Summer Is Here—Keeping Skills and Gaining New Ones

Summer is Here--Keeping Skills and Adding New Ones

“One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.” -Unknown

Summer is here! Whether our children attend preschool, private school, public school, or homeschool, there are things that we can all do during the summer to make it an enjoyable, growing time in our children’s lives.

Summer truly proves the quote above–that one good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters. We have our children home all summer–either with us if we work at home or stay home with younger children or at home while we are working. Either way, we have all summer to be their “schoolmasters.”

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3 Steps to Teach Your Kids How to Apologize

A couple of days ago I wrote about how to teach your kids NOT to apologize based on The View’s apology to the beauty pageant nurse. In going through the steps to teach your kids what to do and not do in apologizing, it was uncanny how many things the co-hosts on that program did in the “what not to do when you apologize” list.

There are many formulae out there for teaching the apology, and most of them are correct as they focus on the basics:

(Download this poster here)

3 Steps to Teach Your Kids How to Apologize (more…)

Two Tips for Teaching Empathy and Humility to Our Children

Two Tips for Teaching Empathy and Humility to Our Children

 

How many times have we heard “It isn’t my fault”?

Or “He did it first”?

Or “I only did that because he did this to me…”?

While some of that will always be a part of raising more than one child in a home, as parents our focus should be on getting the whole “never my fault” mentality out of our children by the time they are grown. And replace it with responsibility for actions, empathy towards those they might hurt, and humility in admitting guilt. (more…)

Our Kids Will Do To and For Other What We Do To and For Them–Reprint

Our Kids Will Do To and For Other What We Do To and For Them–Reprint

“Throughout their lives, your kids will do to and for others what you have done to and for them.”


In our “Character for Tweens and Teens” seminar, we stress the quote above—because we have seen it over and over in our children’s lives during our thirty years of parenting. And it is truly something to consider in the time, effort, money, and teaching that we invest in our children. When I look back at how true this statement has been in our lives, I just want to tell every parent that there are genuine dividends paid for all of that investing!

I could share examples of this with you from every age and stage our seven kids:

*How Joshua, our first born, would sit in the back of the van and tell his sisters what to expect when we got to our destination, how they should behave and how they should treat others—because his mommy and daddy had done that for him since he was a toddler.

*How Kayla, our second daughter, took it upon herself at age fourteen to do all of the cooking for a long period of time during my grief after our stillborn daughter’s birth and my life-threatening ruptured uterus—because her parents had served her, fed her, and taught her everything she needed to know in the kitchen.

*How Cami, our third child, started a ministry for the disabled when she was a senior in high school (that still runs today seven years later and ministers to over a hundred disabled adults every week)—because we taught her to look into people’s hearts to see their deepest needs, and we looked into her heart.

*How the girls planned a special meal for their brothers and even called and invited their grandparents to their “Silly Supper” while Mom and Dad were out of town—because Mom and Dad had always tried to make things special for them.

*How Kara, our fourth child, listened intently night after night to the needs of the teens on the traveling drama team that she led—because her parents had listened to her needs late at night for twenty years.

And on and on and on and on. Our children are far from perfect—as are their parents. But there is one thing that we can be sure they will always do: serve, love, reach out, touch, help, and communicate with others in many of the same ways that they have been served, loved, reached out to, touched, helped, and communicated with by us, their parents.
We have an example of this hot off the press that is so incredibly cute I just had to share it with you. Our almost-eighteen  year-old Josiah (sixth child of seven living)  asked a few weeks ago if he could surprise his younger brother Jacob (our youngest) by taking him to visit their oldest sister near Chicago where she is in grad school at Wheaton College (a four hour drive from us). We discussed it and decided to let him do it, so he set about planning the trip.

He must have talked to me about the “unveiling” of the trip to Jakie no fewer than a dozen times over the three weeks prior to the trip: “Should I drive home with him from my drum teaching and ask him to tell me where the gps says to turn?” “Should I take him to Cami and Joseph’s (our daughter and son-in-law) and make him think we are spending the night there but then take off from there?” “Should I pack all of his stuff while he is at piano then act like we are going to run errands?” On and on. He had a new idea everyday it seemed.

He set aside two hours the night before to go over directions with his dad, talk to us about details, call Kayla (whom they were going to see), and pack/load the car while Jacob was at the YMCA exercising with Kara (our fourth child). He gassed up his vehicle. He packed snacks. He gathered story tapes. He went to the bank and got cash. He packed Jakie’s things and hid them in the trunk.

At one point in Josiah’s preparations, he said, “Don’t you think this is the best surprise that any of the siblings have ever done for another one?” To which we just smiled and nodded. (Our kids have had a sort of unofficial “best sibling EV-ER” contest going on for many years.)

And then they left. His idea to take Jacob to Cami and Joseph’s and go from there, telling him only when Jacob noticed that they were not taking the route that led home, won out. 

And Jacob called us to see if it was really true—“are we really driving to Kayla’s for the weekend?” We could hear Josiah laughing in the background—one happy big brother.

Josiah’s idea wasn’t quite as original as he thought—but we didn’t tell him that, of course. For Josiah had just done nearly everything that we had done for him eight years ago when we took him and his siblings on a surprise weekend trip—right down to hiding packed things in the trunk, packing good snacks, sneaking out story tapes and games,  and taking a strange route to confuse them. Because by that time, we knew that  “throughout their lives, our kids will do to and for other whatever has been done to and for them.” Smile…
“Readability Levels and Formulas for Homeschooling Parents”

“Readability Levels and Formulas for Homeschooling Parents”

                         “Readability Levels and Formulas for Homeschooling Parents”

                                  
                                                                                   Donna Reish





                                             An Introduction to Readability Levels

I began homeschooling over thirty years agol when Ray and I taught my younger sister (who was in eighth grade at the time) in our home. During my first several years of homeschooling, I used early readers when my children were first learning to read, but I did not care for “readers” for older children. I always felt that abridged or excerpted stories were inferior—and that children should read whole books.

This worked wonderfully for my first two (the ones who learned to read at age eight and nine). They didn’t like abridgements and excerpts very much anyway—and could easily read a couple of chapter books a week from ages ten and up. (I should note that they are both real literature buffs as adults, and our son teaches literary analysis of many novels to homeschooled students every semester. All of that reading really paid off!)

Then along came our third child, who begged for everything that I did not think was “best” for learning—workbooks (the more, the merrier, in her opinion); readers with excerpts and short stories; tons of what I had thought were useless pages of worksheets and coloring pages; and more. She was a different type of learner than Joshua and Kayla had been—and desired different learning tools.

So I began my hunt for “older” readers—readers for children beyond the phonetically-controlled ones that I had utilized to teach reading. I found many that I liked—and actually used some of them to read aloud to the kids since we found the stories and excerpts interesting and fun. They even caused my kids to go on and read entire books for themselves that they might have otherwise not known about or read (after reading an excerpted portion in their readers).

So…the moral of this story? Every child is different. Each child has his own learning style, likes, dislikes, etc. And we need to cater to those as much as possible in their learning. In order to choose reading materials for your children, a basic knowledge of readability levels will be a great help. I will detail readability levels and determinations in this month’s newsletter (March) and next month’s.  

                                          Readability Levels of Books

When a child is in school, he is likely in a “reading group,” that is a group of children from his class in which all of the students read at about the same reading level. The child’s teacher chooses readers/stories for each group of children based on that group’s (the children in that group’s) reading level.

To practice with your child at home, you will want to do the same thing—but in a one on one, rather than small group, situation. How do you know what level is appropriate for your child?

I will enumerate some tips for choosing books at your child’s reading level, primarily for word-calling purposes. First, though, a small peek at readability levels will help you in determining your child’s reading level.

Readability is based on many factors. Many readability scales use one of a few simple formulae in which the number of words in a passage or story is divided by the number of words—and a readability level is derived based on the number of words each sentence contains (on an average). Other formulae use the number of syllables, considering that a sentence that contains twenty “one-syllable” words is certainly easier to word call than a sentence that contains twenty “three-syllable” words.

In both of those cases, the readability level is based on word calling, which is an accurate portrayal of early readers since children do not focus much on comprehension at that level of reading. (And if a class does focus on comprehension, it is usually just literal comprehension—what happened, who the characters were, etc.)

