Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Searchable Charles Darwin

This is unbelievable - a searchable online Charles Darwin complete with pictures. Sometimes, I am completely blown away by the wonderful resources on the internet. Usually, I am astounded by the junk, but today, I bow to the people who worked so hard to make an almost complete works of Darwin available online for free!!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Letters From Eden

This entry was originally posted at Twice Bloomed Wisteria, my other site.

I've received my copy of Julie Zickefoose's book, Letters from Eden. It is part nature journal and part art book. I have been experiencing life through Julie's eyes since I found her blog through a National Public Radio podcast. She is a nature artist, writer, NPR commentator, mother, wife, bird watcher, and dog lover. Does everyone feel like they don't do enough, or am I the only one?

I was interested in Letters from Eden because I thought it would be a great Charlotte Mason inspired nature study book. The book is divided by seasons and is then further divided into stories about interacting with species and nature found during that season. Her writing is honest, many times humorous, and filled with great information. Even though Julie's seasons in Ohio don't exactly match my seasons in Mississippi, I am still enthralled with the book as a nature study resource and a beautiful coffee table book. The children and I will begin reading the book together in January so we can start at the beginning of the book move through the seasons. I have to confess that I have already started reading. I just couldn't help myself.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Having fun in history

This entry was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

I think I have mentioned earlier that our home school is using The World in Ancient Times series published by Oxford for our history reading. We are loving the stories about archaeologists, anthropologists, and paleontologists in the first book, The Early Human World, who are making discoveries and attempting to place the pieces of our past. Yesterday, we read about Jean-Marie Chauvet, Christian Hillaire, and Eliette Deschamps finding cave art in December of 1994. The thrill of making a discovery and the significance of the art in the research of our past is documented in just enough detail for the children. Though the book has some great pictures, we took it a step further and looked at more pictures in Sister Wendy Beckett's The Story of Painting and the really cool website of the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-D'Arc. Take the tour!!

We, next, tried a cave art project from Art Smart by Susan Rodriguez. The children went outside and gathered sticks, dried grasses, bits of charcoal, and some roots to use as brushes. We then took butcher paper and placed it onto the concrete patio and texturized it with brown and tan crayons. After the paper was transformed into a cave wall, we hung it in the dog trot and Princess and Pink Panther started drawing animals and hands. They both commented that using the found tools was much more difficult and if they had it to do over again, they would know which things would make better tools and could do a better job.

I was excited because all the elements - books, art project, Internet site - came together to create something tangible, something fun, something they will remember. My husband came home and said that if it were darker he would have thought he was in a cave. That was just enough encouragement for the children to add more paper and art to the hallway. As long as I don't trip on the skull of a cave bear (or any other creature for that matter), let the transformations begin.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Extinguishing Fires

My sister gave my children a bunch of puzzles. Among them was a 3-d house puzzle, a glow in the dark puzzle, a 3 little pigs puzzle, and various animal puzzles, especially horse puzzles. I love puzzles - jigsaw, pencil and paper, visual, logic - and I am fairly good at them. Herein lies a problem.

I realized the problem this weekend as the children and I were assembling. As I was plipping pieces in place as quickly as I could my son got up and left the table. He said, "I'm not good at puzzles." At that moment, I realized that I had allowed my personal space to swell so large that I pushed my children out - completely out of the room. I was able to get him to come back, but not with the same enthusiasm. Needless to say, I felt terrible. They were, after all, his and Princess's puzzles. I tried to explain that I had had much practice so it seemed easier when I was assembling. I knew that while I was practicing, I never had anyone reaching over my shoulder plipping pieces making me feel insecure about my lack of expertise. So, I stepped away from the table.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


This was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

Our homeschool has been floundering with the study of grammar for a couple of years. Why, you ask, would a trained English teacher let her children flounder in the formal study of grammar? Well . . . I don't have an excuse except an inability to commit to a method and my false belief that I didn't know enough about teaching young children. When my son was 6 we started with First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind by Jesse Wise. I really liked the gentle method grammar was introduced while still imprinting the basic, yet important, lists and definitions. I enjoyed the program so well, that, my then, 3 year old daughter learned all the poetry, prepositions and helping verbs, among other things, along with her older brother because it looked so fun to march and dance around the house. Herein lies the problem. I found something I liked, that fit our family, and was successful using it. I have children who, at a young age, have retained much grammatical information. Now, I have high expectations without a next logical step. I looked at grammar program after grammar program. I never found a next level program that was just perfect. I tried to use many programs and investigated many others.

I tried G.U.M. by Zaner Bloser, the free online KISS grammar program, Shurley Grammar, and the free online Daily Grammar. I looked at several others, but didn't purchase or try to use them. Here is what I found:
  • G.U.M. - The grammar rules are presented in a straightforward manner. I liked that the child was not required to write out sentence after sentence to complete the exercises. The negative is that each sentence in the exercises is so similar to the others that once the first sentence is completed, the child isn't required to think. The patterns are fixed so that without even reading the sentence you could find subject and verb according to position in sentence. There is little to question or discuss. While saying this, I know that combined with other language activities this workbook could work. We completed most of these activities.
  • Shurley Grammar - I know this is the favorite program of many people, but I found it unwieldy. There were just too many components to pull together for each lesson - jingle, study time, test time, scripted grammar time, reference grammar section, practice sentences, improved sentences, vocabulary. I would have liked the grammar songs and chants if we had not already mastered this information earlier. We liked the preposition and helping verb chants we created, not because they are better, but because we already knew them. Grammar concepts were not over practiced and the question and answer flows are helpful in analyzing sentences. Again, I found nothing wrong with the program, it was just not the right one for us. Shurley Grammar was just too comprehensive to work with the other things we were doing.
  • KISS - I really like what is going on at this site. KISS is a work in progress, but could be unbelievable. Ed Vavra has taken excerpts from real books and has created grammar teaching tools. I chose not to use the program for a full year, not because it didn't match my grammar philosophy, but because I found that I spent too much time looking for the next section on the web site. Using excerpts challenges the student because the sentences do not follow an identifiable pattern. Ed has worked to get an organized printable workbook ready. I believe the 3rd grade level is ready now. This is a free resource so if it doesn't work no money is wasted.
  • Daily Grammar - DG is a straightforward program of grammar teaching exercises. You, now, have several choices of how to receive your daily dose of grammar - email, archives, an ebook, or a workbook. The material is the same regardless of your choice. The email and archive versions are free. Daily Grammar gives you a rule and a couple of sentences for practice. We used most of the archive last year, yet I never felt like it was truly integrated into our other language arts activities. Overkill is not a problem, though.
After using or trying each of these methods I still felt that something was missing or off-kilter. I want a program that is gentle, yet rigorous; comprehensive, yet not repetitive; and demanding, yet fun. I want the activities to make sense with the rest of our curriculum, not be haphazard. I want to build on what the children already know. Grammar rules don't change from year to year. Once you learn the definitions and rules they are yours. The reasons you study and teach grammar each year are:
  • New concepts are added as the older ones are mastered.
  • Students (older than 6 or 7) are able to take the memorized definitions and apply their knowledge to understand how sentences work.
  • The ability to analyze sentences increases as reading proficiency increases.
  • Sentence structure patterns become recognizable because more sentences have been viewed.
  • Communicating in writing becomes more important and the ideas communicated become more complex, increasing the need for grammar and usage mechanisms.
I have given up my search for the perfect pre-packaged language arts program for children. I am instead creating my own using an assortment of tools. I am giving each child a copy of the beautiful, illustrated Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk. I have an old copy (non-illustrated) that I feel is almost as sacred as my hard cover, dictionary my mother gave me when I went to college. My copy is dog-eared because the example laden format of Elements of Style creates a clear image of elementary grammar and usage elements while taking into consideration exceptions to rules and common practice. Of course, there are many favorite grammar and usage books. I have submitted to the whims of many professors and teachers, but have returned to the slim Elements of Style again and again. I bought the hard cover, illustrated edition for the children because it is beautiful and useful and I want them to feel the long term value of this specific book, like the dictionary my mother gave me.

