Category Archives: Reading

My Best Bible Study Idea Ever!

I just had a Bible study idea, and I’m kind of excited about it, so I thought I would share it with you.

I thought it would be helpful to have a Bible on file that I could directly type my questions, research, and thoughts into. Right now, I’m writing in the margins sometimes, but there just isn’t enough room, and I don’t always keep a pen handy, lol.

I think it would be neat to keep it digitally instead of in a hard copy so that I can update it year after year, as I learn new things or find better research.

I looked for DOC files of the Bible for download and only found the NIV. I prefer more literal translations, so I’m just going to go to Bible Gateway every time I start a new chapter and copy and paste it into a new file.

I’m going to bold print all of the scripture, and then when I make notes in it (right in between the verses), I’m going to normalize the text that I type.

I figured it would also be interesting to copy/paste other translations sometimes, or the original Hebrew or Greek, or Strong’s Concordance notes, etc. Pictures would even be helpful sometimes! There are just so many cool things a person could do!

If several of us decide to do this, maybe we can compare notes someday. 

Believers, Do You Read Your Bible?

Bible-reading: How can I express its importance?

How can I put it into the right words?

What argument can I use to encourage you to pick up this life-giving book?

If you don’t believe it’s all that important, why not? What are the reasons that you allow it to take a backseat to the other priorities in¬†your life? Let’s talk about it and see if we can get to the bottom of the issue here.

I have a few more questions for you, intended to provoke you to action.

How can you claim to believe something you’ve never even read?

How do you know what the Bible says about where we came from, how we are supposed to worship, what obedience entails, and where we are going to end up? If you haven’t read the Bible to glean these answers, then you are merely believing what someone told you. You are choosing a person to trust rather than the Word of God itself.

Is there anything within its pages that would surprise you? How do you know?

Is there hidden treasure inside that might be the answer to the persistent questions or problems in your life? What if you’re missing it?

His words are truth. His instructions are life. Please don’t miss out. That book over there, sitting on the shelf collecting dust – it has the power to change you, but first you have to read it.

photo credit: Theo Crazzolara <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/141324643@N05/32033909876″>Chocolate coins</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Bible Study vs. Bible Reading

The other evening at church, we were talking about whether it’s more important to read through the Bible over and over, or more important to slow down and study passages from it.

Personally, I like the idea of reading through it every year because I think you are more likely to open your Bible every single day if all you have to do is pick it up. If you have to think of a topic, drag out your Strong’s concordance, Vine’s topical, and Matthew Henry’s commentary, I think you are a lot less likely to be in the mood to spend time with God.

I also like the idea of having read the Bible 5 or 10 or 20 times, depending how long you’ve been at it. After a while, it becomes like that favorite movie you can practically quote. No, but really – spending time with God every single day, and working your way through every aspect in which He has revealed Himself, has some pretty amazing benefits.

First of all, you get to know God pretty well – how He thinks, how He loves, how He has planned and labored for our redemption since the beginning of time. For instance, there are certain things I know about my mom or my dad. Certain things about their personalities that go without saying. They would no longer have to tell me that they love me, or that they have my best interest in mind, etc. I just know these things because I understand them. When you read the entire Bible, especially multiple times, you are building an all-around perspective of what God is like.

Secondly, if you can get in the habit of reading for a few minutes every single day, instead of waiting for a chunk of time in which you can sit down and really dive in, you are giving God the opportunity to grab your attention daily. Sure, there will be some mornings or evenings that you are tired and have to prop your eyelids open. There will be some days where you find yourself not really paying attention and needing to reread what you just spent the last five minutes staring at. However, eventually, it’s all going to sink in. Finding a time of day in which you are awake and mentally engaged is challenging, but it can be done.

Thirdly, when people make outrageous claims about the Bible saying this or that, you will know whether they are true. If you are truly paying attention while you read, you will know if you come across anything that just doesn’t seem to jive. Here it will definitely be your responsibility to pray and research and find out what is meant by such a passage, and then you will be able to answer if someone questions your faith in a book that they claim contradicts itself.

Lastly, I think it’s ludicrous for Christians to claim they believe something they have never even read all the way through. Baby Christians, new converts, okay. I get it – you haven’t had time yet. And I know that the Word of God speaks for itself, and when you identify with certain parts, you believe by faith that the rest of it is true. But come on. Seriously, you need to at least be moving toward that goal of having completely read it, and then keep right on going, moving toward the goal of having read it so many times you can practically quote it.¬†I looked at my Kindle reading app, and the average time for reading through the Bible that I have downloaded is 44 hours and 9 minutes. Folks, that’s less than 8 minutes a day. We honestly have no excuse.

All that being said, I am not trying to deter anyone from actually taking a half-hour to an hour a day and studying the word of God. Or maybe you can carve out a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon – whatever works. Just try to form a habit you can stick with. I do believe that there are many insights to be gained by studying the meanings of words in their original languages. I also believe we should study the Bible in light of other Scriptures, and there is something to be said about reading supporting verses in one sitting, rather than as you come to them on your journey through the Bible.

Personally, I study the things that catch me off-guard, or things that are on my heart, or things I think I need a better understanding of. In this way, I use the Bible as a tool, a reference book, a how-to guide for life. I openly admit to not studying in-depth on a daily basis, but when I do, I usually feel compelled to study until I get to the bottom of an issue. This can take hours a day for several days sometimes. It still doesn’t happen often enough for me (in my opinion), so I intend¬†to make some additions to my reading plan in order to study with intentionality (is that a word?).

I spoke with Ian on the way home about how he thinks we should approach Bible study. I said, some folks who study the Bible but don’t intentionally read it through never even get to all of it. How do we fix that problem? Ian said, “Study it in order.” Well, I should have known that was the obvious answer, but didn’t think of it on my own for some reason. So, I think I will start at the very beginning, and study as much as I like after I have read my passage for the day. The studying portion will, of course, move at a much slower pace, but perhaps it will benefit me more. Perhaps studying everything once will have the same affect on my understanding and retention as reading it ten times through.

Do you have any ideas on reading or studying the Word of God? What method do you use? What changes would you like to make?

A new idea for teaching spelling

It’s important to me that Ian become a pretty decent speller someday. In this day and age, he especially¬†needs to know his homonyms apart, because most spell-checkers can’t catch them.

Lately however, we have completely ditched spelling as a separate course. It just didn’t seem like it was clicking for us. I remember a conversation I had¬†with my husband about the topic. The fact is, there are only a couple of words that I remember the spellings for because I learned them from a list. They are (drum-roll, please): calendar and separate.

I think that’s it.

Now, I am usually a pretty good speller (although this particular post will probably be full of errors, just to make a liar out of me, lol). The thing is, I don’t actually remember learning the spellings of words. I just know how they’re spelled. In an effort to figure out a better way to teach Ian, I had to ask myself, How? How did that happen?

And then it hit me: I was an avid reader as a child. I saw commonly used words spelled over and over and¬†over again. I’m no expert on teaching spelling, but I am pretty convinced¬†that reading lots of books has more impact on a person’s ability to spell than any spelling curriculum.Spelling

So, part A of my method, if you’d like to call it that, is lots and lots of reading.

Part B is spaced repetition, and here’s how it came about:

After a while, reading, with no other review, began to seem¬†like the lazy way out. I was still afraid that maybe I wasn’t taking an active enough role in helping Ian become the speller I want him to be. The beauty of being a homeschool mom is the fact that I love my child more than any other teacher ever could. So when I find myself second-guessing his future, I am quick to analyze our habits and make changes if need be.

Then we started dictation exercises. I have written about this before, but here it is in a nutshell: To help him improve the actual physical skill of writing (which is the hardest part for him), I used to read three sentences to him every day from a book that is slightly below his reading level. He wrote the sentences down as I read them aloud. I thought: here’s my chance to help him with his spelling! When he came to a word he didn’t know, he would attempt to spell it, and I would help him. Then, if there were any spelling rules that would help him understand better, we would review them immediately (such as the difference between hoping and hopping).

This method worked for months, and he has accumulated pages and pages of a hand-written copy of “Little House in the Big Woods.” However, being the kind of mom that I am, the kind that wants to over-prepare for life, maybe, this method still seemed to be lacking. Even though his spelling was improving as time went on, I felt drawn to a more traditional approach to spelling.

