Teaching Poetry

Do your children know the difference between a quatrain and a couplet? Between Haiku and Limericks? If not, head on over to the most helpful Small World blog, where she is hosting an excellent WordSmithery for kids. Her fun exercises will have your kids composing poetry in various forms in a way that will help them better identify those forms in their literature studies! 🙂


Benefit of Natural Learning #10: Book-Loving Kids!

I discovered yet another benefit of natural, home-based learning last month:

My daughter asked for BOOKS for Christmas!

(I couldn’t get her to keep her eyes open for the camera flash. That’s okay–we’ll save those peepers for reading, I guess, LOL!)

That’s right–while everyone else was rushing to the toy stores, looking for animatronic hamsters or computerized dinosaurs, I was calling up a small, independent publisher in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, requesting their entire series of Native American children’s novels!

It all began when I bought this book for our in-home history studies: Naya Nuki

Naya Nuki is the (partly fictionalized) account of Sacajawea’s actual childhood friend; a girl who–like Sacajawea–was kidnapped and sold into slavery. But unlike Sacajawea (who remained in capitivity long enough to bare her captor’s children and to help guide the Lewis and Clark expedition), little Naya Nuki escaped!

This precious book chronicles the 1,000+ mile journey of Naya Nuki towards her home. After reading Naya Nuki, Prima loved it so much that she begged for another. So I bought Doe Sia (because our library doesn’t have any of these books on their shelves–boo!):

Doe Sia is the true (also partially fictionalized, to help fill in the blanks) story of a Native American girl who helped guide and protect a group of white settlers in their journey across the prairie.

After reading this book, my daughter said “Are there any more books like this?” I visited the publisher’s web site, and sure enough–there’s an entire series!

But our library didn’t have any. Neither did local bookstores. Prima was crushed.

When Christmastime came around, Prima’s constant refrain was, “All I want for Christmas is a set of books like Naya Nuki!” So we contacted Grandview Publishing in Jackson Wyoming, who not only shipped the entire series to our home before Christmas, but who also included a delightful book on CD, and a poster of the artwork from Naya Nuki!

If your children do not yet love history, I encourage you to check out these books, which are very entertaining and educational, and help history come alive in the hearts and minds of young children (whereas history textbooks only fill them with lifeless dates, dry facts, and summarized events).

Raising Readers

You might say that my kids like to read. Check out these pictures!

Hanging out at home:

Alone in their rooms:

Reading with siblings:

Even reading with friends who come over to “play”

So people often ask me–“How do you get your kids to read so much?”

Here’s my secret:

1) Parenting

Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook is a parents’ guide (now being used as a teachers’ textbook by many colleges) that helps turn kids into avid readers, even if they are currently T.V.-addicted or unmotivated! Once we implemented his advice and strategies in our home–from nightly readings and strategic book-placings in the home to the more scientific “how to discuss books with kids in a way that makes them want to read more”–we noticed a huge change in our family as our children gravitated away from the television and towards books!

2) Education

From Bauer’s book The Well-Trained Mind, we learned how children of the past were taught–you know, the kids who devoured books like they were candy, back in the days before television. Whether you are a homeschooler, or just a parent wanting to enhance their child’s public education, the Well-Trained Mind is THE must-have guide for how to instill a love of learning and a passion for books in your child.

3) Activities

If your child struggles with reading comprehension, try using these Writing With Ease worksheets, which help enhance a child’s reading abilities through writing! This ingenious book takes sentences and paragraphs from classic children’s literature and asks students to read, respond to, copy, or put into their own words the things that they read. This easy-to-use program (small, 5-minute exercises!) introduces so many great books to my children that I am constantly driving to the library to feed my daughters’ “hey–I want to read that book, too!” requests after each lesson. I HIGHLY recommend these worksheets to any parent whose child struggles with reading or is not motivated to read.

Kids, Computers, and Entertainment

“Are computers good for learning?”

“Isn’t educational television okay?”

“What about those free online homeschool programs?”

Education guru Susan Wise Bauer said it best: Television and computer learning are PASSIVE LEARNING (your brain goes slack, letting the screen do all the mind-filling), whereas reading is ACTIVE LEARNING (brain is intellectually stimulated as it decodes words and digests new ideas)

Still, computers should NOT be banned! My mother–a volunteer advocate for rape victims–said: “Kids raised without computers are more vulnerable to Internet predators” because so many young girls get lured into predators’ snares (and young men into gaming/porn addictions) when parents refuse them computer access or fail to teach them “cyber street smarts.”

For more information and better advice, you should read what the Lazy Organizer has to say. She’s the EXPERT (and has the successful kids to prove it!)

Our standards with regards to computers, kids, and education are as follows:

  1. TELEVISION: We own a television, but only watch selected movies as a family. We do not have cable or satellite TV–and although this is mostly for practical reasons (I prefer to spend my money on tangible stuff, thank you!), we’ve enjoyed some amazing benefits as a result. Our children read more often, use their free time to be creative, and they don’t ask for tons of toys like the TV-watching kids who are bombarded by commercials all day.
  2. COMPUTER: Computer use is allowed as a supplement to science or history lessons (for research or visuals). But I search online WITH my children, and am quick to point out the stranger danger along the way: “Look at those banners–be careful not to click on them!” I say. “That ad was put their by a stranger who wants you to go see his site. We NEVER visit a stranger’s site!” I also let them send e-mails to grandparents or cousins, so that they will learn responsible e-communication from me (because of what my mother told me about a college-age victim whose “e-mail innocence” led to correspondence with a creepy predator who eventually convinced her that he was her soul mate . . .  ).
  3. GAMES: My kids are allowed to play educational games online at Discovery Kids, National Geographic Kids, or PBS Kids web sites as a RARE TREAT, but I stay close by and watch their every move. I also point out possible dangers as they play (for example: “Look at how they are asking you for your e-mail address. Do you think you should give it to them?”). We also have educational games on CD ROM, games like “Oregon Trail” (history, sociology) and “Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego?” (geography).
  4. VIDEO GAMES? None. I’ve never had a single positive experience as a result of letting my children play non-educational video or computer games. They always flip out when game time is over, crying and screaming for more. This almost instant addiction to recreational gaming is all the proof I need that such games are NOT a good idea for our family. If it isn’t educational, we do not play it, and I am constantly reminding my children why, the same way I remind them that we don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes–because it is too easy to become addicted.

If you are looking for help/advice in establishing media boundaries in your home, I recommend you visit the following links:

What’s So Wrong About T.V.?

Can T.V. Help Literacy?

What About Video Games?

What About Educational Computer Programs?

Setting Limits for Responsible Children

Effects of Media on Infants and Toddlers

Teenagers and Television

How TV is Killing Us

The Virtues of T.V.

12 Alternatives to Television