In addition to reviewing and learning the grammar according to The Elements of Style, I will teach the children to deconstruct and analyze sentences through diagramming, edit writing, increase spelling efficiency, increase vocabulary, and write. Honestly, there is nothing new here. What is different, for us, is that with these flexible segments I can work with each child where he is, while letting them see the beauty and flexibility of our language, and giving them tools for effective communication. I am trusting myself, rather than a packaged plan. I will post more specifics when we begin using the plan.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cool Free Resources for On the Go Homeschoolers

This entry was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

We spend a great deal of time in the car or waiting for a lesson to be finished. I always take books, books on tape, math fact practice, or Latin pronunciation practice. But, sometimes we want more - a little something different. I have found a solution or a few solutions - Podcasts!

Podcasts have become popular because so many people have high speed internet and mp3 players and because many people find it difficult to tune in to a particular series because of so many other time commitments. NPR, National Geographic, NASA and others have made it easy to find the stories in your interest area. Once you subscribe to the podcast or sometimes before, you can pick and choose the episodes you would like to hear or fit into your current study. You may then download and listen to the podcasts at your convenience, as many times as you like. I hate it when there is a great story on the radio and we get to ballet and I have to get out of the car and miss 10 minutes or the end. You don't have that problem with podcasts - just click pause.

Here is a sampler of some of the educational podcasts available:
  • American Experience: a PBS production -- American Experience is a History Podcast with topics such as Riding the Rails, Behind the Scenes: The Man Behind Hitler, Annie Oakley, Jessie James, and Victory in the Pacific. The time on these range from 5 minutes to 26 minutes.
  • Nova --Short science stories from Nova are as diverse as can possibly be. There are stories about Mummies, Hurricanes, or Wetland Restoration.
  • NPR Expeditions from National Geographic -- Typical stories include A Journey to the Edge of the Amazon, Societies of Sound in the Forest (insect sounds), and Sacred protection for Medicinal Plants.
  • Science @ NASA -- Great stories from NASA like The Pull of Jupiter, Jupiter's New Red Spot, Planets around Dead Stars, and Suit Sat.
  • NPR - Story of the Day --These stories are not all suitable for child listeners but stories like Chocolate's countless varieties, Dada on Display at the National Gallery, and In Praise of Don Knotts are interesting family choices.
  • Nature Stories - Farming the Desert, Listening to the Private lives of Wolves, and Listening to the Northern Lights are a sampling of the stories in this environmental education podcast.
  • Nature - Audio highlights from the international journal nature. Podcast segments are longer and the content is a bit more advanced, but no less interesting. Articles like Undersea volcanoes, genetic causes of deafness, the balmy arctic, and poisonous frogs.
There are thousands of possibilities. Podcasts are being added daily and most are free! Something for everyone - even Latin readings - can be found in these emerging resources. Even though I linked to the individual sites, I use iTunes which is also free. You can search podcasts and subscribe in one place. Obviously, there are other options if you don't use iTunes. You may subscribe to NPR Podcasts at their website. You may google podcasts and your topic. I find all of that daunting because sometimes I don't know what I want. I like to browse.

What I do know is that our weekly travel time will be more interesting and more educational. Podcasts are not just for the car or iPod, I listen to the NPR Story of the Day and NPR Weekly Book Reviews while toiling away at my computer.

Are there fun, interesting, educational podcasts that I have missed?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Typing 101

My son's handwriting is not great. We will keep pursuing legible writing, but I will begin to teach typing/keyboarding or whatever it is called now. I took typing in ninth grade when there was no question what to call it with an ancient rigidly coiffed teacher who gave "business" (secretarial) instructors the type in stereotype. We all rushed to that class, not because the class was so exciting, but to stake out the few electric typewriters. Even though class was typically amusing, it had nothing to do with the lessons and everything to do with the frazzled older teacher managing (or not) her class. I digress.

Anyway, I began researching typing/keyboarding programs a while back and I found out a couple of things. No matter what program you use, learning to type is not exciting. No matter how many cutesy characters they intersperse into the lessons - typing is typing. I don't ever remember anyone saying in my whole life, "Oh, I love typing. Please let me type that paper for you." I do remember people making a good living in college typing papers.

Anyway, here are the resources I found. Some are better than others:
  • Typing instruction in a book (much like I used when I was in 9th grade). I looked at a few of these, but decided that since the computer was already involved, why not use it as a resource for instruction as well.
    • Typing for Kids! -- This is spiral bound, which is great for typing instruction since the pages lie flat, black and white line art book. The lessons take you slowly through the keyboard learning one or two keys per lesson. This is a basic approach and at $7.95 you can find much better in a computer oriented program.
    • Keyboarding Skills -- Another spiral bound book for typing instruction. This one loses the cutesy drawings and adds speed. This book will take you further faster. If you really want a book, this one is for the older audience who really wants to type. I think this one was $19.95, but I wasn't that interested so I forgot to document.
  • Typing computer programs -- I was stymied here for a while since most of the more documented programs have not kept up with technology or were not written for the Macintosh crowd. I eventually found several interesting typing tutors for modern machines (both Mac and PC) complete with bells and whistles.
    • Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 17 -- This is the newest of the Mavis Beacon typing empire (Make sure you get the version 17. The older programs are still floating around in the discount shops, but will not work with more modern machines). This program has oodles of bells and whistles, videos and arcade games, and lessons (231) and tests. This is a huge program. My question is this. Do you really need it all? The price is $40 or there about and you can download a free trial here.
    • -- Offers free typing instruction for both adults and children. The basics are covered in a basics section and then there are exercises in another section. There is nothing to stop the child from skipping the basics and moving into the exercises without instruction. Though the information in the basics section is sound, there is not as much practice of the basics to ensure that proper form or hand placement is achieved.
    • Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor -- I like this Viking Typing Teacher. The on screen keyboard shows where the correct letter is so you don't have to look down. Lessons are short, can be repeated, and you get live stats. Some of this information is not important for the 10 year old boy, but for the parent who likes to play with the children's school resources, having all of the information is just grand. Another adult or child bonus is iTune connectivity. You can actually type the lyrics of the song you are hearing (if the lyrics are available). This is a shareware program for all operating systems so you can try it for a few days before deciding.
    • Arcade Typing Tutor -- I am addicted to this program. The program is for practice only - no lessons here. You must shoot the meteors, spaceships, etc by typing the words associated object. Some of the spaceships shoot back, so be careful. Speed, only, is important. $11.99 and you are supporting a med school student - a feel good purchase for Mac only.
    • Master Gecko's Home Row - I like this program for my 6 year old - though I hadn't thought much about teaching her typing, yet. I can read her writing. A gecko teaches the keyboard, then he introduces you to his friends in a maze game. Obviously, home row refers to the asdf - jkl; on the keyboard and you move forward from that point. You can choose levels - beginner, intermediate, or expert. This is a cheap any operating system program.
    • There are hundreds of typing programs that I won't address here. This site gives you reviews and a screen shot of many of them. There should be something for everyone.
After looking at many, many programs, I purchased the Arcade Typing Tutor and Ten Thumbs. Now, I have to set aside some time for typing. Making it a priority, setting aside practice time, and insisting on consistency will create a young typist no matter which program you choose.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Summer Learning

Official school ended a few weeks ago. Yet, Summer is perfect for learning. The slower pace, fewer organized activities, and the longer days stimulate learning. Children are drawn outdoors and left to their own devices and amazing truths of nature are observed, the laws of physics are tested, muscles are developed, art is created, stories recounted, and mysteries solved. By letting children play and get bored you open the door to creative problem solving and learning.

I've heard, "Mama, I'm bored," at least a hundred times this summer, already. I respond in a similar way each time, "Go outside and play." I know that time spent wandering around on the farm is never wasted. Day-dreaming, scheming, exploring and testing are great activities that are best done when bored. While bored, my children dug a canal and built a dam. They made boats of paper and wood and floated them on the waterway. Experimenting with the water, dirt and miscellaneous pipe, wood, and other collected junk is certainly educational, but it is also fun. Yes, I could go stand out there with a book and direct the activities and bark out why those sticks won't work that way, but all that teaching would ruin it. Instead, my children have spent days experimenting and finally came up with a sturdy dam while I kept my mouth shut. I, as always, keep a watchful eye and ear pealed to the laboratory of the day, but try hard to stay out of it. I did overhear my son say, "How do the beavers do this so well with just dirt and sticks?" I think I overheard them discussing building a lock, next.

On another boring day, my children took a long walk to the spring. They found a fairy village in the moss and spent time "helping" the fairies by building some structure for their town. My sister and I used to pretend fairies in moss, with acorn cups, and rock tables. I told my children the story long ago. My children have now made their own stories and memories. I was told on my last walk to the spring, that I had stepped on a fairy garden. Oops! I have to be more careful.

Last week, my daughter folded a "nest" of paper, filled it with sunflower seeds, and climbed a tree. She placed the "nest" in an enticing place and waited. And waited. And waited.

Other days, I hear hammers banging. Construction has commenced. Or, they just ride their bikes, shoot targets with BB guns or bow, pick flowers, look for frogs or birds. I know that the unstructured learning is just as important as the more structured learning of the school year. I have to be patient with the messes created both inside and out. I have to remember that it is better for them to find out for themselves, rather than for me to tell them. I have to be available to help and rescue when needed but otherwise stay out of the way. I am rewarded with children who entertain themselves.

The children do go to the pool, participate in some organized activities, watch a few movies, and help build fences and other home and farm work, but Summer is all about roaming freely outside. I know roaming freely is not practical for city dweller children, but backyards, city and state parks, and inside the house can lead to similar exploration. Just remember to provide unscheduled time without an agenda. Let the child invent, while you watch.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Geography 2006

This entry was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

Geography is one of our least formalized studies. We read books about the countries we visit in history. We also study geography in science. This year, in our most formalized study, we read Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne and plotted the course of their travels on a map. However, we frequently don't have a subject named geography on our plans. I really like plotting the course of characters on a map and reading a bit about each of the locations, but unless I find another great living geography book, we will go back to studying geography within history and science. No matter how we study geography, these are a few of the resources we use a lot:
  • World of Where is a wonderful computer map study aid, which lets you test by countries, states, provinces, or cities. View Political borders or physical world. You have the solar system, too! It even has a spoken mode for those youngest learners. All this and the price is right at only $11.95!!
  • Borderline is a fun card game that helps make connections between states in the USA or countries in Africa, Europe or the World. You don't have to know geography to play but you will definitely learn some.
  • National Geographic Magazine with all the wonderful images, maps, and thoughtful articles is still a bargain monthly geography curriculum, especially when used with the web site to find articles relating to your area of study or to locate or see a map. There are also great resources at the Xpeditions site
  • A wall map is essential and luckily we subscribe to National Geographic and get one each year.
  • Uncle Josh's Outline Maps CD-ROM is a great resource with 125 printable maps in pdf format. I like these because you get both historical maps and more recent images.
  • NEA State by State Booklist provides a listing of books that will help you read across America. I know this is no help for Canadians and Europeans.
I know I've probably forgotten something. Does anyone else have favorite resources?

