Friday, March 1, 2013

Writing Classes on Skype

I loved homeschooling my own children. Homeschooling is my passion. I love being close to my grandchildren so what do I do for fun? I teach my grandchildren classes over Skype.

I have a Writing class each week with four of them. They range in age from eight to eleven. I use an old book that I had used with my children by Joan D. Berbrich. She wrote three I really like, Writing about Amusing Things, Writing About Curious Things, and Writing About People and Yourself, my favorite. This year I am using Writing About Amusing Things. Each week I make a powerpoint that teaches a lesson. Then I send the powerpoint to each household. We go over the lesson and they get their assignments. The next week we read their assignments.

For me the key to a writing class is that they learn that writing is a form of communication. They need positive and constructive feedback and examples. Each week we begin by having them share their writing with each other. After each one reads their paper, or I read it for them, the choice is theirs, everyone makes comments on what they like about the paper. I always try to point out things they are doing well. As this goes on each one learns from the others. As they hear what the others are doing well they eventually try to incorporate that into their writing.

Also I believe adult examples are important. The children need to hear more mature voices and to know that adults still write, not just authors, but normal adults. My husband, the grandfather, is writing his life story, episode by episode. He joins our class many times and uses the assigned ideas to write an episode for his autobiography and shares it with our class. The children love to hear his papers. I write papers also; but the real treat is hearing Grandpa.

Last week we had a lesson on making excuses. Their assignment was to write an anecdote about someone giving an amusing excuse. It didn't have to be the truth; but most of them started out basing it on truth and then imbellished it. I try to mention their use of specific vocabulary that really paints a picture for us to see. This eight year old granddaughter really did that in her paragraph.

   My sister, Josie, and I were doing schoolwork in the branches of 
the fig tree.  It was impossible to climb the tree with our schoolbooks 
in our hands.  We made a pulley by looping one end of a string over 
branch of the tree and tying the other end to a basket. We put our 
books in the basket, then we clambered up the tree.  Once we were 
perched in the tree, Josie grabbed the end of the string and pulled
the basket up.  Now that we had our schoolbooks in the tree, we 
opened them up and got to work.  A couple minutes later, our brother, 
Ishmael, came out and scaled up the tree.  When he was clutching the
branches, he grabbed the branch that my math book was resting on.  
My math slipped off and my pencil flew out of my hand like an arrow 
and shot through my math book and out the other side.  So you see, I 
couldn't have done my math because there was a huge hole in my 

They also had the assignment to write a quatrain about an excuse. 
quatrain is a four line poem that the second and fourth lines 
rhyme. Sometimes they really get into an assignment and do more 
than the requirement. This ten year old wanted to do more so her 
poem had several stanzas.

              The Story of Freddy
I know you all are hungry
  And I am hungry too,
For when I was baking pancakes,
  The griddle ran off with a shoe!

Then the batter said to me,
  "I'll bat you right out of the park.",
"No, you're not that kind of batter!" I said,
   But it whacked me as high as a lark.

On my way up I broke through the top,
   The very top of our house,
"You'll have to pay for the repairs."
   "I have as much money as a mouse!" 

That's why we don't have pancakes,
   You'll have to do with oatmeal.
But for me there's some leftover cake and pie.
   What a delicious meal! 

This is just one of the classes I teach. I will write about others later.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

10 Reasons Why I Homeschool

Yesterday, a mom asked me,  "Is it just so hard to pile all your kids into the car and drive your kids to school? Is that why you homeschool?  Is it just easier to stay home?"

I had to force myself not to laugh.  I was asked this question previously from another mom.  Wow!  It blew my mind again that some people think that is the reason why people homeschool.  It just opened my eyes to the fact that many people don't understand homeschooling and have no idea why people homeschool.  They have just never been exposed to it.  It is such an unfamiliar thing to them.  So, I decided to make a list of some of the reasons I homeschool.  And "it's just easier to not pile all my kids into the car" is not one of them.  I actually don't know anyone that homeschools for that reason ;)

1.  I have a passion for teaching children!  I love the challenge of finding ways to help them understand concepts and learn.  It is my hobby!  (I have been known to read math textbooks late at night in bed.)

2.   I can give my children more individual attention than they would receive in a classroom of 32 kids.  Yes, that is the class size where we live in California.  I know my children and their learning styles year after year.  Each new year at school, a new teacher would have to try to understand my child and help them learn.  I have it a lot easier with a 4:1 ratio.

3.  I can skip over material my children know and slow down when they have a hard time.  My daughter already knew how to spell words on a spelling list, so she didn't need to do worksheets practising those words or to take a test on them.  However, my daughter struggled with her math facts, so we had to approach them various different ways until she was able to memorize them.

