Archive for the ‘Teaching – all grades’ Category

15 Creative Language Art Lessons Using Living Books

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

15 Language Arts LessonsIf you homeschool the Charlotte Mason way, you have often heard that narration is “the” activity to do after reading living books. This is certainly the easiest for you and one of the most profitable activities for your student, but did you know that in Volume 3 of the Charlotte Mason series, Charlotte offered us several other things we can do with books other than narration?

But this [narration] is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.                      –Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, Chapter 16


 15 Non-narration Ideas for Living BooksYou Can Use Today!

If your kids balk at narration, or even if they don’t, here are fifteen creative ideas to change things up a bit and learn or review language arts concepts at the same time.

  1.  Have your student take reading notes over a passage (length of the passage is determined by the age of your student and the complication of the passage), writing down the important statements in the passage.  (Example: each step in the lifecycle of a butterfly or frog)
  2. Choose a well-developed paragraph with a clear topic sentence. Type the passage in a large point size, one sentence at a time with a few lines in between. Print and cut out each sentence.  Mix up the order of the sentences and have your student choose the topic sentence of the paragraph and put the sentences in order. Compare with original and discuss. Use the paragraph for copy work.
  3.  Choose a sentence with many adjectives and prepare two versions for copy work:  the first as it is in print and the second leaving out the adjectives. Ask your student to describe the differences in the two sentences. Talk about describing words, or adjectives, and discuss different examples.  Have her use the sentence for copy work with the adjectives. Another day have her circle the adjectives in the initial sentence, and then copy the sentence inserting her own (different) adjectives.
  4. Choose simple sentences of text  and write/type each sentence on its own line with spaces in between.  Leave out either the subject or the predicate of several sentences.  Examine the original complete sentences in print with your student, and after a short verbal lesson (an example of this lesson is here)  on  subjects/predicates, have your child tell which part is missing and create an appropriate subject or predicate.
  5. For your kindergarten student: Prepare a sentence of text for copy work.  Point out capitalization and end punctuation. Have your student copy the sentence. Another day have student create her own sentence using the original sentence(s) as a guide.
  6. Choose and prepare sentence(s) from your science or history books  for copy work to reinforce a history/science concept. Have your student use the sentence for copy work.  Later, use the same text  for dictation. A few days after, check to see if your student remembers the concept without looking at his copy work/dictation.
  7. Choose a punctuation skill that you would like to reinforce, such as commas in a series, quotation marks, apostrophe usage, past or future tense, etc. Find a short passage in one of your literature, history or science books that exemplifies that skill.  Use the passage for copy work one day and dictation later.
  8. Choose a paragraph that includes a part of speech that you are teaching, such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, prepositional phrases, etc.  Using a colored pencil, have your child circle all the <nouns, for example.>.  For older children or for review, have your student use different colors to mark different parts of speech and circle some, put a box around others, etc. Make sure to give clear instructions and have your student create a “key” at the bottom of the page.
  9. For extra practice, use the copy work above but have your student use different nouns, etc. Discuss how this changes the sentence(s). For older students, discuss the ‘mood’ of a piece and have him create a different mood than the original by his choice of adjectives.
  10. Have your student find ten interesting adjectives in the newspaper or a magazine and cut them out. Have her write additional sentences using those adjectives.
  11. Type a paragraph of text, joining some of the sentences to make run-on sentences. After a short verbal lesson on run-on sentences, have your student identify them and write correct sentences. Use the corrected piece for copy work.
  12. Using a literature book, choose a passage with examples of several precise verbs. Use this passage for copy work. Another day, use a previously written passage of your student’s. Have him circle the verbs used and discuss ideas for improvement with more precise verbs. Have him rewrite the passage.
  13. Using a well-written book, have your middle or high school level student take a chapter or more and create an outline of the chapter.
  14. Copy a paragraph/passage of text. Change it: misspell words, make the punctuation incorrect or leave it out, make capitalization errors, etc.  Have your student correct.  Then have your student do the same thing above for you to correct.
  15. Copy or create a passage of text with “tired” words such as good, nice, bad, really, said, big, small. Have your student rewrite the passage, using “wow” words. (Example: tiny vs. small) Use a thesaurus to find more words as necessary.


Here’s to variety!  Can you think of any more?

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

Should You Homeschool? 5 Questions to Ask

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Should we send them back to school after the break?

Now that Christmas is finished, you are struggling with the question:

Should we send our child back to school in January?

Perhaps your son has struggled all year to keep up the pace, or your daughter has found a new group of questionable friends and you feel as though you are losing her.

