{31 Days} How Did You Get Your Kids to Love Reading?

My boys LOVE reading. They go through books at such a rapid pace. Thankfully, I have a couple of things working for me. One, they will read the same books multiple times. Two, they will read each other’s books.

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
The “Love to Read” campaign began when my boys were about 6 & 8 they liked reading. However, it wasn’t something they would ever choose to do if they had free time. I didn’t want to bribe them, or pay them to read because that had the wrong motivation that I wouldn’t be able to continue long term. That’s when I remembered a tip I had filed away.

The tip was one I learned from a friend in high school. He shared that he was diagnosed with dyslexia when he was younger and didn’t really like reading. His parents, in an effort to persuade him otherwise, allowed him to stay up as late as he wanted, as long as he was reading. Well, it worked.

The details of how we implemented it in our house can be found here.

If you try this in your house, I’d love to hear about it!


{31 Days} 16. Tell Me About Book Club

The Kids Book Club was started by that favorite homeschool blogger I mentioned in this post. She started the ball rolling, and a few of us have picked it up and carried it forward after she moved back to Las Vegas.

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
Book Club started with about 8-12 kids in each of these groups:

Girls 6-8; Boys 6-8
Girls 9-11; Boys 9-11
Girls 12 +; Boys 12+

There was also a 5 & Under group that was just for siblings of the older groups.

The organizer would collect a $5 family supply fee + $2 per meeting fee. This made it about $20 per year for one child. The funds were distributed to the leaders each month so they could purchase supplies or snacks for the following month. One or two moms would lead each group. So in ways, it was similar to a co-op. Only we just did one “class.” We met the fourth Friday of the month for one hour during the school year. (Taking off for November and December due to holidays.)

The years before I was the leader, the boys read several of the Wishbone series books. Both of my guys really enjoyed those, but they were sometimes a bit beyond their comprehension. Thank goodness YouTube had old episodes of Wishbone.

I volunteered to lead the Boys 6-8 group for a couple of years. It was a fun time. One year I lead the boys through the “Incredible Journey” books by Connie Lee Berry plus “The Enormous Egg” by Oliver Butterworth. The next year we read the first 7 “Imagination Station/Adventures in Odyssey” books. (For the record, “The Enormous Egg” was the hands-down favorite of moms and boys, alike!)

*I should note, with a large age gap between 6 and 8, we knew there could be a difference of reading ability/comprehension. So the moms in the group agreed that if our children could not read the book by themselves, we would read it aloud.  This allowed all of the boys to have knowledge of the book when meeting for book club.

Each time we met, I had several activities planned to coordinate with the book.

  • Something for them to do while we waited for everyone to arrive – puzzles, coloring sheets, butcher paper to color or write on, and once I taped the butcher paper to the underside of the table to mimic “cave writing.” Because waiting quietly in a seat until it was time to begin, did not work for boys!
  • Talk about the book, talk about what life is like wherever the book was set, talk about what kids their age do for fun wherever the book was set.
  • A craft.
  • A snack.
  • A science experiment, if applicable. (The Incredible Journey books all had a quick science experiment in the back of the book that correlated to the story some how.)

As an example, for the “Knights in New York” book, they were able to write “graffiti” on the butcher paper that was over the top of the tables as they arrived. For our craft, the boys built skyscrapers out of toothpicks and mini marshmallows. As a snack, we had apples to represent The Big Apple. The science experiment with pennies and vinegar showed how corrosion changes the color of copper ( i.e. the Statue of Liberty.)

I didn’t have much experience with the other groups. I know some of the girls groups read the Gooney Bird Greene books, and the American Girl books. Because we met in a church facility, we were asked to steer away from books with magic and such, however if given the opportunity, I think the Magic Tree House Books would lend well to a book club for both boys and girls under 10.I think the older boys read Chuck Black’s Kingdom Series and The Knights of Arraethtrae Series. Last year, the older kids combined boys & girls. They read a specific genre each month, then when they gathered they discussed their book and gave reviews to the others.

This year, the groups look a little different. Both of my guys are in a 10+ group. They will be reading whatever book they want each month. Then at the meeting they will give a review and share if they would recommend the book to their friends. The boys are excited about sharing some of their favorites, as well as, learning about new books they’ll want to read.


{31 Days} 15. What About Going to the Library?

