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Dickens for Christmas

I have mentioned before that I like to read Charles Dickens at Christmas time.  I’ve also mentioned that for the past couple of years, I’ve included the Littles in my Dickens reading.  We read A Christmas Carol together 2 years ago, and last year we read Oliver Twist.  This year, they are on a slightly darker kick, and they’ve decided that after we finish Something Wicked This Way Comes this week, they want to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  I’m down with that.  Too many people don’t get the opportunity to read that book and take all their impressions of it from the various movies out there (my favorite of which is Mary Reilly).  So I’m thrilled the Littles want to read it now.

Dude, shave that crazy beard

Dude, shave that crazy beard

But I still have to read Dickens for Christmas.  One thing I’ve learned in the last two years is that I enjoy reading Dickens slowly.  A chapter a day?  I think I can hold myself to that.  So I started David Copperfield this morning.  Slipping into a Dickens novel is like sliding on your favorite, old, worn pair of blue jeans for me.  I’ve read A Lot of his books, several of them (think Great Expectations) many, many times.  But I’ve never read David Copperfield, believe it or not.  So I’m very excited to read this one.  Of course, I know the story.  But it’s kind of like if you’ve seen those stupid Hunger Games movies… Ugh! the books are infinitely better.  I’ll put it this way… I’ve read the Hunger Games series twice.  It is literally in my top 3 favorite trilogies of all time.  But I stopped watching the movies after the second one.  Truth?  I only watched the second one to see if they did something to make up for all the enormous gaffs in the first one.  They didn’t.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

But don’t let me step up on that soapbox.  I might never come down.

My point is that reading the book is Always Always Better.  You know that, right?  So I’m really excited to be reading David Copperfield.  So excited that maybe, yeah, it’s going to be Very Difficult to stick to a chapter a day.

The thing about reading a chapter a day, whether it’s aloud in your homeschool or on your own, is that you are better able to savor what’s happening in the book.  If you know me, you know I read roughly 3-5 books per week.  I have since I was 5.  I love books.  I love stories.  I find the oddest times to read.  I listen to books on my Kindle when I’m driving.  I’m not kidding; I can’t remember the last time I heard music.  I listen to books when I’m cooking.  I sneak out of the house when it’s all rowdy and testerone-filled and go sit in the woods and read.  I read while I’m in my deer stand, waiting for deer to show up.  I literally Cannot Go To Sleep if I don’t at least read a couple pages in bed.  If I have a morning when I don’t have to be up moving and Martin gets up before me, I read in secret while everyone thinks I’m asleep.  See why I might have trouble sticking to a chapter a day?  I may have to read two books at once for the next 2 months.  Or maybe I’ll finish this one and read Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities again.

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Ever read A Tale of Two Cities?  Wow.  Excellent stuff.

Wait.  Where was I?  Oh, savoring your book.  Dickens’ writing style can be difficult, especially for early readers and people who haven’t spent a lot of time with the classics.  We don’t talk that way anymore, and in this world of instant gratification, we definitely don’t write that way anymore.  Sentences that have more than 40 words?  Not just a couple of them, but most of them!  Yeah, we don’t have the attention span for it these days, do we?  Remeber, when Dickens was writing, there were no TVs, no internet, no social media with its limited characters.  Books were the most highly valued form of entertainment.  That’s why the classics are the best kind to read.  They don’t just rush through the story with as much action as possible.  They help you think a bit more about life, they slow you down.  So savoring them makes them all the sweeter.

If you are tackling a classic novel with your littles, be it The Secret Garden or Black Beauty or The Grapes of Wrath, going slowly and discussing Everything is the best way to make sure they’re following.  Reading the book twice within a few years (as we have done with Something Wicked) can help your child catch things he may not have fully understood the first time around.  If you’re reading by yourself and I’ve convinced you to delve into the world of Dickens, a chapter a day can give you time to think about what you’ve read, mull it over, and come to a deeper understanding.  And to email me, maybe, if you’re lost and need an explanation.  I’m pretty good at those.  When I’m not rambling.

David Copperfield

Come on, read David Copperfield with me.  It’ll be fun.  I Swear.

