Happy Read Alouds

Read alouds are our homeschool and family superglue!  Reading aloud is our main homeschool method and we have loved our learning journey through living books and classic literature.  And even though my older 2 children have graduated high school, we still enjoy reading aloud as a family.

Read aloud to your children — young or old.  Start even before your baby is born, and never underestimate the joy and power it brings to teens and young adults.

Read any type of book — Read beautifully or colorfully illustrated  stories for young children.  Read flap books to involve young toddler’s curiosity.  Read pop-up books to dazzle and amaze young kids.  Read comics and highly detailed picture books; those “Where’s Wally?” and “I Spy” books are fabulous for middle school children.  Read accurate descriptive books and biographies or historical fiction for older kids.

Read aloud — to start your day or finish it.  Start your day reading aloud in circle time with Bible stories.  This will lead young hearts to prayer and praise.  Read a Core story book to engage your children’s minds and hearts.  This leads to narrations, hands-on activities, lapbooks or notebooks, or projects based on the story.  In essence, we have used reading to create our literature-based learning.   And every child loves to have mom or dad read to them in bed, closing the day with lovely thoughts and images.

Read snuggled next to each other.  Our read aloud time is always a time of togetherness, closeness and intimacy.  Fidgety children can play with quiet toys or activities on the carpet at my feet while listening.  Whether physically close or not, the story weaves our minds and hearts together on a journey.  Often, my kids would not let me stop.  Most days my throat would ache because, as I would place the bookmark in the book, my kids would all beg, “Please read another chapter”, and I would continue.

Read poems  — and let your children revel in sounds of words, rhyming words, enjoy the rhythm of the syllables, and wonder at creative word images.

Read non-fiction — and learn so much!  After school, my kids would rush to tell their dad, “Did you know…?” giving him their detailed, natural narrations!  Learning through literature is so much more engaging and real than using textbooks.  Textbooks present someone else’s views of important details, often reduced to bland facts.  A living book describing someone’s experiences, travels, or field notes is full of accurate details, descriptive observations, and personal experiences, and you’ll be amazed how children soak up enormous and exact details and facts, seemingly without any effort!

Read fiction

Image result for image fantasy book

Fantasy World Book by Mark Vog

Fade into the fantasy of the author’s creation.  Delve into the invisible world of make-believe, fly into unknown worlds, explore and escape into new word-worlds.  I believe in the power of fantasy.  It is a gift of the imagination and makes one rich and full.

It is amazing how much you can share, talk, go and grow together through a story — so enjoy your read alouds.

Blessings, Nadene

Stimulating Story Time

Good children’s literature and read alouds are an essential component of a Charlotte Mason education.  Literature is foundational to learning language, building vocabulary, discovering the world and ideas and stimulating creative imaginations!

Reading aloud is a vital skill and here are some tips to making story time stimulating and fun ~

book-farmPictures Your child’s first books should have interesting illustrations.  Many children’s books have amazing artistic pictures which inspire children’s imaginations.  Non-fiction books need bright, clear photos or illustrations.  Don’t hesitate to stop and enjoy each illustration and use them to connect your child with the story.  Very young kids love to find things in detailed pictures. “Can you find the little yellow duck?”  “Where is the red bucket?”  “How many blue balls can you see?”  Older children enjoy copying illustrations they find inspiring.  I often encourage my young kids to illustrate their narrations.

indexSounds – When reading aloud to your children, you and your kids should try make sound effect noises for animals, machines, weather and simple things that may happen in the story such as knocking on a door.  Young children love to participate in the stories with all the sounds and actions.  Boys, especially seem genetically created to make sound effects, so use it to make your stories come alive!

Accents and voices – Be ridiculous and make funny voices and accents for different characters.  red-sails-to-capriMy teenagers and young adult children still smile when they remember my ridiculous Italian accent when I read “Red Sails to Capri” and my over-the-top American accent (we are South Africans, so this was unusual for us) when I read “Strawberry Girl“.  Even animal characters need their own voices.  Go ahead and dramatize the story with your voice — your kids will love it!

Tone and emotion – Ue your voice to create moods and convey feelings.  Read aloud and vary your voice for effect — soft and slow for scary sections,  high, excitied voice for a happy piece, or slow and low voice to convey someone who is sad or depressed.