One “field trip” that I didn’t mention in the previous post is our weekly trip to the library. Both of my boys are voracious readers. They go through books quickly. Which might explain why we visit the library so frequently.

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
For now, they are allowed to check out as many fluff/fiction books as they like. I do give guidance on selecting books. They know some things are not really appropriate, and apparently I’ve done pretty well at establishing those boundaries. I’ve seen Woody place several books back onto the shelf after reading the back. When I ask him why he didn’t keep it, he says “It is totally inappropriate, Mom.”  Okay! Glad I taught you when I did!

In addition to their fluff books, I do have a couple of required genres they must borrow. I’ve found it has helped them to expand their horizons a bit, and occasionally spark an interest they didn’t know they had. After all, isn’t that the point of reading?

My requirements? At least one biography/autobiography book, and at least one non-fiction science or history book. That’s it.

I’m pretty sure my wanna-be paleontologist has checked out every book on dinosaurs at least once. But the other boy who isn’t so sure what his career goal might be, has learned from others who have written their stories, or about subjects that he is interested in. I am hoping those might be good stepping stones to help him figure out where he wants to go in life.


{31 Days} 14. Where Do You Go for Field Trips?

(Ooops! Went out of town and got a bit behind schedule. Catch up, begins now!)

A better question might be, “Where don’t we go?”{smile}

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
“Field Trip!” I think those are the favorite words of almost any kid!

I remember the one “field trip” a year that I went on every spring during my elementary school years. I am fairly certain it could win an award – for the lamest of the possible lame field trips. Wanna know what we did? We walked from the school to the neighborhood park, ate the lunches our mom’s packed, and walked back to school. Seriously.

Now, as home schoolers we are blessed to be able to go on cool field trips. And we get to go on as many field trips as we see fit. I see field trips as a great opportunity for learning, which may explain why we go on so many of them.

During our last school year, we went on 56 field trips. Granted some of those were repeated We delivered Meals on Wheels six times. We attended Boys Book Club seven times. And there were 10 trips to the Fort Worth Zoo for classes and such.

However, there were plenty of other places that were a one time visit. One of our first field trips of the year was to go see how they make bread at the Mrs. Baird’s Bakery. While one of the last trips for the school year was to celebrate “National Doughnut Day” and talk about the real D-Day at Krispy Kreme. Not all trips revolve around food, but I will say that is a great way to get a boy’s attention. Well, that or Lego!

Here’s a list of most of the places we’ve been in the past 8 years, although I may have missed a few…

*Mrs. Baird’s Bread Bakery
*CR Smith Museum
*Perot Museum
*Sea Life Grapevine
*Legoland Grapevine
*Kimbell Art Museum, several times
*Amon Carter Art Museum, several times
*Monnig Meteorite Gallery on the TCU Campus
*Noble Planetarium
*Founders Plaza at DFW
*Stockyards Station
*UTA Planetarium, several times
*National Scouting Museum, several times
*Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, many times
*Fort Worth Botanic Garden, several times
*Fort Worth Zoo, several times
*Kennedy Memorial – Dallas
*Dealey Plaza
*6th Floor Museum
*Bass Pro Shop , several times
*Cabela’s, several times
*Mainstay Farm, several times
*Money Factory (FW Reserve)
*The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Printing Press [no longer doing tours]
*Dallas World Aquarium, several times
*Casa Manana Children’s Theatre, many times
*Dallas Symphony Orchestra, many times
*Astronaut Training Center [now closed]
*Mansfield Blacksmith Shop [now closed]
*Trinity River Audubon Center
*King Tut exhibit at Dallas Museum of Art
*Butterfly House at Texas Discovery Gardens (Fair Park)
*State Fair of Texas
*Museum of Earth History (CFNI Campus)
*Mansfield Water Treatment Plant
*Dallas Arboretum
*Creative Hands Pottery Place, several times
*Dublin Bottling Works (Formerly Dublin Dr. Pepper)
*Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Kitchen
*Bethlehem Revisited in Waxahachie
*Veteran’s Day Re-enactment in Waxahachie
*Veteran’s Day Program at DFW Veteran’s Cemetary
*Fort Richardson State Park Civil War Reenactment
*Dirty Scurry in Fort Worth
*Texas Ranger’s Baseball Game

A few of our out-of-town field trips:

*San Jacinto Battlefield & Monument
*The Alamo
*Brazos Bend State Park
*State Capitol in Austin, Texas
*Mammoth Cave National Park
*National Corvette Museum
*General Patton Museum oc Cavalry and Armor
*Knob Creek Gun Range
*State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin
*River Ferry from Iowa to Wisconsin
*National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
*Apple River Fort in Illinois

But, there is a whole list of places not far from us that I still hope to visit!