4.  I want my children to develop a love for learning.  We can really delve into studying a topic and explore their interests which I believe helps them enjoy learning.  I think school teachers would love to do more of this, but they have to focus on tests instead.

5.  We can get more done in less time.  We don't have to spend time lining up, waiting on the whole group to finish a math problem or doing a pointless worksheet just to use up time. We can usually finish our schoolwork in 3 hours (I have younger children) and we have the rest of the day to learn more and play.

6.  Since we spend less time on "school," we have more time for play and extracurricular classes.  My daughter took a Spanish class, a group tennis class, a nature exploration, and an American history hands-on project class this last year.  They have also taken pottery classes, painting lessons, PE classes, science classes, soccer team and creative writing classes.  We also get to do many field trips with groups.  I pile my kids in the car many times a day, not just to take them to school and back ;).

7.  My kids spend more time with their siblings and more playtime with friends their age.  They don't get to sit next to friends in a classroom all day (where you can't talk to the person next to you), but they do get to play with friends at the park, at nature classes or on field trips.

8.  I get to learn along with them!  Last year, I learned more about Lewis and Clark than I ever knew.  We read their journals and it was fascinating.  I learned more about Benjamin Franklin.  I love catching the excitement my children have about these topics.  How lucky am I!  It is so fun to learn!

9.  I hope that we can avoid some of the attitudes that some children have in school. Some of the ideas I personally like to avoid are: "I can only play with kids that are in he 5th grade" and "learning is boring".  I also want to be the one to determine how they are exposed to sex and bad influences.

10.   My husband and I feel good about homeschooling at this point in our children's lives.  We have prayed about what is best for them and for our family.

I hope that this helps more people understand homeschooling.  I would love to read someone write 10 reasons why they send their kids to school.  I think they could have 10 really good reasons as well.  I think it is helpful to understand advantages and disadvantages of both.  Then, I can adjust and make up for the disadvantage.  For example, if I feel socializing with kids their own age is an advantage of school, I can make sure to plan playdates and parkdays with kids with the same ages at my children.  If I sent my kids to school and I felt no art classes in school is a disadvantage and that was really important to me, I could teach my kids art after school in a class or at home.

I love deliberate people who do things because they have thought about it, not just because that is what they are used to or that is what everyone else is doing.  I could just homeschool because I was homeschooled and that is what I am used to.  I do think that plays a part in our decision (because I had a great experience being homeschooled), but we have also analyzed and decided what is best for our family.    

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kumon Cutting Book

My 3 year old wants to be a part of homeschool.  She begs me for any type of workbook or worksheet.  (If only my older kids were like that!).  She can hardly stand to be sitting somewhere other than the table during school time.

 I had a hard time finding activities she could easily do on her own.  I wanted to share this great cutting book.  She can do them all on her own and loves doing them.  She has also learned great cutting skills.  Kumon has many other books likes these.  She enjoyed the My First Tracing Book as well.  We finished both books and just ordered some others.  We'll let you know how we like them!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Getting Serious about Math Games!

image from:

When it came to addition facts, my daughter needed to get them down. The only problem was if she sees flash cards or I use a timer, she freezes. She starts panicking and gives me the wrong answers at a slower pace. I didn't know what to do. I had to think of ways for her to practice her addition facts without the drill.

We started focusing on combinations of 10. Now her favorite combination is 7 + 3. I came up with some games that she has loved. Now my 5 year old knows most combinations that equal 10! We made math games a priority. Every morning after breakfast, we play 1-2 games. Here are games that I have made up. Each one has a little dance and song we do :)

Which Combination will Win?
(Probability for Combinations of 10)
Take 10 small objects that have 2 sides (like pennies or circle tokens with different colors on each side). We were actually studying poison dart frogs at the time, so I took beans and painted then blue on one side, let them dry and then red on the other side. First, my daughter made a list of all the possible combinations of 10 (9+1, 8+2, 7+3, etc.). This was good practice since she had to make the list each time we played. Then, we each chose one combination. Then, I put all the beans inside a cup, she shook them up and then poured them out. She counted how many blue and how many red and put a tally mark by that combination on our list. We did this 10 times. The person whose combination came up the most won!

Combination 10!
I take a stack of Uno cards (only using number cards). Each player is dealed 10 cards. They turn over all their cards and find pairs of numbers that equal 10 (5 and 5, 8 and 2, etc). Each player keeps their own matches. The leftover cards without matches go into a discard pile. After all the players have found matches, each player is dealed another 10 cards (until there are not enough cards to deal out more). The person that has the most matches of cards that equal 10 wins!

