Saturday, December 28, 2013

January Author: Ezra Jack Keats

I have fond memories of reading Ezra Jack Keats books as a child.  I still remember seeing the short film for The Snowy Day.

Keat was a fascinating man.  The Ezra Jack Keats foundation is  set up to use the royalties from Keat's books to make the world a better place for children.
Keats has written many books.   There are several wonderful activities on Pinterest using his books.

Happy Reading!

*** Next week watch for the annual Free Narrative Assessment Contest.  I will be giving away 2 free assessments again this year.


Saturday, December 07, 2013

 This is the dog that is changing my life.  This is my son's new autism service dog from 4 Paws for Ability.  We are very excited about how the dog will help him.  If you check out their page you can read about the many other kinds of service dogs that they train at 4 Paws. 

My family enjoys finding ways to help others around Christmas.  One way you can do that is by helping fund a child's dog.  If you click here you will find a list of children who are fundraising for a service dog.  Maybe you can make his/her Christmas this year. 

We are wrapping up 2013 around here.  I am saying things like "Where is that book?" What do you mean you have not done that cleaning job for 3 weeks?"  "We need to work on this more!"   So as we wrap up I am going to pause on blogging until January.  

Don't forget I will hold my annual Narrative Give-away contest at the beginning of January.  Sign up for emails so you will know the details.  I will also be updating my forms over my break for the 2013-2014 school year. 

Thanks for reading in 2013! 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Guest Post: Calvin Lyman from The Homeschool Grad

I am in the process of homeschooling three children through high school. Lately, I have been exploring different options for post-high school for my kids. I came across Calvin's book, and I was intrigued. He discusses what you can do during high school to earn a degree. I appreciated his perspective, and I thought some of you might enjoy his story. It is wonderful there are so many options for our home educated students.

Many homeschooling parents have concerns about paying for their student’s college education, or even being able to get their student into an excellent school to begin with. Many are unaware of the options available to their student for earning college credit in high school. This is no fault of the parents, but can be attributed to a lack of information available to help understand these methods.

My story began at 15 years old, when I began taking exams for college credit. I learned many study skills under the direction of my academic coaches at College-plus, a company that provides academic counsel for homeschooled students/graduates and other individuals who want to earn their bachelor’s degree with little to no debt and in a short time frame. I never entered a classroom, and most of my studying was done at home, my library, or a local coffee shop. 

Shortly after I began taking these exams, many of my friends and family expressed concern: Would I miss out on the normal high school experience if I spent so much time in my college studies? What about getting accepted into a college after graduating high school? Would my diploma (or the Bachelor’s degree that I was earning) be accepted at any decent learning institution after I graduated? At times, my parents and I would grow weary of answering these questions. This lasted for almost three years before I graduated in the Spring semester of last year.The fact is, the methods that I have used to earn my bachelor’s degree or SO unorthodox that many people have trouble accepting them as legitimate. However, I can assure you that I still have friends, my college diploma is real (It came from a regionally accredited college) and I had absolutely no issues getting into a Master’s program shortly after turning 18, where I am now studying towards my Master’s degree. I say none of this in order to lift myself up on a pedestal, because these achievements are largely due to those who have coached and encouraged me along this process. However, I think it’s important that homeschoolers are aware of the alternate, legitimate ways of earning college credit that they have available to them. As for my current college studies, I feel that my past education has prepared me for my current study, and I am enjoying campus life with my friends and professor’s in and outside of the classroom. The current experience is very different from my prior college experience, but I didn’t experience culture shock after moving away from home, even though many of my friends and some of my family probably expected me to because of my homeschooling background and distance learning choices.

Over a decade into the 21st Century, with increasingly fast-paced social environments and more competition than ever in our global workforce, it becomes important for a student to take as many educational and financial shortcuts as possible in order to get ahead professionally. The majority of Americans have massive amounts of credit card and student loan debt, and distance education makes it easier for a student to avoid these pitfalls before settling down and raising a family.

