learningtable

http://learningtable.blogspot.com

I blog as a former classroom teacher turned homeschool mom to three boys about our experiences, resources, and other good stuff.

Anne is a winner of Top 25 Teacher Moms - 2013

What's one of your favorite new books for children?

My favorite new books for young children are Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books. These books are funny and smart, and they encourage my youngest son to read on his own. Each page has just a few words, so emerging readers can master the books without frustration:

"Gerald is careful. Piggie is not.
Piggie cannot help smiling. Gerald can.
Gerald worries so that Piggie does not have to.

Gerald and Piggie are best friends."

The pictures are hilarious, and my son laughs out loud at Elephant and Piggie's antics. The characters are expressive and lovable as they navigate through Mo Willems' zany world. Not only do these books encourage my son to read, but through Elephant and Piggie's struggles, he learns about friendship and problem solving. These books are also great discussion starters and help kids understand difficult feelings.

What advice would you give to a mom who thinks her child has too much homework?

If a mom thinks her child has too much homework, she should be proactive and find out why. It might mean that there is a problem that is preventing her child from finishing schoolwork in the classroom. First, she should schedule a time to talk to the teacher and find out what is going on. It could mean that the child needs help organizing his or her time, or there could be a distraction in the classroom that is preventing the child from being able to concentrate. In addition, there could be a more serious issue, so these should be ruled out first.
If the reason the child has too much homework is due to the teacher simply assigning too many things for the child to do at home, the mom should talk to the teacher about his or her reasons for assigning so much work. The bulk of classroom time should be devoted to teaching, practicing, and reinforcing material. If the teacher is having trouble getting everything done, the mom could offer to volunteer to be a teacher's aid.
Parents need to get involved and stay involved in their child's school and develop a partnership with their child's teacher. Being communicative in a respectful way, and finding out the teacher's point of view will go a long way toward reaching a compromise.

What's one of your favorite educational activities that can be done outside the classroom?

My favorite educational activity that can be done outside the classroom is literally going outside! Nature study is fun, and kids can learn so much more from seeing creation for themselves rather than only looking at a picture in a book. It is really simple to start keeping a nature notebook or journal, which can be as simple as a composition notebook or as fancy as an artist's sketchbook. Homemade nature journals are easy to make, too. Invest in some good quality colored pencils, and you're ready to go. For younger kids, have them use peeled crayons or crayon rocks to create "rubbings" of tree bark and leaves. Older children and teens can draw what they observe or take photographs to paste in their books. Consult field guides or search online to find out more about things you find, and add the details to your nature notebook. Any time of year, kids can observe the weather, plants, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, insects, and other critters. Look at things from different perspectives, and encourage kids to look up close; maybe even provide a magnifying glass. There is always something new to discover, and taking school outside is a fun way to show kids that learning doesn't stop when you leave the classroom.

What's a good way to motivate and support children who are struggling to learn a certain school subject?

Anne Campbell

To motivate my children when they are struggling with a certain subject--first of all, I check my attitude. If I am enthusiastic about the material, my kids will pick up on that, and they will less likely to begin with an attitude of failure. I never enjoyed math once I got into my middle school years, and my oldest son doesn't like math either. I have committed to making math less intimidating for him and more of a part of our everyday lives by incorporating math games into our days and finding a curriculum that was a better fit for his learning style. Don't be afraid to set aside something if it isn't working and try something else. Also, I keep in mind that all my kids are different and have different learning styles, different attention spans, different personalities, and different favorites. What works with one may not work with the other. Another tactic that works really well for us is to break the material up and work on it for shorter spans of time -or- do the less favorite subject first to get it out of the way. It is also better to stop and go back to relearn material than to keep moving along when a child doesn't "get it." Stopping to spend two weeks working on the times tables or division is better than struggling through to move ahead.
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What's a great developmental toy for preschoolers?

