Monthly Archives: January 2010

Internet Resources for Teaching Composition in Your Homeschool

A couple of posts ago, I posted a list of sites with writing prompts. So today, I will post about resources that can help with developing composition skills.

  • A Research Guide for Students – This site discusses plagiarism and teaches students how to cite sources.
  • Basic Steps to Creating a Research Project – This site can walk students through the steps of writing a research paper.
  • Book Reports and Book-Report Alternatives
  • Citation and Bibliography Makers
  • ESOL Essayist: The Five-Paragraph Essay – The University of Texas runs this site, which teaches students how to write a five-paragraph essay. Any college-bound student needs to know how to write a basic five-paragraph essay. They are required for the writing portions of the SAT and ACT, as well as college application essays and class papers.
  • Essay Info – What I like about this site is that it has a in extensive list of different types of essays that your student may need to write. It gives a good overview of each type of essay with some things to consider when writing.
  • Haiku for People – This site explains what haiku is and how to write. It also has numerous haiku examples.
  • How to Teach Your Child to Write a Novel – This is an excellent series of posts on teaching children how to write novels.
  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) – Purdue University runs this extensive site, which covers every aspect of essay writing, from developing a thesis statement to formats for citing sources.
  • Purpose and Audience – This interactive online lesson from Encyclopedia Britannica teaches students to consider their audience when writing.
  • Read, Write, and Think has games, tools, writing prompts, and more for grades K-12.
  • Six-Trait Analytical Writing Assessment Model – This is a scoring rubric that uses the six traits, which can help you evaluate your child’s writing and give more useful feedback.
  • Strategies for Writing Persuasive Letters – Whether a student is college-bound or not, a day will come when he finds himself in a situation where he needs to know how to write a persuasive letter. This site gives plenty of instruction for writing a persuasive letter, as well as providing good examples.
  • Ten Prewriting Exercises for Personal Narrative
  • Timed Essays – Top Five Tips – Timed essays add a whole new level of complexity and stress to essay writing. Students not only need to be able write timed essays for many of the college entrance exams that they will do, but many colleges give timed essays for final exams. This post offers five very useful tips to keep in mind when writing an essay in a timed situation.
  • Transition Words – This is a nice list of transition words.
  • TV411: Writing – This site has some interactive lessons that teach writing skills. The lessons are quick and fun.
  • The Writing Center – The University of Wisconsin – Madison runs this site. This is probably the most comprehensive composition site on the internet. It not only covers essay writing, it also covers how to write research papers, letters, scientific reports, etc.
  • Young Novelists Workbooks – These free, downloadable workbooks are from the National Novel Writing Month site. There is a workbook for elementary, middle school, and high school students. They are hefty workbooks, ranging from 86-126 pages in length, with lots of fun worksheets and activities.
The internet has lots of miscellaneous resources out there for teaching composition, the hard part is being able to find them all so that you can offer your child a cohesive approach to learning composition skills. I’d love to make this list more extensive. Do you know of any other good resources?
Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Montessori, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

I Need to Get My Head Examined!

Last night I was blogging very late because my daughter did not go to sleep until midnight. I knew that I was so tired that I should wait to publish the post, but I hit “publish” anyway. Well, oops! I published my post for my local blog to this blog. Of course, I do not expect readers of this blog to care about Sammamish news. I deleted the post from this blog and sincerely apologize for that gaffe.


Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

2010 “Not Back to School Days” Rally and Conference

I just received this notice by e-mail this week and thought I’d pass on the information. It sounds like a great experience and we are hoping to make it this year.


The official 4th annual Not Back to School Days at Disneyland is set for Sept. 8-11, 2010 in Anaheim, California!

We would love to see you all this year – be sure to check out our new dedicated site for the event:

Lots of new Disney-led classes, tours, and new NBTSD activities have been added to help you really get the academic opportunities at the Disneyland Resort. And as always, our group park tickets are between 40-50% off the gate prices and come with educational classes taught right in the theme parks!

The most important things you can do to help:
SPREAD THE WORD – tell everyone you know about the trip, they can’t make a decision if they don’t have the information.
REGISTER QUICKLY – we expect that this year, even after adding new sessions, that the classes will fill up faster than before. Once a class is full, we cannot add you. Don’t miss out!

This is a full conference, with added academic guidance, so registration is required to take any classes or tours.

Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Writing Prompts For Your Homeschool

Today, I had originally planned to discuss ways to occupy toddlers while homeschooling, but I’m still experimenting with a couple of ideas and want to fine tune them before I do that.

Instead, I’m going to continue with the language arts theme I started. Language arts is my biggest homeschooling challenge. In general, we are a math and science-oriented family. In addition, both of my sons have language processing disorders. My youngest even has a language-based learning disorder. So nothing language oriented comes easily for either of them, my youngest in particular.

Of course, composition has always been important for any child who wants to go to college, but it is even more so now, due to the essay portion of the SAT and ACT. Yet, trying to teach my kids composition is like pulling teeth. Even my middle daughter gets the “deer in the headlights” expression whenever she is given a writing assignment. We have tried many, many types of curriculums, tutors, methods, etc. to teach and learn composition skills. In the long run, what has worked best for us is to write frequently and to use a very structured curriculum (BK English from Perfection Learning). The problem with doing lots of writing can be coming up with lots of ideas to write about. So I am constantly on the lookout for good writing prompts. I have found many of the products from Cottonwood Press to be very good, but I also have found several free online resources that I wanted to share.

Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Montessori, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

27 Ways to Use the Internet to Help Keep Your Toddler or Preschooler Occupied While You Are Homeschooling

One of the biggest challenges many homeschoolers face is keeping toddlers and preschoolers occupied while trying to homeschool an older child. Later this week, I will post about things you can do that don’t use the computer, but today I wanted to give you some internet resources that you can use with toddlers and preschoolers:

  • agKidZone – if you thought Strawberry Shortcake, the Care Bears, and Holly Hobbie were things of the past, think again. This site offers themed games, activities, and printables
  • Aven’s Corner offers preschoolers fun, educational games and activities.
  • Baby Gamer has collected links to games and activities for infants and toddlers and categorized them (i.e. A,B,C’s, Animals, Plants, Drawing, etc.).
  • Baby Smash is a free program that you can install on your PC. It not only locks the keys so that your baby can pound on your keyboard without damaging any of your files or applications, it also draws letters, numbers, and shapes while playing sounds. My daughter really enjoys this program and will play with it for 5 -10 minutes while I read to my son (which is a long time for her). Baby Smash is a copy/homage of AlphaBaby, which is for Macs.
  • BBC’s CBeebies site is sort of the equivalent of the U.S.’s PBS site, it has games and activities that correspond to the UK’s preschool television shows
  • Chateau Meddybemps provides lots of fun and educational games and activities for preschoolers.
  • Count Us In Games offers games designed to teach basic math concepts. The games can be downloaded to your PC also.
  • Crayola Creativity Central  is a collection of Crayola-themed games, coloring pages and other activities for preschoolers.
  • Duplo Fun Zone – is a fun place for Duplo-themed games and movies for young children (I do want to warn you that the “movies” are just glorified commercials).
  • Fisher Price’s website has games, activities, and coloring pages for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
  • Funschool Kaboose’s preschool page offers games and coloring pages.
  • Fun with Spot is an adorable site with Spot the Dog-themed games, activities, coloring pages, and stories.
  • Goodnight Stories has some stories that your child can hear being read while she turns the pages of her own book (Make Way for the Ducklings, Guess How Much I Love You, etc.).
  • HiT Entertainment is the “home of popular children’s entertainment properties, such as Bob the Builder, Barney, Thomas and Friends, Pingu, Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina, and more.” The site has games, videos, and activities that are based on their shows.
  • is a site with educational games and “movies” for preschoolers.
  • Jan Brett’s website offers games, activities, and printables based on her numerous award-winning books.
  • KneeBouncers is a website with games for toddlers. Toddlers do not have to hit specific keys to play the games, instead, any key will cause an interaction, such as a police car to sound it’s siren, a shape to appear, a balloon to be counted, etc.
  • Literactive is a free phonics site with lots of pre-reading fun.
  • Nick Jr. has games, activities, and videos based on their many popular preschool television series.
  • PBS Kids has games, activities, and videos based on their many popular preschool television series.
  • Playhouse Disney has games, activities, and videos based on their many popular preschool television series.
  • Sesame Street’s website is a place where your preschoolers can watch Sesame Street videos, play games, and more.
  • Seussville is the place for Dr. Seuss-themed games and activities.
  • Sheppard Software has educational games for preschoolers.
  • Starfall is a site devoted to teaching phonics with games, videos, stories, and more. Their “A, B, C’s” category has age-appropriate options for preschoolers.
  • Storyplace has online stories and activities, as well as printables, for preschoolers.
  • Storyline Online is a site with videos of famous people, such as Al Gore, James Earl Jones, Tia and Tamara Mowry, Elijah Wood, and more, reading children’s books out loud. Book titles include A Bad Case of Stripes, Stellaluna, Brave Irene, Somebody Loves You, Mr Hatch, etc. The site also gives related activities that you can do offline with your child.
Do you know of any other good sites that I missed?
Labels: Online Learning, Toddlers
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Resources for Teaching Literature

