Wednesday, November 27, 2013

3 Ways to Boost Descriptive Writing Ability

Writing is an art; a means of expression. Words are the medium. 

Drum Up the Details

Juicy, nourishing details are the meat that no story, whether fiction or non, can live without. 

Here are three tips for improving descriptive writing and providing sustenance to the story:

1.  Increase your vocabulary. 

2.  Polish your observation skills.  

3.  Slow down and pay attention.

Check out my board Reading & Writing for activities that will help you put these tips into action.

Class Discussion

Choose something to write a description of and share it!

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

5 Tips to Nip Nonfiction Negativity

In order to write creative nonfiction (CNF), we must read creative nonfiction.  This can be tough when kids (and adults) sometimes equate nonfiction with boring.  

Nix Nonfiction Negativity

1.  Identify interests. and choose CNF titles accordingly. 

2.  Sneak one in.  
Read a CNF book aloud, but reveal your secret after they enjoyed the story.

3.  Read by example.

4.  Show no fear.
Don't let on if you anticipate complaints.  Your enthusiasm is essential!

5.  Choose creative activities.
Timing and personalization are key here.  Ease into the reading with fun activities and keep them flowing.  (Check out my board Reading & Writing for some unique book report ideas!)

Class Discussion

Do you have creative activities that keep your kids reading?

(Leave a comment to get the Scribble Frame Lined & Primary Lined Journal Papers FREE!)

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Language Arts Links:

Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Make a Peanut Butter, Cheese, and Mayo Sandwich

Math is as much about processes and creative thinking as it is crunching numbers, and perhaps the best way to clarify steps in a procedure or find a solution is to write it down.  

You can make a list or draw pictures.  You can also tell it in a story.

Here is an idea for an exercise in following/giving instructions, and turning it into a work of creative nonfiction.

Step 1: Choose a Task

A peanut butter, cheese, and mayo sandwich is more interesting than making a plain old PBJ.  By giving an unusual task, the lesson immediately becomes fascinating.


For multiple participants, brainstorm a list of silly (but feasible) tasks.  Have everyone choose their task at random.

You could also create problems that need to be solved.

Step 2:  Make a To Do List

Write down all the steps in tutorial form.

Step 3:  Do the Task

Make sure to compare the steps in the tutorial to the actual performing of the task to ensure accuracy.

Step 4:  Write About It.

As soon after completion of the task as possible write a story about what happened.  Be as detailed as possible, describing the setting, any mistakes, etc.  

The more interesting the task or problem, the better the story will be!

Class Discussion

Share ideas for interesting tasks/problems!

(Leave a comment to get the Math Journal Paper Bundle FREE!)

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Math Links:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

5 Reasons Writing Leads To Mastery

Writing is a subskill that underscores each academic subject, as well as learning in general.  The need for writing ability cannot be questioned, nor can it be neglected.  

Here are 5 reasons why writing is needed for mastery learning to occur:

1.  Writing is a tool for evaluation.

  • Pinpoints weaknesses and strengths for teacher and student.
  • Avoids the pressure and negative associations with testing.
  • Identifies interests and preferences.
  • Assists with creating an education plan.

2.  Writing fosters positive outcomes.

  • The simple act of writing regularly improves ability.
  • Establishing a writing habit encourages a productive activity.  
  • It allows you to safely and positively express emotions.
  • Writing provides inspiration.

3.  Writing organizes thoughts.

  • Creates a visual of ideas.
  • Ideas are less likely to be lost.
  • Identifies what is known and unknown.

4.  Writing is a base skill.

  • Writing ability gives you a go-to skill.
  • Use writing to find solutions.

5.  Writing makes it stick.

Writing aids in submitting information to the long-term memory (mastery): 
  • It incorporates multiple senses.
  • Creates mental images.
  • Is a form of revisiting concepts.

More information on mastery:

Class Discussion

What are the areas in your curriculum where writing could be introduced? 

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Friday, November 22, 2013

5 Science Story Starters

When I connect writing to learning, I envision information being inscribed upon the brain. Writing is a method to mastery: when we write something down it is more likely to be submitted to the long-term memory for retention.  

Some of the most fantastically fictional ideas have been turned into reality because they were written down and explored.   

5 Science Story Starters

1.  Lucy fanned the pages of the book to release the old book smell she loved.  A folded piece of paper caught her thumb.  It was a sketched blueprint and handwritten note signed by Albert Einstein.

2.  As part of their aquatic life nature study, Jessica and Ben collected a sample of river water to observe under the microscope.  They were astonished at their findings.

3.  James was fascinated with the weather, and had made a hobby out of reproducing meteorological occurrences on a smaller scale.  One day James made an important discovery.

4. In the course of her work, Tonya uncovered an element unknown to man to that point.  The more she learned, the more she realized how crucial this element was to our existence.

5.  Shannon loved studying space.  One night while observing the sky, she noticed something strange.

Class Discussion

Share your stories using these prompts!

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Science Links:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

5 Creative Writing Activities For Social Studies

Social Studies is a subject that often thwarts students, even very bright ones, if it is left to mundane methods that present the subject as dreary. 

Adding a little imagination to any subject brings it to life, and can increase the chances that information will be mastered.  Combining creativity with writing as a learning method can only accelerate learning even further.  

5 Social Studies Story Starters

1.  After writing what seemed like a thousand letters, the president finally responded personally to Jessica's concerns.

2.  Remnants of a brick path are all that is left of the old schoolhouse, along with a few tales of famous Americans who attended it.

3.  Melissa and Eva closed their eyes and pointed to a destination on the map. The girls were astonished to find that the town had vanished and no one was talking.

4.  The ancient tree in Jonathan's backyard had been uprooted in last night's storm, leaving a deep, gaping hole.  Among the massive roots and dark earth, Jonathan spotted an object protruding from the dirt.

5.  Amy entered her grandmother's attic and immediately noticed the magnificent ball gown hanging in the corner.  She put it on and stepped in front of a dusty mirror.  The moment her eyes met her own gaze in the mirror the attic disappeared. 

Class Discussion

Share your stories using these prompts!

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Story Starters For Art & Music

Today you get 5 story starters each for Art and Music. Enjoy!

5 Art Story Starters

1.  Elizabeth was speechless when she opened the blinds.  The world outside was completely black and white!

2.  This was Michelle's first visit to New York.  She stood gawking at the mural before her: it was a graffiti image of herself as she looked at that moment.

3.  Jason picked up his photographs from the printer, but when he looked at them later he realized they were not his pictures.

4.  Eric rushed out the door, cramming his drawings into a folder as he went.  One blew out of his hand, but he didn't have time to chase it.  The next day his drawing was on the front page of the newspaper.

5.  Ashley gave her baby brother a crayon and sat down beside him.  A few minutes later, she saw that his yellow construction paper was covered in the most elegant calligraphy she had ever seen.

5 Music Story Starters

1.  Paige had grown familiar with the twangy old country music that drifted down into her bedroom through the vent.  Then one day it stopped.  

2.  The ice cream truck rolled slowly down the street, but the cheerful tunes had been replaced with a lullaby.  Instead of running to purchase a treat, parents and children stopped where they were to nap.

3.  Lacy and Megan, arch rivals since kindergarten, were both participating in the school talent show.  Lacy planned to sing, Megan planned to play her trombone, and they both intended to sabotage the other.

4.  Justin's mom ALWAYS listened to jazz.  One day he came home early and caught her jamming to classic rock.

5.  Malcolm woke up to a cheery tune, but couldn't find its source.  He soon noticed that the music changed with his activities.  Someone was playing music to Malcolm's life!

Class Discussion

Share your stories you wrote using these prompts!

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guest Post: 5 Story Starters That Keep Kids Writing

Today's post is a compilation of prompts written by Brenda Woods of The Write Space.  Brenda is a published author, established editor and journalist, and has been teaching creative writing for ten years.  She is also a good Facebook friend of mine! :) You can read more about Brenda and The Write Space here

While you are visiting The Write Space, be sure to read about a tiny warrior named Lily-Mae and consider getting the fundraiser book  Tiny Dancer: A Book For Lily-Mae.

What Can You Do?

By Brenda Woods

“How can I keep this going?” enquired a parent after our amazing Summer Camp. She noticed her child had left The Write Space talking about fairies, aliens and things like adjectives and synonyms, and making up characters she wanted to write about!
Her child was writing and reading out loud and feeling confident.
So here are some guidelines as what you can do – as a parent or caregiver – to keep that little creative mind working on their writing abilities.

