Tips and Encouragement for First-Year Home Schoolers

Feeling jittery as you plan for your first year of home schooling?  No need to worry as information concerning home schooling abounds.  In fact, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the abundance.

First year jitters are natural and expected.  Every parent has fears as they begin teaching their children.  Those fears will turn into confidence as the years progress.

To help you with your first year of home schooling I have listed some tips and encouragements. You can read them by clicking the link below.

Check out these ABC’s for Your First Year of Home Schooling.

ABC’s for Your First Year of Home Schooling PDF

Have a great first year as you join the ranks of many who are new to home schooling.

©peggy clark 2018

If the tips have helped you in any way please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Let’s encourage one another.  If you are a veteran home schooler and have additional tips, please share in the comments section below.

Concerned About Your Language Arts Curriculum?

 Is your language arts curriculum satisfactory, or does it fall short in key areas?

Good educators are concerned about their students’ ability to communicate, to write effectively, and to think clearly. Therefore, they are concerned about the textbooks that are available for their use.  Although there is a wide variety of language arts curriculum available, not all are adequate.


To be able to communicate effectively, students need skills in delivery and the use of a wide variety of vocabulary words. Being able to speak one’s thoughts clearly is a skill learned. Being familiar with the dictionary and the thesaurus are vital.

Punctuation and Grammar

Knowing proper punctuation and grammar rules are not enough. Students need to know how to use these rules in their writing and in their speech.  Therefore, the curricula used should give students ample opportunities to use the skills taught both in written and in oral formats.


Students also need knowledge of a wide variety of topics. Having to research a wide variety of topics will open the students’ understanding of and interest in the world around them. Therefore, writing assignments should not just include what happened on students’ summer vacations.

Creative Writing

A wide variety of creative writing assignments should be given. Poetry, haiku, song, and adventure are only a few examples.

Students love being the heroes of their own stories. Of course, having a list of topics for students to choose from is extremely helpful.


Students should be provided with good writing examples for each assignment. Good examples encourage good writing. If the curricula does not do this properly, educators must supplement as needed.


Educators should provide rubrics which detail exactly what is expected for each writing assignment.  These checklists provide clarity and help tremendously in the grading process.


After assignments have been edited and revised, students should be given the opportunity to present their work orally.  This helps develop their speaking abilities. It also gives students the opportunity to critique others’ as they develop their own listening skills.


Students should be given the opportunity to publish their work. This can be as easily done as posting their work on a bulletin board. However, collecting their work in a book format for others to view is advantageous. In this way, students can track their own progress during the current year and into future years. Publishing writing in an e-book format has now become a viable option.

Educators should carefully evaluate the language arts textbooks that are being used to see if they provide what is necessary for students to develop adequate communication skills. In today’s fast-paced world, proper communication skills are a must.

Do you have concerns about your language arts curriculum?  Please share in the comments below.

If you are extremely please with the language arts curriculum you are using, please share the title so others can check it out.

©2018 by Peggy Clark




ABC’s for Your New School Year

It’s time for school to start! 

Parents and children look excitedly to the beginning of a new school year. Lists are made, curricula is purchased, and schedules are written.

If you are just starting the journey into homeschooling or are preparing for another homeschooling year, may these ABC’s for Your New School Year be a help and encouragement to you.

  1. Appreciate the opportunity to teach your children. Begin each day with thanksgiving to God asking for His guidance and blessing.

  2. Begin with the basics. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are fundamental. Focus on these subjects first thing each day. That way if you have an interruption, the fundamentals have hopefully been covered.

  3. Celebrate each child’s victory over a difficult assignment with a word of affirmation.

  4. Declutter throughout the day. Put away items as you finish with them so that you are not overwhelmed at the end of the day with clutter.
    Manipulatives make learning fun.
    Manipulatives make learning fun. However, they can create clutter if not returned to their proper storage containers.

  5. Establish a routine but don’t be ruled by it. If a learning opportunity arises that will be beneficial for your children, then take advantage of it.

  6. Fortify the foundation. Review a few minutes every day. For example, drill math facts every day.

  7. Gather all needed materials for the next week before it arrives. For those who struggle with this, collect some small storage boxes and label each as one subject. Put all materials for that subject in that storage box. This will save you time and freedom from frustration.
    Make sure you have gathered all the materials you will need to teach your lesson before you begin your presentation.
    Make sure you have gathered all the materials you will need to teach your lesson before you begin your lesson presentation.

  8. Have a wish list of needed items for grandparents or others who wish to purchase gifts for special occasions. What child wouldn’t like a microscope, telescope, or gem collection?

  9. Instill in children the desire to read. Set aside a specific time each day when children may read a parent-approved book of their choice. Younger children can look at picture books. This also gives you time to read or unwind.

  10. Journal your homeschooling accomplishments each day. On days when you feel like you are getting nowhere, pick up your journal and see how far you’ve come. It will encourage you.

  11. Keep a list of helpful resources. It may be librarians, internet addresses, professionals, wildlife officers, support group leaders, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you need help.

  12. Launch the new year with a special learning activity, field trip related to the first few lessons, or a New Year’s School Party. It may be just decorating notebooks or pencil boxes. Make it a memorable day.

  13. Mishaps will happen. Mistakes will be made. Maintain your testimony during these times. Don’t be shocked when they happen. Just pick up the pieces and start over. Life’s lessons can sometimes teach what we cannot. Learn from the mistakes and adjust as needed. Misplaced items will eventually be found.

  14. Network with other homeschooling parents. Share bits of wisdom and encouragement.

  15. Outline your objectives for the year in each subject. Keep the list before you each day to help you stay focused and not be led away by activities that do not support your school year.

  16. Prevent burnout with proper breaks, but keep progressing productively. Periodically check each child’s performance and adjust schooling as needed.

  17. Quiz orally and give children ample time to answer. Have older students defend their answers with facts.

  18. Revise curricula as needed. If a lesson plan needs to be retaught, do so. Try different ways to present a lesson.

  19. State simply what is expected from each lesson each day. Children need to know what is important.

  20. Tape recorders are great helpers. Children can use them to help with vocabulary drill, math drills, practicing oral communication, etc. Older children can record stories for younger children to listen to while you are teaching older ones.

  21. Utilize time wisely. Schedule your day. Be creative with chores and naptimes.

  22. Variety is the spice of life. Vary the way lessons are presented. Lecturing every day will bring learning to a standstill.

  23. Wake up to a new day and know that it is another opportunity to instill in your children what you wish for them to learn. Wisdom goes far beyond simple understanding.

  24. Expect your children to learn. Examinations are part of life. Test their skills.

  25. Yah is an informal word for yes. Yes, you can do this.  Just remember that you are learning to discipline yourself just as you are teaching your children to discipline themselves.  Yield to God’s leadership in this area.

  26. Zeal is required to finish any race. The course that you are on requires patience and devotion. Be committed to cross the finish line.

    I hope these ABC’s for Your New School Year have been helpful and encouraging.

    May your homeschooling journey be the great adventure into learning that it is meant to be.

Does your family have a special activity for beginning the new school year?
Do you have any helpful ideas for those beginning their first year of homeschooling?

©2017 by Peggy Clark


Model Teaching: Lesson Presentation

Model Teaching: A Simplified Approach to Lesson Presentation

Prepared to teach but not sure how to present the material?

Relax.  Here’s 4 steps you can follow and be successful.

You’ve gathered the needed materials. You’ve prepared your lesson. But now you must TEACH the lesson.

Make sure you have gathered all the materials you will need to teach your lesson before you begin your presentation.
Make sure you have gathered all the materials you will need to teach your lesson before you begin your presentation.

You know what you want your children/students to learn, but how do you present it?

Yes, there are many ways to present lesson material, but following these simple steps will help you become confident until you feel comfortable varying your teaching strategy. This simplified approach will also enhance the learning of your students.

Don’t let first year jitters keep you from moving forward with your plans.  Just follow these 4 steps and you will be successful.

4 Steps to Successfully Present Any Lesson

Step 1:  Ask the students what they already know about the subject material to be presented. Allow them to share their knowledge for a limited time.

For example:  Today we’re going to learn about the ocean.  (Name), what interests you most about the ocean?

Step 2:  Present the lesson.  Be sure to define any new vocabulary and include discussion of terms within the material.

Give an overview of the material.  You may or may not have your child open their textbooks or reading material.  However, by keeping textbooks closed at this point you can gain your child’s interest by giving an interesting introduction.

Then go over important vocabulary words to look for as they read or review material.  These may be listed in the reading material, given in a handout, or placed on a visual.