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.
Arnold Lobel

A few days ago, I posted a list of recommended reading lists. Once you have generated a list of books for your homeschool, the next question you may have is, “Now how do I incorporate literature studies into my homeschool?” One option is that you can just sit down with your child and read and discuss the book as things come up. This method worked really well for my older kids when they were in grades K-8. By 9th grade, however, they were busy enough with their own lives that they wanted to read literature selections on their own time. In addition, as they were all expressing interest in college, I wanted to make sure they knew how to formally analyze literature. Meanwhile, my youngest son has some pretty major learning disabilities and doesn’t always understand literature, even when I read out loud to him. I’ve found that guided questions are the best way to check for understanding and to help him synthesize the reading selection.

As such, I like to have reading guides and literature unit lesson plans on hand possible. Creating these from scratch is very time consuming, but they can be pretty expensive to buy though when you have multiple kids reading multiple books. Fortunately, there are a lot of free resources out there to help us homeschooling moms. Here is a list of literature study resources that I have found.

Labels: Language Arts, Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Recommended Reading Lists

Sometimes, it can be difficult to make literature selections for our home school. Mostly, there are just too many good books – so many books, so little time. It is difficult to narrow things down and pick the very best books, while also providing a nice variety of reading material. In addition, I like to keep each child’s unique tastes and learning traits in mind. So I like to refer to recommended reading lists before making literature selections. There are tons of lists out there, some are better than others, but here are some good ones that I have used over the years:

  • 100 Favorite Children’s Books (New York Public Library) – This list is grouped by type and geared towards 2nd – 6th grades
  • 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know (New York Public Library)
  • 101 Great Books Recommended for College-Bound Readers (College Board)
  • A Book in Time Reading Lists – there are two lists, one for world history and one for U.S. history. The lists are broken up into historical periods with short reviews and age recommendations. This is a great resource to use to enrich your history lessons with fiction or use a “living books” approach to teach history.
  • Book Adventure (Sylvan) – Your child can earn small trinkets for reading with this program, but I just use it for recommendations for grades K-8. It lets you enter your child’s grade level, reading level, and interests. It then generates a list based on the information you’ve provided, sometimes it has annotations. It also has short quizzes about the books that your child can take.
  • College Bound Reading List (Peterson’s)
  • Historical Fiction (Anchorage Public Library) – This is a list of historical fiction, broken up into time periods, with short descriptions.
  • Holiday Reading – This list is categorized by holidays and age group, with some short descriptions.
  • – This site groups books by age and then either “classic” or “new fave”.
  • King County Library System – This is my library system. It seems like a lot of library systems have good recommended reading list. King County’s is grouped into categories and age groups.
  • Lexile Framework for Reading – the Lexile system rates books on reading difficulty, rather than grade level. This site helps you find books for your child’s actual reading level.
  • The Literate Mother – This site offers book reviews by mothers about books for children and young adults. It focuses more on content appropriateness (i.e sexual content, violence, etc.).
  • Literature to Supplement History (Paula’s Archives) – This is an extensive list, categorized by time period, with age recommendations.
  • Salt Lake County Booklists – As I mentioned before, a lot of library systems have recommended reading lists, but Salt Lake County’s stands out as one of the best. The books are grouped by grade levels and categories. The listing also includes a picture of the book, a short synopsis, and the call number.
  • Summer Classics Reading List – This extensive list was put together by another homeschooling blogger. It is a list of classic books, by grade level  for grades 4-12.
  • Teens Read Too – Book reviews by and for teens. This site is focused more on popular fiction, than classics.
  • Young Adult Library Services Association – A branch of the ALA, this site focuses more on current books that have won various awards. It also has some categories of recommended reading for teens.


Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Phonics and Reading
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff