Books, Education, Family, Homeschooling, Motherhood

Ten Things to Include in Your Child’s Education, pt. 2

child helping child

This is the second of a two-part blog on things to teach your child outside of their general academic education.  The first part to this article can be found here.

Let’s pick up where we left off at number six.

6.  Teach your children to call people Mr., Mrs. and Miss

Not everyone may agree, but addressing adults as Mr., Mrs. or Miss is important.  Titles establish age boundaries and conveys respect.  A child addressing someone as Mr. or Mrs. communicates to an adult “I acknowledge that you are older than me (i.e. you are not my peer or buddy). Because you are older than me (and probably wiser) you deserve my respect.”

We require our kids to address anyone in a position of authority as Miss/Mrs./Mr. unless the adult being addressed specifically requests for our children to call them by their first name.  My husband and I make this (sometimes awkward) formality easier for our children by doing the same thing ourselves that we expected of them.  If someone is a generation or two older we often refer to them as Mr. or Mrs., unless they instruct us otherwise.

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Education, Family, Fatherhood, Homeschooling, Motherhood, Parenting

Ten Things To Include In Your Child’s Education, pt. 1

child helping childWhether our children attend a public school, private school, or a home school, their education must include more than just academics.  As parents we need to teach our children “life” skills.  While having book smarts is good, having humility and integrity is better. Here are ten things to teach our children that aren’t academic.  To keep from being too long, this will be the first of two posts, covering 5 suggestions each.

1.  Teach them how to answer the phone and take a message.

With the household phone becoming a thing of the past, this skill is becoming trickier to teach, but children still need to know how to answer a regular phone or a cell phone when needed.  Teaching them simple phrases such as “Hello, this is Mommy’s phone; this is Julie speaking” enables children to practice phone courtesy and interaction with adults.  I have a friend who has taught her children to answer the phone like this:  “Hello, Smith residence. This is Mary speaking, how may I help you?”  Now that’s how you answer a phone!

Good phone skills should also include learning how to take a message.  Teach your child to write down the caller’s name, phone number and reason for the call.  By doing this they will learn responsibility and gain confidence talking to someone over the phone.

2.  Teach them how to call someone on the phone.

This obviously has many of the same benefits as #1:  Calling other people teaches children to be more comfortable conversing with adults they have never met. It also teaches them how to speak politely and appropriately when they make a phone call.  Children may be taught to say something like, “Hello Mr./Mrs. Smith.  This is Bobby Jones.  Is Jason available to come to the phone?”  If Jason is not available then they could respond with, “Then would you please let him know I called?” And then finish with a “Thank you very much.”

Often, before making a phone call, we would sit down with our child and role-play the potential conversation.  That way, when our child made the actual phone call they felt a little more comfortable with what to expect.

We occasionally asked our children to call businesses for information, such as their operating hours.  Truth be told, they never really liked doing it; it definitely put them out of their comfort zone when they were young.  But living out of your comfort zone for short periods of time is not a bad thing.  It seemed to help our kids overcome their fears of talking to a stranger on the phone.

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Boys, Education, Homeschooling

Ten Simple Ways to Teach Those Busy Boys

Kid with a telescope explorerBoys often come out of the chute ready to move and explore.  As they approach preschool age, boys often prefer physical activities over activities that require them to sit still.  If you have a busy boy (or two, or three, or a busy girl) in your home, here are some simple ways to keep them moving and active while teaching them something at the same time.

1. Jump (or hop or clap or spin) to the number (preschool/early elementary) – Hold up a few of your fingers and have your child jump that many times.  Five fingers on Mom’s hand equals five jumps from Timmy.  See how fast he can jump, or how slow.  You can make it more challenging by having him jump two less than the number of fingers you are holding, or one more.  Or, to be even more challenging, have your child jump the answer to the number of fingers on one of your hands times times the number of fingers on the other hand, or one hand plus the other hand, or one hand minus the other hand, etc.  See how fast they can jump, or how silly they can jump.  Variation (toddler/preschool):  Place some sort of markers (paper would work) and have your child hop forwards or backwards the same number of spaces as your fingers, like a board game. Variation (toddler/preschool):  put colored construction paper down (as in Candy Land) and have them hop around the “board” according to the color you call.