Step 3:  Carefully guide students to discover the main idea, plot, principle, or conclusion.

Gently lead your child to find the main idea of the story, the important lesson to learn from history, or why a discovery in the scientific world is important to us today.

Step 4:  Finally, students should be able to clearly explain the main idea, plot, principle, or conclusion in their own words and be able to defend their position and/or reasoning.  They should be able to paraphrase the material presented, retell the story, or restate the main facts.

Continue to follow these 4 steps, and you will build confidence in yourself as a teacher.  An extra benefit is that your children’s retention is greatly enhanced.

I hope this simplified approach to lesson presentation has been helpful.

Have a successful year teaching.

©2017 by Peggy Clark







Story Starters

Needing some inspiration for writing a short story?

Does writing the first sentence give you pause?

Hopefully, these story starters will help you get past Writer’s Block and on to Story Street.


The night breathed heavily; its sweaty …

Sam crawled under the covers hiding his face from the …

The sun peeped over the mountains just as ….

Suitcases packed, she breathed her last goodbye …

Violin music floated through the air…

A sudden crash startled John …

Fire burned through Jesse’s shoulder knocking him to the ground …

Love was not a thing to be tangled with …

Papa stood at the door looking out over the fields of cotton …

Mary was just a child when …

“Cancer,” the doctor spoke the word as if it was just a cold or the flu …

They weren’t just any ordinary pair of shoes…

There she stood looking through the window…

I hadn’t meant for it to take this long…

The year ended, but still I had no answer…

I hope these story starters have inspired you to write your short story.

ABC’s of Finalizing Your School Year

Finishing Your School Year Successfully

The time comes when the school year must end and the next begin.

Whether you school on a nine-month, year-round, or quarterly schedule, there are items that all administrators including homeschooling administrators must do to finalize the school year.

If you are winding up your home school year, may these ABC’s of Finalizing Your School Year guide you to a successful finish.

ABC's to Finishing Your School Year

ABC’s to a Successful Finish


A — Assess your school year. Note your children’s accomplishments. Accept what you did not accomplish and adjust plans for the following year accordingly.

B — Brainstorm ideas for the following year.

Broaden your vision by attending homeschooling conferences, teacher’s conferences, writer’s conferences, and support group workshops.

C —Clarify your goals for each child for the next year.

Create new folders for each and make comments to remind yourself of why you chose those goals. Those goals can be changed later, but your comments will help you as you plan for the next year.

D — Dedicate a small portion of each day during your school break to plan for the next year so that you will not be overwhelmed as the new year draws closer. This time should be devoted to research curricula, gather needed materials, make plans for field trips, and develop lesson plans.

E — Enjoy your school break by exploring the environment with your children. Engage in meaningful activities that will peak children’s curiosities and enrich their learning experiences.

F — Finalize and fax or mail required forms with your state’s Department of Non-public Instruction. Keep your own file copies of these forms for future reference.

G — Gift graduates.

If your own child is graduating, host a great graduation reception.

H — Have a holiday and relax. Take some much-needed time for yourself.

I — Invest in storage containers for children’s assignments that you wish to keep.

J — Join online homeschooling groups/blogs to stay encouraged.

K — Keep a journal of summer activities

L — Lobby legislators during your break from teaching. Let them know of any concerns you have concerning home school legislation.

M — Make final reports of grades for the year.

Even if you do not issue official report cards, your children still need to have that feeling of having passed to the next level. Give a report card, certificate, or statement of completion for the school year.

N — Notify family members and acquaintances of school year accomplishments, graduation dates, or other pertinent information you wish to share.

Nominate your children for scholarships to academic camps that may be of benefit to them.

O — Own up to any failures during the past year. Make a commitment to yourself to avoid those failures next year.

P — Persevere to the end. Prevent burnout but stay productive.

Praise progress and promise something special when all lessons have been completed. Follow through with that promise.

Q — Quiz your children. Develop a questionnaire that allows your children to critique their school year. Make it simple. There are no right or wrong answers. Let your children be honest with you.

What did they like most about the school year?

What was their favorite lesson/project?

What did they find most difficult?

What would they change if they could?

Ask a variety of simple questions. Use the answers to critique your teaching style versus their learning styles. You may be surprised at their answers. What may have been most difficult for you may have been most enjoyable for them.

R — Revise your schedule. Don’t just fill in lessons to fill up time.

If your children are through with lessons for the year in a certain subject, then utilize that time for completing your records, putting away unnecessary resources, and finishing other end of year projects.

Check registration due dates for graduates furthering their education through college or vocational schools.

S — Smile a lot. Don’t allow yourself to get stressed out with end of year tests or to start rushing through lessons to get done by a designated date. If your projected end date needs to be adjusted, do so.

Don’t let pressures ruin your testimony before your children. Be as excited about ending as you are about beginning. Success is not measured merely by pages completed.

T — Transcripts should be completed. This is an important record of each student’s accomplishments especially during the high school years.

U — Unexpected interruptions seem to be more frequent during this time of year. Plan your response before they happen.

Some interruptions may be valuable opportunities, but weigh each carefully before you change your schedule. Are they worth extending your school year?

V — Vary your teaching style. As subjects taper off, use the extra time to add variety to the rest of your lesson plans.

W — Welcome the school/summer break with a well-deserved end-of-year party.

X — Exalt your children for jobs well-done.

Recognize achievements and victories from the school year. It is okay to give your child a certificate of completion, a certificate of victory over some difficulty they experienced, or a certificate of accomplishment such as learning cursive.

Y — Yesterday is gone. It is in the yearbook of life. Don’t beat yourself up over it, but learn from it. What do you wish to do better next year? Write it in a simple statement and place it on the first page of next year’s school planner.

Z — Zip up the pencil cases and notebooks and enjoy time away from the kitchen table.

Zoom to the zoo. Zoom to the beach or to any other of your favorite getaways.

I hope these ABC’s for finalizing your school year have been helpful.

What other activities are necessary to finalize your school year?

If you have been homeschooling for several years and have any suggestions or ideas for others on this journey, please share in the comments below.

Does your family have a special end of year activity?

©2017 by Peggy Clark

Mother Seeking Proverbs 31 Woman

The Proverbs 31 Woman

A Mother’s Lesson Plan

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10

King Lemuel’s mother gave her son valuable lessons concerning the pitfalls into which any son can fall prey.  She was highly concerned that he be guided properly, so she bore this role personally.

A virtuous woman is a source of strength for her husband.
A virtuous woman is a source of strength for her husband.

 Two important areas she discussed in her lesson plans were women and strong drink.

This mother knew that if her son did not conduct himself properly in these two areas, his authority over his kingdom would be damaged and his judgment thwarted.

To protect his future kingship, she wisely advised him:

“Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink.” Proverbs 31:3-4

Her plans included two important words.

The list of attributes describing the virtuous woman that this mother desired for her son may seem challenging to today’s woman but are basically contained in two words which this mother used to teach an important lesson to her son.

The first is ‘ruby’ and the second is ‘heart’.

Lemuel’s mother wanted to instill in Lemuel the value of a good woman. To do this, she placed the image of a ruby in his mind.

As a man in training for kingship, young Lemuel would be taught the value of gems and their use in commerce.

Precious stones were given by visiting royalty as presents unto kings. Lemuel had to be able to distinguish quality between the various stones presented.

Why did this mother choose the ruby to educate her son in these matters?
What qualities does a ruby possess that would describe a virtuous woman?

Large transparent rubies are rarer than diamonds. Thus, the value of a natural, transparent ruby is more than that of a diamond.

Obviously, this mother realized that a virtuous woman would be someone for whom Lemuel would have to diligently seek. A virtuous woman was not a common commodity.

The more transparent a ruby is the greater the value. Although all rubies have some flaws, the less imperfections a ruby has, the more it is desired.

When a woman is transparent, she has nothing to hide. She allows her husband to see her as she is. She does not try to put a veil over his eyes as to her character.

A ruby can be heat treated to remove some internal flaws.

Trials and afflictions are the fires that God uses to purify man. A virtuous woman can endure those trials and afflictions and remain true.

It takes an expert to distinguish between a natural and a man-made ruby.

God is the expert that can discern a woman’s heart and her motives. A wise man will seek God’s will when contemplating courtship. His eyes cannot see into a woman’s heart, but God’s eyes can.

“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:11-12

The second word that King Lemuel’s mother focused upon was heart.

Men consider trust a major factor in describing a healthy marriage.

If a man feels he cannot confide in his wife, if he feels she has betrayed his confidences, he will stop entrusting her with his words. This may lead him to seek spoil or an unscriptural relationship with another.

