Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm bored...

The most dreaded words in the summer vocabulary.

And I wonder, how could a kid be bored in the summer? I can't ever remember saying those words in my whole life-and certainly not in the summer. Maybe because if I said them out loud as a child I would be given chores?

I was reading a Sonlight Forum post on this issue, and I loved what Merry said. It went something like this...

If my kids say they are bored I say, "Well, go outside and play for a while and when you come in I will have a chore for you to do." Amazingly, they play for hours outside and never remember they are bored."

I think some basic play equipment is very helpful to beat boredom. Depending on your living situation, some of these may be practical and some may not:
  • swing set
  • sand box-the bigger the better, you can't have too big of a sandbox
  • various balls
  • bean-bag toss game
  • basket ball net
  • soccer goal
  • tether ball
  • play house or designated play area in the shed or garage, if practical
  • hammer, wood, nails
  • perhaps a small wading pool
  • a pet
  • wagon
  • old stroller
  • bikes
  • chalk
  • paintbrushes and water [to paint on the sidewalk]
  • bubbles
  • sticks
  • own garden area
  • rope [jump rope]
  • pogo stick
  • mini [or full size] trampoline
  • camp in the backyard
For indoor boredom busters--my first and best advice-limit TV/Computer time. Maybe they have to read an hour a day and then they can play video games or watch the TV for an hour a day. Be careful with this, though. If you have multiple kids they may play the computer for 30 minutes, then watch their brother play for 30 minutes, then watch their other brother play for 30 minutes and now they have used up 1 1/2 hours with the computer. [Ask me how I know about this loop hole in the computer time rule!]

Use a timer and limit the time to something reasonable. For TV, we had a rule, no TV during the day. Then at night we would watch some show or DVD for about an hour. I have a friend who lets her children watch 60 minutes of cartoons in the morning, then the TV is off all day unless they watch something together as a family. Just find something that works for you.

In my experience the more computer/TV time children have, the more easily they are bored when the TV/Computer is not in use.

Now, for indoor boredom busters:
  • board games
  • card games
  • making forts under tables or on couches
  • puppet shows done behind the couch, any type of puppets, socks work great
  • making movies if your kids are old enough to use a video recorder. We have some awesome ones that the kids made that make us laugh every time we watch them
  • blocks
  • action figures/dolls
  • child kitchen
  • child workbench
  • match-box cars
  • Legos
  • play mobile
  • reading [you might want to require so many pages/minutes a day]
  • cooking/baking
  • science experiments
  • dusting
  • vacuuming
  • doing laundry
  • straighten room
  • sweep floor
  • empty dishwasher or wash dishes
  • camp in the family room-my dad actually pitched a real tent in the living room once!
  • water plants
  • draw, paint, color, stickers
  • play an instrument
  • sing
  • dance to music
  • have a tea party
  • dress up--keep a box with dress up clothes
  • etc.
Perhaps make a card with something to do on it and train your children to pull a card if they can't think of anything to do.

Perhaps ban the words "I'm bored" or "There's nothing to do," and instead teach your children to say, "I am looking for a job to do." My guess is, this will eliminate the need whine around and will encourage them to entertain themselves. :0)

Also, you may want to have some sort of summer schedule. It can be loose, but something like:
  • Monday-Laundry, everyone get their laundry to the laundry room, clean your room, vacuum the living room [each kid a different chore] then you can have free time.
  • Tuesday-Lunch at the park, or a nature walk day, then to the library [make sure they have their library books in a bag to take back]--maybe invite a friend
  • Wednesday-Laundry again, and cooking day. Have kids join you and teach them basic cooking, or maybe just make something fun like ice cream
  • Thursday- Shopping day, maybe take in a movie or play in the play place at a McDonalds while you drink some iced tea!
  • Friday-Tidy house and do laundry so the weekend can be relaxing. Do crafts, or maybe this could be Science Day. Lots of folks like to do some science in the summer to lessen the school work in the fall. Family movie [DVD] tonight or maybe a family game night, make popcorn and enjoy each other.
You also might want to let all the kids sleep out in the living room one night a week. You might let them have a friend sleep over once or twice in the summer.