2.  The Penny Game (toddler/preschool) – You need stairs for this one.  Place numbers on your stairway (pieces of paper with clear, large numbers written on them) that will sit at the end of each stair so as not to be in the way.  If you have ten stairs for your stairway, place number 1 on the bottom stair, number 2 on the next stair up, number 3 on the next stair, and so on.  Grab a penny (or another coin, or a button, or whatever) and have your child sit on the bottom stair (stair 1). Stand and face your child while you secretly hide the coin behind your back in one of your fists.  Bring your clenched fists around to the front so your child can see them and have your child guess which hand is hiding the coin.  If he/she guesses correctly they move up one stair (to the stair marked 2).  If they guess the wrong hand, they move down a stair (or don’t move at all if they are on stair 1).  The goal is to get to the top of the steps.  This activity not only keeps them moving but introduces them to numbers, the number line and the basics of addition and subtraction.

3.  Ball toss (preschool/young elementary) – place 4 or 5 small bowls (like soup bowls or small mixing bowls, or any containers with relatively high sides – shoe boxes would even work) on the floor or a table.  Have your child try tossing a ping pong ball into one of the bowls.  Have small pieces of paper, each bearing a letter of the alphabet, placed in the various containers.  (There should be one paper for each letter of the alphabet, so if you have five containers, four of them will contain 5 papers and one will contain 6).  When the ball lands in a container pull out a letter of the alphabet and place it on the floor or table.  As they continue to toss the balls into the containers, keep pulling out letters (have them say the letter sound as well!) and arrange them in alphabetical order until they have “won” all 26 letters.  Variation (older boys):  Nerf Shoot – instead of tossing balls, have your child use a Nerf gun to hit paper or plastic cups or small boxes on a table or bench.  Have a question inside each cup like, “What is the capital of Delaware?” They get one point for hitting the targeted box or cup and a bonus point for answering the question correctly.  Have them play against a friend or sibling to see who can reach 10 points first.

4.  Draw letters/shapes in sand or dirt (preschool) – who needs a Magna Doodle (do they even still make those?) or a drawing app on an i-pad when there is dirt around? Have your child draw shapes or letters in sand, dry dirt, or, if you are brave, mud with a stick.  If they are young, start a shape or letter and have them finish it for you.

5.  Color/letter treasure hunt (toddler/preschool) –  hide 5 red (or any color) things in one room and see if your child can find all five.  Or hide five things that begin with the letter “B”.  The possibilities are endless!  Variation:  Instead of hiding things, grab a clipboard and paper and go looking for red things (or black, or green) like an apple, a red sweater, or a cardinal outside.  Write down what you find.  Or go searching for things that start with a certain letter.  If you hunt for “B” things you can look for books, a baby, bathtub or banana.

6.  Math treasure hunt (preschool/early elementary) – this is a lot like number 5.  Hide 5 blocks (or cars, or large Legos) around the room.  Tell your child how many items are hidden and help him find them (treat it like a game of “hot”/”cold”).  As he finds the blocks, talk to him in math terms: “Timmy, you have already found one block, and you just found another, now we have two blocks because one block plus one more blocks make two blocks”  Get the idea?  Variation:  Have a set amount of blocks to work with.   Have the child go into the other room.  Hide some of the blocks, but don’t hide all of them.  Then talk to him in math terms again:  “Timmy, we have five blocks all together.  I still have two blocks here with me.  How many of them are hid?”  Then go find them.

7.  Geography run (preschool/early elementary) – Get a large world or U.S. map.  Place the map at a level where your child can easily reach it.  (We have a laminated map that we have taped to a large piece of cardboard so we can carry it around from room to room or prop it up on an easel) Using small Post-it Note tabs have your child find places on the map and mark them with the tabs.  It may be best to start with the continents since they are large and distinct.  Spend a few days teaching your child the location of each continent on the map.  Then, when they are ready, call out a continent and see how fast he can run and mark it with the sticky tab.  Use a timer to check his times.  Variation:  You can use this with any instructional poster.  Have your child run and point to letters or numbers, or classifications of animals, or the planets, or whatever you have at your home.

8.  Nerf Gun Safari (early elementary) – If you are not crazy about having your child “hunt” for animals, you may want to skip this one.  Take your son on a Nerf Safari by placing various stuffed animals around the house then turn off the lights.  Grab your flashlights and go “hunting”.  If your child finds and hits an animal have them look under the stuffed animal for a question you have hidden there.  The questions can be about whatever they are learning in school at the time.  They get one point for each animal they find and one point for each question they get right. Variation (preschoolers): skip the guns and just go animal exploring.  If you find an “animal in the wild” read the question that is hidden beneath.

9.  Math bounce (elementary) – you can practice math and ball skills at the same time by having your child bounce the answer to a math problem.  If you ask them, “What is 2 + 1?” they would bounce the ball three times.  Variation (older elementary):  This game could be used addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  It could also be used for other subjects:  have them bounce how many legs on an insect or an octopus, have them bounce how many planets there are, bounce out the letters that spell “elevator”, etc.

