Tips for Great Writing

The secret to great writing skills isn’t really a secret! It’s just a bit of good hard work. Yet sometimes, this hard work can be a big discouragement. One thing about writing… Motivation is key! If you’re a high school student wanting to be a better writer or a parent wanting to develop good writing skills in your children… Finding the best way to get going can be difficult. Sometimes, we have to take extra measures to really get our children motivated to write. From intensive courses to online tutoring in writing, finding the right motivation can really affect how children get writing. Find ways to get them excited about writing... Online writing ideas, blog writing, pen pals…Once we find the key to motivating them, we can focus on developing their skills. Here are a few tips to get you on your way!
1) Read…read…read… Good readers make good writers. Read quality fiction to your children to instill in them an appetite for good literature.
2) Write. Writing is a skill. Like any other skill, it must be practiced.
3) George Orwells’s 5 rules of writing
-Never use a metaphor, simile, or figure of speech. These are sayings that have become trite. They are used so frequently that they no longer have impact.
-never use a long word when a short one will do.
-if you can trim out words…do it.
-Use the active voice when possible. The passive is too wordy.
-Never use foreign words, scientific words, or jargon if you can find an everyday equivalent.
-Break any of these rules before saying anything outright barbaric. This is a bonus rule, but implies that we must use common sense when writing.

Don’t despair…becoming a good writer is worth it!

Top 10 Tips for Making Math Meaningful

Math is one of the more challenging subjects for most children. Because of this math is often viewed as the “subject I hate.” Yet, in math achievement U.S. students are far behind most of their international peers. In fact, the US is not producing near enough engineers to fulfill the global demand. So, other countries are stepping up to the challenge. In our day, math undoubtedly is a vital part of education. Many of the requirements from when we were in school no longer hold true. A heavier mathematics load is now considered basic in most US states, with Algebra I being completed in 8th grade. With the increased demands for better prepared students, our children need a stronger math foundation. As homeschooling gows in various forms from unschooling to roadschooling, staying on top of the educational demands of our day is a relevant issue. We need to prepare our primary/elementary age students by:

1) Using manipulatives, manipulatives, and more manipulatives… the more hands on and concrete examples you can use for math, the better your child will understand it.
2)Equipping them with a complete memorization of all basic math facts will give a foundation that will help them transition easily to higher math. This doesn’t mean all fact cards…start with concepts and then work on drill as they age.
3)Make cool experiments, conduct surveys, and make charts and graphs.
4)Use estimation to help kids think through the problem first.
5)Use mathematical tools such as scales, weights, protractors, compass, calculators, spreadsheets, and graphs.
6)Encourage them to find ways to earn money saround the house and then how to budget that money.
7)Allow music to help instill mathematical sense. Learning how to play an instrument is the best way to do this.
8)Get involved in math competitions. This will help children with problem solving strategies.
9)Use family games to incorporate mathematical reasoning.
10)Point out how you use math in everyday living, and encouarge them to help you. Things like sorting clothes, dividing desserts, clipping coupons, planning grocery lists within budget, doubling recipes, and even making a purchase.

Top 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Homeschool

This little list is written from a “tongue in cheek” perspective…

1) You’ll spend all day every day with your children. You just might get to know them…

2)Your children won’t get to experience the bullying, peer pressure, and political correctness that are offered at the government schools.

3) Your children might flourish under the one on one attention and just may get ahead of their peers.

4)You get to choose who your child spends time with each day

5) It is up to you to find a curriculum that meets your childs needs and fits their learning styles. Their education will be customized just for them.

So, if this hasn’t deterred you, getting to use a phonetic approach to reading, spending lots of time reading aloud, working on projects, delving into studies that interest you… hmmm… I just can’t imagine education any other way!

Keeping your Homeschool Under Control

Being an organized person and keeping your homeschool organized are two very separate things. i am an organized person, love neatness, enjoy alphabetical order ( you know all that OCD stuff!). Yet, keeping my homeschool running as a well organized machine has always been difficult for me. In the past few years I have incorporated a few tried and true principles to help me with thiss.

 1) Don’t be afraid to rely on tools… use the internet, a PDA, a cell phone, or a “little black book” to help you make your plan and keep it. My friend and I refer to these special little books,as  our “brains.”

2)Make long range goals. Don’t be afraid to look at all your weaknesses then make a plan that addresses them as well as the other things that you should be learning. Write out your objectives in a “The learner will…” format. Go back at the end of the year and comment on each whether or not you met the goal.

3) Make daily and weekly goals. This has become a beneficial part of our daily homeschool. We have finally hit pay dirt with this one! Each of our children have their own little notebook that has their current schedule or more acurately their daily “to do” list. This helps them focus, and then if I am called away from the, they can still move on.

4) Make sure your policies and procedures are well understood and established. In other words, get the whole family on the same page. Make sure everyone knows what to do and when. Your routine will help to keep you going even when you are weary!

5) Have your supplies and workbooks readily available. If you keep your workbooks, writing worksheets, online homeschool printables, and writing utensils in easy reach and organized… your children will be without excuse for staying on task.

Making Independent Learners

In this day and age when children are accustomed to being spoon fed entertainment, knowledge, and even life… it’s hard to make independent learners. Yet, it is possible to establish a few routines in your homeschool day to turn a dependent crowd to independence. Since we are going back to school, and starting a fresh new year, let’s talk about it.

Yes, I know- I am the mom. But that means different things to different people. To some, being the mom means that you are catering to every miniscule need that your children have, answering every homeschool question they run across, and even teaching them each subject in school. Personally, I find that I am not Wonder Woman and just can’t keep up with those demands. Instead, I am attempting to get all of my children into a state of independent learning.  I say attempting, because it is a work in progress. My two oldest are just about there, while my two youngest are still pretty needy.  From homeschool language arts to mathematics and every subject in between – you can adapt it to be conducive to indepedent learning. I am teaching them- along with all of the other things they are learning- how to gain knowledge without my help. This involves a few simple guidelines.

  • I am trying to choose only curriculum that promotes self learning. By this, I don’t mean that I leave my children alone to take care of their own education, but instead I am instilling in them skills that ENABLE them to learn without aid.
  • We have a simple rule, If you have a question about something in your school material  – look it up. Find the answer in the book, in another book, or online. Knowledge is at your fingertips – simply look for it!
  • Facilitate abundant reading! Have great books available to your children at all times. Foster a love for reading by showing them the example of a good reader in yourself!

Teaching them to be independent learners will not just help them here and now… it will ENABLE their future!