We love Winnie the Pooh at our house. That inspired me to design a free bookmark with a literary quote from Winnie the Pooh. This happens to be one of our favorite quotes from Pooh and you can have it on a book mark. Click on the link below to print your freebie.
Have you heard of S.T.E.M.? I hadn’t heard of the term until my husband and I coached a F.I.R.S.T. LEGO League team in Alaska. I wasn’t completely sure what it meant, you know, I know what the acronym stood for but didn’t understand why exactly science, technology, engineering, and mathematics needed to be “special“. I had always thought of these areas of study as a natural connection. While we were coaching our homeschool F.I.R.S.T. LEGO League team I soon realized that while the boys saw the connection they still were not putting the subjects together. While that has been said, it is fair to mention that our team did win First Place for Engineering. Other then joining a LEGO Team, I do suggest forming one, I have listed 10 easy S.T.E.M. activities for your homeschool that you can do with materials around house and with little expense.
10 Easy S.T.E.M. Activities
- Read. You probably new that would be the first choice , we are Book Bound, after all . Some suggestions for S.T.E.M. reading are: Anna, Kid Engineer by Dr. Shenek Alston, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkawmba, my son’s favorite, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.
- From The STEM Laboratory you can use the LEGO Challenge Cards and other fun stuff.
- Straws! I give these to little boys at the restaurant I work at when it looks like their parents are getting tired of entertaining them. I cut them up into a variety of lengths and challenge them to build something and show it to me after they eat. If you want to get serious you can visit Play Dough to Plato about building straw bridges,
- Playing Cards. Not only can you have hours of fun using critical thinking and math skills you can build houses and towers with them!
- Did I say VIDEO GAMES? Yup, Enter the National STEM Video Challenge using SCRATCH, Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, where you can design “interactive stories, games, and animations” for free.
- For the future pilot in your home join the Aircraft Engineering Challenge and construct an aircraft at The Homeschool Scientist.
- Years ago, when my middle son was around 8 years old, we gave him a box that was filled with Duc Tape, foam board, craft sticks, paper clips and anything we could find that we thought he could be creative with. You probably have made one before but now there is a cool name for it: S.T.E.M. Inventors Box. Our little friend Anna from Anna, The Kid Engineer has an inventors box too.
- If you don’t have a marble run you can make one from paper towel tubes! It looks like a lot of fun to put together. Hmm, I think you could construct a straw bridge to this project.
- This wouldn’t be the easiest activity but it would certainly be a challenge. What are your thoughts on toothpicks? We already built bridges and houses with straws how about a pyramid with toothpicks?
- Here is my favorite! It’s my idea however the idea was not as unique as I thought. I did find several resources for this science project and this Build the Three Little Pigs houses I found to be better used in a homeschool setting. The idea came from this Build A Tiny House .
These 10 simple activities will make bringing S.T.E.M., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, easy to bring into your homeschool. What other ideas do you have? There must be more. . .
It’s no secret that having a plan will get you where you want to go.
When I first started homeschooling I never put much thought into lesson plans. I had focused on the approach versus the NEXT lesson. Actually, it seemed like a waste of time to lesson plan when the plan was to go to the next lesson or page. Why would I need to write a plan for that? It seemed pretty straightforward. Until the curriculum I purchased had a lesson that assumed my boys already knew how to do a task or it was boring or the boys didn’t understand. I hated when the curriculum had this great idea that required that I have a tennis ball, string, and a paper clip! My lack of planning lead to frustration and feeling overwhelmed. I was concerned that I was hurting my sons’ education.
It became obvious to me that I was going to have to change. I had to start looking ahead. At first, it was lesson planning light. That’s when you take your text and divide it up into days. You know: Monday read page 1-5, Tuesday read page 6-11, etc, etc. When that wasn’t enough my plans became more detailed with activities, other books, videos and more. It helped but I was still feeling overwhelmed. Then I learned about routines or what some people call rhythms. That changed my whole lesson planning world.