But I hate the traditional approach! Why?¬†Because, you learn a list of words, whether you know them already or not, you study them for a mere four days, and end by taking a quiz on day five. Study is usually accompanied by mind-numbing oral repetition and hand-cramping copying of 5 times each. Then, poof! The word disappears. And, magically, you never have to spell that word ever again. Sorry, but I just think it’s a waste of time. His and mine.

Three or four days ago, we¬†sort of stumbled upon the solution. It was actually more Ian’s idea than mine. He had missed a fairly simple word that day during dictation. It was a word I was sure he would remember if only he had a little more exposure to it. So, as the day progressed, I asked him how to spell it. I interrupted his dinner, his video game playing, his exercising – I made myself very annoying, lol. But he didn’t mind too much because I was only asking for 5 seconds of his time, three or four times for the rest of the day. (That’s what we have been doing with any difficult¬†math facts he encounters every¬†day, and it really works.)

The next day, right before dictation, I asked him again – he still remembered the spelling. Ian said: “I really like spelling, but I like spelling out loud.” Then I felt guilty. I thought I had been saving him from unnecessary repetition, but he truly enjoys being able¬†to spell. He enjoys the feeling it gives him when he does it well. So, we stopped short at only two sentences that day, and reviewed the words he had just missed. We have been adding to the “list” every day, reviewing spelling rules as we go along. Some words he only has to review once, and he spells them right after that no matter how many times I ask him. So I don’t ask him those every day. I mark the ones that are particularly difficult, and I have been asking after those throughout the day, just like on the first day. And here’s the beauty of it: we only ever review words that he misses. No wasting time with things he can figure out on any given day.

Now we have both been using flashcard programs lately, and the spaced-repetition system is really working for both of us. We are both learning Spanish, and Ian is firming up his times tables. So I have decided to work out a spaced-repetition system, where he reviews words that he misses every so often, spacing the words out farther and farther with each successful spelling. Who knows, I might even create my own Anki or Memrise deck for him.

Wish us luck!

 

A Creative Curriculum for 5th Grade

We are doing so many things this year in our homeschool! Many of the topics don’t take long to complete, usually less than a half-hour. This is good for Ian because he gets bored pretty easily. About the only thing taking us any longer than that is all of the reading we are doing together. And, since we’re doing that together, Ian actually enjoys it! Here are a few of the things we are doing:

Reading living history books. My favorite so far has been one about the life of Squanto – why isn’t there a good movie out there somewhere about his life? The dude has a phenomenal story.

Law & Government. We just started this one as a family. It basically consists of a textbook, two CDs and a DVD. The textbook has a two- or three- page introduction and an outline for each lesson, along with questions and suggestions for further reading. This is going to be an interesting course. Unfortunately, we can only do it on Wednesdays when Jesse is home with us.

Reading. This subject has been the biggest surprise this year. Ian has been a good reader for a long time, albeit a slow and reluctant one. This year alone, he has tripled his reading speed (thanks to watching movies in Spanish with English subtitles), and has gone from dreading the subject to loving it. I honestly didn’t think it was ever going to happen for him, but we finally found a book series that he enjoys, and now, he reads anywhere from one to two-and-a-half hours every single day. He only has two books left in the series (Diary of a Wimpy Kid), and I am starting to search for more books he may enjoy.

Math. Ian’s math skills have developed in leaps and bounds this year. We have been using the Memrise app for multiplication and Spanish. I no longer have to drill him anymore, yet I almost always remember to casually quiz him throughout the day on one or two math facts. I was¬†amazed at how well this works! His math book is almost fun for us now that he is better at facts.

ControllerArt. Ian has been drawing lots of MineCraft-related pictures on graph paper. It’s perfect for someone who isn’t confident in their skills as an artist because you only have to draw one block at a time. Last night, he began working on a Mario-based art project. He drew a whole level, complete with secrets and switches and pipes – the whole nine yards! And the level was fresh from his own imagination. I was blown away because he created an engaging, challenging world that I would enjoy playing. I have been sending him to his room at 9:30, at which time he does something quiet, so he has been drawing. Then at 10:30, he can either read for an hour or go to bed. He’s been reading, and that makes me happy. ūüôā

Python. We have been learning the Python programming language together using a book that I found at a computer store. The program allows you to make small changes to the MineCraft code and alter the game in fun ways. We are having a blast! I have been wanting to teach Python to Ian for a couple of years now, but the first time we tried it, it was above his head. (It was okay until we got into integers.) But now is the perfect time for teaching him, especially since we can use MineCraft as a starting point!

