For us, especially in the pre-school and elementary ages, homeschooling looked a lot like kids just go everywhere mom goes. These little sponges pick up so much, incorporating lessons and practice into everyday tasks. We even created a catchphrase, singing “Everyday Math!”, any time we had to figure some real life math problem.
Bringing kids along everywhere has some challenges though. The number one difficulty for us – waiting. Whether standing in line or long rides in the car, bored kids quickly turn into grumpy kids. Our solution was playing games whenever the need arose. Looking back, quite a few of our silly games laid important foundations in math, language and thinking ability.
#1 – The Alliteration Game
Take turns adding words to a sentence, each beginning with the same letter or sound. Sentences don’t have to be true but should be grammatically correct. Words can be added at any point in the sentence. Small words (articles, prepositions) don’t have to be alliterative. Example:
Keep going until you’re out of words to add. (Our record is 35 words!) If kids get stuck, prompt with questions. What adjective could you use to describe the gorillas? How did they grab them? Is there an adverb for that? For younger kids its great for building phonemic awareness. Older kids get to practice and learn new vocabulary and reinforce parts of speech.
#2 – Higher or Lower
The classic number guessing game. One player chooses a number and the other(s) close in, being told higher or lower after each guess. Easily adapts for younger kids (1-10) or older (1-1,000,000). Develops number sense, reasoning ability and mental math calculations.
#3 – Share a story
Take turns telling a story. Start out by asking the kid(s) for a character and setting, the crazier the better. Then each person takes a turn, adding 2-4 sentences to move the story along. After the story is over, older kids can be asked to identify the plot, conflict, or resolution to add to the educational aspects.
#4 – Word Association
This one has only gotten more fun as my son has gotten older (and built a bigger vocabulary). Start with any compound word. Take part of the word and use in a new compound word or phrase. Continue, building the bigger chain you can without repeating. Or make the goal to get back to original word. Example:
Chips and dip
Stick in the mud
#5 – 20 Questions type games
I Spy… I’m thinking of a food, an animal, etc… Classic 20 questions. These types of games – where the chooser can only answer yes or no to the questioner – develop logical thinking and questioning skills and can be played with any child old enough to speak.
Do you have any games to add to the list? Share them below!
Writing fiction is hard. It’s hard for people who love to write, want to write, and have something they want to write about. I have enough half-formed stories in my head and belong to enough writers’ support groups to know this.
If it’s hard for an adult when they have all that going for them, imagine how much more difficult it is for a student being told, “Be creative. Write a story.” Coming up with a plot and characters can overwhelm even creative kids, creating a negative feedback loop. “I’m not good at writing. I can’t write. I hate writing.” Story prompts are a huge help. But plenty of young writers still struggle with developing characters and writing realistic dialogue.
I wanted to focus on fiction writing this year and decided to experiment introducing FanFiction (basically “borrowing” characters from another book, movie, TV series or other work) to make the writing more interesting. From the very start my somewhat-reluctant-to-write 7th grader was excited about the idea. Our first step was to brainstorm of all the books (especially series), movies and TV shows that he was particularly familiar with. That way, as he was given each prompt and assignment, there was a cast of characters just waiting to be written about.
Our first prompt – “Write a scene of dialogue between at least two characters. One person can only say ‘I don’t want to.'” – was just silly enough to get the ball rolling and have fun with the writing process. The next prompt, “write a survival story”, was intended to be a short assignment to go along with our Hatchet novel study. When it turned into a six page, 3,000 word story (based on characters from How to Train Your Dragon) that he wanted to work on, I knew we were on to something.
While there are a ton of prompts available for free all over the internet, too many were not suitable for our situation. We avoid anything dealing with magic or the supernatural, and (thankfully) there’s not much interest in reading, writing or thinking about romantic relationships. So I made our own all-purpose, suitable for all ages prompts!
Want to try FanFiction writing with your student? Here’s a few prompts to get you started:
Dialogue prompt: You think I’d notice if my best friend was a robot!
Make a list of characters and their favorite songs.
Write a scene with your characters playing a board game.
Your character is going undercover at a local school to solve a crime. Write about it.
What is your character’s morning routine?
Want something ready to use for your student? I’ve put together a book with 30 FanFiction writing prompts for use with middle or high school students (or anyone wanting a starting point for a writing project). Each 2 page spread includes a prompt lined paper for writing. Extra lined pages are included in the back for any stories that run on a little longer. Available on Amazon Print on Demand
FanFiction writing may just open your student up to a larger writing community. Just like with any online community, not everything is suitable for everyone. Click here for some ideas and cautions about sharing FanFiction stories.