Anne Campbell

The hands-down favorite "toys" my boys played with as preschoolers were dress-up clothes. I kept a bin for all kinds of costumes, capes, hats, swords, etc., and at least one of my kids usually ran around dressed up as a superhero, doctor, fire fighter, cowboy, pirate, wizard, chef... The possibilites are endless, and with a little ingenuity and imagination, it doesn't take much to assemble an alter-ego. We had things from the after-Halloween clearance aisle, from the thrift store, from Grandma's house, or things we made ourselves. A large silky scarf from the thrift store became a cape, a sword-belt, and a sling. The button-out liner from an old trench coat became a wizard's robe and a soldier's coat. A bandanna is perfect for both a cowboy and a pirate. Many costumes were inspired by books we were reading or from movies or plays we watched. This inexpensive assembly was played with at our house far more than any other toy, and it was fun to meet a new character each day.
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How do you get a fidgety or unfocused child to sit and do homework?

Anne Campbell

I am a mom to three boys, so I can honestly say that I've had my share of fidgety. When we are doing schoolwork or having read-aloud time, I have a few tricks that help to keep my especially active boys focused on the task at hand. First, if they can do their work neatly, I let them sit where they are comfortable sitting, such as the couch, their beds, the floor, on a pile of cushions, etc. If they choose where they want to sit, it seems to motivate them to get their work done. Also, this may seem insignificant to some, but I have a pack of those old-timey shiny star stickers, and if my kids do a neat job, put in a lot of effort, or meet a goal, I put a star on their paper. Everyone appreciates being noticed for a job well done. They really love this, and you can see their pride in their smiles. For read-aloud time, I let my boys sit or lay where they want, and they can build with legos, play with an action figure, roll a toy car or motorcycle around, etc. as long as they are quiet and don't distract their brothers. When the weather is nice, we head outside for nature study or we brings books and clipboards out to the porch. Sometimes it helps to have a snack or drink alongside when we are sitting at the table for schoolwork, and cutting "sitting still" time down in 15 minute increments with short breaks in between helps, too. I'm so happy to be able to accomodate my boys' needs to wiggle, squirm, and move while still getting some learning accomplished.
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What is the best place to raise children: city, suburbs, or a rural town?

Anne Campbell

The best place to raise children is in a loving, supportive home. I personally prefer our rural setting which is in fairly close proximity to a city. The advantages for us are the peace and quiet, the abundant nature, and a safe place to play outside. We are close enough to the city to enjoy what it has to offer: museums, shows, movies, shopping, etc., yet far enough out to enjoy a quiet life. As long as parents stay involved in their kids' lives, it really doesn't matter where they live. Each setting has something to offer, and it all boils down to what you make of it.
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Can you recommend a children's book or series that's great for summer reading? Please include the ages it's appropriate for.

Anne Campbell

Summer is a great time to read around a theme. With a few months free to focus on a set of books, why not focus on a book series, time period, genre, or even set a reading challenge. My teen literature group members are reading through the Newberry award winners. My family has spent summers reading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (and cooking foods and making crafts themed around that era.) We also read the Rick Riordin Percy Jackson series one summer, and the Narnia books a different summer. One summer, we read Treasure Island, lots of pirate themed picture books, like How I Became a Pirate and Edward and the Pirates, and we spent the summer making pirate boats, visiting the beach, "digging for treasure," and playing pirates (dressing up, sword fighting, saying, "Aarrgh!" every chance we could...)
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What's a fun and easy Thanksgiving craft that's great for preschoolers? Please include a link to a picture if you have one.

Anne Campbell

It's easy to make a Thanksgiving bird feeder using a small pumpkin. Simply cut off the top and have your child use a spoon and his hands to scoop out all the pulp. Using an apple corer, punch three or four holes in the sides an inch from the opening and use twine to make a hanger. Kids can add a cupful of bird seed inside and choose a place to hang the feeder where they can observe the wildlife that visits. If the weather is cold, it will last for several days.
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What's the single most precious memento you have from your children's infancy that's not a photo? Please incude a link to a picture if you're willing to share!

Anne Campbell

The most precious memento I have from my children's infancy that is not a photo? I have a box of items that I couldn't part with when they outgrew them. A few outfits that I especially loved to dress them in and now marvel at how tiny they are. Some cotton blankets, oh so soft, that I wrapped them up in when we rocked and nursed, which remind me how they would all wiggle their feet until they poked them out from under the blanket. Special board books that we read over and over and over--I can still recite them by heart. A few small toys--a rattle, a stuffed animal, a Thomas train. The ever-present pacifiers. My goal is to create a scrapbook of photos of the boys with these items at the time they wore/used them and some journaling of my memories of these times and store it in the box along with these special items. The baby years were so precious and flew by so quickly!
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