Pause – Use a pause to create tension and encourage your child’s participation.  A young child will jump in with a prompt when the story is paused for a brief moment — “The three bears walked into the bedroom and saw …” pause … “Goldilocks!” I loved using cliffhangers, and my children would beg me to continue.  Isn’t this the true joy of learning through literature?

And if all else fails, invest in audiobooks.  Librivox provides free audiobooks, but check the version before downloading as some books are recorded with monotone voices and dreary pacing.

Encourage your children to read aloud to you with expression.

Wishing you many happy years of amazing reading aloud in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

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Slow learner Joys discovered

It is possible to experience joy when teaching a slow learner.  Let me encourage you and share my experience of how I discovered joy instead of anxiety.

If my youngest child had been in regular school, she would certainly have discovered that she took a lot longer than her peers to learn.  In those fragile years, I’m sure she would have been labeled a “slow learner”.   But instead, in the privacy and comfort of our home, she flourished at her own pace.

It came as a shock to discover that my very young child couldn’t remember nursery rhymes. Despite daily repetition, the words floated past her memory and she could only tell me the theme of the rhyme, but not the words themselves.  “Auditory memory issues?” my remedial-teacher brain whispered.  Then, I discovered quite by chance, that if she acted out the nursery rhyme she remembered it well. “Okay … she’s a kinesthetic learner.”

Learning the alphabet took much longer than with my other kids at her age.  Maths skip counting missed beats, and learning to read seemed to take forever.  She desperately wanted to read.  It was this inner drive that kept her working and working on her skills.   I must add that this is what is quickly lost in school systems!  Kids feel shame and fear and lose their love to learn.   They dread being exposed and hide or avoid reading in any form.

But safe at home, daily she would come to me with her little readers to read to/ with me.    I learnt to slow things down to the place where she flourished … partnered readingme whispering the words in her ear as she pointed and sounded out the words. This went on for ages. I just kept sitting with her on my lap reading with her for months and months and months.

And then, one day, she simply took off! And my emerging reader became an independent reader! We were both overjoyed!

20161006_162405My youngest daughter is now 14 years old and is an avid reader of adult classical books.  She has her own collection of classic books, preferably hard covers, that she scouts for at secondhand book stores, and she reads and re-reads these every moment she can.

If my hubby hadn’t kept me in check, I probably would have taken my child to a therapist to evaluate her and start some remedial program, but, instead, in faith, we simply followed her pace and allowed her to learn as she was ready.

Shawna writes in a recent post on Simple Homeschool “In celebration of the slow learner“,

“I think it is infinitely more important that our children feel confident in their ability to learn something, than in how long it may or may not take to actually learn it.  Speed has never been the goal. Mastery, progress, confidence – these are all things that take time, and that are worth the wait.”

May I urgently suggest that you homeschool your struggling slow learner.  Bring them home and save them the misery and shame of failure and labelling.  Do it now!  Don’t wait for the end of year or a term.  Homeschooling allows you to tailor-make their education experience.  Aim to relax.  Follow a gentle pace.  Don’t fret about “trying to catch up”.  I want to state this with absolute confidence — your child will learn when they are ready.

Secondly, if you feel the need to have your child evaluated, pray for and look for a remedial therapist with compassion, humour and patience.   Ask other parents how they and their children feel about the therapist before taking your child to their first session.  And in my experience, this is not a permanent situation.  Remedial therapy is a temporary help to overcome weaknesses.  As your child improves, she will not require therapy.   Don’t fall into the trap of doing hours of boring, dull, repetitive remedial exercises.  Don’t allow your child to feel like she has “a problem”.  Worse still, don’t allow them to feel that they are a burden.

Most importantly — pray.  The Lord showed me how precious and special my child was just as she is and not as I felt she should be.  I learnt to trust Him and follow His lead.  His joy and boundless love for her enabled me to love and nurture my child.

Mom, do not fret about your slow learner.  Do not weep.  This is your special gift … to learn to love uniquely.  To love without fixing.  To love without wanting to change someone. To love patiently, with hope.  Such love never fails.

Praying for you … for much grace, courage and strength!  Blesssings, Nadene

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K5 Review

About 6 weeks ago, we started our free trial of K5 Learning.  

Butterfly girl FT

My daughter loved to work on all the programs and especially enjoyed the creative activities.  She (recently turned-12-years old) said this,

“I enjoyed the options the program provided and the fun activities.  The lessons were very helpful and gave me a boost in Maths.”

