How to Build up A Repertoire of Words

Blog, She Wrote: How to Build up A Repertoire of WordsThis post may contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s easier to write when you have the tools to work with and one tool which goes a long way is vocabulary. Today’s post is all about How to Build up A Repertoire of Words.

Blog, She Wrote: Story Cubes Review at Curriculum Choice

Ideas on How to Play with Words

Enjoying and playing around with words is a great way to build up a repertoire of new words. Sure, you can focus on vocabulary and word exercises and programs, but an authentic approach helps you to hold on to the new words better.

  • How to Make a Word Collage {& Why}- A post from earlier this school year on how to use a thesaurus and art supplies to reflect on a word and all its uses and meanings. It’s one of our favorites and my word kids love this activity.
  • Five Ways to Play with Words- A post I did for Bright Ideas Press in the fall on all sorts of ways to get to know words.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes- Fun way to create story and practice words with friends or alone. This one is my recent review over at The Curriculum Choice.
  • Writing with Word Cards- Give word cards kids have to use in their writing. They can be ordinary or not, but always try to give a new word.
  • The Dictionary Quest- The perfect activity to make friends with a printed dictionary. Use the dictionary to explore a word and the words around it. Those of us growing our vocabularies before the internet, have the advantage of wandering through print dictionaries and stumbling across all sorts of words surrounding the target word. Use this activity to investigate new words. At random!

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Reading Builds Vocabulary

The more kids are exposed to words in a variety of contexts, the more they get to know new words. Be sure to get your kids reading- whether they like the process or not! Madeline L’Engle said it well when she talked about how we need many words to make sure our thoughts can stay big (that’s the Heather Woodie paraphrase).

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

If you need ideas for how to getting ready to be a regular part of your home, here are a few I’ve compiled.


Coaching Writing Helps to Build a Word Repertoire

One of my favorite things to do as a homeschool mom is to banter with my kids over their writing. From the youngest to the oldest, it is always an engaging time to see what their vision is and to hear them tell about their writing choices. Often, we’ll talk about using strong words to replace weak choices so they can convey a thought more precisely.

  • Resources for Coaching Writers- Do you need some help finding things that will help you to work with your students? This post is full of books, websites, and general information on working with student writing.
  • Coaching Writing Pinterest Board- This board has all sorts of ideas on how to work directly with student writers. Mostly for middle and high school students, you’ll find many resources here.
  • Essay Rockstar- Do you find that you have trouble being a mentor to your student’s writing? Essay Rockstar could be the tool you are looking for to have occasional or routine outsourced help with writing.

Whatever you choose to do to enhance your use of words, make it fun. Try out new activities and think about words. Use them. Try them out. Surprise people with them. Make words enjoyable. Play with meanings. Challenge yourself to find precise words. See how your use of language changes and see how your writing changes. Join your kids with word challenges. See what happens!

Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

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It’s summer time once again and homeschooling parents everywhere are thinking about how to keep the academics fresh in their students’ minds and how to keep kids reading throughout the summer. Summer reading programs abound whether it’s the library, the bookstore, or even the local pizza shop. Everyone wants to add up the books read and hand out the rewards. 

What are the summer reading plans for your homeschool this year? What if we shatter the paradigm on summer reading and require it without the baiting? How would that look?

Don’t Be Afraid to Assign Reading

Parents worry a lot about assigning reading to their kids. We want our kids to love to read and we believe that if we make our kids read, they can’t possibly learn to love it. However, there is evidence to suggest that required reading is pretty important.

  • The Read Aloud Handbook- Jim Trelease in his book about how reading aloud affects children as readers, specifically tells us not to be afraid to require reading from our kids. After all, practice makes a better reader no matter who we are or how well we read. Ben Carson is a classic example of this. The story goes that his mother, who only had a 3rd grade education, turned off the TV on Ben and his brother and required them to read and write about what they read. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Getting the Most out of Your Homeschool Summer- This book talks about taking a break for the summer and making sure you take a break even if you school year round, but the author also recommends using the summer for purposeful reading for your students. Many resources, including this one, mention the book lists for college bound students. This is a great time to check some of them off and add them to the finished list.
  • Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations- Written by Alex & Brett Harris, this book is all about showing teens they have a lot to offer and how they can break through the stereotypes of the typical teenager today. When they were 16 and and their debating days were coming to a close, their father put the boys on an intense reading program for the summer. The stack of huge books included titles on varying topics such as history, philosophy, theology, sociology, science, business, journalism, and globalization. They read a lot of the time that summer and the more they read, the more excited they became of the ideas they were learning about. Wanting to do something about these ideas, eventually led to their website- The Rebelution.