Monday, May 8, 2006

Taming the Paper Animal

Construction paper in at least two sizes, plain white printer paper, notebook paper, handwriting paper, graph paper in a few sizes, worksheets, narrations, art projects, math work, flash cards for math, sight words, and Latin, art cards, and more have found a way into our house and have taken up residence. I am amazed at the quantity of paper we produce, use and store in our homeschooling journey.

The first year we homeschooled, I didn't do a great job keeping up with all the paper produced. In fact, I don't have a good record of what my son accomplished, when he did it or how he did it. In Mississippi being unorganized is no big deal. In fact there are no recordkeeping requirements. Even so, I do worry that I will need records or want records, so have found a way (even though I am organizationally challenged) to tame the paper animal. This is what has worked for my family.
  • Plastic Ticklers divided into 12 sections (one for each month) have been a wonderful addition to our home school. Spend extra to get the plastic because the reinforced paper ones don't hold up for the full year. I get a different color for each child and have been consistent with the color from year to year. This makes filing automatic even the first day of the new school year. Since I only have monthly labels, even if I only get around to filing once a month I am still organized, but I find that I file daily or at least weekly because it is painless. I know this system is not up to the standards of many, but this is a real life plan. As an added bonus, since there is no interior organization any works or art, stories, papers from museums, scout stuff and other non-official school items can be stored without messing up "the plan." All of the work is stored by month and is there if needed or wanted.
  • Book Rings - the bigger the better - add control to all flash cards. Since I was planning to re-use most of our resources, I wanted to have all the cards. Flash cards seem to hit the floor and disappear. I solved this problem by hole punching the cards and placing each set of cards on a separate book ring and then hanging them on a hook where they are easy to use and store. We use this for math facts cards, sight word cards, Latin roots, Child -sized Masterpiece cards, and sentence combining cards and I have not had to duplicate work or re-purchase because of lost cards.
  • In/Out Boxes Stacked under the counter have controlled, not alleviated, our paper clutter. I use these to separate the different types of paper. The stack takes only 12" of under counter space. The children and I can find which paper we want without pulling 500 sheets. As an added benefit you can see when you are running low before you need a specific paper and don't have it.
  • Beside the stack of In/Out Boxes I have a few pieces of 11 x 17 cardboard standing to keep our out-sized paper and portfolios fresh.
We have a few things that don't fit the plan, yet they have a plan of their own. We have done the Meet the Masters Art Program for a few years and these masterpieces are stored in the portfolio made in the first lesson. These are stored next to our In/Out Boxes. Our Nature Journals are treated like books and are stored on the bookshelf.

Planning can create a pile of paper too! I have notebooks in which I write lists and ideas and just write, but as far as official planning I have a secret paperless weapon, HS Planner. This planner lets you be as meticulous as you need to be. You can even give grades and make report cards. I don't use those items, but I do use most everything else. There is a place to keep up with everything you do and you can even create your own forms. I have been using this program for a few years and it is intuitive, works on both Mac and Windows, and is written by and for homeschoolers. The best thing is that it keeps the records for all years, not just the one you are using. Click a child's record and then move from K - 12 easily. I love this in the books read section. I can look back and see what my son read and enjoyed in first grade and make sure my daughter has a chance to read the book. You don't lose anything, which is great if you have multiple children.

As I write this I am laughing at the thought that I, of all people, am sharing my organization methods. I am not a domestic goddess, nor do I pretend to be. I am sharing this from a disorganized place. I have tried many notebook methods and other wonderful sounding ways of managing homeschool record keeping and planning. These failed for me, because they entailed too many sections in too many notebooks without needed flexibility, and I found that after a month the structure was barely hanging on and that there were so many items that really didn't have a place so they were tossed or got put in the wrong place. In the face of failure I tossed all of these schemes and simplified. I have been using the color coded ticklers, In/Out Boxes, HS Planner, and book rings for 3 years and feel success!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Art: Another Reason to Homeschool

This was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

Art is frequently sacrificed (other than coloring pages) in lieu of basic skills training in public elementary schools, but in a homeschool children have the freedom to explore art, art history, and artists. I take this freedom seriously. Maybe I just have an obsession with art supplies and need an excuse to purchase more, but doing art with my children just makes me feel satisfied. Boys at scouts and children who visit our home are mesmerized my the options, quality, and variety of art stuff available at our house. They are able to let their imaginations soar by painting, drawing, sculpting, creating mosaics, inventing catapults, airplanes, and boats with balsa wood . . . They all ask, "Where did you get this stuff?" I get to say, "We homeschool, and all this is part of our school." Then, with an envious look the child says, "I wish I could go to school here." Satisfaction -- satisfaction that my children, who are curious about public school, feel that they have a good situation and satisfaction that my children are learning so much without even realizing it.

