Here is a really fun exercise to teach children to write clearly. We did this in our homeschool co-op, but you can do this at home with the whole family. It's very silly and will get all your writers laughing hysterically.
First of all, everyone writes directions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Simple enough, right?
Well, not so fast. It's hard to write directions. Often children are vague or write something else than what they are trying to communicate to their audience.
After all the direction papers were written, my friend Leanne gathered them all in a pile and everyone headed to the kitchen. Taking each page of sandwich directions, Leanne set out to follow them. Of course she had a knife, jar of peanut butter, jar of jelly, and loaf of bread.
Leanne made each sandwich according to the directions the child gave. If the directions were unclear, she followed them to funniest way possible. We all laughed so hard that our stomachs hurt. I got some photos I will share below.
The lesson of needing to be clear when giving directions hit home and the spent twenty more minutes talking about the "dangers" of not writing clear directions. The kids had a blast together learning to write more effectively. Now, that is learning at its best!
When you teach history, don't just expect your children to memorize facts.
Become investigators together and solve the history mystery.
When did it take place?
Who was involved?
Where did it happen?
Why on earth did it happen?
It all starts with curiosity and a sense of adventure. I will often start with an interesting story like this...
A royal couple was visiting a city in their realm on their anniversary. They were very much in love. But, they had enemies. Those enemies tried to kill them as they were on the way to big get-together. The enemies tried to bomb their car, but instead of hitting them, they hit people in the car behind them. After returning home to rest, the royal couple decided to go visit the folks that had been shot. They felt so sad they were hurt. On the way to the hospital, they were forced to take a detour into a side road. While they were trapped, a gunman shot both of them. They reached out to hold one another. The handsome Duke said to his beautiful wife, "Live, darling, for the children." I am so sorry to tell you that they both died. And that's how World War I began.
Now, I have made it personal and gotten my children's interest. What's next?
History is fascinating! What fun to explore other time periods, meet exciting people, and watch historic events unfold.
Immersion is a great way to learn and remember history. Simply immerse yourself in the time period by listening to the music, tasting the food, looking at the art, creating some of the crafts, and digging deeper into the people who made things happen, the places where they happened, and the events that did happen.
History immersion is made quite easy with history labs. We added history labs to our historical studies years ago, inspired by Diana Waring.
As a homeschool mom, my goal was to "travel back in time" for a visit. We cooked, baked, crafted, created, and enjoyed all kinds of things from whatever time period we studied. Studying pre-American Hawaii, we made a paper mache volcano and hosted a luau. Investigating Ancient Rome, we dressed in Togas, ate lying down, and had a Roman slave sale. Learning about Archaeology, we had our own archaeological dig after we created the different artifacts for each different layers of our tell.
When I was asked to teach history at a homeschool co-op, I decided to have discussion time followed by history labs. The children read at home and we discussed the time period together in a relaxed way, often laughing and doing some "imagine if" kind of thinking. The labs became an instant hit, so I kept doing them. Soon, I realized that the best part was that for most history labs, all ages could do the lab together. I loved that! We loved learning together as a family.
I'm not sure which we love more about history: historical literature or history labs. Let me tell you a little about history labs you can do in your homeschool or homeschool co-op.
Homeschooling has been a breeze and you love it: reading aloud, field trips, doing projects together, and learning new things. You are close to your child and enjoy life together.
One day you wake up and there is a new person inside your son's or daughter's body. They look the same--well, a little bit more manly or womanly. But, whoa, he or she is a completely different person. And yet, sometimes, they seem just like they did before.
What is happening?
Welcome to the Middle School years. Bodies are changing, hormones are raging, intellect is sharpening, and emotions are all over the place.
To experience joy and success in Middle School, you must determine to redefine normal for your young man or woman. Middle schoolers are transforming into men and women. That transformation isn't always easy.
Lavish your middle schooler with love and respect, whether they deserve it or not. Make yourself available as a listening ear and be a safe person they can pour their hearts out to.
On the positive side, middle schoolers are entering new phases of thinking, reasoning, analyzing, and other ways of thinking and learning. You can have intellectual and deep conversations with a middle schooler. They have interesting and exciting perspectives--it's so much fun to hear them!
This is the transition time between childhood and adulthood, both emotionally and intellectually.
History is exciting!
History is full of drama, intrigue, and stories.
Studying history is important to know the past, to understand our heritage, so we can plan for the future.
It breaks my heart to see some children and teens learn history in a dry, dreary way so that they end up hating the subject.
How we teach history can often determine if our students will enjoy learning about the past.
My children all love history! I think it's because we had so much fun learning history together.
Let me share how we learn history the fun way!
Travel Back in Time
There I was with a high schooler, a middle schooler, two in elementary school, and a preschooler who wanted to be involved. I felt pulled in so many different directions. I hadn't yet learned to teach literature, writing, arts, music, and history together.
Is it possible to teach all ages together?
Yes it is! You can even teach science together, too. Math, I was never able to do.
One thing I have found in teaching all ages together is that it builds family unity. It is fun to learn together and the togetherness makes it even more fun!
We enjoyed participating in 4H for many years during our homeschooling journey.
It was a wonderful blessing for our family.
Although 4H is a county and state government-run program, we were blessed with so many new friends who supported homeschooling nad encouraged us in our journey. Our 4H group was made up entirely of Christian homeschoolers.
