Saturday, July 10, 2010

day 185: birthday affirmations part ii of ii

"Little boys should never be put to bed because they always wake up a day older." from Peter PanHere are some things we have enjoyed doing for birthday affirmations through the years:

1. Make a big deal of the birthday the day before it. We did little things like the following:

a. When he wakes up in the morning, say, “This is the last morning you’ll get up as an eleven year old!”

b. When you do things with him, say fun things like, “Come and read a story with Mom….it’s our last story with you as an eleven year old” or “Come shoot hoops eleven year old—this is the last day I can say that!”

c. Before he goes to bed, make a big deal of it being his last night as an eleven year old, how he’ll wake up old the next day, etc.

d. Tell him what you loved about him as an eleven year old—“I loved it that you such a compassionate eleven year old…”

2. On the morning of his birthday, say fun things like, “Time to wake up twelve year old” or “This is the first morning I am getting you up as a twelve year old,” and “Do you feel a year older this morning?”

3. Encourage him on the day of his birthday with character qualities that you have seen in him—“Sure hope you are as kind of a twelve year old as you were eleven year old!” and “I know your compassion will even increase when you are twelve—if that’s possible!”

4. Charge him on the day of his birthday with character qualities that you would like for him to work on in the coming year (without making him feeling put down, of course)—“Now that you’re twelve, I know you can become even more diligent with your work” or “You have been getting better and better at responsibility this past year—now that you’re twelve, you are going to become Mr. Responsible!”

5. On the night of his birthday, tell him that you are looking forward to spending “age twelve” with him—that your family is so blessed to have him in it and that you don’t want the next birthday to come too soon!

6. Involve others in the blessing/affirmation. We often have times of affirmation on birthdays in which people take turns saying affirmations to or about the birthday person. It isn’t uncommon to have siblings, siblings-in-law, Mom, Dad, etc., say any of the following:

a. “I like how you always let others go first in pot lucks.”

b. “I appreciate how you help at One Heart.”

c. “I love to watch you read. You have become such a great reader.”

d. “I love how you help the clients at One Heart so tenderly. They feel your love—you are such a great volunteer.”

e. “I like how you use your free time to help others.”

f. “I can’t believe how much you have improved in basketball the past year. Your outside shot is amazing.”

g. “You are such a diligent worker. Our family couldn’t make it without your daily work and contribution.”

h. “I love how you do your devotional every day. You are building good self disciplines that will help you your whole life.”

Use birthdays, special occasions, successes, achievements, down days, up days—any days to affirm your children. Build them up in their character and their faith. They might not say so, but they will come to love it.

Tomorrow—back to more help with academics this summer. The summer is officially half way over for most of us. There is still time to help your kids get ready for school in the fall.

Friday, July 9, 2010

day 185: birthday affirmations part i of ii

Jakie turned twelve—and, much to his joy--it was the birthday that never ended! I tried to drag it out, take him to breakfast the day before, take him shopping to let him choose his toy, go to grandparents’ close to the actual day, have his grown siblings over, talk about it a lot, have Dad fix birthday breakfast, etc. as Jacob had been having a lonely time with his three next older siblings all gone that particular week.

When we asked him what he wanted to do for this birthday, he said two things: (1) play basketball with a group of people in a gym (still working on that one); and (2) have all of his siblings (who were not gone this summer) over and do things together. We are doing the latter this afternoon. His two married siblings and their spouses, our missionary daughter who is home itinerating, and Josiah (our fifteen year old) will all be there.

When Jacob said he wanted everybody here for his birthday, he wasn’t talking about presents (we don’t do sibling gift exchanges for birthdays) or even outings/activities. He was referring to the birthday affirmations he would receive.

As our kids have grown up, we have used birthdays, successes in different things, etc. to teach our kids to affirm each other. Besides our normal, “Three cheers for _______. Hip hip hooray. Hip hip hooray. Hip hip hooray,” we often have times in which we just affirm the person—tell the good qualities that we appreciate in that person. Yes, the “affirmed one” is often embarrassed and a little shy—but these affirmations have come to mean so much to the one receiving them (thus, Jacob’s desire to have “everyone here like we used to”).

I think this type of thing is one of the reasons Kevin Leman recommends in one of his books that birthdays be spent at home together—not in large group parties or out on the town. While you can certainly have a peer party or family outing for a birthday, we recommend that you take the time at home around the birthday child’s special day to affirm and encourage the celebrant.

