Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

 

I’ve been a fan of Thinking Tree curriculum, particularly Dyslexia Games, for awhile. The thinking skills, right-brained approach, and creativity of the curriculum and dyslexia therapy has made a world of difference for my daughter. So when I was looking for a way to help my daughter connect to our classical, literature-rich style of learning, I went back to the company that really seemed to understand her best, and I took a good long look at the funschooling journals.

There are so many funschooling journals, all with slight variations, that choosing one took me a long time. In the end, it was the bright pink cover with the kitty that ultimately sold us on the Homeschooling Journal for Creative Girls (though the YouTube reviews were also very helpful). The books are intended to be used with unschooling or delight-directed homeschoolers. The children are supposed to select up to 8 books that they want to learn from and work through 5-8 pages a day in the workbook. The pages cycle through similar activities that include drawing and narrating from the reading, copywork, nature study, some art and creative pages, recipe pages (to write a recipe), listening pages for audiobooks and DVD material, nature study pages, and more. There’s plenty of space for coloring, doodling, drawing, and other creative expression.

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschooling curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

We obviously are putting our own unique spin on the funschooling journals. Because we use Tapestry of Grace as our main curriculum, I already had a shelf of books that I wanted her to read. But rather than assign particular books for each week as I had been doing, I gave her the new funschooling journal and allowed her to work through the books on the shelf at her own pace. Instead of 5-8 pages a day, she was assigned 5-8 pages for the week to work through at her leisure. 

The result: what would have taken her weeks to read (with tons of nagging and frustration on my part) took her a little over one week. She flew through her reading and loved journaling in her book about the parts of her reading that she loved best. She loved drawing the pictures, copying her own selections, filling out the listening sheet for her audiobook and science DVD, and the other various activities. She’s done much less coloring than I expected, but I could care less. I’m just counting my blessings that she loves this so much! 

classically homeschooling with funschooling journals | homeschool curriculum for ADHD, dyslexia

I absolutely intend to use these next year as well and have a couple more in mind to get (although I think she’d be perfectly happy to continue with another of the exact same journal). My intention is to continue using it as a means to supplement and motivate her to engage with our classical curriculum. While I do have books from our Tapestry of Grace that I want to be on her reading list, I also allow her freedom to add a few titles of her own. It’s a perfect blend of classically creative curriculum for my active, right-brained non-traditional learner.

And, of course, because these are such a hit with sister, my creative fifth grader thinks he really needs one, too. I may just relent. After all, this Minecraft Funschooling Journal looks way too cool. (Perhaps I’ll use it as a subtle way to add some summer learning.)

Using literature-rich curriculum with dyslexic and ADHD kids

literature-rich curriculum with dyslexia ADHD | Tapestry of Grace with special needs | classical homeschooling with learning struggles

I’ve made a lot of curriculum adjustments over the years, but one constant for us has been Tapestry of Grace, a classical, literature-rich curriculum. I love using a literature-rich curriculum in our homeschool—with busy, loud, active ADHD kids, one of which is also dyslexic! In our classically-inclined, charlotte-mason inspired homeschool, we use tons of books, lots and lots of them. Living books, classics, historical fiction, and engaging nonfiction books line my shelves, spill onto the floor, cover our dining room table, and sit by the door (in hopes that we’ll remember to return them to our library.) 

Using a literature-rich curriculum immerses my kids in a culture of reading. Reading is not a school subject. It’s not a checkbox on their assignment sheet. It’s our lifestyle. We read books together and on our own. We listen to books. We talk about books. We buy books. We borrow books. We make room for more books. Why choose a literature-rich curriculum like Tapestry of Grace for kids who are active and have language-struggles?

Three reasons to choose a literature-rich curriculum:

Exposure

We currently don’t use a “textbook” for any subject. Instead, we learn history, science, literature, etc. from library books, lots of library books. Last year, each of my kids read about 50 books each. We are on par for at least that this year, and that’s just for school; that doesn’t include the “just for fun” books. Using a literature-rich curriculum allows my kids to be constantly exposed to books. They are surrounded by them, and reading is a normal part of life—not just school but life itself.