1.  Think Like A Kid

It sounds silly – but try to be like a child. Get out of the adult grown up world for a bit and go with the flow and listen to what they are saying. Unlocking the creative imagination is key. If you can talk it, you can write it.
Find the wonder in everything. A simple walk can turn into a magical adventure. For example – those bubbles brimming in the little stream are actually fairies dancing! Did you know that? It’s just we can’t see them because they are Shy Fairies. Ask your child to tell you the names of other fairies living in the stream. You might be very surprised with their answers.

2.  Through the Portal

I love this one – the portal experience. Just like in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe – think of something which once opened, could transport you to the other side and into a magical land. 
I used to tell our children that if you opened the cupboard doors on one side of the kitchen you could travel through a magic tunnel to one grandma and if you opened the other kitchen cupboards under the sink, you would get to visit the grandma who lived in the other direction. 
Even think about this – if you put your hand through the garden hedge on the stroke of midnight (no particular reason for this time but it seems magical) then you will travel into another dimension and meet new people. Who are those people?

3.  Bedtime Stories

Read to your child at night in bed. Then close the book and chat about your own characters. Tell one part of the story and your child tells the other. 
A good point to begin a story is at the start of a journey and the character has to find something and meets interesting creatures on the way. Of course, there is always the evil character following and trying to cause trouble!

4.  Choose an Object

Look at something as simple as a pen and ask them to talk about it. Is it a magical pen? Is it a naughty pen that writes bad things? Is it a good pen that helps you write all the correct answers? If you were the pen – what would you say – where are you from?

5.  Write Now, Edit Later

This is part of our work here at The Write Space. Most of all – we have FUN. We also try not to initially nit-pick with spellings and grammar – can you imagine the Shy Fairies having someone interrupt their adventures and tell them they are not speaking correctly?!

Thanks for sharing with us Brenda!

Class Discussion

Share your stories!

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

·         Rachael Redd

Monday, November 18, 2013

5 Math Story Starters

Since November is NaNoWriMo, we are trying to squeeze writing in across the subjects.  Last week it was journal entries, and this week we are going to use fiction to get our facts straight.  

5 Math Story Starters:

1.  Charlie knew no one would believe him.  He wasn't sure that what just happened had actually happened.  The only proof he had was the note written in code.  He had to crack that code!

2.  Amber jolted to her feet.  She had made a terrible mistake-a disastrous miscalculation!

3.  Detective Matthews was baffled.  There had to be a pattern.  There is always a pattern.

4.  Thomas couldn't seem to get the ratio right.  He was certain about the amount of each ingredient except one.

5.  Dr. Randall plugged his numbers into the formula.  "But this cannot be," he exclaimed, "it's simply not possible!"

Class Discussion

Share your stories! 

Happy Homeschooling!

Friday, November 8, 2013

6 Ideas For Using Science in Creative Writing

There is not much room for creative writing in science, however, science is an excellent source of ideas for creative writing.  Here are some tips for turning scientific observations into stories:

1.  Habitat Haiku

Use the scene outside the window, from the backyard or a favorite outdoor spot to write a haiku or other poetry.

2.  Dramatic Discovery

Turn a recent scientific discovery the kids have made into a story.

3.  Time Travel

Study a scientist and write a story in which the scientist visits us in the future.

4.  Solve a Problem

Discuss a problem and create an invention to solve it.  Write a story about what could happen if the invention worked.

5.  Make it Humorous

Write jokes, comic strips, funny poems or stories using cells, atoms, animals and other scientific objects as characters.

6.  Animal Antics

Keeping a journal for pet observations can inspire and add details to animal tales.

Class Discussion

Do you use science in creative writing activities? 

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Science Links:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

4 Activities For Social Studies Journals

Social Studies is another subject I think we could do more writing in.  Since we journal so much anyway, I thought we'd add a Social Studies Journal.  

Here are 4 journal activities that I intend to implement:

1.  "Dear Diary" Entries

Recount the day as someone would from the time period we are studying.  

2.  Hindsight Letters

As a review or evaluation, write a letter to a historical figure explaining to them the consequences of their choices, and whether the child believes the person was correct in their thinking or not.

3.  Brainstorming Solutions

Using current events, brainstorm ideas for causes, effects, and solutions to problems we are facing now.

