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When an Only Child (or ANY Child) Needs 'More'

By Heather Idoni

Added Thursday, June 11, 2009

                 The Homeschooler's Notebook
       Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
     Vol. 10 No 43                          June 11, 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.



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  Notes from Heather
  -- When a Child Wants More
  Helpful Tip
  -- Learning Programming
  Winning Website
  -- Grammar Book Site
  Reader Question
  -- An Only Child's Needs
  Additional Notes
  -- Newsletter Archives
  -- Sponsorship Information
  -- Reprint Information
  -- Subscriber Information

    Notes from Heather

  When a Child Wants MORE


  Wow!  We had 15 reader responses to Michelle's call for help for
  her 6 year old daughter who wants/needs more time and activities
  than her mom thinks she can provide.  After reading the replies
  from readers it is obvious that this isn't a problem strictly
  for those families with "onlies"!  I think everyone will find
  excellent insights and suggestions in our readers' emails to this
  issue's question -- so don't miss it!  -- Heather

  P.S. -- My children just got a trampoline -- so that is good for
  at least a few days of interest, eh?  Might have even bought
  myself a little time for myself.  Well, actually the kids all
  chipped in together -- they have more money than their parents
  at this point! ;-)


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

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  a learning disability and short term memory loss. When I brought
  him home to home school him this year I didn't know what I was
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  child with special needs I cried out to God for answers and he
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  finally!" -- Nora in MO



    Helpful Tip

  Learning Computer Programming

  "If you have a child who is interested in learning programming,
  check out JustBASIC, here:  http://www.justbasic.com

  JustBASIC is an incredibly balanced compiler, that gives enough
  power to make some really interesting programs (even basic games,
  graphics, and Windows programs with dialog boxes, etc. or text
  based programs), yet they have kept the complexity way down below
  a regular compiler.

  JustBASIC is a great place to start learning programming.  And,
  it's free.  They have a commercial version called Liberty BASIC
  (about $50, which is cheap for a compiler), but you can do a lot
  with JustBASIC, and you can even distribute (i.e. sell) programs
  made with it, too."

  -- Jim McGinn, http://www.homeschool-guide.com

    Winning Website

  Grammar Book - www.grammarbook.com

  Visit this site for clear, easy-to-understand lessons on the
  English language.  Users can choose to read lessons, watch videos
  explaining concepts, and take quizzes to test their knowledge.
  An excellent site for middle and high schoolers to review before
  taking standardized tests, or for any student needing a thorough
  overview of punctuation and grammar.

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

    Last Issue's Reader Question

  "From what I understand, most families have issues due to the fact
  that they have several children and grade levels. I was wondering
  if there was anyone else out there that homeschools 'only one'.
  My daughter is 6. (When my 12 year old daughter, who lives with her
  father, is home for visits, none of this is an issue.)

  Our intention is to school at home, but we just haven't gotten
  started yet, as I have health issues. Motivating her is not a problem.
  I discovered the idea of 'table time' from a Yahoo group named Large
  Family Logistics. Basically, it's a time each day that is focused at
  the table on things like independent work and exploration. We have a
  short list of things to do, but she wants M-O-R-E, and she wants it
  now. She just can't get enough. I have one hour scheduled for this
  daily. She does not read or write yet; the list will grow dramatically
  when she can do these things on her own.

  I run three businesses from home, take care of the house, homeschool,
  etc. She's driving me crazy because she always wants to do more -- no
  matter HOW MUCH we've done that day. (I am well aware that I should
  be thankful, but overwhelm prevents that!) Does anyone have any
  unique suggestions for ways to constructively occupy her time while
  I work? We have two hours allocated when we formally start our lessons
  -- 9 to 11 -- but that leaves much time that I'm not 'hands-on'
  available and I don't want her watching TV or playing video games
  all day. Thank you in advance." -- Michelle

   Our Readers' Responses

  "Your premise of being able to homeschool for 2 hours a day with
  a 6 year old, and then being 'done' doesn't make sense to me.  A
  6 year old, even if not in school, demands much more of your time
  than you are able to give now, with health issues and running 3
  businesses from home.  While you may need the extra income and your
  health is important, your 6 year old needs YOU.  Her entire world
  is full of learning, if properly directed.  Expecting a child of
  that age to amuse herself in a productive way without direction or
  other children around is not going to happen.