Well, those are a few of the things we are doing. We don’t do them all everyday. Our everyday subjects are reading, Bible, guitar, drums, dictation, typing, and Memrise (Spanish and multiplication). If you would like to read some ideas for language arts or science, you can find those in previous posts.

I hope you find some of these subjects and ideas helpful as you explore your own adventure in homeschooling!

Alphabet Train Flashcards for Sale

Well, Jessica and I just opened our Etsy store, and our alphabet train flashcard deck is now for sale. I have some sets printed out already, and I will print more on demand. You can visit the shop here: Engage and Grow.

Here is the listing:

When my son was five, he loved trains, but he hated learning to read! These flashcards were the solution to that dilemma. Building words became a game for him. Children always learn best when they are engaged and having fun, and this was no exception. Five years and lots of hard work later: he is now a great reader, thanks in part to these creative flashcards.
It occurred to me that other children might benefit from this product, so I recreated them to make them more attractive and opened this shop for the express purpose of offering them to you! I hope they fill your days with fun and learning!

Each card is 2 1/2″ x 4″ and printed on card stock.

Set includes 1 engine, 1 caboose, 26 freight cars, and 26 cargo cars – 54 cards total.

This product comes pre-wrapped in colorful fabric squares, tied with a ribbon. Your Christmas or birthday wrapping is done for you!

Play

Learn

Detail

Size

Packaging

 

Alphabet Train Flashcards, Improved

CabooseYears ago, I created some flashcards with trains and letters on them. This was an effort to teach my child to sound out words by building trains. Today he is a fantastic reader! I finally made better (hand-drawn) versions of the trains and have printed them on flashcard paper produced by Avery. I am getting ready to set up an Etsy page so that you all can purchase these if you like. I will link to it here when it is ready. Note: the caboose and engine do not have letters on them, however the pack contains two of each letter and there are four different train car/color combinations, in addition to the caboose and engine.

Update: These are now available in my Etsy store: Engage and Grow.

5th Grade Curriculum Ideas – Reading and Writing

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you as you teach, especially if you are looking for no-cost, low-cost options. I have spent less money than ever this year on curriculum, yet it has been our best year by far.

This year, Ian is doing much more on his own. I am directly overseeing his writing, grammar, and mathematics. We are using IEW, Grammar, Fix It and Singapore Math respectively. If you want to read more about these subjects, I posted about them here. In addition to these curriculum choices, we are doing a few extra things for these topics.

For writing, I am spending a few minutes per day dictating to him from Little House in the Big Woods. As I dictate, he writes. He always tries to spell everything on his own, and I will stop and correct him as we go. Sometimes, this spawns a discussion about various spelling rules. So far, this exercise seems to be more productive than regular spelling lists.

In addition, ¬†I have just printed off some texts in cursive that I intend to have him trace. The first one I have printed is the initial paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. We should start this exercise tomorrow. While we haven’t formally taught him to write in cursive, we realize the importance of being able to read original historical documents. I also intend to order a book that contains pictures of some of the originals in order to have him practice reading them.

My excuse for not teaching him cursive was the fact that typing seems like a much more important skill right now. That, and he is still struggling with the physical motion of writing at all, although he is improving in leaps and bounds this year. So he will spend about 5-10 minutes per day typing. We have tried two or three typing programs geared towards children, but Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing is still his favorite.

I have been reading to Ian like crazy lately. Not just living history and science books, but Uncle Eric too (which is his favorite series so far). We are also reading tons of fiction together. I am beginning to wonder if we should have gone with the Sonlight curriculum this year! On second thought, they are quite expensive, and we are doing well using whatever we can get our hands on.

I am simply falling in love with our local library. I never appreciated them because they have catered mostly to children, and I never had much use for them before. Almost all of their adult books are either outdated or pop-fiction, neither of which I enjoy. But now that Ian and I are reading together so much, I am rethinking my opinion of our library.

I think there must be a homeschooling family that is selling their old books to our nearest V-Stock, because I have found tons of great resources there lately.

Also, as I mentioned in my last post, we have found LibriVox quite invaluable. Right this moment, we are listening to nursery rhyme recordings.Educational Audio Since yesterday, when he listened to The Story of Dr. Dolittle in its entirety, he has listened to the first hour of The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, a bit of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and now nursery rhymes. I know it seems he is too old for nursery rhymes, but I skipped over them inadvertently when he was younger, so we are filling in the gaps in his education. They are quite pleasant! I am also intending to use this site for catching up on some poetry and perhaps listening to a few things in Spanish. The usefulness of this site seems endless!

Wow, I had intended to fill you in on what we were doing for some of our other subjects this year, but this topic got away from me, so I will save those for another time.

Devouring the Classics

Thanks to Ian’s recent leap in reading speed, I now have hope that he will be able to eat up books very quickly for the rest of his childhood. However, because he still doesn’t necessarily enjoy the act of reading itself, he still isn’t reading for pleasure. I must tell him to read, or it doesn’t get done. Even when I think I am being clever by telling him he can either go to bed or stay up and read for an hour, he chooses to sleep. Even when I allow him to earn money or lego pieces for his time spent reading, he still chooses not to. He flat out doesn’t like to read.

Because I still want him to read, but because I don’t want to torture him, I am only requiring him to read his Bible and 30 minutes a day of something else. (Right now, that “something else” is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.) So he still reads for about 40-45 minutes a day. Beginning in January, I am thinking of kicking it up a notch, by having him read for two 30-minute sessions per day.

Unfortunately, unless he suddenly develops a great interest for books over the next year or two, he won’t have time to read the classics during childhood. I don’t want him to miss out on this important aspect of our culture. The other day, while wandering around our local library, I stumbled upon some books on cassette tape. Many of them were classics. So I immediately came home and purchased a little Walkman from eBay.

Yesterday, my husband helped me hook the Walkman up to some speakers, and I played “The Boxcar Children” for Ian while he was playing Minecraft. He happily listened to the entire book in one sitting! I started to wonder if there were any online recordings of books in the public domain. After searching a bit, I stumbled upon LibriVox, which is a community of people who have recorded themselves reading books and poetry from the public domain.

The ClassicsAs I type this, Ian is listening to the last chapter of Doctor Dolittle. He has been listening for the last three hours while playing with his Legos, and that’s all it takes to get through the whole thing. So, needless to say, I am quite excited. With tools such as my local library and online audio classics to choose from, I feel as though he can listen to a classic all the way through at least once a week. It doesn’t feel like cheating because I am still having him read quite a bit, just not as much as I read when I was his age. I am just happy that he will be able to enjoy the classics growing up!

An Unexpected Leap in Reading

Ian reads for thirty minutes every day. Every once in a while, I sneak a peak at what he’s reading to see how much ground he can cover in a half hour. I am used to being discouraged and finding that he only reads eight or nine pages in that amount of time (from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which has a ton of pictures). He has been a good reader for a long time now, but not a very fast one.

I never told him that I spThe Readery on him, until yesterday. He accidentally read for an extra five or ten minutes because he didn’t hear the timer beep. Out of curiosity, and because it’s been a few weeks, I checked to see how much ground he covered. Thirty-two pages!!

At first, I thought I must have been mistaken. I was sure the bookmark had been on page 129 when he started, but maybe not. So I checked with Ian. “Where did you start reading today?” He showed me, and I still almost didn’t believe it.

In the last month, he has more than doubled his reading speed, so of course I began to ask myself why. Nothing much has changed, except the fact that I have been spending a ton of time reading to him. And then it hit me…Spanish!

Last month, Ian and I watched several movies in Spanish over the course of a couple of days. I blogged about it, so some of you may remember that we used subtitles, but Ian couldn’t read them fast enough. Well, he has been watching cartoons in Spanish almost every day since the last time I posted about it, which was almost a month ago. He ran out of movies that he was super-familiar with and has been watching a cartoon series, which he has watched all the way through once before.

He has been using subtitles the entire time, and has learned to read them fast enough to understand what’s going on!

I have been a musician for some time now, but my sight-reading skills never developed until I was placed in a setting where I had to read music under pressure Рwhich I did by playing in church all the time and going to jazz band rehearsals. I knew this concept worked with music, but it never occurred to me that it would work with reading words. I wonder if it will work with anything? If so, how can I create an environment that puts pressure on him to remember his math facts faster, for instance? Any ideas?