Many marriages end because another woman chose to listen to a married man’s words and keep them in confidence, thus drawing the man away from his wife.

The advice that King Lemuel’s mother gave was directed in such a way that King Lemuel would be able to understand the consequences of unwise choices.  She turned his focus upon his own heart and how it would be affected by those choices.

The choice that he would make as to a wife would do him good or do him evil all the days of his life.

He could choose that which was more valuable than rubies in which he could safely invest his heart and profit, or he could choose that which was of less value and loose his investment and suffer loss.

"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband." Proverbs 12:4
“A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” Proverbs 12:4

“Who can find a virtuous woman?”

She is described as transparent and trustworthy.

She reflects what is inside of her, the character of Christ. She is a haven for her husband and keeps his words close to herself.

Her motives are pure, showing her intent to protect her husband’s heart.  Therefore, she is given the liberty to accomplish all that the Proverbs 31 woman had liberty to accomplish.

The virtuous Proverbs 31 woman could involve herself in such activities as described in Proverbs 31:13-24 because she could be trusted to do those things without bringing shame to her husband or her household.

The Proverbs 31 woman was portrayed, not by her performance, but by the transparency of her true nature.

King Lemuel was taught to ask himself two important questions as he sought for a wife.

Does this woman’s transparency or lack thereof reveal Christlike character or a flawed character?
Does this woman’s transparency or lack thereof reveal a trustworthy heart or a questionable one?

King Lemuel’s adopted course of action hopefully brought him a Proverbs 31 woman that he safely trusted in all his days.


Join in the conversation. Leave your comment below.
  • The Proverbs 31 woman is usually described by what she does.
  • Do you define the Proverbs 31 woman by her performance?
  • If measuring performance, how do you measure up?
  • According to Proverbs 31:30, what woman is to be praised?
  • Did the Proverbs 31 woman’s performance define her relationship with God or did her relationship with God define her performance?
  • How does your above answer correspond with Ephesians 2:8-10?







Create a Magazine – Make It a Family Affair

Enrich your homeschool by creating a magazine that reflects your family’s interests.

Learn about writing, editing, and publishing.

Children have different talents and gifts. Why not utilize those talents and gifts by making a family magazine?
This may seem like an overwhelming task, but it needn’t be. Just follow a few basic steps and your magazine will become a pleasurable accomplishment.

Discuss the different parts of a magazine.

Take some time letting your children leaf through various magazines taking notice of what they find interesting. (If you do not have access to interesting magazines through family and friends, then plan a trip to your local library. A large selection is available for viewing and for checkout. It would be advantageous to have your first lessons completed there.)

Then continue by pointing out pages with specific purposes. Included in these should be the copyright page, contents pages, editorial pages, features pages, product pages, etc. Any discussion should also include the type of and purpose for advertising articles and advertising posts.

Children will probably notice that some magazines appeal to a wide variety of readers (mass magazines) and some appeal only to a select few (class magazines).

Discuss the job descriptions of those who are responsible for each step in the process of development.

From editors, illustrators, reporters, printers, to photographers, the list of people who do the work of producing a magazine is varied.

Responsibilities involve layout, design, news departments, sports departments, editorials, photos, images, production, marketing, etc. It truly takes a team to produce a successful magazine.

Discuss the idea of producing a family magazine.

Discuss the idea of producing your own magazine. This could be a family magazine or group magazine. Get the children excited about producing their own work.

If you feel your family is too small to do this, engage the assistance of other homeschooling families or your local homeschool support group.

Let Your Magazine Reflect Your Family's Interests
Let Your Magazine Reflect Your Family’s Interests

Enjoy the process.

Don’t let the process bog down your family. If you decide to just do a few pages within a single week or if you make it a year long process by collecting material accomplished during the year, the important thing is to give children the knowledge of and opportunity in developing their individual gifts and talents. Make it an adventure they will remember as they continue their educational goals.

Set guidelines and give job descriptions.

Some children love to write stories, but others love to tell them. Some like to draw or doodle while others have fun painting or crafting.

Some like to tell riddles and read comic strips, while others would rather grab the camera and catch family members in fun.

Some children like the outdoors (so what critters are in the area?) and others like hanging out with Mom in the kitchen (so what’s their favorite recipe?).

Some like to play sports (so how do you play that game?) while others seem to know all the sports statistics (batting averages, anyone?).

Some are great at playing musical instruments, but others like to listen to the radio, know all the top hits, and can tell you where their favorite artists will be next week.

Utilize those individual characteristics to make a magazine that will reflect the children’s talents, interests, and gifts and not just your own.

Yes, specific guidelines and deadlines should be set, but let the children do the work as much as possible.

Make the Publishing Process a Learning Experience
Items to Consider in Publishing Your Family Magazine

Let each child do what they find interesting.

Some will enjoy writing about their topics of interests. Some will hate writing altogether, but may love doing the illustrations or creating graphs for a sibling’s articles.

As much as possible, let each child do what they find interesting. This may take some insight on your part.

And when it comes to publishing the material, everyone will probably want to know how to use the copy machine. Even if you must do this at a local printer, ask the manager if your children can watch the process.

Enjoy creating your magazine and just think about all the areas of publishing to which your family has been exposed.

And if you decide to let the children ‘sell’ the magazine to family and friends, you may discover that you have a successful entrepreneur under your wings.


Paragraphs: Helping Students Overcome Difficulties

Overcoming Difficulties Students Have with Writing Paragraphs

Follow these steps to write a good paragraph.
Paragraph writing does not have to be difficult.

During my teaching years in the classroom, I found that many students had difficulties with writing assignments.

It wasn’t that they didn’t have anything to say. That was obvious during morning break and lunch.

However, if asked to write a paragraph or an essay, students fiddled with their pencils and drew a blank.

That is normal, by the way, for the elementary age. If yours does the same thing, think nothing of it. Just go to work and help them with their topics.


Brainstorm with the students. What topics pose interest to them?

What are their hobbies? Their favorite sports? Their favorite pastime? Their favorite restaurants? Be sure to have a list of ideas on hand.

For boys, topics of interest may include cars, hunting, sports, or four-wheeling. For girls, topics may include fashion, hair styles, sports, or shopping.

Expect interests to vary by age and gender.

Narrow down the topic.

The problem is that many teachers stop at that juncture, still leaving students bewildered. The above topics are much too broad.

Your job as a teacher is to help the students narrow down their topics to a specific point. Then follow through by asking some basic questions.

For example, if a student wishes to write about cars, what specifically will they write about?

What is it about cars that interests them as a topic? Is it the make, the model, the style? Or is it the mechanics or the motor or the wheels?

Continue asking questions until students narrow down their topics to a specific point that can be stated in a single sentence.

Cars are fun. (Too broad.)

What is it about cars that makes them fun?

I like to ride in them? (Still too broad.)

Why do you like to ride in them?

I like riding in them because I like to go fast.

What makes cars go fast?

I like a fast motor.

What kind of motor do you think is the best motor for the car you want to drive?


What kind of motor do you think would be the fastest for the car you want to drive?

Now the topic is narrowed down to a specific point that the students can research if necessary. This specific point is called the main idea of the paragraph.

Write the main idea.

Have the students write their specific point or main idea in a single sentence.

A 454 cubic inch V-8 motor is the best motor (or whatever motor they feel is the best or the fastest).

Write supporting sentences.

Students should write at least three supporting sentences.

Help students with this by asking several questions to get them thinking about what they will write. Give specific instructions to help them with this part of their assignment.

Why is it the best motor? I want you to give me three reasons. Write each reason in a single sentence. (Students will have three sentences for this part.)

Do research.

Let the students research for the three reasons if necessary.

Look over their three sentences concerning reasons. If they have attempted to start their sentences with the word “because”, have them restate those sentences.

(This may be a good time for a class in sentence structure. Do not miss the opportunity to teach restating of sentences if needed.)

Now the students should have a topic sentence and three sentences supporting the topic sentence.

Write a final or concluding statement.

The final sentence should be a restatement of the topic sentence. For some paragraphs, the last sentence may be a concluding sentence.

The finished product of their writing will be a minimum five-sentence paragraph.

Older students can then embellish their paragraphs with additional information if desired. They will need to be instructed that any additional information must support the topic sentence.

Edit paragraphs.

Have students correct spelling and punctuation errors.

Rewrite paragraphs.

Proofreading steps include edit, rewrite, and present.
Teach students how to proofread paragraphs.

Finally, students should rewrite their paragraphs in their best handwriting.

Many students hate writing class because they are required to turn in an error-free paper.