The point is just because our kids may not choose to read, that doesn’t mean we should shy away from assigning it. I’ve seen many students get excited about a topic or a book when they’ve been told to read it. If our kids, especially the ones not inclined to read on their own, are never stretched to new places in books, their experience will become limited and they will miss out.

The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in their turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts. As our vocabulary expands, so does our power to think. – Madeline L’Engle

Blog She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Avoid the Carrot & Stick Approach to Summer Reading

That’s not to say you have to forgo any sort of summer reading fun, but connecting book reading directly with a reward seems counter intuitive. If you have more than one child, it gets cumbersome to keep track of and it feels a lot like coercion. Here are some other tried and true ideas for encouraging reading:

  • Enjoy reading books together- Change things up so kids aren’t always reading alone. When my readers were at the emergent stage, I often would read with them. They would read a portion and I would read some and we’d take turns. This way reading isn’t always a solitary activity.
  • Have book discussions- Engage with your kids about the books they are reading. Let them know you’ll talk about the chapter they’ve read for the day and ask them what they think. It’s easy to get simple answers, but try to draw the story out of your child and offer some insight as you go. This is a great way to check up on how your kids are understanding what they read and it’s done in an authentic conversational sort of way.
  • Form a summer book club- We’ve had a girl’s book club going all year and their June selection is Frankenstein. Book clubs let kids come together to talk about a book and they are more willing to read titles outside of their usual experience. Forming a summer book club is a fun way to encourage kids to read. Of course, there are plenty of activities that go with book club gatherings so prepare to insert some fun!

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Summer Reading Resources & Ideas

There is no shortage of summer reading ideas. Here are a few for inspiration:

  • Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home- This ultimate post has so many ideas for building a reading environment in your home- from babies to high schoolers. Don’t miss this resource. You’ll find resources for any time of year including the summer.
  • Book Wagon- I really enjoyed this creative idea from another blogger. Fill a wagon with favorite titles and new ones and take your books on the road to a picnic or in the yard under a favorite tree.
  • Set up Your Home Library- Make sure your home library is engaging for your kids. Rotate titles, get new titles and make use of eReaders!
  • Give eReader Surprises- Make ample use of your Kindle and surprise the kids now and then with a new title. You can check your library for titles or keep an eye out for Kindle deals. I have a Pinterest board on eReader Homeschooling which has a lot of ebook resources all in one spot.
  • Five Reasons to Use an eReader Kindle- I have found our Kindles to be invaluable in our homeschool. If you haven’t given one serious though, here are some compelling reasons. I find myself using the library less and grabbing an ebook in 10 seconds which costs less than the price of gas to get to the library!
  • Five Reasons to Use a Tablet Kindle- This little affordable tablet is a great tool for listening to audio books, watching video, and reading text clearly. I didn’t imagine how useful this tool would be for our homeschool.

Blog, She Wrote: Summer Reading Challenge without The Carrot & Stick

Summer Reading Challenges

If you are going to set a reading challenge before your kids this summer, consider bringing them to the table to have input on their challenge. If you know that will not be productive or you have something in mind (like Mr. Harris), then forge ahead and put together a reading list for your children. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Set a Number- Simply set a number of books they must read. However, you will want to add some parameters such as “new books” or ” a particular genre”. Assign four books for the month but they must be new titles. Be creative about how to set a number and see it through. Take the challenge with your kids!
  • Classics- Assign a certain number of classic titles. If your kids haven’t read much in the classic arena, then the sky is the limit on choices. You can suggest tales of intrigue and adventure or any other type of story your student might like. So many of these are great stories which are rarely read because they intimidate. Shake the reputation and select a few this summer.
  • Set a Time for Reading- Rather than focusing on the number of books tackled, focus on the amount of time you read daily. That will take care of numbers in the end most likely if you are consistent. If your kids aren’t inclined to read on their own, you can read at the same time. What better way to get your extra reading in during the summer. Once the habit is set and you feel your kids are enjoying the time, you can relax and let them choose a time. However, my boys love to read and it is still a great practice to set a time. Otherwise, they may always find other things to do!
  • Set Your Own Summer Reading Goal- And join your kids in the reading challenge. I know I always have books I want to read and re-read during the summer. What better way to meet your own goal than to join your kids in meeting theirs? Research shows that seeing parents read has a positive effect on children’s reading. Let them see you making reading a priority this summer!

