Let’s Play!

Summer is a great time to encourage your kids to play educational games. Not only does it help to break the “I’m soooo bored!!” cycle, but it also helps prevent brain drain over the summer. There are so many great sites with learning games that kids love. In fact, you might want to consider having a scaled down “summer curriculum” for your kids. Spelling City has one such offering. If science is your kids’ thing, they would love the Science4Us summer program. We have a writer in our family, who would appreciate the lessons on Time4Writing.com. Whichever way you choose to go, with summer learning games, you can’t go wrong!

Summer Reading Lists

Reading is obviously an important activity for kids in 4th grade. But how does one find reading lists for elementary age students? Certainly your local library would be a great place to start. However it’s always nice to have something to go on before you arrive. One great site for homeschoolers to check is Homeschool Literature.com.

Some favorite books for 4th grade include:

There are so many good books out there, you may want your child to read them ALL. Remember to let them choose books with themes that interest them even while requiring certain classics.

Annual Testing

There are different laws in each state regarding annual testing. Some states don’t even require it. However, the majority of us are asked to assess our homeschoolers’ progress each year. In past years I have always waited till mid July to have our testing done. This year it dawned on me, why am I waiting so long?? I should be having it done as soon after we finish for the summer as possible, while the information is still fresh in my students’ minds.

With that in mind, I called our chosen tester to schedule our appointment. She informed me that the test has been updated. Oh, boy! This year the kids will be asked to edit sentences and then write their own sentences. Not something that we have practiced a lot of. Instead of panicking I turned to one of my favorite sites. Time4Writing has some great free resources which will work wonderfully to prepare my kids for this year’s testing.

Homeschool Mom Guilt

I think this is the season when we moms tend to start feeling like we haven’t done enough with our kids during the school year. With summer coming up and testing time looming, we feel the pressure. Sometimes it can help to stop and remember all the non-traditional learning that your kids got during the year. Like that trip to the Renaissance Fair where they got a healthy dose of hands on history. Or the trip to the beach where they learned about low tide, high tide and different types of sea shells. Don’t discount the numerous trips to the park where PE was in play. With a bit of reflection, I think you will discover that you and your kids spent much more time learning than you realize!

unit studies

You’ve probably heard of them, but what exactly is a unit study?  A unit study is simply learning about a particular subject, whether it be grasshoppers, ocean currents, or a particular book.  A unit study could be about anything, as long as you’re able to cover the material in depth and from different angles.  This method is great when you’re homeschooling multiple children, because the older kids can learn about predicting weather from ocean currents, for example, while the younger ones learn about the life cycle of a fish.  It’s all connected as a unit study about oceans!

Unit studies allow for superficial review of less interesting aspects of the subject matter, while allowing kids to explore particular areas they enjoy.  A unit study on oceans should probably include some geography, but could be expanded to include things like scuba diving and deep sea drilling too.  The flexibility appeals to moms and kids alike.

writing prompts

Besides online sources, there are books and teacher magazines galore with suggested writing prompts for kids, which are suggestions for what topic to write about.  Quite often these prompts will consist of a sentence or two and the child should complete the thought in a story.  For example, “If I had a million dollars, I would…..” or “As Sally got off the school bus this morning, a squirrel came by and grabbed her lunch bag.  Then he ran up a tree with her lunch and Sally…..”

Creative writing and storytelling are great ways to expands kids’ minds and sharpen their writing skills too.  Who ever said there was no room for imagination at school?

schoolwork while on a road trip

With our Thanksgiving trip to Grandma’s house this week, my family did some test-driving of the concept of roadschooling. What’s roadschooling? You know, homeschooling while on-the-go…In this case, we were just driving 8 hours to Grandma’s house, but lots of families employ this technique to their everyday lives. An image of RV’ers comes to mind, driving across the country in a motorhome and seeing the sights along the way. We stick to home base most of the time, but thank goodness for the internet, because we can do some schoolwork online while driving. My kids played online nature games and did some workbook pages about Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving hundreds of years ago. I brought the Schoolhouse Rock DVD for them to watch in the car, too. Every little bit counts, right?

What did the Pilgrims eat?

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving on a nutrition blog than learn about what the Pilgrims ate!  I came across this book at the library while searching for Thanksgiving books for my own kids.  Wow – this is a great book!

Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners
by Lucille Recht Penner

A lot of what the Pilgrims ate, they ate because they had to.  They didn’t want to starve.  Aboard the Mayflower, supplies were limited and were largely infested with bugs.  The book mentions that some Pilgrims preferred to eat at night so they couldn’t see what might be crawling on their food!  (This garnered a round of “EEEW” and “YUCK! from my kids!)  They couldn’t risk a stray spark from an open fire burning down their ship, so they mostly ate cold foods.  And while they kept a goat, chickens, and other animals on the ship, they weren’t used for food.  They were merely bringing the animals to the New World with the intent of starting a new herd or flock there.

teaching analogies

Worm is to apple as cow is to___________.

Does this sound familiar?  Teaching your 4th grader about analogies is a great strategy to improve their logic and reasoning skills.   In addition, it deepens their vocabulary and increases reading fluency.  It’s worth a few minutes each week of your time!    Try this one:
vitamin C : oranges
_______ :  milk

Oranges contain vitamin C.  What important nutrient is found in milk?  Calcium!

Yea!  You’re on a roll!  How about one more?
red, shiny : apple
yellow, curved : __________

Banana!  Analogies aren’t just for the SAT test anymore.  Kids can really enjoy analogies, and if you start when your kids are young, they’ll have lots of time to master them way before SAT-time.

handwriting skills

Some kids pick up the skill of handwriting more quickly than others.  Different school districts may advocate different writing styles, for many different reasons.  One of the perks of homeschooling is that you don’t have to go with what the public school wants, but you can determine what works best for your individual child.  Two of the major handwriting styles are Zaner-Bloser, which is a traditional block printing style, and D‘Nealian, which is a more recently developed curvy style of writing meant to make the transition to learning cursive a bit easier.

By fourth grade, most children have mastered basic handwriting.  But remember, practice makes perfect!  If your child is struggling, there are several handwriting programs designed to help.  A program called Handwriting Without Tears seems to be especially popular with public schools in this country, and it works very well to help kids learn proper letter formation.   There are other programs too, so be sure to research the subject if your child needs a little extra help that simple repetition isn’t providing.