"" -- A Homeschooler's Notebook Subscriber.
An interactive, FREE, twice-monthly ezine packed with great reader tips, reviews, & practical encouragement for homeschool families.


Some of Our Sponsors


Landry Academy

Math Mammoth

Great Homeschool Conventions

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Resource Links

All About Spelling
Homeschooling ABCs
Upper Level Homeschool
FIRETIME Notebooking
FREE Funschool Units
Homeschooling Help
More Homeschooling Help
HS Gifted and Talented
Homeschool Country Life
Beloved Books & Audio



Dr. Seuss and the CPSIA, Created for Work, Penmanship

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, February 23, 2009

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 10 No 15 February 23, 2009
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2009 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!
And please visit our sponsors! They make it possible.


Save hours each week with Frugal Mom Menus!

Have you ever gotten home from an expensive trip to the grocery
store and realized you still don't have anything to make for
dinner? Try our menus - they are easier than planning meals
yourself, and the Frugal Mom Menu can save you money and hours
of time (both planning and cooking) each month.

"[The Frugal Mom Menu] has greatly cut down on our grocery bill...
Every time I hear a mom say she is struggling with dinner or her
grocery bill I send them to Menus 4 Moms or I cook up something
from the menu and share it with them. When they realize how easy
and cost efficient it is, they get hooked. I cannot thank you
enough for making planning meals for my family a fun job and helping
me look good!! I will most certainly pass this on to my girls when
they grow up and start their families, so that they too can enjoy
cooking and baking just as I do!" -- Jennifer in Texas

Give us a try - you can get 2 weeks of Frugal Mom Menus for only
a penny. http://menus4moms.com/store/frugalmommenu.php



Notes from Heather
-- Dr. Seuss Meets the CPSIA
Helpful Tip
-- Geography for Little Ones
Resource Review
-- Created for Work
Reader Question
-- Improving Handwriting
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Dr. Seuss Meets the CPSIA

Last Friday night I got inspired (thanks to my son Angelo!) to
do something I've wanted to do most of my adult life, but never
had the right subject matter -- write a story in Dr. Seuss style!

Jodi Whisler (a homeschool mom and my best friend out in Iowa)
co-authored it with me; we worked online for about 3 hours
together, editing to an acceptable state -- and then 'published'
it to the internet.

And then it went kind of viral! :-)

It begins...

"In the town of Beddubble, far out on the Moor,
there lived a small tot, who was not more than four.

Little Annabelle Ruth (her close friends would recall)
had swallowed the string from a dilly-dunk ball."

Read the whole story here:


Also -- March 2, 2009 is "Read Across America" Day -- in honor
of Theodor Seuss Geisel's birthday. Here is a page of activity
links for use with Dr. Seuss books:



And while we are on the topic of beautiful, old children's books...

I am very excited to see that my FAVORITE picture book of all time
is BACK IN PRINT!! Get your nice, brand new copy of "Johnny the
Clockmaker" by Edward Ardizzone while they last! If you don't
absolutely LOVE it, I will buy it back from you. :-)



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



Helpful Tip

Geography for Little People

"Here are some fun ways to incorporate geography into your
younger children's learning! This was written by a gal named
Lisa Russell and is great!" -- Belinda


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

Resource Review

Created for Work
Author: Bob Schultz

All young men should be on the road to developing a healthy
attitude toward work. Honest, productive work is the backbone
of strong families and blessed nations.

In his book 'Boyhood and Beyond', Bob Schultz addressed essential
issues related to godly character as boys transition into manhood.
In 'Created for Work', he applies his engaging homespun wisdom,
with stories from real life, to teach young men (and boys) what
it means to be good workers.

Modern culture seems addicted to ease and entertainment. It has
produced a generation of educated, yet often dishonest, unproduc-
tive, weak-willed men. God desires higher standards for His
people. He is looking for young men who do not shy away from
hard work, who are not afraid to get their hands dirty, who can
follow directions, think creatively, respect authority, and happily
complete their duties in a timely manner. These are the ones He
is training up to be future fathers, teachers, and leaders.
'Created for Work' inspires young men and offers the tools and
encouragement they need to embrace God's ways and always give an
honest day's work.

Questions at the end of each chapter make this book an excellent
read-aloud book for a father and son or for group discussion.

-- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"How do you teach a child good penmanship? I have an 8-year old
boy who's doing great in all of his many homeschool subjects,
but yet his penmanship is awful -- print, cursive, everything.
It's almost completely illegible. This, of course, is causing
us to slow waaaaaay down in our attempts to begin creative writing
assignments, paragraph writing, etc., as I don't want him to make
his bad penmanship a habit.