I didn't have my schooling plans solidified when we began homeschooling. We do a quasi classical/Charlotte Mason/unschooling contortion thing for school now, but this method has evolved over five years . I would have loved to incorporate historical art study with history, but I re-acted my first year instead of planning. I have purchased and used, and purchased and put on a shelf many art resources. I will share some of these so perhaps you will not have to purchase blindly, as I did.
  • We started with Child Sized Masterpieces. These are just sets of postcards, which unfortunately you have to cut apart. The children then play matching and sorting games with the cards. The guide How to Use Child-size Masterpieces by Aline D. Wolf gives suggestions about arranging the cards, care of the cards, and activities. Honestly, I didn't use the book much but I did scan it. I also didn't store the cards with as much care and reverence as they suggest. I used a book ring and hole punched the cards. We do enjoy the cards, even after four years because the artists and art for each set of cards was thoughtfully chosen and you can sort and arrange the cards in many different ways -- by painter, art schools, chronologically, naming the artist. I mostly just leave them on a table and someone picks them up and looks.
  • Art Basics for Children by Rich and Sharon Jefferies is an A to Z guide for art concepts and technique written for elementary age children. A is for apple and the lesson is drawing an apple and shading. Z is for zebra and you learn to draw an animal using ovals. The book is not a commercial publication and is copied/printed in black and white and bound with binding combs. Layout and design is not beautiful, but the information is good and can be used as a resource or an art curriculum.
  • Meet the Masters is my all time favorite. More expensive than many programs, but well worth the money, especially if you are not a seasoned artist. This program consists of a html program on a CD and binder for the teacher. The CD provides a slide show with good resolution art images, some sound bytes, and an ending quiz or slide show for each artist. The binder includes the script for the slides shown on the CD, activity/technique pages, and the instructions for the master work production. My children have produced beautiful works of art(a Van Gogh, a Remington, a Mondrian, and a O'Keefe) and have a wonderful appreciation and knowledge of the artists we have studied. I produced some wonderful pieces, too! Now we must wait for the next artist group, before we can continue with the program.
  • The Story of Painting by Sister Wendy Beckett is an enormous (736 pages) reference volume and is just good to have. It is referenced chronologically which makes it quite useful for the classical homeschooler. The hard cover, paper quality, narrative, and zooms make it a wonderful study and a nice coffee table book. It is well worth the money.
  • Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists Series by Mike Venezia are wonderful paperback books loaded with images, large print narrative, and a few comics. They are just right for the elementary art student, but have enough information for older students. We don't have all of these, but wish we did.
  • Lives of the Artists by Kathleen Krull is a humorous book with short stories about various artists. These are anecdotal in nature. If you can only get one book, this is not it. Though the information is interesting, you don't get a full picture of the artist, the art, or the movement.
  • Looking at Pictures by Joy Richardson is a wonderful introduction to art museums and the role they play in preservation, types of painting, painting techniques, and stories in painting. This is a short book, only 79 pages, but is loaded with information and beautiful images. I like this book and with a practice component or artist study could be the spine of a year of art.
  • Art Fraud Detective by Anna Nilsen is a fun sleuth game in a book, where the child (7 and over) seeks forgeries by comparing the catalog images to the art in the museum. I found all the forgeries.
  • For times when you just need or want to let the children color, The Start Exploring Masterpieces coloring book by Mary Martin and Steven Zorn provides stories about the paintings and somewhat detailed coloring pages. Crayons are not perfect for this coloring book, use markers or colored pencils instead.
  • Online Resources - Try Princeton online Art Lessons. If you don't find what you need Doc has compiled her usual mega-list of resources here. Thanks Doc!
Next year, I will have the chronological classical plan up and running, thanks to Art Smart! by Susan Rodriguez. This chronological plan, complete with slides, begins with the stone age. These activities require a bit more planning and sometimes more real art materials. They are appropriate for the 9 to 13ish group. Making a cave art gallery out of a refrigerator box might lose its appeal with the older children and some of the activities are beyond the fine motor skills of the under 9. There are only 20 activities for ancient art so there is still time for artist study or enrichment of some sort.

I am so happy I get to share these art experiences with my children. Art enriches our daily lives and we have so much fun. Even on those days when structured school seems overwhelming, we can look at pictures, read about artists, and create our own works of art and have that satisfied, a job well done, feeling.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Reading Good Books

This entry was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

One of the most wonderful benefits homeschooling offers is the time and flexibility to explore timeless books. Some books just cannot be scheduled. They must be read when they are discovered, in their entirety, and with passion. I have been reading to my children since birth and will continue to do so (even though they are becoming readers) until they shove me out of the bed or off the couch. I love sharing books at bedtime or on the porch swing or on the couch or . . . I have abdicated some reading responsibility as they have grown, but will continue to find time to read as long as they want me.

We have read thousands of books and it seems that each good book leads to another. We read The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth Speare and Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes last year for history. Both mentioned Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. My son had to read that book last summer. We don't always follow literary allusion or recommendations of characters to books. Sometimes we follow authors. My son loved The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, so we have also read Tom Sawyer. My daughter enjoyed The Little Princess by Frances Burnett last year, so this year we read The Secret Garden. Other times we follow stories through to their conclusions by reading a series like the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis or The Little House series by Laura Ingals Wilder.

We also find books through our study of history by reading historically significant literature. We studied the Civil War this year and read The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. We are reading Gay Neck:The Story of a Pigeon for WWI study and plan to read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boon and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl for WWII. My little ballerina also led us to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night Dream. After watching the ballet, I suggested we read the play (I would have found an excuse to read Shakespeare even if she had hated the ballet).

Once you start reading good books there is no where to stop. The question is where to start. I love book lists. I check several, periodically, to make sure we haven't forgotten some wonderful, age appropriate, historically appropriate or just perfect piece of literature. Here is a smattering of the lists I use to help guide my children's reading and enjoyment of literature.
  • Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt -- My sister in law gave this book to me years ago and I still enjoy it. Though her lists are not exhaustive or organized as I sometimes need them I have come back to this book many times because Gladys Hunt chooses quality. Over 1/2 the book is commentary on the importance of reading quality books. If you are just starting and have young children, the commentary can confirm your ideals and cement your plans in reality.
  • Let the Authors Speak by Carolyn Hatcher -- This book organizes titles historically by reading levels, type of book, and location. Having all this information at your fingertips is indispensable if you like to structure some historical fiction and non fiction with your history study. There is little commentary. Three fourths of the book is comprised of lists sorted by period, title and author.
  • The Literature Teacher's Book of Lists by Judie Strouf is an older book. I got it in my past life as a literature teacher. This book does not stop at lists of books but has an assortment of other "useful" or maybe "useless" information. Book lists are sorted by age, classics, popular, fiction, non-fiction, autobiography, comics, and on and on and on.
  • The Story of the World Activity Guides by Susan Bauer and others -- I bought the first two of these and used them quite a bit. I don't like blind ordering from the library and enjoyed the historically significant literature choices. After the second activity book the activities and book choices seem sloppy and somewhat haphazard. The Guides do have lists of books by chapter significance, but the information is somewhat vague and the books are often redundant. You shouldn't have to read the same book each time you go to China in history.
  • For free online lists try these:

    • Award winning book lists -- Though these are the source of exhaustive official ALA lists, the format is not great. They are difficult to read and print. This list does not have the all important short summaries for each listing.
    • Newbery Books -- Each entry has a short summary and winners are divided by century. The Caldecott Medal Books are accessible from this page, but are not organized for printing as you have an extra click so that you only get one book per page.
    • The Great Books Academy -- This online school provides lists for great books and good books arranged by grade level.
    • Great Books Online -- This list is for the older student and for people who don't mind reading online or printing books. The list is free and so are the books!
    • Ambleside Online -- AO has reading lists for each grade level. Click on the grade level of your children and scroll down to the bottom for literature and free reading selections. They also have an alphabetical by authors list.
    • Finally, though many of the books on these lists are drivel, here is the resource for the much touted Accelerated Reader program. I sometimes use these to find a grade level.
Armed with lists, I feel I can choose books that will make a lasting impression on my children, fill their minds with questions, and lead them to more books.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Nature Study

This was originally posted on my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

Spring is a natural for nature study. You only have to step outside to hear the almost obscene symphony of bird courtship rituals, see flowers blooming and trees leafing, feel rivers and streams gushing, and find tadpoles and frog eggs. Take advantage of your child's natural desire to be outside and live nature study. It's never too early to start.

We've been doing nature study since my children were born, though I didn't realize it as an organized "real school" subject until this year. We just walk, look, and talk. Finding snakes, alligators, beaver huts, fox holes, and nests of eggs in the wild and learning to respect the animals and their habitats is the official lesson, but mostly we just look, listen, and enjoy. Granted, not everyone has the wild so close at hand, but nature is everywhere if we are patient enough to find it. Here are a few things I have learned in the past ten years of nature study.

  • Babies love to be outside and I think they learn about nature even when tiny. I let mine stay outside on a blanket as much as possible. I back country hiked when my first was four months old and took him overnight canoeing when he was two. He loved it!
  • Let the child lead. Children are closer to the ground and unbelievably observant and therefore able to find small treasures you might miss like a salamander, crystals in rocks, mushrooms, and bugs. Even if they are too young to identify species they are learning to find beauty in nature and to interact with nature in a positive way.
  • Let the child set the pace. I have to watch myself here. I have a tendency to rush (combining exercise and nature). Children can spend much time watching ants carry loads and snakes sunning. They learn more from watching nature than listening to you drone on and on about the details.
  • Let your child explore freely, yet safely. Be aware of your surroundings and hidden dangers like posisonous mushrooms.
  • Don't give all the information you know or can produce from the guidebook to small children. If they need to know something they will ask. Do provide basic observations and comparisons.
  • Teach your child respect for animals' wildness, personal space, and habitat. Some adults need this lesson too. When hiking in Glacier National Park the trail crossed the highway where several cars were pulled over to look at a grizzly bear. One woman took her camera and started trekking up the side of the hill to get a better picture (despite all the warnings in the park). She put herself at risk and that bear at risk. Luckily, a ranger showed up and dragged her down the mountain.
  • I may carry this a bit too far, but clothes can be washed so let them get dirty. Feeling mud squish through toes and fingers, making clay bricks, and rolling in the grass are learning experiences too!
  • Children don't melt. Let them play in the rain if lightening is not a problem. Teach them respect for weather, not fear.
  • Nature happens everywhere. Every city has a park (not a researched point). Take advantage of them and the zoos, natural science museums, botanical gardens, and aquariums found in a city.
  • When the children are older and you wish to add more structure think about starting collections of rocks, shells, flowers and leaves; growing vegetables and flowers from seeds; starting a bird watchers life list; or starting a nature journal.
  • If you decide to journal these things have worked for us:

    • I love the Bienfang Notesketch books. Each page is divided into a lined section and a sketching section. The paper is heavy enough for water colors and packing. They come in two sizes and two page configurations. They are available from Rainbow Resources (search words note sketch) or Office Depot.
    • Use the best colored pencils you can afford. I truly believe the Berol Prismacolor pencils and water color pencils are worth the extra money.
  • Subscribe to The Big Back Yard or Ranger Rick. My children love the pictures and stories. They also like getting mail with their own name on it.
  • If you want or need more information or structure you can use materials available at Ambleside Online - a free Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum. Many of their suggested books are available online.
These are resources and books I like for my 10 year old and under.
  • In the Small, Small Pond and In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming. These are for the very young. They are bright, happy and appreciate nature.
  • I Took a Walk by Henry Cole. Again, this is for the younger children. It teaches attention to detail and camouflage.
  • Let's Read and Find Out Series i.e. From Tadpole to Frog. These come in two stages. Stage one is appropriate for 4-6 year olds and stage two is for 7 to 10. My 6 year old daughter enjoys the stage 2 and I frequently catch my just turned 10 year old reading the stage one books. We have many resources and my children have much hands on experience, but they still like these books that have enough information to be useful, nice illustrations, and in the stage 2 books some activities.
  • The Usborne Complete First Book of Nature Study is a colorful and useful guide for children. Loaded with illustrations and short informational sections and activities this book will be picked up over and over again.
  • The National Geographic Nature Library. I think there are eight slim books in the series. Each species has a "What is a..." page that show the commonalities of all reptiles, birds, insects, mammals, or fish. The pictures and drawings are what you would expect from National Geographic. We have poured over these. I would guess that they are expensive though we got them as a gift.
  • I love Stellaluna and Verdi by Janell Cannon. They create lovable images of two of the world's most feared and least understood animals. I couldn't bring myself to buy Crickwing, the cockroach.
  • Mammalabilia and Insectlopedia by Douglas Florian are fun poetry books about animals and insects.
  • For conservation's sake try The Lorax by Dr. Suess. We've read it at least a thousand times and still love it.
  • The Raft by Jim Lamarche is a wonderful longer picture book story about interacting with nature in a positive way on a special raft.
  • National Geographic's My First Pocket Guides provide enough information to identify animals and start a conversation with the 7 and under group. There is not enough information for more prying minds. Some of the guides are redundant.
  • Secrets of the Woods by William Long(actually all his books) personify animals while teaching real concepts. The stories are long enough and interesting enough for the 8 and above crowd.
  • Burgess Bird Book and Burgess Animal Book by Thornton Burgess personify animals in fun stories while teaching real characteristics, habits, and homes. Both my children love these stories.
  • For you, get Anna Botsford's Handbook of Nature Study. This book, as recommended on Ambleside Online, provides information for you and leading questions. There is a ton of stuff in this huge volume.
  • If you decide to start a life list get a Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds or another complete guide. Many of the junior versions only have the most common species and this can be frustrating when you find that more rare species.
  • Online resources:
    • provides such useful resources as How to draw a bird, coloring pages, puzzles, and Identify a Bird.
    • provides species identification and sound tracks
    • provides study pages, online databases, and a weekly newsletter.
Of course, all this being said all you really need is some time and a child and a place to explore. Get out there and live school!

