Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

The Importance of Reading Aloud and Our Homeschool Weekly Report, March 29-April 4, week 24

The Importance of Reading Aloud

I began homeschooling 18 years ago and, after a fumbling around year, trying to find my footing, I found Sonlight curriculum. That was a perfect fit for us in many ways. One of the best things it taught me was the importance of "Read-Alouds." We had read to Katie, our first born, since she was an infant. Sleepless nights were filled with reading her stories from the Red or Blue Fairy Tale books, not that she understood them yet, but hearing our voice comforted her and we were instilling from the beginning the importance of books. When she became old enough to understand the stories, in addition to the engaging picture books, we also read her books far above the level that most people would consider appropriate. She might not have understood every word, but she did understand much and the skills of learning vocabulary through context was just beginning.
Sonlight was a perfect fit for us when she became old enough for formal schooling because of its literature-rich philosophy. They always had a list of books for each grade level -good, thought-provoking literature that was always a bit ahead of the reading level for that grade. They were meant to be read by the parents, not the child. There were other books, on their reading level for them to read, but these books opened new doors for Katie, and then later, her brothers, as well. While they were still struggling over the simple language of beginning readers, their minds were opened to rich literature and vocabulary, which created a thirst for more books. I continued to read aloud to my children well beyond when they could read whatever they wanted to themselves, not because they needed me to read to them as they did in the early years, but because it was a beautiful time of sharing, that was so much deeper and richer than watching a movie together. Now my older kids sometimes want to share that experience with their younger siblings and will read books to them with joy. Every night we read just one chapter from two or three books. At just one chapter a night, they take a while to complete, but it is a wonderful, looked-forward to time. Sometimes they don't like the book right away, but usually, as they stick with it, they begin to appreciate why these books were chosen. I do take the time to choose the books carefully, and the best loved ones have been read to each of them as the came along. As they were brought out for each new child, often the older ones would get this nostalgic look and say, "Oh, that one!" as if greeting an old friend. Sometimes they sit in on it when I read to the younger ones just so they can hear it again.
My 12-year old has a lot of difficulty with listening skills. His mind wanders between sentences and he often looses track of what it being read. At first we stopped and filled him in every time he became lost, but soon he was stopping us every few sentences and the situation was getting worse instead of better, so we stopped filling him in. He has learned that when his mind has wandered, he needs to listen with more attention again and he soon picks up the context to the story. We have found that if he builds with Legos or Citiblocks while we read, this can occupy his mind enough to actually keep him more focused on the story instead of less. This was a surprising discovery as I thought it would distract him even more so.
This month we have been reading The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks and The All-of-a-Kind Family, Sydney Taylor. Sometimes I add it a short picture-style book, like last night I added in Music for Alice, Allen Say because it talks about the interment camps of World War II, which we will be studying soon.
At teatime I sometimes read poetry, but lately the younger boys and I have been reading the Magic Tree House series together as part of their reading time. The two boys have been slow to learning to read and making this time special with a small snack or cuddling time on the sofa has taken the edge off what could otherwise be an upsetting time. Taking turns reading helps with this as well. Then it is more like they are beginning to participate in the reading of books to others than it is the stumbling through a difficult subject.
Be sure to check out the Reading Aloud Challenge at Footprints in the Butter.
Here are books from the bookshelf this week:
March 29-April 4
Celebrations and The Every Day
Paper Penguin Play with Sand for Snow

Easter Morning

April Fool's Candy Sushi Teatime and Color Surprise Play dough

Week 24


World War I: 1915-16 Weapons and Warfare

We learned about the battles of 1915-16 and reenacted many of them in the sand pile. We also learned about Trench Warfare and the weapons of WWI.

Depression Era Cooking

recipe from Sweet Little Bluebird
"The cakes are also known as Depression Cakes as they were created during the Great Depression, when eggs, milk and butter were very hard to come by. It took some creativity and baking science to create a cake without eggs or butter.  You don't even need a mixer. "


Human Biology

We began our study of the skeletal system. Using the example at Angelicscaliwags, we began making a model of a bone, showing all the layers. Quentin has always had a particular interest in bones, so he loved it. We will be covering it will paper mache before it is finished.


modified pages from Nature Portfolio from Homeschool Journey
Alex has been working through the readings and activities from Nature Portifolio, learning about insects.