The What and When
Lesson planning will allow you to see the whole picture of your school year. From what you are teaching to when in the year you are going to teach. If we are planning on reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle I might assign it when we will be studying astronomy or physics. To integrate the study of our chosen literature selection and astronomy study I will choose to schedule this for spring or summer. Then tasks are assigned to each day. You might already be doing this when you plan your weekly schedule. For example Monday I clean out the refrigerator and Friday I go grocery shopping.
Behind the Why (the goals)
I’m just curious, do your kids ask you “Why do I have to . . .” Yeah, mine too. To be honest, when they first started asking me I really didn’t have an answer. I had to think about it. The answer when I was asked about literature was easy because I LOVE reading books. They are fun, relaxing, exciting, poetic, introspective and my list goes on. How about A Wrinkle in Time? As a parent, I am hoping it might guide my sons to imagine the possibilities in the universe. Maybe ask questions about the father, Mr.Murray and his career. These are my personal goals and at the same time address the countries common core standards. Educational reasons are: expand vocabulary, develop a world view, improves memory, creativity, writing skills, plus critical thinking. You can just say “It will make you even smarter.” I don’t know (ha, ha, ha), that worked for my oldest son.
Teaching Literature, Me?
So how do you go about teaching literature? This is the best part of homeschooling because you can do what works best for your child. My oldest son liked workbooks. I don’t like workbooks. Essay questions were the answer. I could ask guided questions where I believed he needed to understand or get the most out of that may apply to him. In A Wrinkle in Time the character, Charles Wallace, is unsuccessful at defeating the enemy (I don’t want to ruin the story for you)I would pose a question regarding the character emotions and how the character could have handled it. My second son is what people like to call a kinesthetic learner or hands-on learner. Together we would paint or draw a scene that stood out to us. This would give me an opportunity to talk with him about the story. Both boys had also created a clay caricature of one of the main characters of The Giver. Then there is the standard book report. To make this even easier, create a list of projects that can be used for each literature study. This will give you something to easily refer to while organizing your lessons.
This doesn’t read like it will save your sanity but it will, I promise. Here is what a lesson plan would like using this approach:
- Step One: Select your subject. In our example the subject is literature.
- Step Two: Determine your time frame and when in the year you are going to cover the subject.
- Step Three: What goals do you want to achieve with the subject.
- Step Four: Develop a routine.
Day 1 Intro to book and author
Day 2 Discuss book i.e. characters, etc. ,
Day 3 Activity Day
Day 4 Writing,
Day 5 Work on Vocab and catch up
This is the routine you will do for every literature study. Easy right 🙂
Day 1: Talk about the author and share what you enjoyed reading and your favorite characters. Suggest reading the first chapter aloud.
Day 2: Have questions prepared to ask about the characters and answer questions if any. Encourage further thought about the story.
Day 3: Draw one of the characters using the medium of your choice.
Day 4: Write a summary of what you have read.
Day 5: Work on vocabulary and catch-up on any projects you need to complete.
Day 1: Talk about Meg (the main character)and how her school life relates to his.
Day 2: Have questions prepared about the characters and answer questions if any. Encourage further thought about the story.
Day 3: Have him create a scene from the story that stands out him. He can make a diorama, draw, animate or any other method he desires.
Day 4: Select a character, different from the one he drew, and develop a list of the authors’ passages that she used to describe them.
Day 5: Work on vocabulary and catch-up on any projects you need to complete.
With this routine, if it is necessary to demonstrate that your child has met common core standards you are able to do that.
To save time you have to spend some time. Now I focus on what is next on our plan. The frustration and feeling of being overwhelmed are no longer issue.
