Tag Archives: summer

Summer Family Bucket List To Grow

Summer Family Bucket List

I have loved seeing families’ bucket lists on Facebook! They make me wish that bucket lists were popular when my kids were little!

(Well, I guess we made our own Bucket List with our Summer School Goals—oh, my kids loved those!)

And I love having fun as a family…I mean, honestly, we were a FUN family. And we still go to Disney World as a family every five years!!! (Thanks to Plexus, we are moving that up to every three years!)

But for this post, I would like to propose a different bucket list than the traditional, fun, memory-making bucket list. It is the Summer Family Bucket List to Grow.

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Summer Schedules

Summer Schedules

Summer schedules. Those two words do not seem to go together to most kids (and even many parents!). And yet, I want to propose a plan whereby summer can still be somewhat carefree. (After all, that’s what most people love about summer.) Yet, our children can all still be engaged in learning, developing disciplines for their lives, building relationships and memories, and more.

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Wondering Wednesday: Summer Reading Help for Young Students

Summer Reading Help for Young StudentsDonna Reish, curriculum author and parenting/homeschool speaker, answers readers’ questions about bringing an elementary student up to grade level in reading during the summer. In this episode, Donna helps parents learn what to focus on in bringing their child to reading fluency, including terminology, phonics programs, reader selections, and steps in helping children learn to read during the summer school break. She has many links to help parents find the phonics program, readers, and methods that will work best for them and their children.


Click here to download the printable handout.

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Back to School Tip III of XII: Create Reading Environment

Twelve Tips for Back to School–Those Attending (or Homeschooling!)–Tip III of XII: Create an Environment Conducive to Learning to Read

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” ~Anna Quindlen, “Enough Bookshelves”

During my graduate studies (in Reading Specialist) at Ball State University, I did a master’s thesis about children who learn to read without any reading instruction. That is, the kids just suddenly started reading books without ever having phonics lessons, basal readers, or other “formal instruction.” It was a challenging thesis simply because there is so little data about it because of our “early school attendance age.” Seldom does a child learn to read “naturally” before age six or seven, and with kids going to school at age five (and often beginning reading instruction in kindergarten), the research was sparse concerning these “instructionless” readers.

I did find enough, however, and I was also blessed to find a family who had a natural reader to compare the printed data with. My observations, coupled with the studies in teaching journals, etc., led me to find what I called the “environment” in which natural readers are raised. This led me to other lines of thinking—if a child can learn to read with absolutely no instruction in a literary-saturated environment, wouldn’t this environment be conducive to helping those who DO receive instruction learn to read better, more easily, and more naturally?

The answer, of course, was yes. Study after study shows the type of environment that causes kids to learn better. Duplicating the “natural reader’s” environment can only help our kids learn better. Maybe our creating this “literary atmosphere” will not automatically make our six year old pick up a book and begin reading, but if it makes the learning process (actually any/all learning processes) easier, more enjoyable, and less stressful, why wouldn’t we want to duplicate it in our homes for all of our kids?

So what were the commonalities I found in studying the environment of “natural readers”?

Common Characteristics of Natural Reader

1. Interaction with adults—these kids were with adults a lot—and definitely not around peers more than adults. They had adults on hand to discuss things with, to answer their questions, and to provide examples of proper speech patterns, etc.

2. Much book handling by the child—these children were surrounded with books that they were permitted to interact with. They were often found at very young ages with stacks of books around them, just looking at the pictures, making stories in their minds from the pictures, etc.

3. Print abounds and interest in print is evident by itself—not only did the homes of natural readers contain books themselves, but they also contained all type of print. The parents of these children read magazines, journals, newspapers, etc. I think the “interest in print” part probably began with something like a parent saying, “Honey, look at this whale they found beached on the coast of Florida,” as he or she brought the little one up on to her lap to see the picture that was provided with the article in today’s newspaper, etc. This type of activity causes a child to become interested in print.

4. Tapes and books are used—nowadays, of course, this would say “cd’s and books are used”; however, this is the reason why I began using book and tape sets a few times a week for my preschoolers and elementary children—and why we have used audios (talking books, radio dramas, etc.) every week of our lives since our oldest was one year old. “Tapes” and books show our children the benefits and “fun” that reading provides.

5. Memorization takes place—these natural readers often followed a certain pattern—they memorized a picture book (usually many), then through the memorization, they began making print-sound-word connections. That is, when they turned the page and recited, “If you give a mouse a cookie,” they began to understand that i-f says if and y-o-u says you. Natural readers were experts at memorizing large portions of text.