Let me start from the beginning ~

Their initial assessment was excellent. The results were detailed and clear, and for the first time in our homeschooling career, I had an accurate breakdown in my child’s Maths and Reading skill levels and abilities.

My daughter loved the Maths Facts section – mental maths “designed to help kids develop instant recall of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts”. She worked positively to maintain high scores and loved to see her mastery results on the K5 Math Fact Matrix display. What impressed me was that the program constantly adapted to reinforce specific maths facts which she missed or took too long to recall.  

The Maths program has excellent explanations of new maths concepts with good, clear examples of the work, followed by the exercises.  Without too much fuss, K5 gave a quick sound effect to indicate success or mistake.  After the exercise series, my child was given time to play on an “arcade game” which gave her a few minutes of  fun as a refreshing break.

The Reading and comprehension was thorough and very comprehensive. I was impressed with the comprehension questions and the vocabulary extension.

We struggled with the Spelling program because there was no “teaching” or pre-learning component on the spelling lessons presented.  The program presented the vocabulary test and practice almost blind.  Despite trying to change the grade levels, we didn’t seem to find our level and so we did not enjoy the spelling program. 

My only regret was that we didn’t have reliable, speedy Internet service during our free trial period and so we missed several days each week of online learning.  But I highly recommend this program to any homeschooler!  It is excellent and very effective! From an educational perspective, it is outstanding and their methodology is excellent.  From a parent’s perspective it is very easy to use, log in to assess and keep in touch with the child’s progress.  For the child, it is simple to log in and work on his or her own.

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K5 Learning has a referral program, which pays participants $25 for each new subscriber that clicks over to K5, so my daughter and I will be very grateful if you click here to go start your free trial!

Blessings,

Free Trial K5 Learning

I seldom promote products and have never done reviews, but an invitation to try K5 Learning caught my attention.

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K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. I’ve been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program. If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

After receiving this invitation, I popped over to check out their website and I was very impressed.  Their demo videos looked so inviting and their approach and methodology seemed excellent.

My initial thoughts were that my youngest is already in grade 5 & 6 and up in most her subjects and that this might not fit into our homeschool schedule, but their Math Facts heading caught my eye and I thought that this would be worth doing the free trial.  They explain ~

“Learn math facts online and say goodbye to counting fingers”

“Recalling math facts efficiently is critical because it allows a student to study more advanced math topics without being bogged down by simple calculations.”

So, I hope to use K5 Learning with my youngest and trust that she will both enjoy and learn a lot more than she does with my Mental Maths fun worksheets and Bananagram spelling games.

For more information please go to http://www.k5learning.com/.  I will be back with my honest review in 6 weeks time.

Blessings,

Important Reading Survey

My eldest daughter is studying Computer Applied Technologies and is busy with a huge, year-long assignment that requires intensive research, a detailed questionnaire and collection and presentation of data on her topic ~

The Role and Value of Reading in Teenagers’ Lives

Living on a very remote farm, far away from homeschool groups, school-going children, or church members to interview, we wondered if you would consider answering this questionnaire.

No personal information will be shared or published and your opinions and views will greatly assist us.

Our primary focus is on teenagers.

Please take just a few moments to fill out this form:

(For readers who receive this post via email subscription or RSS readers, please would you consider clicking over to the actual post if the form does not display properly.)

Thank you for your kind assistance.

Blessings,

Record Read Alouds

This year I am S.T.R.E.T.C.H.E.D.

My eldest daughter is completing her Matric (South Africa’s final school year) with Impak (a fully recognized accredited correspondence course) in October/ November.  She has asked me to tutor her in 2 of her 7 subjects and to support her as my primary focus.

My 13-year-old started her high school career, also with Impak, and wants to work as independently as she can, but needs help transitioning in new subjects & methods.  This is a textbook-type education, with an emphasis on graded assignments, tests and exams.  Until this year, we have followed a strong Charlotte Mason approach with living books and we used narrations as our assessments.  She needs upgrades in her summarizing. study methods and exam techniques.  Also, Maths is very intense, with little or no examples and guidance, so I have to tutor her too.

Leaving Miss.L waiting her turn in her school work.  At times, she works on Spelling City on her own and does some maths unassisted, but most our homeschooling is one-on-one, and almost all our core is based on read alouds and living books.

I just couldn’t help everyone at the same time!

