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Self-Editing for Kids, Living Books for Elementary Science

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, July 14, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 56 July 14, 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
-- Writing: Self-Editing for Kids
Helpful Tip
-- What About College?
Resource Review
-- Professor Noggin's Card Games
Reader Question
-- 'Living' Book for Elementary Science?
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Self-Editing, A Part of the Writing Process
by Karen Lange

My personal preference for teaching writing is not to push kids
too hard too soon. I'd rather see a relaxed approach, especially
early on, as opposed to having kids who hate to write. My advice?
Take it a little at a time. Every child is in a different place
with his/her writing skills. Just like your overall homeschool
plan, the writing plan needs to be specially tailored, too. This
doesn't have to mean stress for you, just some thought and prayer,
good teaching tools, and patience.

There are many great teaching tools and resources available for
writing. It isn't so much about the fancy programs (although most
out there are wonderful), but about knowing what the important
parts of the writing process are.

One key element in the process of teaching writing is editing
skills. While word processing programs offer grammar and spell
check, kids shouldn't become dependent on them. There will be
times when the program is not available. There are even instances
where spell check misses the mark, such as suggesting the wrong
word or punctuation. I've even had it overlook the misuse of,
for example, homophones like there and their, or two, to, and too.
Spell and grammar check can only deal with words on a page. They
don't know what you are trying to say and how you want to say it.

As kids get older, self-editing skills will be useful to help
them write more quickly and efficiently. It can help them grow
into mature, polished writers. No matter what they do in life,
these skills will come in handy. If you look around at local
publications and signs, you'll notice that a few could probably
benefit from some editing!

Helping kids develop self-editing skills isn't hard. It is one
of those things that comes with time and practice, so don't get
frustrated if they frequently miss the same errors. They will
catch on over time. Here are a few tips to use to put it into

The tried and true method of reading work over is good habit for
kids to cultivate. I am surprised at how many adults don't do
this. Okay, I may be a bit on the extreme side in this area –-
I read over my emails before I send them. But I work as a free-
lance writer, so it's important that I put my best foot forward.
If I send a message to someone full of mistakes and awkward
composition, what impression does that give?

The same is true for anyone, writer or not. We teach kids to put
their best foot forward in other areas, so why not with writing?
A polished work is more respected and pleasant to read. This is
not to say that we must hover over our kids to check for mistakes.
Obviously, this idea applies more to the older students; I would
not expect a first grader to produce a perfect, high school level,
error-free paper. Keep a balance; make self-editing skills a
bigger goal as they get older. Teach them, over the years, to
develop this habit. As they do, it will eventually come naturally;
they will spot things in need of revision more quickly, and so on.

When they are younger, you can help them with their self-editing
skills by reading their work to them. Ask them how they think it
sounds. Choose a few things, if there are a lot of areas in need
of work, and focus on one or two at a time. Learning these things
is just as much of a process as writing is. It takes time and
patience. Don't bury them under a long list of things that must
be fixed. It could take all of their creative ideas and toss
them out the window. Better to have a student who likes to write
and needs to develop editing skills than one who hates the process

Encourage the kids, especially as they get older, to read their
written work aloud. I heard Roger Palms (former editor of Decision
magazine) speak at a writing conference years ago. He said that
"your ear is your best editor". He's right! When we review our
work out loud, our ears often catch things that our eyes do not.
It's a great way to catch awkward or rough spots. Using this as
an editing tool can catch places that are in need of a comma for
a natural pause, for example. It helps us hear how it is really
heard by others, and that's a great way to make necessary adjust-
ments. Kids might balk at the idea at first; it does seem strange
to put this into practice. But it really works –- I do it all the
time and remind my co-op students to give try it as well.

Encourage kids to have someone else read their work. It doesn't
have to be you all the time; it can be a sibling that's old enough,
another family member, or a friend. We sometimes get so caught up
in the writing that we aren't as objective as someone else can be.
Another perspective can be helpful. Teach your kids, too, to be
receptive to the input of others. I call the feedback I offer to
my co-op students, "constructive input". It is designed to help
them grow in their writing. You are welcome to borrow that phrase
if you like –- explain to your kids that it is not personal criti-
cism; it is simply a way to polish what they write. Tell them also
that every writer is still learning, and gets better with practice.
Most of all, tell them that this is a part of the normal process
of writing. No stress allowed!

