3 Remarkable Reasons for Reading School Out Loud

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photo credit: Ben White Photography

This post is an oldie but a goodie from a previous blog I owned. Some links may be affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Enjoy!

Learning generally involves a lot of writing. Maybe it isn’t handwritten, but maybe on a board or computer? (I almost wrote typewriter. Hello!) We also tend to sit quietly and read internally whatever we are trying to learn from. Is this the best way of learning? Do we find ourselves at a mental roadblock because we just cannot understand what we are trying to learn? If it involves a book of any kind, textbook or not, why not say the work out loud instead?

Saying things out loud gives our brains something new to do

Yes, we can mix up our school hours a little differently by moving around or playing games, but what if neither of those options is available? Maybe your child or yourself is finding it hard to really concentrate on the subject at hand. New concepts can be difficult for us to grasp when we are looking at seemingly endless words and it isn’t connecting the first time – or second or third!

That’s okay. Give your kid’s brain something new to do by having them do their school work out loud. This really is not a radical idea but it isn’t something we think about naturally. One example from our household is grammar. Grammar is a subject that we do in easy, incremental steps. In my mind, it’s pretty cut and dry, but for my kids, these are new ideas and rules they are learning. It can seem overwhelming trying to understand how our language works and how to apply it properly. There have been occasional tears over this and that is my cue to gently say “Why don’t we do our grammar lesson out loud instead of writing it?” My kids are always eager to do this; grammar becomes somewhat of a game and our brains are given something new to do.

Doing work out loud builds relationships

Huh? Builds relationships? Yes! When my children and I move from sitting down together and looking at a text to putting the text down and looking at each other, we are interacting on a different level. When we look at each other while reciting helping verbs, we are also speaking to each other instead of focusing on a book. I’d like to say that any prior frustrating melts away – it doesn’t always – but many problems seem to diminish because learning alone becomes learning together. Reading out loud forces me to look the other person in the eye. I’m reminded of their learning style and personality and can change the way we are approaching school that day quickly. Reading silently from a book does not do that.

Out loud means we are remembering more

Everyone has different ways of memorization. One way my kids and I learn to memorize is by saying out loud what we need to remember. When you do school orally, you are using the same method. You are not necessarily repeating the same thing over and over again – though, with grammar lessons, that would not surprise me! – but you are adding one more step to the learning process. A person remembers what they say out loud more than they will remember what they might read in passing. It really doesn’t matter what we are learning about. It will more than likely be remembered easily as you verbally express it.

Bonus tip: With anything that involves a list, especially something such as grammar, sing the list out loud with a well-known melody. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is a pretty good one for this.

Any way that school happens, there are going to be times when how things are usually done just come full stop. This doesn’t mean that learning has to end. Maybe something just needs to be mixed up and done differently. Read the school work out loud instead of just reading it quietly. This gives our brains a break by doing something new, builds relationships, and helps us remember the subject matter.

Do you like learning out loud? Have you tried it yourself or with your kids? If not, give it a try and let me know how it goes. Comment below or contact me from that little email icon up to the top right.

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Learn to Move and Move to Learn

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This post is an oldie but a goodie from a previous blog I owned. Some links may be affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Enjoy!

 

One person whose work I find absolutely fascinating is a biomechanist named Katy Bowman. By now, I’m sure you’ve read about how “Sitting is the New Smoking,” and how a sedentary lifestyle is not the best. Just as it is known that healthy food is necessary for our bodies to function well, Katy is passionate about how natural movement is instrumental in having a healthy body. Her blog at Nutritious Movement is educational (while sometimes a little over my head) and was instrumental in showing me a different way of viewing our homeschool days. A little bit more about Katy in a minute.

Now lets talk about education and how it relates to stillness. Have you noticed that in North America, a lot of learning is done at a table while sitting. I have no studies to point this out but I believe it is a given. Look at any picture of school, wherever it is being held (public, private, home) and someone is generally sitting at a table. Many homeschoolers move away from that a bit and utilize a sofa or love seat. All in all, either way invites lots of sitting.

I do not know about you, but in my home, I have a child who moves a lot. This kid moves so very much that it feels often as if you are in the same room as a whirlwind. The movement is so much, so overwhelming to the introverts in my family, but so very necessary for my little one. And so when the struggle to “do school” with this kid began, I found myself having to look for ways to match the learning with the energy. It was a moment when I, as teacher and parent, had to search out a solution to make a learning environment that was best for her.

I began to observe this child of mine. Really, really watch. This kid didn’t naturally gravitate towards chairs or couches. They bounded over tables, scooted under tables, ran around the island in the kitchen, and attempted to climb trees. But the one thing that was done when the child actually did stop to ponder something or examine a leaf on the ground was to squat.