Tomorrow I will give a list (of course!) of birthday affirmation ideas. In the meantime, birthday or not, go tell one of your kids one thing you love about him or her….you will be glad you did.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

day 184: creating a “summer reading program” for your child

The countdown is on for “back to school.” School supplies are starting to be on sale, book bags and backpacks abound, and everywhere you go you hear about how “school is just around the corner.”

Don’t despair! School isn’t really quite as soon as everybody makes it out to be. Most of us still have a good month before school will begin in our area. That is one month to do some of those “schoolish” types of things that you wanted to do this summer but didn’t get to. One of those things might be to have your students involved in meaningful, consistent reading.

Reading programs to the rescue! Maybe you didn’t get your child signed up for the library reading program. Maybe you did, but it fell by the way with vacation and pool parties. Regardless, you can create your own summer reading program to up the reading during the last few weeks of summer.

I often created my own summer reading program for my kids in addition to the one at the libraries. I was notorious for signing my kids up for every summer reading program available—our local library, the big library of which we are “affiliates” through our library, the minor league baseball’s program, the Christian bookstore’s program, the secular bookstore’s reward system, etc. Then I created my own in addition to those—can you tell I think reading is important???

The programs I created usually ran simultaneously with the library one—but they had to do “bonus” reading to earn mine—such as so many minutes a day or so many page books, etc. I would offer bigger rewards than the library—an evening out with Mom and Dad or an afternoon at “Build a Bear,” etc. when they finished the program.

If you are trying to get your kids involved in reading during the last four weeks or so of summer, you might want to offer smaller, more consistent rewards---small reward after so many minutes of reading are accrued or a prize after each chapter book, etc. to keep it alive. Then, of course, you can offer a prize at the end for finishing your little program as well.

If you have younger children (grades two through four, especially), it is more important than ever to have your kids practicing their skills through the summer. These grades are notorious for “losing what they don’t use.” Yes, his or her teacher will review in the fall for the first few weeks, but wouldn’t it be better if your child started out the year ahead rather than behind?

Tomorrow---links for charts and checksheets that you can use for chores, reading, devotions, etc. to help build consistency and responsibility in your kids. Use them to create your own little summer reading program!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

day 183: summertime—increasing reading speed and comprehension with AceReader cd rom

If your child knows all of his phonics for reading, but is a slow or struggling reader or does not comprehend what he reads, you may desire to get a program to help him this summer.

While speed in reading is sometimes overrated, the fact is that when a child is a slow reader, he is seldom an enthusiastic reader. After all, who likes to do anything that is slow and laborious for him or her (adults included!)?

Our first two children did a lot of testing out of classes for college. Our oldest, Joshua, tested out of an entire BA in history except for two classes for which there were no tests available. Kayla, our missionary nurse, tested out of as many classes as were permitted for her two bachelors’ and one associate’s degrees. Speed reading training was a huge help to both of them in this endeavor—mainly because a student learns to recognize what is and what is not important in a text through speed reading training. (However, speed reading must be utilized judiciously—as Joshua has said, he cringes when he sees someone “speed reading” great literature!)

While you will not necessarily want to build speed reading skills per se in your middle school student, you will want to help him increase his reading speed if he is slow at reading (and especially if he dislikes reading because of this).

I will write in future days about comprehension building without a specific program, but for those desiring something immediately to aid in rate and comprehension of reading, I recommend a computer program available from our friends at the Timberdoodle company. This program, called AceReader, is a cd-rom program that can be used for multiple students at each child’s level.

Here is what Timberdoodle says about this program:

“AceReader is not designed to teach your child how to read, but instead focuses on helping him be more proficient at his reading. After taking a self-paced reading comprehension test to determine his base reading speed, your child will then work at reading drills and play skill-building games. Both tests and drills for grade levels one to twelve are included. Detailed records, program settings, and test results will be maintained in a separate database for multiple users. The program can even be customized if you would like to use your own drills and tests. In fact, if you choose to use the Comprehension Test Editor to create and edit your own comprehension tests or drills, you'll be delighted to know that AceReader Pro Deluxe also includes a readability analysis tool to help you determine the grade level and complexity of text you have added.

”While AceReader Pro Deluxe is a fairly frill-less program, emphasizing straightforward skill practice, it does have a couple of nifty features. For the child looking for a challenge, AceReader Pro Deluxe can be used to flash whole pages of text at desired speeds to develop PhotoReading techniques. Better yet, AceReader Pro Deluxe can also be used as a memorization tool because it can repeat material over and over while gradually increasing the speed. Of course, you can input whatever you would like your children to memorize, but Scripture suits our fancy. Because we can change the fonts, colors, number of words or lines, and speed, we avoid much of the monotony of repetition and enhance memory by presenting different views of the same text.”

Find out more and order this product at

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

day 182: summertime —kids reading in the summer

If your child is in second through sixth grade and knows all of his or phonics sounds but is not a “fluent reader”—for our purposes here, a child who can read books that are expected at his school at his grade level, you would be surprised the little things that you can do to help your student. In the next few days, I will give tips concerning this scenario.

                                               Kids Reading This Summer--Just Do It!

Do not underestimate the power of simply reading. If your student is a reluctant or struggling reader, but can read, I recommend that you implement a daily silent reading time for your student.* (Actually, I recommend this for everybody—kids and adults, struggling or not!) There are many ways to implement this:

1. Go to the library and pull a series that your child will enjoy. (I will give some suggestions in days to come, but ask your friends what their kids are reading, ask your librarian for suggestions of books in areas that interest your child, etc.)

2. Consider a 15 to 30 minute silent reading time each day during the summer (or each non-vacation, weekday). You could set this up as a certain time that everybody reads or just make a declaration that everybody must read for fifteen minutes before other activities outside the home (i.e. swimming, friends, etc.).

3. Create a reading chart with squares that are worth fifteen minutes each. So many squares equal prizes or so many squares must be colored in per week. (More on creating your own summer reading program for your kids in upcoming posts.)

4. Get your child a series of chapter books that he or she will enjoy reading and have him or her read a book a week at his own pace and on his own timetable—as long as it is read by Friday at five or whatever the deadline might be.

5. Consider alternative reading materials, like comic books, magazines, books with individual stories in each chapter (as opposed to books in which one story is broken up into chapters), etc. if your child is extremely reluctant.

6. Do not make each reading a “lesson.” Discuss his reading, if desired, but the purpose of this is to get him reading—not necessarily to do reading lessons.

*See readability posts from earlier this summer for help in choosing materials at your child’s reading level.

Monday, July 5, 2010

day 181: age appropriate chores—tweens (ages 12 & up)

As I was working on the PP 3*6*5 blog’s Table of Contents, I discovered that while I had written this post about age appropriate chores for tweens and teens, it never actually got posted. It looks as though we left off of that section with Age Appropriate Chores for ages ten and eleven. Sorry about that!

                                            TWEEN YEARS (AGE 12 and up)

All of the “Help” and “Chores on his Own” listed in yesterday’s post (early elementary, ages 10 & 11)

Note: Consider what you want your child to be able to do as a young teen and then later as an older teen/adult at this stage. Our goals were for our kids to be able to do much of what it would take to run a home, at least the skills that we have.**

Help—chores that the tween and young teen can help with

1. Change tire, add oil, put in anti-freeze, check tire pressure, etc.

2. Banking

3. Grocery shopping, menu planning, etc.

4. Monthly or seasonal cleaning and projects

5. Learn to wash blankets, sleeping bags, and other seldom-washed items

6. Learn stain removal tricks

7. Any remaining appliance/tool use you desire for him to learn. In the kitchen, this would include deep fryer, food processor, meat slicer, electric knife, etc. Other tools might include hedge trimmers, electric saw or drill, etc.

8. First aid, CPR, water lifesaving, and any other emergency skills you desire for your teen/preteen

Chores to Become His—those that can become the tween and young teen’s own chores after a while

1. Babysit up to a few children for longer periods of time. (Between age eleven and twelve, consider having your child take the Red Cross Babysitting Course, CPR training, and/or parenting/child care classes with you.***)

2. Larger food preparations, such as making a meal for family and someone else (especially girls); assigned meat preparations, such as frying twenty pounds of ground beef and freezing in freezer bags he labels, cooking ten pounds of chicken breasts in crock pot and cubing it for salads or casseroles, etc.