Read to your kids, no matter what age they are. Hearing the
written word helps them learn what sounds right. Over time, this
will have more of an effect than you think. Audio books are good
too, just don't allow them to be a substitute for reading time

Use resources, such as 'The Great Editing Adventure' and 'Editor
in Chief'. These books include short stories for students to read,
then find and correct the errors. Copywork -- having kids copy
short passages of literature -- is another great method as well.

Self-editing skills will carry life long benefits for your kids.
Don't stress over implementing these ideas into your educational
plan; just try and integrate them in little ways over time. You
will be glad you did!


Karen and her husband Jeff homeschooled their three children grades
K-12. Karen is a freelance writer, author of 'The Only Homeschool
Co-op Booklet You Need to Start Your Very Own Best Co-op Ever!' and
instructor of 'The Homeschool Online Creative Writing Co-op for
Teens'. Visit her website at: www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com
or email her at writingcoop@yahoo.com


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


*** http://www.helpme2teach.com ***

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Helpful Tip

[Last issue I missed including this great answer from Connie for
Kellie who had concerns about her young son being pressured to
have all his 'plans for the future' decided upon. I realized
Connie's answer also made a great "tip" so I'm including it here!
For great homeschool answers from a Christian perspective, I
second the motion for Barb Shelton's website. -- Heather]


"I have found a lot of useful information at HomeschoolOasis.com.
There are several articles about our children's futures and
whether or not college is the best fit for everyone. The article
'So What About College?' is at the following link."


-- Connie in Wisconsin


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

Resource Review

Professor Noggin's Card Games Series
For more information or to order: www.professornoggin.com

If you could see what my homeschool days were like when my chil-
dren were in their elementary years, you would have quickly
noticed that we preferred to utilize games over workbooks whenever
possible. :-) Recently I was sent a few different games in the
Professor Noggin's Card Game series to review, and I found myself
wishing I had known about them a few years ago!

The Professor Noggin's Card Games are for 2 or more players and
rely on very simple rules. Players role a die and an opponent
chooses the question corresponding to the number rolled for the
player to answer. There are two categories -- 'Easy' and 'Hard'
-- which levels the playing field as older students can answer
the hard ones, while their younger siblings tackle the more basic
questions. Each time a question is answered correctly, the player
gets to keep the card, and the player with the most cards at the
end of the game is declared the winner. With a bit of creativity,
you could play a variety of different games with just the question
cards alone. Questions cover basic facts, along with more little
known information (trivia) using a multiple choice and true/false

The games in the Professor Noggin's series cover a wide variety
of subject areas and topics, including science, history, geography
and more. The cards are well-constructed and lavishly illustrated.
Any of the games in this series would make a great addition to a
unit study or a great review tool to supplement your studies. Not
just for elementary students -- older students can benefit from
the fun and review as well!


-- Reviewed by Cindy Prechtel, www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am looking for a non-traditional, perhaps living book, way to
teach my first grader science next year. Has anyone used any
Jean Henry Fabre books - 'A Nature Walk with Aunt Bessie', or
'Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding' - or does
anyone have any other suggestions for good spine books or other
ways to teach elementary science in a not-so-boring way? Thanks!"
-- Diana

Our Readers' Responses

"Diana -- The web site AmblesideOnline.com uses living books and
has a list for each grade for each subject. I have found this
helpful." -- Cindy


"The best thing you can do with a young child is to keep a nature
journal. You can take walks, stargaze at night, visit public
attractions such as zoos or botanical gardens -- or just sit in
your back yard. There are special journals available in which
the pages are blank at the top and lined on the bottom, so the
child can draw what he sees and journal about it. I recommend
that you let the child dictate his journal entry to you. He'll
say more if he doesn't have to write it himself. You can also
cut out pictures from various magazines to paste in the journal
if you don't want to always draw it. Good field guides are very
helpful when you find a critter or a plant that you can't identify.
At this stage, you want to make your child love science; anything
he happens to learn in the process is a bonus. For now, simply
help him to appreciate God's creation and share his fascination
with it. The most heartwarming entries in our children's journals
are the ones they did spontaneously, such as the day they found
a caterpillar and put him in a jar. The stories they dictated
to me that day still bring tears to my eyes.