If I didn’t give you anything useful today, I apologize fully.  I realize I rabbit-trailed through this entire post and I’m totally owning it.  Okay, so I don’t apologize.  Sometimes I just like to let you in on what I’m thinking.

Love wins,

KT

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Book-Lovin’ Lit Mama and a New Free download

Finally, Finally, FINALLY, the Lit Mama Homeschool is hitting its stride and finding its rhythm.  This year has been an eye-opener for me–a pleasure while also (at one time) bordering on a travesty.  I had a plan.  It was So Not Working.  I ditched the plan.  I came up with some other stuff.  Somehow, it started working alongside the original plan.  Now we are having fun, pursuing many interests, and I feel like I can relax a little.  If you know me, you know that means I’m still sleeping with one eye open and eating in front of the computer while I figure out our Next Big Thing.

But at least I can eat now.

something wicked

One of the things I really did throw out

(wait for it…)

was my original ideas about literature materials for this year.  I was going to have us read books related to our Asian, African, and Australian unit studies for the year.  Instead, as autumn approached, I got in the mood for some Bradbury.  If you’ve never read Something Wicked This Way Comes, holy cow, read it now in time for Halloween.  This book is spooky and intriguing from the word go (or in this case, the word First).  It’s also told mostly from the POV of two boys who are on the verge of turning 14, so it’s a great read for young boys who like a little mystery in their October.  Or girls.  Or heck, anybody.  And Bradbury… Listen, this guy knew how to form a sentence.  Sentence after sentence that sticks to your soul like honey, sweetening the way you look at the world forever.  Like this description of the two boys taking off running:

The wind flew Jim away.

A similar kite, Will swooped to follow.

Oh. Yeah.

The Littles love this book.  We have read it before.  We have no problem reading it again.  You always get something new the second time around.  The Littles completely humbled me by picking Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for their next book.  You know the Lit Mama is all about the classics, and you know I believe no one is ever too young to be introduced to them.  Since my boys have read the unabridged Robinson Crusoe, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and several other classics, I feel they are more than ready for some spooky Stevenson.  I’m pretty excited about reading it with them.

I could read Bradbury all year long, so I’m thinking it’s time for Fahrenheit 451 after our little dive into Multiple Personality World.

And you know what?  I’m not locking us down on anything.  Sure, I’ll be writing study guides all year, but I Love writing study guides.  Besides, where would I be if I couldn’t complain to all my lovely readers about how busy I am?  (I know, being busy in some other way so I could complain about it. haha)

And since I’ve talked about reading so much in this post, here’s a new free download–October Bookmarks straight from the book-lovin’ Lit Mama to you.

october bookmarksHave a great weekend, my friends.

Love wins,

KT

What?! Your Kids Don’t WANT to Homeschool?

I was contacted this week by a beloved family member who, along with his really fantastic wife, has decided to pull his littles from public school this year and give this homeschooling thing a try. I am so thrilled and excited for him and his family and, as ever, pleased to have another family join our ranks.  Unfortunately, my congratulations were not what he was looking for.  He was seeking advice.

Because his kids are being… uncooperative.  And they won’t really tell him why.

Image from theharriedmom.com

Image from theharriedmom.com

I started homeschooling the Littles in their 1st and 3rd grade years of school, so they were close to the age of my family member’s kids.  What did I do to ensure my kids cooperated?  And what should you do if you find yourself at home with littles who aren’t so willing to be homeschooled?

The first thing we did with our littles was establish a clear line between when I was Mama and when I was Teacher.  Granted, we did this by having summer science for 7 weeks before we notified the school of their withdrawal (and so the tradition began).  We told them it was a trial run and if they could learn from me we would continue to homeschool.  But my Littles Wanted to be homeschooled.  So they cooperated. If you have already withdrawn your kiddos from public school and are facing this dilemma, I would try a couple of things.

Establish yourself

First, ask your littles what they like about school.  It can be public school, homeschool, imaginary school, college… Just find out what turns them on to learning. Try to get them to talk about what might be cool about homeschooling.  What do they think would Not Be cool about homeschooling?  Address their concerns.   This can be a conversation as short or long as you want it to be, but use it as a time to let your littles know that when the homeschooling parent says, “It’s time for school,” he or she is no longer Mama or Dada, but a teacher who expects the same respect as their public school teachers.  And don’t just talk, act.  As parents, decide what the consequences will be if your littles don’t show you that respect.  I have to be honest here, when we first started, I utilized the same colored-stick pulling rule as their school did.  Just the threat of being in trouble if they pulled 3 sticks was enough to keep them cooperative and well-behaved.