3. Using weed trimmer on his own during the spring and summer

4. Grilling meat for meals without help

5. Ability to cook with various mediums, such as crock pot, griddle, broiler, grill, etc. on his own

6. Ability to plan and prepare a full meal from start to finish (i.e. not be told, for example, to fix spaghetti but rather plan the meal and prepare it)

7. Ironing shirts for family

8. Clean appliances, including small appliances such as toaster or blender

9. Set up system and maintain it (i.e. family room bookcase or entire pantry)

10. Pack himself for trips

11. Changing and washing bedding

12. Mending buttons, rips, seams, and hems

13. Bake bread, biscuits, cakes, etc.

14. Defrost freezer

15. Serve guests

16. Clean stove and oven

17. Replace vacuum cleaner bags, light bulbs, and other misc household tasks (breaker and oil lamps when electricity goes out; etc.)

18. Start and maintain camp fire

19. Wash windows indoors and out

20. Pack lunches/unpack and clean out lunch bags

**My husband and I are not handy, “do-it-yourselfers.” Thus, our expectations for things like repair work and other “industrial skills” were not as high as say, our expectations for academics and skills that we could provide our children in our publishing company and family ministry (such as order taking, customer relations, writing, etc.). I have friends whose kids (who are our sons’ ages) can install furnaces, put up dry wall, cultivate large fields of land, weld, and much more. Our sons are not skilled in any of those areas. However, our sons can explain concepts, teach children, write and edit, organize and fill book orders, talk and interact with customers, and much more—things that perhaps my friends’ kids cannot do. Each family will have its own obvious emphasis, which is why our children were given to us, and not someone else. (And yes, sometimes I wish my kids could do some things that my friends’ kids can do, but I try to focus on what our family has been entrusted with.)

***Our older kids did all three of these around that time period (Red Cross Babysitting Certification, CPR certification, and child care/parenting courses. One of the latter was a parenting workshop that we went through together as a family, called Growing Kids God’s Way. Since we had a few little kids (and were planning/hoping to have more) and our older children were put in charge over them when we were away or busy, we wanted the older kids to take care of the littles in the same way that we did, with the same expectations, interaction, and boundaries (as much as possible; they are still, after all, children themselves). By going through this class together, they learned why we do the things we do. It also allowed us to discuss many parenting concepts that we might have otherwise not discussed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

day 180: summertime —beginning reading help—readability levels part iv of iv

In this final installment of readability help, I want to leave you with some resources. Again, do you need to know the level of every book your child reads? Certainly not, but if you want to start having your child read to you in preparation for school, and he or she does little pleasure reading, you might want to check out some of the links below to help you determine where to begin. (More on moving your child along in reading fluency, reading rate, and more in the upcoming days.)

1. Site to key in title, author, etc. of a book and get that book’s readability level---the first site is one that I was led to from the reading link I gave a couple of days ago. I didn’t know it existed—and I have to say that it is way cool. It is from Scholastic, and it is a free site in which you can find the readability level of many, many books (Scholastic and otherwise). I just keyed in a couple of our readalouds, and voila! The readability level popped right up.

2. The next link is helpful for determining readability if you are reading isolated stories, articles, etc. It was created by the man who developed the most widely used readability formula, G. Harry McLaughlin. It is called SMOG—Simple Measure of Gobbledygook, and was invented before computers could quickly do the computations necessary for readability level determination (in 1969). According to McLaughlin, it is a simple formula in which one counts the words of three or more syllables in three 10-sentence samples, estimates the count’s square root, and adds three. That’s way more math than I ever want to do—and especially more math than I want to do to simply figure out if a text is appropriate reading level for my child. (This formula was widely used for health and medical information, to ensure that this data was readable by the general public.) But don’t worry---computers to the rescue! At the following link, you just key in a portion of the text in question, and voila! It gives you an approximate readability level for that text.. SMOG:

We will look at building reading fluency in the child who doesn’t necessarily need phonics instruction but still needs to increase his reading skills, in the days to come—sort of moving out of the “beginning reader” phase into upper elementary reading help.

Remember, whether you are a trained teacher/tutor, whether you understand readability formulas or not, whether you remember all your phonics instruction (!) –are not the important factors in your helping your kids academically this summer. Showing them that learning and their school—and the children themselves—are important to you are the crucial factors in helping your kids.

And also keep in mind that anything is better than nothing at all—just sit down with your kids in the days to come and say, “Let’s read something together…” and get the ball rolling in preparing your reluctant learner to go back to school in six to eight weeks.