  I would suggest that you find ways to let your daughter 'work' with
  you.  Simple food prep, folding laundry, cleaning the house -- these
  are teaching, too.  Make it a game.  Then give her a reward when
  you're done -- sit and read a book together (something above her
  level), then let her draw her own 'storybook'.  You can add words
  later for her.  Let her make paper dolls and develop a story that
  she can tell you.  Let her make homemade playdough with you and then
  she can play with that for awhile on her own.  Mark out a square
  foot of area in your lawn and have her observe the critters that
  live there for 10 minutes and draw what they look like.

  There are lots of books out there with ideas for how to keep your
  child busy and learning without your 100% attention, but she will
  need you at least 'checking in' every 15 minutes or so to admire
  her progress and redirect her to something else when she is done.

  If you are truly not 'hands on' available, then perhaps you need to
  make some arrangements with another person who can take her places
  -- to the park, library, playgroups, etc.  Homeschooling is not
  intended to be a solitary adventure, and she needs the interaction
  with other children and adults.  Don't deprive yourself of this
  precious time with your daughter just to keep those businesses going
  all by yourself (perhaps you can hire some help?) -- she will be
  grown and gone before you know it." -- Cynthia H.


  "Goodness, Michelle -- you do have a lot on your plate!  I might not
  be qualified to answer your question, because I have two children.
  But they are a boy and girl, and their personalities and needs are
  very different, so in some aspects it is as if I am homeschooling
  one at a time.  We run two businesses out of our home.  For starters,
  I would suggest that you consider involving her in as much of your
  work as possible.  You didn't say what type of businesses you operate,
  so I can't be specific, but don't underestimate what she is capable
  of doing.  If she can help you, you'll be surprised at how much she'll
  learn, and the two of you will be spending valuable time together
  doing something productive.  We have a greenhouse, and our children
  measure fertilizer, pick and weigh produce, and make out tickets for
  orders.  When we deliver, they collect payment, make change and record
  outstanding balances.  They help plant seeds, prune plants and study
  with us as we're learning about organic pest control measures.

  Then I would recommend that you observe her gifts and interests, and
  let her pursue those.  Does she like music, art, cooking, crafts,
  gardening?  Whatever she enjoys, let her go after it with a passion.
  More than likely, in her areas of personal interest, she'll be able
  to do a lot independently.  You will only have to provide materials,
  give initial instruction and supervise occasionally.  Reading good
  literature to her would be the best use of your academic time.
  Singing or playing an instrument and doing crafts would be time well
  spent also.  Play games that use counting and simple math skills.

  She can also do a great deal toward maintaining your house, which will
  free up more time for you to spend with her.  At the age of 6, she
  should be doing laundry, some simple food preparation, dusting, sweeping
  and scrubbing floors and woodwork, taking out trash, cleaning bathrooms,
  washing dishes (either by hand or using dishwasher), taking care of
  pets and plants, straightening clutter, easy ironing, changing linens,
  helping with lawn and garden work, putting away groceries, and much
  more.  The time you spend training her in those skills will pay you
  back many times over.

  A pet would provide her with a companion and also the responsibility
  and learning that goes with it.  One of my favorite homeschool mentors,
  Renee Ellison, has an article called 'Raising an Only Child for the
  Glory of God'; it is available at http://www.crossover.ellison.net
  You might find it helpful." -- Mary Beth


