have discussion time with the elder. #3 -- I make sure to ex-
pend extra effort and praise in each child's area of difficulty and make
daddy aware of their accomplishments daily so he can look at papers
and give praise or even critisism. I have also been known to give one
child free reading/coloring/educational video time while helping the
other if it is very important." -- Laura P.


"I have a 7 year old son and 9 year old daughter. The best thing I
ever did was get themworking together on all the 'non-grade specific'
stuff -- history, geography, bible. For those subjects I use the
Sonlight curriculum (level approximately between the two kids).
They study together with the older one reading from more difficult
books (she reads VERY well) and the younger one reading easier
material -- both read aloud. On the 'separate' subjects -- math,
handwriting, grammar, spelling -- I work personally with one while
the other does independent work (worksheets or computer work) or
plays alone.

Is it also possible that they just want personal time with you (per-
haps they are jealous of time spent with 5 year old -- justified or
not)? I try also to give each of my kids time with me 'alone' during
the week -- a game, baking, going to the store, whatever. My son
seems to especially need this time or he gets crabby and clingy,
although, less so as he gets older.

Unsure if you want an answer to the unsaid 'what to do about the
struggling 5 year old?' so I will respond anyway. Let him wait. Our
son also struggled to read until he was ready. Hubby was con-
cerned (when he was 4) that he didn't even want to know about
letters and would get really frustrated when hubby tried to teach
him. I didn't even bother and one day, when he was six, he asked
to learn to read. He jumped to reading at 2nd grade level within a
couple months. May I suggest the book 'Better Late Than Early'
by the Moores for more on that issue." -- J.B. in Twin Cities, MN


"My son, who is in 2nd grade now, was not reading well in K-5 or
1st grade. It just seemed like he thought it was too much work.
I chose not to push him. I did, however, keep teaching him in
small amounts of time. We would often alternate reading lines or
pages. When he seemed tired of reading, I would take over, give
him a rest and a chance to enjoy what we were reading, and then
give him a turn again. I also still try to read a lot to both of
my children. This approach did not work overnight, but, by the
beginning of this year, he was reading great.

I used as many different readers as possible to give him some
variety. My son's interest changed when we began using some of
the Usborne books for his reading (www.ubah.com/f2678). They
had some really great books for all ages that are fun to look at as
well as read. He is really interested in History and Science, so we
have quite a few of those readers. There are also some classics
and just plain fun books written for different age levels. He now
will even read from the World History, World Geography, and Science
encyclopedias. The Usborne books just seem to have a pull for
readers of all ages to just dive right in.

As far as educating your children at different levels, we thoroughly
enjoy 'Classical Conversations' (www.classicalconversations.com).
I educate my children separately for language arts and math. For
math time, I spend a few minutes getting my son started and then
help my daughter, who is in K-5. Then I just help my son when he
has a question and check his work when he is done. The language
arts is done separately. I only spend a few minutes teaching my
daughter reading. (I am using 'Teach Your Child To Read In 100
Easy Lessons' and they are easy, yet effective.) Of course, I
spend much more time with my son on language arts. For the rest
of the subjects, we use 'Classical Conversations'. You may choose
to use the 'Classical Conversations' curriculum guide alone or join
a 'Classical Conversations' group if there is one in your town. You
meet with your group one morning a week to introduce the new
curriculum for the week and to get encouragement and support from
other moms. Then you study that curriculum at home the rest of
the week with your children. You can go into as much depth as
you want with your children, depending on their educational needs
and interests. 'Classical Conversations' has been such a blessing
to our family." -- Alicia C.

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a 9 year old son and a 7 yr old son who are both doing
third grade work. My problem is math. They did addition and
subtraction in first grade and now if you ask them an equation
they have to think about it for a long period of time or try to
use their fingers to figure it out. It frustrates me because I
feel like we are going backwards. We are working on multiplication
and division but I feel like I have to back track and do adding and
subtraction over as well. I would like to be able to teach them
rote memory of these facts but I'm not sure what the best
method would be. Flashcards -- or I've heard of hand-held
games? I'm also having them do some of these facts on-line
with games but we still have the same problem of not being
able to figure it out fast. What do you suggest?" -- Renee


Do you have practical suggestions or some insight for Renee?

Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!


There are opportunities for you to be a sponsor of this
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as the subject. We'll send you some information on how to
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questions may be reprinted. All letters become the property of
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