4.  Travel Log

Children decide where they want to go and research their destination.  Then write a travel log to imagine their trip. 

Class Discussion

Do you have suggestions for writing in geography?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Social Studies Links

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

4 Art & Music Journal Activities

Room For Improvement 

Writing is a fundamental subject, and I want to incorporate it across our curriculum as a go-to skill. Until recently, though, I have overlooked writing as an integral part of art and music.

In an effort to remedy this deficit, I have come up with a couple ideas to utilize journals, and over at the MRC Fan Page you will find additional links.

Art Journal Activities

1.  Writing in Reverse: Reinforce the ideas of painting pictures with words and conjuring images while reading.

Without using words...
  • Draw a story or comic strip 
  • Draw thoughts, emotions
  • Draw images of meaningful experiences

2.  The Art of Lettering:  Make handwriting fun by getting creative.
  • Explore the timeline of writing utensils and create new tools.
  • Design your own lettering.
  • Learn calligraphy.

Music Journal Activities

1.  Write to the Music:  Listen to a variety of music and write the thoughts each evokes.

2.  Take Notes:  Record favorite songs, lyrics, musicians, styles of music, etc.  

Class Discussion

Do you have any suggestions for integrating writing into our art and music curriculum? 

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

6 Tips For Raising Writers

"From the time our kids were big enough to handle a crayon (before the age of 2), they have been filling notebooks.  They have progressed into excellent writers and readers, and we have lovely little scribbles to remind us where it all began.  Writing and drawing materials are one of the finest gifts you can provide to a child."      

      ~ My comment on the post The Importance of Writing Journals

Here are 6 tips you can use to bring out the writer in your children:

1.  Pick up a pen.

Get yourself a journal and put your thoughts on paper daily.  Even if you only record the day's events, you are demonstrating the importance of writing.

2.  Start them young.

It will be love at first scribble as soon as the crayon hits the page!

3.  Make positive associations.

Send them to their journals with their joyful experiences, happy thoughts, and ideas.  

During tough moments, point out that writing is an outlet and the page doesn't argue or judge.

4.  Read.

Read aloud to them, let them read to you, read on your own, and have them read independently.  Have discussions and encourage written responses to what was read.  

5.  Make it easy for them.

Have supplies available, encourage them to have a writing space of their own, and make their writing portable.

6.  Take them behind the scenes.

Point out the writing behind their favorite movies, TV shows and songs.

Class Discussion

Participation Points: Answer the Class Discussion question and get 50% off  Primary Lined Writing & Journal Paper!

How can I help you encourage your kids to write?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Monday, November 4, 2013

2 Easy Ways to Squeeze Writing Into Math Lessons (And Make it Fun!)

You and the kids will have fun with these two tips for writing in math class:

1.  Use humor.

Kids love hilarity, so why not associate laughter with math and writing? 

Have the kids write...
  • Math jokes
  • Silly math related stories, poems and songs
  • Use their stories to make math madlibs
  • Funny ways to remember formulas and problem solving steps
  • For 10 minutes on a funny math prompt 

2.  Let them teach.

Kids also love to teach you. To review, evaluate, or even teach a new concept, have the kids write a tutorial on...

  • How to do a specific type of problem
  • Explaining a math concept
  • The best way to learn ____ (math facts, the problem solving steps, etc.)

Bonus Ideas

  • Blog their writing.
  • Create a math newsletter written by the kids.
  • Have the kids write interviews for mathematicians.

Class Discussion

How do you incorporate writing into your math class?

Participation Points

Answer the Class Discussion question in the comments for 50% off Primary Lined Journal Paper.

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Asking the Hard Questions

Today's Social Studies Focus

On this fine Thursday, we are covering Current Events. For us it goes deeper than the local news though.

Necessary Evils

I don't want my children to know of certain evils in the world until it is absolutely necessary.  Despite our best efforts though, sometimes atrocities rear their ugly heads directly in front of them.  Then we are left to answer hard questions that may not even have an explanation.

Those tough questions are how change happens and solutions are born.  

The 5 W's

Asking questions about the events happening around us, from neighborhood to international, is a civic duty.  It keeps us concerned about more than ourselves and our little world.

Directing kids to ask questions and seek answers develops leaders.  

Media Miseducation

The field of journalism is one that is in desperate need of leaders-those who will diligently ask and seek answers, not drones who's assignment to report on the season's fashions replaces actual news and investigating. 

Making the Connection

Recently the issue of child slavery and human trafficking has weaseled its way into our discussions.  As disturbing as the topic is, it is on the table now and must be addressed.  I have decided to let them ask, and help them search for answers.  

Class Discussion

What are some uncomfortable issues you have had to discuss with your children before you wanted to?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Connecting Talents With Traditions

Today's Art & Music Focus

On this lovely autumn Wednesday we are discussing and planning our first projects of the year. 

Traditions and Being Traditional

Several years ago we began making some of our gifts and cards for holidays, and every year since we have continued while increasing the amount of homemade versus store bought presents.

We do this for sentimental purposes because homemade gifts are much more personal.  We also do it because we sensed commercialism creeping into our lives and our children's hearts. 

Creating Atmosphere

We are putting more effort into the celebration aspect of holidays, emphasizing the history and purpose of each one.  More planning has helped us create memories of special meals and activities.

Making the Connection

Our first projects in both Art and Music are geared towards the upcoming holidays.  While some may fret, we will joyfully create gifts and practice holiday music. 

We don't separate the holidays from our education. The lessons to be learned during this time of year help shape us and are some of the most valuable there are to learn.

Class Discussion

What lessons do you try to instill in your children over the holidays?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Art & Music Links:

Choosing Our Words Wisely

Today's Language Arts Focus

This beautiful Tuesday's topic is Spelling and Vocabulary.  Read on to find out the one tool we can't write without!

The Master Objective

We want our children to have the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately their ideas and beliefs through any venue be it spoken, written,  or visual.

This comes from our education philosophy-one of the end results we desire from our education experience.  

It's a big one.  It involves writing and grammar, foreign languages, oral presentation, and visual arts. 

Breaking it Down

The basic unit of our objective is words.  This is where Spelling and Vocabulary comes in.

Dictionary Doldrums

We as adults and educators know the importance of using a dictionary.  Forming the habit of referring to the dictionary often and realizing it's useful attributes can be hard to instill in kids.

Making the dictionary come alive and using it in creative activities is imperative to ensuring it becomes a necessary tool for young writers. 

Making the Connection

Here's how the dictionary is part of our daily life:
  • We own different levels from a picture dictionary up to a collegiate version.  
  • We make our dictionaries readily available and in multiple locations throughout our home.
  • We have a periodic Dictionary Day, and practice using it through games.
  • We found old dictionaries and we use them.  We see how the meanings and usage of words change, and bring unused words back to life.
  • The children get vocab lists to study that I have designed around the topics that interest them.
  • I read aloud and encourage the kids to read books that are challenging and that they will need to refer to the dictionary for while reading.
  • We use new and challenging vocabulary in conversations as much as possible.  We refer them to the dictionary when they ask for the meaning.
  • The kids keep lists of words that appeal to them and new words they learn outside of their vocab lists.

Class Discussion

How do you use the dictionary in your home?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Language Arts Links:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Measuring Up

Today's Math Focus: Measurements

On this beautiful Monday, we are covering measurements-not only the metric system, but also how we can and should measure ourselves.

Reaching Great Heights

I have a set of skills I want to pursue and perfect, along with a sketch of the kind of wife, mother, and woman I want to be. 

This is an ongoing process.  I encourage my daughters to join me, and always strive for self-improvement towards their own picture of who they want to be.  

The goal is to set and meet our own personal standards according to our beliefs and values, and not allow the world or society to dictate who we are.

Eyeballing It

In an episode of Petticoat Junction, Kate tries to recreate her famous Bachelor Butter for a company that wants to buy her recipe.  

Her measuring cup was a mayonnaise jar, and the fill line on her pot was the dent in the side.  While this may have made a perfect batch of Bachelor Butter, Kate's units of measure don't work well outside her own kitchen.

I'm more likely to use a mayonnaise jar than a measuring cup myself, but I've had to change my ways in order to teach.  

Making the Connection

Mastering measurements is as easy as boiling water or sewing on a button.  Here are some activities that have measured up to the kids' liking:

  • Making Koolaid, cookies, pancakes, and other simple recipes.
  • Keeping track of everyone's height.
  • Arming the kids with measuring tools and sending them outside to find random measurements.
  • Taking measurements for sewing projects.
  • Building with blocks and scrap materials.