Number "Cards" or Sets

I originally saw this activity done by using a "Number Machine," which is a half-gallon milk carton covered in paper and with two slots in it. An specially prepared index card, with a number on it, is inserted into the top slot of the milk carton and, by going through the carton, the card flips over, to reveal a different number. All of this is to interestingly introduce students to ordered pairs of functional or interrelated numbers. I am sure this concept is better presented in this way in a classroom setting. I just wrote the pairs of numbers on a sheet of paper and Quentin figured them out as logic puzzles. Then he made up a few for me.

Coordinate Tic-Tac-Toe

The next step in learning coordinate graphing is to learn that ordered pairs of numbers can be used to indicate a single point on a grid. James has played the game Battleship many times before, which gave him some experience with ordered pairs of numbers on a grid, but the coordinate points are in the squares and I want him to practice making the coordinate points where the lines intersect.

As I constructed the board for this game, I taught him some terms and the like. I told him that I was numbering the lines that divide the sections and that they are called axes. I showed him that where the two lines crossed, I wrote a zero. On the part of the axis that started at the zero and went to the right, I wrote numbers on each line crossing the axis. I pointed out that the numbers were on the lines and not in the spaces. On the part of the axis that started at the zero and went to the top, I also wrote numbers on the crossing lines. We played Coordinate Tic-Tac-Toe.  To win a point, one needs four marks in a row. To make a move, the player writes down a pair of numbers. The first number tells where the player is starting on the box axis (that's this horizontal line) and going up. The second number tells where the player is starting on the triangle axis (that's this vertical line) and going across. The player then marks (either an X or an O) on the graph paper where the lines for the two numbers meet. It was clear right away that he understood the concepts, but we played for awhile just for the pleasure of it.


Reading Games and Pen Pals Letter Writing

We played some treasure hunt games in which I included words for practice reading in the clues for Quentin. The boys have begun writing letters to their new pen pals.

Lego Challenges

Despite the interest shown in a weekly Lego Challenge, we are getting no participation. Is there anything that I can do to make these better for you?
Don't forget that these links are open for a full year, so you can come back and link-up at any time to any one of these challenges. If you know of anyone who would be interested, please spread the word.

Lego Challenge #7: Garden

and a sneak preview of this week's challenge
Pick a book off the shelf and tell us about it through Legos!


  1. I'm exhausted just reading about your week, how on earth do you fit it all in? I've stolen the cake recipe, it looked too tasty not to!!

  2. Phyllis, I will ask my son about the LEGO Challenge... maybe he will want to give it a try!

    The Depression Cake -- when I was a little girl my mother made this all the time. Both she and my father were children during the depression and were lived by very meager means. She would make this cake and we would sit with my grandmother eating and talking about the hard times on their farm in Wisconsin during the 1930s. Wow. What a great activity to do with your kids.

    I'm so thankful you link with Collage Friday each week!

  3. You must have the coolest house on the block! So much creative, hands-on fun! But where do you find the energy?! I pinned the Depression Cake. (Too bad I'm out of white vinegar and vanilla.)

  4. The spongy bone experiment looks super cool. Unfortunately, right now Anna is not too much into Lego preferring to play with other things when she takes a break from reading for fun.

  5. We for whatever reason haven't really gotten much done with Legos recently. I need to work on it, but with all the sickness recently, it just hasn't really happened. Maybe I'll get off my lazy butt later today and do that :)

  6. What a great post. I can't wait to try the wacky cake! That is exactly what I needed for my son's birthday this weekend.
    Blessings, Dawn

  7. We used to call that cake recipe, Dump Cake! I have no idea why!
    Phyllis, you seem to outdo yourself every week. Do you get all your project ideas from Sonlight?
    thanks for linking up to Friendship Friday!

    1. No, I get many of the book ideas from Sonlight, but they are not very hands-on at all. All those projects are found elsewhere.

  8. What a happy and rewarding week - so many smiles! The sand play is brilliant. Love me some watergate salad! And I've already pinned the cake to try (hooray - no eggs!)

  9. Wow, lots of great links in your post...I have lots of tabs under the tab of your post to follow up on. :-) Some year I would really like to do the Candy Sushi! It looks like a lot of fun for April Fools!

  10. Looks like a fantastic week, as usual :)
    That Depression cake looks yummy...I'm going to check out the recipe.
    So many fun learning opportunities in your week!
    I like very much what you had to say about read alouds.

  11. I'm not sure how I missed this post, but I'm so glad I saw it on your Top Posts. The read-aloud portion is inspiring. Thank you!


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