I have gone back to kindergarten writing tablets and we've backed
way off the cursive assignments in an attempt to get him to master
his print, but it just still remains absolutely awful. Please

Also, this may be cheating and putting two questions in one, but
I think part of the problem is that I was trying to preserve my
workbooks from one kid to the next (I have four kiddos of which
he's the oldest) by putting each page of his workbooks in a page
protector and then putting all of his pages in a 3-ring binder.
Then he writes on those page protectors with an erasable crayon.
When my next child is ready for that curriculum, I just erase the
pages and the next child begins using it. This has saved lots of
money in having to buy workbooks, but is there a better way out
there to preserve workbooks from one child to the next without
violating copyright laws? I'm wondering if my page protector idea
has backfired in regard to my son's penmanship.

Thanks for any ideas you have!" -- Christina

Our Readers' Responses

"Hi, Christina! I think age 8 is a bit early to worry about your
son's handwriting. A boy's fine motor development is often much
later than most of us think it should be. You might do more harm
than good by pursuing it aggressively at this point. I would
suggest that you have him do crafts, such as model cars or air-
planes, play dough or clay, wikki sticks, woodworking projects
-- anything that seems productive to him and requires him to use
his hands. If he likes to draw or paint, that would be good too.
He needs to allow those small muscles to strengthen and become
more coordinated. If you haven't already, see if he'd like to
learn to type. Some boys seem to do better with typing at first.
While you're waiting for him to mature, you can have him write
out your grocery list, thank-you notes, phone numbers, directions
to someone's house -- short writing tasks that have a real-life
purpose. He might enjoy keeping a journal, but have him dictate
it to you for now. Over time, he'll enjoy going back and reading
his journal, and it might inspire him to continue the habit. When
he is finally ready for more formal writing lessons, I would
encourage you to look into doing copywork." -- Mary Beth


"Christina -- I have the same handwriting issues with 3 of my 4
kids ages 9-13. I am tackling it now with cursive, which I have
never taught them how to write. (I thought keyboarding was more
important). Mostly this is the result of the grandparents'
disparaging remarks about their penmanship. (These grandparents
do support my homeschooling). I bought Startwrite, a simple
computer program where I can pick the font (various styles of
cursive or print) and font size and type in what I want them to
write having them copy or copy over the writing.


I have created worksheets for each kid using the cursive alphabet
to teach them the letters. Once we master these I will be using
Bob Jones 4th grade handwriting for all of them. Remember, grade
levels do not matter; mastery does. Something like Startwrite
enables you to spend once and print multiple times. I have typed
in Bible verses, history and science. I have also typed their
younger year reports that they dictated to me and had them trace
over the printout." -- Becky


"We used Handwriting without Tears. It's a fabulous program and
very stress free. The website is www.hwtears.com. May I suggest
using erasable markers instead of crayons? Pens write easier than
crayons. They work on page protectors just like a whiteboard.
You just use a tissue or paper napkin to erase." -- Sandi S.


"My youngest daughter (just turned 10) has horrible penmanship and
always has. I tried all the things you have and I finally ended
up with Handwriting Without Tears, which my daughter seems to like
all right. I gave her the Beginning Cursive book and her cursive
handwriting is much neater than her printing, so that's what I'm
encouraging her to use. My middle child's handwriting improved
dramatically on her own as she got older (she's 13 1/2), so I'm
hoping that will eventually happen with my youngest. However, my
oldest had perfect printing and 'okay' cursive, but now that she's
older (19 1/2; junior in college) her handwriting is deplorable.
So I don't know.

Raymond and Dorothy Moore, in their book 'Better Late Than Early',
advise that you do most of your homeschooling orally until your
child is at least 8 or 10 so that they are learning, but not
focusing on writing perfectly. You could write or type your son's
paragraphs or creative writing projects for him while he dictates.
That way you could progress without pressuring him over his hand-

I have my children copy their work into a notebook instead of
writing in the book. They are SO excited when they get a consumable
workbook! But it would be a lot more writing for your son unless
you just let him write the short answer instead of the whole problem
or question." -- Rebecca