This constant exposure to language through stories (whether audio books, read-alouds, or books they read themselves) has tremendously helped my daughter especially. She’s a strong, confident reader in spite of her challenges. She knows she doesn’t read as quickly or as easily as others, but she loves stories. And the exposure through so many senses and with so much variety, strengthens her understanding and skill in an otherwise challenging area for her.

So what does this exposure look like practically? I select several books for each kid on our topic that we will be covering for 2-4 weeks. For my oldest, I’ll suggest a couple of titles that I’d like him to read each week, chapter books often taking 2-3 weeks. Then, I’ll “strew” the other books around the house to tempt him to read more on the subject. Because my daughter requires a different approach, I’ve recently just assigned all the books for the term and allowed her to work through them at her own pace. She’s using (and loving) this funschooling journal along with her reading. She gets to creatively draw a picture, write a sentence, or choose some copywork from her book of choice to record in her journal. 

Variety

Honestly, I don’t think my busy rambunctious kids would be readers if we had chosen a traditional curriculum with textbooks and readers. The key to engaging my ADHD kiddos is variety, and Tapestry of Grace provides such fantastic variety. My kids are exposed to classics, biographies, picture books, historical fiction, encyclopedias, and more. Although my kids love books in general, they don’t love every book and are sometimes skeptical of a book I’ve assigned. So, I’ve instituted the “five chapter” rule. For all fiction, they must read at least read five chapters before they can decide whether or not to finish the book. In nearly every case, by the time they got to chapter 5 they were totally engaged. In some cases, the book even turned out to be a favorite. For nonfiction books, I don’t require them to read every word. They read for information, to learn certain facts, or to discover facts that interest them. In both instances, the variety of books means that there are books that appeal to all of my children for one reason or another. It also means that my kids have often discovered they were interested in a book or subject that they didn’t think they’d like.

The variety also allows my kids to connect with the subject matter in their own way, to make their own connections based on what interests them. My daughter connects with art, beauty, nature, and animals of a culture. My son connects with wars and weapons and inventions. They remember different things about the different time periods we are studying together. This has been awesome because as we share as a family what they’ve been reading and learning, we get such a wide spectrum of information.

Shared Experience

Books create memories. My kids have favorites they love to re-read. They have favorites that Daddy alone can read to them. (Babaji is a favorite from when they were very little that they still love to have him read—in character.) They have books that we share together as read-alouds. Books makes those moments special for us. Books bond us together, all snuggled on the couch listening to a story, or side by side each with our own book as we wind down for bedtime. Tapestry of Grace allows for tons of great book selections to always be available at every reading level. I don’t insist that every book be “read.” We have fond memories of listening to Mr. Popper’s Penguins and The Railway Children as audio books. And I don’t insist on reading every read-aloud myself. My kids read-aloud, too. This year, we’ve read selected chapters from the Story of the World and Grandpa’s Box to go along with our ancient history studies. It allows me to give the input and emphasis of our study, to draw out the major themes we are studying, but it also allows them the opportunity to contribute as well.

I have very fond memories of reading aloud with my mom, chapter by chapter through multiple books all the way through college. Even now when we visit each other, we select a book to read aloud together. I love those memories with my mom, and I love those memories with my kids.

There are so many reasons for choosing a literature-rich curriculum, even with a household of ADHD and dyslexia. My kids read upside down on the couch, under tables, outside, in giant refrigerator cardboard boxes with flashlights, or in the most cock-eyed positions. And we still stay very active, with lots of hands-on projects to supplement all that reading. But the constant exposure, variety, and shared experiences from using a literature-rich curriculum have been treasures to my family and to my kids.

How do you know if a literature-rich curriculum is a good fit for you?

  • Don’t let reading or attention struggles rule this out for you.
  • Do consider how committed you are to reading as a lifestyle. If you look at a literature-rich curriculum as simply school assignments to get done in a week, you will probably both hate it.
  • Do consider access to a good library. Honestly, a good one is worth paying for if you aren’t local. A good library allows that maximum exposure and variety without breaking your budget. I could never afford to keep my kids in books without our local library (and that’s where we find our great audiobooks).
  • Don’t assume that a particular learning style will prevent a child from enjoying literature. Instead, use that learning style as a means to enjoy literature.