I have written an ebook, "How I Earned my Bachelor’s Degree by 18”, which explains how I used these methods to graduate with my bachelor’s degree shortly after coming of age, and and with absolutely no college debt! In the book, parents and students will learn about CLEP, DSST, and other credit-by-examination programs that lend themselves extremely useful to homeschooling students looking to earn college credit while in high school. I also walk students through some of the study skills to develop and tools to gather before setting out on this journey. 

My ebook, available on Amazon and in PDF format, is a valuable resource for any homeschooling student or parent who would like to avoid college debt and get ahead of the curve. 

~Calvin Lyman 

The Homeschool Grad

Calvin Lyman lives in Granbury, TX with his family. He is currently attending Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, OK in pursuit of his M.A. in Ministry. Calvin has three younger siblings and enjoys spending time with his family and friends. He also thinks that bow ties are cool.
 The opinions shared are entirely his own.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

December Author: Jan Brett

I love Jan Brett.  Her illustrations and stories are truly a delight.  She writes a variety of books with some of the most beuatiful pictures.  She is an interesting person who loves to travel, which is evident in her books.  Here is an article in The Country Life that shares about her love of chickens, which are featured in her newest book, Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella. 

 Her web page is an incredible source of coloring pages, videos, and activities.  She has activities and coloring pages to go with all the books she has written.   I think it is truly one of the best author web pages that I have seen.  There are many activities there to give you some variety while still practicing skill this December.  You can practice cursive or manuscript letters, make a place mat, or make some fabulous Christmas gifts.

I have set up another Pinterest Board with some activities I have found around the web. My favorite is this gingerbread paperbag house.  The post includes a free printable, and links to over 50 other Jan Brett activities. 

My favorite Jan Brett Books. 

The Mitten

The Twelve Days of Christmas
The Twelve Days of Christmas. 

Cinders a Chicken Cinderalla
  Enjoy Jan Brett this month.  She is truly gifted.  If you have any ideas to use with her books, please put them in the comments below.
~ Becky

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Homeschool Co-ops 101 by Karen Lange, Book Tour & $25 Amazon GC Giveaway!

homeschool co-ops 101
Essential co-op tools, tips, and options for today’s homeschool families.

Thinking about joining or starting a homeschool co-op? Not sure if a co-op is a good fit? Homeschool Co-ops 101 weighs the pros, cons, and creative options available for today’s homeschool family.
  • Section 1 includes essential, digestible info on co-op ingredients such as planning and organization, schedules, teaching, finances, and addressing conflict and burnout.
  • Section 2 shares a sampling of co-op games and activities, and
  • Section 3 contains five hands-on unit studies. These ready to use studies include lessons on Leonardo da Vinci, Birds of Prey, Public Speaking, Tall Tales, and Creative Writing, and are suitable for co-op or home use. This section also includes unit study guidelines that are easily customized to suit any topic.
  • Section 4 offers suggested books, curriculum, and other resources.
Karen Lange has gathered insight from years of co-oping and now shares her own and others’ experiences in this valuable and encouraging handbook.
Homeschool Co-ops 101 is available at:
karen langeAbout the Author

Karen Lange, her husband, and three children were active in co-ops during their sixteen-year homeschool journey. Her experience includes serving as a local homeschool support group coordinator and consultant for a state homeschool network in New Jersey. Karen’s children have since graduated, and she is now a freelance writer and online writing instructor for homeschooled teens.

You can connect with Karen at her Blog, on Twitter, and Facebook.

homeschool co-ops 101

Blog Tour Schedule
November 4
~Ruth Schiffman,
~Robyn Campbell,
November 5
~Carol Alexander,
~Diane Estrella,
November 6
~Gena Mayo,
~Marja Meijers,
November 7
~Sandie Crozek,
~Melissa Brander,
~Cecelia Lester,
November 8
~Susan Reinhardt,
~Cecelia Lester,
November 10
~Laura V. Hilton,
~Melissa & Tiffany,
~Janette Dolores,
November 11
~Susan Sundwall,
~Michelle Isenhoff,
November 12
~Carol Alexander,
~Jeanette Levellie,
November 13
~Susanne Dietze,
~Sherryl Wilson,
~Anne Payne,
November 14
~Rhonda Schrock,
~Abi Buening,
~Amber Schamel,
November 15
~Crystal King,
~Barb Winters,
~Tyrean Martinson,
November 16
November 17
~Amada Chavez,
~Cindi Clubbs,
~Rebecca Boerner,
November 18
~Carlene Havel,
~Cindy Loven,
November 19
~Karen Loethen,
~Amy Smith,
November 20
~Darlene Arroyo-Lozada,
November 22
~Sarah Bailey,
~Thumb Updown,
December 2
~Jennifer Shirk,
~Ticia M.,

