Visited the Animals

I just had the most amazing trip to South Africa and back. And then a fourth grader (not mine, I took mine and they are much older than that) asked me and instead of telling them about the animals, I went into the history of South Africa that I had learned so much about.

I finally understood what under Apartheid,  the Townships  and Homelands were.


I learned about the basics of why the minority white regime finally caved in and negotiated with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela to leave prison and take over a transition to majority rule and the dismantling of the whole police state infrastructure that was enforcing the apartheid system.


 I saw the smoke stacks of the power plants built in the middle of heavily populated Soweto where the power was destined not for the people of Soweta but the white people in Johannesburg.

4th Grade – What and how to learn?

Fouth grade is a year when students can dive into academics in a more serious way. They are usually in their second year of chapter books and beginning in many cases to be very independent readers. For me, it was the height of my obsession with Enid Blyton’s books such as The Magic Faraway Tree and The Naughtiest Girl in the School. Most importantly, she wrote the series about the Five. Five Run Away Together. Five Get Together Again. Five on a Farm Adventure.  I was obsessed.

It was a few years before my Narnia fascination but not that far off.

So when homeschooling, what should you do?  I’d push for some homeschooling elementary science, some spelling homeschool practice, and of course, some writing homeschool instruction.

Spelling Skills

I too want to jump into the debate of the importance of spelling skills at the end of 2017.

I’d agree that literacy is vital and then phonics and phonological skills are just so all important, the summit of importance. but that rote memorization of words like we use to do in middle and high school is really not so important. I’d like to quote the article that I read:

Yes, the basics of literacy are a mastery of phonics and phonological skills. Students need automaticity on sound letter correspondence so that they can write and read without too much cognitive overload on the basics of encoding and decoding.  this is really important. For those who want to reach the research on the importance of spelling automaticity, I quote:

Many people have questioned the importance of teaching spelling in an age when our computers and our phones often have spelling checkers and suggested words always available. Of course, these gadgets can suggest and approve words that are totally inappropriate to the context, frequently with comical results. There is an underlying question about the significance of spelling skills for literacy, reading comprehension, reading fluency, and writing skills. This article summarizes the research underlying the question of how spelling skills, such as automaticity, build reading fluency and comprehension. It addresses the question of the research base for the activities provided by VocabularySpellingCity.



4th Grade Reading

It’s important until we find a better way to educate that students continue to read.

By 4th grade, they should be able to read all sorts of books. What about Harry Potter books. Are they considered too difficult for 4th graders? This is where it gets interesting.

The lexile types will insist that it’s too hard and would frustrate and humiliate them. They think that its so important to give kids books at the right level.

I don’t agree. I think the important thing is to find books that the kids care enough about to bother to read. Once it’s interesting, they might actually make an effort and struggle through!

Research Based Science Curriculum for 4th Grade

Research Design – In education today, evidence of effectiveness is really important in all the grades. Here’s some thoughts on driving key elementary science vocabulary

Science4Us, in collaboration with Florida Atlantic University (FAU), will conduct research regarding the overall usability and instructional design of the curriculum. The research team will focus on how teachers implement an online curriculum as well as the effectiveness of two distinct Explain models on student achievement. The rationale for selecting physics as the content for initial research is that lower elementary teachers, in particular, experience difficulty in teaching physical science concepts like force and motion (Ginns & Watters, 1995; Kruger, Palacio, & Summers, 1990). Initial research of the Explain phase delivery method will be performed with the FAU research team in 27 K-2nd classrooms with 450 students, using the S4U Force and Motion Unit. The Explain phase for one Force and Motion module will be modified to include either Option A, a narrative explanation, or Option B, an interactive explanation. Option A offers a narrative explanation of science concepts via animations or shows science discussions among onscreen characters. Option B includes an interactive opportunity for children to “Show what you know!” as learners watch and listen to the explanation.