Slap that Ten
We use our uno cards. I have the stack of cards and turn over two cards. I continue to put new cards face up on the two cards. When both cards together make 10, the players have to slap that ten! They get all the cards on the stack (below the combination of 10). The winner is the person with the most cards at the end.

30 minus something
Each player is dealed 5 cards face down. All the other cards are scattered face up all over the floor. The game starts when the players turn over one of their 5 cards. They have to find the answer to 30 minus the card they turned over (For example, the card is 4, so the player thinks 30-4=26). They have grab the number 2 and 6 from any of the scattered cards on the floor to make 26. They put the 4, 2, and 6 together to make a set, and turn over their next card. This is a game of speed and all players work at the same time, without taking turns. I sometimes have different players have different numbers to minus from (one has 40 minus something, another person has 100 minus something, etc.)

Addition Battle-
Each player is dealt 2 cards face up. Each player solves the sum of their two cards. The highest sum takes all the cards. This is repeated until all cards are dealt. If there are two sums that are the highest and the same number, they have an addition battle. Addition battle is when two players put down two more cards and add their numbers to see who wins all the cards. The winner is the player with the most cards.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writing Club with Cousins!

In my family, there are so many families that homeschool that the older cousins have a book club. They each read certain chapters of the assigned book, then one of the moms thinks of two writing prompts that relate to the book. Each child chooses a writing prompt and writes a response. Then, they meet weekly via skype and share their writing with each other.

Well, my oldest daughter in the first grade started loosing motivation in her daily writing journal. I wanted her to not only be more motivated in writing, but improve in her writing skills. I talked with my sisters and we decided to make a younger book club. So far, we have read Charlotte's Web, Little House in the Big Woods and Beezus and Ramona. The cousins get to see each other on skype and share their writing. After each child reads, the others comment on what they liked about it. It takes about 15-30 minutes. I found a great site called It has books for each grade level with review questions and writing prompts for each chapter from the books. Here is the link! It makes it so easy to come up with writing prompts!

Here is an example of a writing prompt for younger grades for Charlotte's web:
1. What do you like to do in the summertime? Do you like to do some of the things they do in the book?
2. Wilbur wanted to spin a web like Charlotte. Have you ever wanted to do something, but when you tried, you couldn't? How did you feel?

I have already seen an improvement in my daughter's writing. She will say things like, "Oooh, I'm going to write this like "Jen" does." or "I wrote what color my shirt was like "Amelia" does." I highly recommend doing a skype writing club not only because it will improve their writing, but they will get to see their "cousins" more often.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

More Fun with Letters!

My 2 1/2 year old is starting to understand that letters are everywhere! She knows about 10 letter sounds now. It is so fun to see her little mind working. She has started to notice letters as she reads books, looks on the back of cereal boxes or even plays with her toys that have alphabet letters on them. "Look! There's the c, Mommy!" I forgot how much fun it is when they actually realize letters can be found everywhere!

I recently came across a great list of activities to do with the letter Q from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I am doing a preschool for my 4 year old daughter's coop tomorrow! Many of the activities can be used with any letter of the alphabet. Make sure to check out her site for other fun ideas on letter games. I am going to copy and paste my favorites directly from that site:

**Alphabet Activity: This is called the stair game, everyone loves it! She stands at the top and I flash a letter, she says the letter and its sound. If she’s right she gets to jump down a stair. When she hits the bottom she wins!

***Finger Tracing Paint Bag: This is simple and fun, I filled a bag with tempura paint, you could also use cheap shaving cream. Then I'll tape it to her desk for her to practice writing her letter on using her finger. You could also skip the bag and put shaving cream on your counter if you're feeling brave ;o) After we do the letters we do numbers, shapes, and whatever else we can think of!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Short Vowel Readers!

I always struggle to find books my children can read when they are first starting reading. When my children have mastered short vowels, they want to read books! That is why we created a few short vowel books we have posted for free here. There are so few books out there that only have short vowels :) I recently found a great series!!

The Now I'm Reading! Series by Nora Gaydos is adorable! I'm so happy I have found it.

Things I love about these books:

1. There are 20 books for short vowel words. Can you believe it, 20!

2. Each set comes with a cute set of stickers that coordinate with each book. The children have 4 stickers per book. Each time they read the book by themselves out loud, they get a sticker. I love repetition and my daughter loves putting on a sticker each time she reads it!

3. Each page builds on the previous page. Each story starts with two words, the next page has three words (repeating the first two words) and it continues to build on the first two words as the story goes on. It is a perfect way to build confidence in the early readers!

4. The stories are actually fun to read! They are cute and clever. They are not boring to read over and over again! Sorry, I am not a fan of the BOB books. It makes it so much more enjoyable for my daughter and for me to read these books :)

Click on the two sets of stories above to find out more about them, read other great reviews and buy them :)