Have you noticed that in your own home or with children you spend time with? They squat a lot when they are small. Play with a toy: squat on the ground. Eat a snack: squat in a chair. Look at a book: squat. It’s very natural to them, surprisingly so because most adults in the USA find it nearly impossible. These kids are not usually stopping to get up in a chair to do any of those activities. I began to wonder why it was that a child has no problem squatting as they work, why do they do it, and what happens between early childhood and adulthood to make us lose that natural inclination.

This blog post will not answer those specific questions but they were the catalyst to me learning how to change around our school days. Remember Katy? In searching for reasons for squatting, I found her blog and began to eat up the information. Her books found their way to our shelves and her posts were printed out for me to read and share with my husband. Her love of natural movement encouraged me to change how I moved about my home and while walking, and this quite naturally flowed down to encouraging my children.

We began by moving away from the table when it was time to focus on our studies. Many of us were to taught to sit in ergonomically helpful chairs and to practice proper posture. I scrapped that. The beauty of books and pencils and paper is that they can be moved wherever we need them to be. And so, my mover-and-shaker child was encouraged to sit on the floor, or lay on the tummy while reading. They are allowed to do school work wherever their little heart desires because this is what works for them. There are still lots of wiggles going on but we are working with those wiggles while learning and expending lots of energy at the same time. It really has made all the difference in the world.

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So. If your days are long and hard and energy abounds, I highly suggest getting on the floor or standing somewhere new. Maybe stand at the kitchen counter while doing math. Read aloud that funny anecdote you read online while laying on your back. Move around and take frequent breaks if that is what you or your child(ren) need to make the learning and home environment that is best for your family.

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3 Terrific Books for Curious, Nature Loving Kids

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This post is an oldie but a goodie from a previous blog I owned. Some links may be affiliate links. Thank you for your support! Enjoy!

One of my kids adores animals and bugs and all things great outdoors. At not even two, I caught her studying small insects on a tree for at least 15 minutes. She just stared and stared at it, storing into her brain the way it moved and looked, and what it did. As she got older, she devoured books about animals and bugs. She still goes off on her own for hours to read and randomly shares the knowledge she has learned with us. She surprises me often, answering a question we have about something, all from remembering what she has read in her books.

I asked her to pick her top three favorite animal and nature books. She has dozens of them but it was not a hard choice for her. The first book in this list she has read multiple times, cover to cover. The last two she got for her birthday last year and they are really beautiful books. The pictures alone are enough reason to add these selections to the shelves in your home.

Smithsonian Super Nature Encyclopedia, Derek Harvey

Oh my goodness, my daughter has read this oodles of times. The binding is falling apart and the pages are starting to look well-loved on the ends. This is the one book she would pick if she had to for a deserted island. The headers on each page are made to be attention getting. “Fussiest Eater” and “Beach Bulldozer” and “Greatest Artist” are rather sensationalist but they are useful for drawing in kids who might otherwise not be interested in this subject matter. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates are covered, with interesting facts on how they live, move, and sense things.

 

Animalium, Katie Scott and Jenny Broom

The front of this book has a ticket-looking sticker with the words “Welcome to the Museum: Admit All” printed on it. This is a great hint at what is inside this book. When you open this book, the beautiful illustrations are museum quality. The intent is to make you feel as if you were actually at a natural history museum, but without having to leave your home. Of course, I am all for experiencing life, but if you are unable to visit a museum, this book is a welcome alternative. Inside are 6 visual and written galleries that showcase invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The descriptions are short and to the point, with just enough information to whet the appetite and perhaps provide the push to do more digging around on one’s own.

 

 

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World, Julia Rothman

This book is amazing! I love the feel and look of it. You could truly use this as a science curriculum for the younger years. It is a great overview of our world and makes learning interesting and beautiful. Those who do any kind of nature journaling will appreciate the illustrations and the occasional cursive writing entries. This book covers so much! Layers of the art, neighborhood animals, insects, flowers, birds, ecosystems, trees. If your child cannot read cursive writing, you will need to help them with some pages, but there is so much here for any person of any age to enjoy. I cannot recommend this book enough. I love it (I bet you can tell, huh?).

I’m always in search of great nature and animal books for my kiddos. If you have any recommendations, please share below in the comments. Thank you!

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Three Things I Wish I Had Done When I Started Homeschooling

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June will mark the end of my family’s ninth year of homeschooling. It feels longer than that but the math has been done and it doesn’t lie. This fall my oldest will begin the high-school years and goodness gracious do I feel like that is another level of insanity altogether.

