Big Bundle of STEAM Giveaway!

Psst…come in close.  I have something to tell you.  I don’t want to say it too loudly, lest it sneak up on us even faster…but February is just around the corner. 

You know what I'm talking about.  That dreaded homeschool month where everyone wants to quit and order all new curriculum at the same time

Yep, February often stinks.  But it doesn’t have to!  Instead of trudging through February this year, I have a plan to shake things up!  I’ve stocked up on some amazing Usborne activity books for my littles and some STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) books for my oldest four. 

If you’re not familiar with Usborne books, You’re. Going. To. Love. Them. Really!  I mean it!  They are engaging and colorful and full of learning goodness. 

So  my friend and fellow blogging homeschool mama of 6, Bethany Ishee, and I decided to team up and bring you an amazing giveaway!  Together, we’re giving away the 4 STEAM-Inspired Usborne books below and a $50 Usborne gift certificate.  That’s a whole lot of fun in one giveaway.

Check out the books and enter below! 

Homeschool Encouragement: 21 Posts from Inspiring Moms

2017 has arrived!  Over the past few weeks, I've enjoyed looking back over the blogs of fellow homeschoolers, re-reading the posts that encouraged me throughout 2016.  Here, I've gathered together some of my favorites about Connecting with Our Kids, Encouragement for the Homeschool Mom, Self Care & Awesome Adulting, Creative Homeschooling and Sharing Poetry with Our Kids.  I hope you'll find a nugget of wisdom, a seed of inspiration as you prepare for the year ahead!  Happy New Year!

Connecting with Our Kids

Why Focus on Building Relationships in our Homeschool by Jessica @ Intentional in Life

Curious Over Furious by Heather @ wellermomma blog

Educating the Tortoise and the Hare by Amanda @ Raising daVinci

 

Encouragement for the Homeschool Mom

Homeschooling Translated featured here at Nurtured Roots

Quitting is the Greatest Victory featured here at Nurtured Roots


Comparison - Thief of Joy and Happiness by Nadine @ Up Above the Rowan Tree

Tackling Mommy Guilt by Mary @ Not Before 7

Homeschooling Mama, Do You Need Some Encouragement? by Dachelle @ Hide the Chocolate
 

Creative Homeschooling

Better Learning through Board Gaming by Lynna @ Homeschooling Without Training Wheels

The Unique Power of the Homeschool Parent: Innovation by Mary @ Not Before 7

Day in the Life of a Working Homeschool Mom by Amanda @ Raising daVinci

Creating a Home-Centered Homeschool Room by Melissa @ Soaring Arrows



Why I've Flipped Our Homeschool Routine by Nadine @ Up Above the Rowan Tree

Brown Paper Packages by Jenny @ Where Life is Real
 

Sharing Poetry
with our Kids

100 Poetry Books for Kids by Lynna @ Homeschooling without Training Wheels

Tips for Reading Poetry by Jenny @ Where Life is Real


The Endearing Art of Poetry Tea Time by Melissa @ Soaring Arrows
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun & Festive Free-Write Prompts

Need a simple and fun way to sneak some writing into the busy days of December?  I've got you covered!  Below you will find 25 free-write prompts for the holiday season and winter.  Here's how to get started:

1. Download the PDF at the bottom of this page.
2. Print & cut the prompts apart.
3. Pop them into a jar or basket.
4. Grab a notebook & pencil.
5. Reach in and select a prompt.  No peeking!
6. Set the timer.  (You choose the length of time.)
7. Start writing.

It's that simple!  There's no need to worry about perfect spelling and mechanics right now.  The goal is to get the creative juices flowing and to have fun! 

Have a writer who isn't quite ready to write alone.  No worries!  Have her share her thoughts aloud while you write them down.  You'll be spending valuable time together and she'll see that what she has to say matters.  Together, you'll be paving the way to a connected writing relationship.  Win! Win! Win!

The prompts are also listed below in case you'd prefer not to print!

1. Colors are often used to describe Christmas.  Choose one color, any color, describe what a Christmas of that color would look like.

2. Imagine you just built a snowman.  Write a story about what you would do with your snowman.

3. Choose a holiday treat to eat.  Using your senses, write about what you ate.  What did it taste like?  Smell like?  Feel like in your mouth? 

4. Make a list of 10 holiday nouns.  Then make a list of 8 descriptive words.  Put your lists side by side and make phrases with them.  Then choose one phrase and write about it.

5. Choose a letter and think of a word for each of the following categories.  Using the words create some tongue twisters.
Noun
Animal
Girl’s name
Describing word
Food
Verb
Boy’s name
Place
Clothing
Emotion

6.  Imagine you just opened the best gift ever.  Describe how you feel.  What was in the package?  Give as many details as you can.

7.  Go back to one of your free-writes from this month.  Choose one sentence that you think is really well-written.  Put that at the top of a clean sheet of paper and start writing.

8. A blind person wants to know what your house looks like when it is decorated for the holidays.  Describe it to them with lots of detail.

9.  If I could give my ________________, just one gift, it would be __________.  Describe that gift, how you feel when you give it and how the person reacts when it is opened.

10.  Find one of your favorite holiday stories (or any story you have handy).  Copy the last sentence onto a clean sheet of paper.  Use that as the beginning of a new story.

11.  Imagine that the trees are talking to each other at this time of year.  Write a conversation between them.  What are they saying?

12.  What is something you love to do at the holidays?  Write about it.

13.  Imagine that you live in a gingerbread house.  What would it be made of?  What kinds of treats would decorate it?  What would you do if you lived inside?

14.  Try this word game with a sibling, parent or friend.  Start with a holiday word like “Joyful.”  The next person thinks of a word that starts with the last letter of the word.  So, in this case “l” would start the word so you may choose “lights” as your word.  Keep going back and forth until you have at least 20 words.  Make sure you write them down as you go.  Now choose one of the words from the list and use it to inspire a story or poem.

15. Make an advertisement for snowballs.

16. Write directions for how to build a snowman.  Number the steps.
 
17. Spend some time watching the birds outside your window.  Write about what they are doing this time of year.

18.  Imagine racing down a hill on a sled.  Write about the experience.

19. “Oh the weather outside is frightful…”  Write about the frightful weather. 

20. Write a secret note to someone in your house.  Leave it somewhere for them to find. 

21. You just made friends with a gingerbread person.  What will you do together?

22. Look through magazines and catalogs to find a photo that reminds you of the holidays.  Cut it out and use it for your free-write.

23.  Make a holiday card for someone.  Decorate the front, write a note on the inside and pop it in the mail.  Better yet, deliver it in person, if you can.

24.  Choose a holiday word and use it to write an acrostic poem.  Write the word vertically on the left side of your paper.  Write a word or phrase beginning with each letter of your word.  They should describe your chosen word.

25. Fold your paper so that when you open it up you have 4 sections.  In each section, write one of these words at the top.  Lights, Cozy, Sweet, Family.  Then, set your timer for 3 minutes.  Jot down words and phrases that come to mind for one of these categories.  Repeat for each section.  Then file this away until the next time you free-write.  When you come back to it, re-read what you wrote and see what stands out.  Choose a word, a phrase, an entire category, or any combination and use it for the topic of your free-write.


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Poetry Tea Time: Thanksgiving Recipe

“Giving thanks    giving thanks
for rain and rainbows
sun and sunsets
cats and catbirds
larks and larkspur…”

by Eve Merriam

Thanksgiving is a natural time to pause and reflect on the blessings in our lives, and poetry tea time lends itself beautifully to celebrating our thankfulness.  Just a quick search on amazon for “Thanksgiving poems” yields 2,822 results!  Why is that?  Because thankfulness is something we can all get behind.  I’ve never met anyone who wouldn’t agree that we should be grateful for what we have, and that fostering a sense of gratitude in our children is an important part of raising them.  The poetic nature of gratitude, the sometimes elusive emotion that can not always be translated into words finds a home in poetry where phrases and metaphor abound.  So here’s a recipe for Thanksgiving poetry tea time! 

