Learning to Write Essays Without Calling it an Essay

I’ve struggled with when to teach essay writing. Mya is eight and while she writes blog posts and journal entries, the concept of essay writing seemed a bit daunting. But, she kept asking me how to write one and, because I am trying to incorporate more child-led learning into our homeschooling, I agreed.

Years ago when I was a high school teacher, I discovered that children have a natural aversion to writing essays. They seem to freeze in fright with the mere mention of the word and the results very rarely reflect their skill or knowledge. So I decided to avoid calling what we were going to do an essay. I simply said that we were going to answer some questions. That meant saving my favorite essay graphic organizer, the Hamburger, for a later date.

Mya has been reading Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Her interest in Greek Mythology mirrors my own so I’m happy to discuss these books with her. A few days ago she asked me why people think that girls are weak. That prompted a discussion about the stereotypes that society places on boys and girls. And that led to a comparison between our world and that of Riordan’s- a perfect opportunity for an essay. [Read more…]

Books We’re Reading

I absolutely love the blog, I Capture the Rowhouse, and Farrar’s frequent posts about what her family is reading inspired me to share similarly here.We read a lot and I really want a better way of keeping a record of what we are reading. As I look for a way that works for our family, I will share some of the books we’ve been losing ourselves in for hours at at time.

Who Stole the Mona Lisa by Ruthie Knapp
Written in first-person, this book retells the story of the theft of the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, told by none other than the subject depicted in the painting.  The book is illustrated with magnificent paintings by Jill McElmerry that help move the reader through time from de Vinci’s world to present day. We’ve read this six times since bringing it home from the library and not only is it an interesting way to introduce children to classic art and biography. Some activities that we done with this book include: order of events, answering the 5 Ws and H, and for art, painting portraits.

Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard
When the children in her classroom refuse to listen to her, Miss Nelson hatches a plan to teach them a lesson. She disappears and a meaner, firming teach returns in he place. The children are determined to solve the mystery of their missing teacher and are desperate for her return. This is one of my favorite books and was shocked that we hadn’t read it yet. The Tornado was no fool and figured out what happened almost right away. but we enjoyed it even still. We discussed how people stereotype based on appearance and discussed foreshadowing and other clues left by authors to help guide the reader to a specific conclusion.

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Tools to Teach Preschoolers and Kindergarteners to Read

The Tornado displaying a love of books at an early age.

She’s reading! That’s right; my daughter began reading about a month ago and it has opened up a whole new world for us as a family. Seriously, I finally feel like we can actually do this homeschooling thing now!

Truth be told, I have known that she could read longer than she has known. She mastered her phonics sounds by the time she was three and by the time she was four she had a pretty impressive bank of sight words. And then I would catch her reading random words but when she realized that I was watching, she would ask for help. By the time she was four-and-a-half, she was reading two-syllable words with ease but without confidence. Finally she admitted to me that she did not want to ready because she did not want to be a big girl. It was enough to tell me to slow down and I pulled back opting to take reading step by step and not rush.

Yet, the thought of teaching my daughter phonics, and yes, it has to be phonics as that whole language, balanced literacy crap is exactly that: crap – sent me into a full-fledged anxiety attack each time I thought about it. My biggest fear was that I would miss some crucial element and ruin any hope of my daughter developing a love of reading and words. Oh, I tell you, it was a dreadful experience – thinking about it that is. I spent a month initially scouring online forums, websites, blogs, educational books for the best resources that I could find and then spent more months research as we used some of the materials I found. And in the hopes of sparring any other homeschooling parents this torture, I present for you my list of the Best Teach Your Child to Read Help for Early Learners.

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