I have grown so weary of the trinket based programs that try and encourage reading. Require your kids to read. Just like you require them to eat their vegetables. Don’t worry about your kids being turned off to reading because you require it. We don’t have to love to read. We just have to do it.

Be real with them and enjoy discussions based on the books they are reading. Gather kids together and make books engaging for the sake of the story. But stop with the prizes. They don’t make readers.

So, let’s join the challenge together. Make reading a part of your summer without meticulously counting books and making it a race. Simply set some goals- either together or on your own and make it happen.

Happy Reading!

A Homeschooler’s Guide to The Persuasive Essay

Blog, She Wrote: A Homeschooler's Guide to the Persuasive Essay

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If you have a middle or high schooler, chances are you’ve come across the requirement for a persuasive essay. What’s the big deal about writing one? Why is it a good idea to teach your student to write a good one? Here are some tips for you in A Homeschooler’s Guide to The Persuasive Essay.

What is a Persuasive Essay?

A persuasive essay tries to convince others to agree with our facts, share our values, and accept our arguments and conclusions.

When Do We Use The Persuasive Essay?

Students might wonder when the time is right for a convincing argument. These are common occasions for just that:

  • Editorial comments- ranging from letters to law makers to convincing your boss to try a new method in the workplace. We try and win arguments all the time!
  • Speech writing
  • College Entrance Exams- like the SAT require an essay with a solid argument

Blog, She Wrote: A Homeschooler's Guide to the Persuasive Essay

Ways We Engage with The Persuasive Essay in Our Homeschool

In our homeschool we use strong persuasive essays in a variety of ways. It’s a long practiced skill at our house and the results are effective.

  • Permission- to be allowed to do something new or buy something they want or to do something they love. They know the best way to Dan is to offer a well written argument explaining their cause.
  • Speech Writing- Ethan chose to do a speech for 4-H public presentations this year. His speech is titled, “Video Games: Harmful or Helpful?” and is about violence in video games. It has served him quite well and he qualified for the state competition which is tomorrow.
  • High School Literature Class- Excellence in Literature often will ask the student to form an opinion on a literary topic from a book or to compare elements of a book and explain their decision.

Resources for Teaching The Persuasive Essay

So, how do you go about preparing your students to write a persuasive argument. The trick is to be compelling while being concise. Your student needs valid arguments and a logical organization of the facts. Here are a few ideas for practicing the persuasive essay:

  • Topic Lists- It’s helpful to have many prompts or topics in mind that a student could use, but the best essays often arise out of a subject that is near and dear to your student’s heart. Relevance makes the task easier. Choose a topic a week and have your student write. Practice makes perfect- especially when preparing for exams.
  • College Board Site- The company that creates the SAT offers help for students preparing for the exam. Note that the class of 2016 (Ethan’s class) is the last to take the current form of the SAT which includes the mandatory essay. This year’s freshman will have the option of taking the essay portion, but it won’t be mandatory.
  • Essay Rockstar- Fortuigence offers a course in Mastering The Persuasive Essay. Your student can take a four week class with a mentor who will give personal feedback as they work through the essay on a topic of their choice. Ethan’s persuasive essay for this course was on the value of reading aloud in making readers.

Right now Essay Rockstar classes are 20% off through May 26, 2014 so it’s a great time to sign on. Use the code 461-0-6668488. The time limit for the class is open ended and students work at their own pace so if you register now you can start it any time.

Being able to write a strong, well organized and concise persuasive argument is a life skill every person should have. How are you preparing your students for an effective written argument?

High School Skills: Analyzing Text

Blog, She Wrote: High School Skills- Analyzing Text

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Reading classic literature and writing about it seems to be a high school education staple. Our homeschool is no different there, but what are the benefits to having high school skills like analyzing text?

Why Analyzing Text is Important for Your High Schooler

Being able to analyze a text and synthesize thoughts and opinions on it is key to a successful college experience. What skills does this involve?

  • Summarizing text
  • Analyzing the text for meaning
  • Comparing the text to another text similar in nature or not (FYI- contrasting is not listed separately because it is inherent in comparing!)
  • Forming an opinion on the text and being able to succinctly write it
  • Synthesizing new text based on reading others

Whatever your field of study is in college and beyond, chances are you will meet up with assignments to analyze text. How so?

  • Humanities- It’s easy to imagine majors in English, History, Sociology, etc will have to read and do something written with what they read
  • Sciences- As a biology major, I spent a lot of time reading research and writing about it.
  • Graduate School- I’m pretty sure my graduate degree is made up of two things: reading educational research and writing about it and projects. Ok…there was a little matter of a thesis and exam, but trust me. I spent a lot of time marking up research papers and preparing new text based on what I’d read.
  • College Entrance Exams- Yes! Your student will have to write a quick and concise essay on these tests.
  • Blogging- Come to think of it. I use this skill when I blog. Does your student blog? Mine do! And they do an awful lot of reading the work of others and writing about it.

Clearly, being able to write a well organized textual analysis is one of the most important writing skills we can impart to our high schoolers.

Blog, She Wrote: High School Skills- Analyzing Text

Using Books to Communicate with Your Teen

Sharing books together is an excellent way to communicate with your teenagers. High school literature studies allow us to engage in a book together without forcing it because it’s already a requirement. You are in a position to influence the literature choices for your teen. Use this fact to your advantage!

  • Establish a Reading Culture in Your Home- Certainly from early on you’ll want to do this, but you can re-establish it as your students grow older and more mature in their studies.
  • Listen to Story Narrations- Even when you don’t have time to read the book yourself, you can listen to narrations about the story from your student.
  • Talk about Big Ideas- Whether or not you have read the whole book (I know time is crunched for many of us), you can talk about themes that present themselves in books. Reinforce family values and find out where your student is on a topic.
  • Don’t Shy Away from the Hard Books- Reading and discussing a book that questions values is something to face head on in your homeschool. How much better to talk about the morals and values you hold than to meet them in books and talk about them together at a time when your student is exercising independence and beginning to forge their own way.
  • Require a Wide Range of Classics and Modern Books to Expand Their Horizons- Many times a curriculum will take care of this for you, but make sure you add in titles you’d like to approach if they aren’t on the list.

This semester Ethan has been taking a co-op class on the book Dracula. It’s been an amazing class for the teens. They read on their own and meet weekly to discuss the book. A well-read, trusted adult and friend is teaching this class and I know she works with the teens to help them see the overriding themes in this book.

Vampires aren’t often homeschool fare, but the original book by Bram Stoker offers a very different view of vampires than the ones we see today. Dracula is portrayed for his true anti-Christ nature without the glamorization of vampires we see in modern media. The book has been an effective tool in showing just how much the modern vampire has been made to look misunderstood and harmless- when they really represent evil.

Just imagine all the engaging conversation you and your teens could have with a good book to guide the way. And think of all the issues and themes you could address in a significant way before your student leaves home.

Blog, She Wrote: High School Skills- Analyzing TextOur 10th Grader’s Book List for 2013-2014

We take about a month per book or group of stories and he does research on the author, the history, and other materials that relate to the story he is studying.

  • Short Stories- such as The Necklace, The Ransom of Red Chief, Xingu by Edith Wharton (loved this one!)
  • Around the World in 80 Days- Love this classic by Jules Verne. We even watched the 1956 film version which won best picture that year.
  • Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court- This is one we both enjoyed. Fast read and quite funny.
  • The Great Gatsby- Just as sad I remember…
  • Julius Ceasar- Dover Thrift Edition. When looking for Kindle titles, make sure to look for a good edition.
  • Till We Have Faces- A look at a modern myth and a chance to experience CS Lewis outside of the Chronicles of Narnia
  • Dracula- As part of our 10 session co-op semester

One of the things I’ve done to save me the most time is to use the Kindle editions of many but not all of these books. Using a Kindle saves time and space. Have you considered using a Kindle in your homeschool? Here are 10 Reason to Use a Kindle: Part 1 and Part 2.