Having students use erasable black pens gives students experience in writing in ink. The use of erasable pens also reduces the frustration that everyone experiences when they make mistakes.

Remember that the focus of this assignment is paragraph writing not penmanship, although penmanship is important. That is why using an erasable pen at this point is invaluable.

Present and/or display paragraphs.

As a classroom teacher, I mounted students’ writing assignments on construction paper and displayed their finished products on the classroom or hallway walls.

Students were always excited to see their work on display. They also enjoyed reading other students’ accomplishments. Having their work displayed also encouraged them to strive harder on their future writing assignments.

As time allowed, I also asked the students to present their work orally. This was to increase their oral presentation skills.

The supper table is an excellent place to have students do oral presentations. Parents and siblings alike can enjoy the newly acquired writing skills of their loved ones.

Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark

Join in the conversation:
What frustrations have you experienced in teaching your students/children to write?
What ideas can you suggest to get students writing?




Division: Laying the Groundwork, Part 3

Manipulatives make learning fun.
Manipulatives make learning fun.

 Laying the Groundwork for Teaching Division, Part3

In Part 1 and Part 2 of Laying the Groundwork for Teaching Division, I discussed ways parents can begin laying the groundwork for the future teaching of division to their children.

Teaching division may seem like a complicated task but using manipulatives makes the skill easy to teach and to acquire.

For our purposes in this post, we will use recycled ice cream sticks. Family members could assist in recycling so that you have a useful amount.

Ask extended family members to save items that can be used as manipulatives to teach mathematical skills.
Ask extended family members to save items that can be used as manipulatives to teach mathematical skills.

(Another alternative would be to use tongue depressors. Just ask your doctor for a handful next time you have an appointment. If you tell him or her the purpose for your request, you may find yourself with a generous handful free of charge.)

Let’s Review Place Value First

Before we continue let’s take a moment to discuss the place value of numbers. This is just for the parents’ information.

The number 2 is a one-digit number which is made up of 2 one’s.

The number 23 is a two-digit number which is made up of 2 tens and 3 ones.

The number 234 is a three-digit number which is made up of 2 hundreds, 3 tens, and 4 ones.

In the number 2, the digit 2 is in the one’s place.

In the number 23, the digit 2 is in the ten’s place.

In the number 234, the digit 2 is in the hundred’s place.

In other words, a 3-digit number has 3 digits, one which represents the hundred’s place, one which represents the ten’s place, and one which represents the one’s place.

In the number 2, there is only one digit. This tells us we have 2 ones.

In the number 23, there are two digits. This tells us we have 2 tens and three ones.

In the number 234, there are three digits. This tells us we have 2 hundreds, 3 tens, and 4 ones.

Prepare Your Manipulatives
Choose your colors.

Back to our ice cream sticks. Choose a color you wish to use to represent the hundred’s place. For our demonstration we will use purple.

Choose another color to represent the ten’s place. For our demonstration we will use red.

Now choose another color to represent the one’s place. For our demonstration we will use yellow.

Use markers, paints, crayons, etc., per your color choices

Use markers, paints, or crayons according to your color choice to dye your assortment of ice cream sticks.  If your budget allows, colored ice cream sticks may be purchased inexpensively at various craft stores.

Teaching the Skill of Division Using Your Manipulatives

Now that you have your own manipulatives, let’s see how we can use them to continue laying the groundwork for teaching the concepts of division. You will find it much easier than you thought.

Ice cream sticks may be used to represent numbers.
Ice cream sticks may be used to represent numbers.
To represent the number 234, we will use 2 purple sticks, 3 red sticks, and 4 yellow sticks (per our color choices).

(To make this task even easier, you may decide to only use even numbers for all digits, especially if your child/student is very young.)

234/2 = ____
The example problem we will be solving is 234 divided by 2.
  • Lay the sticks out in proper order to represent the number 234.
Place value represented by manipulatives
Representing place value
Explain to your child what the colors represent.
  • Explain to your child what the colors represent. Always use the same colors to represent the same place value.
  • Tell your child to “pretend” he or she has two friends. The number 234 can represent marbles, cookies, building blocks, or whatever your child likes to play with.
  • Tell your child to divide the 234 between his or her two pretend friends equally.
Direct them through the process.

Draw attention to the 2 “hundred’s” sticks (purple). Share these two sticks equally.  They will place one stick in each pretend friend’s pile.

The “hundreds” divided.

Then direct them to divide the three “ten’s” sticks (red). They will place one stick in each pretend friend’s pile. But what will they do with the third stick? No, they cannot break it.

Problem represented thus far

Show them that they can solve this by trading the “ten” stick for ten “ones” sticks.

Now show them to place the ten “ones” sticks with the 4 “ones” sticks. How many “one” sticks (yellow) do they have now?

Ask them to divide these 14 “ones” sticks between the two “pretend” friends. 7 “ones” sticks should be placed in each pretend friend’s pile.

7 yellow sticks go to each friend
Explain the answer to the problem.

234 has now been divided into two equal but separate groups. The answer to the problem is the amount in one of the groups.

  • So, if we share 234 building blocks equally between two friends, each friend will have 117 blocks.

Therefore, 234 divided by 2 is 117.

234 divided equally between 2 friends.
234 divided equally between two friends.

This is an example of the division of a three-digit number by a one-digit number.

Where to start
  • Begin with the division of a one-digit number by a one-digit number, continue with the division of two-digit numbers by a one-digit number, and then the division of three-digit numbers by a one-digit number.
  • Go at your child’s pace.

Remember this is to be a time of enjoyment. Don’t get stressed if your child struggles at first. Eager learners will pick up on what you are requesting as you continue along.

I do hope these posts have been helpful. Parents can do a tremendous job of helping their children enjoy learning these somewhat difficult tasks.

Just take a few minutes each day to lay the groundwork for division and your child will find this task conquerable.

You may leave any questions in the comment box below.

Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark



Laying the Groundwork for Division, Part 2

Laying the Groundwork for Teaching Division, Part 2

The process of division may seem intimidating to students and parents. However, it is not as complicated as many think.

Parents can make the passage to proficiency of this skill easier by laying the groundwork early in their child’s life.

In Part 1 of this post, two ways were discussed that parents may employ.

In this post we will discover another easy and inexpensive way to further aid in helping children develop the skills necessary to achieve mastery.

That way is through a simple technique that employs the use of manipulatives.

Manipulatives make learning fun.
Manipulatives make learning fun.

Yes, manipulatives may be costly to purchase but they can be readily made by recycling items already found in most households. One only need the imagination to come up with a variety of useful tools made from simple everyday objects that are usually thrown in the garbage.

For our purposes in this post, we will use recycled ice cream sticks.

Enlist the aid of extended family members in recycling so that you have a useful amount.

Make this a fun game. Your child will be learning concepts of division without realizing it.

Do this discovery activity.

Pile a number of ice cream sticks on the middle of a table or other flat surface. Ask a variety of questions that will engage thinking skills.

Ask extended family members to save items that can be used as manipulatives to teach mathematical skills.
Ask extended family members to save items that can be used as manipulatives to teach mathematical skills.

Change the amount of sticks. Then continue asking questions for that amount.

Adjust questions according to your child’s skill level.

Let your child discover the answers.

Whether your little one can count past ten or not is not important. Mathematical concepts such as one-to-one correspondence is being developed.

If your child is older, he or she should be able to give you a numerical answer through this discovery activity.

Some sample activities when working with one child:

Divide the pile of sticks so that you and I have the same number of sticks. How many sticks do you have?  How many sticks do I have?

Put all the sticks back in the middle of the table.

Now pretend that there are 3 people here. Divide the sticks into three equal piles. (Give the child time to complete the activity.) How many would each of us have?

Put 10 of the sticks in the middle of the table.

Divide the sticks into two equal piles.

Put 8 sticks in the middle of the table.

Divide the sticks into four equal piles or groups.  How many sticks are in each pile or group?

Use mathematical terms as you see your child progressing.

As your child progresses in understanding, begin to add in mathematical terms.

In the last question above, the word groups was added to the instruction. This is a simple but nonthreatening way for your child to begin understanding mathematical terms. Do this in a gentle way. When the child has grasped the understanding of the new term, use that term instead.

For instance, when you perceive that your child has grasped the understanding of what you are requesting when you use the word group, drop the word pile. “How many sticks are in each group?”

Don’t rush.  Just add in a new term as you see your child progressing.

Another example from above is the use of the term equal. The term equal should eventually replace the words same number.

Do a few minutes of discovery activities each day.

