Monday, August 29, 2011

Children's Book Monday {Evening}

For weekly book recommendations, 
please visit Elise's Children's Book Monday at  A Path Made Straight


A B Cedar: An Alphabet of Trees

by George Ella Lyon
illustrated by Tom Parker

When doing a library search for books to accompany our in-depth nature study on trees this year, I stumbled across this title.  Being an older book (copyright 1989), the library had no little thumbnail photo to accompany the listing, but I put it on hold anyway, thinking perhaps it would be the perfect choice for the little boys to share while the two older children were sketching or reading a more age-appropriate selection. 

When the book came in and I picked up the hold, I flipped through it and then tucked it at the bottom of my stack of tree books.  This morning, while everyone was busy at the table, Benjamin needed something to do so I pulled the book back out and we sprawled on our bellies right in the middle of the dining room floor.  I was expecting an alphabet book.  Instead I opened up a most fascinating peek into the world of trees!  I was so impressed that after we finished, I re-read it to Owen a few minutes later ...and told Brian all about it this evening ...and read it again to all the kids tonight before bed. 

Each page highlights two to four different trees.  For example, Aspen, Butternut, and Cedar share a  double-page spread.  Life-sized children's hands are sketched holding a life-sized leaf  from each tree.  My children were amazed at the large umbrella tree leaf and the teak leaf that ran off the page.  Some pages even show seed pods or fruits. Benjamin insisted that the elderberries were actually blueberries, but because they were drawn to scale, we (I) knew they were not.  Maddie enjoyed repeating the name of each tree and Gavin made it his mission to give his made-up etymology of the trees he had never heard of.  "Kumquat sounds Chinese," he said (And what do you know?  He's right!), "and Nannyberry sounds like a rich tree."

I was most intrigued by the illustrations down at the bottom of each page.  Directly above the name of each tree was a  tiny silhouette of that tree, and surrounding the tree silhouette were teensy silhouettes of people and animals, intended to give perspective on how large the tree is in comparison.  The kids were particularly amazed at the tall skinny Poplar tree with the human silhouettes far below its towering top. 

Did I mention that following the Zebrawood tree, a handful of poetic lines follow, sharing a few uses of the tree. Yes, this book is infinitely more than a pre-school alphabet book because, though Benjamin did run his finger over the line of printed letters and sing the ABC song more than once, he also learned that the pages of the book itself had been made from a tree. 

Happy learning, happy leafing...and happy reading!

Friday, August 26, 2011

So You Have a Reluctant Reader?

I remember the summer I turned six.  It was the summer between kindergarten and first grade. My mom took me to the library where I checked out Ramona Quimby, Age 8.  That was the first chapter book I read on my own, and it began a life-long obsession with reading.  I am rarely without a book (or two or three) on my nightstand. 

I began to teach Gavin to read when he was about four, the age I had been when I learned to read.  I was eager  to have him share my passion for reading, but though he seemed to be learning the concepts, there was never an "a-ha!" moment when it all clicked. I kept waiting for it to happen, and though he progressed through his phonics books, reading was not easy for him, and it was certainly not a pleasure. 

I tried to be patient.  I reasoned that there was no hurry.  Though progress was slow, there was progress.  I reminded myself that each child learns at their own pace and that there is no magic age that one must learn to read! 

Still I tried anything I could think of to encourage his reading skills.  I brought fun books home from the library.  I asked him read to his little brothers.  I had him read alone with me.   He would stumble and mumble and wilt if I asked him to help a selection of our history book.  He still adored books and being read to, but the process of reading was so tedious to him that he fought my many efforts to expand his independent abilities. 

I sensed a breakthrough last summer when we were driving to one of the many midwife appointments at the end of my pregnancy.  As we passed a billboard, he commented on it as we sped by, but when I asked him what it had said, he clammed up.  We kept plugging away at his phonics workbooks, but when we took our winter break last year, the true breakthrough occurred.  Suddenly, he knew how to read!  Four years after his reading journey began-- at eight-years-old-- his "a-ha!" moment happened and he seemed to be able to read well overnight. 

My Tips For Your Reluctant Reader:

Do not be discouraged if your child does not begin to read as early or as quickly as you expect.  Unless you suspect an underlying learning issue, don't sweat it if your child takes his time with reading.  Just as with potty-training, waiting for readiness prevents frustration in everyone.  Though we persevered for many school years, when Gavin was finally ready, he began reading on his own during winter break when I was doing nothing!  He progressed from  reading only very basic sentences to reading short chapter books within a matter of weeks. 

Continue to read, read, read aloud.  Being exposed to and listening to quality literature is wonderful preparation for independent reading.  The summer reading program gestapo said that having Gavin read picture books with and to his younger siblings didn't count, but I still hold that the well-written picture book is more beneficial to life-long reading than a twaddly grade-level book. 

When asking your child to read aloud to you, offer to read every other page (or every other sentence...or every other word).  When faced with a abundance of words, Gavin became overwhelmed, but telling him that I would trade off with him, reading every other page, made the selection seem more friendly and do-able. 

If reading aloud is  intimidating (as it was for Gavin), have your child read a selection to himself and then engage him in casual conversation about what he read.  I don't mean to ask a list of questions, but ask him what he enjoyed or if anything exciting happened.  If he can give you details of the story, you'll know he read well enough to comprehend. 

