Entries from February 2013 ↓

Homeschooling through crisis or depression

Homeschooling Through Crisis or Depression: Kim Kautzer

When I Am Weak: Homeschooling Through Crisis or Depression

Homeschooling can be challenging enough when the sea is smooth and calm. But what do you do when depression, a wayward teen, or some other personal crisis blows in the dark clouds and stirs up a few towering waves? Is it even possible to navigate the waters of homeschooling when you can barely stay in the boat yourself?

During my 15 years of homeschooling, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of life and faith … and I know what it’s like to homeschool during bleak times. Though each mom’s trials are unique, God is constant and unwavering. I’m looking forward to sharing my personal story and offering tips for staying on course in rough waters. My prayer is to bring light and hope to your situation and reassurance that you can finish well.

Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Attire: Jammies!
Twitter party: 8:00 p.m. ET #UHExpo
Kim’s talk: 9:00 p.m. ET
Join the session: Click the “Listen Live” button at Mommy Jammies Night

About Mommy Jammies Night

Mommy Jammies Night offers FREE monthly online sessions where moms can talk about things that really matter: family, faith, and life! Share your heart with people who listen and really care. Cozy up with a cup of tea and listen live from the comfort of your own home. Stay up late, laugh and giggle, meet new friends, and be energized and ready to face new daily challenges.

Join me at March’s Mommy Jammies Night. I would love to encourage you to press into God as you weather your own storms.

Photo: Karin Vlietstra courtesy of Creative Commons.

Brrr! Writing prompts from the top of Big Snow Mountain

Winter Writing Prompts, Mountains, Snow, Snowboarding, Skiing, Journal Prompts

Before the last snows of winter melt, treat your students to writing exercises that will leave them shivering in their boots!

1. Extreme Sports

If you could spend a day in the mountains, would you rather go skiing, snowboarding, or rock climbing? Explain your answer.

2. Hibernating in Style

It’s official! Your cabin is open for business as a winter resort for mountain animals. Describe three of the furry guests at your resort, and some of their favorite vacation activities.

3. On a Dark and Stormy Night

Write a story that includes these words: avalanche, blindfold, and snow globe.

4. Everest Expedition

At 8,850 meters (or 29,035 feet) above sea level, Mount Everest is the highest mountain on earth. If you wanted to climb Mt. Everest on your 21st birthday, what steps would you take to prepare yourself physically, mentally, and financially?

5. Flying High

You have finally earned your pilot’s license, and today you are flying solo over a snow-capped mountain range. Describe your thoughts and feelings as you soar above this pristine landscape.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: TRAILSOURCE.com, courtesy of Creative Commons.

3 ways to spice up post-field trip assignments

Field Trips, Word Banks, Writing StoriesSPRING is just around the corner, and with it the joy of finally stepping outside for hands-on learning. Like many moms, you probably look forward to a new season of field trips. But if you always assign the five paragraph “What I Learned on my Field Trip” report the moment your family returns home, your kids may not quite share your excitement.

If you already use a writing program, an extra report can be overwhelming to an elementary child. Reports can also frustrate a student who spent so much time enjoying her outing that she forgot to take notes. Why not follow up your field trip with a writing activity that appeals to your squirmy son, imaginative daughter, or inquisitive preteen?

Make a Word Bank 

After a fun but tiring excursion and a long drive home, your child might be overwhelmed at the thought of writing a report the next day. He can easily show some of the things he learned simply by making lists or word banks!

First, encourage your child to think of one or two things that stood out to him. Was your third grader especially fascinated by the jellyfish at the aquarium? Help him make a list of adjectives, nouns, and verbs that remind him of this awesome creature. Perhaps you’ll want to do this together (out loud at the dinner table?). Or, set your kids loose in the backyard with sidewalk chalk, and take a picture of the word lists they create.

Field Trip, Word Bank

Example: Jellyfish

graceful, terrifying

umbrella, tentacles

sting, drifting

saltwater, ocean

Write a Story

Perhaps your book-loving daughter has just waltzed through the halls of a Victorian home or romped through the fields and cabins of a living history farm. She’s already aglow with dreams of adventure in other times and places. Why not encourage her to write a short story inspired by her day?

Structure the assignment to keep it manageable. Ask her to introduce the main character and the character’s main problem in the first paragraph. The middle paragraphs should show the character attempting to fix the problem. The final paragraph should provide some kind of resolution or closure.

The story might follow a wealthy man attempting to send an urgent message in the days before telephones. Or, it might revolve around a farm girl who wants to make her mother a present for Christmas. Whatever the story, make sure your child includes historical details learned on the field trip, such as the clothing, inventions, or entertainment of the time.

Super Sleuth Research

Field Trips, Word Banks, Writing Stories

If your student displays a scientific bent, a trip to the science museum is merely the first step in feeding his ever-growing curiosity. Instead of asking him to rehash what he just learned in a post-field trip report, consider assigning a series of questions and answers—all prepared by the student himself, of course.

Begin by asking him to write one, two, or three genuine questions based on his new knowledge. Which exhibit in the museum left him wanting to know more? Which train of thought did the docent leave unexplored? Questions should focus on hows and whys that require explanation, rather than simple when or where questions that can be answered with a single phrase. For example: Why had no one invented a practical light bulb before Thomas Edison? How do scientists agree on carbon dating?

After you approve the questions, set your student free to conduct research. Then, ask him to write one (or all) of his answers in paragraph form. When finished, have him check his own work for organization, clarity, and proper grammar!

*  *  *

Your home may be the training ground for budding artists, novelists, and scientists alike. By combining the hands-on learning of field trips with customized follow-up assignments, you are teaching your kids that writing is not only relevant, but fun!

