Archive for the ‘Hands on Activities’ Category

Mini Valentine’s Day Unit Study!

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Valentine's Day Unit Study for homeschooled students

Here are 15 Valentine’s Day ideas, broken down by subject, to add some pizzazz to your homeschooling!

Valentine’s ideas for History and Geography

1.  Did you know the original St. Valentine was said to be a Christian martyr? Noting that there are a few different versions of the St. Valentine’s legend, have your middle/high schooler research and create a short oral report about St. Valentine’s life and death and present it to your family.

2. Have your dramatically-inclined student use the above research and create a short play based on St. Valentine’s life and perform it for another homeschooling family.
3. Task your students with researching Valentine’s Day during the Middle Ages and find out what Valentine’s Day had to do with birds.  :-)
4.  One of the most common symbols of Valentine’s Day is a Cupid. After defining  the word “symbol” for your youngest students, have your older ones research Cupid, draw a picture of one (in color, of course) and include a description of the origins of Cupid on the page.
5. Valentine’s Day is not just an American holiday! Have your student(s) locate other countries where Valentine’s Day is celebrated and do one or more of the following: Make a notebooking page for every country you find that celebrates Valentine’s Day.  List the Valentine’s Day traditions of that country and draw a map of each country.
6. Choose one or more interesting traditions and incorporate it into your family’s celebration.

7. Create a world map labeling the countries that celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Ideas for Language Arts

8. Create a word search including the following terms: Valentine’s Day, roses, pink, red, lace, cupid, card, St. Valentine, heart, doves, chocolate, etc.

9. What does the Bible say about love?  Instruct your students to find verses that describe the love that God has for His people, for the church and the love believers should have for one another.  Choose some of the verses as copy work and/or memorization.
10. Have your students define the word “love” in a paragraph.  Have them read about love in the Bible and the

n revise their paragraph as needed, including Bible verses as references.  Use this assignment as a lesson between love as a “feeling” and love as a “choice” and/or an “action.”

Valentine’s Ideas in Science

11. Use this week  as an opportunity for a quick scientific study of the heart. Write a short report about the function of the human heart.  Include a diagram of the heart, labeling the various parts. Using different colors, show the blood flow into and out of the heart.

12.  Make a poster  comparing and contrasting the human heart and the heart of an amphibian or reptile. If comparing and contrasting is a new concept you may want to use a Venn Diagram for help.

Valentine’s Ideas for Fun and Family Ministry

13. Gather your construction paper, wrapping paper scraps, ric rac, spare buttons, markers, glue and other craft supplies in the appropriate colors. Take an afternoon off school and construct hand-made Valentine’s cards for friends, family, elderly or shut in neighbors, children at a local hospital, etc.  Add a Bible verse about love to your cards and talk about what the verse means.

14.  Bake heart-shaped sugar cookies, frost with pink icing and glaze with pink sugar.  Include a homemade card and cookies and take to the neighbors, a nursing home or use to create a care package to a college student or two.
15. Start a new tradition!  Join with another family or two and assign many of the above ideas to different children.  Plan and execute a Valentine’s Party or dessert.  Have everyone share their reports and projects, exchange Valentines and then enjoy homemade Valentine’s treats!
And let’s not leave out any of the youngest members of your family — here is an adorable interactive book that will make your babies giggle with glee.  (Really!)
What ideas can you add or what mentioned here sparked your interest?  What do you do at your house to celebrate Valentine’s Day?


Heart image courtesy of Zoo-fari via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Luther King Day!

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Ihaveadreambymichelle kwajafa via StockXChng (428x640)




“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

–Martin Luther King, Jr.