I found a solution ~ record her read alouds!https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR28xx5FlivM5laEZ5Ih47mPtYYCM_hEscIV9mGbpoBIpVpUI8u7JbX1mnQbQ

With excellent step-by-step instructions from WikiHow.com I was able to record 3 chapters of our current book. Using my Windows 7 sound recorder on my laptop, I could record my chapters without any apparatus or sound equipment.

I simply created an Audio Book Folder for the specific book in my homeschool files and saved each chapter as I went along.  If interrupted, simply stop, and start a new file, continuing with the same chapter, making a new page reference.https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRoFW4Mw5AAPEKRAAKHpwgLkBTReYMwC2lnVBrcB9TShw7wSmUPM3pDvk6o

I need to set some time aside and record the rest of the book, but I found that it went fairly quickly.

To listen, I simply loaded the chapters on a flash stick and Miss.L inserted this into her CD player’s USB port, and listened quietly in her room to the chapter while I spent time with my other daughters. I could also burn the story on a CD or MP3 disk, or drop the files into our Dropbox so she can listen on the desktop computer.  We all use headphones to listen quietly in the same room.

She simply narrated what she heard when I joined her a little later.

My youngest absolutely LOVES audio books!  My purchase of a HomeschoolFreebieOfTheDay.com & HomeschoolRadioShows.com subscription has been the best deal e.v.e.r.  She loves to listen to stories while she plays with her dolls or draws or creates.

So, recording her core read alouds is a real investment – she can listen to them again, and again!

And I can multi-task.

A great practical idea!

(I want to add ~ reading aloud is our homeschool ‘glue’, and the most intimate part of our day.  We read, snuggled together, and enjoy the journey as a family.  This is not replaced by an audio recording.  I still read the other books scheduled for the day with my child.)

Have you any good tips for teaching multiple ages?  Have you any multi-tasking ideas? Please share in the comments.

Blessings,

Learning Through Living Books

Books on mathematics and natural science in Se...

Take a good story,

fill it with fascinating characters,

surround these in historical and geographic details,

place it in detailed natural surroundings

add the hero’s moral crisis and growth,

submerge this in rich vocabulary,

and you have

an unforgettable

living book!

Over the 14 years or so of homeschooling I have discovered the easiest, richest education is through living books.

With living books as our core, we read and enjoy the content and characters, and branch off on any and many interesting studies as we go along.

Jimmie summed up this in a nugget,

“Just give me the books. We can read them, narrate them, notebook them, and choose our own topics for in-depth tangents.”

I am happily re-using my South African History curriculum “Footprints On Our Land” with my youngest.  Although she floated along on our first Footprints journey, she was only a young 5-year-old then, and missed much of the detail and content. 

We snuggle together and read, atlas at hand, and talk and narrate about the culture, lifestyle, history, geography and natural science that we discover through the story.

Now and then we branch off to study something in-depth (like we did recently with the moon cycle) or sit at the table to write narrations on notebook pages or in lapbooks.

My daughter loves the read alouds.  It is her favorite part of her school day. And, remarkably, she learns so much this way.  It may seem informal, but it is foundational.

You do not need a fancy curriculum, detailed schedules, flashcards, posters and all the bells and whistles!  You can select several age-appropriate literature books for your children and base your studies around these.

For moms with very young children, you could simply use a richly illustrated children’s treasury of classic stories and read … read … read aloud every day.

Living books will ignite the flame of interest and a love to learn in your children’s hearts and minds.

Please feel free to share your living books learning experiences in the comments.

Blessings,

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Remember my Shakespeare plans and my uncertainty about the audio version?

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Well, it was delightful!

We listened to our audio story that I had purchased some years ago from Shakespeare For The Ears, the “Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare” audiobook.

The story was short, simple and easy to understand.

A great overview.

Then I read the story from Shakespeare For Children: Tales From Shakespeare by Charles Lamb.

It was excellent.

It is very similar to the original style and includes famous quotations.

Even my youngest (9) understood and enjoyed the story.

Then I started to read the original play aloud …

This was just too much for them.

I saw blank looks,

frowns,

and a couple of sighs.

I plodded on a bit more,

explaining here and there …

and stopped.

A flop?

No.

Just too advanced for my middle-schoolers.

A Shakespeare play is best viewed on stage, DVD or video.

We watched the 1968 DVD version (censored the love scenes) last year and the children loved it.  (I think this is why I chose Romeo and Juliet for our first play – we were already familiar with the story)

I’ll give the original play a re-try when my kids start high school or are a little more mature.