It would be easy to see all that energy and assume my kids would never sit down long enough to read. But that just hasn’t been true of our family at all. Books are a calming constant. It wouldn’t be home without them.

Want to know more about how we use Tapestry of Grace with ADHD/dyslexia? Check out these posts:

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids

Celebrating progress with unit parties

Brainstorming with your Reluctant Writer: out-of-the-box ideas for your out-of-the-box learner

teaching a reluctant writer | homeschooling dyslexia

Writer’s Block happens even to the most gifted writers, but it is a serious problem for our kids who hate writing or are intimidated by it. My dyslexic daughter definitely falls into the category of the reluctant writer, not that she doesn’t have ideas. This child is always bursting with creative ideas for everything, but trying to find words for those ideas is tough. Even more so if she is required to think of those words on the spot or under pressure.

We know that the first step to writing is brainstorming, compiling a list of ideas and choosing the best from that list. But how do we get our reluctant writers to even get started with this list? Here’s a BIG Tip: don’t make them write it! 

I’ve taught writing in many settings over many years—to college freshman, to sophomore and junior English and pre-law majors, to kids in homeschool co-ops, and of course, to my own kids. And one strategy I like to try when working with reluctant or intimidated writers is trying to plug into their other strengths, the areas where they are confident. If I could tap into an area of creativity where they were confident, the ideas flowed much more freely. We all have ideas, but each of us processes those ideas uniquely. Connect with your reluctant writer on their level with their gifts.

Ideas for Brainstorming with your Reluctant Writer

  1. Is your reluctant writer a talker? Let her talk and talk and talk. Ask questions. Encourage her that there are no bad ideas right now. Just whatever pops into her head. You can be her scribe and write down the ideas as she says them, or you can just listen until she finds her favorite ideas and is ready to start writing.
  2. Is your reluctant writer an artist? Let him draw! Don’t make him describe the room with words; let him draw it first and then tell you about his drawing. Let him create a comic strip of the story first, then narrate the story to you from the comic strip. Let him sketch the abandoned shack before he describes it to you. Let him draw a diagram before he tells you the steps to building the marshmallow launcher.
  3. Is your reluctant writer an actor? Let him act out his ideas. If he starts using sound effects instead of words, ask him what is happening. When he’s done, retell the story back to him to see if you understood it correctly. Write down what he says, or record it and let him transcribe the video.

Remind them that bad ideas and good ideas are all a part of this process; sometimes those bad ideas lead to the best ones. If your child is a perfectionist, trying to think of the perfect idea will also lead to reluctance and writer’s block. Try playing some games to get the ideas flowing. A couple of games I love are Story Cubes (there are several varieties) and WriteShop Story Prompts. Play one of these games as a warm up before you get started.

Once the ideas are flowing, help your reluctant writer to capture those ideas before they disappear. Act as the scribe and write down what your child says. Or, use a voice recording device and allow your child to replay her narration as many times as she needs in order to write it down. Writing is a complicated process that we tend to take for granted. And it’s often very tough for our kids, particularly our dyslexic kids, to have an original thought, remember that thought long enough to write it down, and then write it correctly onto paper.

Reluctance usually comes from fear. Remove the fear, the intimidation factor, and you very well could have a budding author in your midst.

Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids: a buffet of writing ideas and resources

tapestry of grace writing aids review

I’ve owned Writing Aids since we first started using Tapestry of Grace curriculum four or five years ago, but I’ve been too insecure to really lean into it as my complete writing program until this year. Writing Aids is a very different “program” from what you will find anywhere else, and depending on what you are looking for, I think Writing Aids will surprise you.