The Giveaway

Open to US addresses only. One person will receive a $25 Amazon GC and a copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101. Please use the Rafflecopter below to be entered:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be chosen from those entries and announced December 5, 2013. Good luck!
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as e-mailed, and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Diane at That’s What I’m Here For… and sponsored by the author, Karen Lange. The author provided me with a free copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101 to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a giveaway in return for the free book.VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
My Review
I was thrilled to be a part of this blog hop and review.  I think this book is an excellent resource, and will help you work through whether a Homeschool Co-op is right for you, or if the one you are in is a good fit.  As parents we make many different decisions about our kid's education. It is wonderful when you can find a resource that is helpful in the decision making process, and I feel Homeschool Co-ops 101 is that resource.

Homeschool Co-ops 101 Blog Tour Questions (Q&A)

What prompted you to write this book?

Thanks so much for inviting me over to your blog! I’m looking forward to visiting with you and your followers.

About ten years ago, I was encouraged by a good friend in the homeschool community to write a booklet about co-ops. She was the director of a statewide homeschool support network, and she knew people often asked me about how a co-op works. The booklet seemed like a good way to share the info, so I self published it. In May of 2013, Helping Hands Press offered me a contract to expand it, so here we are!

What can readers expect to find in the book?

The book offers info on how to start a co-op and weighs the pros, cons, and creative options available for homeschool families. One thing I emphasize is that parents have options when it comes to co-oping. Co-ops come in all sizes and sometimes an existing one is not a good fit for a family. Parents shouldn’t feel bad or be intimidated if this is the case; they need to know that it’s okay to either not participate and even start their own co-op if they wish.

Another thing to note is that HC 101's usefulness is not limited to just homeschoolers. The how to section offers helpful setup and structure tips for other K-12 student groups. The activity segment has lessons, games, and hands on projects that suit these groups as well.

Here is a breakdown of each section of the book:

Section 1 includes info on co-op ingredients such as planning and organization, schedules, teaching, finances, and addressing conflict and burnout. Section 2 has a sampling of co-op games and activities, and Section 3 contains five hands-on unit studies. The topics include lessons on Leonardo da Vinci, Birds of Prey, Public Speaking, Tall Tales, and Creative Writing, and are suitable for co-op or individual home use. Section 3 also includes unit study guidelines that are easily customized to suit any topic. Section 4 offers suggested books, curriculum, and other resources.

Tell us a little about your homeschool experience.

My husband and I homeschooled our three children (two sons and a daughter) in grades K-12. We chose to homeschool because, among other things, we wanted to personalize our children’s education and felt home was the best place to do that. During this time, we were active with our local homeschool support group’s events such as field trips and science and art fairs. Co-ops played an important role too. These activities helped supplement our studies, provided balanced socialization, fellowship, and fun. They also offered a broader worldview as our children interacted with not just homeschool families, but the surrounding community.

If you happen to be interested in more info about the ups and downs of homeschooling, socialization, higher education, and other related topics, visit this link:

What would you like readers to take away from the book?

No one plan fits everyone, so I encourage families, whether they decide to co-op or not, to find the right balance and fit for them. My hope is that they would find ideas and encouragement for their children’s educational journey.

Thanks again for sharing your space with me today. It’s been a pleasure!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Celebrating Veterans Day

Veteran's day has a special place in my heart.  My father by adoption is a veteran, and my birth father was killed in action serving his country.  It is wonderful to celebrate Veteran's day and here are a few resources to help you.