 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

–Martin Luther King, from a  Letter from a Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963






Resources for Studying Martin Luther King

Are you hustling to try and pull something together for Martin Luther King Day?  Here are a few ideas for you:

  1. Fellow homeschooling mother and friend Erica Johns of Classical Composers Monthly has put together a webpage  with some cool Martin Luther King resources, including a short biography, web clips and links to other information.
  2. After watching the clip from Dr. King’s ”I Have a Dream” speech, have your younger students draw a picture of one of their “dreams” (i.e., how they would like the world to be).
  3.  Read and discuss the transcription of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
  4. Read just a section of the letter and have your children narrate afterward.
  5. Have your older children read the letter and discuss or write about one or more of the following:
  • Based on his letter, what can you tell about Martin Luther King’s education?
  • Based on his letter, what can you tell about his values?
  • Choose a line or two up or more, depending upon the age of your students,  for copywork.


Additional Assignment Possibilities

  1. Research and write about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.
  2. Make a lapbook about Martin Luther King’s life.
  3. Divide the following terms, events and people among your students. Give them time to research  and have them each report briefly on  each event or person at the end of the day:
                        • the 1963 March on Washington
                        • the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
                        • the Selma Voter-Registration Drive
                        • the the Voting Rights Act of 1965
                        • the Birmingham Protests of 1963
                        • the Black Panthers
                        • Eugene “Bull” O’Connor
                        • Coretta Scott King
                        • Mahatma Gandhi.

 Processing What Was Learned

After your students read and learned more about Dr. Martin Luther King, ask them:

  • Why do you think we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday?
  • What did he do that was important?
  • What could you do to help bring peace to the world? (Starting with your home or neighborhood…)

 Books about the Civil Rights Movement


What will you be doing for Martin Luther King Day?

Photo courtesy Michelle Kwajafa via

Thanksgiving Activities for Kids!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Using this Simple Graphic Tool Will Make You a Better Teacher

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

No matter what type of homeschooling curriculum or methodology you use, this simple graphic tool will help you be a more effective teacher and your student a better learner.

The Rubric

This is my favorite graphic tool because it is SO helpful, on so many fronts, for both me and my students! Maybe this is something you have never done, but I have been guilty of quickly throwing an assignment at a student, without really thinking it through, let alone sufficiently explaining it. And then I would wonder why it wasn’t at all what I was expecting when it was done!  Especially if you are a newbie at homeschooling, I bet you have struggled with this, too.

A simple rubric often eliminates this problem by:

  • helping you think through the assignment before you give it.
  • giving you a clear, concrete way to explain exactly what you want your student to do.
  • providing a written reminder to your student of what he’s aiming for as he works on the assignment.
  • offering you the perfect tool to evaluate and discuss your student’s work with her.

Rubrics work equally well with written assignments, oral presentations, hands on projects or anything else you might dream up, for history, science, language arts and many other subjects you teach. You can make your rubric as simple or complicated as you want, depending upon the age of your student and your grading criteria.

Sample Rubric


Sample Rubric from K-5 Manual







This rubric is a simple one suitable for a story written by a late elementary student.






Personally, I did not grade my children at that age, but I did use a rubric to insure that we both understood what was expected in an assignment.

How to Make Your Own

  1. View and download this sample of  of a (blank) basic rubric.
  2. Decide which skills or concepts you want to evaluate.
  3. List the most important ones in the first column on the left.
  4. Create a table in Microsoft Word or software similar, or use the blank grid provided on the Train up a Child Publishing Tools CD if you happen own one of our Unit Programs. Type or write in the criteria under the numbers with the highest number being the best score. Notice the wording on the sample criteria to help you develop your own.
  5. You may add rows or columns if you would like a more fine-tuned system.
  6. Share the rubric with your student to explain your expectations for the assignment. Encourage her to check the rubric while she is working on the assignment to make sure it is completely finished before  it is turned in.
  7. Evaluate the assignment using the rubric and calculate the points if you are giving your student a grade for that assignment.
  8. As the teacher, you determine the grading scale depending on the number of elements and whether certain elements are more important than others. With our example, a possible grading scale would be:

9—12 points                Passing

below 9 points          Reteach

Another possible scoring system could be:

10-12                  A

8-9                      B

below 8           Reteach

I actually waited as long as I could to begin formal grading; I didn’t begin until half way through middle school. But whether you decide to grade earlier or not, rubrics will still go a long way to ensure you and your students are on the same page with assignments and evaluation.