6. Interest in writing words and “language experience” activities—many years ago, there was a movement in education to replace phonics instruction with “language experience” activities (also called a “whole language approach”). Phonics proponents everywhere were up in arms at the thought of “activities” of writing what the child said (dictation) for him, making little homemade books, etc. taking the place of phonics instruction. While I am a strong phonics proponent, I believe that these “language experiences” and “whole language” activities augment the reading instruction greatly. And, of course, the natural readers in the research were exposed to these types of activities early and often. These kids were the ones who dictated thank-you notes to Mom to go to grandparents and colored a picture to send along with it; they were the ones who had a chalk board in the kitchen in which Mom or Dad wrote the day of the week each morning; they were those who “said” stories aloud and parents copied it in little “journal” books for the child. And on and on. Why wouldn’t these types of experiences and activities increase a child’s relationship with print and love for learning?

7. Experiences related to literacy and books—these obviously include the types of activities listed in number six, but these kids knew from birth that books and reading were important. They were the ones in a double stroller at the library lawn sale as toddlers—child in front seat with back seat full of picture books. They were the ones who had their own “book basket” in the corner of the nursery almost from birth. In other words, they were immersed in literacy and books from an early age.

8. Self-regulated behavior and risk taking—This characteristic related to how they “organize” their little lives. These kids would pull all of the Curious George books off the shelf and stack them up to look at after lunch. They often had little learning systems in place at ages four and five. And they were not afraid to be wrong. This, of course, stems from not being talked down to or made fun of when they did ask questions. These kids were risk takers because taking risks in learning (“Mommy, is this word (dapper) ‘Daddy’?”) yielded information that helped them in their quest to learn. The questions did not yield put downs or “you should already know this.”

9. Read to often—Obviously, a link has to be made from the squiggles on the page to the sounds that those squiggles make in order for a young child to teach himself to read. Thus, a child must be read to (or follow along with books and tapes) in order to learn to read without formal instruction. Now, this is not to say that a child who is read to will automatically learn to read early and on his own. I read aloud to our first three kids three to five hours everyday for years and years—and not one of the three was a natural, or early, reader! But it certainly created a love for print and learning in my children!

Children who learn to read naturally, without reading instruction, are raised in an environment that is conducive to learning to read naturally—an environment that creates a love for learning and a very perceived need to learn.

While I have never had a natural reader myself, I tried all throughout my children’s learning days to create this type of environment. It has created outstanding learners and avid readers in the Reish home.

One of the “rules” that Ray and I had for our children’s early education was that if something could be taught informally (and painlessly), we would teach it that way (as opposed to using workbooks or “curriculum” for something that can just as easily be learned while driving down the road or snuggling on the sofa).

That is one thing that I truly loved about the “natural reader learning environment.” Why get a workbook to teach capital letters when you can teach it while you are running errands (from all of the store signs)? Why get a program for rhyming words when nursery rhymes, silly songs, and I spy games on the road can do the job without the stress? The “natural reader learning environment” fit how we thought young children should be taught—regardless of whether our kids truly became natural readers or not.

The environment described in the last couple of days’ posts is extremely conducive to teaching a myriad of things that kindergarten and first grade curricula often use workbooks, worksheets, and other “formal” approaches. And kids do not even know they are doing “school” with Mom and Dad while running to the hardware store or cuddling during an extensive story time!

Here are just a few of the skills that the research on natural readers indicated are learned/enjoyed by kids in this environment:

1. Contact with print

2. Thinking skills

3. Comprehension (especially when a wide variety of materials is presented and discussion follows)

4. Expanded vocabulary

5. Enunciation and pronunciation

6. Love of and need for reading

7. Sentence patterns

8. Relationship between parent and child—the most important one of all, of course!

Create a “natural reader learning environment” in your home—regardless of your kids’ ages….and watch the interaction with print increase; the love for learning grow; and the positive relationships bloom.

Re-run: Old Post With Links for Charts for Reading, Chores, Morning Routines, etc.

Last year in our experiment to post 365 blog entries, I realized that I wrote a lot! A whole lot! And some things I wrote are good to hear again–or to be reminded of occasionally. With everybody scrambling to find their new normal for the summer, I wanted to re-post an entry from last year that has links for charts that you can create/use for designing your new normal–your summer schedules and goals. Hope they help today be a better day for you! 🙂


Summertime Fun and Summertime Goals! Part II of II

Sorry it took me a while to come back to this. I have had some other things that I wanted to get up too. So much to say, so little time to say it! Smile…

Anyway, I first want to give you a link to a freebie offered by Graham Family Ministries to help you in creating summer goals/summer fun lists/charts for your kids. It is simple to go into the document and make it whatever fits your needs—reading goals, fun activities goals, summer school workbook goals, household goals—use it in whatever way helps you!

Editable Summer Time Chart: http://www.school4jesus.com/summertime-fun-chart-freebie

Then I will leave you with a short list of the literally hundreds of goals that we had for our Summer School Goals through the years…so many good memories. So grateful for the wonderful years I have had with my kids!!!
Note: Each goal had a certain number of boxes with it—and each time that goal was done one time, a box was filled in with a sticker. The kids could choose each day what to work on—but to help them see the big picture, I had how many hours total each goal would take to complete it the number of times allotted—and how many total “sessions” each one would take (i.e. if child was supposed to read ten 20 chapter chapter books, that would be 100 goals of 2 chapters at a time, etc.).