Adding just a few minutes of this activity to your child’s playtime each day will go far in laying the groundwork for what will not be daunting, but will actually become a welcome task of teaching the process of division.

More to come in Part 3.

Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark.

Division: A Daunting Task

Laying the Groundwork for Teaching Division

Manipulatives Make Learning Fun Photo
Manipulatives Make Division Easy and Fun
Division is that part of math class that seems daunting to teachers and students alike.

I remember watching my older brother do long division. His homework pages had problems that seemed so long they looked as if they covered half of his paper. I assumed those problems must have been very important.  Doing that type of math looked so grown-up. It was a process that I wanted to be able to conquer. I couldn’t wait to get to that level of math.

Division is not so complicated as many think. It just needs to be taught correctly. Part of that comes with laying the proper groundwork.

Long before division class comes around, children should already be engaging in the concepts of dividing.

Those “official” concepts begin with kindergarten and continue level by level. But division has already been introduced to the child even before that “first” day of formal schooling begins.

For example, children see division at work around the supper table as they share the meal. A family of four shares four pieces of chicken equally. The pumpkin pie is divided into six or eight pieces.  A gallon of milk is poured into glasses. Rolls are shared round the table.  The last one may be divided in two parts to share between eager siblings.

So how can parents begin that formal groundwork for division?

Parents can add to what the child is observing day by day by simply adopting the usage of mathematical terms.

“Please share with your brother,” may be changed to “Please divide the roll between the two of you.”

Look for opportunities to use mathematical terms when appropriate.

Divide these sandwiches so we have two (or four) pieces each.

There’s only four cookies left. Share them equally with your sister.

Divide the candy bar equally between yourself and your brother.

Divide the last of the milk between yourself and Dad.

Divide the potato tots so that each of you get the same amount.”

Children will be alert to the methods their siblings are using because they want to be sure they are getting their “fair share.” This unknowingly draws their attention to the division process.

Another way parents can lay the groundwork is to allow their children to measure.

Mother can let the children measure the ingredients for her favorite recipes. Dad can let the children measure items for his next building or repair project.

We tend to think of measuring as adding to something that we are making; however, we also measure because we are about to subtract from something. We are taking a cup of milk from the gallon.  We are sawing a foot of lumber from six foot of lumber.

Measuring is an indirect way of preparing the child for future concepts concerning division.

This may seem odd, but division is really just a fast way to subtract the same number over and over.

A third way parents can lay the groundwork for division is to actually divide groups of items – not on paper, but with manipulatives.

I’ll discuss an easy and inexpensive way for parents to do this in my next blog post.

Copyright 2017 by Peggy Clark





Visual Charts in the Classroom: Two Important Reasons

Visual Charts Help with Presentation of New Material

 Story webs and other types of charts make difficult tasks easier for students.

Story webs and other graphic charts make difficult tasks easier.

Two Important Reasons

Use of visual charts will greatly assist you as you present new material or review concepts already presented to children in your classroom.

Using a visual chart such as the one pictured above can help children in two very important ways.

First, visual charts break major tasks into manageable parts.

Children can become overwhelmed when given new and unfamiliar assignments, especially if they are writing assignments:

  • Paragraphs
  • Essays
  • Book reports
  • Research papers
  • Stories

These and other tasks can be simplified by utilizing charts, spider webs, timelines, Venn diagrams, and other visuals.

The chart shown above is an example of a story web. The chart could be used to teach in other subject areas. However, for our purposes we will use the information on the story web to see how a difficult writing assignment can become quite simple when the task is broken into manageable parts.

Notice that the chart displays the topic as the main part or central focus point of the visual. The topic is what the paragraph, report, or story is about.

TIP:   The graphic could be utilized to focus only on the subject matter, i.e. trees, until the subject matter is sufficiently narrowed down into a suitable topic that is manageable for the child, i.e. oak trees.

The smaller circles on the above chart show the parts that would be used to relate a story.

A simplified way for young children to write a story is to focus on the separate parts individually. Also, when writing a research report, it is beneficial for older students to focus on individual parts also.

The topic has been broken into five parts. As a teacher you may reduce these parts to four, leaving out the ‘why’. You may also wish to insert more parts. Adjust the chart according to the material and children’s ability.

Children should use one sheet of paper or notecard for each part. If you are teaching very young children, focus on teaching one part per day.

Ask questions that will help children ‘brainstorm’ about their character or event. The following are just a few sample questions. Adjust the questions according to the topic.

  • Who is this character, a person, an animal, an object, an event? What are they like? Describe them for me.
  • Where does this person live? Where did this event or series of events take place?
  • What is the character doing? What happened that is making the character happy or sad? What event or action is taking place?
  • When did this happen? How old are the people involved? Did this happen in the past? Is it happening right now? What major world or local events are happening around the main character or other characters in the story that may be influencing them?
  • Why did the characters act the way they did? Why did the car crash? Why did the building fall down? Why was the main character sad or happy or puzzled? Why did they have to go to town, to war, to the West?

TIP:   After these parts have been completed, have the children cut and paste the parts together onto a fresh sheet of paper.

The parts may have to be adjusted as the children put their individual parts together into story form. That will come as they learn to edit their new achievement.

Expect this part of the process to yield a very rough draft. However, it will help the children begin to write their stories on fresh paper using the information they have accumulated greatly reducing their frustration.

Second, visual charts help children stay focused on the task at hand.  

The graphic nature of charts draws children’s attention to the most important aspects of the writing process. It also allows children to know what parts of the process have been accomplished and what has not.

Whether using a spider web to show relationships or timelines to show a sequence of events, visuals are great assistants when it comes to presenting new material.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark

What types of visuals do you use in your classroom?
How have these visuals helped you with your presentations?
Can you relate a teaching experience using visuals that may help others in their teaching endeavors? If so, please share in the comment box at bottom of page.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan. More of her writing can be found at


Culture, History, Values

The Passing Down of Values

God’s Instructive Command Concerning Communicating to the Next Generation

Communication of historical events and family values is the glue that works to hold a family, generation, and culture intact.

When cracks begin to develop in a particular society, it comes many times as a result of the breakdown in the passing down of values, principles, and history from one generation to another.

Cooperation within certain people groups takes place because they share the same language, same values, and same vision.

When people within a certain group have different languages, cultural values, and diverse visions of their future, division and other destructive events begin to happen.

Psalm 78 enlightens us as to the importance of passing down the knowledge of historical events and the values and standards of a society.

Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

We are instructed to yield our hearing to a particular instruction that the Psalmist is about to impart.

I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

The Psalmist instructs us in the art of communication.

The Psalmist is about to instruct us in the art of communication to the next generation. He is letting us know that he also received this type of communication from his forefathers.

We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children.

The Psalmist is revealing how the LORD began this type of instructive communication Himself.

The LORD Himself gave us an example.

The LORD established a testimony in Jacob. In other words, He set an example.

God’s dealings with Jacob and his family reveals God’s pattern in dealing with those whom He loves.

Then the Lord appointed a law. This was an instructional command to be followed.

God appointed the law or instruction that was commanded to our forefathers that they should make these things known to their children. This type of instruction was to be perpetual, continuously handed down to the next generation.

The Ten Commandments taken from Exodus 20
The Ten Commandments taken from Exodus 20
The purpose for this was threefold:
  1. To show the next generation the praises of the LORD
  2. To show God’s strength and power
  3. To show the wonderful works that God had done

That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children.

This was to be a generational task of revealing God’s threefold purpose in communicative instruction. Fathers are commanded to share this knowledge with their children. Those children were to continue in this pattern of sharing with their children. And so the pattern was to continue down through the ages.

That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

The effects of following God’s instructive pattern is evident.

Following in this pattern would yield several results. The effect is seen in the above verses. That the generation to come might:

  1. Set their hope in God
  2. Would not forget God’s works
  3. Would keep God’s commandments
  4. Would not follow those whose hearts were not right with God

As we share with our children what God has done for us in the past, the telling of stories from our forefathers as to how our native countries came about, the opportunities that have been afforded us because of God’s intervention, and our thankfulness for His provisions even in the most difficult of trials, our children will give ear and desire to follow the God that is truly worthy of all our praises.

When we fail to follow God’s example in communicating the truths of history, we deprive the following generation of the knowledge of God and his intervening in the affairs of men. We then reap the results of a stubborn and rebellious generation that will not set its heart aright and follow God’s commandments.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark

A quick look through the Scriptures reveals the many times that the children of Israel were reminded of God’s deliverance from their captivity in Egypt, the mighty miracles performed at the Red Sea and the Jordan River, as well as many other such events. Are you telling your own stories of God’s deliverance from your captivity in sin and the many miracles that God has performed for you and those around you?
Our forefathers wisely placed the Ten Commandments in visible areas in each school classroom. Does your classroom have these commandments visibly placed?
Do the Sunday School classes where you attend have the Ten Commandments visibly placed?
What are you doing to continue the instructive pattern of communication that our Lord gave to us?
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Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome. A preview of this title is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Ask for it at your local Christian retailer.




Detective Work an Author Can Appreciate

Think Like a Detective to Improve Upon Your Writing

Writing a good story is like being a good detective.

Any piece of writing can be appreciated if it is well-crafted. Readers love a good novel and will eagerly anticipate an ongoing series if they fall in love with the characters and plot.

Authors may follow generally accepted writing processes that help them finish their stories with flair.

However, any story can be greatly improved if one takes the mindset of a detective during the editing process.

Check details carefully.
Check details carefully.

Observe details.

To be a good detective, one must be a good observer of details including behavior of characters, crime scene evidence, time of day or year, etc.

To be effective, an author must also carefully observe the details of his or her writing with intense scrutiny. It is the little details that can increase readers’ interest, but it is also the little details that can bring confusion and reader dissatisfaction.

To avoid disappointment, therefore, an author must edit his work with great attention to the details concerning all areas of the writing process.

As a detective walks through the scene under investigation, the detective takes an overall view of what has taken place.

Obviously, a crime has happened. But what exactly was the crime? How did it happen? Who did it? What was the motive that would cause such an event to take place?

Pay close attention to the chain of events.

The detective then takes a second look and makes a hypothesis as to what happened. He (or she) may have several hypotheses at this point.

However, the hypotheses must fit his observation.

Did the suspect enter the room through the door or window? If the window was broken then the assumption may be made that the suspect came through the window. If no windows were broken and every window was locked, then any hypotheses that began with an entrance through a window would be discarded until and unless further evidence was uncovered which would lead to a different conclusion.

Broken glass photo
Evidence of broken glass

An author must also step through his or her story reviewing the events that occurred.  Are the events in order?

A careful overview may reveal that some parts are out-of-place.

Did a character named John have a conversation with another character, Jill, at the beginning of the story and then suddenly in chapter five be newly introduced (again) to Jill?

Did a character named Joe die in chapter 3 and have a car wreck in chapter 4?

The above examples may seem silly, but they do happen. It is easy to overlook a seemingly insignificant character’s appearance in one’s writing, especially when one is writing a lengthy novel.

Is the sequence correct?
Is the sequence correct?

Is anything missing?

What is lacking that is necessary to the story?

After the hypotheses have been formulated, the detective carefully looks back over the scene making note of things that are missing.

What should be there but isn’t? What is making the scene being observed incomplete?

Is there a blank space on the wall with evidence that a picture once hung there? Are there speakers but no stereo? Is there an open safe?

Empty picture hanger
What’s missing?

An author must also look for any writing that is out of context. Are the characters believable? Is the setting appropriate? Are clues missing that are needed to solve the mystery?

All clues or inciting moments should lead up to the conclusion.

Remove unrelated material.

Finally, the detective must disregard any details that have nothing to do with the crime.

Food in the refrigerator would have nothing to do with a broken window unless food was taken from the refrigerator. An untouched bedroom would be inconsequential to a crime scene located in the living room except to say no one had entered from that location.

An author must also delete those unnecessary details that are not related to the story line and only succeed in slowing down readers who are in a quest to reach the next heart-stopping moment in a series of events.

Those types of unnecessary additions are hard for authors to discover. That is when the detective and the author must bring in another set of eyes to view the evidence.

Hire an editor to proof read your work.

Enlist someone else to preview the material before closing the case or might I say, book.

Will the assistant detective come to the same conclusions as the main detective?

Can the author’s assistant visualize the story line just as the author did?

Were the assistants confused at any point as they followed through the chain of events from start to finish?

Did either get bogged down in a specific area of their search?

Even if the assistant detective is surprised at the final outcome of the investigation, does the assistant feel satisfied with the conclusion?

The assistant to the author may also be delightfully surprised as the assistant concludes his or her investigation into the writings of the author, but is the assistant satisfied with the final product?

Get others to review your writing.
Get others to review your writing.
Yes, writing can be greatly improved when the detective’s cap is put on and errors are discovered and corrected before reaching the hands of readers.

Copyright 2016 by Peggy Clark

Feel free to comment if this post has been beneficial to you. I enjoy hearing your input.
Peggy Clark is the author of So, What's the Latest News? Messages from a Prisoner in Rome, a reader-friendly study of Colossians available from WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan.



First Step in Homeschooling Your Children

First Step in Homeschooling


So, you’re contemplating homeschooling your children. Does the thought bring butterflies to your stomach?

Are you asking yourself questions?

  • What?
  • Where?
  • How?
  • Why?

All of these questions and more will fill your mind in the days ahead.

  • Can I do this?
  • What if I make a mistake?
  • What will other people think?

Yes, you can homeschool.

Yes, you will make mistakes. We all do. We’re human, but we learn from them and continue onward.

We gain knowhow by taking one step at a time — precept upon precept, line upon line.

Yes, other people will “think.”  But before they have the chance to tell you their opinions, have your own reasons as to why you will (or will not) do homeschooling settled in your own mind.

And that is the one question you will have to answer for yourself.

  • Why?

Decision Making

Everyone will give you reasons why you should or should not homeschool. However, you must realize that this is your decision.

  • Write down your own thoughts for desiring to homeschool.
  • Add to your thoughts a list of reasons that you feel are supportive.
  • Think through this process carefully and prayerfully.

By expressing yourself in writing as to your reasons, you have taken the first and most important step in homeschooling.

  • Why is the question that when answered will anchor you through any difficulties you may face after you have made your decision.
  • The reasons why will also be your prepared response to any who would desire to challenge your decision to homeschool.

I hope these thoughts have been a help to you in your decision making process.

©peggyclark 2016

The ‘Voice’ of Storytelling

Storytelling is an art form of old. Everyone loves to hear a good story. But what is it that makes us want to hear it? Is it the storyteller or the story itself?

Both the expressive language of the storyteller and the intrigue of the story itself draw the attention of those who stop to listen.

But how many people will pick up a written story and read it? What keeps people’s attention to the end?

The voice of the storyteller is heard, but not the storywriter, or is it?

Oral storytelling is different than the storywriter’s written narrative. Yet, there are similarities.

  • Every story has a beginning, middle, and end.

It is complete. In other words, it does not leave one wondering what the story was about.

  • There is a particular character or main event upon which the story is based.

This does not mean that a good story is limited to one character. There may be many characters, yet there is one character upon which the story is focused.

  • And there is also a climax, a point at which the story culminates.
Public Domain Images- Old Books Vintage Brown Red
Public Domain Archives Photo

A story usually begins in one of three ways:  1) setting, a description of the place where the action takes place; 2) description of a character in the story; or 3) dialogue between characters.

The oral storyteller and the story writer must pick up the action (begin the story) at the right place. The details of any previous events that are necessary to the story are woven into the telling of present events.

The story then continues with a sequence of actions or events which hold the listener or reader’s attention.

These actions or events are determined by the main character of the story.  Who is this person? What attributes do they possess? What motive compels them to do what they do?

The good storyteller does not give us this information in lengthy detail. Instead, the character does it by what he or she does or says in the story. This sequence of actions drives the story to the climatic end or the culminating event.

A good storyteller uses only as many words as necessary.

An oral storyteller can use voice to emphasize certain actions. However, the story writer must be careful to use specific concrete words.

Those words must be vivid and accurate and must appeal to the imagination.

The reader should be able to see and feel the action without being frustrated with wordy details. Remember, what the character says and does gives explanation without explaining it.

Therefore, the storywriter must be familiar with a vast array of vocabulary words and regional dialects. This is how the ‘voice’ of the storywriter is heard.

Both the storyteller and the storywriter must know when to stop.

What is the ending or final solution? When is the reader satisfied? However, the storywriter may give a few additional details after the climax.

The ‘voice’ of the storyteller whether oral or in written narrative form is an art that takes much practice and should be appreciated by those who enjoy a good story.

That voice is heard through the choice of words and the way the story is presented.

Whether orally through tone of voice, bodily expressions, and dialect, or written through vocabulary usage, presentation of facts, and focus on sequence of events, a good storyteller is one who can “spin a tale” (tell a story) that everyone wants to hear.

Do you have a storyteller in your family?
What stories do you remember from your childhood?
What made you want to hear them over and over?
Do you tell stories from your childhood to your children?
What type of stories do you like best?