Have you used rubrics with your students? When did you start using them and how have they worked for you?

Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing

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Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival – Topic: Composition

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Teaching Composition the “Charlotte Mason way” is not formally teaching it at all; but relying instead upon her methods, including the teaching writingreading of great literature,  oral and then written narrations and dictation. The reference from Volume 6 pertaining to this topic is here.

A special thank you to all those who sent in blog posts, as this is probably one of the busiest times of the year for homeschool moms!


Our first post is from Tammy, from her blog AUT-2B-Home in Carolina, and is entitled Composition with an Eye Toward Development. Tammy provides not only samples of her daughter’s written narrations along with Tammy’s wise analysis, but has several quite informative links for anyone wishing to read more about the benefits of narration and other Charlotte Mason methods of teaching.

Although many of us use a modified Charlotte Method approach toward teaching composition, Lindafay provides a bonanza in her two posts on this topic, encouraging homeschool parents to stay the course and rely only upon Charlotte Mason’s methodology in order to have students who become excellent writers.  You Don’t Need a Composition Program and How I Raised a Writer Without a Composition Program  share how to employ Charlotte Mason’s methodology from Kindergarten through high school,  from her blog, Higher Up and Further In.

Part of the equation for learning how to write is reading living books. Carol shares a book review in her post, Shakespeare’s Theatre, complete with illustrations and quotes from this jewel, at her blog journey-and-destination.

Another highly recommended living book no homeschool should be without is described in my post, King Alfred’s English: a History of the Language we Speak: a Must Read!. This fascinating book is perfect for a family read-aloud, history book, copy work  and more, from the Epi Kardia/Train up a Child Publishing Blog.

Like reading great literature, a hallmark of learning to write is regular oral and written narration. I’m still chuckling from Brandy’s post providing the benefits of and helpful teaching tips  On Group Narration, at her blog, Afterthoughts.


Nature Study

Describing the sometimes difficult balance between “letting alone” and “controlling authority,”  Shirley-Ann inspires us with her post, A Wise Letting Alone, pertaining to her family’s nature study, from her blog  Under an English Sky.

Phyllis grants us a peek into her planning their homeschool’s nature study this year in her post School Planning: Nature Study on her blog, Hunsucker’s Home, as well as sharing a past post (with cute photos!) called Nature Study: Mammals.


Art and Music Study

Megan shares part of her recent “composer study binge”  at her blog, The Winding Ascent.  Music at the Feast and the Beauty of Attaining, Part II includes several marvelous recordings as well as Megan’s thoughts about Charlotte Mason’s vision for music study. Thank you for allowing us to be beneficiaries of your binge, Megan. :-)

Patti’s charming post  Art, Music and Poetry offers delightful examples of paintings, poetry and links to classical music pieces on her blog All Things Bright and Beautiful.


General Charlotte Mason

Here at the beginning of school for many, Nancy from Sage Parnassus offers wise counsel to focus on the relationships we desire our children to develop with what they are learning, rather than allowing the “nifty extras” to actually be a distraction to that relationship, in her post Love Affairs in Education or The Thing is The Thing.

New Post!!! added 8/22/13  6:30 pm EST

Celeste is already half-way through her first term! And school is well-underway, even though she has a houseful of little ones. Celeste has a well-organized plan for second grade, which she shares with us in her post Second Grade in Our Home: An Overview , from her Joyous Lessons blog. (I never met a chart I didn’t love!) Thank you, Celeste!


Thank you again for taking the time to participate!  Apologies in advance if there is a post I missed; please contact me at and I either will add it or send it on for the next carnival, at your request.

According to the  Carnival Schedule, the next carnival will be the “Back to School” edition focusing on CM Planning and Organization! Please submit posts to the following e-mail address: charlottemasonblogs (at) (deadline: Mon. 9/2 at 5pm CST). Thank you!


Dana Wilson at Train up a Child Publishing


Dana Wilson
Train up a Child Publishing™
formerly Epi Kardia Home Education
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