Thursday, December 27, 2012

Teach health and nutrition in the new year!

2013 is almost upon us, and so many of us adults make New Year's resolutions to get fit and change our unhealthy habits for the better. But what about our kids? It would be a wonderful idea to focus on improving the health and nutrition of our kids in the coming year.

Kids learn by example, so definitely teach them healthy habits but by all means, practice what you preach! They will emulate the examples you set for them. Teach them about the "Choose My Plate" initiative so they learn about portion sizes, not just which foods are good for them and which aren't. Emphasize the importance of exercise too, and show them you mean it by not being a couch potato yourself.

One great way to teach nutrition is through a nutrition curriculum designed for homeschool use. There are plenty of resources on the web, yours for the googling, and lots of health books and kids' exercise videos too. As the famous Nike ad slogan says, "Just do it!" and your kids will thank you!

Friday, December 7, 2012

developing pre-reading skills

Sometimes parents can be in a rush to get their child reading, but at the kindergarten level, it really is fine to read to your child and have the listen. There are some basic things, the hows and whys or reading, that young children learn simply by becoming familiar with books. They learn that each book has an author, and often an illustrator. They also learn that writing is read from left to right, for example, and they learn these subtle things just by watching and by listening as you point out interesting things when reading them a story.

When your child gets a little older, you can begin teaching phonics. There are many phonics programs on the market, or you can design your own. The idea is to make the it automatic in a child’s brain to see or hear a certain sound or letter and be able to piece those bits together into a word. In other words, teaching phonics teaches decoding skills. Suddenly, that jumble of letters on the page makes sense to a child, and then the world of books opens to them!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pilgrims and Thanksgiving

I have some fond memories of the things I did in school around Thanksgiving, and I try each year to incorporate some of those things into our homeschool. For example, I remember making placemats by dipping my hand in paint and putting my handprint on a large piece of paper, then decorating my handprint as if it were a turkey. So I did that with my kids this year!

Have you made turkeys out of a pine cone and some craft feathers? The kids loved that one too. Another thing that we've enjoyed it talking about what the Pilgrims really ate for their first Thanksgiving. If you're teaching your kids some form of nutrition lessons this year, this is a great go-along with that. When the Pilgrims were just getting established here in America, food was scarce. But during their second year, the harvest was bountiful, and their overall health and nutrition was much improved. It's an awful lot of fun for a kindergartener to pretend to be a Pilgrim and do some meal-planning for a Thanksgiving feast!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

different learning styles

Before I began homeschooling, I'd never heard of this concept that everyone learns a bit differently. I've since come to discover that many books have been written on the subject, and it seems everyone has an opinion on what the different learning styles are and how to best teach each type of learner. Knowing what type of learner your child is will help you teach material in a way they are able to learn with the least effort.

Verbal students do well in traditional school settings. They are good readers and writers, and in general are excellent students because so much of school is geared toward this learning style.

Auditory learners need to hear things to understand. So explaining a concept to them is easier for them to retain than if they must read it to themselves. They learn best by listening and repeating the information back to you rather than reading and writing the material.

Kinesthetic learners are very hands-on and learn best with things they can touch and feel. Math lessons should involve lots of manipulatives to handle, and science of course can be accomplished with plenty of experiments and physical demonstrations. Many kinesthetic kids would rather tour a historical museum or participate in a historical reenactment than read a history text, and reading in general is not one of their favorite activities. Giving some thought to what type of learner your child is can really help you tailor the lessons to help them learn best!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homeschool conferences

Even if it's your first year homeschooling, if you've made friends and done some networking, you’ve probably heard about at least one homeschool conference. They’re fairly popular events, and for good reason. Usually a registration fee is involved, but once you gain admittance to the event, you’ll be able to hear guest speakers on a variety of homeschooling topics, and participate in workshops to help you become a better teacher.

The speakers at many conventions include authors of popular books on homeschooling, professionals in the field of education, and homeschooling parents who’ve enjoyed a great measure of success and are willing to share their secrets. Just listening to some of these speakers can be a very uplifting and motivational experience, and just what a struggling homeschool family needs to jumpstart their learning again.

In addition, many conferences include vendors who set up booths to sell their wares. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, walking among the vendors and being able to see their curricula and other products in person before buying. So often, we shop online or base our buying decisions on the recommendations of others, and it’s great to test-drive some of the products in person at a homeschool conference before buying.

Monday, October 1, 2012

staying organized

If there’s one thing you need when you’re homeschooling, trying to maintain the household, get everyone to their activities on time, cook dinner, and still take care of yourself, it’s organization! For so many homeschool families, it’s all about the organization.

For many, this means using a schedule to keep track of family events, the kids’ extracurricular activities, and dentist appointments. Schoolwork can also be kept track of this way, and it often works well to give kids a list of tasks to be completed each day, both schoolwork and chores. Let them cross each item off as it is completed, and make sure you check behind them, especially at first while they’re getting used to the system. Positive reinforcement will make your family more likely to stick to the schedule.

You’ll need to sit down and think about what kinds of things you need to include on your family’s schedule, and how detailed you want it to be. Generally, you should include anything with a deadline, and anything that needs to be accomplished in incremental steps, to ensure progress is made. It'll take some effort to devise a system that works for you, but it'll be worth it in the end.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

having trouble with handwriting?

Kindergarten is time for kids to practice their printing. It's important for them to learn to differentiate between capital and lower case letters and to learn to write them. It's very normal for kids to get them confused, but it's something to work on. Children this age commonly make "reversals" when writing, which is like writing a "b" when they meant to write a "d". These mistakes usually correct themselves over time.

There are also special pencil grips to make it easier for struggling kids to attain a correct pencil grip. These are usually plastic or rubber, and slide onto a pencil to make it easier to hold. They’re inexpensive and definitely worth a try. There’s also something called a “heavyweight pencil” that can help kids to focus their attention on letter formation. It’s a mechanical pencil that is actually weighted to help kids learn better writing control.

If all else fails, an evaluation by an Occupational Therapist may be in order. They can check your child’s motor skills and eye-hand coordination much better than you can at home, and often recommend helpful strategies to solve the problem.

Friday, September 7, 2012

fall theme units

There are several theme units that are pretty popular for younger kids. In the fall, kindergarteners everywhere learn about pumpkins, apples, and the harvest. It's like there's an unwritten rule somewhere that you have to teach little kids about scarecrows and such. It's educational, it teaches them about real things in the real world, rather than abstract concepts in a book, and of course, it's fun!

If you have an apple orchard near where you live, pick-your-own apples is a great family activity. A trip to the pumpkin patch is requisite activity for this age, too. Learning about the life cycle of an apple tree might be fun, as well as cutting open a pumpkin to scoop out the squishy insides. There are lots of arts and crafts projects that go along with these popular themes, and some fun songs, finger plays, and picture books from the library would help to round out your theme unit.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

learning about syllables

It's time for back to school, and time for homeschooling moms to consider curriculum and lesson plans for the year. Even if your child is only in kindergarten, you’ve got to start somewhere, right? While reading may be the ultimate goal, building pre-reading skills is crucial to later reading success. Recognizing phonemes and understanding how to teach phonics to your child will be invaluable, so consider doing some studying of your own.

Learning about syllables is important because in many cases syllables represent phonemes, the smallest bits of pronunciation in words. So learning about syllables helps kids learning to read. It also helps young children to understand where the accent goes in multi-syllable words, and it helps tremendously with spelling. Learning about syllables should definitely be a part of your kindergarten plan.