1. Read a chapter (or two) out of a chapter book.

2. Read a Bob Book aloud to brother or sister.

3. Cook a new recipe from scratch.

4. Organize one shelf of the living room bookcase.

5. Trip to the library.

6. 15 mins jumping on the tramp.

7. 10 laps of swimming at the pool.

8. 2 pages in summer skills book

9. 30 mins of craft activity

10. Organize a closet with Mom for 30 minutes.

11. Weed garden for 20 mins.

12. 1 Geosafar card at 90% accuracy.

13. 2 math drill pages

14. 1 game of chess with Dad

15. Reading Bible aloud to Mom—1 chapter each

16. Read a picture book to a little

17. Listen to talking book for 30 mins

18. Color one page in educational coloring book

19. 60 mins of sewing outfits for American Girl Dolls

20. 60 mins of Lego play

P.S. Technically, this blog post could have fallen much later in the year under Responsibility or Diligence or Industriousness or Organization–these types of activities have helped my kids learn so many valuable character qualities and skills!

Summertime Fun or Summertime Goals? How About Both? I of II

When my older kids were “littles,” we did a fun thing in the summer for many years. Well, lots of work for me—and fun for them because they all loved school! I made them “Summer School Goals” booklets. With these, I would sit down each child and tell each one what I wanted him or her to work on in various areas (reading chapter books instead of picture books only, writing out Scripture, math drill, etc.), and then I would ask each child what he or she wanted to do. Their ideas could be anything: swim a lot, play games with Dad, read a certain book series, etc. Then I would pull all of this information together and make each one a “Summer School Goal” booklet.

At first, it wasn’t fancy—eventually, I made them on the computer, and they were a little more official-looking. (On the early ones, I used card stock, and I wrote at the top of each “goal” what it was, how long the duration should be (or how many pages, etc., depending on the goal), and how many of that goal the child should try to meet for the summer. Then beneath that I put large boxes (boxes as in similar to a large graph or tic-tac-toe board). Then I dropped down and put the next goal. I sometimes put the goal in abc order (i.e. reading came before swimming in the alphabet) and sometimes put it in order of ease (the hardest ones at the front of the booklet).

Then we met again to discuss how they were going to meet these goals—we had a certain amount of time three days a week or so devoted to “Summer School Goals” that were at home, academic types of things, so they would work on those types of goals then. I penned in beside each goal approximately how many times they had to do each one each week in order to complete it (i.e. chapter book reading that was half an hour a week might have thirty boxes for ten weeks and need done three times a week to meet the whole goal).

Then they took their Summer School Goals booklets and packages of stickers and started in. Now this might seem like a nightmare to some kids ,but my kids thrived on it. (You have to keep in mind that these are the same kids who thought you did school on Saturdays and in the summer until someone at Sunday school told them differently at about age eight!)

More on Summer School Goals tomorrow—including a ready-made, editable chart (a Freebie from Graham Family Ministries!) that would work well for this type of goal setting or any summer fun or summer goals and a list of ideas to get you started making Summer Goals!

And the final summer reading help!

This will be the final installment of the links from last year about helping your child with reading during the summer. I pray that you and your son or daughter have an amazing summer building those reading skills and making memories!

Introducing readability levels: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-175-summertime-beginning-reading.html

Readability levels—I of IV: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-176-summertime-beginning-reading.html

Reading with your “already-reading” child to build fluency and keep skills fresh: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/07/day-188-summertimereading-with-your.html

“What” to read with your child this summer: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/07/day-189-summertimewhat-to-read-with.html


More Summer Reading Links/Helps

I want to leave you with more summertime reading and phonics help links. You may click on the links yesterday to find the beginning of each thread about helping your child with reading, tutoring without a formal program, and reviews of various phonics programs that I recommend.

For any reading or summer help, however, you may go to Positive Parenting 365 blogspot (as opposed to the FB page) and click on either “summer” or “reading” and hit older spots. Scroll up from there to find them in order, etc.

Today I will leave you with more summer reading help! One of the best ways that you can help your very young/new readers is to read with them in the summer every day. Today I will post links for general reader information, as well as specific readers and the uses we have found for them.

How to use graded readers with your kids– http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-169-summertimebeginning-reading.html

Choosing graded readers—IMPORTANT points to consider: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-170-summertimebeginning-reading.html

Starting with the first readers—The Bob Books— http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-171-summertime-beginning-reading.html

After “Bob”—the next readers we recommend: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-172-summertime-beginning-reading.html

Moving along with readers: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-173-summertime-beginning-reading.html

Tomorrow—links for readability levels to help you help your non-beginners choose books at their level this summer!