Online Book Rental Club

Homeschoolers do some pretty amazing things. I just came across three this past week who introduced me to their site,BookRobin.com.
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Ryan, Christian and Ian are three brothers who decided to share their vast collection of books by making them available for borrowing, like you would from a library. But their idea makes it convenient to borrow books because all the titles can be viewed on-line. The process is so brilliantly simple and convenient for members…

STEP 1: Subscribe. Choose a plan starting at 799/month
STEP 2: Add books to your rental queue
STEP 3: 2GO will deliver your books for free
STEP 4: Decide when you are ready to return your borrowed books. No late fees.
STEP 5: 2G0 will pick your borrowed books for free and deliver your new set of books.

It is the first and only online book rental club in the Philippines created by 12 year old Ryan, the eldest of the three brothers. Launched October 2013, BookRobin.com is the kind of library that works for homeschoolers. It can be accessed from the comfort of your home and everything comes to you. That’s my kind of library!

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Letters Everywhere!

When my second son, Edan, was 2 years old, he was obsessed with letters. Until he was about 5, everything we bought him had to do with the alphabet. Whether it was magnetic letters, cut out letters, letter stickers, books about the alphabet, letter stencils, letter stamps, wooden letters to string…you name it, he had it. It was a positive obsession so we let him indulge in it. All this “exposure” to the alphabet made him a more interested reader and writer. He has since grown out of his letter fascination and develop varied interests. But that was a fun time. It was wonderful to be able to buy him presents that revolved around something educational.

As I was browsing through the internet, I came across all kinds of alphabet typography. None of these are my ideas or my copyright. I thought of putting some of my favorites here for you. They make me think of Edan. He would have loved these…

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Edan’s Curriculum

Edan’s 1st Grade books and materials…

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I have not included all the storybooks we read but here is a photo of the kids’ bookshelf:)

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Edan is also interested in geography…

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Making Mini Books

Children need a compelling reason to write. I remember having a conversation with author of Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Debra Bell, and she said that a person must have an audience to write.

Well, my second son, Edan, asked me to make him a book so he could draw and write in it. I stapled bond paper together and he got to work. I had no idea what he was up to but he wrote an drew pictures for his own little book. He called it a book about The Bible and the Created World.

When he presented it to me, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of thought an insight he put into it. He is just six but he has a heart for God. I was blessed to read what he wrote. He asked me for some spelling help, but the ideas were all his. His grammar was not perfect but it’s a good start for him. :)

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Popsicle Stick Puppets

This morning, I taught the kids how to make Popsicle puppets. We used cut out pieces of colored paper, pasted on goodly eyes and drew smiles, made pipe cleaner curly ears, and stuck everything together with double sided tape and voila! The kids had a blast with their cousins making up stories and putting on a show for me. I was thoroughly entertained! It was definitely a fun way to teach communication and language skills. 20120428-201540.jpg

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Writing with Tears

I have often heard other moms talk about how difficult it is to get their sons interested in writing. Well, now I am one of them. My 9 year old, Elijah, is an incredibly intelligent boy but writing is his least favorite activity.

Last Friday was one of those days when he resisted an assignment I gave him. He was asked to write a short story using the vocabulary words he learned and he was visibly upset about it. Sigh. In my heart, I was wrestling with my own rising irritation. I watched him bury his face in his hands, yank at his nose a zillion times, and then stare at nothing. We sat like this for about twenty minutes and he wrote zero sentences.

One of the amazing things about homeschooling, however, is that it is a character education for me, too. So I prayed and committed not to lose my temper. And I didn’t, but he heard me say that I was frustrated. (Oops)

He started tearing and said, “I feel bad because you are mad at me.”

I replied, “I am not angry or mad.”

“But you said you were frustrated.”

“I did say that and I am sorry. I was frustrated, but our relationship is more important to me than your writing assignment.”

