Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing Paragraphs for Little Learners

Paragraph writing can be intimidating, especially for little learners just beginning the writing journey. 

Over twenty-eight years I have tried numerous ways to teach paragraph writing. Depending on the learning style and motivation, some methods have been more successful than others.

What have we used?

Our recent success involved colors and glue. Yes, the creative, crafty, visual learner.

First, said learner narrated her paragraph to me. She spoke, I wrote. The paragraph was of interest, her topic choice. In fact, it was her idea.

This is often the most important initial step toward writing success: the content must be intriguing, something that matters to the learner. 

After she narrated her paragraph and I wrote the words neatly on lined paper, we discussed what a sentence was and why each sentence was important to the paragraph. The first sentence pulls the reader in, the last sentence wraps up or concludes. We also discussed punctuation.

I drew a black line after each sentence, a stop sign.

She selected construction paper; the number of colors dependent on the number of sentences.

The next step of her writing was to write one sentence on each color. After writing each sentence, she placed the sentences in paragraph order. This step was important as one of the sentences was better placed toward the end of the paragraph. With one sentence per color we could easily change the order of the sentences.

Once sentence order was finalized, she glued the edges. Done! She reread her paragraph and then proudly displayed on Dad's side of the table, waiting for him to arrive home from work.

Success! She walked away confident about the process and eager to share learning with others.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Torn Paper Rainbows

"Cheryl, take the kids out to see the double rainbow!" 
Mom called, encouraged.

Out we went. Raindrops continued to fall. 
Sun brilliantly overcoming wet shadows. 

Children and I look up, mesmerized, awed!

Like a fresh watercolor. Radiant.

Learning moment launched.

"I want to make a rainbow!"

Pulling from my mind activity file, construction paper colors gathered. Glue found. 

Together, thirty minutes, tearing paper-- fine motor strengthed--a colorful paper rainbow appeared. 

Mesmerized, awed. 

"Mom, look what we created!"

A together moment. A learning moment. 

And a rainbow gleaming through water droplets started the process.

It was simple and it was glorious. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Celebrate High School- What Matters?

"As you walk through the last years of your student's high school journey, remember the final celebration is less about the knowledge stored up in the student's mind (though that is important) and more about whether the young adult understands his or her strengths and how those strengths will bring value to whatever he or she endeavors." 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Charlotte's Web- A Relationship Spanning Generations

Charlotte's Web, one of my favorite first chapter books, from childhood through adulthood.

I couldn't wait to read my favorite literature pieces to my children, both picture books and chapter books.

As the parenting years have rolled along, I have now introduced Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, to seven of my learners. This week we revisited the work again, thanks to an online resource. 

When I begin a book, I introduce my children to the author. After all, the author's mind and hand crafted the work, often from personal stories and experiences; sometimes consciously, other times not.

In our study this week, I learned several things I did not know about Charlotte's Web or E. B. White. 

After reading the article aloud and doing a bit more research about E. B. White, we enjoyed the audio recording of the book, read by E. B. White. What a treat!

Today, the question resounded, "Can we listen to Charlotte's Web?"

Though most of my learners had been introduced to the work and the author prior, a love was rekindled.

I had successfully introduced, and reintroduced, my children to one of my favorite literary pieces. And, they loved it!


More about E. B. White

  • His name was Elwyn Brooks White.
  • In addition to Charlotte's Web, White also penned the Trumpet of the Swan and Stuart Little
  • He authored seventeen books of prose and poetry. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Middle and High School Learning Environments

Though summer annual evaluation season ended a few weeks ago, I will continue posting frequently asked questions to help equip and empower parents. Knowledge in the high school years is power and adds confidence to the journey.

Recently in our area there seems to be limited diversity in learning environments for middle and high schoolers. Many venues provide only traditional classroom settings or online meetings. This is not the best setting for my child. What other opportunities are available and acceptable?

This is a tremendous question with valid concerns.

First, check the home education laws in your state

Second, having some experience with online learning is beneficial. Online education is growing. It did prepare our graduates for post-secondary education.

Those points being said...

Home educated middle and high schoolers have the opportunity to partake in a variety of learning environments; a definite advantage over their public and private schooled peers.

Our middle and high school students learn widely from a variety of environments. One started a business and learned on the job, everywhere from church fellowship hall craft shows to convention trade show floors. Another learned from independent study, volunteering, and conversation from professionals in the field. Still another learn from contractors, field work, job shadowing, and collaboration with peers. Our home education statute allowed us the freedom to utilize these means. We are all grateful we could fit learning with learning style and student interest.

When designing courses or considering courses for middle or high schoolers the learning environment is essential and often dependent on the learning style and strengths of the individual. For example, if the student learns best by observation, perhaps best fit environments would include laboratory settings, field work, internships, job shadowing, or apprenticeship. In these settings, the student can observe to learn. If the student is an auditory learner the best settings may be research laboratories or classroom instruction.

When the course is complete, if our students were applying for a university requesting course descriptions in addition to a transcript, I made sure to be specific about which environments the student used. Often the environments, being different than a typical classroom or online setting, were intriguing.

Yes, the reward was worth the effort. The contents of the course descriptions, transcripts and cumulative folder were the documents which set a solid foundation for resume writing.

And in the end, as we--student and parent--looked over documents, the accomplishment was a part of our celebration of high school and the ability to finish with excellence.

As you consider the potential learning environments your learner may have access to, ponder how those opportunities may benefit your young adult. The results can be astounding.

Purchase Celebrate High School: Finish with Excellence on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Simple Science, Profound Discoveries

Today one of my little learners decided she wanted to make a parachute. 

She asked wonderful questions. Solved problems as she worked. Experimented, and tried again.

The end result...a parachute. 

Busy with other learners, I served as a resource. But, I could hear her processing. She is an external thinker.

"Where can I find plastic?"

"Wonder if we have a bolt? Well, maybe something else heavy would work? I just need a weight."

"This piece of plastic is cut too big. Good thing we have more bags."

"I think this would float slower if the strings were longer and the plastic were smaller."

"I can stand on the bed, but the tall tree would be better."

Enter sibling.

"Can you make me one?"

And the two work together.

Enter another little learner, the one who was working with me.

"That's cool! Can I make one?"

A smile of accomplishment.


And the experimentation begins again, with a different weight plastic and another type of string.

What a thrill to watch the learning and collaboration unfold!

Simple things--a plastic bag, some string, and a clip--provided an afternoon of trial and error learning with a sibling. Profound.