My overall rating ~

  • we really enjoyed the audio cd(5 stars)
  • we really  enjoyed the Charles Lamb Tales From Shakespeare version (5 stars)
  • not ready for the original play (-1 star – quenched our enthusiasm)
  • loved the video (4 stars – caution love scene)
  • enjoy Shakespeare (priceless! 10 stars)

How have you enjoyed your Shakespeare with middle schoolers?

When are children ready for the original plays?

Blessings,

Inspired Imagination

I have been convinced of the benefits and blessings https://i0.wp.com/bertbruner.com/Images/Books.gifof living books, great literature, great fiction in our homeschooling.   We use literature-based curriculums.  They have transported us into ancient times, allowed us to step into the lives and ways of famous people and have filled our imaginations with beautiful details of places we could only visit in our minds.

Some Christian homeschoolers object to all fantasy.  Some oppose fiction altogether.  They believe that Christians should only be interested in truth, and they only read biographies, histories and non-fiction.

Other Christians homeschoolers embrace all fantasy; stories containing ancient myths, paganism and the popular Harry Potter books.

I was conflicted about this some years ago.  I mixed with homeschooling parents who strongly stood for both of these views and I found it to be a contentious issue.

I could not abandon imagination, fiction and fantasy.

I needed to find a place of discernment.  In the process we watched some Christian DVD’s on this, and we “cleaned house“; we burnt books, toys, jewelery, music, DVD’s, videos, clothing ….  It was a tremendously liberating, yet difficult process.

But in the 3 or so years that followed, we re-examined some choices.  My kids regretted the destruction of some items and I was still caught in a “grey area” on the issue of our schooling choices of our fiction and fantasy books.

Personally, in those 3 years, my quiet times and journalling became dutiful, colourless.  I sought the Lord and asked for His truth and freedom.

During a fellowship gathering in October last year, I experienced the Lord in a profoundly new way.

I had a vision.

Not only did the vision unfold as I sat quietly, but it continued with ministry, until it was a full story.

I was wonderfully set free.

In the days following this vision, I needed God’s confirmation.

Was it all just in my imagination?

In His word, I read in Jeremiah 1: 9-12 where the Lord asks Jeremiah,

” What do you see?” (asks him about a vision)

Jeremiah tells the Lord what he sees (a vision of an almond branch) and the Lord says,

“You have seen well (God agrees with Jeremiah’s vision), for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.”

I was fully liberated.

God Himself speaks through visions and dreams.

My quiet times are now fresh and creative.

I have a new spiritual journal – a spiral notebook with blank pages and my entries are filled with pictures, poems, prayers, colours, patterns.

Sanctified imagination is not evil.

It is God’s gift to us.

I recently started reading a book The Soul of the Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by Gene Veith, written in two parts.  The first part is an exposition of the story, its symbolism and themes, and the second part he delves into larger issues regarding Christian (and also non-Christian and even anti-Christian) fantasy.

He mentions that The Chronicles of Narnia persuade young readers towards Christianity, just as Harry Potter books were written to persuade readers towards atheism.

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C.S. Lewis wrote the marvellous truths of Christianity in Narnia, his fairy tale and Lewis said,

“Supposing that by casting all these things (Christianity) into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stain-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for their time appear in their potency?  Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?”

Gene Veith says that imagination needs training just as the intellect does.  He says,

“When we read, we exercise our imagination, picturing what is happening as we process the author’s words.  With television and movies, someone else has imagined the story for us.”

He describes the spiritual realm as great abstract concepts, and that the Bible contains historical narratives and poetic literature and spiritual descriptions and images of God’s invisible kingdom and the return of Christ.

It is important for a child to know that when a human author creates a world, it exists only in the writer’s imagination and in his readers’ minds, but when God creates a world, it actually exists.

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Veith says,

“The challenge is to discern the difference between good fantasy and bad fantasy, recognizing not only the content, but also its effects on the reader.”

and,

“Children who have a strong sense of functionality and who know that there is a difference between the story and the actual world are inoculated against most of the bad effects of fantasy.”

As our homeschooling unfolds, I am inspired.

Imagination is a wonderful God-breathed tool to be used for Good.

How has the Lord led you in these areas?

Blessings,

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This post was submitted and inspired by the upcoming CM Carnival’s theme ~ “Imagination”.  Join us!