To reassure him, I gave him a big hug and held him for a while. Yet, the teacher mom in me knew that Elijah had to learn to write. I couldn’t let him remain negative towards this skill. It was an important ability that he needed to develop. And while I believe in allowing children to learn at their own pace, I also believe that they can be lovingly encouraged and challenged to do hard things.

It wasn’t just about doing a writing activity, it was about overcoming self-doubt and self-imposed limitations and negativity. I knew that Elijah could write and that I wasn’t asking him to do something beyond his capacity. But I was asking him to do something that wasn’t comfortable or easy for him. The question was, what strategy would work to motivate him?

God gave me an idea…

I continued our dialogue, “I need to ask you something. Do you think there is anything you can improve on? Do you think your heart is right?”

He shook his head to mean, “No.”

“What do you think is wrong?” He admitted that he didn’t like writing and didn’t want to do it.

“Do you think it’s okay that you have this attitude toward writing?”

He shook his head again. Another, “No.”

At this point in our conversation, I knew that he recognized his aversion to writing. He knew it was not good or right.

When I saw him soften up a little, I said, “Okay, I want you to repeat after me…”

I don’t like writing but I will try my best for Jesus. I asked me to say this several times until it became somewhat comical and he started to smile. There is my Elijah! I thought to myself. Breakthrough.

It was my opportunity to try again.

“How about we do this. Choose 10 of the vocabulary words to use in a story and you can write about a topic that you like. You can also use my computer to do it.”

“Can I choose my own font?” He asked.

“Yes.”

Prior to this, his assignment was to write a story using about 20 words and he had to use them in the order they were dictated. This was stressful for him. But when I changed the mechanics of the assignment and gave him enough space to be creative, he was excited. I also said, “Afterwards, you can play the educational game about countries on my IPad.”

“Thank you, mom! This is more motivating.”

Praise God!

I left him to work on the computer and when I came back, he composed a wonderful piece. Mission accomplished!

Here is a copy of what he wrote: (Re-printed with permission from Elijah)

One day there was a commotion outside the house. There was a booth that allowed you to get free plane tickets that let you go on an expedition anywhere in the world! There was a long line when I looked out the window. There were about 150 people waiting to get tickets! A few days later we got tickets and we chose this place called Adventure Islands.

Once we got there, we first went into the subterranean cave. The next day we reached one of the precipices. We climbed up to the top, and I saw an eyrie below us and an ingenious invention flying above us. We also went to one of the mystery places. I was flummoxed by how the place looked. Soon we saw some menacing, dark rain clouds overhead. We settled in an uncanny place and it was a bit eerie for a while, but soon we fell asleep.

The next day it was time to go home. Three days later we got home. I looked out of the window and saw that the booth was gone. But soon we might go on another adventure…..

After I read what Elijah wrote, I immediately said, “This is fantastic, son. You are such a good writer!” He was quite happy with this encouragement. And I meant it. He was able to use difficult vocabulary in the right context. For a 9 year old who seemed mentally constipated an hour earlier, I was very pleased with his output.

This experience was a confirmation that academic goals are achievable even if I don’t follow the cookie-cutter approach to teaching. I customized my son’s learning experience. And customization is a key benefit of homeschooling.

The reality is that a teacher educating thirty kids will not be able to customize assignments for each of the children she teaches. Yet many times customization is exactly what a child needs to be engaged and motivated to learn. When children are engaged and motivated they do not need to be coerced or pleaded with to learn or try their best. In contrast, when they are uninspired, getting them to do their work feels like pulling teeth…teeth that won’t come out!

Therefore, my challenge as a homeschool mom is not getting my children to do their work but inspiring them to do their best and to love learning. It requires me to adjust (which is not always easy or comfortable or me) and it requires a whole lot of prayer for grace, wisdom, and patience, but the results are worth it!

We’ve got more writing assignments to deal with this coming week, but I am looking forward to how God will move in the heart of my son and help us get through these challenges. :)