back-to-school

4 Simple Back to School Ideas and Traditions

Back to school time comes with so much excitement and anticipation, but sometimes, also, with a feeling of dread and anxiety.

For some, new classes, new teachers, new clothes, new friends, and a brand new year to grow and learn are reasons to wake up ready to go on the first day of school, while for other kids, those same reasons bring anxiety levels to a breaking point.

Going from 3rd to 4th grade was a bit of a transition for Addie (we homeschool using Classical Conversations). She knew the work load was going to increase as would the difficulty, so she was not particularly thrilled to start school this year. Ian, on the other hand, was starting Kindergarten- seriously, what’s not to love about Kindergarten! He couldn’t wait to start school!

I found that these four ideas, which have become traditions for us, help bring a sense of excitement to the first week of school. And, yes, we allow ourselves a week to celebrate.

Photo

back-to-school

I have always taken a photo of the first day of school (like every mother out there!), but this was the first time I printed out signs for it. It will be neat (and heartbreaking) to put Ian’s “First Day of Kindergarten” and “First Day of 12th Grade” photos side by side one day.

We took these photos the day before we began school (because it was Sunday and we were already dressed up) so we wouldn’t take any time away from our actual first day of school.

If you want a copy of these signs for yourself, you can find them here at Homeschooling’ Mama.

Questionnaire

I love the idea of asking kids the same questions year after year. What better way to see their growth than by how their answers change!

back-to-school

This year, I scoured the internet looking for a few questions that the kids could answer, and I posted Ian’s answers on Facebook. These are the questions I chose to ask them:

  • What is your favorite color?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What is your favorite food?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What is your favorite show?
  • What is your favorite sport?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?

Every year, I will ask those same questions. And I am sure that every year the answers will change in some way.

Special dinner

back-to-school

One night during “Back to school” week we make an effort to either go out to dinner or have food brought in. It gives everyone something to look forward to (including Mom), and time around the table always lends itself to opportunities for great conversations.

Special breakfast

My son goes to sleep asking “What’s for breakfast?”

Knowing how important it is for kids to have a great breakfast (especially on the first day of school), I try to make breakfast something they will really enjoy. Some years, I have made their toast look like a bear with cream cheese, a few banana slices, and raisins. but this year we went with cinnamon rolls… because I know it’s a family favorite.

back-to-school

However you choose to celebrate the first day or week of school, be sure to only take on what is comfortable and doable for you and your situation. Then, sit back and know you have added a brick to the foundation of love in your children’s hearts.

teach-your-child-to-read

Teach Your Child to Read

Do you have a young child at home who you would like to give an advantage to by giving him a head start in reading before he heads off to Kindergarten? Do you have a struggling young reader who you would love to help over the summer so she can tackle the new school year in the fall with confidence? Are you homeschooling and teaching your child to read for the very first time?

Yeah, me, too!

I had never taught anyone how to read before. As a 4th and then 5th grade teacher at a private Christian school, my job was to teach reading comprehension, get my students thinking about the moral implications of the day’s reading selections, and develop critical thinking skills in my students while reading a passage.

My mother had taught me how to read by the time I was two and a half years old using SRA DISTAR by Siegfried Englemann, which my father’s cousin, a New York public school teacher, had given her because her school was throwing it out. I remember the spiral bound books and games my mother would play with me using the books.

Right before Addie turned one, I saw a commercial for the Your Baby Can Read series. I bought it, and faithfully sat with Addie every day to watch the videos, play the games, look through the books, and review with the flash cards. Within 6 months, she did learn to recognize what each card said, but she was unable to translate her knowledge outside of the cards, videos, and books. (The series is now called Your Baby Can Learn.)

teach-your-child-to-read

We began watching the LeapFrog: Letter Factory and in no time at all Addie began recognizing her letters and the sounds they made. By the time we began Kindergarten, she could read small words. The curriculum we were using at the time (Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools) had a reading program that required a lot of writing. She became frustrated, and reading became a dreaded subject for us both.

 

Mid year, I switched her over to A Handbook for Reading, Phonics Textbook (A Beka Book Reading Program) which gave her the phonics foundation she needed. The pages had colors and fun pictures and the words were grouped in easy to read sections. But she still had no confidence in picking up a book and reading it.

Frustrated with reading and having passed my self-imposed timeline for teaching my daughter how to read, I began asking my father if he remembered which reading program my mother had used with me. After a few phone calls and emails back and forth he remembered the initials SRA. I began researching and discovered that the program my mother used for me was still around, just under a different name- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I ordered it and began working with Addie as soon as it came in.

The lessons are designed to be 20 minutes long- perfect for little ones who have short attention spans. Each lesson covers more than just reading. Children are taught to sound out words by “saying it slow” and then reading words by “saying it fast.” They also learn the concept of rhymes and how to make up rhyming words through daily oral exercises. They are also taught how to write the letters they are learning to sound out in each given lesson. Sound blends like “th” and “ch” are visually attached to teach children how the sound works.

teach-your-child-to-read

Lessons are taken in small steps. For example, the first two lessons only teach the sounds for “m” and “s”. The type for the sounds to be read is nice and large making reading less intimidating for children. (That had been Addie’s biggest issue. She would only read books that had large type in them because she was afraid of reading small type words.)

As the book progressed, I found myself splitting lessons in half. They could be a bit intense the further into the book you journeyed. I had to remind myself that the goal was for my daughter to be able to read with confidence and understanding- not finish the book in 100 days.

One particular thing I loved about the book was that as we reached the last quarter of the book, the type gradually became smaller as the stories became longer. Addie never noticed the size change.

The evidence that she could finally read above her grade level with confidence and speed came one evening as I was preparing to review her Awana verses with her. I opened up to what I thought was a new verse, and she responded, “Oh, I already know that verse.” She then began reciting it to me complete with reference. I asked how she had learned it, and her answer was, “I read it, Mom.”

Within a few months of completing Teach Your Child to Read, she picked up our copy of Now We Are Six and read it in two days. I wasn’t sure about her understanding of the book, but when she told me about the poems she was reading, I knew she understood.

We have used a combination of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons, and The Original McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer for Ian (the 5 year old entering Kindergarten this fall). I noticed that going to the same book day after day causes his interest to wane, so we change it up often to keep his enthusiasm up.

At this point in our reading journey, having enough books on hand is my biggest challenge.

teach-child-read