The results of the initial research regarding the Explain delivery method will be analyzed and provided to S4U’s development and design team. The team will refine the Force and Motion Unit incorporating the feedback and suggested enhancements from teachers and students. Specifically, the Explain delivery method identified as being more effective will be applied to all five modules of the Force and Motion Unit. Following design changes, a second round of testing will begin with 72 classroom teachers and 1,200 students. This formal test, review, and redesign process will allow S4U to meet the challenge of providing an effective, digital, core science curriculum.

SBIR funding will provide an opportunity for Time4Learning, a small commercial business, to explore in collaboration with professional science education researchers and teachers in a formal structure how to best develop the 5E Model to teach lower elementary students about Force and Motion using internet based, online, interactive, digital science education. The grant would allow for a true research contribution adding credibility to enable S4U to achieve fast, cost-effective user adoption.

4th Grade Update

I’m not sure where to begin since I haven’t updated this site in many moons, in many seasons.  I am most assuredly not in 4th grade anymore and I don’t even get to parents or deal with 4th graders anymore.

Fourth grade education is an obscession of mine. I love that they are deep into reading those chapter books and beginning to socialize like upper elementary students. So interesting to watch.
They are a sponge for vocabulary and education at this point. I’d like to call out a few resources most notably:

third grade spelling list and fifth grade spelling lists

There is so much that the fourth  graders learn that it’s hard to know where to start!

Hello, Summer!

Ok, so it may be a little early to be welcoming summer, but it IS just around the corner. Most of us are winding down our schooling for the year and looking forward to a nice long break. There are others who prefer to keep their kids’ minds active throughout the summer months. Summer school doesn’t have to be a downer. It can be filled with fun field trips and other activities that you don’t get to do during the regular school year. Some people love to incorporate a bit of road schooling into their summer learning. However you choose to spend your summer, be sure to make plenty of family memories together!

Not MY kid!

It’s all too easy to think that your kid would never go to a site that shows inappropriate pictures. However, I know from personal experience how easy it is to accidentally stumble onto things that your eyes can never “un-see”. If an adult can unintentionally find this stuff, then kids are even more susceptible. That’s why we as parents need to take steps to insure this does not happen.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you protect your kids’ internet access:

  • Keep all computers/internet accessible electronics in common areas of the home. No internet in bedrooms, bathrooms or other hidden areas of the home.
  • Make sure your kids know not to share personal info with anyone online.
  • Don’t forget to monitor your child’s online history.
  • No internet after a specific time at night.
  • Set up parental controls on each internet accessible device. Don’t forget about those tablets, smart phones, e-reading devices, and DS devices!

I HATE Math!!

Have you ever seen this scrawled across one of your child’s math worksheets?? I know I have! If you have, then chances are your child has math anxiety. This is quite common. There are steps you can take to help make things easier for your child. The more anxious they are about doing math, the less they will be able to learn the concepts you are attempting to teach.

  • Make sure they get a good foundation in the basic math facts.
  • Give them plenty of math practice but make it fun.
  • Try to be patient with them. If they sense your frustration, they will become upset with their own lack of understanding which only perpetuates a vicious circle.
  • Keep in mind that some kids just don’t have a ‘head for math’. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t learn the basics. It just means that they probably aren’t going to ever love math or excel in it like those for whom it comes naturally.

Interest Led Learning

Allowing my kids to focus on their interests has enabled them to pursue some interesting topics which I would have never thought to teach them. For instance, my youngest son is fascinated with magic and card tricks in particular. He has spent hours on Youtube learning how to do these stunts. Often he amazes his dad and me with his sleight of hand.

Out of this, he has developed a desire to become a Gospel magician. I love the fact that he has found a profession that he will love and hopefully will provide for his future family and him.

My daughter has spent much of her free time teaching herself how to write fantasy. She hopes to make a career of this much like Christopher Paolini has.

My oldest son prefers to spend his time in the kitchen. He would love to become a baker. His inspiration has come from shows like “Cake Boss”.

No matter what your child’s favorite interest, there is probably some way to turn it into a future career. So let them at it!