Vetro Glassblowing (Grapevine)
Gnismer Farms
Henrietta Creek Orchard
Sid Richardson Museum
Mary Kay Museum (Addison)
Mary Kay Manufacturing Plant
Cowgirl Museum (Fort Worth)
Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame
Forest Park Miniature Railroad<
Model Trains at Childrens Medical Center Dallas
Frontiers of Flight Museum
Vintage Flying Museum
Cavanaugh Flight Museum
Nasher Sculpture Center
Dallas Zoo
Dallas Museum of Art
Sharkarosa Ranch
Ripley’s Believe it or Not (Not sure if I want to go here – lots of weirdness.)
Klyde Warren Park
The Promise (Glen Rose)
Dallas Federal Reserve
Old Red Courthouse
Log Cabin Village
Botanical Gardens at Heritage Park (Grapevine)
Grapevine Vintage Railroad
River Legacy Park
Dallas Fire Museum
Dallas Holocaust Museum
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Owens Spring Creek Farm
Chick-fil-a kitchen?
Belo Mansion
Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant (Glen Rose)
Museum of the American Railroad (Frisco)*after they reopen
Ride the TRE
Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center
Underground Tunnel and Sky Bridge System
DFW Airport


What are/were some of your favorite field trips?


{31 Days} 13. How Did You Find Other Home Schoolers?

AKA – How did I find friends who understood what I was doing? and How did I find friends for my children?

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
In my area, a suburb of a large metropolis, there are thousands of other home school families. However, when we started, we didn’t know any of them. It was kind of scary thinking that we were jumping into this venture without any company.

I started searching online for local information related to home schooling. Somewhere along the way, I found a link to a Yahoo Group for a home school group in my suburb. After filing out some contact information, I was approved to join the group. There I became one of hundreds of other home schoolers in my town! I was sooo excited!

I was also able to discover other local home school groups and co-ops by searching online. (A co-op is a group of families that get together to share learning experiences. Often times, each mama will lead a class and the children rotate between classes. It is an excellent format because it exposes kids to other teachers, but it is still a home school format.)

A quick side note: Shortly after joining the group, I found out one of my favorite homeschool bloggers had recently moved to our area and was a member. I was giddy! Unfortunately she had some server issues, so her blog isn’t what it once was, but if you are interested, you can find her here. She has TONS of information on American Girls, Mad Science, Lapbooks, and more. You might have to search for topics in the search bar, but there is lots of good stuff there.

We started attending events set up by different mamas in the group. I found friends who could relate, and so did the boys. It was a heaven-sent treasure.

The group has changed throughout the years. There is definitely an ebb and flow to it. Some years are boisterous and fun, others are more reserved and focused. Either way it has been a blessing to me and to my family.


{31 Days} 11. What About Community Service?

Like many home school families, we believe that community service and volunteer work is important.

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
My husband and I want our boys see us volunteering for leadership roles as well as serving under others. (Hubby may have taken this a little too far, as he is on the board of at least 5 separate organizations.) We want them to know that a community works together, and if we just sit at home and take care of ourselves, our community suffers. God put us here to do his work, whether that is in church or somewhere else. We get to be a light by serving others.

I volunteer with the woman’s ministry at church. I occasionally volunteer with our local home school group when a need is presented. And, I volunteer to organize certain field trips for families in our home school group. Due to the roles I serve, the boys don’t often get to help me, but they do see that we value serving.

My husband frequently gets to recruit the boys to help him. When Hubby is running an event, he has the boys assist clients and help to run errands, fetch water bottles, etc. to help the event run smoothly. The boys do real work on those days. And they come home tired, but feeling so pleased with themselves because the work was good.

Quite a few years ago, a group of home school families got together to deliver one Meals on Wheels route a week. One mama organizes the group. She has it set up so that 6 to 8 families share a route. They all rotate weeks delivering meals on Friday mornings.

