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Covert Writing III, Sideways Learning, Math-Loving Girl

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 10 No 30 April 16, 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.




Guest Article
-- Covert Creative Writing III
Movie News
-- New Homeschooler-Produced Film!
Contest News
-- Win a Free 30-Day Membership
Helpful Tip
-- Sideways Learning
Reader Question
-- Math-Loving Daughter
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Covert Creative Writing (Part Three)
-- by Karen Lange

Do your children run and hide when it's time to write? Don't
feel like there's time for writing in the day? There is help!
Read on, and join us for the final part of our Covert Creative
Writing series, where we're exploring ideas that get students
to write without making a big deal about it. Writing practice
can be had using less obvious avenues. Never underestimate the
effectiveness of spurts of writing; they add up and result in
better critical thinking and writing skills.


Games are a great way to teach a myriad of skills, including
writing. Balderdash and Scattergories, for example, provide
opportunities to write and think quickly. These kinds of games
can be adjusted according to age and ability and are easily adapted
to current studies. If you are studying biology, for example, you
could play a few rounds of Scattergories with related categories.
This could be a fun way to supplement studies with several children
in one family, or with a study group or co-op.

Lists, as mentioned in Part Two, can become a game. They can be
played by individuals or with teams. Choose a category, such as
Things in a Chemistry Lab, The Presidents of the 20th Century, or
The Top Ten American Inventors. Tell students they have one minute
(or other appropriate time) to list as many things in the category
as possible. If playing with teams, have each team compete in a
separate area, where the other team won't hear answers. Play
several rounds -- and for each one designate a different team
member to record answers. The winner has the most valid answers.

Play the Crazy Sentence Game. This game addresses grammar and
writing, and is for second grade or those of comfortable writing
age and up. Divide students into groups of three. Instruct them
to write their answers down on a piece of paper, but do not show
them to anyone. Have one group write the subject clause (noun)
of the sentence, such as 'The curious cat'. The second group
writes the predicate clause (verb) such as 'snored loudly', and
the third group writes a prepositional phrase, such as 'on the moon'.
Each student then reads their part, in the correct order – noun,
verb, prepositional phrase -- thus forming a Crazy Sentence.
Continue until all sentence groupings are read. This game can be
adjusted according to number of students, and shortened to use only
the noun and the verb -- or varied to make use of teaching pronouns,
other parts of speech, or grammar rules. It is a great way to teach
or refresh basic grammar skills -- with very humorous results!


Two of my favorite books provide great ideas that sharpen writing
skills. Marjorie Frank's 'If You're Trying to Teach Kids to Write,
You've Gotta Have This Book!'
and 'Mind Joggers' by Susan Petreshene,
each contain short, interesting activities that get students to
think and write. Thinking is half the battle for good writing, so
don't underestimate games and activities that build critical thinking

Mad Libs

You may have seen these in bookstores -- they are consumable books
with short, fill-in-the-blank stories. The fill-in-the-blank
portions are key parts of speech for the story, such as character's
name, verbs describing action, etc. The writer asks the players
for these parts of speech, and fills the blanks in the story. When
the blanks are filled, the writer reads the story aloud. The results
are humorous and fun for two or more players. They can be done at
home, in the car, while waiting for appointments, or with a co-op.
Mad Libs come with various titles about everyday stuff, camp,
vacations, and more. A few have scary themes; just be aware if
you'd rather avoid those titles. They are a great tool for teaching
and reinforcing the parts of speech.

Mad Libs can also be duplicated at home. Write a simple, four to six
sentence story. Take out one to two key words per sentence, such as
a noun, proper noun, verb, adjective, adverb, number, or preposition.
Play the same way as above. This is something that the kids can
create too, with a little instruction.

Intrigue, Action, and Adventure

Why can't writing in action include some intrigue and adventure? How
about staging a crime involving a ransom note? Choose an inanimate
object around the house, such as a computer or an MP3 player. Tell
students that you are pretending that this object has been stolen,
and that they need to write a ransom note for the item. You could
even offer a prize, such as a dollar store item, for the best ransom
note. You could also have several prizes -- to include everyone --
with more than one category, like most threatening, highest ransom
amount, or best ransom drop-off spot.