Scope and Sequence: Why I Need to Ask for One

Scope and Sequence

What is a scope and sequence?
Why are they important?
How will they benefit me as a teacher at home?


  1. What is a scope and sequence?

Companies that produce educational curricula also produce a scope and sequence for their particular curriculum.

A scope and sequence gives information concerning new material being introduced, at what depth material will be taught, the sequence at which material is reviewed and built upon, and the level (grade) at which that material will be presented.

  1. Why is a scope and sequence important?

Suppose that you have a child in a public or private setting and wish to home educate them. A scope and sequence from that particular school’s curriculum will let you know what has already been introduced to your child.

Also, suppose that your child struggled last year. Their grades may have been okay, but you realize that your child has not comprehended sufficiently what you feel needs to have been accomplished at this point. A scope and sequence will let you know what material was covered during the past year. Should any of that material be revisited? Probably so. Should areas of accomplishment be retaught? Probably not. This is where a scope and sequence is handy.

As you look at the scope and sequence of other curricula providers, you can see at what level any particular information is being introduced. If the information you are concerned about is being introduced at the next level (grade) of a particular curriculum you are considering, then you need not worry. It will be introduced to your child as if it had never been taught.

However, if it has already been introduced, you might need to do a reteaching of that particular introductory material before you move ahead. In this scenario, there is no need to reteach a whole level (grade) if there is only a gap in a particular portion.

Scope and Sequence Photo
Scope and Sequence Example for Spelling
  1. How will a scope and sequence benefit me as a teacher at home?

The introduction of and type of subject matter varies from company to company. Different curriculum providers introduce new material at the level their particular authors and editors feel is appropriate. Requesting a scope and sequence from each company (or publisher) you are considering will give you an overview of material covered by each provider from preschool through high school.

Even if you choose not to use a particular company’s curriculum, you will benefit by seeing the different levels at which curriculum providers introduce new material. This is highly beneficial if you choose to do unit studies or deviate from a particular providers sequence.

During the high school years, some subjects are taught by courses. Those courses may be built around a particular topic instead of in a spiral pattern. For example, in the area of history, one course may center entirely on World History, while another course may center on a particular country’s history. Also, some courses may center on particular time periods.

If you were to decide to home educate your child during the high school years, you would not want to reteach a particular course that your child had already taken. In other words, if a child had taken World History at the ninth grade level, you would not want to reteach that same course at the tenth grade level unless there were problems with the previous course. Instead you would want to teach your country’s history. In this scenario, knowing the particular subject matter that your child has already been taught is very beneficial.

Different provider’s scope and sequences can also help you create your own scope and sequence for your particular situation.

Periodically reviewing your scope and sequence (at least at the beginning of each school year) can help you catch gaps before they occur and aid you in keeping on track as to your own goals for your child’s education.

Also, a scope and sequence can assist you in setting and attaining goals. Goals are what you wish for your child to learn academically before they are presented with that kindergarten, elementary, or high school diploma.

A scope and sequence can also be used as a checklist that lets you know where you have been and where you are going. In other words, your spot in the journey.

Your curriculum provider has a scope and sequence for each subject. Just ask for it when requesting information or when ordering catalogs. They should be happy to send you one.

I hope this information has been beneficial to you. If so, leave a comment. You may also leave suggestions for future posts.






Know Learning Channels to Optimize Teaching

Teach Facts Through a Variety of Learning Channels

Children absorb information through a variety of learning channels. Yet, each child has a particular channel through which he or she experiences greater learning. Therefore, it is important to know these channels and adapt the input that the child receives accordingly.

Access Every Channel of Learning

At the same time, for greater learning to take place, every channel should be accessed so that greater knowledge is received and retained. This will also help children exposed to different learning environments increase their competence when receiving information that is not presented in their unique learning styles.

The five senses of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting can help us remember the channels of learning as these are the pathways that God has given us to receive information.

Know the Different Learning Modalities

Children have a preferred style of learning. The tendency of a child to learn in a particular way that helps him or her best utilize the information received is called a modality.

There are six channels or modalities through which we receive information: visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, and kinesthetic. Do not allow the use of these words to confuse you. They simply refer to the senses that God has given us to learn.

  • The visual modality is the use of sight to receive information. Children preferring this style of learning enjoy material presented in a way that engages the sense of sight. The use of colors, posters, video, charts, live performances, and illustrated storybooks are this child’s favorite modes of learning.

They also love to read in quiet places. Noises detract and can lead to irritation. They usually prefer a neat desk and feel uncomfortable in cluttered places.

  • The auditory modality is the use of hearing to receive information. Children preferring this style of learning enjoy material presented in a way that engages the sense of hearing. This is the type of student that can learn through the use of lecture and audio materials.

Auditory learners love to talk and to listen. You may catch them reading aloud to themselves or humming their favorite tunes. They may also create rhymes or songs to remember special events or lists.

Oral drill of spelling words; historical, scientific, and mathematical facts; and other such vocal methods keeps this child engaged.

  • The tactile modality is the use of touch to receive information. Children preferring this style of learning enjoy material presented in a way that engages the use of their hands. The use of objects or manipulatives, textured papers, and special writing instruments helps this child to learn more effectively.

Hands-on projects, how-to presentations that involve the child’s assistance, and the use of models for explanation of concepts helps to keep this child engaged.

Manipulatives Make Learning Fun Photo
Manipulatives Make Learning Fun
  • The olfactory modality is the use of smell to receive information. Children preferring this style of learning like to ‘smell the roses.’ However, they strongly react to environments where smells are not to their liking. When they enter a room, you may hear them comment on the ‘smells’ they sense.
  • The gustatory modality is the use of taste to receive information. Children using this modality become great taste testers. As children it seems everything ends up in the mouth. They love tastes, textures, and smells. They prefer to use scented markers to highlight important information and to develop projects that consist of a variety of smells.

A writing assignment may be filled with words which describe the smells encountered on a nature walk or the smells of foods experienced during a recent trip to the market or their favorite restaurant.

  • The kinesthetic modality is the use of movement to receive information. Closely related to the tactile modality, children embracing this style of learning prefer movement in opposition to sitting still. The handling of manipulatives also increases their absorption of facts.

Whether utilizing ‘jumping jacks’ to memorize math facts or clapping hands to the drilling of letters, these students love learning when it involves movement in any form.  You will catch them doodling, fidgeting with their hands, and tapping the desk with their pencils.

Adapt Teaching Styles to Optimize Learning Experiences

The knowledge of these six learning modalities can help parents and teachers adapt their teaching styles in order to access the learning channels that children prefer to utilize when receiving information.

Adjust Teaching Plans to Create Variety

Preparing to utilize methods that employ every learning style will also create greater variety in the classroom. This makes for a better teaching and learning experience for both teachers and students.

As you make lesson plans for the upcoming week, I hope you will consider each of the six learning modalities and adjust your teaching plans accordingly.











Has “Drudgery” Overtaken Your Classroom?

Has your school day been overtaken by drudgery? The excitement of the first day of school soon vanishes as the school year progresses.

“Boxed” curriculum leads teachers and students from review to new material and then continues to build upward toward that curriculum author’s set goals for the year.

It can become a drudgery if a variety of learning activities is not implemented. However, one simple way to help prevent drudgery is in the introduction of lessons. Whether the curriculum calls for it or not, introducing lessons in a variety of ways helps to prevent drudgery for the teacher and the student.

Be creative in seeking new ways for your child to be introduced to new material.  Use manipulatives, video presentation, audio recordings, maps, and library materials.

Plan to implement a variety of presentation activities by looking ahead at your lesson plans. How can you introduce a particular lesson in an interesting and interactive way?

Present a scenario in which the child must use his or her acquired knowledge to solve a problem. Let him or her puzzle over the problem and be delighted if they are able to come to a solution. Then utilize the lesson to show one way to solve the problem.

Don’t be limited into thinking that there is only one way to solve any particular problem. Appreciate the questioning process. This encourages academic learning.

Utilize role playing. Become the characters. I wonder what the conversation between children would have been as they traveled on the Mayflower to the New World. Let students muse over what they think the conversations would have been between historical characters.

Read an excerpt from a story. Then ask students what they think would happen next. You might ask them to “finish” the story. Let the creative juices flow.

Use an excerpt to present a dilemma. What is needed to implement a solution? How was this dilemma solved? Did it involve a war, a feud, a peace agreement? Was a new invention conceived? Did physicians employ a different method or procedure? Was the solution the proper one? How would history have changed if another solution had been sought?

The presentation of a series of history or science lessons may begin with a field trip. An introduction of the Civil War may be a visit to a nearby historical monument or battlefield. An introduction to mammals may consist of a visit to a nearby zoo or local farm.

An introduction to the study of a particular country may be the preparation of a meal that would be on the dinner table of a citizen of that country. It may also include dressing in that country’s fashion for the day.

An introduction to a particular time period in history may be the playing of a particular piece of music that was popular in those days. This would also be a good time to sneak in art as you show the artists of the era and their noted works.

Don’t stress yourself into thinking you have to introduce every lesson in a different way. But by planning different styles of lesson introductions and strategically scheduling those introductions in your planner you will be prompted and prepared with interesting presentations. That way you can be assured that the drudgery of the usual day to day lecture and subsequent worksheet type lessons will not overtake your school environment.

I hope your year is a joy to you and your students as you take steps now to prevent drudgery in the school days ahead.

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.  Proverbs 16:3

Jelly Bean Math

Let’s have a fun math class today with our young child. Be prepared by purchasing a bag of jelly beans.

Parent to child:

“Let’s take a bag of jelly beans and put them on the table.”

“Let’s sort them by color.” You might work with the child or let him or her do this particular task on their own.

Continue with the following instructions.

“Now let’s compare the groups (sets). Which group has the most jelly beans? Which group has less jelly beans?

Which group has more — the yellow group or the red group? Which group has less — the red group or the green group?”

Put all the jelly beans back together in one group on the table. Give the child 2 jelly beans.

“How many jelly beans do you have?” Give the child 1 more jelly bean. “How many jelly beans do you have now?”

Continue the conversation by giving jelly beans and having the child give you jelly beans. At times, ask the child which of you have more jelly beans or less jelly beans.

“Separate (divide) the jelly beans into 2 equal groups.” Let the child do this on his or her own. Take note of how the child does this. Some children may separate by putting 1 in each of 2 groups one at a time. Or the child may place several beans in one pile; then several in another pile. Or they may line them up side by side in a line. This observation will help you to see how the child is processing this instruction. If they get the right answer, do not attempt to correct them or show them another way at this time. They will learn various ways as they continue to work with manipulatives.

In the simple exercises above, children are recognizing, classifying, categorizing, arranging, separating, adding, dividing, sorting, identifying, more than, less than, associating, etc.

There are so many mathematical skills than can be caught with manipulatives that are as simple and inexpensive as a bag of jelly beans. So think outside the box. Every math concept or principle does not have to be taught with pencil and paper. Sometimes it helps to just have a little fun and learn at the same time.

Enjoy your jelly beans.

Number Recognition of One to Ten

As parents we feel elated when our children first learn to count to ten. We feel especially proud when they can duplicate the number formations.

Both of these achievements are important goals; however, one further goal is that of number recognition. To see if your child has grasped number recognition, the following tasks can be given.

First, though, collect the needed materials.

  • 2 pieces of construction paper or cardstock
  • marker
  • cereal bowl or cup
  • collection of small objects such as buttons, paper squares or circles, metal washers, etc.
  • numerical flash cards (1 to 9)

Using the marker, draw a tic-tac-toe design to divide one of the pieces of construction paper into nine sections. Randomly draw a set of different shapes in each section so that each section represents one of the numbers from 1 to 9. For example, one section may have three triangles. Another section may have five circles, another two squares, etc. We will call this our game board.

Divide and cut the second sheet of construction paper into nine smaller sections to use as cover sheets. Now you are ready for task number 1. During this task, do not help or correct your child in any way. You will be observing to see if he or she recognizes the numbers correctly. Note any particular numbers that are not readily recognized.

Task 1: Tell your child that you are going to play a game together. Place the game board on a table in front of your child. In random order, hold up one of the number flash cards. Have your child use one of the cover strips to cover the number amount pictured on the game board. (Remember, do not help the child. This is for assessment purposes only.)

Continue holding up the flash cards one by one until all nine have been covered. Make a note of any numbers that were not recognized properly.

Clear the table and prepare for task number 2 by placing the collection of objects in the bowl. Place the flash cards face up in random order on the table.

Task 2: Ask the child to place the correct number of objects on top of the corresponding numerical card. For example, seven objects should be placed on top of the seven card. Again, do not help the child in any way. You are observing any hesitations or errors and making a note of them.

An alternative to this task is to place one flash card at a time on the table; then have your child place the correct number of objects on that particular card.

Task 3: Shuffle the flash cards. Have your child place them in correct numerical order on the table. There should be no pictorial help for this task.

If all of these tasks have been completed without difficulty, your child has successfully accomplished number recognition of one to ten. If there were any difficulties, then continue to do a variety of activities with your child that will help with number and amount correspondence.



Struggling with Addition, Part II

Strugglers who find addition to be a chore may find it a fun adventure when given the opportunity to learn with manipulatives. The use of these hands-on objects leads to purposeful learning in a stress-free manner. Allowing children time to “play” with such objects increases their imagination, stimulates brain activity, develops motor skills, and lays a foundation for learning mathematical concepts.

Cubes, dice, building blocks, building logs, buttons, beads on a string, ice cream sticks, pinto beans, even army men — what do these have in common? Each of them are wonderful tools that can be manipulated in order to accomplish learning.

The use of such tools is an inexpensive way to build upon the knowledge that a child already possesses. During play with various objects, a child learns how to build up and take down, gather together and take away, group together and take from, and sort by his or her preference. At the beginning stages, however, a child does not know the official mathematical label that we would use for such manipulation, but through play the groundwork is being laid upon which we purposefully begin to teach the foundational concepts and principles that lead to the understanding of the processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc.

The introduction of handmade or purchased rectangular rods that are proportionally sized lead to even greater learning. Several companies have manufactured rectangular rods that are a great addition to your arsenal of manipulatives. However, knowing the limitations of household budgets, poster board or card stock can be used to create a representation of these rods, howbeit, they are not three-dimensional.

Place value is traditionally taught in some schools through the use of an abacus. Some students struggle with the use of the abacus because not all students have their own to manipulate. It is easier for a child to understand the concept when they have their own manipulatives to handle and engage in learning.

An inexpensive way to teach children place value is through the use of dried beans and ice cream sticks. Single beans are used for counting by ones, sorting into groups of equal amounts, etc. Ten beans will fit nicely onto an ice cream stick.

Using proper glue, allow the child to make his or her own “ten” sticks so he or she will realize that there are ten and only ten beans on each stick. Ten of the “ten” sticks can be placed side by side to create “hundred” sticks — just glue 2 sticks across the back to hold them together. A variety of mathematical concepts can be taught using these sticks.

So how can we use manipulatives to teach addition? By now, you probably have a variety of ways rambling through your mind, but we will give some direction in a later post. For now, begin to let your mind wander back to your childhood days when you played with blocks and logs. Yes, learning can be fun — at least some of the time.

Struggling with Addition

What can parents do when their child is struggling with addition?

One of a child’s greatest needs is to memorize the addition facts. This task comes easy for many; but some struggle and fall behind in their math studies because of this one single necessity.

What can parents do when they find their child struggling in this area?

Immediate intervention is needed. More complicated math utilizing the process of addition should be delayed until this situation is remedied.

Figure out why the child is struggling.

First, process why he or she may be struggling. Were foundational steps skipped or overlooked? Does the child understand what the individual numbers represent? For instance, does the child understand that the picture 8 represents a collection of 8 objects or 8 sets of objects?

When teaching numbers, sometimes this knowledge is easily overlooked. A child may be trying to memorize images of number figures without any understanding of what those images represent. For example, the picture 8 plus the picture 8 equals the picture 16 instead of 8 objects added to 8 more objects equals 16 objects total. Some children need more time to process this information.

Utilize manipulatives to teach concepts.

The use of manipulatives will aid understanding.

Yes, I know some teachers frown on the use of objects to help a student learn their facts. They insist on memorization. Yet, when students are struggling with a particular math problem, such teachers model the addition by the use of their fingers. This is a bad practice and greatly hinders the child. Children following this teaching model quickly learn to rely on fingers.

The use of manipulatives diverts the child away from the use of fingers. Each object is representative of 1 and when added together those 1’s become a collection of more than 1.

No matter the learning style of the individual, this hands-on approach to addition greatly increases the struggling child’s ability to understand and memorize the facts.

Just what are manipulatives and what are some ways that they can be used to teach math? We’ll discuss this in a later post. Right now, since you have read this far, you may have a struggler about which you are concerned. Hopefully, the next post will be of benefit to you.

©2016 by Peggy Clark