  "This may sound a little weird, but is there anything your daughter
  can do to help you with your work?  I have 4 kids (ages 4-9) and I
  help my dad keep his books for his business two days a week.  While
  the kids can mostly occupy themselves, there are occasions when they're
  just not getting along.  I have had them take turns working in the
  office with me (learning alphabet order by filing papers, counting
  money, printing labels, etc.).  My dad has gotten on this bandwagon,
  too, and has taught a couple of my kids how to stick the labels to the
  packaging.  They run out and get the mail.  There are a lot of things
  your daughter can do aside from school work.  I think the biggest
  response you'll get to your question is that whether you're homeschooling
  one child or 12 children, homeschooling is a way of life.  There is no
  reason that your three businesses and housework have to be separate
  from your daughter.  If having your daughter help with your businesses
  is not comfortable for you, you could also try setting up 'centers' in
  certain areas of your home.  Maybe she could have 30 minutes with the
  baby dolls, then 30 minutes listening to a book on tape (and 'reading'
  along, if possible), then 30 minutes with computer games, then 30 minutes
  outside, coloring, etc.  I think you get the idea.  Another suggestion
  might be that you don't have to do all of the school work in one sitting.
  If you do it in 30 minute chunks, you can use it to alternate with the
  activity suggestions I made above.  Hope that helps!" -- Mandi in SC


  "This is a difficult thing to deal with.  It's wonderful that your
  daughter wants to learn.  I've homeschooled 3 children through this phase
  of their education; here are some ideas:

  1. Have her start a journal where she draws or writes about her day
  according to her skill level.

  2. Books on tape are great.  They make ones with books for the child to
  follow along that are great for the younger kids.  Many libraries have
  them to barrow or you can purchase them from Scholastic.

  3. A LeapFrog Leapster is another helpful tool:


  It's like a video game, but it is all educational.  No matter what the
  child is doing they are learning.  From solving math problems to making
  a fish swim to writing letters to get the princess to her palace.  They
  have games from pre-k through age 10 or so.  If she isn't reading, I'd
  recommend the ages 4-6 games.  Even the older kids I care for enjoy the
  younger games.

  4. Educational computer games are also good as the child can progress
  without you right there.
  5. Lastly, some good play time is very important.  Encourage her to just
  play with whatever she is interested in.

  Hope this helps." -- Bran


  "I do not have this experience, but here is a great resource for
  homeschooling only one!  Check out this website:  http://www.donnac.com

  She is great to work with!" -- Martha


  "I understand where you are coming from with all of your concerns.
  I've dealt with illness, working from home and more.  So I know how
  hard it can be trying to keep up with your child's educational needs.

  It sounds like you have a very bright and eager daughter, so first off,
  I've learned that it's imperative that you jump on that eagerness to
  learn before she tables it for good!  I unfortunately didn't understand
  that my son needed challenges (academically speaking) and I was holding
  him back.  In time, my not keeping up with his demands began to work
  against me.  He started to lose that 'drive' for homeschooling, saying
  it was boring.  Then I went through a great struggle to re-motivate him
  to see the value of homeschooling.  While some kids this young benefit
  from shorter lessons, others are really ready for more and we have to
  be attuned to that.

  Some of the ways I helped keep things exciting and stimulating included
  using a 'prepared' curriculum versus designing my own.  The benefit of
  a packaged curriculum is that you have a general schedule to keep you
  on track and accountable to your child and where they are academically.
  The curriculum we use (Seton) includes teacher services, so if they
  think he needs more or less in a certain area, they will make recommen-
  dations, etc.

  The other plus of a prepared curriculum is there is usually a prepared
  lesson plan for the entire year.  I've started putting together the
  lessons for the week in easily accessible folders, and each morning I
  have a brief conference (going over any 'new' materials), then let my
  son work on his own on the topics/subjects where he doesn't need my
  guidance.  Last year he worked his way through Reading, Phonics and
  Spelling on his own, completed the year's lessons by March, and tested
  out of them.  He was much happier after being able to work on his own
  terms and pace in the areas where he didn't need so much of my input.
  Math, Science, History, etc. were the classes where I was needed and
  therefore more hands-on.

  Another way you can fulfill her need to 'spread her academic wings' is
  through supplementing day-to-day lessons with self-directed curriculums
  that utilize the computer or a CD player.  Depending on your child's
  learning style and ability, consider using some widely used educational
  resources like 'Hooked On Phonics' products.

  HOP has more than reading programs.  They offer beginning level
  foreign languages (French and Spanish), Spelling tutorials, Advanced
  and Intermediate reading tutorials and more:


  The nice thing about these programs is that your child can work alone,
  and as much as they wish, with or without you.  You can even set your
  child up with headphones and a CD player so that they can be in the
  room with you, but with little disruption to you.  Wonderfully, the
  curriculum guides them through the lessons for the day.  Each lesson
  is about 20 minutes, but if your child is up for it, they can continue
  on if they please, to the next lesson.

  There are endless computer programs you can use to supplement lessons
  -- and the best part is they're fun for the kids to use and can give
  you the little extra time you need to make phone calls for work, etc.
  while reinforcing important skills for school for your child.  Checkout
  www.softwareforkids.com -- they sell the more popular education
  programs on the market.  They have great reference programs such as
  DK encyclopedias, Britannica, and Merriam Webster for kids and more.

  Last but not least, if you're not already doing so, leave your child
  with a box of craft supplies and encourage her to 'create' on her own.
  Art is always a great educational experience and can burn up lots of
  pent up creative energy.  One of my favorite craft books on the market
  is by Usborne books called 'Big Book of Art':


  It's one of their combined volumes and has endless art and craft projects
  for your kids to do and make.  Usborne also has really good books that
  make learning crocheting, knitting, cross-stitch, sewing, and more easy
  for even the youngest to learn on their own.

  If your child is more technical or scientific, the Magic School Bus
  has a great science program that dovetails with their movies and books,
  making it easy for her to work on simple, yet very educational, science
  experiments on her own:


  (Each kit has about 3-5 experiments with the needed curriculum and books
  to accomplish them.)

  Just some ideas that worked for us.  It's a great challenge to have,
  but get that spark and keep it alive now!  It's easier than you think
  if she's self-motivated.  If she is not, and relies on you more, this
  is also a great time to start easing her into being more self-directed.
  This will serve her well later in her academic career." -- Nicole in MN


  "I'd like to suggest audio books, especially those with the book
  included.  Even if your daughter can't read on her own, she can listen
  and might enjoy the challenge of 'following along'.  I've also been
  seeing a lot on workboxes, though I have no experience with them; they
  look great.  Evan Moore has some books on creating 'centers' - file
  folders or envelopes full of games, puzzles and such that are meant
  to be worked independently:


  Books by Peggy Kaye (Games for Learning, Games for Writing, Games for...)
  also have some great ideas." -- Jen in FL


  "I 'only' homeschool two kids, but they're so different they may as
  well be two 'only' children, each vying for my time and always wanting
  more, but never of the same thing!  The only way I have found to get
  anything done is to do it in the backyard.  If your yard is fenced, it's
  perfect.  Dig her a sandbox as a weekend project, get a mini-trampoline
  from Walmart, and tie a swing from a tree.  Put a blanket in the shade
  and bring out her favorite box of Barbies and some watercolours.  For
  you, set yourself up a table and relaxing chair in the shade and you
  both should be happy for hours (up to six or seven a day if my kids
  have anything to say about it!).  If you need to work, make sure she
  understands it is quiet play time, but as soon as you're done you'll
  play frisbee (or whatever).  Be sure to plan ahead for snack time by
  bringing out juice boxes, granola bars, and apples, so it doesn't turn
  into a half hour of wasted time.  As for work, I have to drag them to
  the table for one-on-one time and they're eager to be done and back to
  playing.  This has even worked in the winter if I sit in the mudroom
  with my laptop, with the door open so I can keep an eye on them.  Hope
  that helps!" -- Liz


  "Michelle -- Are there ways you can include her in what you are doing?
  Could she help with household chores?  My 6 year old dusts low shelves
  and furniture, uses a Swiffer to clean the floor (easier than managing
  a broom), puts away clean dishes, folds laundry, etc.  I don't know
  what your home businesses are, but could she work alongside you, either
  doing what you are doing or doing a related activity at her level?  My
  kids love for me to save junk mail, then they happily open it, play
  with the inserts (color, cut, rip, stick, etc.) and stuff the return
  envelopes.  Perhaps you have (or could find) an old typewriter or word
  processor for her to play with while you are working on the computer.
  Put a craft table near your workspace so she can paint, draw and work
  on other craft projects, playdough, etc.  Perhaps she would enjoy some
  reusable workbooks and dry erase markers to work on printing and number
  skills -- you can make your own by cutting the long edge of a heavy
  plastic page protector and sliding it over a workbook page.  Test your
  markers first -- sometimes the Vis-a-Vis markers used for overhead
  projectors wipe off better than dry erase markers.  Lacing cards, beads
  and strings (following and making patterns is a math skill), building
  and construction toys such as blocks, K'nex, Legos, etc., puzzles, and
  games she can play by herself, such as Boggle Jr., memory/concentration
  games, or the 'Think it Through' tiles and activity books by Discovery
  Toys.  Books on tape, either borrowed from the library or ones you make
  yourself, could be another great activity for her, especially as you
  could customize them to her interests and things she wants to learn about.
  Also, there are tons of free coloring pages and worksheets on the web.
  Could you do some of your work in a location where you could supervise
  her playing outside?  There are lots more activities she could do in
  your yard, and some fresh air and exercise would also be good for her.

  Finally, could you rearrange your schedule so that you could spend more
  time with her?  Even 10 or 15 minutes of your complete attention each
  hour for a story, game, worksheet, activity or whatever, would probably
  be enough for her to be able to amuse herself for another 45-50 minutes.

  Perhaps on some days you could arrange for a playmate to come over --
  either someone close to her age, or a preteen girl who could play games
  and interact with her.

  Prayerfully consider your priorities and needs, and trust God to provide
  the answers." -- Laurie


  "I'm wondering if instead of wanting more 'school work', maybe she just
  wants more QUALITY TIME with you.

  Being an only child can get very lonely -- and when you're helping with
  her school work, she's getting your undivided attention.  Why not try
  to involve her in more of the things you're doing.  She might be happy
  helping you clean the house or shredding paper, etc.

  Just my take on it." -- Annette H.


  "Try www.Time4Learning.com -- it is awesome." -- Linda


  "Hi, Michelle -- I can relate; I have a very relational 6 year old
  who would love every second of my attention.  I also have a three
  year old, and because my husband is a trucker, I am virtually a
  single mom.  AND -- on top of doing ALL the house things -- I work.

  If your daughter is that motivated, you might find that an up-front
  'investment' in short reading lessons will pay off big as she will
  be a very contented reader.  My Maddie says dreamily 'I love to read'
  and she is tackling things way off her current level because she loves
  the challenge.  Because she was motivated, it was only a few months
  from non-reader to independent -- about 4.  Could you incorporate a
  short reading lesson at her bedtime story time or over breakfast?
  BOB books work great for building skills -- and she can use non-lesson
  time to practice on her own:


  Maddie also really enjoyed audio books (including the Bible) -- we
  raided the library for new ones all the time.

  Also -- are there any of the daily tasks you do that you could quickly
  train her to do?  Can she sit near you and fold laundry, or lick
  envelopes while you stuff them, etc.?  You would be shocked at what
  a motivated 6 year old can do.  When my husband got this job and
  everything fell in my lap, I needed to train my kids to do a lot of
  things -- and it pays off quicker than you think.  A book that helped
  me on this was 'The Family Manager' by Kathy Peel:


  In it was a list of household tasks that kids should be able to do --
  a helpful reference." -- Karen C.


  "I also homeschool an only child and at times find it overwhelming
  to provide her with all the stimulation and activities she needs.
  (She is 7).  My friends who homeschool with multiple ages don't seem
  to understand that this can also be a challenge.  Here are some ideas
  I have utilized to bring sanity back to my day (and allow me to get
  some work done.):

  -- If she likes arts and crafts I would suggest getting a box with
  compartments and putting in various materials to glue or string
  together.  Be sure to change the items (or at least some of them)
  often and provide paper that is sturdy to glue onto.

  -- Provide a list of items she needs to find (in picture form if
  needed) and send her on her way.  This can be an outside or inside
  activity.  Sometimes I give my child a paper cup and tell her she
  is on a 'miniature hunt' and that she can find whatever she wants
  as long as it will fit in there.  A themed hunt also works -- find
  5 rocks or find 6 items I need to make bread.

  -- Offer her ingredients for a 'no fail' recipe (such as fruit salad)
  and let her put it together.  Just be sure you're willing to eat the
  end product.

  -- My daughter loves science experiments.  Sometimes I will let her
  mix up liquid soap, shampoo and other liquid bath items to create
  a new 'product' for her dolls.

  -- I also write stories down that my daughter dictates to me -- and
  then I have her illustrate them in her spare time.  She also enjoys
  'how-to-draw' books and will spend hours on her creations.

  -- I spent some time (not very much really) and taught my daughter
  how to hand sew, machine sew and do loom work.  This will occupy
  some time.  The end products are usually not that neat, but she's
  happy with them.

  -- Perler Beads and Pixos are great and make terrific Christmas gifts:

  -- Fimo clay is extremely versatile and fun because you can keep the
  creations (or make more gifts):

  -- I like handmade wrapping paper so sometimes I will give my daughter
  a large sheet of paper and a theme and let her be creative.  It helps
  to have stamps, sequins or other theme-related items to work with.

  The difficult part to all this is that sometimes it takes an hour or
  so to set up a week's worth of 'alone' type activities, but the payoff
  is so worth it when I have something on hand to offer her.

  Good luck -- I hope that some of my ideas will help." -- Kajtryna


  "Hi Michelle -- I am also homeschooling only one child.  My son is
  9 years old.  Here are some suggestions for some independent time
  for your 6 year old daughter.

  -- My son has always enjoyed stories on CD with the books to follow
  along; these will also speed the reading process.  There will be a
  great variety at your local library.  Your daughter is obviously
  very bright and hungry for knowledge.  Creating a cozy area for this
  is best.  I have recently created centers in my family room which,
  without my prompting, my son gravitates toward.

  -- Coloring centers with buckets of colored pencils and crayons,
  educational coloring books and mazes.  A favorite website for these
  is www.mindwareonline.com

  -- Educational puzzles (Melissa and Doug are my favorite):
  I play classical music during this time.

  -- File Folder Fun Center -- These are games that will teach the
  basic skills for specific age groups.  Each game has been designed
  for fun and enjoyment as well as skill development. Finch Family
  Games - www.finchfamilygames.com
  You do have to construct these yourself, which takes a bit of time
  initially, but they are really worth it.  My son has colored some
  himself -- and those are definitely my favorites.  A much quicker
  way for the coloring process is to scan the pictures into your
  computer and use the Microsoft Paint program to color them -- and
  then just print them out.  My son enjoys these so much!

  Good luck."


  "I have only one child as well and I wish he was as motivated as your
  daughter.  One of the things he does love is the 'Time 4 Learning' web
  site.  I think she can get by without being able to read in the lower
  levels -- it teaches letters and their sounds.  The price is reasonable
  and the format is wonderful; the characters are cute and engaging.

  My son loves doing everything by himself.  It is very child-friendly
  and you are able to see their progress and print out the reports for
  your records.  He has progressed through the levels and is now working
  at the 3rd level.  Another nice feature is that you can go back to
  previous lessons if there is something that they need to practice again
  or work on with you.

  Best of luck!" -- Gina

     Answer our NEW Question

  "I wonder if anyone could recommend any inexpensive (or even free)
  home school placement tests that I could administer to check my
  children's progress?  I would like to discover any 'gaps' that they
  might have in their learning to this point.  Thanks!" -- Jo W.


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Next - Singapore Math, Young Men's Handybook, Gap Testing
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