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

Photos: F. Delventhal, NBphotostream, and Stevan Sheets, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Imagine if…. Whimsical journal prompts for knights and fair maidens

Writing prompts with medieval theme

What better way to inspire young writers than to throw in a castle-load of adventure? Lower the drawbridge and let the writing begin!

1. The Legend of Excalibur

Imagine that you are lost in the woods and suddenly discover a sword in a stone. How do you react? What do you think will happen next?

2. Character Counts

Courage is the character quality that allows us to do what is right in the face of danger, pain, discouragement, or fear. Write a story that shows the importance of courage, using at least three of the following words: knight, dragon, fire, cliff, peasant, fog, duck, gold, promise.

3. A Book of Great Price

Imagine you are a rich medieval lord who has waited several years for one special book. Your book was copied by hand, letter by letter, word by word, page by page. How will you reward the scribe who copied the words so carefully? What would you do with a servant who accidentally burned part of your book?

4. Coat of Arms

Someone has asked you to design a coat of arms to represent your family. Describe the colors and symbols you would choose, and explain what each one represents.

5. The Show Must Go On!

During the medieval era, town guilds often performed “mystery” or “miracle” plays to bring stories from the Bible to life. Laymen who could not read the Latin Bible learned many Bible stories by watching these theatrical performances. Imagine you are a member of the carpenter’s guild who must participate in a mystery play called Noah and the Ark. How will you design the set, props, and costumes?

Photo: Library of Congress, courtesy of Creative Commons.

How to brainstorm with reluctant children

Encouraging your reluctant child to brainstorm with graphic organizers, lists, and mindmaps

DOES YOUR CHILD balk when it’s time to plan out a story or report? Does she tell you she’d rather just start writing? If so, read on! I’m sure you’ll relate to this question from the WriteShop mailbag.

. . . . . 

Q: When we brainstorm, my daughter wants to skip the planning part and jump right into the actual writing.

It’s frustrating for her to just put some of her thoughts down and not expand on them right then and there. She has a hard time stopping her flow of ideas. Any tips?

A:  As much as she wishes she could do so, it’s often counterproductive for a child to pour out her whole story in free-spirit style.

Without a plan, she has no sense of direction, and the story can quickly lose focus and disintegrate into a jumble of words. Instead, help her view brainstorming as a time of preparation—a part of the pre-writing process.

Teach Brainstorming Skills

If you always let your student write as the ideas come—and she never learns to slow down and plan her course—she’ll struggle with:

  • Rambling stories and disjointed essays 
  • Essays and reports that require summarizing and rephrasing of research so as not to plagiarize.
  • Long reports that, by their nature, should be spread out over many days or weeks.

Brainstorming with lists, mindmaps, graphic organizers

Brainstorming needs to be taught—even when your child digs in her heels.

Keep working with her to develop this skill of planning out story details. When she begins her actual story, she can flesh out her brainstorming into meatier sentences.

As assignments grow in length, it will become even more necessary for your student to plan first and write later.

Use Different Brainstorming Methods

There are many ways to brainstorm. When you’re not sure how to brainstorm with children, it’s good to experiment and try different ideas, such as the four listed here.

Brainstorm for Writing Topics 

Have your kids ever approached the blank page with fear and trembling? Often, it’s simply because they have no idea what to write about! This little activity will help them think of topics that interest them.

  • Set a timer for 3 minutes and have each child make a list of every idea they can think of—with no erasing or crossing ideas out! If they’re timer-phobic, you can do this without timing the exercise.
  • When finished, encourage them to look over their list and circle three ideas that would be the most fun or appealing to write about.

Make Lists

This is an effective brainstorming method for writing short reports about familiar topics. It’s also a great way to brainstorm about a personal experience.

  • On a large sheet of paper (or on a whiteboard), write the main topic.
  • Ask the kids to think of as many ideas as possible that relate to this topic. List all their ideas, even those that don’t really fit.

Sometimes your child may want to do the writing. But often, a young writer’s thoughts gush out like a firehose, and there’s just no containing them. If you can write as she talks, you can corral those random ideas on paper. Later, she can sort ideas into categories.

Make a Mindmap or Idea Cloud 

Use a mindmap to help organize main points and subpoints.Mindmaps are especially effective with spatial and visual learners.

  • In the center of the whiteboard, draw a  circle and write the topic inside.
  • For the main points, draw several lines that radiate out, adding a circle to the end of each line.
  • Ask who, what, when, where, and why questions to prompt the children. As they give ideas, write main points in the circles.
  • Subpoints can be written on additional lines that connect to their related main points.

Use Graphic Organizers

Graphic OrganizerGraphic organizers such as the one on the left are worksheets that help kids sort ideas and plan story or report details.

Traditional graphic organizers come in grids, charts, or idea clouds. But they can also take on more fanciful shapes, such as hamburgers or robots.

Both elementary and middle/high school levels of WriteShop include an assortment of worksheets. The younger levels include both traditional and whimsical graphic organizers.

Whatever brainstorming methods you choose, encourage your child to develop and practice different techniques. Brainstorming is a lifelong skill!

Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Brainstorm photo: Andy Mangold, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Is your high schooler ready for college?

ACCORDING TO a recent report from the national ACT board, far too many students are graduating high school without the skills needed for college and career.

The statistics are sobering, but take heart! There are steps you can take to help prepare your teens for college.

College Prep Tips and Resources

Start by checking out the following links:

     “Don’t succumb to the temptation to throw in the towel, just when the rewards promise to be so great! Homeschooling through high school is worth the effort! It’s one of the best times you’ll have with your children, before they launch and start their own lives at college or beyond. Stay the course, and finish strong.”

~Lee Binz, The HomeScholar

Infographic: Unprepared for College

Here are some additional statistics to remind you (and your teen) of why purposeful college preparation is so important.

Based on a work at College@Home. Used with permission.

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