I hope this helps make your summer fun and productive. Also, I was talking to my cousin this weekend and she mentioned that is hard to read all the Sonlight read-alouds during the school year so they save many for summer and read them daily. She said it is so much fun and takes some of the pressure off during the school year. You may want to try this, whether you homeschool or not--read your kids great books this summer, a chapter or so a day.

Please, let me know if you have suggestions to add. I would love to be able to share more ideas.

Take care,

Top: morning at the mini-park

Middle: Scotty learning to cook outdoors
Bottom: Chad and Scotty at zoo

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Right Tool for the Job...

I have mentioned before that my dad was a woodworker and general handyman--as well as a high school and college teacher. One thing he taught me early was that you need the right tool for the job. Don't use a screwdriver as a chisel or crowbar, don't use a limb saw to cut finished wood, and so on.

Use the right tool for the job.

And, if you have any experience with fixing things you know how true that is. Using the wrong tool sometimes doesn't work at all, and sometimes leads to you making a worse mess to fix than you started with. If you use the wrong screwdriver, for example, you might strip the screw and then you have to drill it out which is a bigger project than you originally planned.

When it comes to homeschool materials I can not believe how many people don't want to spend the money on the tools. I mean, what is more important to a homeschooler than making sure their child gets a good well rounded education? That is why I can 't figure out how come seemingly committed homeschoolers do not set aside much money to buy the right tools for the job.

Much more important than a screwdriver is having a cohesive and logical plan to teach your children what they need to know. Yet, I know folks who jumble together a curriculum under the guise of saying they are good stewards. Some are, but many times they really just don't want to invest in the right tool for the job.

Curriculum is not cheap, but nothing worth doing comes easy or cheap. I know when our children were young I baked and sold bread 2x a week to make the money to buy curriculum. In later years, I started representing Sonlight at state homeschool conventions to earn curriculum money. It was that important!

Getting the right tools in the form of a full curriculum can save many problems later on. You can be assured you child is getting a well rounded education and mom can save hours a week by not having to re-invent the wheel.

Whatever curriculum you use, or whether you get a collection of materials from various suppliers, I urge you to get the right tool for the job. Plan ahead, just as if you were doing a building project.

If you were going to build a dog house, you would get a plan, buy the wood, set aside the time required, have the proper tools and then make the dog house.

We are building children into adults so devise a plan, buy the materials, set aside the time, have all the proper tools, then begin. Do our kids deserve any less?

Let me know if I can help you figure out what tools you need for your homeschool.

Take care,

Photos: Top: Dad working on a cherry bed frame and Bottom: Kari and Scotty helping build a play house.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

**NEW** Math Technique discovered by public school...

I had to smile when I read this headline in our local newspaper:

"New math technique to be used in Fayette."

Guess what it is? Come one, take a guess?

Singapore Math

Yep, the new latest and greatest math technique has been used by homeschoolers for about 10 years! Just goes to show, we are on the cutting edge of great curriculum choices. One of the experts was quoted as saying "It's a whole program and approach to math."

I have been saying that for years.

If you are not familiar with Singapore Math, it is pretty much just what it says. It is the national math curriculum for the country of Singapore. Homeschoolers started using Singapore Math because even though Singapore is a very small country, they have placed #1 in international math competitions.

Singapore Math teaches students how to think mathematically. It teaches mental math and math in a real-world context. Years ago when Scotty did Singapore Math, we both liked the pictures of the kids with little thinking bubbles by their brains. It showed what they were supposed to be thinking. Many times, kids have no idea what they are supposed to be thinking--but Singapore really helps them focus and understand mathematical concepts.

