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Don't Forget the Fun!

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, May 12, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 38 May 12, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Don't Forget the Fun!
Helpful Tip
-- A Walk in the Woods
Resource Review
-- Jehovah's Park
Reader Question
-- Reading Difficulties
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Don't Forget the Fun!
-- by Karen Lange


Do you ever feel like all you do is cover the basics? Jumping
from math to English, to history and science, then off to the
kids' activities, or church and all those other good things you
do. Before you know it, the week is over and you didn't do nearly
all you'd planned. I know the feeling; I found myself there often.
While covering the basics is important, it is nice to add those
extras sometimes. Art, music, life skills, science experiments,
field trips, etc., can provide just as much in the way of educa-
tional benefits and good family memories.

These extras can add a little fun while still having value. I
think they are important and have their place in any type of
curriculum, not to mention life. Living is learning, and with a
little thought and creativity, you can break free of just the
basics and add a spark and more fun to regular studies.

One way to add these extras in is to co-op with one or two other
families. Keep it simple to minimize stress for the parents.
Pick a craft project, bake some goodies, or do a couple of
science experiments together. Visit a museum and then picnic in
the park. You might want to choose a day every few months and
figure it into your 'official' school calendar.

Another way to supplement is to think in unit study terms, com-
bining subjects. What are you studying in history? Have the kids
look up period artists. Do a brief study of one or two of them;
read a short biography, examine their style, technique, and so
on. Have the kids interpret and recreate the artist's work using
different mediums. Try watercolors, pastels, or crayon and colored
pencils. Make a mosaic using construction paper (or whatever!) of
Van Gogh's Starry Night, for example. Do your kids like to draw
cartoons? Have them draw a historical event with funny captions.
Ask the kids for suggestions too; their ideas might surprise you.

How about combining art and science? Have the kids observe and
draw the stages of plant growth. There will be shapes, colors,
shading, and other 'art' type things involved. Perhaps making a
mural of Ben Franklin's work with electricity might be fun. How
about illustrating facts about Robert Fulton's work? Did you know
that Fulton not only studied science and engineering but also art?
My kids, when younger, loved this Fulton piece of trivia: as a
young boy, he would trim fur from his cat's tail to make paint-
brushes. Watch for and explore tidbits like these. They can add
another interesting dimension to your studies.

Consider combining science and home economics. Cooking is science!
Do a brief overview of how yeast works while making bread or
sticky buns. Find out how and why the cheese on pizza melts. What
happens to ice cubes when we take them out of the freezer and put
them into a hot beverage? Where does the wiggle in Jell-O come
from? If nothing else, observation and discussions make the kids
think. They'll also pick up practical kitchen skills in the process.

Another extra, although maybe not as popular with the kids, take
time to teach cleaning skills. Teach them the proper way to dust,
vacuum, clean the bathroom, etc. Hide a few coins in hard to find,
but important places needing dusting, for the kids to discover
as they dust. Many hands make light work, you know – why not set
a timer and see how fast the dinner dishes can be cleaned up? This
can help teach the kids to work quickly, carefully, and efficiently.
This is one extra I am exceedingly thankful I took the time for.
My three kids, ages 22-26, know how to clean house. Now that the
older two have moved out, I do miss having help around the house!
But, the overall benefit is that they know how to do it now in
their own homes.

Don't allow adding the extras to stress you out. Just keep your
eyes open for potential add-ins. There are many ways to make the
most of your days and make learning more fun and rewarding. Pray
about it, set flexible goals, and enjoy time with your kids. You
won't regret it; they'll be grown before you know it!


Karen Lange homeschooled her three children K-12. She is a free-
lance writer, homeschool consultant, and creator of the Homeschool
Online Creative Writing Co-op for teens. Visit her website at:


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


Awesome Home School Notebook Planner
The Full-Year Notebook System

Plan your home school curriculum using a simple/flexible
system that works!

This is a simple program which includes step-by-step
instructions and worksheets for both analyzing your time and
resources as well as worksheets to include in your children's
notebooks for subjects that don't fit well into "regular"
school such as field trips, music lessons, service
opportunities and more.

One of its best features is that it doesn't take a semester
to learn, in fact you could download it today and be
implementing it tonight.



Helpful Tip

A Walk in the Woods


"I discovered this website a while ago and I thought other readers
would like it, also. I was making up a list for a treasure hunt
when I came across this site. It is awesome! It tells all about
the woods and gives information about things you will find there.
The pictures are real and colorful. The site is easy to navigate
through and very well done. We looked through this entire site
before we took our own walk in the woods. I heard my children
talk about things they had learned on the site. I hope you enjoy
it as well." -- Jane


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

Resource Review

Jehovah's Park Versus Jurassic Park
Author: Catie Frates
For More Information or to Order:


Our family is a big fan of Catie Frates, so we were very excited
to have the opportunity to review her book, "Jehovah's Park Versus
Jurassic Park". Written in a conversational style and filled with
beautiful illustrations, this book will help equip your children
with Biblical and scientific information about dinosaurs. As
Catie so clearly states at the beginning of her book, the study
of dinosaurs is all about perspective. Those who study dinosaurs
either do so while looking through Naturalistic (evolution) or
Biblical glasses. From the first page, she invites us to put
on our Biblical spectacles as we enter "Jehovah's Park", and then
she arms us with information that both entertains and educates
the reader.

Written for upper elementary children, younger children will also
be enthralled as you read aloud or share information with them
that you've read ahead of time. Of course, as one who was educated
by the public school system, I found myself getting quite an
education as well! Jehovah's Park Versus Jurassic Park is full
of interesting information and plenty of facts. When it comes to
dinosaurs there is a lot we simply do not know, since we weren't
there when they were roaming the earth. However, there is plenty
of information that can be used to piece together at least part of
the dinosaur puzzle! Catie takes us step-by-step through many of
the most popular 'myths' surrounding dinosaurs and their eventual
demise, carefully and respectfully dismantling evolutionary
theories with scientific and historical documentation. In fact,
she doesn't want you to just take her word for it – she wants the
reader to study the evidence, investigating further. To help us
dig deeper she has provided a thorough appendix, endnotes and
(thankfully) an extensive glossary.

The first two chapters of Jehovah's Park Versus Jurassic Park lay
a foundation regarding the aforementioned Perspectives and Scien-
tific Interpretations. These are followed by an extensive overview
of the different classifications of dinosaurs. The rest of the
book contains a look at the evidence for "Jehovah's Park". Catie
takes us on a tour around the world and back in time to the not so
distant past, giving us a glimpse of how humans have interacted
with these supposedly extinct creatures. I had no idea how many
eyewitness accounts there have been in the last 800 years alone!
You might think a book filled with so much Biblical, historical
and scientific evidence would be too dry or boring for children.
That is not the case with this one. While there are a few places
where a younger student might get bogged-down in the details, the
overall feel of the book is that of a 'big picture' slowly being
revealed. Speaking of pictures, the detailed illustrations and
stunning cover were created by Christian artist, Richard Jeffus.
His artwork helps to further draw the reader into the awe-inspiring
world of "Jehovah's Park", where man and dinosaurs existed together.

I will end this review with a couple of remarks from my oldest
son, who grabbed the book and devoured it before I even had a
chance to flip through the pages! Zachary (12) says, "This is
a very interesting book! The drawings are extremely cool and I
learned a lot of things I didn't know about dinosaurs. It is
exciting to think that there might be dinosaurs still alive today."

-- Cindy Prechtel (and kids!)


Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am experiencing a problem with my oldest son and it truly
concerns me. He is 11 years old and his reading level is at
3rd grade. He struggles with reading every day. He tries to
read but often it seems as if he forgets every rule that we
have learned. I plan on working strictly on reading through
the summer, but I really need to know if anyone has a suggestions
on reading curriculums that will help an 11 year old. Finances
are tight as well, so I don't have hundreds of dollars to spend.
Please help me!" -- Kathy In SC

Our Readers' Responses

"I highly recommend Stevenson Phonics.


I recommend calling them. Each time I call, Bill Stevenson will
personally answer my questions -- his family is so dedicated to
helping non-traditional learners. When you call they help you
get started according to your situation.

So many families have students whose lives have been changed by
this reading program -- including our own. We had tried numerous
programs and this one really works. The difference is the use of
mnemonics and starting with the long vowel sounds. I personally
know of two families, one with an autistic child and the other
with a Down Syndrome child -- neither were expected to learn to
read and with this program they have learned. One of them started
the program at age 10 and is now 12 and reading.

One last testimony to the program comes from my cousin who taught
developmentally delayed middle school kids for over two decades
in Texas. She said she would have kids come into her class
dejected and closed to the world. She said with Stevenson she
never met a kid she couldn't learn to teach -- and once they
learned, they changed into much happier kids who could then
transfer to a regular classroom. She said she once had a very
tough, surly student who she taught to read with the program.
Halfway through the year another angry, hostile student joined
the class. The first student turned to the new student and said,
'You can quit being angry, you will actually learn to read in
this class'.

I am just so grateful and passionate about this program! My
daughter is finally reading after two previous years of struggling.
Best of luck to your family." -- Amanda B.


"First, has he been tested for dyslexia and/or other learning
disorders? How about his vision? There is a quick screening
tool at http://www.childrensvision.com/symptoms.htm that you can
use to see if vision issues may be interfering with his reading.
Vision therapy can be expensive if your insurance doesn't cover
it, but it is amazingly effective. Two of my children went
through it, and their reading ability increased markedly.