After my oldest son moved away to college he confessed to me that classic books are a far better read than some of the nonsense published today. My oldest son also told his Grandmother that he enjoyed poetry because I used to read poetry to him and his two younger brothers. Yes, I did pat myself on the back and couldn’t be happier. I felt successful. If you noticed I have three boys and each one is different. You know how that is, children are unique, and maybe that’s why you homeschool. To customize your child’s educational experience or maybe you purchased pricey curriculum and you are determined to get your son to read the material. But it is not a simple process to customize or follow a curriculum. If your son is not interested in the topic you are likely to feel him digging his heels in the dirt and your hair falling out. What are we to do?
Go to the Library
When we first started homeschooling I had the fortune to learn about Lifestyle of Learning an approach to homeschool that resonated with me. A suggestion from the author was to take your children to the library and let them select books that they would enjoy reading. This has been the best idea to motivate my sons to read. Not only did they voluntarily read but I got to know their interests better.
Many of you may already have a special time to read-aloud together. I have heard from many homeschooled children that this was a special time and a happy memory for them. When your children are not reading on their own, it is an opportunity for them to hear great literature inspiring them to read quality literature in the future. This is a great opportunity to share your love for reading and another time where you will discover your child’s favorite genre. An important key to reading aloud is to not make this a drudgery. Most young boys are active and will gladly sit while you allow them to do a quiet activity while you are reading. My oldest son enjoyed sitting next to me while the youngest two built with blocks and colored.
One of the homeschool groups I was a member of had the wonderful idea of a book club. It was a book club for boys but I don’t remember if we just all happened to have boys or what. Keeping up with your peers is an incentive to do about anything. The boys met at our library (45 minutes from where I lived). I can still see the big smiles on their faces. I forget to mention that I was responsible for the book club. Our first meeting was fun. Jokes were told while the boys shared about what they liked to do and laughter filled the back meeting room as they ate cookies. The first book was Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary. They just thought Ralph, the character, was the neatest thing. The boys read the books and enjoyed the comradery.
When I worked for a homeschool correspondent school we started a reading incentive program. When the student read a certain number of books, depending on the grade level, a small prize was given. For each book read, a link to the bookworm, a paper creature stapled to the wall, was added with the students’ name and the title of the book. The bookworm ended up twisting and turning through the office. We had a lot of happy kids and satisfied homeschool parents. To do this at home you will want to have a start date and end date. Let’s say you decide that it will last for three months. Your son is 10 years old and says he hates to read. You want your son to feel accomplished. Remember, the goal is to create a love for literature. If reading 3 books would be an achievement for him then that’s his goal. When you share this with him and he thinks 4 would better and that’s what he wants to do than follow his lead. You know your child best. If you believe that he will feel defeated if he doesn’t read four books, then make it 3 books and 4 books would be a bonus.
Read, Read and Read
Read, read and read some more. There is nothing better than a model like yourself. If you enjoy reading then more than likely so will your child. It can be hard though when boys don’t have a male role model that reads with them or is seen reading. This is true across the board for many areas in a boys life. You can research this further in The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. In my household, I am the big reader, not my husband. Oddly enough my sons enjoy a good book but with video games and social media, it is a challenge.
Not much different than the reading incentive idea is to use a goal chart to track the books he reads. This is a nice visual that can motivate your son to complete the chart. What is different from the reading incentive is that you can have a goal of 6 books for the year but have 12 on your goal chart. The idea is much like a game. Once the goal of 6 is achieved seeing that you can go further your son may think “I can do one more.” and so on. Of course, he may read the 6 books and be happy with that.
Be Positive and Encouraging
No matter if your son reads online magazines, articles, graphic novels or classic literature, recognize that he is reading. Never be judgemental about what he is reading (within reason). Take an interest and perhaps read what he is reading. Be positive and encouraging. He may not want to read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens but instead, he would rather read The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Rey. He is reading and that is a good thing.
These approaches have been collected from seasoned homeschoolers and they work. The hardest part is finding what will work for your son. And I hate to tell you, what works today may not work tomorrow. You may not be aware that all the effort you put in today will be seen years later, like me.
What are some ideas for motivating your son to read?