You would probably enjoy the living science books from Beautiful
Feet -- www.bfbooks.com. You can use them with or without the
Study Guide. If you choose to use the Study Guide and compile
the notebook, you might want to wait until your child is writing

Robert Krampf (www.krampf.com) sends out an Experiment of the
Week, using everyday household items. They are fun and simple.
You'll want to have some ice cream and chocolate chip cookies
on hand. Whenever he can, he finds a way to include those in
the experiments.

Our family enjoys 'Incident at Hawk's Hill', 'Island of the Blue
Dolphins', 'Gentle Ben', 'Rascal', and other such books. If
your child likes horses, any book by Marguerite Henry would be
a treat. For yourself, you might read 'A Pocketful of Pinecones'
by Karen Andreola. Answers in Genesis and Institute for Creation
Research have great science resources for all ages." -- Mary Beth


"When my children were younger, we loved the Magic School Bus
series for science. The pictures were wonderful, with plenty of
explanations and even some hands-on activities at the end of the
books. All or most of the books can be found at the library,
garage sales or secondhand stores like Goodwill, etc. We were
able to touch on most topics and then expand our study if we
wanted to with videos or other hands-on activities from other
science books we found at the library. Have fun with science!"
-- Cristina in Montana


"Hi Diana -- I have to tell you about a program I used with my
Kindergartener and 2nd grader called Real Science for Kids. It
is from Gravitas Publications: www.gravitaspublications.com

You can choose chemistry or biology for young children. It is
not traditional and my kids loved it! We did the Pre Level I
chemistry and it was so easy to understand and use. I am so
excited because I learned why (and how) soap works! It would
be very easy to add a book on plants or germs to this from your
library." -- Michelle L. in Oregon


[Editor's note: I have to jump in on this one! :-) The most
fantastic little "living books" for first grade level are the
"I Can Read" books, primarily written by Millicent Selsam and
mostly out-of-print. They aren't hard to get a hold of though --
many libraries still might have them and you can check amazon.com
for used books. "Greg's Microscope" is still in-print, but there
are also "Seeds and More Seeds", "Terri's Caterpillars", "Let's
Get Turtles", "An Animal for Alan", "Red Tag Comes Back" (about
salmon), and many more. The only one I don't care for is "Benny's
Animals" as it is chock full of evolution. The others are what
I'd consider 'clean' in that area. There are also some older
out-of-print books that we LOVE to read aloud -- and they really
encourage exploring your own backyard, etc. The titles are:
"Tracking the Unearthly Creatures of Marsh and Pond" and
"Hunting Big Game in the City Parks" -- both by Howard G. Smith.

As Mary Beth mentioned, good field guides -- we use the common
'Golden Guides' -- are always recommended for this, too. And I
also love Marguerite Henry's true horse stories! Another one
I always add to the list is "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean
C. George. From there you'll be addicted to living books for
opening up conversation about science topics. You might try
the Danny Dunn and Miss Pickerell series, too. And just a note
on Walt Morey books -- 2 of my sons -- 7 years apart in reading
his book, "Scrub Dog of Alaska" said that it was Morey's VERY
best book. Okay, okay -- I'll stop now! :-) -- Heather]

Answer our NEW Question

"I am considering the use of Math-U-See for my nine year old this
year. I would appreciate hearing from any of you that may have
tried this. Would you recommend it? Also, this program requires
manipulatives. The starter set is $30 and the completer set (which
is also recommended for my daughter's math level) is $35. Thus,
my second question -- do you feel that the manipulatives are help-
ful or could the program be done without them? I look forward to
hearing from you, as I value your input!" -- B.J.


Do you have personal recommendations and/or suggestions regarding
Math-U-See for B.J.?

Send your email to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

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

Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
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