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Useful Junkmail-An Oxymoron

I hate wasting things. I’d probably be a hoarder if I didn’t hate clutter so much. Because of my unique combination of personality traits that God has created me with, I try to find non-traditional uses for things that I would otherwise just throw away (If I can’t find an alternative use for something I still throw it away, so in case you were wondering, no, I don’t have a big ball of dental floss hidden in a cupboard somewhere in my house). One of the items that keeps coming into my house, that really has no traditional usefulness, is junk mail. Since we have such a plethora of it, I have through the years come up with a few creative, educational uses for the junk mail I am constantly receiving.

Homeschool Doesn't End When Summer Starts

If you are like me, you probably recently finished your school year or are almost done. I admit I’m calling it the end of the year. My children are excited to be promoted to the next grade (before they even put down their pencils after the last assignment), but we aren’t really done. Learning is such a part of our lives, that I just can’t stop teaching them. We enjoy it. I see summer as a wonderful opportunity to do more hands-on-learning such as field trips and science experiments and math games. I feel like we have more time for fun learning during our summer days because we aren’t doing as much book work. Yes, I meant to say “as much”. 

How I taught my son to read at Four (and a little writing and spelling)

I don’t know how to teach your child to read. Every child and parent is different. You as the parent know best how to teach your individual child how to read. I will tell you how I taught my son to read at four (I’ve used this same method with my oldest two sons) and hopefully that will give you some ideas how to start teaching your child to read (though not necessarily at four). Don’t worry about doing it the wrong way, there are many different methods of teaching your child to read, some may work better for one person or another, but as far as I know, they all do work. I learned how to read phonetically, whereas my husband learned how to read whole words. You can’t get much more opposite approaches, yet as adults we both know how to read well.

Initially my husband and I wanted to incorporate the best of both worlds, and teach our oldest son to read primarily phonetically but also learn the DOLCH sight words so that we would be able to read more rapidly-we thought. However, he really didn’t get the sight word approach, it just kept frustrating him. I ended up dropping that approach altogether. He is only 6 yet he is able to read most of the words on the DOLCH word list without a problem after learning them phonetically.

My second son’s brain works differently than my oldest son’s. My second son learned many sight words on his own after I read them to him just once or twice in a book. Sight words come very naturally to him. I am still teaching him phonics in the same basic steps that I taught my first son, just tailoring it to fit his style a little. This approach seems to work just as well for him as it did for my eldest son, even though they seem to learn a little differently.

Read on for the basic steps I used to teach my child to read and some ideas on how I did each step.

 

Gift Stress

My husband and I sometimes struggle with giving gifts to our children or receiving gifts for our children from others. We are thankful for whatever our family receives and are truly appreciative of the sentiment behind the gifts given to us and our children. However, sometimes the gifts we receive bring with them issues.

One of the issues that sometimes arises with gifts of toys, is the educational value of them. We are okay with our children playing with toys just for fun, but we don’t want mindless entertainment toys that quickly lose their entertainment value to be the main focus of our children. We prefer toys that serve some form of educational or developmental value. We feel that quality is far superior to quantity in the area of toys.

The other main issue that arises with gifts of toys for us is quantity. The reasons are two-fold. First, there is the general issue of a large quantity of toys and the stress it places on the child. There are studies on this topic so I will summarize it to say children with fewer toys are often less stressed and happier (which also makes Mommy less stressed and happier).

The second part of this issue, is that we live in a small house with very limited storage space. I am constantly going through stuff in our house to try to make room for other stuff that I deem more important. When we receive more stuff, there is always the question of where to put it. Even if the stuff received is more exciting and fun toys, the question of where to put it still remains.

We’ve done a few things to help deal with these issues. We now limit the number of gifts we give to our children. We usually choose no more than three gifts per child. Sheer quantity helps with the issues of storage immensely. We are also mindful of the size of the gifts we choose. Some things are simply too big for our space and are therefore just not options.

We have also stopped giving mostly just fun entertainment toys to our children. We now give mostly stuff with a purpose. In addition to the old standby option of clothing, we have gotten a little more creative. This year one of our children is getting a new backpack because his old one is worn out. Our children love art projects so they have gotten things like glue and tape and even construction paper before. They love this! It’s also helps our financial budget. We like to give our children educational gifts as well, like science books about animals, manipulatives they can play with, a microscope to view things, or a globe to learn about the world. Sometimes we give these gifts to an individual child, but often the educational gifts we give jointly to all the children to share. Another type of gift that we have considered, but not yet given, are less tangible items like a zoo membership, tickets to a museum or sporting event, or a state park pass.

Not only have we made these personal changes in our gift giving to our children, but when grandma and grandpa inquire about gift ideas, we make sure to request these types of gifts as well.

One thing we have done to help with the quantity issue after Christmas, is the “In one, out one” rule. If you are not familiar with this one, it means that when you receive “one” gift “in”, you take “one” item “out” and get rid of it. I usually do this with my children a week or so after Christmas or their birthdays.

We also encourage our children to give of their own stuff to others throughout the year. This takes a bit of effort on my part to find areas for them to give their stuff that it will be appreciated, but it is worth it. In addition to minimizing the quantity of toys that creep into their space, it helps them learn to be givers. Which is a lifelong character quality I want to instill in my children.

Merry Christmas!

 

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