Class Discussion

Share some projects you have done to practice measuring.

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Math Links:


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Which Came First: The Q or the A?

A Matter of Perspective

The answer came first.  There had to be something to ask a question about, right? Or maybe you think the question came first because you have to wonder about something for there to even be an answer.

Either way, what came before the question and the answer? 

What must exist for a question and answer to be born?

Curiosity Killed the Cat...

...only because it didn't follow safety procedures!

Curiosity, a desire to know, is the prerequisite.

The "Why" Stage

This is one phase you don't want your kids to grow out of.  Encourage questions, and teach them to search for answers.  

Make the Connection

No matter the subject, the desire to learn must be present.  

Here are some ways we have encouraged questions:
  • Keep a list of questions. 
    • Get books for independent reading on the topics
    • Use for future lesson plans
    • Use to create rainy day or boredom buster activities
  • Have conversations.
    • Use new words.
    • Include children in discussions about current events and appropriate topics even if it seems above their heads. 
    • Ask them open-ended questions that require thought.
    • Have them write questions for and interview family members or others they can learn from.
  • Make above-level books available
    • Read them aloud (Suggestion: Watership Down by Richard Adams)
    • Encourage independent reading 
  • Use personal interests.
    • Investigate related careers.
    • Design activities that encourage further research.

Class Discussion

What are some crazy questions your kids have asked you?

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Science Links:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Always Before Our Eyes, Forever in Our Minds

Constant Reminders

We want our children to be rooted deeply in the knowledge of our heritage.  We are proud of who we are, where we come from, and what we stand for.  This is reflected in our home.

The objects and displays placed throughout our home have a purpose.  Some have sentimental value and personal history attached to them, and some represent our beliefs.

When we see these things as we go about our days, they become part of us-we cannot forget them or their meaning.

Tense Travelling


Our love of antiques reflects an interest in bygone eras, specifically in American and family histories.  From an early 20th century (still functioning!) sewing machine, to the 48 star flag and the nearly 200 year old house itself, we are reminded daily of things that have shaped us as individuals, a family, and a nation.  


Our eclectic blend of artifacts includes modern items as well.  Technology connects us and brings the world to our home.  Modern day conveniences paired with things of the past reminds us how far we have come and that anything is possible.


As a parent I am reminded constantly that we are responsible for the future.  The three little minds we are responsible for shaping will someday enter the role they were born to play in this world.  I am honored and humbled at the same time at this thought.  Home education is a reference to our concern for the future.  Recent losses and our role as caregivers reminds us that we are mortals and should live accordingly as we create our personal timelines.

Making the Connection

Social Studies is an integral part of our life.  We live through current events, study past ones, and use lessons learned before us to guide our paths to the future.  Here are some ways we connect past, present and future to grow our roots and spread our branches:
  • Photography:  Collecting, sorting and creating projects from old and recent family photos.
  • Family History: We pair genealogy done by others in the family with our own research projects, photos and memories.
  • Local History/Geography:  We explore and learn about our community through local events and resources.
  • Civics: Seeing and using important symbols of our American heritage on a daily basis keeps the American principles fresh in our minds.  

Class Discussion

How does the design of your home reflect your belief system? Feel free to post photos!

Happy Homeschooling!
Mrs. Redd

More Social Studies Links


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fostering Talent: Raising Artists and Musicians

Free Form

Art at our house is very informal, at least for the time being.  We start from the ability to hold a crayon and supply the materials and encouragement to progress from scribbles to masterpiece.

The same is true for music.  We love music, across the genres, and our children are familiar with a variety of forms.  It is impossible for us to provide every instrument, but we do have guitars and pianos available.  We let them pound the keys and strum the strings, sing, dance and listen to music of all types during the day.

Negative Space

When I was assigned an art project in school, I balked. I was supposed to create someone else's idea in a closed environment.  The result was stifled creativity and lack of interest.

When I could bring the images in my mind to life through my own methods, I was an artist.    

I was also in band and took piano lessons for several years. Until I tired of playing someone else's music that held no meaning to me and being pressured to perform instead of create and enjoy music.

There has to be a connection.

