Writing is like math -- doing it once a week isn't enough. In order to get good at it, you must practice almost daily. During your week, notice how often you write something down. Could these tasks be shared by your child? Ask for help the next time you need to jot down a name and phone number in your address book, write down directions or a shopping list or a recipe, or leave a note for someone. Can your child help to address letters, write thank-you notes, label jars, note appointments and events in your calendar, learn to take down telephone messages?
Inspire your child to write and read more with frequent trips to the library, discussions about what they are reading, and requests to hear their new poems and stories. Friends and relatives can help build your child's self-esteem by asking your child to read his or her favorites pieces aloud.
Become a published author (or artist)! Launch Pad is a new online magazine publishing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, and artwork by children ages 6-12. For upcoming issues, they are looking for creative works on:
The NYPL now has educator cards for educators and homeschooling parents. Borrow up to 100 items, put up to 50 items on hold, and get a 60-day loan period for most print materials! The card is renewable each year, in August. All you need to qualify is your homeschooling paperwork (e.g., a copy of your annual letter of compliance from the DoE).
Spelling City. One parent's comment: "We use VocabularySpellingCity for spelling, vocabulary and even handwriting. My boys log on to this site every single day, even when we are “breaking” from our normal homeschool schedule. There are games, printables, flash cards; they can even do their spelling tests online. There is an affordable annual premium membership that can be purchased, but the site can be used successfully for free."
AVKO Educational Research Foundation. AVKO is a spelling curriculum, based on spelling patterns, that was designed for the dyslexic student which makes it an easy program for anyone. One parent’s review:
"We used the AVKO spelling program with my son, who was an atrocious speller. Before this we tried every approach out there, to no avail. AVKO has done two things: helped him spell better, and (more importantly) given him confidence that he CAN learn to spell!"
Grammar Town, and other titles, by Michael Clay Thompson, clearly and succinctly teaches all four levels of sentence analysis using a rich vocabulary. They also offer a vocab and grammar for middle school, though if you haven't had a strong background in grammar you'll want to start with Grammar Town.
One parent's recommendation: Write Now: The Complete Program For Better Handwriting, by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay. "It worked for a reluctant writer (who hated Loops and Groups) because it is based on italic script and looks very elegant and artistic. Each person can individualize, and it's fast. My student used it with a real ink pen and inkwell for a more realistic feel. His handwriting was fun to read because it was a work of art!" – Michele Arsenault, homeschool parent and teacher
Cinderella Project: Home Page A dozen versions of the fairy tale are here, with links to similar sites for other tales such as Little Red Riding Hood. This site has lessons for a sixth grade curriculum and has been used to introduce grammar school students to comparative literature, a subject usually reserved for university level students!
Impact, Fifty Short Stories, Fannie Safier, ed. For grades 6 - 10, an out-of-print English textbook, an excellent collection of international short stories, teaches reading comprehension, vocabulary, plot, setting, character development, style, and even geography by learning about the origins of each author. Find it used at Amazon.com or Abebooks.com
Grammar Hotline Directory - a publication of Tidewater Community College. The grammar hotline is a list of phone numbers or email addresses or websites that you can contact for answers to short questions about writing. Tidewater Community College founded one of the first grammar hotlines in the country and publishes an annual compilation of grammar hotlines in the United States and Canada. TCC is pleased to offer its directory to Web users everywhere. Days and times of operation are subject to change according to academic school schedules. Many hotlines reduce or suspend service during college breaks and summer sessions. Hotlines will not accept collect calls or return long distance calls
Headsprout Early Reading program. One parent's comments:
"Two of my boys enjoyed using the Headsprout Early Reading program
online. It gave them a fine jump-start in reading and they enjoyed the independent nature of working online. It is phonics-based and comes with books which support vocabulary building. It addresses reading comprehension as well. They offer a free demo so you can see if it engages your child before committing. By the way, the program never expires. So if you join and your child loses steam after a while, you can restart at a later time (this happened with my youngest)."
Love that Dog, by Sharon Creech (grades 3 - 5), for reluctant writers
National Center for Family Literacy. Family literacy is proven to break down other barriers to success—poverty, unemployment, poor health and inadequate housing. When parents struggle with literacy and life skills, their children have fewer chances for success. Family literacy reverses that cycle by teaching the families of today in order to impact the generations of tomorrow.
Read Naturally is a specific approach for the struggling reader, where the reader must go through a nonfiction story about 12 times before they can move on to the next story. Comments are welcome.
Reading is Fundamental. The nation's largest children's literacy organization. Lots of tips, games, and activities.
Teach Your Child to Read, by Engelman. One parent's comments: We used this book with three of our kids. It's easy, relaxed, and fully scripted. It takes maybe 10-15 minutes of snuggling up together each day to do. And for us, at least, it's worked wonderfully. There is a little reading comprehension built in, since there's a picture to go with each story, and questions about the story and picture to ask the child. The advantage, as I see it, of using a program like this is that it gently systematizes phonetic information, allowing the child to progress at a very gratifying pace. I can't speak to whether or not every child has a 2nd grade comprehension level at the end of the book, because we never made it all the way to lesson 100. Somewhere between lesson 65 and 75 my kids shifted to reading real books and never looked back.
Time4Writing. One parent's comment: "My oldest son (age 12) just finished his first course, which was basic middle school mechanics. They have tons of courses available, from mechanics, to essay writing and more. The courses are not free, but they are reasonable in price when compared to other programs, at $99 per eight week course. Every course has a certified teacher doing the instruction."
Paragraph Writing Made Easy (grades 4 – 8), by Rosemary Shiras and Susan Cary Smith. (Teaches standard paragraph form by constructing a topic sentence with three additional sentences. Also teaches note-taking skills by deconstructing the same paragraphs.)
Snag Films – educational videos listed by grade level and subject
Learning Express Library is a vast on-line resource from the Public Library system. All NYC library users can log onto the Brooklyn Public Library site and use the "Learning Express Library," full of interactive tutorials. Go to Brooklyn Public Library and click on "Articles and Databases" in the upper left hand side of the page. Click on "Career," then click on "Learning Express Library." You will be prompted to enter your 14-digit library card number (found on the back of your library card below the bar code). If you are a patron of any of the libraries throughout NYC, soon all cards will be useable in every borough. This site has a wealth of resources including: all Adobe applications: Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop; all Microsoft applications: multiple versions of Office from 2007 to 2008 (Access, Word, Excel, Outlook), Project, Publisher, SharePoint Designer, Visio, Windows 7 (Basic to Advanced), Vista and XP, Corel WordPerfect (Basic to Advanced); and the site also has Elementary, High School, GED, College Preparatory, College Level, Adult, Job Search, U.S. Citizenship and Spanish tutorials.
Homeschool Literature is a free on-line book club for homeschooling families, featuring literature and stories about homeschoolers.
Storyline Online is a great website where professional actors from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) read stories. Each book includes accompanying activities and lesson ideas.
The NYPL has a great site, TumbleBookLibrary, with tons of kid's e-books that are displayed on your screen. Your child can either read them, or have them read aloud by the computer. Great graphics, fast loading, super fun. And see also Summer Reading 2008, another NYPL project.
Cool Reads, for ages 10 - 15, print and read book reviews here.
Sign up to receive weekly installments of a Sherlock Holmes novel, printed the way it was originally, complete with illustrations. They (Stanford University) also have archived copies of three Dickens novels done the same way. This is a cool way to experience how some books used to be written -- and read.