Kids might need a little help with a ransom note, so write one as
an example. Notes can be handwritten, typed, comprised of words and
letters cut from a newspaper or magazine, written in crayon, etc., as
long as they are legible. Remind them that the ransom note must
include the name of the stolen item, the ransom amount, and the terms
for ransom collection and owner's recovery of the stolen item.

The element of surprise can be a wonderful tool. Our teen co-op
parents staged several scenarios to see how observant the students
were. Once, while a lesson was in progress, another parent entered
the room wearing a fedora, sunglasses, and a trench coat over her
clothes. She approached the speaker, gave a sales pitch, and asked
if the speaker wanted to buy a watch. This 'sales person' spoke in
hushed tones, kept looking over her shoulder, and had numerous
watches pinned to the inside of her trench coat. When the speaker
declined the offer, the sales person left the room. We then asked
the students to record what they had just seen. After several moments
of writing, we questioned students about different elements of the
skit. It was good to test their observational skills, and got them
writing in the process!

A nose for news, anyone? Tell students that they are reporters for
the day. Have them jot notes about daily life at your house, or
choose an event, such as a field trip, family birthday, trip to the
park, or sporting event. Encourage them to take notes like a reporter.
(This is where the notebooks in Part One might come in handy!) Review
the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when, why, and how, which are the main
elements of a good news story. Discuss the inverted triangle for
news writing, if you wish, where the main info comes first, and less
important items at the end. Age levels should dictate how in-depth to
get, and don't require students to do it if it would distract or detract
from the event itself. Reporting could be as simple as a few scribbled
observations, or as involved as a full interview with someone. If
time and interest allow, have students write the story or compile a

Thoughts to Consider

There is a time and a place to do the serious writing stuff, but don't
forget the in-between opportunities to do some cross training. Writing,
like other skills, takes time and practice. Be encouraged – 'Covert
Writing' does work! Be patient too, and prudent -- and above all, be
alert for people in fedoras and trench coats; they might want to sell
you a watch.


Karen's Covert Writing ideas were field tested on her three children at
home and in their homeschool co-ops. Karen and Jeff Lange homeschooled
their children in grades K-12. Karen is a freelance writer, homeschool
consultant, and the creator of the Homeschool Online Writing Co-op for
teens. Visit her website at www.hswritingcoop.bravehost.com or email
her at writingcoop@yahoo.com -- she'd love to hear from you!


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


Movie News!

A movie made by a home-school teenager has been released in 94
movie theaters across the U.S.! John Moore is the 19-year-old
writer and director of 'The Widow's Might', a light-hearted family
comedy that centers on a widow who is faced with the loss of her
property due to heavy taxation. See the trailer... it looks great!


Contest News!

Our friend and partner Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, is having a
give-away! She and her husband Matt are offering ONE FREE MONTH
of The HomeScholar Gold Care Club.


What is the Gold Care Club?

-- It is a membership website filled with homeschooling high school
training for parents who would love to homeschool high school but
lack some of the necessary knowledge, tools and confidence.

-- It is a place where you can go to get your homeschooling high
school questions answered through video and audio training, and
also through personal consultations with Lee Binz, a homeschooling
high school expert and trusted friend.

-- It is a place where you can find tools, templates, planning
guides, and articles that will help you navigate the high school
years with an eye toward college.

-- Finally, it is a place where you can find the answers to your
'Biggest Questions' -- the questions that may have kept you from
fully committing to homeschooling your kids all the way through
high school graduation. You can think of it as a personal support
group for homeschooling highschool, but WITHOUT the lukewarm coffee
or hard metal chairs. ;-)

Lee and Matt are launching The HomeScholar Gold Care Club on Tuesday
April 21st at 12 noon PST / 3 pm EST. The launch will include some
wonderful bonuses and early responder gifts. You can find full
offer details here: http://familyclassroom.net/GOLD.htm

***How to Win a Free Month membership to The Gold Care Club:

It's simple. Add a comment on Lee's blog, that in about 100 words
or less answers the question: "Why Do I Deserve a Free Month in
The Gold Care Club?"

The best response will be awarded a FREE ONE MONTH GOLD CARE CLUB!
They are looking for the most creative and humorous answer. (No sob
stories please -- think comedy, rather than tragedy!) If you join
the club on 4/21 and then win the contest, they will happily refund
your first month's payment.

Just go to the GOLD link, read all about the Gold Care Club, then
scroll to the bottom and click on "Blog" to get to Lee's blog and
enter your comment for the contest. The contest ends on 4/20.


-- Heather

Helpful Tip

"Something I have noticed with both my boys, ages 6 and 4, is
what I call 'sideways learning'. If one doesn't want to do
something (say read a particular book), I say, "Fine -- but
little brother and I are going to". The one who opted-out
ends up participating, even if it is from across the room, and
often comes over to join us.

One of the hardest things for me to recognize is that 'paying
attention' doesn't always look like paying attention -- but
their ears are always on." -- Pam


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

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I am looking for recommendations for math curriculum for a child
who loves math. I have been very pleased with the curriculum I've
used for the elementary grades (Bob Jones), but my daughter will be
in 7th grade next year and I was not as impressed with the curriculum
for the upper grades. So much of the discussion I've read has been
about reluctant or struggling learners. My girl loves math; she just
thinks mathematically. She can figure many things out in her head
before I've even explained the concept to her. What suggestions do
you have for a good math curriculum for a math-loving kid? Thank you."
-- Janet in KS

Our Readers' Responses

"I would definitely recommend Singapore Math for a child who loves
math. It is challenging and relies on learning the science of math,
not just rote math operations. You can go to www.singaporemath.com
to find a placement test for your daughter and look at some sample
material. My son sounds a lot like your daughter. He is 12 and in
New Elementary II (grade 8) simply because he 'gets it'. He thinks
mathematically and is almost entirely self-taught at this level. If
you go this route, when you do the placement tests keep in mind that
the general consensus is that Singapore levels are about 1 year ahead
of standard math curriculums. There is also a significant difference
between levels 6A-6B and New Elementary I (grade 7). We slowed down
a lot when we hit the New Elementary levels." -- Andrea


"For a student who has the 'math gene', you want to eliminate much
of the repetition, as it can turn them off to math. There is an online
program located at www.aleks.com that has worked well for both of my
boys. It does cost monthly, but they love it and the theory behind the
program is sound, in my opinion. Even my 'non-math' son has progressed
to Pre-Algebra at almost 13 years old. The program encourages accuracy
(particularly a problem for math wiz types, because they just want to
get that huge page of problems DONE) -- if you make an error in Aleks,
you have to do more problems to prove that you understand the concept
before you can move on. It also gives the student choices (within
limits) as to what they can learn at any given time." -- Cynthia


"We LOVE Teaching Textbooks! My son also is a math lover and he got
to the point that I just frustrated him; he needed something he could
do own his own. I found Teaching Textbooks and we won't go back to
anything else. The Teaching Textbooks program comes with a textbook
and CDs. First the student watches the lesson taught on CD with
practice problems. Then he does the lesson out of the textbook and if
he gets stuck there is another CD with all the problems worked out for
you. At first my son thought looking at this CD was 'cheating', but
I explained that if he really was stuck this was learning. He even
checks and grades his own work now." -- Laurie P.


"Janet -- I would recommend Singapore Math for a student who is
gifted mathematically. It's an excellent program, developed and
used in Singapore. It's obviously meant for students who, like
your daughter, excel in mathematics (especially the high school
curriculum). I don't recommend it for students who struggle with
math. I used it for my children up to 6th grade, but after that
I had to switch to an American curriculum because they couldn't
grasp the concepts." -- Elyse

Answer our NEW Question

A Two-Part Question


"Hi -- I was wondering if there was some help out there for our
family. We have a 13 year old with Asperger's syndrome (newly
diagnosed), a 6 year old with hearing issues, and we keep a 3
year old and a 1 year old as well. The problem we are having is
that my older child is having a very hard time with basic math.
He seems to be able to handle the algebra, but is struggling
because he can't seem to learn his multiplication facts. In 2nd
and 3rd grade the skip counting was a BIG BEAR and led to many a
tearful breakdown.

With my 6 year old, she can't hear the ending sounds of words or
several letters, so reading is just not happening for her. She
can spell words like cat, hat, dog, and so on, but to give them
to her on a sheet of paper to sound out, once again leads to tears
in our house. Is there help for either of our children out there?
Suggestions for curriculum? Thanks." -- Lisa M.


Do you have some guidance for either of Lisa's questions?

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!

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