After you have looked at vision and LD, you may want to consider
AlphaPhonics. It is a simple, no frills book that I have success-
fully used both to teach reading and as a remedial reading course.
I used it with a 6th grader who was reading at a 4th grade level
and by the end of summer we were almost through the book. When
she was tested in the fall, she was reading at grade level. (This
book probably works best for visual and/or auditory learners.)
Perhaps you can borrow it from someone? If not, I think you can
purchase it for under $30." -- Laurie


"Dear Kathy -- As an unschooler, I think that you should probably
make sure that your 11 year old is exposed to plenty of different
types of reading materials; i.e. Books, Magazines, Comics, Graphic
Books, Heavily Illustrated Books (art) etc. Make sure the mater-
ials are for all different reading levels... even college level.
Most of all, make sure the 'theme' of the materials is his favor-
ite subject or subjects and read along with your child or ask him
to summarize what he's been reading. If you lead by example and
show genuine interest in learning about your child's favorite
subjects, he will flourish!"
-- Michelle in NY - www.monarchrock.com


"Kathy -- As I read your question, I kept wondering if your son
might be dyslexic. Might he have some learning disability that
is keeping him from reading?

An issue my son has is focus. He has Sensory Integration Dysfunc-
tion. Too many words on the page would cause him to give up or
become frustrated reading. However, his vocabulary was much
beyond his age and he could read quite well if there were only a
few lines visible at a time. Reading higher level language on a
video game was no problem but reading his own grade level in a
chapter book was.

I began by covering up the words below the line he was reading
so it was all that was visible at a time. I required him only
to read a sentence at a time. I graduated him quickly to a
paragraph and then a page. He is 8 and reads at a 5th grade
level but he still has some trouble reading because he loses
his place. I have him put his finger at the beginning of each
line and that helps.

I pray you find his answer soon."
-- JoJo Tabares


"I was right where you are about 10 years ago with my middle son.
RELAX!!!! He will get it! :-) I have heard many, many home-
schoolers and even public school teachers say that some boys take
longer to read than others. I would not suggest being extremely
pushy with the reading over the summer. What I would suggest is
to have him join a summer reading program with a library. They
are typically free and they offer prizes and such. If the books
for his level are too hard for him then sit down and read them
to him -- making sure that he is following along as best as he
can. Another thing that I highly recommend is to get audio books.
My son hated reading, especially since he struggled with it so
much. The Harry Potter books came out on audio at our library
and so we checked out the actual book and the audio book. He
would sit and listen to the audio as it was being read and read
along from the book. It helped him soooo much! Now he reads for
enjoyment and does an excellent job of it. To make sure he didn't
get behind in his other studies (science, history, etc) I read
the material to him and then he answered the questions orally.
We did this until he was more comfortable with reading and wanted
to do it on his own." -- Martha in Indiana


"Short and simple -- find something he LOVES. Then begin by
reading books on that topic together -- on the reading level he
is comfortable with. As his confidence builds, gradually move
to more challenging reading levels.

This won't solve serious learning problems, but will create the
desire to read within the student -- a good 'jumping off' point."
-- Debora


"Kathy -- I would first of all get your son tested. Make sure
he doesn't have any issues that are hindering him (Dyslexia, etc.).
If you still don't come up with an answer, I would stop 'schooling'
and just spend some time trying to ignite a love for reading.
Turn off the TV, take LOTS of trips to the library and book stores
-- and always have new and interesting fun books lying around.
Once he has developed a love for reading, your problem will go
away." -- Liz and family


"My 8 year old son was having problems reading. Not glaring prob-
lems, but he wasn't progressing to the next grade level and every
day was a struggle. We went to 'The Reading Doctor' here in
Columbus for an evaluation and found out he had a focus problem.
She sent us to a specialized vision doctor that ran a gamut of
tests and found that his focus muscle was not working -- so much
so he couldn't see peripherally or cross his eyes. This prevented
him from ever being able to read more than one letter at a time.
His brain was working so hard on decoding, he was exhausted after
10 minutes of reading. They had us work through 2 months of
vision therapy and now he can't stop reading! His world has
opened up for him. He still has a long way to go since now he
needs to reprogram his brain to read words (not letters) and
listen to the story. You may want to contact my reading doctor
at http://www.thereadingdocinc.com/ and maybe she could offer
you some advice. She is a homeschool mom that had children with
reading and learning difficulties -- then she went on to earn
her doctorate in teaching reading and she really knows her stuff."
-- Kim V.

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a 7 year old that is VERY good at math. He is in 1st
grade, but has just finished the 2nd grade math curriculum from
Abeka (it only took him about 5 months to complete). On the
other side though, his language/reading/vocab skills are about
a year behind. We're working hard and he is improving, but not
at the same rate that his math skills are growing. This leads
to a problem when he runs across Word Problems. He struggles
to understand the meanings of different words anyway, but to
take those words and then translate them into a math problem
will almost drive him to tears! Are there any resources out
there that are specifically designed for teaching Word Problems?
Everything that I am finding includes all the other math stuff,
but I need something that focuses exclusively on the Word Prob-
lems. Something that starts extremely basic at the very begin-
ning and progresses slowly? I love online resources (like
Homeschoolmath.net), but haven't found one that offers Word
Problems. Can anyone help? Thanks!" -- S.J.B.


Do you have some practical help or wisdom for this mom?
Please send your email to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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