What Writing Aids Is

Writing Aids is a supplement product of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum that is purchased in addition to the main curriculum. Tapestry is a guided unit study approach to studying the history of the world in the classical or Charlotte Mason style. It integrates history, Bible, literature, writing, and art into a rich study for the whole family (K-12). Within the curriculum, then, are writing project suggestions for twelve different levels. You decide what level your child is at, what projects you want your child to complete, and how many projects seem realistic for you through the school year. From the buffet of ideas presented to you, you select what fits with your goals and learning objectives for your family and your child.

tapestry of grace writing aids review

The ideas are meant to be used in conjunction with the time period you are studying. Do a comparison/contrast paper on a couple of generals you are studying. Complete a mini-book about the people of ancient Egypt. Create a display board of the people of ancient Palestine. Research papers, newspapers and articles, book reports and book reviews, literary analysis and character analysis, descriptive papers, and persuasive papers—you name it, every genre of writing is included at some point over the entire twelve levels (1st grade through 12th grade).

Within the purchase of Writing Aids are the instructions for the suggested assignments, grading rubrics, and graphic organizers that help you to create your own writing curriculum from the suggested assignments in the Tapestry of Grace plans.

So what does this look like in use?

I can choose to teach one writing assignment to both kids—both my highly-motivated fifth grader and my dyslexic third grader. For instance, they both created display boards this year, and they both have written book reports. My fifth grader has been working on a five paragraph book report, while my third grader is working on a well-developed single paragraph. 

I can assign as many or as few projects as I think is necessary during our term. For my fifth grader, that has been a book report and a couple other writing projects each term. He’s written a personal narrative, a display board, a fiction story, a couple comparison/contrast papers, and by the end of the year, a biography and a historical fiction story. For my dyslexic third grader who struggles with incredible writing anxiety, that includes a single project each term: a mini-book of Egypt, a display board of Palestine, and her first book report. 

I can choose the level I feel is appropriate for my child, even switch levels mid-year or even mid-term, depending on how my child is progressing and which projects seem best-fitted to my child’s skill level. My fifth grader is not stuck in level 5. I can choose a project from level 6, level 4, etc.

Writing Aids provides instructions (written to the teacher or an older student) about the project, the objectives of the assignment and what a well-done project will include, the grading rubrics, some graphic organizers and a few sample papers.  In a sense, Writing Aids and the Tapestry of Grace writing assignments offer the same buffet that is offered in the history plans themselves. It’s an open buffet of ideas and resources that allows you to create your own writing curriculum.

tapestry of grace writing aids review

tapestry of grace writing aids review

What Writing Aids is Not

Writing Aids is not a weekly scripted plan for teaching writing lesson by lesson. If you are looking for something equivalent to IEW or WriteShop or Brave Writer, you may be disappointed. Though it includes some ideas for teaching grammar, it’s not a grammar curriculum or an all-inclusive language arts program. It is exactly what the title says it is: writing aids.

It is also not a course to teach you how to teach writing, as some of the other writing curriculums offer, though it provides plenty of instructions and teaching resources and grading rubrics. Writing Aids provides instructions on the genre, the project, and what to look for in the assignment, but not necessarily how to teach the skill of writing to your child. Teaching how to write a book report and teaching writing are two different things, for sure.

What I love about Writing Aids (& how I’ve used it)

I love that I can assign the same project to both my children with age-appropriate requirements and teach the same material ONCE. 

I love that I can customize my own writing curriculum. ‘Cause after all, who am I kidding? I never use a curriculum exactly the way it’s written. Instead, I pick and choose the projects we will be doing and, for the most part, the time-frame for the assignment.

I love that the writing integrates with what we are learning rather than being it’s own separate subject. This is not just one more thing to fit into the schedule; this is one more avenue to explore and reinforce what we are learning together.

I am a writer: I have taught writing and editing at the college level and in homeschool co-ops, but even I still have doubts about whether I’m doing enough or teaching it right. I’m still plagued with that dreaded question: “am I missing something?” I look at all of those other writing programs and wonder if I should bite the bullet and choose one. And in the end, maybe I will. I see the value in many of them. But I also know that teaching writing isn’t nearly as complicated as we make it. And I’ve taught all kinds, including my own avid writer and dyslexic struggling writer.

Who is Writing Aids for?

It’s for the mom who wants to customize something that aligns with her goals for her child or children. Maybe she’s not necessarily confident in her ability to teach writing but confident in her child’s ability to learn writing. It’s for the homeschool parent who wants to teach all of her kids at the same time in a whole family learning environment and integrate that learning with history. It’s for the Tapestry of Grace user who fully embraces the concept of selecting what works for her family and her child from a buffet of choices.

Mid-Year Curriculum Review

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool year

Mid-Year is a great time to look everything over and see what’s working and what’s not. It’s a natural time for adjustments and trying out different curriculum if something just isn’t working. We’re doing a little of all of that right now: loving some things, adjusting other things, and ditching a few things as well. Welcome to our mid-year curriculum review!

Mid-Year Curriculum Review of Fifth Grade

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool yearMy fifth grader has done amazingly well with all of his curriculum. We are loving our DIY science curriculum, and everyone is chomping at the bit to get to the chemistry unit in just another week or so. He’s also done very well with his independence in learning, meeting deadlines, completing assignments, and self-starting in the mornings without me. It’s a new feeling, and pretty awesome. I’m just afraid to get used to it. Don’t pinch me, please.

He’s finished his Greek Alphabet Code-Cracker book, and really doing well with the Latin for Children program. (I’m kicking myself for not using this program sooner and sticking for so long with a program that wasn’t working for us.)

Here is the full run-down of his fifth grade curriculum this year. But I haven’t really changed much, if anything.

Mid-Year Curriculum Review of Third Grade

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool yearMy third grader is a different story. While she is doing very well this year, and I am very pleased overall with her curriculum, her story is one of constant adjustments. I’m always re-thinking things for her. We are continuing with Dyslexia Games B for her, and nearly finished with it. She has done so well with this program! I went ahead and ordered a “fun-schooling journal” from this same company to see if it helps her continue her progress and enthusiasm in her other subject areas.

I have also added a couple of apps to help with her spelling and dyslexia challenges. Simplex has been a terrific addition for us. Though she is at an equivalent of first grade spelling, this app has really helped her to begin making progress in this area. The skills she’s learned with Dyslexia Games and the visual/kinesthetic aspect of this app have helped her to progress, slowly but surely, with her spelling. Dyslexia Quest helps my daughter with skill areas rather than academic areas, per se. Visual and auditory processing, working memory, processing speed, phonological awareness, and other areas are addressed with a series of challenging games. It also emails me a great progress report to let me know exactly how she is doing in these areas and where she needs the most work.

The other major curriculum change for my third grader is our math curriculum. And this switch has been so hard for me. For a few years now, we’ve used Christian Light, and I love it. I understand it, the lessons are the perfect length with the perfect amount of variety and challenge. But it appeals to a verbal learner, which my dyslexic daughter obviously is not. I like the curriculum because I understand it; it’s written to a third grader, so I know what’s going on well enough to explain it to her. But she clearly struggles with the curriculum, even though she is good at the math, really intuitively. As a temporary test-phase, we are switching to a Math Mammoth curriculum that I had on hand. She loves the math puzzles and the unique approach; she loves the color and the hands-on elements. (I love that I can try something out without spending any more money. Lol!) So we’ll see how it goes. I feel like we are at a point in the year where I can afford the risk. She won’t be too far behind if the experiment fails, and I’ll know enough before time to order curriculum for next year.

You can take a look at the rest of her third grade curriculum here.

Mid-Year Curriculum Review of Preschool

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool yearMy preschooler is coasting. We do a few activities here and there. But he’s almost created his own curriculum of sorts. He’s so funny! He bought a Star Wars number workbook with his own money, and loved it! Worked it cover to cover, and learned a ton. Additionally, he copies letters and words that he sees and uses my daughter’s Dyslexia Aid app to write his own stories. Yep, he’s writing books before he can read them. He uses a few iPad apps pretty regularly: Cursive Writing Wizard, Doodling Dragons, and Montessori Numbers. And he plays with his bathtub letters. For the most part, he is literally teaching himself, with a little (very little, as little as he can manage) input from me.

mid-year curriculum review | evaluating your homeschool year

So, he’s ditched nearly all of his preschool curriculum mid-year and decided to unschool. HAH! I never know what to expect with this one. I am sprinkling in some Logic of English Foundations lessons here and there when I can. But I’m not pushing it.

Homeschool is just one constant adjustment, at least at our house. And the mid-year curriculum review is something that just kind of happens almost organically, whether I plan on it or not. It’s the name of the game. Thankfully, there are more than enough options to fill the gaps we tend to find halfway through the year.

Motivating Your Child with Anxiety

child with anxiety | homeschooling ADHD | homeschooling dyslexia | motivation

Over the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned our top motivation-killers at my house: Big Emotions and creativity. Today, I’m revealing the last of our big three: anxiety. I’m not sure if the anxiety at our house is rooted in the ADHD or the dyslexia or something else entirely, but anxiety has been a real motivation-killer at several different points in our homeschool. How do you get your child moving again when anxiety has her totally shut down?

While a lot of the same ideas for motivating an intense child will also work for the anxious child (our anxiety is usually emotionally intense), there are a few things I do differently when dealing specifically with my daughter’s anxiety.

5 steps for motivating your child with anxiety

  • Reassure first. Don’t reassure with logic! (I’ve mentioned before that I am really working on this.) Know your child and what that child needs. Reassure with affection and sentiment: “I love you and it’s okay. We will get through this together.” I think, perhaps more than anything, my anxious child needs to be reminded that she’s not alone, that I’m there supporting her through all her struggles.
  • Validate her feelings and assure her that you will do all that you can to prevent her fears from becoming reality. “I can see how that would be devastating, but I will not allow anyone to laugh at you.” “I can see why you would be terrified, but I will make sure that [whatever the fear] doesn’t happen.” While my natural instinct is to tell my child that what she feels will never happen and logically explain why that fear is absurd, this just doesn’t have the same outcome as telling her that I will not allow that fear to occur. Sometimes, I can’t make that promise. It’s not in my realm of protection. In those cases, I reassure that if it were to ever happen, we would overcome it together, that she wouldn’t be facing that situation alone.
  • Be for her, not against her. I mentioned this in my post about motivating your intense child. Of course, we are “for” our children. But it is easy to default to an “us against them” when the work isn’t getting done. By positioning myself as the ally, I and my child work together against the obstacle or natural consequence, instead of against each other. I am not punishing her with the consequences; the consequences are hers. But I want to work alongside her to find a strategy to help her make good decisions and avoid those consequences.
  • End on a positive note. Humor, a secret code word between the two of us to reassure her in anxious moments, a treat (food heals the soul), a hug—anything that seals the deal and provides a little nudge of momentum. 
  • Set up the learning environment to reassure the child the next time you encounter that obstacle. When we begin a subject or an assignment that I know my daughter is naturally anxious about, I begin by going over what we’ve discussed before, and remind her of what we are doing differently this time to make sure that her fears are not a reality. Reading used to be our anxiety-subject; then it became spelling. For a long time, she would burst into tears and shut down at even the sight of an assignment that required spelling. Slowly, we’ve worked through the anxieties from both of those subjects. And the other weekend, she picked up a spelling book on her own on a day off to work through some of the activities! Talk about a miracle! Though she is not completely confident in spelling, we’ve definitely come a long way. 

Motivating a child with anxiety takes an enormous amount of patience. And I have to remember that even though the fears don’t always make sense to me, they are very real to my child. I’m not always grateful for these moments. I’m not always patient. I’m sure, at times, I’ve aggravated and intensified some of those feelings by handling it the wrong way. But as I look back over the weeks, and think about what God is doing in my life through this journey, I appreciate so much more how God handles my fears.

How illogical are mine most of the time! I have an almighty God who knows and cares: what do I have to be afraid of? And yet, God doesn’t launch into all the reasons why those fears don’t make sense. Instead, He assures me—”Don’t be afraid!” And He’s there for me—”I will never leave you or forsake you.” In the end, these are the verses and promises that both my child and I have to come back to. She and I are both scared, anxious little sheep, but He is the good Shepherd of us both.