 

Set the Table:
Any table setting will work for poetry tea time but if you want something different, create a vase of balloons taped to sticks.  One for each child.  Inside each balloon, add a piece of paper that tells why you are thankful for that child.

 

 

The Books:
Thanksgiving Poems Selected by Myra Cohn Livingston
The Circle of Thanks: Native American Poems and Songs of Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac
Merrily Comes in Our Harvest: Poems for Thanksgiving by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Thanksgiving Day at our House: Poems for the Very Young by Nancy White Carlstrom
It’s Thanksgiving by Jack Prelutsky
Giving Thanks: Poems, Prayers and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving by Katherine Paterson
This is the Feast by Diane ZuHone Shore
Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Francis Child


The Art Activity:

I'll be offering my kids two art options.  The first is the corn cob mixed media project.  It will be a perfect fit for my younger set.  The second is the "thankful tree,"  a beautiful combination of writing and art.  Click on either image to get to the directions.

 

The Poem Writing: 

Keep it simple.  Have each child write an acrostic for THANKSGIVING, listing for each letter things for which they are grateful.  These could be added to the artwork above.  Get creative. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Exploring Literary Devices with Owl Moon

Picture books are my all-time favorite teaching tool, especially when working with multiple ages.  A well-written picture book is a whole pouch of seeds waiting to be planted.  For your visual learner, pictures cover pages from edge to edge.  For your auditory learner, a feast of well-chosen words awaits.  And picture books cover a rainbow of topics and genres, so you’re sure to find something to spark the interest of your kids. 

Perhaps my favorite use of picture books is to inspire writing because.....

  1. Picture books are short.  We want to make the most of our time during busy homeschool days, and since picture books can be read in one sitting, they’re perfect for the job.  We can read the book through once, typically in 10 minutes or less, and then re-read sections we want to highlight as we guide our emerging writers to explore various techniques.
  2. Picture books authors have to choose words with care.  When an author is limited to about 32 pages, she has to select her words really, really carefully.  Otherwise, the young readers and listeners on our laps will be asleep before we get to the last page. The same is true with “older” pre-teen and teen readers.  A picture book for the purpose of teaching writing, must be engaging enough to hold the interest of everyone.  After all, it was C.S. Lewis who said, “A children’s story that is only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story.”
  3. Picture books are written with younger readers in mind, but that doesn't mean older readers won't learn anything from them.  What it does mean is that they make ample use of literary techniques such as descriptive language, similes and metaphors, and voice.   Picture book authors have a gift for serving up bite-sized portions of amazing language and vocabulary.  Just enough that we feel satiated but not overwhelmed. 

One of my favorite books to use is Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.  It’s chock-full of vivid writing and literary devices & tools with which we want our children to make friends.  I’ve outlined three that are easily spotted in Owl Moon, including examples from the text.  Because good writing weaves literary elements together, these overlap, but that's the beauty of this book!

Here's a list of literary devices I want to make sure my kids know before they leave home.

Here's a list of literary devices I want to make sure my kids know before they leave home.

Simile & Metaphor
Well placed similes and metaphors blend seamlessly into the writing to compare something, possibly unfamiliar, to something familiar.  To create a picture for the reader, to bring the reader into the emotion of the story.  Similes and metaphors are powerful tools when used well.  It’s often the difference between showing the reader what is happening, rather than just telling them.

  • The trees stood still as giant statues.
  • Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.
  • And when their voices faded away it was as quiet as a dream.
  • The moon made his face into a silver mask.
  • Then the owl pumped its great wings and lifted off the branch like a shadow.

I like to play a game with my kids when we’re exploring similes and metaphors.  We find similes and metaphors in the text (showing) and then rephrase it so that it is no longer showing, but telling.  Here are some examples from the text that "show" and my "tell" is in italics.

  • The trees stood still as giant statues.  The trees were tall.
  • Somewhere behind us a train whistle blew, long and low, like a sad, sad song.  We could hear the train whistle blowing.
  • And when their voices faded away it was as quiet as a dream.  When their voices were quiet, it was silent.
  • The moon made his face into a silver mask.  His face looked shiny in the moonlight.
  • Then the owl pumped its great wings and lifted off the branch like a shadow.  The owl flew off the branch.

