Getting your students Writing

writingOver the years of homeschooling ups and downs… I realize that one of the most difficult things to get across to my children are good writing skills. I have found that the challenge has many multiples…

1) I have to get them motivated… this is huge. If I can just find the key, find a thing they love, and get them interested in talking about that thing… I’ve got it made. However, finding the “thing” is the issue.

2) I have to get them to practice good grammar, which means teaching grammar skills. (collective groan)

3) I have to teach them fluency, agreement, syntax, etc. All of which takes practice… so just like learning how to play an instrument or a sport… writing takes PRACTICE.

…sigh…which they won’t get unless they write… and they won’t write unless they are motivated…

This past year I had to teach my highschooler how to practice essay writing for standardized tests… in the middle of it I almost despaired and sought out a writing tutor…but we kept at it even though there was very little motivation…essay prompts are really just not fun!

Now you can see my ongoing dilemma. This past year, I purchased several very interesting and very fun motivational writing books. They were responsible for the best year of writing that we’ve had so far. So, if I had to hang my hat on ONE key thing… it would definitely be the motivation! If you can motivate them to write something they are interested in… you have won the battle!

Finishing Well…

Yes, unbelievably it is almost the end of the school year. How does it always happen this way, the year just seems to fly by. Now I am focusing on helping my children end the school year well. I am trying to reflect on my goals and to ask myself if we have accomplished everything that we started out to accomplish. Painfully, I am realizing that we have many gaps that need to be filled.Two of those high priority gaps include writing and geography.

I am trying to establish what I can do to effectively cover these two topics in the two remaining months that we have. I have found several super websites that we started incorporating into our daily routine. My goal with my fourth graders is to make sure that they know each of the US state names, locations, and capitols. We began using US State Games on Learning Games for Kids, as well as games from Sheppard Software. I am also looking into using an 8 week online elementary writing course from Time4Writing. There are several of these courses to choose from, each designed to meet your child’s individual needs.

What things are you needing to “get in” before the end of the year?

Blog Writing Course Giveaway

HERE IT IS… The blog writing course giveaway officially begins today!  If you are interested in, just leave a comment.  Next Wednesday, a winner will be chosen from the comments left on this post.

I took this blog writing course myself over a year ago. It is excellent and teaches you sooo much.  I not only had a great time, but met a lot of great new friends!  The course lasts 8 weeks, and is worth $25.

Each comment will count as one entry, but if you want to post about the giveaway on your blog, facebook, or tweet about it that will count as another entry.  Just come back and leave another comment to let me know that you promoted the giveaway somewhere else.

Here is some info about the course itself…

Blogging 101 is a fully automated 8-week online course that covers everything you need to know to plan, start, write, and build an audience for a brand new blog. The eight units of Blogging 101 (which can be completed in less than eight weeks, if you choose) include:

  1. Introduction to Blogging (all the basics for the beginning blogger)
  2. Laying Your Cards On The Table (blog titles, platforms, and start-up instructions)
  3. It’s All About Me (blogging safety, “About Me” pages, and blog design)
  4. Build That Content and Make It Snazzy (writing quality posts, commenting, and adding media)
  5. It’s The Little Things That Count (sidebars, widgets, categories, and static pages)
  6. Mi Blog es Su Blog – – Building Community (growing a readership, blog promotion, and blogrolls)
  7. Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained (more blog promotion strategies and monetizing your blog)
  8. Looking Back and Looking Forward (tips and strategies for continuing to grow your blog after the course)

For only $25, you receive access to the Blogging 101 course for eight full weeks as well as downloadable links and resources for you to keep as long as you want. This is an incredible bargain, and you won’t find any other comparable course on the web at such an affordable price.

ALL RIGHT… it’s on…

Homeschooling High School

The high school student is an amazing and wonderful creature.  It is that child that we hugged and kissed to make their booboos better… just a little taller and a little more mature!  They are still those sweet inquisitive people, they have just changed form.  I am so excited to see the really nice people my teenagers are growing into! Yet, that doesn’t take away the difficultly level of homeschooling these wonderful young adults.  I have found alot of super curriculum to help make our journey a bit more enjoyable.  We use Rosetta stone for language, Apologia for science, I teach her math, and she does a literature based study for history… but with writing… well that is a whole ‘nother story!

We struggle with writing… so using a blog format to get her creative writing juices flowing was super.  She enjoys the creativity that goes along with the blog, but she actually writes on  her own, which really is half the battle!  If your high schooler struggles with learning to blog, why don’t you check out a blog writing course? There alot to be learned about how to manage and write well for the cyber world. So, reach for those resources that really make homeschooling the highschooler manageable!

A Love/Hate Relationship

Language arts and math are the core of the core subjects, and the two subjects that present the greatest challenges to most students. In that respect, language arts most often presents a love/hate relationship to most people. They either love it and the English language’s impossible grammar, or they hate it. Yet, I wonder – is there a way to make all learners enjoy language arts?

With the broad range of inifinte learning style possibilities, there is not too great a chance that we will ever find a cure all for the hatred of language arts, but in the meantime I think we can improve the general opinion. 

Language arts tends to be a “dry” subject.  The general study of spelling words, grammar, syntax, and parts of speech just dosen’t lend much excitement.  However, coupled with a great reading curriculum,  excitement can be drawn into the “drier” side of language arts.  Yet, there are still other ways to bring excitement into the “hated” side of language arts. 

When I teach Language Arts,  I definitely steer towards a more interesting approach to teaching this subject, don’t stick with a plain “text only” approach.  Mix it up – make it exciting – you will see a BIG difference in how children respond. We like to use as many language arts games as possible such as compound word games.  Make spelling interesting by using games to teach the words. I have mentioned Spelling City in previous posts, but it really does make a difference. Children’s outlook on spelling has changed across the country in public schools and home schools because this program uses games to practice and quiz the student. Don’t limit your creativity – if you can think of something to make it exciting – try it!  Children respond to someone who seems to enjoy what they are teaching – and they assimilate that excitement.  They see you excited about your subject matter, and they get excited… it’s contagious.

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum

 

A necessary component of each child’s education, the language arts homeschool curriculum that is available offers a myriad of options. There are many methods and ways that language arts can be taught and there are curriculum offerings that match each method. Many parents buy a complete homeschool kit.  If a kit is used, it will contain all the language arts components that you need.

Parent Led Language Arts Workbook based:

As mentioned before, two very tried and proven homeschool curricula are ABEKA and Bob Jones University Press‘ Heritage Studies. Both of these are available in optional formats. ABEKA can be used on DVD or online video streaming. BJU is available through a satelite program. Parent teaching responsibility is lessened because the instruction is given via the video teacher. These have performend well over several decades, meet most state standards, and come in a kit form. If you “do it by the book” without video or satelite there is alot of work for the parent to do as “teacher.” Another newer but very well organized language arts curriculum is the Training for Triumph Character Quality Language Arts. It is put together to include spelling, writing, phonics, and grammar into one book… nice.  This is great when you have several children that you are teaching at once. They have levels that correspond with each other on a specific character quality.  They will also let you download a month’s worth of lessons to give it a try – before you buy. Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind is also a good curriculum. This curriculum does require parental “teaching” to some degree,though it includes a “scripted” parent book. Another good Language Arts workbook based curriculum is the Shurley English Series. It also includes a “scripted” parent text, but comes with a student worktext, test book, and audio CD for “jingles” that help the student remember certain facts.

Workbook based Language Arts:

Language arts workbook based curricula include Alpha Omega’s Lifepacs and Explode the Code Series. If you are trying to prepare your student for college a great language arts worktext is Jensen’s Grammar.  This curriculum has been used widely for many years, is fast paced but in depth. There are also several free online language arts courses of study.  One of our favorites is Grammar Bytes. This site includes online activities as well as printable handouts/worksheets. The Web English Teacher includes many teacher based lesson plans…not really worksheet/workbook based, but a good resource.

Computer/Internet Based Language Arts:

A great computer based language arts curriculum is Time4Learning. It is a standards based curriculum, and is very popular with children PreK-8th. This curriculum is great as a stand alone course, or as supplement to a workbook series. Another curriculum that many homeschoolers enjoy is the Switched on Schoolhouse. It is a good curriculum, but is more like a computer based workbook. Students read the text and answer questions on the computer. This is available as individual subjects or a complete grade kit.  Alpha Omega does have their new online program Monarch available.  I have not tried it first hand, but have heard that it is better than the Switched on Schoolhouse.

Some free internet based resources for language arts include: Rainbow Resource Center, Kid’s Place by Houghton Mifflin, and Fun Brain by Pearson. A subscription service that I use alot is Edhelper.  There are multitudes of printable worksheets that you can make to your specifications.

Literature Based Language Arts Programs:

Many homeschooling families enjoy using the Charlotte Mason method of teaching language arts. There are several language arts curricula that incorporate this methodology into their course of study.  Here are a few that I would recommend. Simply Grammar by Karen Andreola.  This is a very practical literature based language arts program, based on a book by Charlotte Mason. A Journey through Grammar Land is a book written by the author of Jensen’s Grammar. This is a story based approach to teaching grammar. We use a “Classical Approach” to several of our subjects, and have used Prima Latina and Latina Christiana to introduce grammar to our children. We also loved Brian Cleary’s series of books on the different parts of speech.  Even our littlest one loves these!

I hope that you are able to find something that will work for your very own homeschool! Let me know through comments if you have used other language arts program that performed well.

Super Kids…

Have you ever noticed how amazing our children are?  They can learn so much – so fast!  Sometimes what they learn – is not exactly what we want them to learn…  like all of the dialogue in certain movies!  This past week – I convinced myself that if they could memorize all of the dialogue in their favority movies – they could be memorizing and doing so much more in school.  It is funny but the easiest way to get your children to learn – is by getting them to learn via a fun method!   So, among many other things that I incorporated this week- I also purchased the full 46 song version of schoolhouse rock – every song they ever made.  I think my kids will be learning alot of things in the next month! Maybe the presidents – or how about the parts of speech – remember “Conjunction  – junction – what’s your function…”  I think almost every child in America remembers that one!

We also decided that we would spend more time doing educational games instead of playing meaningless computer games or watching crazy cartoons.  We have seen one of our children get a better understanding of a certain subject matter in just this short space of time – because of an online game that he was using!

And oh… if you are worried that your child couln’t possibly use the computer – HA!  Just try them…  think they won’t be able to manipulate it – or use the keyboard… they will – and FAST!  Especially if you use a online keyboarding game.

Yes, we must admit – though parenting and homeschooling is not easy – are kids are amazing!

High School Homeschooling

Ok – there’s something that I have been hiding – well not hiding…   exactly….  just not waving around like a flag.  Yes, here it is –  I have a child in high school… OK now I said it – there it is in print – I think that I have been living in denial about it most of this school term ( you know that whole “my little girl is growing up” AND “I am getting old” issue), but today I spent MOST of the day working on a research paper with her and the denial is definitely gone.  –  – OK – -maybe not completely gone, because I still want to tell you that she really did “skip” a grade in elementary school. So she isn’t quite as old as a normal high school student. Right…  excuses… that’s denial speaking!

Anyway, I really wanted her to get a good handle on writing, and was determined that she be prepared for college and able to write and research. My resolve was a bit shaken today… after several hours of trying to get through bibliography cards, brainstorming, and developing an outline.  It seems that just because I know it – doesn’t mean she does -(wow what a revelation!) No, not really – she had a great attitude about it, but I think her propensity toward perfectionism ( of course it’s not my fault) had a lot to do with the time it took us today – well, that and the 100 interuptions from coughing sick little sisters and a brother!

Anyway, I needed some alone time after we finished so I got online and checked out some writing resources.  Turns out there are LOADS of good resources for homeschoolers wanting to write better! Woohoo for me! I think I am going to do some more research on these and see if some of them would work for our homeschool next year.  In the spirit of internet love – I thought that I would share the really nice ones that I found today… you may want to check into them as well – especially if you have a     .    .   .uhhum.   .   .    high schooler  .   .   .

High School Writing Course

One Year Adventure Novel – teaches story writing

Notebooking Pages – helps to motivate writing

Homeschool Writing Resources

A Homeschool Writing Blog

Homeschool Writing and Research

Check back later this week for another installment of our testing mini-series.

Benefits of Blogging for Children… and adults!

Do your children struggle with creative writing? At our house, there is a constant on- going search for opportunities to motivate creative writing skills. About a year ago, I decided to try blogging as a creative writing MOTIVATOR. We started out by getting each of the two older girls (9,12) a blog on Homeschoolblogger.com. This is a nice starting point for children because there are restrictions in place that protect them. The two older girls responded beyond my wildest dreams. It became more than just an assignment from mom to get them writing – they loved it and it wasn’t long before they were hooked!
I watched this with interest – watching them learn not only writing skills but computer and techonolgy skills as well. It was absolutely thrilling to see them enjoy writing. My stab in the dark to motivate them to write really paid off this time! Whooohooo!
As I watched their eagerness over growing their own personal corner of internet, I began to think of joining them. I took my time though – I am typically not one to commit to something (blogging – among many other things :)) unless I know that I can do it right. I finally joined the blogging “masses” by taking a blog writing course this past fall. I am not sure what I expected from the course when I began, but I have to admit I was shocked at what I learned. In the course of 8 weeks I created a blog that I was proud of and had even built up a small audience. The teacher was wonderful and as students we had a great time encouraging one another and helping each other think through things. They are about to start another Blog Writing Course 101. They even offer a free blog Pre-Course  to whet your appetite for blogging!You may want to check it out – you never know just what you might walk away with!