Allow the privilege of staying up late to read in bed.   We have a new routine in our house.  After we tuck the kids in bed between 8 and 9 o'clock, it is lights out for everyone except Gavin.  He gets to click on a tiny flashlight and read a chapter or two of a book in bed.  We tell him he can read until he gets tired.  He often calls me into his room before he turns out the light to share what he's read that evening.

What are your tips for starting children on the happy path of reading? 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Collection of Goodness-- Homeschool Edition

~ Watch it if you need some good, cute fun! ~

~ Read if you feel the overwhelming need to buy it/gather it/ teach it all! ~

Motherhood as a Mission Field from Rachel Jankovic
~Read if you wonder if you are making enough impact by staying home~

Curing Scope and Sequence Syndrome from Joy
~Read if you worry that your kids aren't learning what "all the other kids" are learning~

Are You Doing Enough?  from Misty
~Read if you fear the "bumps" on this year's schooling journey~

Monday, August 15, 2011

Announcing the New Tri-Mom...& Clothing a Bunch

When I wrote my Tri-Mom's post two weeks ago, I announced that we were looking for a new Tri-Mom!  Allyson and I reviewed the applications and are pleased to introduce the third Tri-Mom this week: Christy from A Living Homeschool.  Christy is a relatively new blogger who homeschools her 3 children using a Charlotte Mason style of education.  She also blogs at ¢entsible Saving$

Be sure to hop over to  Allyson's blog to see what she shared about this week's topic and to see if she has had her new baby who is due any day now.  (I'm thinking Thursday would be a good birth day since it is also my birthday!) And, of course, go meet Christy who joins the Tri-Moms today!


Clothing a Bunch

Hand-me-downs are my friend!  Truly.  With five young children to clothe, I can't imagine the bill if we bought new for everyone.  My sister, Bekah, is three years older than my daughter, Maddie, and only about two sizes larger, so when Bekah wears a pretty dress (or sparkly shirt or fuzzy boots), Maddie can dream about wearing the same item in two years.  Alaine is six years younger than Maddie but also more petite.  However, between Maddie's old clothes and hand-me-downs from cousins, she is still clothed primarily in hand-me-downs.

At the end of each season, we box up anything that is still in good condition and store it in my parents' attic.  Stained, faded, or stretched items (or even things we think will go out of style) don't make the cut.  Twice a year, the three girls (Bekah, Maddie, and Alaine) have a fashion show of sorts as we unpack each labeled box.  They try on and model and dance around the room, showing off their "new" clothes. 

My clothing-storage system for my boys is different.  Instead of sorting by size, I sort by child.  I keep three large storage containers in our shed.  When Gavin outgrows a shirt, I throw it into Owen's  box.  When Owen outgrows a pair of pajamas, I toss it into Benjamin's box.  Each season, I dig through each boy's entire box to see what fits.  Things that are still too big stay in the box and items that are too small, move into a younger brother's box. 

I've found that my boys are harder on clothes, especially pants, so we have to do a little more shopping  for them in order to fill the gaps in their wardrobes. Knowing their tendency to wear out pants, I keep my eyes extra-peeled at yard sales.  Last year we were blessed to find a huge stack of boys' pants for a quarter a piece!  At only $2 for the lot, even if only 1 pair of pants fit, it was still far cheaper than buying new. And on our way out to dinner for our anniversary last weekend, we stopped at an evening yard sale and picked up a few more pairs of pants for fifty cents-- some for this year, some to save-- so instead of needing pants this year, we are a little short on shirts! 

Even with a bit of shopping, though,  the hand-me-down system is a tremendous money-saver.  This month I have been going through all the kids' clothes to see what they have and making a list of what they need.  I discovered last week that, of my five children, only Benjamin needs a coat for this winter.  (Last year he wore out a coat that the boys had worn for a total of five years!)

A few years ago, I gained new perspective on all this saving and handing down.  Though I still save what my kids have outgrown and pack it away for another year, I give away more, too.  It is easy to hold on to it all in an effort to ease my future worries.  (If the clothes are in the attic, I don't have to worry about what they will wear or how I can afford to buy what they need.)  But if someone can use a pair of jeans now, I don't hesitate to pass ours on.  If someone needs a coat for the winter, why not pull one of our out of the boxes to give to them?  I'd rather see someone be blessed by our abundance than hoard it for the future.

The results of this attitude have blessed us beyond measure.  Each time I begin to stress about how we are going to clothe everyone, someone surprises us with a bag of clothes or passes on a pair of shoes, a pile of socks, a swimsuit, or a winter coat their child has outgrown. 

Give, and it will be given to you. 
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over,
will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
~Luke 6:38~

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In an effort to simplify, we have eliminated the Tri-Moms link-up.  Always feel free to weigh in via the comments, though!  Be sure to visit the other Tri-Moms, Allyson and Christy for more of the clothing discussion! 

Up next: September 6
  Lesson planning/organizing the school year

Fall Schedule of Topics
September 20: Getting the whole family involved in homeschooling
October 4:  The joys and fears of our children growing older
October 18: Traveling with children
November 1: Thanksgiving crafts and recipes
November 15: Teaching the meaning of Thanksgiving

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