Then, we reverse it.  I give them a simple sentence such as, “I ate ice cream.”  And they rewrite it to be more descriptive by including similes and metaphors.

  • The ice cream dribbled down my arm like raindrops plopping from the sky.
  • I licked the ice cream round and round the cone like a merry-go-round, faster and faster until I caught every last dripping drop.
  • I bit the bottom off my cone and it was a faucet, dripping strawberry ice cream into my open mouth.

Descriptive language
Descriptive language covers a large area of writing because really, doesn’t all good writing rely on the perfect description?!  Here are just a few examples I pulled from Owl Moon.  Once you read the book, you’ll see that every line, every phrase is full of beautiful description.

  • Our feet crunched over the crisp snow and little gray footprints followed us.
  • The shadows were the blackest things I had ever seen.  They stained the white snow.
  • My mouth felt furry, for the scarf over it was wet and warm.

Now it’s your turn.  Play charades where the only answers are strong verbs.  Are you galloping, shuffling, sauntering, trudging, sipping, gulping, teetering?  Or pull out a magazine and leaf through it.  Find a picture of a scene or something that interests you.  Describe it using strong verbs and adjectives. 

Setting
In Owl Moon, Jane Yolen is consistently bringing us back to the setting. She gives us details right from the beginning that show us what a cold, bright, clear winter evening it is.  Go on a scavenger hunt through the book to find these.

Your turn.  Go outside and find a comfortable place to sit.  Describe the setting in such a way that your reader will feel like he is there.  Keep in mind all the ways you take in your surrounding, through your senses.

lookuptree.jpg

So, grab a copy of Owl Moon and jump in.  Choose one literary device.  Define it.  Find it.  Try your hand at it.   Most of all, have fun with it. 

To download a printable pdf of how to use Owl Moon to explore literary devices, click on the image below.

Quitting is the Greatest Victory

You know the saying. “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Well, it’s wrong. Yep! Just plain wrong. Sure, there is something to be said for persevering and sweating your way to your goal. Hard work is commendable and often necessary. But what if quitting is just as admirable and essential? I think that it is. Here’s why.

At the end of the summer, I did what I have done at the end of every summer for as long as we have been homeschooling. I made plans. Lots and lots of plans. And schedules and checklists and booklists. I crafted a beautifully, synchronized symphony of chores, music lessons, sports, and learning activities for six kids. It was a masterpiece. All laid out on the paper.

Our “school year” began and, lo and behold, it worked. For three days. That’s it! Three days!

Don’t get me wrong. I tried for weeks to maintain the smooth flow of those first glorious days when every box was checked. But the truth is. I was tired. It takes an obscene amount of energy to do it ALL. And quite frankly, I’m not cut out to do it all. So, I quit!

Yep. After four weeks of trudging through four math lessons a day, four language arts lesson, history, geography, science, art, music, nursery rhymes, and salt dough making while overseeing countless other trivial details like meals and laundry, I just quit. Not the exasperated why-is-this-so-hard-quit. (Though I have done that before.) But the there-is-no-possible-way-to-do-it-all quit.

What’s the difference? Not much unless you experience a shift in perspective when you throw in the towel. And for me, that’s what happened. When I fully grasped that my approach to homeschooling wasn’t working, and even more humbly admitted that my approach didn’t reflect my view of learning or values about family, then and only then could I fully quit. Knowing that in quitting I was allowing myself the biggest victory I had ever experienced.

You see, in that moment, flooded with realization and crystal clear vision, I knew that continuing on in our old, familiarly uncomfortable patterns, shuffling kids through lessons without ever feeling fully connected, wasn’t working. It was actually doing more harm than good. My patience was stretched thinner than the threads of a spider web, and exasperation was my new tone of voice.

So it was time. Time to quit and walk away.

white flag.jpg

Waving the flag of surrender was simultaneously liberating and terrifying. Self-doubt crept in from every side. Maybe you’re just not cut out for this. Why did you think you could homeschool all these kids? What were you thinking?

But fortunately, my more optimistic self stood up and shouted, “You can do this if you do it your way!”

What? What was that? My way? I would have to fashion my own mold? Clear my own path? Find my own homeschooling voice?

DSC_0218.jpg

For once I didn’t go searching books and blogs for answers, looking for someone else’s ideals to guide me. Instead, I looked into the eyes of my children and the heart of family. What I found was an absolute, all-out love affair with books and conversation. A deep trust of natural learning. And an even deeper desire for connectedness.

From here, from these pillars, I have begun to re-build. Now, instead of rushing through the checklists, we linger....reading for hours, playing games, memorizing math facts, building block towers and more importantly, nurturing relationships. The days still feel full to bursting and chaos flows freely as before, but I have found something that before felt like an elusive dream. Peace.

I have to laugh. I never thought that in quitting and throwing it all away, we would gain so much. Because, like most people, I believed that quitters never win. But not now. I’m proud to call myself a quitter. I quit seeking and looked within. I quit putting the opinions of others above the truth in my heart. I quit trying to meet the expectations I thought I were needed. As a family, we quit being anything other than what we are and what we may yet become. Us.

The best part is that you can find the same peace, your own greatest victory, if only you have the courage to quit.

The Big Book Pile-Up revisited

Big Book Pile Up large

*This is a re-post from last year's reading challenge, but it still speaks to me today. * To have the free printables emailed to you, click here.

The Big Book Pile-Up came from my desire to get our read-aloud time out of the rut it is in. Our book choices sometimes feel uninspired. Our enthusiasm waning, not because we don’t love reading aloud together, but because reading aloud with a toddler (and this toddler in particular) has its challenges. I am determined not to let this become an excuse. Reading aloud is too important for the intellectual and emotional development of our children to allow ourselves to become apathetic in our attempts.

With World Read Aloud on March 4thDay coming , I decided to give our read-aloud time a kick-start, to bring it from mediocre to the joyful family time I know it can be. Together with my children, we created a list of book categories to introduce or reacquaint us (and you if you choose to join us and I really, really hope you do!) with books of all kinds. Not only will we meet great books and characters and ideas but we’ll get to know each other better through our discussions and just enjoy spending time together. The list of suggestions offers a variety of genres and topics and is meant to be a spring of inspiration. I am not sure how we will approach the list just yet. Will we start at the top? Bottom? Somewhere in the middle? Use it as more of a checklist and read a selection each day? I do know that we will try to read from a variety of sources; picture books, novels, stories from children’s literary magazines, and whatever else we can get our hands-on. We may add other genres or topics that spark our interest or skip the ones that just don’t seem to be working for us right now. The most important thing is that we’ll read together everyday!

We’ve got a trip to the library planned in the next few days and an amazon cart brimming with some books that I want to make sure we read even if we can’t find them at our local library.

Each day I’ll be sharing what we’re reading and how our adventure is going. I hope that you’ll do the same!

Here’s the reading list!

  1. Read a picture book
  2. Read non-fiction
  3. Read a Newberry award winner
  4. Read a book about a famous person
  5. Read some poetry
  6. Listen to an audio book
  7. Read a newly published book
  8. Read a book you’ve read before
  9. Read an alphabet book
  10. Read a book about food and cook together
  11. Read a classic book
  12. Read a Greek Myth
  13. Read some Shakespeare
  14. Read a fairy tale
  15. Read a version of the same fairy tale from another country
  16. Read about history
  17. Read about math
  18. Read about nature
  19. Read about friendship
  20. Read from a book by your favorite author
  21. Begin a chapter book
  22. Read a book about art
  23. Read a book about music
  24. Read a rhyming book
  25. Read a book by an author you’ve never read before
  26. Read a book about a science topic
  27. Read a fable, folktale, or tall tale
  28. Read a fantasy
  29. Read a wordless book
  30. Read a book that has won the Caldecott Medal

Happy Reading!

Art & Music in Our Homeschool

crayons.jpg

Art & Music

in Our Homeschool

Art and music are among our favorite "subjects" in our homeschool.  We love learning about artists, musicians and composers, finding new favorite paintings and pieces of music, and trying our hand at creating our own music and art.  The thing is we're not really picky.  We're open to exploring it all.  From classical to rock, from impressionist to abstract, we always find something to appreciate. My husband and I have always been clear that we want to expose our children to as many different forms of art and music as we can (and is appropriate for their age), so that they can form their own opinions and interests.  Other than live performances and lessons and crafts at the kitchen table, we rely on books and recordings to bring art and music into our family culture.  Below, you'll find a whole bouquet of art and music resources that we have enjoyed.*  You'll also find 2 videos, one explains these resources and how I use them, and the second is by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer.  It is chock-full of inspiration for bringing art into your family life. I'd love to hear how you bring art and music into your home.  Let's chat in the comment box:-)

m is for masterpiece

m is for masterpiece

story of the orchestra

story of the orchestra

Music Lab

Music Lab

museum abc

museum abc

usborne famous paintings

usborne famous paintings

lives of the musicians

lives of the musicians

0000417_childrens_book_of_art_il_300

0000417_childrens_book_of_art_il_300

lives of the artists

lives of the artists

child size masterpieces cards

child size masterpieces cards

child size masterpieces guide

child size masterpieces guide

famous paintings picture cards

famous paintings picture cards

classical music sticker book

classical music sticker book

famous artists sticker book

famous artists sticker book

museum shapes

museum shapes

museum 123

museum 123

art nature poetry

art nature poetry

m is for melody

m is for melody

*Some of these links are affiliate links.  Purchasing through them, supports the blog and allows me to bring great content to you.  Thanks!

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A Tour of Our Reader's Notebooks

readers-notebook-e1452651366924.jpg

A Tour of Our
Reader's Notebooks

I recently shared the idea of Reader’s Notebooks  and how my children and I are using them to have meaningful, on-going conversations about the books that we read together and the books that they read independently. Can I just say how much we love these! Not only are we “discussing” books, but my children are learning to put their thoughts onto paper. They are reading with purpose and with more attention to detail than ever before. And best of all, I am able to get a glimpse into their hearts and minds while gently teaching them about grammar, mechanics, and letter format. The few hours I spend each week preparing and responding to their letters is far outweighed by the benefits!

Here’s a brief map of the parts of our Reader’s Notebooks, but they are explained in more detail in the video below.

Letters

Golden Lines

Books I’ve Read

Books I Want to Read

List of Comprehension Strategies
(from Strategies that Work*)
To download this list for your own use, sign up below and it will be sent to your inbox.

Story Chart (from Teaching the Classics)

Post-It Notes

Tabs

 

If you have any questions or comments, leave me a comment or send me a message here at the blog or on my facebook page.

*This post contains an amazon affiliate link.  Purchasing through that link, helps support the blog.  Thanks! 

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Creative Copywork

copywork-stock-photo.jpg

Creative Copywork

Engaging Emergent Readers & Writers in New Ways

To say that every one of my children fell in love with copywork right away would be lying. There have been a few less enthusiastic with others. Finding ways to make it engaging and fun has been my creative challenge. Pictured are three of the ways my emergent readers and writers have enjoyed.

A photo posted by @angela_awald on

“Writing on the Wall”

Even though they aren’t really writing on the wall, the larger paper offered a new perspective. No longer was copywork a sit-at-the-table task. Standing and big print. Small, but large changes.

Word Hunt

This one is a favorite of mine. All I needed were some word cards and tape. The boys numbered a page in the copywork books 1-12 and set out on their hunt. Each word that they found, they copied into their books along with a little number. After they were all done, they read the words to me. Then added up the numbers to see how many “points they earned.” So in this little activity, they practiced writing, reading and math. Win! Win! Win!

Black Paper, Gel Pens, and Crayons

Just like the writing on the wall activity, small changes made copywork much more fun for my boys. To extend this a little further, we made up the copywork together learning about verbs, nouns and punctuation.

So, that’s the re-cap! Happy copying! :-)

I'll be sharing more creative copywork ideas.  Don't miss them.   Subscribe here >