Our family was able to join up with this group about 5 years ago. This is a community service that the boys look forward to every time. They love feeling useful. The MOW clients, usually senior citizens, adore seeing them. I love that we get to serve a need in our community, and that we get to “be the face” of home schoolers to those who might think that home schoolers are unsocialized hermits. {smile}

Do you volunteer? Do your kids?
What does community service mean to your family?


{31 Days} 10. Cheap Whiteboard?

Two years ago I posted about our inexpensive whiteboard.

Go read it. I’ll wait. :)

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
So now you’ve seen how easy it is to get a huge whiteboard. I figured I’d share about how it looks today.

Since installing it, our whiteboard has held up quite well.  It still looks good. There is some slight wear and minor scratches. It doesn’t have the same durability as a high quality porcelain whiteboard, however, it still works well. When it starts looking dingy, I spray it with rubbing alcohol and rub it down with a towel. Then it looks good as new!

I have recently read that some families have had success with polishing the melamine board with car wax to help revitalize it. We will try that when the time comes. If all else fails, I figure that we can replace it when we have difficulty cleaning or using it. That would still be cheaper than buying a porcelain board that is a fraction of the size we would like.


{31 Days} 9. School Must Haves

Through the years I have found a few items that truly have helped our school day move along more smoothly.

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days
Here are a few of my favorites.

Electric pencil sharpener. Not a battery operated one, but one that actually plugs into the wall. It saves time over a hand crank. It saves pencils. When we had a hand crank sharpener, it would eat up cheap pencils, you know the cute ones that are in the Dollar Spot at Target or the ones that kids seem to accumulate. While I still prefer the good old yellow Ticonderoga pencils, the electric sharpener makes almost all pencils easy to sharpen and use.

Ticonderoga pencils. (See previous paragraph.)

A large whiteboard. (More on this in tomorrow’s post.)

A computer for the boys. I know this is a complete luxury item, but it helps us SO much.

Maps. I love maps. We have world maps, US maps, Texas state maps, and Texas county maps in our school room. I have them hung with O-rings on the bottom of the whiteboard. If we need to look at a map we just flip it to the one we need.

Timeline. Having a visible time line on the wall has been very helpful for the boys to understand that things in the past didn’t necessarily take place at the same time. They now know that George Washington didn’t know Abraham Lincoln. Also, that Texas was annexed as a state at the same time the Irish Potato Famine hit Ireland.

A library card. This is like having Charlie Bucket’s Golden Ticket. Our regular trips there enlarge our world exponentially.

What items help your day go more smoothly?


{31 Days} 8. So, Where Do You School?

Contrary to the name, home schooling, it really can be done anywhere.

how to home school handles on home schooling 31 days

Here’s a short list of the places we have done school:

  • in the car
  • the food court at the mall
  • coffee shop
  • fast food restaurant
  • hotel lobby
  • my grandfather’s ranch
  • at the library
  • on the couch
  • in the breakfast room,
  • by the fireplace
  • on the driveway
  • in the yard
  • at the park
  • in our school room

It isn’t about the location, it’s about the learning. For the most part, we are at home in our school room. However, there are times we have places to go and people to see, but other times we just need a change of scenery. So we pick up the books and move our school when necessary.

When we are at home, this is what our room looks like:

IMG_20141008_195740_577 IMG_20141008_195921_171
(I apologize for the weird lighting and the slightly fuzzy photo. I took these tonight so you could see what our room looks like on normal day.)

There are two big changes from last year. First, we were blessed to be able to have another laptop. This has been helpful so the boys can both be doing computer work at the same time.

Secondly, you may notice a lack of chairs at the table. This has made a HUGE difference for the boys. They stand to do their work now. I found that getting rid of the chairs allowed them to burn off some of their excess energy while working. It has also been a great motivator. Last year, I think one of the reasons our school day went soooo long, was because they were comfortable just sitting in the chair poking along. This year, after standing for a couple of hours, they are ready to relax – which motivates them to get their work done in a timely manner.

I’ll admit they weren’t too thrilled about it the first day. However, when they realized how much faster they were finishing work, they thanked me for getting rid of the chairs.

This is what has worked for my family. The way your family works may be completely different, snuggled in on the couch, sprawled out on the floor – That’s okay! That is the beauty of homeschooling, we can each do what works best for OUR students.




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