In our group, each mother was also a helper, but the children were able to hold different offices in the club such as president, secretary, chaplain, or treasurer. 4H also exposes children to parliamentary procedure and the different offices of a club. The secretary took minutes, the treasurer collected dues and managed the money, and the chaplain opened in prayer. The children learned to make a motion and second that motion!
How 4H Enriched Our Home School
Let me take you back in time to when my oldest daughter, Katie Beth was 12 and her younger sister Julianna was 9. Jimmy was a newborn baby, Shine was almost 2 and Jenny Rose was 6.
With four daughters to prepare for motherhood and homemaking, I had set aside Thursdays to teach my daughter homemaking skills such as sewing, cooking, baking, hospitality, needlework, laundry, interior decorating, and card-making.
Our homemaking days were precious days. This, of course, was before the hustle-bustle of high school.
For several years I enjoyed my homemaking days alone with the girls. But other years, other homeschooling moms joined me and we have co-oped. What fun and fellowship for the girls as they learned skills that I don't have such as knitting and cake decorating.
"The dates just swirl around in my head," my daughter complained.
"Well, I don't need you to memorize them. Just know how they fit together--what happened in the same general time period," I comforted her.
When she gave me an exasperated look, I knew we had to get out a timeline, or better yet, make one.
Timelines are wonderful!
Last week, we kicked off our brand new year of homeschool co-op.
This year we are studying Geography, among other things. We decided to kick off the first meeting (where we pass out books and meet with teachers) with a plane trip to Heathrow, Tel Aviv, and back to MCO, or Orlando's airport.
We wanted the children to get a sense of Traveling the Whole World this year so we decided to make it really fun!
Of course, taking a plane trip overseas means passports and boarding passes. And to get a passport, you have to apply for one and get your picture taken.
Okay, it was a lot of work--but everyone had a blast. The kids brought their application form to the Custom's agent and received a passport and boarding passes (yes, I know it's a little bit different than the real world).
Passports & Plane Rides
The very best way to explore the world would be to travel. Plane trips, boat trips, train rides, and long walks.
God has made such an amazing world and there is so much to learn about it! I love studying geography! I would love to travel around the world to learn everything there is to learn.
Years ago, Laura and I had a geography co-op that we kicked off with a plane ride complete with passports and boarding passes.
It was so fun that we decided to do it again this year since we are studying geography again..
I talked to my husband Mike and our friend Sam. Both agreed to help. Sam got super-creative and this was the best plane ride ever!
We decided to have it in our church sanctuary because it was easy to move the stackable chairs around and set up dividers.
Would you like to know how we did it?
I like freedom. I want freedom to enjoy life, to be spontaneous.
I like to be productive. I like to create, to learn, to teach.
How can I ever bring these two things together because you see I discovered the hard way that without scheduling things, they just don't happen.
Oh, dear. What's a mother to do?
I tried creating an hour-by-hour schedule, but that was a disaster. I was so angry at my schedule. It made me feel like I was in jail.
I had to find a way to schedule that wouldn't make me feel boxed in or locked up.
That's when I discovered block scheduling.
We learned a secret about teaching geography and history.
Geography and history can taste good!
My children love to cook and bake their way through time and around the world.
We discovered that Thomas Jefferson was a foodie and he loved French food. Martha and George Washington were known for their delightful hospitality, as well as their delicious food. What fun to dig up old recipes and modernize them so we could enjoy them, too. You can enjoy some of our American history recipes in American History Cookbook.
When we studied geography in homeschool co-op, our family chose a country to research each month. Part of our research was food.
We discovered what foods are popular. This was quite a surprise. We found out that guinea pig was popular in South America (yuck!) and Kangaroo in Australia (what about Katie No-Pocket?). But, beyond that we discovered some amazing dishes.
Unit studies are like gift bags filled with treasures inside.
As we pull off the tissue paper, suddenly the bag has turned into Mary Poppins's carpet bag and out pours one thing after another.
We start with a topic such as birds. We read lovely books on birds, go bird-watching with our field guides and sketch book, learn bird calls, make a bird feeder for the back yard, write a poem on birds, learn to care for a pet bird, calculate how much our bird eats, and learn how they fly!
Go over my ideas and list all the school subjects that we covered. (See answer at the end of the article!)
But, now, just as the gift bag seems empty, our little one says, "We know how birds fly. So, how do planes fly?" Ah, airplanes! We begin to pull out more treasures of knowledge about flight. Our joy in learning just grows and grows!
We talked last time about living books because they will be the foundation of our unit studies. Now, let's talk about how to plan a unit study.
Step # 1: Choose a Topic (See last post)
Step # 2: Choose Living Books (See last post)
Step #3 Rhetoric, Writing, & Research
We love unit studies in our house!
Even when we use a textbook we add so much "stuff" that is could be labeled a unit study. We have always built our school around living books, well-written books that are wholesome and interesting to read. If you want to take the unit study plunge, then I recommend starting with living books as the core of your unit study.
This is a two-part post. Today we will talk about choosing your topic and books. In the next post, we'll focus on adding all the bells and whistles to make it a unit study.
The best thing about unit studies is that the whole family can learn together!
Step # 1 Choose a Topic
Start with a topic that interests the entire family. Your son might love rockets and trains, but your daughter would rather learn about butterflies or flowers.
Try to find topics that appeal to everyone. What about studying oceans, birds, knights & castles, kings & queens, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Colonial times, The Alamo, traveling west in a covered wagon, inventions, or trees?
You can choose the topic and share the topic enthusiastically with your children. Or you can make a list and let the children choose a topic.