Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Inspiring Early Readers with Crayons

You can inspire your child towards an interest in story telling, languages, and creativity even at a young age and even just with crayons.

 It all started with a memory.

When I was a little girl (about my two oldest girls ages) I would organize my coloring box with like colors next to each other, and I distinctly remember in one season at that time in my life where I was fascinated with the names of the crayon colors and worked at sounding them out and asking my mom about the funny spellings.

My favorite color then was Periwinkle possibly more for it's interesting name than it's color!

Deciding to buy myself a box of crayons one grocery shopping day recently, I took them home, sat down, and gently poured them out and reorganized them the way I liked.

I then colored in the word "Being" in my journal.
 When my girls saw what I'd done they were so impressed that they were inspired to do their own!

As we colored I read to them the names on the crayons and we laughed at some and approved of others.  Names such as ---

"Wild Strawberry"
"Macaroni and Cheese"
"Dandelion" and the like...
 I made word bubbles for the girls to create their own ribbon rainbow words with my crayons with the instructions to be very careful with them.

 Previously, crayons barely lasted a day and I was always sad to see them so quickly broken and ruined.

 My 7 year old was inspired to practice sounding out the names of the crayons as she saw me talk about the names.  The magnifying glass helped her do this!
If you want to inspire your early readers with crayons YOU need to be interested in those names as well!  

Actually, they are pretty fascinating to read.  It's not a box of red, red, red, red and red.. it's Maroon, Wild Strawberry, Wacky Watermelon, Brick Red, Magenta, and so on! 

 These words paint such a vivid picture if you will let them!  What stories could these crayons tell? Ask your child what they think of when they hear a name?  Who would live there?  How would this place feel?

I recently watched a Periscope to inspire Homeschooling parents to do some "Awesome Adulting" - meaning that we can't stop learning and growing and following our interests and passions because we are so caught up in the curriculum and homeschooling and surviving the days.
Doing more of my own art and crafts that I feel like doing is not only great for me it's even great for my kids to watch!  My Mom inspired me as I grew by just doing awesome things!  It made me want to learn those things too.

 I love seeing art videos that are sped up or the time lapse type and thought it would be fun to create my own coloring a page using ONLY crayons.  Did you know crayons could do this?

My new skill this week was learning to make a time lapse video and put it into Youtube so I could edit it all awesome.  This is what I came up with!

The coloring sketch journal featured is this.


It's been several days and the girls have been gentle with my crayons so I (once again) got them a box of crayons for their own.  First time getting all three a large box though!  And first thing they all did was sit down and organize their colors.  The 7 year old was very interested in the lovely sounding names and the 10 year old was quite taken with comparing the English names to the two other languages underneath each name!

What are other ways you could use crayons to inspire reading and creativity? 

 1.    Reading the names to them and talking about what it makes them think of.  If they can't think of an image or idea then come up with your own!  Make sure they know that this isn't a test and there aren't any wrong answers as you brain storm together and scribble.

2.     Compare the colors that look similar and be surprised and delighted when they look totally different on the page than the crayon looked!  You could talk about the names of those two crayons and discuss if you think the name was accurate or not.

 3.    Crayons can also teach responsibility as you teach them to take care of their art supplies.  Crayons layer really well if you don't push too hard so that's a great way to teach them to be gentle with the crayons.  Show them how to color with one and then color over it again to change the color to something slightly different or totally different!

4.     Come up with a short story game to make up together using their favorite animal toy as the main character.  Like, the toy bunny hopped along through the "Wild Strawberries"  .. Her name was "Razzmatazz"... she had "Periwinkle" eyes.  Pull each crayon out randomly and try to make the name of the crayon fit into the story!  You or your child could even write this down if you like to take it a bit farther!

5.     Draw bubble letter words that they are interested in spelling so they can color them in.  How much MORE fun would that be than copying a dry list of words?  Show them the video that I made below for inspiration!

"The highest form of learning is creating.  Creativity is a sign of true intelligence.  Creating something requires us to use our skills, knowledge and ideas.  First we look, next we copy, then we practice, and finally all we create.  This is the pathway to mastery.  
Little children are great creators, until they are told to follow the instructions, and do only as they are told.  Instead of valuing creativity, which is the highest form of learning, we value the memorization of facts - a lower form of learning that can be measured by testing."  Quote by Sarah Janisse Brown in "How to Homeschool"

To say that children can't have this freedom of creativity in how they learn, that we give to ourselves when we are older as we are learning new skills, is not only unkind, but demeaning and could even be considered cruel for some children.

If we want our children to love learning and be lifelong learners we need to think of more ways to inspire them.  

What inspired you as a child?  What memory do you have like my crayon one?  How could you ENJOY that right now and thus (hopefully) inspire those around you to want to join in on the fun!

Excellent X chalk board with Multiplication!

 The X chalk board!  This has stayed up for a LONG time because of Christmas vacation and all.  I started it with only part of the multiplication chart filled out so it would be easier for them to see at first.  I've talked before about "Math Gnomes" - the way I'm using them is just to give a good visual and story to the math symbols.  So the multiplication gnome is yellow because she is super fast like light!  The addition gnome is green because it adds and is slower like a growing plant. 

 As usual the girls did their own chalk board designs!  the 7 year old chose to do a Fox and the oldest drew Axolotls which I think she learned about from a library book I think.

Life of Fred Math Elementary Series | Educents

 We are still doing "Life of Fred" and loving it!  This website has the best deal for the set above.  We are on "Cats" (the third one in the picture above) and the picture below shows a little thing he had wanting them to memorize some numbers that add up to 11.  I wanted them to be able to picture this in a tactile way as well so I had them string 11 beads onto a pipe cleaner and as they were looking at the numbers that add up to 11 they could move the beads to show this!  There are still 11 beads, but they are just separated differently. 

 While I read them the chapter in life of Fred the girls will often color a few pages in these two books.  The Kitty Doodle one is really too easy for my oldest, but it's just a fun thing to do while she listens so it totally works.

The "Count and Color" have have for my middle and youngest girls.  They are little books and just kind of a nice filler thing to enjoy. 

 My middle daughter has been enjoying the "Schoolhouse Rock" multiplication songs.  ESPECIALLY the figure eight one!  Which you can see on Youtube!  So for her "Movie time" in her homeschool journal she chose to watch these over and over again.  I think she has much of it memorized!

The cat wanted to help with school and I don't mind her being on the table (when there's no food on it!) because I know it brightens the girls school time when the cat wants to join them!

 Both the oldest and middle have been using this book "Multiplication games"  I just have them trade off doing two pages each.  Not quite as convenient as having their own books, but it is a BIG book and is plenty enough for them to share!  It has a lot of multiplication pages to complete (copying this over and over will help them memorize their times tables.)
I encouraged them to use different colors on their multiplication charts as well to help see the patterns in the numbers as they worked!  They would look at the multiplication chart on the chalk board to help them complete it. 
 The opposite pages in this book often have a Logic puzzle to solve (figure out the pattern to finish the missing parts of the patterns on the picture.)  Gets your brain working!

An example of a logic page (they are all different!)
 Sometimes there's a hundreds chart to complete in this book as well.  It's a lot of repetition, but just right to go along with Life of Fred I think.  A few pages to gently help memorization in a right brain kind of way!
 ALSO!  I got THIS BOOK from Usborne and it is working SO well with the multiplication games from the thinking tree!  It's like they were made to go together. 
 It has a bunch of flaps to flip which make it super fun for the girls and the little multiplication tricks are helpful and my husband and I even learned a trick to help memorize one of the times tables we hadn't known about before!
Using this book has helped my middle daughter the most.  She was stressed out at first because she thought she had to already know what went into the multiplication chart and once she understood how to fill it in on her own and that she was just copying the numbers she didn't stress about it anymore.  They will memorize  this easily after copying it so much.
 They can look down the edge of the page at the times table in question and copy it in their Multiplications Games book

 We will continue to use these books after X week is over, but I got them specifically to start during this focus on X time!

 It's really clever how they set this book up!  I had a hard time finding this on Usborne's site for some reason so here's the link for you all to make it easy!
 During life of Fred he was talking about place values and this was a bit confusing to my girls so we had an extra lesson in place values.  I wrote the blank spaces and names above each and had them color the spaces like a rainbow.  We talked about how the places have certain names (or values) and that numbers can beam into these places.  If there isn't a number for it then a zero will hold the space for us.  I also had the girls walk their fingers like people starting at the ones column and repeat the names of each place value to help memorize it.

 We did a bit of cross-stiching (even the 4 year old did this with us, but I can't find the picture I thought I took of her!) which turned into embroidery, which turned into this bunny my 7 year old sewed!  Continuing with her sewing school in little ways like this!  (Next up will be a skirt for Valentine's day!)

 Some Math Gnome playing time.  They like to stack with the blocks and the gnomes like to add and argue and divide and "King Equals" comes in and makes it all right.  ;)

 We also used this game often!!!  And this particular day we used the add and multiply math gnomes to help us out.  It uses counting, adding, multiplying, greater-lesser and some crazy turns if you keep going till you can't do anything else (do the "Bisnipian move only once" but Planet zoomers and black holes can bounce you all over!)
X from OUTER SPACE Board Game
 I had this game when I was their age and it left a huge impression on me!  One, my Mom made it super fun!  And two, I finally learned my multiplication tables.  :)

 The cat wanted to help again!  The girls and I laughed about the gnomes AND the cat In Spaaace (echo echo echo.)

What?  I just wanted to see what was going on...

 And of course you can make cut out cookies for any letter of the alphabet!  With X being a little thin for topics I decided to do some gingerbread type cookies with lots of x's to go along with the theme.
The middle one is getting pretty good at cooking and following some recipes already and doesn't have any trouble understanding fractions so far even though we haven't official learned them yet.  We divide a lot of things by 3 and 4 though.  ;)

So yummy!  I feel like making more!
 And the finished multiplication chart on the chalk board in case you wondered.  :)
Not easy, but I was able to find some books that fit with the X theme (most I got at the library.)  This Animal Antics book of course! I also downloaded a xylophone app for my 4 year old.  Hey, it fit the theme anyway.
 And there you have it!  Lots of focus on multiplication this time.

Of course, in the midst of this there was a month of Christmas and decorating and fondue eating and lots and lots of cheeses and Lego like crazy (As that was most of the gifts!) and reading Christmas books and doing other random projects, roasting marshmallows over candles, stockings, Christmas movies, and then the beginning of January my oldest turned 10!  We went Ice skating for her birthday (which was the most fun ever!) and since then have been working back into the flow of our normal days.  Eating less cheese, and doing more specific school things and especially focusing on multiplication!

Y is starting and we are already doing many projects involving yarn.  ;)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Delight Directed with the Daddy

 This book is lovely and wonderful for Dads to use with kids, but it could be used by any parent or caregiver. I thought up some do's and don'ts for how to use this book along with showing off what some of the inside pages look like.

 Goals for using this-
Spending quality time together-
Sharing your own interests-
Discovering what your kids are interested in-
Getting to know each other-
Nurturing creativity and curiosity-
Starting great discussions-

Don't tell them what to do and have them do all the work in the books or force a perfectionist idea of how things should be colored "inside the lines" or a certain color.  Don't squash their imagination.
Do take turns writing, coloring with them at the same time, and speak encouraging words while you do so! Learn from their young imaginations!

Don't ask questions like you are giving a test. You don't have to know the answers, and neither do they. This is about discovery.
Do listen and ask questions that draw them out.  If they start to clam up, it may be that they are afraid of sharing their thoughts. Sometimes kids need to hear a story about "when I was a kid I struggled with this" and encourage them with stories of how you grew past things or what you learned. No one is perfect, and they need to know it's okay to be themselves.
 Don't keep talking and talking about something you might be wanting them to learn while their eyes glaze over.
Do pause that documentary when you see their interest wavering so you can explain what is going on a bit to help catch them up. If there are words they don't understand, define them or look them up together.

Don't pretend like you know something if you really don't.
Do admit when you're unsure about the answer to a topic or the meaning of the word. Show them how you would find the information out yourself.

Don't roll your eyes at the topics being learned or act fed up with their simplicity or that you might not be interested in the topics.
Do develop your own curiosity and follow the interests of your children.  Look for something in the topics that is new to you and SHOW that interest to them.

You are modeling a love (or hate) of learning, and they will learn more by watching you and how you interact with them than what is actually being studied.

Don't fall asleep or let your voice drone dully on when reading out loud to them that same book they have heard a hundred times or that boring one you wish wasn't on the shelf.
Do pretend like you are in acting class and make your voice sound happier, or add higher or lower "voices" to the characters in the book. Or for that really dull, repetitive book that they have memorized, choose to throw in a random word instead of the one that is really there to make everyone laugh!

 Don't rush through the coloring pages or writing parts or whatever YOU aren't into.
Do show them excellence in what you do while accepting them and all their lovely imperfections exactly how they are!
 Don't lecture or use this time to "teach a subject"
Do listen and listen and listen.  Ask questions about what things are their favorites, or what was their dream last night, or if they were an animal which animal would they be?

Keep the goals you value the most in front of you while doing this.  This is about your kids.  It's about delight and it's about relationship.  It's about being imperfect and being loved regardless.

The left page above is only at the very beginning and sets up the rest.  It's about the subjects that your kids might be interested in and you can write that down together and discuss.
Look on your own shelves or go to the library to pick out fun and interesting books! Let people take turns coloring the books. Learning to work together can happen through coloring!
 Happy to be reading with the daddy!
 Every so often, these pages rotate around so I'll show the types of pages next! They are relatively self-explanatory.  ;)  While you read, you could have a child or two do the coloring on the books to keep them busy.
I also like to have silly putty handy for the wiggly kids that don't like to just sit and look over my shoulder when I read.  Silly putty can be super special if it's only pulled out during reading time!
 "Logic!  Why don't they teach Logic in these schools..."  C.S. Lewis from "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe"  WELL THIS school does teach logic!  Even we adults can have fun figuring out what the pattern is so we can complete it!  Have everyone take turns or choose to rotate children for each page you do.  Try things and see what works best.

Don't leave out the little kids!
Do consider photocopying a page if you have little ones that aren't able or ready to do some of these things so they can have their own school to scribble on or tear or crumple without it being a problem for the older kids. They will feel included and get to have fun, but it won't "mess up" an older child's work in the actual book. (You could also let them color the page after the fact if the older child doesn't mind!)
 This page might take some Google searching and could also include teaching moments as you do this with your child about what sorts of websites to click on and which to avoid.   
Tip - you can look ahead so that you already have some of this sort of info ready to go.  Just make sure it doesn't turn into a lecture on your part.  Think of it as you would talking to a friend who didn't read the news and you want to tell them what's going on.

For younger children, it can be hard to keep this page and topic age appropriate.  Just be aware of your own kids and observe how they respond.  If you child is unusually afraid of sharks, then talking about shark attacks might not be the best idea if you want them to be able to sleep at night.  ;)
 Through out the book for pages like the one above it will focus on different jobs (not repeating the same one) which could open up some interesting discussions.

Don't talk about a job in a way that makes the hearer think it's not as good as another type of job. 
recognize that you don't know the future.  Even if you don't think your child could earn enough money with a certain job and would prefer them to work towards another, the fact is, you don't know for sure. You don't know what the future may bring and they will likely change their minds later, or the thing that they love won't be their "job" anyway, but rather a hobby that brings joy to their lives. And who wouldn't want that for their kids!
 These pages all through the book focus on different animals, and I can see some pretty fun and funny conversations going on.
An idea to include young children: Ask them to move or talk or make their face look like the animal in question! And for lots and lots of laughs do this yourself as well!

 What are your favorite foods?  Talk, illustrate, and write here and consider the next time you could surprise them with a special food treat while doing some "Fun school" together!

On the right-hand page, it's "Reading time" and this could be you reading aloud or if you have a child that likes to read out loud (none of mine enjoy this yet) you could consider that or if no one likes to read out loud then plan ahead and get some books on CD!
 "Meet the Classics" page.  This says to "give this page to an older child who needs to practice writing."  You could of course do that or you could take turns writing the lines each and talking about any new vocabulary words you might run across as you all go!

Get a nice set of colored pencils or Gel pens 
To use in the books NOT just for coloring but for writing as well!  Take turns writing the lines together and use a different color for each line!
 "Tell this story in your own words" - if you aren't familiar with it or if you want a refresher, you can plan ahead with a page like this and have something pre-written so you feel more comfortable telling a story by memory.
Tip for including younger kids or for just making it more fun for older ones!  
Coloring is great, but if there are enough of you or if not everyone is into coloring you might consider modeling clay or play dough and re-create some of the objects in the picture! This might be random, but we like to roast tiny marshmallows over candles here in our big city apartment in the heat of summer.  ;)  And looking at a picture like this I'm reminded of that and how one could have their kids enjoying some roasted marshmallows while listening to this story being retold with fish being roasted over a fire.  :) 
 These are my kids favorite pages!  Create your own comic - and "Watch a movie" together.  The comic page could have brain storming going together and you could choose one person to do the illustrating. 
Tip- Real comics are made by one person doing the writing, one person doing the sketching, one person goes back over it with ink, and one person does the coloring!

With Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, PBS online, TED Talks, and Library DVDs for free, it's really not hard to find interesting documentaries and other programs!  On Amazon Prime we just watched "The Science of Bubbles" so very interesting!

Don't keep watching a show to the end just to "finish it" if no one is interested.
Do be aware of age-appropriate content and watch your children as you watch the show to see if they seem interested or if they seem confused.  Pause the show if you can to catch them up if they seem confused about the meaning of words or just have a hard time keeping up with the speaker.

If you have a right-brain dominant learner like I do, then you'll need to think of how to help them set up a picture in their mind about whatever topic you all are learning about.  That's usually not as hard with movies, but if it's a TED talk or one that isn't made especially for kids then you might need to pause and do a little "re-cap" of what was already talked about with words you know they understand.
 Complete the picture pages.  This is similar to the logic pages, but not quite.  Develop observation skills and teach through example by pointing out the different lines and shapes and talk about how they compare to each other.  For smaller kids bring in counting naturally as you point at shapes and talk about what's missing so they can pick up on that as well.  This is a great page to plan to photo copy if you have several kids that might like to do this!  It would be fun to see how differently they turn out.

 How is everyone feeling?  Color in the expressions that match your moods today.  This can spark all kinds of conversations depending on the kids!  The bottom of the page says "list 3 things that might help you all feel better."  And yes, there has been suggestions of having hot chocolate and yes we then broke out the mugs and made it into an event!  And yes, everyone felt better after we did this. ;)

Don't judge the feelings of your child or make them feel like they can't express what is wrong.  Don't laugh at them or make fun of them or treat them like "it's not a big deal"  and act like they should just stop whining.
Do tell them that all their emotions are normal and try to be understanding and patient with them.  If they are having a bad day then acknowledge the bad parts, but help them see the good parts as well so the bad parts don't totally cover over the good things that have also happened.
 "Font Writing Practice" for our four year old I've had her copy over my own writing.  You can make bubble letters and have a child color them in for this.  You can show off some cursive if your child is interested in that as well!  Basically, make this work for you and your family.  If something starts to feel like a drag then pull out some colored pencils to write with or look up a calligraphy video to get some inspiration.  Here's a Ted Talk about Penmenship that was pretty inspiring!

My oldest actually really doesn't like the page on the right "word hunt" but she did like it at first.  I think it got to be a drag for her to try and find the exact letter count and then having a hard time finding words that fit the asked for letter count. 
If this is a problem for you, then you can just have them find any words all around the house or in books, or you can stipulate it in other ways like the "longest words" they can find.  For this, you can choose to do the writing for them to be an example of good writing or if they are too young to write.  Or you can take turns copying the words, or turn it into a game and all have different gel pens to write with and see who can find and write the most (though watch out for competitiveness as it can make for some tearful little ones.)  Cooperative games have worked the best for us!
 Math time and a drawing game.  The Math time can be a fun time to teach kids how to use a ruler or if you have older kids you could challenge each other to create a certain shape or something.  Or if someone wants to do the whole page themselves then they could work while you and other kids do the "drawing game" on the right hand side.

Don't - give the book to a kid and walk away completely.
Do - even if they want to do it on their own be near by to be impressed and share the experience and be a listening ear.  If you don't know what to do don't reach for your phone!  Reach for a colored pencil and color some boarders around the pages.
 Listening time and room to color and draw.  Today, my 10-year-old listened to A Wrinkle in Time on CD while doing this page in her "Kitty Doodle" journal, and was enjoying it so much that she ended up listening through half the book!

And those are all the types of pages!  The front cover says for ages 6 to 16, but I've been able to incorporate our 4-year-old into our "fun school" and as I mentioned before, you could always copy a page to hand to a little one that might want to scribble on it.  They will be delighted to be included in the big kids' school!

 Also, don't forget to take time to just sit and play with your kids too!  Lego is such a great tool for this.  Both of us enjoyed building with Lego as kids so it's a fun thing to do with our girls now.  We had a "Lego Christmas" this year as so much of the Holiday was spent building together while eating candy canes!

 It's the simple things that can create the best memories.  :)