Also, start out slow.  You have a little time.  So spend a week only schooling for an hour a day, where you are mostly watching for signs of cooperation from your littles.  Let them test you.  Follow through on your consequences.  They will start to see this homeschooling thing is as serious as public school was.  Teach for an hour and a half or 2 hours the next week.  Same deal.  Most homeschool families only school for 3-5 hours a day, so it won’t take you long to build up to speed.

Make a plan

Another good way to garner cooperation is to set a firm schedule for a while and stick to it.  Five years in, the Littles are still up at 7:30 for farm chores and breakfast and in the classroom by 8.  We don’t really waver from that unless someone is really sick.  We have loosened up over the years as to what happens after 8, but that schedule helped them establish that ‘school’ still took place at a certain time.  For the time being, set a time that school is over.  If you are going to allow snack time, do that at a specific time, too.  Kids like structure, and part of their uncooperative-ness may stem from the sudden lack of it.  It’s hard to take it seriously when your mom is in her jammies and you might start school at 9 or 11 or 2, depending on everyone’s whim.

Make a ‘classroom.’ Even if it’s just your dining table or living room floor, designate an area that is for school.  And have school there every day for the amount of time you have set.

Trust me, you can ease up on all of this once you get them in a groove and get them appreciating how much More Awesome homeschool is than public school.

How do you get them to appreciate it?  Make school Fun.

Remember, we are Educating our children, not schooling them in the traditional sense.  We don’t have to teach them like a public school teacher does.  In fact, in some states (including my own), there Aren’t Any Tests homeschoolers have to take.  So we don’t have to teach rote memorization or testing skills the way they do in public school.  We can teach in unconventional ways.

IMG_20150904_100518097

Make learning fun

Most public school teachers don’t have time for reading aloud with their classes, especially by 3rd or 4th grade.  So make part of your school day the sharing of a story.  And make it a story that will engage the littles You Have, not one that someone says all littles should read (even if that someone is me!).  If you lead with this, they will already be accustomed to listening to you and focusing on you before you move on to history or math.

Do tons of projects.  Reading from a book or doing worksheets or notebooking are good ways to help your littles retain information, but building a volcano is a whole lot more fun that writing about one.  Research has its place but–especially while they’re young–they will likely learn more if they are also getting their hands dirty.

Make a craft.  Every day.  Of course it helps with motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but it also gives your littles something tactile to hold onto and remind them of whatever lesson the craft is related to.  And it’s fun.  Way funner than filling out boring old worksheets.

Do experiments.  There are tons of free science experiment printables on the interweb and so many resources for different experiments your head will spin.  So ask your kids what kind of science interests them and Google experiments.  You could do 3 a day for their entire schooling and still never complete all the experiments you’ll find.

Cook together.  We often find recipes related to what we’re reading, studying in geography or history, or learning about in science and spend time in the kitchen learning math and life skills making them.  Then enjoying them.  It usually means trying something new for all of us, so it helps us remember to be open-minded, too.

Take nature walks every day.  Schedule them into the middle of your school time so your littles get that they are getting ‘out of class’ to learn.  Give them a sketchbook and a couple of colored pencils and ask them to record or draw at least 3 things they see on the walk.  It won’t even seem like learning to them.  When you get back to class, get out your books or magazines or tablets and look up their sightings in greater detail.  Have them record the information under their drawings.  You just had a whole class.

Take field trips.  Often.  Once you’ve established with your littles that this is a serious school, you can step away from the dining table and out into the world.  Go to the zoo, the museum, the park, the local historical site, the house of another homeschooling family.  There is only one Civil War site in our state and we were lucky during our American History year that it is only about 25 minutes away.  Take a field trip every week.  That will convince your littles homeschool is better.

What shouldn’t you do?