Making the Connection

Art and music are creative and emotional outlets that are closely connected to personal interests.  Here's how I've handled these subjects so far:

  • We provide the supplies and make them readily available.
  • We connect art to our lives through photography, as well as cards and gift making.
  • I give them options and make suggestions rather than assign specific subjects for their art. 
  • We respect the amount of time each child wants to spend developing their talents.
  • I let them come to me with their questions and we proceed accordingly
  • We tried music lessons, but found they were not a good fit.

The Results

Our children...
  • Love to create, and continue to develop their talents almost independently.  
  • Prefer to learn to play instruments by ear, and this has been successful.  
  • Are familiar with a variety of genres and artists, both past and present.
  • Have learned to play music they enjoy and songs that have meaning to them.
  • Spend a suitable amount of time and effort on the development of their artistic and musical talents.

Class Discussion

What do art and music look like in your home?

Happy Homeschooling!

Mrs. Redd

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bears in Our Backyard


...not literally.  The bears that roamed our section of the earth have long since relocated.  But the books Bears of Blue River and Uncle Tom Andy Bill by Charles Major help keep their presence alive.

A New Tradition

I discovered these books in 2011, and we immediately read them.  We loved them! They have been the spine of our spring and summer learning ever since.  

Making Connections

Since Charles Major is a native of our hometown, and the setting of the books is along the Blue River, we began exploring our setting through camping and fishing, nature studies, water pollution, local landmarks, events, and resources (Grover Museum, Shelby County Public Library, Bears of Blue River Festival, Shelby County Arts Fest, The Gallery, local businesses, etc.)

Double Connection

There are two connections I want the kids to make through my design of this ongoing "book report":

  1. A connection to the subskills associated with all the academic subjects that will lead to mastery and support additional knowledge as we progress through our education.
  2. A connection to nature and community that will establish roots in their native home and instill a sense of civic duty required for fulfillment of our role as citizens.

Class Discussion

Do you have books that your family reads over and over? Why do you love them?

Happy Homeschooling!

Mrs. Redd

More Language Arts Links:

Monday, September 16, 2013

Accidental Math on Purpose

Plans Change

Our first day back from summer break veered, no, U-turned, away from my schedule.  Shock of all shocks.  By the time things settled down enough to even consider pulling out the daily plan, I was closer to making a paper airplane out of it than looking at it.  

Keep Calm...

The one thing I did manage to accomplish was to explain our schedule to the kids.   So by the afternoon when we were supposed to have math, my little darlings chirped they were ready and asked eagerly what we were going to do.


The clock said there wasn't time before dinner, the clingy, whiny toddler in my arms said it was nap time, their dependent grandmother calling for me meant it was time to play nurse again, and the ringing phone meant someone else needed something.  

Math lesson? How about, How many ways can Mommy be pulled at any given moment of the day? 

Keep calm... and pretend it's on the lesson plan.

Fortunately, I can think under pressure.  Enter Impromptu Lesson #1 of the 2013-14 school year:

"I want you to grab your Nature Study Bag, and go find math in the backyard: Look for examples of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, patterns, shapes, etc."

Silence.  Crap.  They're on to me.

"Al-RIGHT! Thanks Mom!" And they bolted.  

The After-Math

  • The rest of the afternoon was spent in joyful discovery for the kids.
  • I was able to put the baby down for a nap, get dinner going, see to my mom, and get a few moments peace to collect myself and, ahem, plan for Tuesday.

Making the Connection

In the moment, I was only thinking about solutions to each of the immediate problems I was juggling right then.  But that backyard math activity was a better lesson than what I had planned anyway.

Here's Why:

  • It was a lesson that prepared them to learn math by showing them the purpose of learning math: that math surrounds us and we not only use it but that nature is not random. Down to the very first cell of life there is order, logic, patterns and cycles.
  • Using the immediate and familiar surroundings to demonstrate purpose and teach concepts is logical because they see these concepts as relevant to their lives.
  • Discovery breeds enthusiasm. All the while, information is turned into knowledge that is never forgotten because one discovery leads to the next and it all comes together.  It all makes sense, therefore it is mastered.

Class Discussion

Tell me about some of your best impromptu lessons.  How do you handle it when things go awry in your home?

Happy Homeschooling!

Mrs. Redd

More Math Links:

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