Children's Picture Book Cover Art of The Wall by Eve BuntingAn excellent book is The Wall by Eve Bunting.  There was a Reading Rainbow Special on the book.  I found it on Vimeo and I think it would be wonderful for your kids to watch.  In this episode they visit the War Memorial and the artist who designed it.  It is very moving. 

This is an excellent blog post that includes many printable resources for Veteran's day.  Here is a map with Veteran's Day Community Celebrations.  Lastly, this links to a museum that celebrates those who have won the National Medal of Honor.  It is wonderful to read the various stories of heroism. 

Happy Veteran's Day! 

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Spelling Strategies for hands on learners and others.

Sometimes it helps kids if they can use some hands-on strategies to learn their spelling words.  There is something powerful about moving your hands, engaging your brain, and visually taking in a word.  Here are a couple of ideas I have had good luck with. 

Magnetic letters. They just work well.  You can have your kids spell the words on the refrigerator, a cookie sheet, or some other type of metal board.  

Stamping the words with alphabet stamps also works well.  I think it is powerful to see the word, find the letter stamp, stamp it, and then have to put the stamp back in the correct place.  

If you have Montessori letters they are a good resource.

Another fun way to learn is to use American Sign Language to spell out your spelling words.
Some other ways:
writing them in shaving cream,
writing them in sand, or 
writing them 5 times each on paper. 

Happy spelling!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Secrets of Dynamic Communication Prepare with Focus, Deliver with Clarity, Speak with Power By Ken Davis


Book Description

What is the most important ingredient for an effective speech or presentation?
Whether you are one who speaks only on rare occasions or you find yourself addressing an audience every day, this book will be an invaluable tool. Beneficial to the experienced pro as well as the new beginner, Secrets of Dynamic Communication is a practical and effective handbook for powerful presentations of all kinds. It takes the reader through the process of selecting and developing a theme, giving it focus, fleshing it out, and communicating well with the audience. The first half is devoted to preparation, the second to delivery.
Author Ken Davis is frequently hired by individuals and companies around the world to bring his humor and expertise to others in the speaking field, and he is now bringing those concepts to the wider community as well. No abstract theories here, only step-by-step help in preparing and delivering speeches that get results! You’ll soon develop the dynamic speaking skills associated with the very best in the field.

The Secret of Dynamic Communication walks you through the SCORRE method of preparing a talk.  The book's premise is that many times when you hear others speak, you are not exactly clear what their point was.  I would have to concur. In The Secrets of Dynamic Communication the author teaches you to narrow down your topic, develop a plan, and execute a speech that people will remember. He does this with humor and clarity. 

 I requested to review this book because I saw the possibilities of it being used as a resource for a home education high school public speaking class.  I was not disappointed, and feel it is an excellent book to use as a resource or develop a class around. The book will help your student walk through developing a speech, use review questions and fill-in-the-blanks to reinforce learning, and present a speech in a professional and effective manner.  Public speaking is something that all of us are called upon to do at some point in our lives.  Whether we speak to an audience of ten or ten thousand, The Secret of Dynamic Communication is a valuable learning tool.   I highly recommend this book. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Some fun things I learned about this summer. . .

The great part about reviewing portfolios is that I am exposed to so many wonderful ideas!  I learn something every summer as I review students' work from across the state of Ohio. They have amazing people supporting them as they learn at home.  I wanted to share a few things I picked up this summer.

I am absolutely crazy about this Twist 'n Write pencil.  It works on improving a child's pencil grip. 
It has helped out daughter tremendously with her handwriting.  Definitely worth the money. 

I enjoyed exploring the Knowledge Quest web site.  Some interesting history and geography curriculum.  They also have Apps for your iPad.

I had not heard of ScootPad before.  It is an interesting way to review materials in all subjects. It comes as an App and a download for Windows.    There is a free and paid version. There are some nice printable reports that make great work samples. 

Lastly, this is my new favorite resource for high school.  This is a blog post with over 12 Dozen Places to Educate Yourself Online for Free.   This is an excellent resource with many courses you could use to create a class for your high school student.

Have a great week.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lois Ehlert

The author for October is Lois Ehlert!  Her books have amazing pictures including work with collages, window pages, and bright colors.  This is her newest book: RRRalph.

Product Details
When I was searching for information on Lois Ehlert I came across several of her interviews.  Here is an interview with Lois Ehlert about her creativity.  Here is a blog post with several crafts, interviews, and other linked blogs that highlight Lois Ehlert. I have a Pinterest Board with more ideas.

I plan on reading the books Leaf Man and Red Leaf, Yellow to talk about fall and make some nature pictures.

Product Details

So enjoy October and Lois Ehlert!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

History Pockets

We have really enjoyed Evan-Moor History Pockets this year.  We used both the ones for older grades and the ones for ages 6 and up for Ancient Civilizations.  They are very easy to use. Below are the projects we have worked on last year.

We worked on Ancient Egypt.

Ancient Greece.  I used folders for the pockets to store the work.  The kind you get cheap during back to school sales. 
Ancient Rome.  My daughter felt like we needed to jazz up our display with some crayons.

The History Pockets  are a great way to learn history. We used Ancient History in the examples above.   They include vocabulary, dress, and architecture.  My first and third grader loved them.  The older kids enjoyed joining in some of the activities in the Ancient Egypt Book. 

You can also buy a yearly subscription to through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  You can access all of Evan-Moor teaching books and activities all year.  You can download and copy what you need as you need it.  I have enjoyed having it this last year. 

~ Becky

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Planning for Next Year. . .Pinterest

I have been working on my Pinterest Board for a few months now.  I am hoping it is a place where home educators can stop by and find an idea or inspiration.   I have preschool, math, reading, science ideas, and history boards.  I also created a board for Charlotte Mason resources.   I am trying to put blog posts from here on there.

So, please stop by for a visit.  Maybe you will find a little inspiration.

Origami Pinterest

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ellen Stoll Walsh

I am still accepting portfolios.  I am only reviewing them, and sending the form you need for your school district.   Thanks so much. Becky

The author for September is Ellen Stoll Walsh.   I remember learning about Ms. Walsh back in graduate school.  I was fascinated as another student used an overhead projector, glass jars, and colored water to enhance her telling of Mouse Paint.   I am dating myself with that overhead projector comment, but it was very fun to watch. 

Mrs. Walsh pictures are distinct and inviting.  She has a wonderful way of reviewing colors, shapes, and counting.  Here is a post by another author Tedd Arnold about Ms. Walsh.  It tells about how she became a storyteller and author. 

 I have set up a Pinterest board with some activities that I have found.   Here are some ideas I am going to try to work in this month.

~ Take a nature hike.
~ Make some shape pictures
~ Read and snuggle as much as I can.
~Do some color mixing in glasses so my kids can see it.
~Paint and mix colors.  
~Print a couple of worksheets as optional activities.

I would love to hear your ideas.  Please write them in the comments.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Author of the month

I am still accepting portfolios.  I am only reviewing them, and sending the form you need for your school district.   Thanks so much. Becky

I am starting something new at my house.  I feel like my "littles" need some more directed author studies.  I believe there is something powerful in studying an author and reading many books by that author. You get to observe the type of writing style and look at their artwork more closely.  

I have decided this school year, I am going to do an author a month in picture books.  The intended audience of the books is PK-3rd, but my older kids love to revisit their favorites. I am going to gather the books from my personal collection and ask my local librarian to help me gather more by that author.  I am going to put them in a special tub/bin and keep them available for the month.  My hope is that by having them all gathered, I will be able to grab and read them.  I feel like personally I need to be more intentional about reading good literature to my kids.  When I ask them to grab a book we tend to read some less quality titles.  I am also hoping the older kids will read these to the younger ones as well.  

I will try to post these at the end of the previous month.  Hopefully you can join me on my journey. These are the authors I am planning on for this school year.  But, they are subject to change. I am choosing easy to find authors who have published many books.  

September- Ellen Stoll Walsh.  
October- Lois Ehlert
November- Patricia Polacco.
December- Jan Brett
January- Ezra Jack Keats
February- Bill Martin Jr.
March- Tomie dePaola
April- Margeret Wise Brown
May- Eric Carle

I hope you will join me on my adventure.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Homeschool Graphic. . . Interesting

I am still accepting portfolios.  I am only reviewing them, and sending the form you need for your school district.   Thanks so much. Becky
Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Planning for Next Year. . .. Simply Charlotte Mason Web site.

I accept portfolios for review through Saturday August 24, 2013.  After that date I will accept your portfolio, but I will not write up any notes.  I will only send you what you need for your district.   I am still happy to help you after the 24th. Thanks so much. Becky

I have bought my calendar each year from the lovely people at Simply Charlotte Mason.  This year I looked around their web site and found many other great resources that I have found helpful.

They have a wonderful article on the six basic types of home education.  The article describes them and gives vendors to help you.  They also have an excellent article on what methods Charlotte Mason used. 

I enjoyed reading through their explanation of copy work, narration, and dictation.   A great site to check out to help you plan your year.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Planning for Next Year. . . Donna Young

I was in desperate need of graph paper for my son to work his addition and subtraction problems on.  I searched the web for graph paper and found Printables and Resources . . . . again.  I had visited this site before, but had not been there in awhile.  So after printing up some papers designed for math I looked around. 

She has many helpful printables on her page.  She has printables for handwriting, science lessons & journals, nature journals, math facts practice, math charts, and so much more.  

You may download free of charge from her site and she also sells a CD.  It looks like in the future she may sell a subscription to her site.  

I think this is a fabulous resource.  I printed a multiplication chart that made my heart skip.  

Maybe this will help you with your planning for this year.
~ Becky

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Our Nature Hike and resources.

Tammy's post last week inspired our family to go on a nature hike with my kids.  I really enjoyed the time with them and remembered again just how wonderful nature walks can be.  
Starting on the trail.  

  We enjoyed each others company, and made shared memories. There is something powerful about slowing down.


We found shell fungus and spent some time observing it.  

 Here are some resources that we use when we observe nature, or want to read more about it. 
We love the series One Small Square .  There are a variety of books in this series including one on the woods. 

One Small Square books. 

 Another favorite is the Fun with Nature Take Along Guide.  That is a very well loved book in our house.  This version is compilation of several books in the series.,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
Fun with Nature

Any of the Audubon Field books are particularly helpful. 
Guide for Birds

We also love the Dover  coloring books as well.   
A Walk in the Woods,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
American Wild Flowers

 Happy exploring! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Post: Tammy Glaser of Aut-2B-Home

Tammy Glaser is a friend of mine who writes at Aut-2B-Home.  I consider her a great source of all things Charlotte Mason and have shared how her blog changed my life.  I asked her if there was a Charlotte Mason Topic that she would share with us at Ohio Homeschooling.   Enjoy!

Think Clear, Feel Deep, and Bear Fruit Well. 

Trying to understand the ideas of Charlotte Mason, a Victorian Era educator, can be tricky 150 years later. How does her first principle—“Children are born persons”—apply today? Well, children are not products to be standardized, tested, or graded. They are certainly not percentiles. Children are capable of learning far more than we imagine. We find ourselves resorting to praise, stickers, and rewards as we force-feed knowledge to them. We end up narrowing our focus to the boundaries of the three testable R’s to boost standardized test scores. We are tempted to cut out what they need most—the best of history, literature, art, music, nature study, etc. Children long to know, and do not need artificial rewards and prizes if we allow them to “think clear, feel deep, and bear fruit well” as Matthew Arnold put it so eloquently.

Think Clear

Children hunger for knowledge when offered in a manner that stimulates the appetite. Unfortunately, oral lectures, textbooks, and worksheets prepared by experts and teachers dull the taste buds. These artificial devices rob children of the opportunity to think. The mind is a living thing that feeds on ideas. It will starve without them. A steady diet of ideas found in well-written books and interesting things will awaken the mind to awe and wonder.

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote, “Memory is the residue of thought.” We remember things our minds have pondered. The mind will remember when allowed to observe, think, and share what is known. Children observe by reading, listening to a read aloud, or attending with their senses. They think by processing what they observe, making connections, and asking their own questions. They can share what they know by retelling, reenacting, drawing, building, writing, playing, devising experiments, creating, etc.

How does this look on a practical level? Take science for an example. Some friends and I were on a nature walk with our children. We heard a dull noise in a spot. We had never heard sounds like that. We wondered what it could be, so we followed the noise and discovered frogs! Thousands of frogs. What kind of frogs? We took a picture so that we could find out. Why were they making so much noise in the middle of the day? We had to look that up, too. When we realized there might be eggs, we went back and collected some to watch the life cycle of the frog firsthand. We learned about how to care for them, what to feed them, what to expect, etc. We took photographs, wrote notes in our notebook, and made nature notebook entries, etc. Three months later, we have been finding teeny-tiny frogs on our walk and we wonder if they are kin. The life cycle of a frog is not something we memorized because we lived it.

Feel Deep

Children also long to forge with their community and their world. They want to feel connected to someone and something. Finding connections between wide and varied things instills a sense of awe and wonder. Reading living books (classics and the best of modern offerings) sparks more excitement because the boundaries of subjects are blurred. Reading about the life of a person by imagining what their childhood was like, seeing how ideas inspired them, and feeling surprised at life’s twists and turns is far more exciting than a fact-laden paragraph in a textbook. Stories have a privileged status in being stored in long-term memory.

Children feel more connected to their learning with they are allowed to personalize their understanding. They want to discuss ideas rather than listen to a long oral lecture and take notes from a white board. They find drawing and writing in personal notebooks far more satisfying than filling out a multiple-choice sheet. Journals carried from year to year record their growth as persons and are far more likely to become treasured keepsakes than meaningless workbooks.

Every week, we spend over an hour walking a mile-long trail because we stop and study things that capture our attention. I take pictures. At home, we pick one picture of a thing from nature and try to identify its common name and Latin name if we do not already know it. Sometimes, we end up submitting a photo to websites like Butterflies and Moths of North America , Bug Guide , and Project Noah  for help. These free resources are one way to get the whole family involved with citizen science. We draw pictures with watercolor pencils in our nature notebooks, note the common name, Latin name, date and location and write about anything interesting. We also keep a calendar of firsts to record the first Carolina jessamine, wisteria bloom, banana spider, etc. of the season. Our calendar helps us anticipate when to begin looking the following year.

Bear Fruit Well

We often joke about short attention spans—“Squirrel!”—and bemoan how many people are taking medication to address it. How we structure our lessons and organize our day can build the habit of attention. Many and varied short lessons keep the attention fresh as does varying those that require sustained mental effort with those that are light and active. Going outside and exploring the natural world every day also lengthens attention span. Children pay more attention when they can retell and share what they think and imagine. Play, creating, and finding delight builds attention as well.

     For many years, my habit of nature walks was sporadic at best. Another homeschooling friend and I made a pact last fall to walk a nearby wildlife refuge every Friday and enjoy a picnic afterwards, weather permitting. Except for travel and illness, we have kept our promise. We have armed ourselves with bug spray and bottled water on the hottest days and raincoats and boots on the wettest days. We have bundled up on the coldest days and, to be honest, those were the shortest walks ever. On the day of tropical storm Andrea the weather did not look bad enough to skip our walk. We hit the trail even though the nature center was closed and saw foam bubbling out of a tree! I cannot begin to tell you about all the wonders and delightful memories we have forged in the past nine months.

      Next month, my friend and I are opening a school based on a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. Last fall, we had no inkling of starting a community school for full-time students and co-oping homeschoolers. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that the photographs we were taking would don the walls of its website. Those weekly walks, which were hard at first, have become foundational to our lives. We look forward to seeing awe and wonder in the eyes of our students.

Sow an act, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a life.

But first,
    We must sow the idea
    That makes the act worthwhile.

 Tammy is on the far right. Photo courtesy of the Clarendon Citizen from the Article "Harvest Community School to offer education alternative"  

By Tammy Glaser.  Tammy Glaser is currently working on starting a school called Harvest Community School in South Carolina.  She blogs at Aut-2B Home. The opinions shared are  entirely her own.