Here and there, blog posts have been popping up in my Feedly account with titles such as “What I would do differently” or “Things I wish I had known.” What homeschooling parent has not thought of things they would have done differently if they had the knowledge of well-earned years? Since we cannot know what we have not yet learned, we start by doing our best and hoping it will all work out in the end.

I think it is helpful for younger homeschooling parents to learn from the older ones. Now, I have not graduated a child yet, so I can only give limited advice. If I start telling you the best way to teach the high school years, then run for the hills, because I haven’t been through that yet. But the early years I have done many many many times and so I would like to think my experience is worth something.

All that being said, here are my three top things I would have done differently:

Educated myself on different educational philosophies

My first mistake when I began homeschooling was looking at all the curricula available. What could I afford? What would be all-encompassing and fit my child’s personality perfectly? (Haha!) What would be a sure-fire way to make sure he learns to read by 4 and can draw like van Gogh at 7 while putting him on the path towards graduating from Harvard at 13?

should have started by reading up on the different educational philosophies available. You’ve heard of many of them, I’m sure: Classical, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, classroom model, unit studies, eclectic, Waldorf, Montessori, Thomas Jefferson, etc. etc. etc., breathe in and breathe out. Whoo! There is just so much out there in regards to the how and why we teach the way we do. The truth is that we can save ourselves much time and money if we can look at a curriculum and know if it will or will not fit into our chosen philosophy for home education.

Not started too early

I remember being quite eager to “start school” when my oldest was still a toddler. Curriculum purchased, I readied myself with all sorts of recommended materials. We followed that curriculum to a t, sitting at a small made-for-the-classroom table and treating the time as if we were a public school environment instead of learning at home. The natural curiosity my child had was pushed aside for my need to be the teacher. The materials I had spent time and money on became tools of instructing instead of tools to facilitate curiosity. I’d love to be able to say that I quickly learned this was not jiving with my personal educational philosophy, but unfortunately that philosophy was not yet formed. “You live, you learn” they say, whoever they may be, but by the third child, any formal curriculum for the tender young years was trashed and a mode of learning that matched my child’s maturity level and bent towards natural curiosity was used instead.

Spent more time outside

Note: If you are modeling after the public school classroom, then obviously this will go against your educational philosophy and this section will not be helpful for you.

We spent a lot of time indoors. Looking back, the majority of our days, even during the moments we were schooling, should have been outside. What better way to broach the subject of science than by observing our natural world? The sun’s rays of vitamin D are the perfect pick-me-up for the grumpies (and I’m not necessarily talking about the kids. Ahem.) Moving around and sitting somewhere new and enjoying the weather in a great, big, wide-open classroom is an amazing way to lift the spirits.

Of course, many of us don’t have the luxury of a safe place to be outdoors to learn, or maybe the weather is not conducive to the outdoor classroom. Or maybe, just maybe, you live in the land of postage stamp backyards with nothing but a bit of grass (I’m looking at YOU, North Texas!). Well, we have to make do. Open up windows or even just the blinds. Bring in artwork about nature. Find local state or national parks, city green areas, outdoor science programs. Sometimes it takes more work than we would like. But it is so worth it, I promise.

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I’d love to hear from veteran homeschooling parents what things they wished they had done before they started homeschooling. Please share in the comments section!

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My Favorite Latin Program

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(Please note: while there are some Amazon affiliated links in this post, this is NOT a sponsored post. I was not sent this book for review. I am only offering this review of a book I purchased with my own funds in order to share curriculum that I believe will be helpful to other homeschooling families.)

Why do we study Latin? Why is a dead language still very much part of our world? Is it worth taking time out of our day to learn something that we will not be using to communicate with another person?

Quite simply: yes.

Susan Wise Bauer shares wisely in The Well-Trained Mind, 4th Ed. that

“Latin trains the mind to think in an orderly fashion. Latin (being dead) is the most systematic language around. The discipline of assembling endings and arranging syntax (grammar patterns) according to sets of rules is the mental equivalent of a daily two-mile jog. And because Latin demands precision, the Latin-trained mind becomes accustomed to paying attention to detail, a habit that will pay off – especially when studying math and science.

Latin improves English skills. The grammatical structure of English is based on Latin, as is about 50 percent of English vocabulary. The student who understands how Latin works is rarely tripped up by complicated English syntax or obscure English words. And for decades, critical studies have confirmed that children who are taught Latin consistently score higher than their peers in reading comprehension, vocabulary, and even critical thinking and problem solving.”