10.  Stack things – find a large quantity of something.  Playing cards, plastic cups, paper cups, empty yougurt containers, dominoes, and shoe boxes all work well.  Let them stack.  And knock down.  And stack.  And knock down. You get the idea.

Well, hopefully this list will help spark some ideas to keep your wee lads under control and out of trouble.  😉  I would love to hear YOUR ideas for keeping little ones busy.  If you have an idea to add to this list leave a comment and tell me about it!  🙂

Education, Family, Homeschooling, Parenting

Should You Homeschool?

teachermomMany families with young children approaching school age have begun wrestling with this question.  Or, if you have older children who are struggling in the public school system, maybe homeschooling is an option you have been tossing around.  Homeschooling is a wonderful opportunity for both the parent and the child, but it may not be for everybody.  If you have been considering homeschooling for your family, you might want to ask yourself some of these questions:

Do I have time?  Homeschooling takes a great deal of time on the part of the parent, especially in the elementary/jr. high grades.  If you are used to having your child out of the house during school hours, that child will now be around much more frequently and require much more of your attention.  Plan on at least two or three hours (which could be spread out over the course of the day) of solid teaching/schoolwork time for younger children and four to six hours for older children.  Children in preschool, kindergarten or first grade may only need an hour or two of focused school time, however.  High school-age children should be able to work primarily on their own, but will still need you for answering questions, grading tests, helping formulate an outline for a paper, etc. You will also need to take into account your state’s homeschooling laws.  Some states require extensive record-keeping that will add extra time to your day.  If you work part or full time or are involved in numerous clubs or committees, you will need to analyze whether or not you have sufficient time available to devote to quality schooling.

Are you motivated? When we purchased our current house, I thought it was the most beautiful structure on the planet.  I couldn’t wait to move in and make it “our home”.  I knew I would love it forever.  We have lived in that house seven years now and I still love it, but it has certainly lost its “sparkle”.  The reality of home-ownership has settled in as we discovered the home’s leaky basement, creaky floors and thin insulation.  Homeschooling will be much the same way.  It will seem exciting and wonderfully romantic at the beginning as you envision your children gathered around, obediently hanging on your every academic word.  But reality will eventually set in – the children will get sick, you will get sick, the kids won’t want to do their assignment, and you will only be on math problem #3 when you realize you are past due to start dinner and the dog has just thrown up on the carpet.  Are you motivated enough to stick with it even with life isn’t pretty?  Because believe me, you will have some very unlovely days!

Are your children obedient? This may sound like a strange question to ask, but it’s an important one.  Do your children listen to you and do what you say?  Because, if they don’t, homeschooling will be quite challenging.  Think about it, if your children won’t follow simple instructions from you like, “Please pick up your socks”, why would they do those workbook pages you just assigned them.  If you struggle getting your children to obey, but are still interested in homeschooling, then consider “obedience training” to be part of their school day.  Your homeschool will run much more smoothly if there is order and peace in your home.

Do you enjoy your children? This question may sound funny as well, but you need to ask it of yourself.  Do you like to spend large amounts of time with your kids?  Because that’s exactly what you will be doing.  The children will be there at breakfast time.  When they “go to school”, they will be returning to your kitchen table.  When they go out for recess, they will be in your backyard.  When they take a school break, they will be in your family room.  And then they will be back for dinner.  And after dinner.  And they will continue to hang around until bedtime.  And then it starts all over again the next day.  They will invariably have questions about their geography homework when you are in the shower.   They will want your help with a math problem while you are using the restroom.  They will want to read a story with you while you are cooking dinner.  They may decide to construct a Rube Goldberg contraption through your living room.  Are you okay with this?

In conclusion – homeschooling is a WONDERFUL opportunity for families who are willing to put in the time and commitment required.  Homeschooling allows you to witnesses the world unfold for your child as he learns to read and write.  Homeschooling allows you to see the light bulb switch on when they finally figure out a difficult math concept. Your family can read aloud Winnie the Pooh or Treasure Island while snuggling under blankets.  You are there to help make paper turkeys for Thanksgiving.  You get to decide when you go on vacation.  You can read the Bible together.  Most importantly, homeschooling creates strong bonds between you and your children.  With homeschooling, you are forced to coexist. You are required to give and serve and compromise with one another  because you have to be together all the time.  There is no better arena for learning to deal with difficult people.  There is no better scenario for life training.  

Still think homeschooling might be for you?  Here a few websites (of the hundreds out there) to get you started:

Homeschool Legal Defense Association:

HSLDA’s “How To” site:

Classical Conversations: