There are few things that seem to attract the attention of people these days than connecting with one another! We can stream live and connect
with events going on across the globe. We can be LinkedIn and we can connect to share information with other professionals and ideas with like-minded friends all over the world. As homeschooling moms, we
can now connect with other homeschoolers in chat rooms or on boards. We glean gems of wisdom as we read blogs shared by those who have walked our pathway, and we find comfort in the fact that we are not alone
in our feelings or situations as we cope with struggles and share joys as homeschooling families. All this connecting happens through a few simple keystrokes!
Sometimes, although we spend our days with our children, we don't always make opportunities to "connect" with them. Here's a great idea to
make some sweet connections with each child AND help to strengthen writing skills over the summer and in the year to come! Children as young as kindergarten or preschool can do this as long as they are able to
write phonetically. This "Get Connected" project really just involves simple daily journaling by your child with your responses to those daily journal entries. It really amounts to creating a
dialogue that might never happen in exactly the same way without the daily written element. Dialoguing with a student can be so bonding, and it encourages the child to share personal thoughts, ideas, and
reflections. As homeschooling parents, we have an especially unique and blessed opportunity and privilege to be able to implement this method at home.
It starts with the student writing any simple entry for the day. You read their journal entry and write a response back to them. The next day, they respond
to your questions or comments - and then write a new entry. It doesn't have to be profound or inspirational, but it can turn into those things! It starts with you using each daily writing opportunity
to be interested in your child. Following are some examples of things children might write and possible responses by you in parentheses. You can let your child choose the topic of the daily entry, suggest
that it be about daily or weekly summer happenings, or assign a different topic of your choice.
We went for a picnic in the park today. That was fun! I got stung by a bee while we were eating lunch. That was not fun! (I love picnics - it was
hot, though - right? I'm sorry you got stung - but I'm glad that you are okay now. Do you remember the time that you were stung when you were three years old?)
I am so excited! Next week is our summer vacation at the beach! I love the ocean! (I'm excited too, and I've been so busy packing! How
many states will we drive through before we get to the beach?)
I'm feeling grouchy today. (I'm so sorry! Sometimes I feel grouchy too. When that happens, I try to count my blessings and repeat a Bible verse that
reminds me of how much God loves me even when I feel grouchy! Let me know if there is something I can do to help! I'll be praying for you! Love, Mom)
Today we went to the ice cream shop! My favorite flavor of ice cream is strawberry. (Mine too! I especially like it in an ice cream cone. What
are two other flavors you like? Love, Mom)
If you start and continue this with your child, you will find it to be a beautifully rewarding experience. Although you can do it in a spiral notebook
journal, it's also a great idea to do it on the computer to help an older child practice keyboarding skills! If you already knew about and have used this idea but haven't used it for a while, this
summer might be the perfect time to revisit it!
Oh, and with all this talk of connecting - be sure to tell all your homeschooling friends about Learning Adventures! The best way to share the good news
about Learning Adventures is still moms sharing their great experiences with other moms!
From Dorian's desk - Christmas 2010:
"Making your list . . . checkin' it twice!"
Many Decembers ago, when Ryan was in third grade, he wrote in his writing journal,
"My dad and I went to buy my mom Christmas gifts. When we were in the car my dad kept saying, 'We're makin' our list and we're checkin' it twice!" John, of course, was having
fun with Ryan with the line of the popular Christmas song, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Oh, how I can remember joyously and meticulously making my childhood Christmas list from the Sears Wish
Book and checking it twice (and three times and four times . . . )!
List-making comes naturally to me, since being organized is one of my personal attributes. As a young adult, newly married and teaching young
children, I was a zealous list-maker - almost to the point of adding "make list" to my list of things to do! I had more than one list going at a time, a "to-do" list for work, a list of
goals for work, a "to-do" list for home, a grocery and supplies list of household needs for shopping (which I still keep faithfully), a list of personal goals . . . I am sure there were more than
that as well. There was just something about crossing things off my list that felt like such an accomplishment and nurtured the organized part of my soul!
As life got ever busier and I became a mommy and eventually grew older (and hopefully, wiser) my individual lists became less important as time
itself grew more precious. Reading to Ryan or chatting with him while he was swinging became more "urgent" than spending so much time creating lists and checking things off them.
I guess that's why, when we began teaching Ryan at home, we wanted a learning adventure - one that wasn't so concerned with checking things
"off" the list as a focus on the things that would be "on" the list that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. Sure, there are still lists of skills and concepts involved, and
there is still organization in the way it all happens each day and within each unit and each volume - but, hopefully there is a more meaningful focus than just the superficial checking off of skills, concepts,
lessons, and "tasks" in learning.
It's my prayer that your learning adventure will be more than an educational check list for you and your family! I'll provide you with
the skills, concepts, lessons, and activities so you can focus on reaching that greater goal of experiencing the learning journey of a lifetime with your children - and continue to build memories that will
strengthen your relationship with them and with the Lord!
So - as Christmas nears and we begin making those "lists" - I hope this year, your list will include taking the time to enjoy Christmas
moments with your children - reading, walking in the snow together, singing carols together, baking together, serving others together, marking Christmas milestones, and making memories together. Most of all, my
prayer is that you will take time to reflect and delight in God's unspeakable gift of the Babe in the manger, and that Jesus, the Light of the World, will be the reason for everything you do.
May His light shine through you this Christmas!
From Dorian's desk - April, 2010:
Don't you just love the smell of spring? Gardeners in the Midwest are just beginning to plant seeds in the cold ground and watch for the first sprouts of
those tender and delicious early spring vegetables. I've had very little experience in the planting of gardens, but I can joyfully claim much experience in eating those first tasty garden morsels and
savoring each mouthwatering bite! Beets and berries, rhubarb and radishes, carrots, greens and lettuces, scallions and asparagus, peas and new potatoes! Yum! I always thank the farmers for coming to
share their bounty at the Farmers' Market with those of us who are not as talented at growing things as they are! A garden is such a lovely thing!
For those of you who would like to insert a mini-unit into your spring learning schedule - a Garden Unit is a timely idea to consider. Spending a week or so
doing a mini-unit study in the spring can be really fun for the family - or it can be equally as meaningful at the end of the school year/beginning of summer.
In this study, you will create your own schedule and pick and choose as many or as few of the following activity suggestions as you like. The Secret Garden,
by Frances Hodgson Burnett, will provide the literature foundation for your garden unit study. In it, you will meet the sickly, neglected, and quite contrary Mary Lennox who goes to live with her uncle at
Misselthwaite Manor in England. While there, Mary learns about a secret garden that has been locked for ten years, and she is determined to find the mysterious garden. When she finds the key to the secret
garden, it leads to an unlikely friendship with the nature lover, Dickon, and the spoiled and lonely Collin, and a series of events that will transform the garden and all of their lives. Growth is a theme in
this book, both in the garden and in the lives of the characters.
A mini-unit study need not include every element of a comprehensive unit study and can still touch on the main points of the curriculum spectrum if it includes
reading and discussing, writing, and extending the literature into the realms of social studies, science, and fine arts. Whether you just choose to read (or re-read) The Secret Garden together as a
family or you decide to add some of the following learning and fun activities - you will appreciate this inspiring tale of growth! Here are some extension activities that go along with The Secret Garden:
- Choose 5-10 new words from the story (or each chapter) and write their definitions according to the context in which they are used.
- Choose two characters from the story, The Secret Garden, and write a comparison and contrast paragraph about them.
- For your Bible emphasis - a study of the Garden of Eden would be a wonderful accompaniment. Other garden/growth themes to study are passages in which
Jesus teaches in the gospels about the Vine and the Branches.
- Use the verb "grow" as a springboard for further study. Search for strong and interesting verbs in each chapter and decide how many you will
include in your daily study. Extend this exercise into a vocabulary study and include a definition of each. Then use each verb in a sentence of your own. Commit to adding some of these verbs to
your working personal vocabulary.
- For spelling, focus on gardening words - garden, horticulture, soil, mulch, fertilizer,trowel, spade, sprout, germination, etc. - or choose words for
spelling from the literature text.
- Create a poster or folder project book report on The Secret Garden that includes your choices of the following ideas: a cover/title page/picture, a short
summary of the book, themes of the book, characters in the book, a favorite part (or parts) of the book, illustrations of favorite scenes from the story with captions, and a review/recommendation of the book.
- Read books about gardens, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
- Create a folder-project/lapbook on Flowers with a collage of flowers, lists and drawings/pictures of various types, flower words and definitions, and places
in which specific flowers grow.
- Create a Secret Garden in a shallow box - use paper and posterboard, crayons and markers to create backgrounds, foliage, etc. and clay or plastic animals for
the garden wildlife. Label each of the creations in your diorama and be able to explain each.
- Robin redbreast becomes integral to the story of the Secret Garden. Learn about birds and their life cycles.
- Make a daily Spring Journal with spring words and written descriptions as well as your own drawings.
- The story of The Secret Garden begins in India. Read more about this fascinating country, its history, geography, and culture.
- Create a notebook of Famous Gardens of the World / Gardens in History. List and describe each, tell about their geographical location and the plants
featured there and/or the historical significance of the garden. Some famous gardens to consider are The Chicago Botanic Garden, Botanical Gardens of Mexico, Butchart Gardens of Victoria, B.C., the
Tuileries Gardens in Paris, the Versailles Gardens, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Birmingham Botanical Garden and Glasshouses, Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy, Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum of
- Visit (or take a virtual visit) a Botanical Garden in your area. Write a report on your field trip or create a video of your trip that includes the same
- Create a pressed flower collage or placemat with real flower petals or tissue paper petals pressed between clear contact paper.
- Create your own potpourri with flower petals and essential oils - investigate how to dry and store the petals.
- Plant a vegetable or flower garden - even if it is a very small patio garden with a few pots of flowers or vegetables.
- Choose a nicely shaped stone or rock and paint a design on it for your garden.
- Make jumbo craft stick plant pokes to note which crop is growing. Decorate these with paints or markers in the loveliest of designs that pertain to each
flower or food.
- Graph your family's favorite vegetables.
- Visit a local greenhouse or floral shop. Take pictures and create a pictorial report of your field trip.
- Write a sequel to The Secret Garden in which Mary, Dickon, and Collin are involved in a different adventure.
- Watch the video/dvd of The Secret Garden.
- Good news! There is a book entitled The Secret Garden Cookbook, by Amy Cotler! With or without this book, however, be sure to end your mini unit
with a Garden Party Tea or Picnic! Serve tiny little veggie sandwiches and fruit along with flower-shaped cookies or cakes!
May you experience many "growing" blessings as you enjoy the rest of this school year and the spring and summer season with your children!
From Dorian's Desk - July 2009
Our county fair is this week, when the tomatoes are ripening, the sweet corn is just beginning to burst with juicy flavor, and the cicadas are warming up for
their daily and nightly chorus here in America's heartland. This is the time of year when many of you are completely immersed in gardening and helping your children get their 4-H projects entered at the
local county (and state) fair. If you aren't involved in exhibiting at the fair, you will almost certainly be attending your county fair, which always brings back heartwarming childhood memories of days gone by.
As you prepare for the end of summer and the beginning of your school year, consider spending a transition week doing a mini-unit study just for fun with your
family! It's a gentle way of getting back into the swing of the more structured homeschooling year, because you will create your own schedule, picking and choosing as many or as few of the following
activity suggestions as you like.
Although the story of Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, is typically enjoyed by children on the younger side of the spectrum, there can be no doubt that
it is an endearing and enduring story that transcends all generations - and it never fails to touch the heart! Charlotte's Web provides a wonderful foundation for a mini-unit study that is perfect for this time of year. Don't reject this idea because you have read the book before! Each time I read Charlotte's Web,
I laugh louder, marvel more at the themes and insights, shed a few more tears, and heartily enjoy the tender and heartwarming story it tells of the sweet pig, Wilbur, the wise spider, Charlotte, the hilarious rat,
Templeton, and the little farm girl, Fern, who comes to know them in that one very special summer.
I think it's a must-read for every family each year right at this time - no matter the ages of your children!
A mini-unit study need not include every element of a comprehensive unit study, and can still touch on the main points of the curriculum spectrum if it includes
reading and discussing, writing, and extending the literature into the realms of social studies, science, and fine arts. Whether you just choose to re-read Charlotte's Web together as a family or you decide to add some of the following learning and fun activities - you will appreciate re-visiting this tender tale at this most appropriate time of the year!
Here are some extension activities that go along with Charlotte's Web:
- Charlotte shares some interesting words with us through her speech (i.e. - "salutations") and in the messages she spins in her web. Choose some of
the interesting words from the story and write synonyms for them.
- Choose 5-10 new words from the story and write their definitions according to the context in which they are used.
- Choose a character from the story, Charlotte's Web, and write a name poem based on their characteristics - including a word or phrase for each letter of
- Learn more about the author, E.B. White and the illustrator, Garth Williams
- Create a folder-project/lapbook on Charlotte's Web from a trimmed manila folder that can include your choices of the following ideas: a cover/title page, a short summary of the book, a brief bio of the author/illustrator, characters (with illustrations) in the book, a favorite part (or parts) of the book, illustrations of favorite scenes from the story with captions, new words and definitions from the book, a review/recommendation of the book.
- Write a short reaction piece/essay about the theme of friendship as it relates to the story and your own friendships.
- Read books about farm animals and farm life.
- Create a folder-project/lapbook on Animals on the Farm with a collage of farm animals, lists and drawings/pictures of farm products, farm words and
definitions, and a Venn Diagram of Farm/City Life
- Create a Barnyard Diorama in a shoe box top or other short corrugated box top - use paper and posterboard, crayons and markers to create backgrounds, barn
and other farm buildings, clay or plastic animals, and straw or other natural items. Label each of the creations in your diorama and be able to explain their uses.
- The following web site is a good resource for the topic of farms, especially for younger students: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/themes/farmanimals.shtml
- Learn about pets and pet care.
- Read books about rats and spiders.
- Learn about spiders and their life cycles, and create a mini-booklet about each stage.
- Create a spider's web with glue on a dark piece of paper - sprinkle with sugar or salt before the glue dries for a sparkly-glistening textured
- Read books about county and state fairs - and attend a local fair in your area!
- Make and eat some of your favorite fair foods - funnel cakes, snow cones, popcorn, caramel-apples, and/or corn dogs!
- Graph your family members' favorite fair foods.
- Write about your experiences at the fair in a narrative or list format.
- Write a sequel to Charlotte's Web in which Wilbur and one or more of Charlotte's children have an adventure.
- Watch the video/dvd of Charlotte's Web.
Blessings as you enjoy the rest of the summer and begin your homeschooling year!