How Do I Teach Textual Analysis?

There are many resources available to homeschooling parents. We use Excellence in Literature as the spine of our high school literature courses, but it assumes some level of knowledge when beginning with the program. There are examples, but if you haven’t done this before then it can be hard to help your teen develop a good analysis. Using quotes from the text can be tricky to incorporate well and takes some getting used to.

Fortuigence offers a four week course on Textual Analysis. This is a class that will lead your student through an essay on a book that you choose. You’ll have a personal mentor for your student.The webroom interface is easy to use and if you aren’t sure of how to help your student with this type of essay, this is a resourceful way to outsource the task. One module saves you money over trying a whole course or semester and it allows your student to focus on just one type of essay at his own pace- with the bonus of a mentor.

Great news! Through April 28th, you can receive 10% off the regular course price with this coupon code: 436-0-1481712

Reading text, comparing various texts, assimilating information and being able to form a solid opinion while logically sharing it is a mainstay of higher education. Is your high school student ready?

Project: Middle Ages History & Fashion

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks always for your support!

This year our 8th grader, Rebecca, has been working through history with an emphasis on fashion. She researches the history of fashion during that time period and then designs her own garments. During her study of the Middle Ages, Rebecca worked on two separate fashions- one from the early Middle Ages and another from later in the same period.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Research on Middle Ages History & Fashion

I’ve had fun looking for resources on the fashion of different time periods of history. Rebecca loves to explore and construct the most authentic garments.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

The Pattern Drafting Process

How does she go about making a dress from an idea?

  • Using her research, Rebecca comes up with an overall vision for a garment.
  • She sketches the dress starting with the basic shape and adding details.
  • As she chooses her design, she considers construction techniques and does more research and/or watches tutorials
  • Then it’s time to measure the doll and begin drawing the patterns.

Need help on learning to draft patterns? I shared our resources in Rebecca’s Steampunk Project post.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Constructing the Garment

I admire her bravery! Her skills are confident and she’ll try something new with no hesitation.

  • Use authentic fabric if possible- though I have to say she did not enjoy working with the wool.
  • Use a serger- If you have a serger, you can use it to finish the seams before putting the pieces together. If not, then be sure to finish the seams carefully.
  • Frequently read tutorials- Rebecca spends a lot of time learning by reading sewing blogger tutorials. It’s free and it’s a great way to learn on your own! Her Kindle Fire is usually by her side when she is working on something so she can refer back to the tutorial easily.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Facts on Middle Ages Fashion

Rebecca uncovered some interesting details in her research of Middle Ages Fashion. Here are a few:

  • During the 13th century tunics were the base of all outfits.
  • Cloaks were a staple of the Middle Ages and worn over the tunic.
  • Children wore the same basic style in smaller sizes.
  • The longer your garments and cloaks, the more money you had. Peasants wore short length garments.
  • During the 14th century waist lines rose and women’s clothing became more fitted – some sleeves were so tight they had to be stitched together once on!
  • The 15th century showed the empire waist being popular.
  • Men’s garment length was shortening while lady’s lengths were increasing.

Rebecca chose to make a gown in keeping with 15th century fashion. The collar is made of “fur” and forms a V that goes to the waist and it has a thick belt which was popular at the time.

Blog, She Wrote: Project- Middle Ages History & Fashion

Reading List for the Middle Ages

Along with her research in fashion, she spent time immersed in both fiction and non-fiction titles about the same time period. A brief list of the titles she’s read include:

Some of these titles chronicle the end of the Roman Empire and the Dark Ages that followed.

Studying fashion and learning how these garments were made and put together is a great way to focus on one aspect of history. Rebecca has had a very focused year and it’s been great for building her sewing project portfolio. She’s learned a lot of techniques which are useful for full sized fashions.

I’m looking forward to sharing two of her latest projects with you soon. She has a fashion due this week for a local contest. Rebecca is hoping to do well enough to make it into the fashion show. Stay tuned!