"Christina -- there are a lot more factors that go into handwriting
than many people realize. Fine motor skills are important, but so
are large motor control and stability, and visual perceptual skills.
If the shoulder muscles are weak, it affects handwriting. If you
have the option, an evaluation by an Occupational Therapist would
be very helpful in determining the source of his problems (fine
motor vs gross motor vs perceptual issues). Some activities you
can use with him include wheelbarrow walking and drawing/writing on
a vertical surface such as a white board or chalk board. I would
strongly recommend that you consider using a writing program called
Handwriting Without Tears. Much of the instruction is done with a
small chalk board and chalk. You draw the letter correctly, then
the child traces it with a tiny wet eraser, tiny dry eraser, and
then with a small piece of chalk. This 'wet, dry, try' method
provides lots of reinforcement for proper letter formation, and the
use of the chalk board prevents many problems with sloppy letter
formation (for example, you draw straight lines along the straight
edge of the mini chalkboard). The teacher's manual has lots of
helpful information too. www.hwtears.com

While you work on improving is handwriting, you can have him do
his 'writing' exercises by dictating them to you. You can write
or type them for him in a nice easy-to-read font. That's what I
did for my daughter, who was reading long before her handwriting
skills were up to par." -- Laurie


"First the penmanship: There was a question a couple of issues
ago about a similar topic, and someone suggested that the child
may be suffering from writing stress. I was struggling with my
8 year old daughter, who could write beautifully in 1st grade,
but now in 3rd grade has gotten sloppy and has no regard for
punctuation. She also cannot integrate her spelling words into
everyday writing. She can spell them right on a list, but when
she wants to use them in a sentence for her stories, she spells
them wrong 90% of the time. I was really stressing over this.

After reading the previous issue, and doing a little research, I
realized that the amount of writing she is required to do in 3rd
grade has almost tripled from 1st grade. The worksheets and
traditional curriculum were taxing her big time. I backed off on
everything. I only require every other problem to be done. I
let her answer orally when possible. I save writing for projects
I want to keep, such as our science notebook and lapbooks. I do
the math problems with her on dry erase boards and we 'race' to
get the correct answer. This has helped tremendously, and her
writing in the special projects is improving. She is interested
in writing creatively, and seems to be more relaxed doing it. I
realized her physical body and her mind were not ready for the
writing load I was placing on her. Even we as adults get fatigue
while writing. We do not write neatly for everything, and it
takes concentration to write a letter or full sheet of paper out
neatly. (I for one am known to type out a grocery list so I can
read it when we get to the store!)

And that is another option you can allow -- typing. I allow my
daughter to type out certain assignments. She also expresses
herself by emailing family members who live out of state. This
provides creative expression and teaches a skill she will need.
It also helps her to 'see' her mistakes with the little red
lines under misspelled words and phrases that are not punctuated

Second, for the worksheet saving: I don't think this has caused
sloppiness in writing, but it may prevent him from really seeing
the work as 'his'. One of the great motivations (for my kids at
least) is to know that the work is profitable and lasting. They
like to know they have learned something, and can show it to
others. If the curriculum is that expensive, you can supplement
with free online printables and special projects for his writing.
Notebooking has been a great way for us to keep writing interesting
and a keepsake we can share with family and friends.

These sites all have great free resources you can download:


There is so much you can find online, sometimes it is hard to
decide what not to incorporate into your homeschool!"

-- Aadel in Kansas, http://deldobuss.wordpress.com


"Try a large piece of paper, paint brush, and watercolor paint.
Have him practice making large letters. Once the large muscles
are trained, then work on making smaller letters and then later
on with other writing implements. (The Chinese do this to teach
their character writing.) Sometimes boys have delayed fine motor
skills, so working the large muscles helps them learn the correct
forms of the letters." -- L.W.


"First of all, boys are notorious for being very slow to develop
handwriting skills. This may be a developmental stage issue. In
other words, you may have to just keep at it and wait him out.

You may very well be hindering him by using the slick surface of
the plastic protector in conjunction with a crayon. Have him
practice his handwriting on ruled paper (available in many sizes
for free at www.donnayoung.org), using a sharp pencil and ensuring
he is sitting correctly and using a correct grip on the pencil.
Some children find an additional pencil grip, available in several
different styles, to be helpful as well. You might also consider
a mechanical pencil (which can help with using too much pressure),
or a larger primary pencil.

Additionally, unless the publisher specifies permission to repro-
duce, you are already infringing on copyright by reusing the work-
books. All workbooks are assumed to be for a single user, by
their construction in a consumable format. I would suggest finding
a source for reproducible workbooks, like www.evan-moor.com. Many
publishers are now offering their workbooks in reproducible e-book
format which is very convenient. www.currclick.com is a good
source." -- Charlotte, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thelinklady/


"I have done the same thing with the sheet protectors. I think it
has its advantages and disadvantages. First off, the pens are
bigger than a pencil so I think it may make it hard to hold. But
I did it and my daughter's handwriting is fine -- well, it was.
She has slacked off, but so have I with what we did do. I used
to use Abeka curriculum but have changed. Abeka is VERY particular
about writing. Now I have been just showing the child where they
went under the line or how the letter circle (a) should be halfway,
and then making them change it. Also remind them not to rush. I
also have started back to A,B,C, and have them write a line of each
as an extra assignment.

Instead of sheet protectors, some companies let you photocopy if
it is within a homeschool setting. What I do now that mine are
older is, if you can, buy just copy books and have them label each
by page of workbook and 1-10 (or however) and have them just put
the answers in there. I did that when I was in public school. Or
do some of the stuff orally so you don't have to worry about writing
in the workbooks. Because of the need to do writing to get better
at it, you will still want them to write some things, like maybe
Sunday school verses or spelling words, etc." -- Jackie

Answer our NEW Question

"I have a two part question. I began homeschooling my 4 year
old last fall in Kindergarten. He has done very well and
surpassed my expectations. I have been pulling together my own
curriculum with ideas from several good websites and lately going
with the CoreKnowledge studies with lessons from the Boston
Curriculum Project. The lessons are excellent and it gives me
room to expand on them. This, as you know, is time consuming.
I am starting to think about next year -- and here is where I
get stumped.

I LOVE putting together the lessons, but it takes sooo much time.
I'm torn between continuing to do this (and really planning ahead
this summer as to save time during the school year) and buying a
'ready-made' curriculum. What would you do? Any suggestions on
how to cut down on the amount of work involved in planning?

The second part of my question is: If I do go with a purchased
curriculum, where should I place him? While I started him a year
early and he is quite successful, the 1st grade levels that I have
looked at seem somewhat challenging in SOME areas. I don't want
to make him frustrated. On the other hand, the Kindergarten
lessons cover a lot of the basic stuff that he has down. I don't
want to bore him. While I could use the whole thing with his
younger brother, I don't want to hold him back -- and I can't
afford to buy both.

I have thought about continuing next year as sort of a combination
K/1st -- bringing him up on lacking areas and plodding ahead in
others. Would this best be done on my own? Or is there an
in-between curriculum out there that I haven't found?

I would love to hear of your experiences and recommendations, as
my mind is really turned to mush thinking about all of this.
Thank you so much!" -- Lacey


Do have some thoughts or practical suggestions for Lacey?

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

Ask YOUR Question

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

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

Need Immediate Help?

Visit our Homeschool Encouragement Center! This is a live 24/7
'chat' area where you can talk live to our homeschool counselors
by typing in a box. When you get there, just introduce yourself
and let them know that Heather sent you!

This ultra-safe chat is supervised by experienced moms who are
there to serve and share their wisdom... or just offer a listening
ear and encouragement.


Our Newsletter Archive

Access the Homeschool Notebook issues you have missed...
at our archives! http://www.FamilyClassroom.net


There are opportunities for you to be a sponsor of this
newsletter. If you are interested, drop an e-mail to
heather@familyclassroom.net with "Notebook Sponsorship"
as the subject. We'll send you some information on how to
reach our audience of over 12,000 homeschooling parents!


All contributed articles are printed with the author's prior
consent. It is assumed that any questions, tips or replies to
questions may be reprinted. All letters become the property of
the "Homeschooler's Notebook". [Occasionally your contribution
may have to be edited for space.]

Again, I welcome you to the group! Feel free to send any
contributions to mailto:HN-articles@familyclassroom.net or

Our main website is:

We also sponsor an incredible site with over 1,500 pages of helps!


No part of this newsletter (except subscription information
below) may be copied and/or displayed in digital format online
(for instance, on a website or blog) without EXPRESS permission
from the editor. Individuals may, however, forward the newsletter
IN ITS ENTIRETY to *individual* friends (not email groups). For
reprints in paper publications (homeschool support group newsletters,
etc.) please direct your request to: mailto:Heather@FamilyClassroom.net

Next - Milk the Cow Time, CyberCrime, Pulling Together Curriculum
Previous - Helping Kids Prepare for Standardized Testing

     Site content copyright individual contributors and FamilyClassroom.net 2001-2011 - Digital duplication expressly prohibited.
Privacy Policy | Advertise