As students progress in their reading, we want them to not only be able to sound out words in a passage or story, but we want them to derive meaning from those words. Formulae for readability of a text based on comprehension is much more difficult to assess (though definitely counting number of words with longer syllables demonstrates a higher comprehension level than just merely counting the number of words).

So many things come into play when considering readability of, say, a chapter book of 150 pages. A book might be short but extremely difficult to comprehend due to the vocabulary used (which some formulae do not consider). Likewise, a book can be very long but have extremely immature vocabulary and not be difficult to comprehend at all.

In our language arts and composition books, we give students passages to write from at least half of the time for factual writing in the early grades, lessening as students learn to find appropriate sources themselves, etc. In choosing these passages to write from, comprehension is extremely important. In order to write from source material, a much higher level of comprehension must be realized than merely that of sounding out the words. In choosing passages for students to read, take notes from, and write from, we consider readability in terms of word calling first, then we consider sentence structure. Sentence structure includes the length of the sentence, the type of sentence (i.e. what we learned as compound, compound-complex, etc.), the type of and length of sentence openers a sentence contains (prepositional phrase openers, adverb openers, etc.), and finally, the vocabulary of the passage.

How does this apply to your reading with your student? Consider the list of ascending skills below concerning readability and readers:

Readability and Readers

1. In the early grades, you will be concerned with readability in terms of decoding, phonics, sight words, etc. That is, can your student read the words?

2. If your child already reads well in terms of decoding (sounding out words), and can “pick up anything and ‘read’ it,” you will want to focus on content—comprehending what he reads, discussing it, etc.

3. As students progress in reading, homeschooling moms and teachers in school often forsake the practice of reading aloud with children, noting that the child can word call anything, so there is no need to check for word calling skills/application of phonics. However, we advocate reading aloud with your child for some years, at least a couple of times a week. No, you will not be checking for word calling anymore (though my older boys will still say something like, “How do you pronounce this word—m-y-r-i-a-d?” when they are reading something to themselves), but reading involves word calling AND comprehension. A child who can “read anything” but not comprehend it is like a child reading “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket.” To say that a child in fourth grade can read at a ninth grade level because he can decode all of the words in a passage that is rated at a ninth grade readability level is like saying he can read the “Wocket” tale by Dr. Seuss. He might be able to word call it, but is he “reading” if he cannot comprehend what he reads?

4. Oral reading together with Mom or Dad at upper elementary grades is for comprehension—you will not necessarily be checking on the application of his decoding skills, but you will be checking on his comprehension, vocabulary recognition, etc. You will hopefully be guiding him through his reading, discussing it, answering questions about vocabulary words (i.e. words he can easily sound out but does not know the meaning of), etc.

5. If your child is beyond the beginning phonics instruction, you may not need books that are “graded” in terms of readability. Perhaps he already enjoys reading a certain picture book series or early junior fiction series. These can then become his “readers” to read with you.

6. Consider the differences in “readability” in the materials he reads with you vs the materials he reads to himself:

a.    Be sure the material he reads aloud with you is somewhat challenging (i.e. he needs some help with words here and there but the books do not leave him in tears).

b.    Be sure that what he is reading to himself is not so difficult that he needs cueing or instruction as he reads it.

7.     Keep in mind that there are other things that affect readability besides syllable count, numbers of pages, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Interest is a strong factor in determining readability. (That is why I recommended the Saxon Bold Intervention+ for older students who need remedial reading on our Positive Parenting blog.The materials that they read from are high interest for older students—not childish or primary stories.) This is the reason that children who would not read their science or history book in fifth grade are picking up huge books of Harry Potter and these vampire books (not sure of their titles). Whether we like them or not, many children out there are reading these tomes simply because they are interested in them—despite the fact that those kids are not “at that reading level” and would never have picked up a book over two hundred pages prior to these books being released. (If you have an older student who is working on remedial reading, ask your librarian specifically for high interest/low readability materials for older students. Some of the adult literacy materials are extremely high interest with lower readability levels, as well.)

+Note: If you have an elementary child who is struggling with learning to read, visit Positive Parenting and click on “Reading Instruction” for helps and reviews of programs.

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