I think the worst thing you can do with uncooperative homeschool kids is stand over them with a set of textbooks and worksheets and fight them over what they will complete.  It’s a good way to make them hate school and resent you.  Ease them into it by implementing the above ideas, and keep using those ideas to keep school fresh and interesting for the littles.  Middle is in 7th grade.  We still do a craft and a project every day.  Because why not?  He still enjoys them.  Who told public school officials that 13 year olds only learn with strict reading and writing courses?  He or she was wrong from what my experience has shown me.

Don’t get in a rut.  Remember that schedule I mentioned?  Remember that I also said you can loosen up on it eventually?  That.  When math worksheets or books are getting boring, make games.  When attention is wandering, get active.  There is a terrific free resource over at iHomeschool Network to help you get out of that rut or keep from establishing one.

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that we have the opportunity to play with our kids while they learn.  We get to observe each of our children–see what excites them, what makes them tick, how their brains intake information–and we get to put all that together for a learning experience that is fun for all of us.  We aren’t sitting in desks in rows surrounded by 30 other kids who need to keep up or wait on us.  So be playful.  Be joyful.  Hopefully, they will follow suit.

For more advice on scheduling, look here.  If you need help dealing with your fears, check this out. For a bit more information on nature walks, this might interest you.  Here are some reasons to give your littles for why you homeschool.

Love wins,

KT

 

5 Ways to Make Reading Even More Fun in Your Homeschool

I know, sounds impossible, right?  Reading is already So Much Fun, how could we make it funner?!  Well, not everyone agrees with that.  In fact, my beautiful husband would disagree entirely.  So might some of your littles.  So how do we engage them, make them want to follow through on those 24, 240, or 863 pages of Awesome Fiction?  Well, I have some ideas.

Middle pirate1.  Dress up as characters from the book you’re reading.  This one might seem a little hard if you’re reading Watership Down, but c’mon, Mama, a couple of rabbit ears and a cotton ball tail are plenty to make your little feel like a rabbit.  Likewise, if you’re reading Little House a dress and bonnet or a pair of boots and suspenders will suffice.  Get creative.  Look it up on Pinterest.  Google it.  Your littles will truly find themselves more engaged if a little play-acting is involved.  This lends itself to number

littlest Rabbit2.  Choose a character and read his or her spoken lines.  Say you’re reading Peter Pan and you have 3 littles.  You assign your oldest little the role of Peter, the middle little the role of Wendy, and the youngest the role of Captain Hook.  Then whenever one of those characters speaks, that little reads the line.  Kind of like a play, but with prose.  Dare your littles to make their voices like they imagine the character’s voice would be.  You have no idea how much More Fun littles can find this than just reading aloud in the normal fashion.  In fact, my littles would tell you it is the Best Way to read a book together.

3. Include a craft.  And no, I don’t mean just doing a craft at the end of the chapter.  Make the craft While You Read the chapter.  You’re reading A Year Down Yonder and Grandma Dowdel is stealing pumpkins from the Pensingers?  Mama can read while the littles make paper Jack-o-lanterns.  Or let the littles take their regular turns reading as they craft.  It might take a little longer to finish the chapter.  Who cares?  This is fun.  Following that line of thought,

reading & crafting

4. Make a recipe related to the book.  Using the same chapter as an example, scoop out the innards of a pumpkin and roast the seeds.  Mm hmm, you even get a reward at the end of this chapter, so that kind of rocks.  The littles and I read while we’re cooking all the time.  I tell you, it can be done, and it is certainly fun, and (well, I’m going to stop rhyming now), it truly does help them stay engaged.

5. Encourage discussions. Middle pointed out to me that his favorite thing about our read-aloud time is when we come across a political or social issue in our book.  Because we don’t just keep reading, we stop and talk about the issue.  Sometimes for a minute or two, sometimes for half an hour with props.  We get pretty into our politics and philosophy in this house.  It took us a really long time to read Johnny Tremain, as you can imagine, but Watership Down was almost as bad.  The point is, if an interesting issue comes up, don’t ignore it.    Your littles will appreciate a fuller explanation and the chance to offer their opinions.

Do one, some, or all of these things to get your littles engaged in reading.  When I create a novel study for our read-alouds, I offer these ideas and more.  Some of them don’t translate well to accompanying the reading, so we do them after we finish the chapter.  And we Always enjoy reading together.  You and your littles will, too.  So have fun.

Love wins,

KT