Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reading encouragement...

As a tutor, I see plenty of kids who have difficulty reading.  For some there are learning disabilities to contend with, others have no reading role models, and some read well but complain that it is boring.  Here are my ideas and tips to encourage children to be readers:

  • Make sure the kids see you reading every day (books, newspapers, magazines...they all count).
  • Provide a variety of materials, at a variety of reading levels, and make sure they are easily accessible.
  • Visit the library, and take advantage of library and book store story time.
  • Have your children read to their pets.
  • Read together and take turns. My son is 13, and we still take turns and share our reading time.
  • Discuss what your child is reading.
  • Accept that what you want your children to read might be very different from what they want to read.
My son is capable of reading books at a much higher difficulty level, but he likes the story in this one.  Let your child read books that engage them, and give them access to books that are easy, right on their level, and challenging - have a mix available.

"My child won't sit still long enough to read"
  • Let your child stand while they read.
  • Give your child a stress ball to squeeze during reading time.
  • Allow your child to draw while you read to them - ask them to draw a picture that relates to what you are reading aloud.
  • If it won't cause too much distraction, have your child sit on an exercise ball, and bounce a bit while reading.  Or, get a rocking horse or something similar that gives the child a place to stay while also allowing them to move a bit.
  • Is your reading space comfortable?  My son likes to pile up a ton of blankets and pillows and then sit in the middle like a bird in a nest.
  • Get out of the house for your reading session.  Lay in the grass to read, go to a coffee shop to read, sit on a park bench while you read.  
  • Read while walking - I actually really like to read while I walk.  Obviously this causes some problems - how do you read and watch where you are going at the same time?  It takes practice, but can be done...  Or, have the child read, while you keep a hand on their shoulder to guide them while you walk together.

Frequently I hear from parents of boys when it comes to reading issues, and often the complaints could all be easily resolved by engaging in the above activities and behaviors.  Obviously if there is a learning disorder, then that needs to be addressed by a professional.  

For more on reading with your kids, in particular on reading with boys, check out these books and links:
Reading together...I was reading a book while leaning forward, and JP grabbed his book and used me as his pillow.

Look for a future blog posts with a list of book recommendations for various ages and stages...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Things I'm thankful for...

This boy! He was thrilled when we found a novelty shop (where he purchased the GI Duck), and when we found a sidewalk vendor with fingerless gloves in New York City.  
Living so close to New York City, and beautiful spots like this.
A boy that's willing to help out - preparing potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner.
Books...I love books!
More books!
Reading together - actually combining reading with cuddling.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homeschooling - Mixing it up, plus a recipe...

This is the very inconvenient place where most of my best ideas come to me:
Where is your "idea" place?  Is it convenient for you?  How do you compensate if it is not convenient?  I often take pen and paper into the bathroom and place them on the shelf above our toilet, and make sure my towel is nearby, just in case I need to dry off my hand and arm to write a note.

Today's brainstorm did indeed take place in the shower, but it was one of the few times I hadn't brought my pen and paper into the bathroom.  Thankfully, it wasn't too hard to remember...  We've been struggling  in our homeschool this year.  My son isn't enjoying the free flow approach that has been wonderful over the last few years.  But, he also doesn't want a lot of structure (nor do I!).  I've been a bit at a loss for what to do about this.  He is struggling to get his work done each day, and really hates the writing projects that I've had him doing.  For social studies, neither of us is inspired by any curriculum or materials that we've looked at, and the same is true for science.  In the past, neither of us had interest in unit studies, but I think we are going to give them a try...and, we will incorporate writing into the studies.

In addition to unit studies, we are going to alternate social studies and science.  We will start by trying every other week, but may adjust depending on how well this goes...  I'm going to give JP the option to choose which we start with.  Once he has chosen, I'll be giving him a list of ten topics to choose from, and then we will pull together materials, and if it is practical, will plan a field trip too.  I'm also going to ask that JP take notes so that he can fashion a report of some kind on each topic.  For some topics, it might be a straight essay style report.  For others, he may build a model to go with a shorter report.  We'll see...maybe he'll do a lapbook type of project for some topics.  I see this evolving as we go along.  I also see it being much more interesting than the approach we've been using!  Wish us luck!

(Amended: we are changing our math curriculum too!)

On to the recipe...while looking around for recipes a few weeks ago, I came upon a broccoli-garlic-pasta combination that seemed so yummy and easy that I just had to try making something similar!  I'm so glad I did!  This version is not vegan but is dairy free.  It would be very easy to make it vegan by just omitting the sausage.

Broccoli Sausage Cheezy Pasta
1 pound pasta
2 cups of broccoli florets, or bite sized pieces of broccoli
4 inch piece of sausage, cut into a dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta according to the package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, steam your broccoli (I did it in the microwave - just put it in a microwave safe bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water.  Cover tightly with cling film/saran wrap.  Microwave for about 2 minutes.).  Also, while the pasta is cooking, cook your diced sausage.

Drain your pasta, and return it to the cooking pot (or put it in a large serving bowl).  Add the steamed broccoli, cooked sausage, olive oil, and minced garlic.  Stir to evenly distribute everything.  Add the nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper.  Stir well to distribute the nutritional yeast as it tends to clump up when it gets moist.  Taste, adjust the salt and pepper, and serve hot.


On another note...if you haven't seen the notice already, we are closing our Etsy shop on December 15th.  We need to focus on other things right now...I hope to reopen our shop over the summer.  So, from now until the 15th, we are offering two deals:
  • 25% off our entire shop with coupon code SHOPCLOSING at checkout.
  • FREE US Priority shipping on all orders over $25 (after discounts) to US addresses. 
Bonus - if you live in the USA, you may combine the two deals! 

Visit our shop at for stationery, art cards, and more!  Great stocking stuffers for Christmas and little treats for other winter holidays, or just because!