When we first starting using Singapore Math, we used the exact same workbooks and textbooks that the students in Singapore use. It is very handy that they speak English! Later, the books were updated and called "Singapore Math, US edition" and that basically meant they added Imperial measurements [and kept the Metric measurements], changed some names and so on, but kept the format and problems the same.

Now, I see that Houghton-Mifflin has published a "Singapore Approach" curriculum that uses 80% of the content of the Singaporian books, but Americanized with terms like gasoline instead of petrol. Another publisher [un-named] is also producing a Singapore-based math textbook which will be used my another Kentucky School system. It seems, we will have options when it comes to which Singapore Math we want to use.

I am excited to see the public schools catching up with the homeschoolers.

I think more math options are great and Singapore Math is really good--however, just like everything else, different children learn different ways. If you are looking for a great math program, check out Singapore Math. Sonlight has been selling it for years, and they have even written Home Instructor's Guides* so you can be a great teacher without having to take 100 hours of training like the public school teachers do!

As a note:
  • Earlybird Math is for Preschool/K
  • Primary Math is for 1st-6th/7th grades
  • New Elementary Math is for students in 7th/8th grade and up--don't let the name Elementary fool you.
Take care,
*Sonlight Curriculum has developed "Home Instructor's Guides" for the Primary Math 2A through 6B programs. The guides bridge the gaps between the textbooks and workbooks. They walk you through the books in a logical, step-by-step fashion. You'll find everything laid out for you: concepts you'll cover in each unit, pages you'll reference, and best of all, numerous exercises to reinforce the concepts you're teaching. The guides coordinate everything and assist you so you’ll be able to give your children a top-notch math education with minimum preparation.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Great and Terrible Quest...

I love The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett. In fact, I love it so much I re-read it at least once a year. I am not sure if you have any books like this, ones that are old and treasured friends, but for some reason I really love this book.

Recently I had an opportunity to get my copy leather bound so reading is even more of a pleasure--you can see my fabulous copy here. If you want to come by my house sometime I will let you look at it if you ask me nicely.

I think I love this book so much because while being mysterious, it conveys some important values that are missing in many books. It drives home the message of selflessness, honor, courage, looking out for others, sacrifice and so much more. The characters seem very real and symbolize the best and worst of society.

Two of the recurring themes have become part our family lore. One is when large tears roll down Huon's eyes several times when he considers the injustices of society saying, " Alas, alas, the sorrow of the world," and the other is more or less the main theme of the book, "What must be done, can be done." Simple, yes, but oh so powerful!

I remember one time when Kari was deciding on a college minor and was facing having to take an extremely difficult class. She called me while Bob and I were out of state on a business trip. She said she simply could not do it, it was too hard. And I said, "What must be done, can be done." I knew she was smiling at the other end--she knew the reference and we both knew it might not be easy, she might need a tutor, she might work hard for a "C" but it could be done.

Several years ago I lent my well read copy to my neighbor. She called me the very next day and said, "Oh, Jill--I have to tell you I sat right down and read this book. When I finished, I sighed, had a cup of coffee and read it again." And since then she has read it numerous times to varying grandchildren--she has 17! How many books make a grandma sigh while at the same time inspire grandchildren to truth, sacrifice and courage? One of her grandsons, a few years later asked, "Where is that really good book--you know the one...?" And though she has lots of quality books, as she brought out her own copy of The Great and Terrible Quest, his face brightened and he said, "That's it! Can I read it by myself?"

It is a book that when you read it, you want to read it again so you can catch the clues and nuances you missed the first time. You want to savor the story, but all the while you can't wait for the very satisfying ending.

Whether you are grandma or about ten years old, I highly recommend this book. It is a fairly quick read, only 187 pages at about the 5th-6th grade reading level, but can be read aloud to children as young as 8 years old.

May it inspire you as you face your own great and terrible quests. What must be done, can be done.

Take care,