If your student doesn’t fit into the public/private school mold, or worse,  is fitting in too well — you have a tough decision to make.

If you are asking yourself..

 Can we do it?   Can we homeschool?

Here are five questions to ask:

1. What are my State’s Homeschooling Requirements?

Depending upon whether you live in Texas or Rhode Island, each state has something to say about the legality and requirements concerning homeschooling. Do you have to join an accountability group, or report to the school system, or does your state allow homeschooling without any accountability? Check with Home School Legal Defense to find out what you have to do in your state to homeschool legally.

2. Am I Qualified to Teach My Children?

Research shows that the time and effort you put into homeschooling is more important than your level of education. Surprised? You don’t have to have a master’s degree in education to educate your children. You don’t actually have to have a degree at all. What you don’t have in education, you can make up for in commitment. Consider your time outside the home; working full time and homeschooling would be exceedingly difficult, although there are certainly single parents who have made it work. For most families one parent needs to give homeschooling pretty much top billing for family life to run smoothly.

3. Where Do I Find Information about Homeschooling?

There are probably a number of books in your library system that can provide a helpful overview of homeschooling.  My personal favorites are How to Homeschool by Gayle Graham and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.

About twenty years ago when my husband and I first contemplated homeschooling we attended a local homeschool convention. We were totally overwhelmed seeing a hundred plus booths of book sellers crowded into a church gym! We bought How to Homeschool   that day and read it straight through when we got home. It gave us hope and a vision that we could do this.

As you are gathering information, seek out others in your church or neighborhood who are homeschooling.   Find out why they chose to do so and what their day to day lives are like. Ask about the materials they use and what they like and don’t like about them.

Even better: If you are contemplating homeschooling next fall rather than this January, plan to observe some families actually homeschooling. Get a feel for how it works.

A word to the wise: don’t get too wrapped up in curriculum choices yet, and do NOT try to do “school” at home. You can do much better for your children than traditional textbooks, and for much less money.

4. Where do I Start? Can I Afford it?

How many children are you going to be homeschooling? Do you have children who are close in age and ability that you may teach together? Keep in mind that it is difficult to teach more than two children completely separately; it is much better use of time and money to group children for history, science and fine arts, where age and ability allow.

Charlotte Mason or unit study methodology, for example, can be used to teach more than one student at a time, making curricula less time-intensive and costly than a typical Classical approach where every child has separate curricula for history, science, language arts, math, foreign language, etc. Charlotte Mason learning is a literature-based curriculum (read: library books!), which allows a very natural, economical,easy to teach and captivating educational method, especially for students who are used to less-than-fascinating textbooks found in most public schools.

And realize – you don’t have to teach every course! Do you have a homeschooling friend who is a brilliant writer, or more of a “math person” than you? Trade kids for those classes! There are co-ops and other strategies for outside classes as well.

5. How Do we Make the Transition?


Expect a transition, which can be exacerbated by a student’s  fears about becoming isolated at home.

Don’t expect your homeschooling to look just like public school.  It is okay just to spend time just reading and talking about what is read, especially if your children have had a difficult school experience to heal from.

Be patient with yourself and patient with your children. If your child has special needs, you are often the very best person to be educating him.  Check  the  National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network (NATHHAN) for additional information and resources.

Seek out a local homeschooling support group, for both you and for your child/children’s sake. A support group is different than an accountability group; a support group is for just that – support. Find others who have children your children’s ages and get together at park or library at least weekly.

Additionally, many support groups schedule regular field trips as well as providing opportunities for special interest groups, lessons and clubs: karate, Legos, Spanish, Drama, tutoring, basketball, volleyball, politics, upper level math, writing, yearbooks, annual “school” pictures, service projects, dances and graduation ceremonies are all areas my children participated in through our local support groups.

As you hang around others who homeschool you will be able to ask questions and seek advice when you encounter difficulties. Know that it  is okay to move at a slower pace than you would expect; it is normal when you begin homeschooling. You will know so much more in a year than you know now, both about yourself and about your children!

And there is a plethora of information on the Internet. This blog contains  many posts and sample lessons that will help; please join our mailing list to have regular homeschooling support and ideas delivered directly to your email inbox weekly.

Bottom line: if you are committed to homeschooling and feel a strong call to do so, you can make it work. 

It means your life and schedule might look different than it did before, but you couldn’t invest your time in anything more worthy than your children. You can do it!

Have you taken your children out of school this year? How has homeschooling worked for you? Is there anything you wish you had known first?


Thanksgiving Activities for Kids!

Sunday, November 10th, 2013