Use one of my prompts or your own? We’d love to read it. Feel free to post it in the comments below!
** An Important Note – Fanfiction is extremely popular. If it’s a book, movie, TV show, celebrity, or anything else in pop culture – there’s probably a fanfiction work (fanfic) about it. Writers range from preteen to adult and the content of their writings range from G rated to Explicit. Many sites give authors the ability to give a rating to their works, but ratings are self-determined and not consistently applied. Depending on your students maturity and level of responsibility, you may want to restrict access or discuss appropriate reading and what to do if a story they’ve started isn’t what they expected.
Sharing your Work
kidfanfiction.pbworks.com – Contains material appropriate for K-6 students. Submissions and comments are emailed to the site administrator who moderates for violence, language and adult themes.
teenink.com – National magazine and website with submissions sole from teens. Has a fanfiction section as part of the overall fiction & novels section. Also accepts poetry, non-fiction and art work. Submissions may be printed in national magazine or featured on website. Allows comments on submissions. Stories, comments and forum posts are filtered for content.
fanfiction.net – Large repository of fanfics. Must be 13+ to create an account. Self rating system K (all ages) – M (Mature themes, older teens and up). Per guidelines, explicit content is not allowed. Ability to filter by content rating .
archiveofourown.org – Contains millions of works. Must be 13+ to create account. Self rating system General Audiences to Explicit. Many works are not rated and ratings are not consistently applied. Mature themes and sexual content common. Ability to filter by content rating.
Google Docs – If you want to share student stories only within a small group, Google docs could work. Enable sharing with specific files, or create a shared folder in Google Drive and all documents within the folder will be able to be viewed by authorized users.
More options for sharing with the world at large include publishing your own website on WordPress.com, creating a Tumblr.com account, or sharing on wattpad.com. Each has it’s own benefits and drawbacks.
I love the idea of planning everything out and being the most organized homeschool mom anyone has ever seen. In theory.
Real life… Not so much. We’re definitely more of a go-with-the-flow, have-a-goal-but-flexible-on-getting-there kind of family. While my now 12 year old thrives on structure, any deviation from “the plan” can result in an anxiety spiral. We’re working on it.
Meanwhile, what works fairly well for us is to have a general plan (cover x number of pages in x subject most weeks) and outline each week or two as we go. Since I couldn’t find a planning book or pages that fit our needs, I did what I usually do. I made my own.
These pages are extremely flexible. Some weeks I’ll want to plan lessons for specific days to fit a unit study or special activities. Those weeks I’ll use the sections to assign lessons for each day. Other weeks I don’t care if he works on one subject all day or in whatever order he chooses – as long as the week’s work gets done – so can list lessons by subject.
The checkmarks to the left of each lesson we use as “done” to quickly see the week’s progres. The right side checkmarks can be used to show which assignments I’ve checked over or to indicate that he needs help with an assignment.
The second page has plenty of room to list all the “extras” as they happen. Books read, videos watched, field trips, library visits, special projects, etc.
You can download these pages for free below – or – purchase on Amazon a 128 page softcover book that includes
yearly attendance calendar
2 year (July 2018 – June 2020) calendar pages with space to note important dates
12 year overview planning spaces for yearly overview planning
52 weeks of undated planning & record keeping pages
extra lined and dot grid pages for book lists, co-op schedules, unit study planning, notes, diagrams, or whatever you need
Free Planning Pages
Free weekly home school planning and record keeping pages
We used Disney’s Imagineering DVDs from our library to get ready for our trip. The 11-video series covers a ton of information in a fun, interactive way. It was funny listening to the kids as we went through the park, “Remember when Asa (the DVD host) did that?”
The series includes:
Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion
Levers & Pulleys
Design & Models
Animal Adaptations: Communication
Each DVD includes instructions for a try-it-yourself, interactive activity to reinforce the science principles in the video!
I highly recommend incorporating this series into your pre-trip homeschooling!
Check out the official trailer for the series:
There are a few more excerpt videos Disney has posted online:
The Wright Brothers by Andrew Santella
The Wright Brothers: Heroes of Flight by Carin T Ford (Famous Inventors series)
Stealing Air by Trent Reedy
You Wouldn’t Want to be on the First Flying Machine by Ian Graham
You Can Draw Planes
How Airplanes Work by Paul Ohmann
The Wright Brothers biographies were used for reading/comprehension of non-fiction text. Students were also asked to pick 5 events from the Wright Brothers lives and create a timeline from those events.