These are all necessary and good things to learn and develop. Mental strength, focus on details, reading comprehension, critical thinking are all virtues incumbent upon me to teach my children. The problem is that many Latin programs are very teacher and student intensive.  At this busy time of life I just cannot spend more time than is needed to get the job done. Searching Latin curricula became problematic for me because what is offered on the market is much too teacher- and student-intensive than I am willing to give. Simple and straight to the point, the Ernest Hemingway of Latin programs, is what I looked for. It also needed to be easy enough for my definitely Latin-unknowledgable brain. And please, no cutesy singing because it ends up annoying rather than driving memory.

Through my research, Getting Started with Latin by William E. Linney was mentioned often. I admittedly looked it over so many times because it was too inexpensive, not bulky enough, too easy looking, too whatever. I needed simple but also something concrete and beneficial. The cost and simplicity drove me to it and I figured if it didn’t work out, I would not have invested much money in it.

It was worth it.

 

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Getting Started with Latin is inexpensive whether you choose the Kindle version or the printed book. If you look at some of the other popular Latin options you will find their cost is significantly higher. GSWL is financially feasible for most homeschooling families. Alongside that benefit, the lessons are simple. The format is straightforward: learn a new Roman verb and then translate about 10 latin sentences. Free .mp3 files at the Getting Started with Latin site give pronunciation help in either classical form or ecclesiastical form along with files in which the author, William E. Linney, has recorded short lectures for each lesson. I was delighted to learn that Mr. Linney offers a free, online Latin class to follow completion of Getting Started with Latin.

A couple of things to keep in mind are that sometimes I would like a bit more explanation on a few things. What is that flat bar symbol above some of the letters called and why/when is it used? Also, depending on your student, you will find that you may have to make up your own review or quizzes as these are not provided in this book.

Mr. Linney also offers a similar French and Spanish curriculum. My daughter and I were going through a French program this past year and she remarked to me “Mom, I wish that there was a French curriculum in the same format as my Getting Started with Latin book.” Fortunately for her, there is.

 

Which Latin curriculum have you used? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it? Have you used Getting Started with Latin? If so, what did you think about it?

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This post is NOT sponsored. I am only offering this review in order to share curriculum that I believe will be helpful to other homeschooling families. That being said, some of the links are affiliate links.

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Here’s to New Beginnings

"Marilla, isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"

Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day have always been my favorite holidays. For me, Christmas is a time of anticipation and surprises and looks of joy. The senses are particularly awoken during this time and memories are brought to the forefront of my thoughts while new ones make room next to the old. Our family generally chooses to celebrate this day in quietness and relaxation and it is so very treasured.

New Year’s follows soon after and it’s sister and brother eve and day allow me to say goodbye to a year and greet a new one. There is something comforting in this newness. As dear Anne Shirley said, “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” Days and years, the next of both have no mistakes . . . yet . . . and we can bank our hopes and dreams on those passages of time with fearlessness if we choose. A couple of months or so down the road I usually find that I am really just in survival mode but until then, there is joy in the road of best intentions.

As dear Anne Shirley said, “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Yesterday was the beginning of 2017. Rarely do I participate in resolutions or a word of the year. You won’t find me pondering which should be my Bible verse to focus on for a full 365 days. I get bored easily and one or two of anything for a whole year would not fly. But I’ll try new things once that first day in January comes around. Or maybe I’ll polish something off that I’ve done before but try accomplishing it in a new way.

The greeting I choose to give to 2017 is really and truly a gift for myself. It is nowhere near an earth-shattering gift and it’s simplicity is underwhelming: this year, this brand new year, I will blog simply. No more worrying about SEO or keywords or catchy-but-silly titles. There will be no chasing after the newest social media route to get my blog seen. I’ll do my best to provide decent photos that can be nestled among my words but no longer will I obsess on if they are good enough to catch the eyes of my demographic’s Pinterest eye.  And maybe I’ll write 500 words or 2, 379, or just 213. Who knows?

A gift God gives should never be wasted and, oh dear, I’ve wasted my gift of writing ability. It has laid stagnant and unused and has gathered invisible dust bunnies. Fear of failure has kept me from starting many times and there was a period of inability to put two seconds together when my older children were smaller and I was overrun by burp cloths. That was then and this is now and truly, if I don’t overreach, there is no reason why I cannot put out a blog post here and there and hope it meets someone with open arms and lets them leave with encouragement.

I love books and classical homeschooling a la Well-Trained Mind and am slowly dipping my toes into Charlotte Mason’s own words to see how my family’s homeschool atmosphere can benefit. (There is just something about Charlotte Mason that speaks to my mama teacher soul.) We read-aloud and use curriculum and hope to travel more and drink lots of coffee and desire to bring peace into our home and surroundings. I’ll write about all of that and maybe none of that at times and it’s okay.

Welcome, 2017. I’m so happy to meet you.

 

 

Photo by Annie Spratt

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