Introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

I know that not everyone loves poetry the way I do. I totally understood why my college students weren’t as excited about our poetry unit in Creative Writing as I was. But that’s never stopped me from loving the challenge of introducing poetry to a skeptic and surprising them with the reality that they could love it, too. Now as a homeschool mom, I still love that challenge. I love introducing a love for poetry to my kids. And often, that love surprises them.

Especially if you have active learners, introducing a love for poetry can be tough. But here are a few ideas to give you a head-start in the right direction.

Introducing a love for poetry

Choose the best books.

I love Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry, especially for boys. If anyone can pull off a surprise love for poetry, Shel Silverstein can. My kids have literally laughed out loud through his books. Falling Up is such a favorite at our house that we now own it (because someone left the library book outside overnight and it got a little too damp to return).

But a new favorite of mine is the book Guyku, haiku for boys (or any kid who loves to play outdoors). Even my daughter with dyslexia couldn’t help but pick this one up.

introducing a love for poetry | haiku
Guyku by Bob Raczka and Peter H. Reynolds

Haiku is probably one of my favorite poetry forms, and these authors do a fantastic job writing kid-friendly haiku. Their website also includes some great teaching resources and free printables.

Create a memorable moment.

  1. Have a picnic, lay out on a blanket, hunt for cloud shapes, and read a couple of fun poems. (Just a couple, don’t over do it.)
  2. Use poetry to introduce something fun you are about to do. Read a poem about the beach and let them guess where you are going. Read haiku about nature and then go on a nature walk to find ideas for your own poem. 
  3. Have a poetry scavenger hunt and have them find poems about particular topics you’ve listed. (Choose a fun book and quirky topics.)

Whatever you do, let the poetry be a part of an already fun experience. The positive vibes from the event will spill over into the poetry part of that memory. Your goal is to have a fun, positive memory associated with poetry, rather than the memory of sitting at a desk discussing rhyming patterns.

Provide a fun snack.

Adding food never hurts, especially if you’ve got boys. Food is definitely part of that positive association. I can pull off just about anything with my kids if there is food involved. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Have one particular treat that only comes out during poetry time. Or surprise them with a favorite treat, and a new favorite poem.

I’ve read a lot of the blogs that do the “poetry teas” as a way of introducing a love for poetry to children. It’s a great idea, and when my kids were little, I could get by with that. But my soon-to-be sixth grade son is not keen on “tea parties.” These ideas still work for him, though. And with the right book, I can still surprise him with a love for poetry he didn’t know he had.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | customizing Tapestry of Grace

We’ve used Tapestry of Grace as our core curriculum for going on 6 years. I love it, primarily because it is designed to be customizable. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, Tapestry presents a buffet of choices and ideas for reading, crafts and art, literature study, history discussion, and more. It’s perfect for customizing a learning plan that fits our unique ADHD/dyslexia struggles. But for the first time this year (as a solution to the enormous loose-paper crisis we experienced), I’m also customizing our own Tapestry of Grace student notebooks.

While the option is available to purchase these in printed bundles, ready to assemble, I prefer to print my own, allowing my kids to be in-between levels. Also, I wanted to separate the projects into separate notebooks—history and literature—rather than combine these, since we tend to work on them at separate times during our homeschool week. I’m loving the result and am looking forward to a lot less mess this next year.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for History

Lower Grammar/Upper Grammar Notebook

My daughter will be officially fourth grade this year. While she faces some stiff learning challenges from her dyslexia, she’s made tremendous progress. Technically, she should probably be entirely Upper Grammar this year, but I’m still allowing her to be in-between. Especially for history, where information is more technical and less story-driven, she needs the lower grammar level. Her notebook includes the following items.

Weekly Overview. This page includes major theme and project ideas, famous people we will be covering, and the vocabulary words that she will be encountering in her reading. Each week, she looks over this sheet with me and looks up any words that she isn’t familiar with in the provided glossary. Because of her dyslexia, I do not make her write or copy any of this information, she just reads over it.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | weekly overview

Glossary. Last year, I kept one copy of the Year 1 Glossary in my Teacher Notebook, and the kids shared it. However, sharing the notebook didn’t always work out well. To streamline things, I went ahead and printed off a glossary for each child and included it in their own notebook. While this exercise builds my daughter’s vocabulary and prepares her for any difficult words she may encounter in her reading, it also gives me the opportunity to work with her on dictionary skills without an overwhelming amount of information for her to navigate.

Binder Pockets. We’ve used these binder pockets for years to organize different resources in our Case-it Binders. This year, I’ve included one in her history notebook to help my daughter organize lapbooking projects that she is working on. Once these are completed, I will oversee that they make it to their final destination (the portfolio) without taking an indefinite detour to her bedroom floor.

customizing Tapestry of Grace student notebooks

Upper Grammar/Dialectic Notebook

At the end of last year, we tip-toed into the Dialectic stage. This year, we’ll be delving more deeply into this level of thinking with history discussions and accountability questions. Because there is more involved at this level, there is also more included in my son’s history notebook. 

History Topic Summary. Each week, there is a brief overview provided for the student to read that provides the basic summary of what we will be covering and a Biblical point of view on that topic. While the content is a little technical and difficult for my daughter to understand, my son will be ready for it this year, and it will provide the groundwork for our discussions each week.

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | dialectic history

Accountability and Thinking Questions. As part of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum for the dialectic level (grades 6-8), each week there are accountability questions that come from the reading and thinking questions that provoke the student to form some opinions and comparisons about what he is learning. (Yes, the answers are provided in the teacher material, so I’m not on my own on this.) This will be our first time to use this consistently, and I’m expecting to do quite a bit of hand-holding as my son gets used to thinking critically in this way. I have provided these questions in his notebook so that he can read over them and know what we will be discussing as he does his reading. This is not pop-quiz. It’s just a step to help him understand how to read for information.

Weekly Overview. This is the same sheet that my daughter has in her notebook, but my son will be using the upper grammar vocabulary while she uses lower grammar. It is the same exercise, looking up the words in the glossary; however, my son is required to write the definitions of words he doesn’t know. The Weekly Overview also includes dates for my son to enter into his timeline. Typically, we do not include all the dates. At this stage, I require a few but allow my son to choose those dates that are significant to him because of his reading and the connections that he is making. 

Glossary. This is the exact same glossary in my daughter’s notebook, and will be used for both dictionary skills practice and vocabulary.

Creating Tapestry of Grace Student Notebooks for Literature

 

Tapestry of Grace student notebooks | literature

Our literature ties in directly to our history studies. These selections are either historical fiction novels that demonstrate the history and culture we are studying, or they are classical selections that were written during this time-period. Our curriculum includes literature study activities for these selections. Activities for sequencing, cause and effect, character analysis, plot study, narration and summary writing, and more are included in their Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for literature.

My daughter has a good blend of lower grammar and upper grammar activities depending on the skill involved. Because of her dyslexia, she will be doing many of these activities orally while I scribe or write down her answers. Though she is capable of making the connections, she needs some coaching with communicating her thoughts.

For my son, there are a few skills he still needs to work on that are covered more thoroughly in the upper grammar materials (cause and effect, character analysis, etc.) The other three-fourths of his notebook include the dialectic level worksheets, with more in-depth studies of plot, characters, and genres. 

I love the fact that I can create these custom Tapestry of Grace student notebooks for my kids that meet their specific needs and still challenge them appropriately. And hopefully, we will not have quite as much paper on the floor throughout the house this year.

Teaching Spelling While Homeschooling Dyslexia

teaching spelling | homeschooling dyslexia | right-brained homeschool spelling curriculum for kinesthetic and visual-spatial learners

Teaching my daughter to read was a challenge. We both fought hard to win that battle. But just as she was finally making strides in reading, her phonics curriculum switched from an emphasis on reading to an emphasis on spelling, and her performance plummeted while her anxieties surged. No matter what technique we tried, no matter how long we spent going over words, she couldn’t spell. Half way through her second grade year, it was clear we were dealing with dyslexia. Teaching my dyslexic daughter to read was tough; teaching spelling to my dyslexic daughter has seemed impossible on many, many days.

My daughter has a beautiful way of seeing the world that is uniquely her own. Unfortunately, this creates challenges for her when it comes to language. The spring of her second grade year, we abandoned teaching spelling with a traditional curriculum and opted for a homeschool dyslexia therapy instead. She completed Dyslexia Games level A that year, and we followed it up with Dyslexia Games level B her third grade year. My technique was constant exposure. Without a spelling curriculum, she practiced spelling on her dyslexia apps, her Dyslexia Games therapy, her keyboarding program, and some various copywork exercises.

This coming fall, we will be tackling our first spelling curriculum in a year and half. She’s still below grade level, but I’m hopeful she’ll continue to make strides with our new spelling curriculum, A Reason for Spelling.

Filling in the Gaps in your child’s education

filling in the gaps in your child's education

It happens. Maybe you switched curriculum mid-year, maybe you transferred from a brick and mortar school to homeschool, maybe your child has special needs, maybe you just flat out missed some spots. Gaps happen. Filling in the gaps in your child’s education does not have to be stressful or intimidating. Here are a few ideas to fill in the gaps gently and easily.

Ideas for Filling in the Gaps in your Child’s Education

Catch it next year.

So much material is reviewed each year. If your child’s educational gap is not a glaring one, you may be able to just hone in on it more firmly next year. Take a look at your curriculum for the coming year, identify when that particular topic will show up and make sure you allow plenty of time to cover it thoroughly. Sometimes, a “gap” could just be that your child wasn’t developmentally ready to handle that new skill or concept. Just being a few months older could make all the difference for your child when you are filling in the gaps in their education.

Tackle it during the summer.

Keep in mind, I’m not even suggesting that you have to do a full school load all summer. But if there is a subject or a topic that you feel warrants a little extra attention, spend 20-30 minutes a day. Just that little bit of time for an extra month or two may help your child leap forward in time for the new school year.

Reinforce it with extra activities.

I use this technique with my daughter. Her “gap” is actually an on-going weak area for her: spelling. Because of her dyslexia, spelling is her nemesis. She is easily a year or two behind in the subject, but she’s making progress. My technique is constant exposure. Spelling is not a single subject that she does for specific time each day; it’s something I subtly add anywhere I can. I had her do typing lessons everyday, and not just for the keyboarding skills; I wanted her to see and make words correctly. Each week, she made her own list of words by hunting words of a certain length:  a list of four letter words one week, a list of five letter words the next week, a list of six letter words, etc. She also had a couple of different spelling apps that she used throughout each week (Dyslexia Quest and Simplex). Next year, I’m adding a formal spelling curriculum that provides a lot of non-traditional practice (A Reason for Spelling—we are both very excited about this program). And I’ll be adding calligraphy and zentangle word-art projects for her to work on. By exposing her to spelling in all of these different areas, we are reinforcing her weak area. This is an area that may always need a little extra attention, but she’s making progress.

Filling in the gaps in our child’s education does not need to send us into a panic, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a minute to assess how much help your child may need and then give one of these ideas a try. Have some other ideas for how you’ve filled in the gaps? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’d love to add them to my list.

Classically Homeschooling with Funschooling Journals

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

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