Friday, March 3, 2006

Math Facts

This was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

When we first began our home school journey, we got our first set of flash cards along with the Saxon Homeschool Math curriculum. Then, I didn't realize that math facts and flash cards would rule our existence for so long (Four years so far. I'm glad I have only two children). I will be so happy when I can finally toss all the flash cards in the fire and watch them go up in flames. I am sick and tired of being the drill sergeant, nagging mother, flash card manager, and Princess of Torture.

At first I was not obsessive compulsive about my children mastering the facts. I thought that the knowledge would sort of spontaneously fill the void with enough manipulative use and problem solving in early learning. Now, I panic because I was a product of the "children master addition/subtraction facts in first and second grade and multiplication/division in third grade" educational philosophy. And I never loved math, though I was not horrible at it. My 9 year old is not a multiplication and division fact master, nor is he a speed demon with subtraction. I still feel torn. Is it too early for this child? Yet, teaching new concepts in math is much more difficult when the child has to grapple with the basic facts, so now math lessons are a struggle and take so much longer than they should. My six year old is taking her cues from her older brother and believes the math and math facts are difficult. These same children can memorize long poems, Shakespearean soliloquies, and obscure passages in books in minutes, so why are they taking so long to master these few math sentences?

Feeling, always, that learning is developmentally sensitive, I have always put things aside if they seem too difficult and bring them back in a few months. I have done this with the math facts to a certain extent, but I've never been able to leave them alone for more than a week. I feel that they must, at some point, buckle down and do it even if it is unpleasant. Here are some resources we have used on our journey. Scroll down and down and down if you don't see the table. I cannot figure out why this table wants to sink to the bottom. I promise the information is worth it.

Flash cardsSaxonThese are utilitarian and are already included in the kit. Having the answer on the back in the form of the subtraction fact saves them money on paper but is sometimes difficult for the younger learners. Of course, this helps show the relationship between the facts. The card stock is a bit too light if you use the cards for more than one student. I do like that they are color coded. This helps when you have to find the facts in one set quickly.

Three corner Flash Cards These are supposed to be the intuitive way to learn math facts, but I found that without the addition, subtraction, multiplication or division symbol that the child doesn't "get" how intuitive they are. You never visualize the number sentence because you never see it.

The Perfect Card The perfect card would be laminated, color coded and present the facts with the answer on one side and without on the other side. I haven't seen this card commercially.
Computer Games/Practice Math Blaster: In Search of Spot I really like this old program. Speed is rewarded in the meteor blasting and banana peel toss. The energy refueling is more logic based fact practice. Levels are adjustable and you may also input your own problems. You can check your child's progress. The negative is that your child must learn the numbers keyboard before he can play effectively and quickly. Also, this only plays on older Windows and Mac systems (9.2 and below for Mac(classic mode is not good enough) and 98 and below for windows). There are new Math Blaster programs for Windows XP, but I don't find they are as good as the original.

Racing Math This is a speed only program for Mac OSX. There is no real teaching because the cues for correct and incorrect answers go by so quickly there is no real immediate positive reinforcement. You do get to race either sheep or cars with classical music in the background. The graphics are pretty corny for the money you spend on the program. Yet if speed practice is what you need this straightforward, nothing to interfere with the facts, program is good. Facts are presented in sentence format and reports on progress are available. There is a full demo version available for testing at, the child must learn to use the keyboard before he/she has any success.

Online facts We don't do much online practice even though there are hundreds and hundreds of sites because we have no DSL or satellite, only a exceptionally slow dial up. With phone lines what they are I always feel lucky to get on-line at all. Doc has compiled a great list of online resources. Go to her homeschool links page and look for Math.
BooksTimes Tables the Fun Way! by Judy Liautaud

I wanted this book to solve all my problems instantly. It didn't. There are some cute stories and activities here, but nothing life changing. The little stories did little to weave the facts into the memory. The book came, of course, with it's own set of flash card cut-outs.

The Best of Times by Greg Tang

I really like this book and even more importantly my children do. No, this book is not an instant cure, but certainly shares the tricks of the trade. An example is:

Four Eyes

"Four is very fast to do, when you multiply by 2. Here's a little good advice - please just always double twice."

There are practice tables in the back, but, thank goodness, no flash cards.

CDs and TapesAddition and Subtraction Country My children affectionately call this "The cowboy." This CD or tape is not bad. I have, at least, not hurled it from the car while going 70 mph on the interstate. The facts are not presented in any sections. You have up to 10 facts, up to 18 facts, then mixed facts. If you or your child has problem areas they are difficult to isolate on this CD. The voices are not annoying and in the genre of fact practice music this is a real plus.

Multiplication Songs by Audio Memory Publishing This is about the most annoying tape I have ever heard. How can a child be expected to listen to this more than once without accusing you of torture. The squeaky pitch and sing song recitation is far from musical. But the facts are organized by number so you only have to listen to the songs with the problem facts.
ManipulativesCuisenaire rods I love these things! They are visual, tactile, and fun. They do help to visualize the facts. The caveats are: Your children have to work with these a lot before they can pick up the blue rod and think 9, the yellow is 5, and the red is 2. Also the introductory set is not enough. You must have lots and lots of rods, especially if you have more than one child. The wooden rods feel nicer. Don't scrimp here.

Number lines Once the child can visualize quantity represented by numbers, number lines can help illustrate the less two and plus three concepts.

CountersCounters are available these days in as many forms as can be imagined. Some people use M & M's, beans, and other household items. I find that you can't use M & M's because they are gone by the time you need them.
We use plastic fish, bugs, and snakes as counters because they are fun and are not eaten before used like the candy.

Hundred Number Boards I like these because you can practice skip counting by covering the numbers with the clear colored tiles and you can visualize the relationships between distances of numbers - like adding 10.
TablesMultiplication Table Charlotte Mason felt that children should create a multiplication table for themselves before they began to memorize the facts. Once the child creates one with manipulatives or whatever, then create one in excel with
color coded lines and laminate it. Have the children use it while they are memorizing.
GamesMulti function Snap and Times Tables Snap Fun, yet child must know most of the facts before it becomes fun. I find that I must wait an embarrassing amount of time before moving on to the next card. The child then knows it is a snap because you pause to wait for them to call it.

DominoesDominoes is a wonderful math facts practice game. Be careful, though, it is altogether too easy to help too much.

Things I have learned:
  • Use a hole punch and punch holes in your flash cards. Then, put them onto one of those metal book rings. This saves you picking up and sorting time.
  • Save the daily Saxon 100 facts timed exercises for special occasions. A little of this goes a long way in the lives of small people.
  • Exercise and chant the facts with your children. i.e. jumping jack fives
  • If there is just one fact in a group with which your child is struggling, use Sculpty to create the fact in clay along with a visual of the actual groups. Then bake and paint the fact.
  • Don't get as serious as I did.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Deep School

This was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

In my former life I was a public high school literature teacher in Chicago. My mentor teacher called this time of the school year Deep School -- the time at which you can not see the beginning or end. He said it was the period that separates the average and awful teachers from the awesome teachers. The challenge is to maintain energy and high standards and to keep the material and technique interesting even though the students have heard your jokes, know your typical activities, and can predict your questions during Socratic discussion. You lose the Deep School Syndrome at the college level because of the semester course changes and I would not have dreamed that Deep School would be an issue in the home school. But, I find that I am fighting the doldrums in my own home school.

We are half way through the incredibly predictable Saxon math text, 1/2 way through modern history, and 1/2 way through Latin Primer I, etc. As I plan our week, I feel bored, as if I am just going through the motions. Unfortunately, I know that the children will follow my lead and learning will suffer. How can I reclaim the excitement of the beginning of the year? I will use some of the tricks I learned as a public school teacher and some new ideas I have learned being a homeschooling teacher/mom.
  • Save one of your best or most exciting units for this time of the year. This can be a problem for home schools because you don't teach the same classes and material year after year. You can find a book or project that fits into your yearly plan that is particularly interesting or exciting for you. We are just starting Around the World in Eighty Days for geography. I am so excited about this plan.
  • Buy some new school supplies. The smell of new notebooks is certainly motivating and a new box of crayons or colored pencils simply irresistible.
  • Take a field trip -- something out of the ordinary, yet on topic. Perhaps a play or poetry reading, a camping or canoe trip, an art exhibition, or a trip to the capitol (state or national) could boost morale.
  • Take a mini break from the routine. We did not touch the Saxon math text last week and we won't this week. Instead we concentrated on one problem area in math and used other activities to master the concept (in our case multiplication facts).
  • Start something new! If art or picture studies fell by the wayside earlier in the year, use this time to add some zip into school. We have used 2 levels and 2 tracks of Meet the Masters art study and these are perfect curriculum boosters. Each artist lesson takes a few hours to complete (picture study, technique lesson, and master work creation), but the children learn much and have fun.
  • Play games! I often forget the learning opportunities of games. Dominoes is great for addition facts. Monopoly builds money handling skills and teaches making change (Let the child be the banker). Scrabble is a wonderful spelling teacher. The possibilities are endless, because the children love spending time with their parents and the learning goes unnoticed in the pursuit of victory.
  • Let your children enter a contest. Science fairs, writing contests, history fairs, 4-H competitions, spelling bees, and invention fairs provide opportunities for your children to show the things they have learned and to learn new things.
Remember, at least 1/2 of the attitude problem comes from your own boredom. Find activities that inspire you and your students will feed off your enthusiasm. Find and maintain your own joy of learning!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Making the Most of Your Library Day

This entry was originally posted at my other site, Twice Bloomed Wisteria.

I don't know about you, but sometimes the weekly trip to the library can be a truly frustrating, disorganized disaster in which you come home to find you have nothing you need, many things completely inappropriate, and some things that must belong to someone else. I feel the children should be able to wander around and look at books and choose things they want to read, yet I want to monitor which things they actually take home (You caught me. I am a control freak). During this same trip I need to find books, books on tape, or videos that are used in more structured learning (i.e. history, geography, reading, literature). Obviously, this is nearly impossible to accomplish in the allotted library time.

Stressed, no fun for anyone, trips to the library used to be the norm for me and my family until I stepped back and solved some of the logistic problems so I could return the library to a treasured resource status. Make use of these ideas before you head out for the library and maybe your library days can become less stressful, too.
  1. What you see is not always what you get. Find out if your library is part of an association. I own more books than our tiny local library, but the library belongs to an association so they and I have access to the books in 20 + libraries.
  2. If your library has limited resources check to see if any reasonably close libraries have more. We use 2 libraries, our local library and a larger library in Jackson. I pay $50 a year for the guest library card, but the resources are worth far more.
  3. Use the library's online catalog. Order all books you want or know you need in advance. Find out how long it takes for delivery to your local library, ordering deadlines, and delivery days before you begin to depend on the service. The books will be waiting at the check out for you. You can then spend all your library time with your children, helping them make smart choices.
  4. Plan library visits on the day the delivery van runs. This is important for movies and books on tape since they have limited hold times. It also lets you adjust quickly if you can't get ordered books.
  5. Get to know the librarian or in larger libraries the librarian in the section you use (in our case, the juvenile books section). If your children know the librarians they will feel more comfortable asking questions and getting the help they need. They will also get invitations to special events.
  6. Keep a list on your Palm Pilot, in a notebook, or on anything you keep with you. On this list keep the names of authors your children enjoy, books you've already read, books that you plan to read, plans for upcoming lessons. If you have this information ready you can help your children bring home books that will be read, enjoyed and fit into your big plan. You, also, will find it useful if some of the books you reserved did not come in. The lists will help you redirect without stress.
  7. Make sure you and your children agree on "the rules" ahead of time. Clarify safety zones in each library you visit. There is nothing more stressful than losing a child. If you have rules about allowed books, make sure the children know.
Now, with everything in place you may interact with your children, helping them choose books on their level, that are appropriate and are deserving of their time. Remember to make the library experience fun and your children will continue to love to visit and take advantage of all the resources offered by the library.