What’s Christmas without Christmas Music?

I love Christmas music. Here are some of the stories behind some of the very best songs (and a few not-so-great ones, too):

10 of the Best Classic Christmas Carols and the Stories Behind Them – Interesting Literature

10 Unusual Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Songs – Oddee

The History Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols | Reader’s Digest (rd.com)

The History Behind 5 Great Christmas Carols (incourage.me)

Christmas Hymns | hymn stories

The Quick 10: Stories Behind 10 Famous Christmas Songs | Mental Floss

Christmas songs: Strange and fascinating stories behind your favorite tunes – CNN

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Celebrate the Light of the World with Chanukah

One of the first things you probably notice is that Chanukah can be spelled different ways. This happens with transliterated languages. The following page has some wonderful “stuff” for studying Chanukah. You really won’t want to search for anything else.

Happy Hanukkah: Free Planner Stickers – Bible Journal Love (biblejournalingdigitally.com)

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December Unit Study Ideas

I’ve listed several unit studies on my FB page, but here are a few more:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas Unit Study – Homeschool Helper Online

December Themed Activities for Kids (livingmontessorinow.com)

40+ Free Resources for a Christmas Around the World Unit (livingmontessorinow.com)

December: Multicultural Holiday Celebrations | Education World

Holiday Activities, Worksheets, Printables, and Lesson Plans (edhelper.com)

Celebrate Winter Holidays Teaching Guide | Scholastic

Holiday Helps ~ Free Holiday Unit Studies — DIY Homeschooler

Christmas Around the World Unit Study and FREE Notebooking Pages | As We Walk Along the Road

Hey! There are EIGHT here, just as if you received one per each of the days of Chanukah! BTW, that starts on December 10th this year. There is just so much that you COULD do in December that I don’t want to overburden you with school-like things that you feel like you HAVE to do. Enjoy the season. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy your family! Many blessings to you and yours this holiday season — Stay SAFE!!!

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Have you ever thought about what that word means? It has to do with eagerly awaiting something. If you have not been involved in Christian teachings about Christmas, you may never have heard of Advent. In fact, even some Christians don’t know what it is! If you don’t “get it,” think back on what you remember about the impending birth of your first born child. All of the things you did to get ready for the birth of that baby are very similar to the things that go on during Advent. This makes sense since the Baby Jesus is coming to dwell with us, to abide with us!

Another thing that is really neat about Advent is how you can prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord, His Light and Love. Over the past few years I’ve seen some grandparents wrap a series of books to read on the days leading up to Christmas. Some plans show little story books that can easily be read in one sitting, others show books that need a few days, and a few feature books that take up the entire season of advent.

Let’s explore some Advent books!

Here’s a list of advent devotionals: Best Advent Devotionals (83 books) (goodreads.com)

This is Amazon’s all-time best seller’s list for Christmas books for kids: Amazon Best Sellers: Best Children’s Christmas Books

Here are the timeless classics: 20 Timeless Christmas Books for Kids | Real Simple

Christian Favorites: Christian Children’s Christmas Books – Christianbook.com

Finally, the best Christmas picture books: 24 Of The Best Christmas Picture Books For Kids {To Read Aloud!} (aplusteachingresources.com.au)

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Maybe you have not heard the word used in the title of today’s post before; maybe you have.  Either way, we need to be aware that while 20% of the population DOES have dyslexia, the rest do not.  What if you have discovered that your child is not where he or she ought to be when compared to his or her peers?  Well, if it’s not dyslexia or another learning disability that affects the language centers of the brain, it may be that your child is struggling due to dysteachia

I first heard the term dysteachia several years ago during a book study geared toward elementary teachers.  The idea behind this term is that sometimes—and sometimes that means more often than we would like—kids struggle with language due to the teaching provided by the teacher.  Maybe your child has been in a Balanced Literacy school where the three cueing idea has been promoted.  Perhaps you bought a well-known curriculum and just assumed that it would “work” for your child.  Whatever happened to bring you to this point, the best thing to do is a little detective work to figure out how to get your child back on track. 

There is NO room for GUILT here!  Guilt won’t help you find your way out of the trouble and it won’t help your child learn to read, comprehend, spell, or write any quicker.  This is so important that I’m going to say it again:

There is NO room for GUILT!!!

Instead of wallowing in guilt, you are far better off using it for its intended purpose—course correction. 

Have you ever been lost?  Maybe you wandered off in a department store when you were young.  Maybe you went hiking and lost track of the trail.  Maybe you downloaded directions that weren’t right.  However it came about, you were lost.  What did you do? 

Sometimes the best thing to do when you are lost is sit tight and wait for someone to find you.  Other times it’s best to stop and ask for directions.  Every now and then, you can find your way out of trouble on your own.  (Doesn’t that feel great?!)  The same is true for when you have discovered that for whatever reason, the teaching your child has been provided is not getting you folks to the intended destination.   (Notice I went into passive voice there—no need for the blame game or guilt.)

So, sit for a bit and figure out where things went wrong.  If you are not far off course, you may be able to just go back to where you veered off and get going in the right direction.  If, while you are working to find your way, you get off track again, you can search the terrain for better markers.  Reading about the best practices in reading instruction can help you there.  If you have no idea where things went wrong, you might be better off sitting still and calling for help from someone who has made the journey can guide you.  The point is, once you know better, you can do better!  And that, my friends, is a great place to be! 

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We’re almost at the end of Dyslexia Awareness month and I hope that the posts I have written both here and on my FB page have been a help to you. 

Today’s message is about not giving up.  Anytime your child struggles with anything makes for a hard road.  When they do succeed; however, wow, is that precious!  Seeing their confidence build is worth the tears.  Of course, I wish that there had been no tears at all, but life isn’t all sunshine and roses.  The homeschool life is no different.  There are going to be tough times, troublesome lessons, and tricky areas to progress through.  That doesn’t mean that the hard battles won’t hurt, or be worth it once they are fought. 

Throughout my “Getting Started” tab, you will see me reference something called a “Philosophy of Education” repeatedly.  This isn’t something that gets figured out and out down on paper overnight.  It takes time to refine it and put it into words.  It is your WHY for choosing to take this road.  An educational philosophy is wonderful for anyone who is pursuing homeschooling as more of a conviction rather than a convenience, but it is imperative for someone who has a child with a learning disability—whether suspected or formally diagnosed.  Knowing, deep down, that you are doing the right thing for your child will help you sustain this lifestyle for the long haul. 

There are lots of helps available for parents today.  I have many of them showcased in various parts of this website as well as on my FB page.  A Google search using well-chosen key words will yield more. Teaching and learning are intrinsically connected. I would say they are two sides of the same coin. So keep learning so that you can keep teaching!

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More on the Science of Reading

Many people begin with The Reading League when they want to learn about the Science of Reading.

Here’s another great place for information. Check out their guides here.

This page links to what Shanahan has to say. You might be wondering who Tim Shanahan is and why he matters to the discussion. He’s a literacy guru who has been active in the world of reading for decades. You can read his bio here.

Last, but certainly not least, Mark Seidenberg is a the cutting edge of all things Science of Reading. In fact, his book is well worth reading–even if you are only teaching one child to read! The science behind this really is fascinating. Stanislas Dehaene’s book is excellent, too.

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The Science of Reading

THIS is where it’s at for teaching reading! In fact, a Facebook group that I belong to that dedicated to the Science of Reading surpassed 50,000 members this month — and it’s only been in existence for about a year! That sort of growth is unprecedented. While it’s a very technical page, usually dedicated to educators in schools, there are some parents in there who are trying to change things for their own kids. What that means is that YOU REALLY CAN TEACH READING. Arm yourself with the best practices and you will be amazed at how far you will go!

This book is fabulous, as is this one. Both will arm you with more research than you probably need when you are only teaching a few children of your own how to read.

If you need curriculum that is easy to use and is aligned with the science, you can take a look at All About Reading and All About Spelling. Another good option is Spell to Write and Read. Both are geared toward neurotypical students, though. AAR and AAS can be helpful for mildly dyslexic children, but someone with more profound disability will need more. If you cannot find an Orton-Gillingham tutor near you, look to the Barton program. It’s pricey, but it it is available in levels so you don’t have to buy the whole thing all at once. Plus it’s completely scripted and was designed for a parent to be able to use it at home with a child. You can do this!

More on the Science of Reading tomorrow …

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Check out Balanced Literacy: See for Yourself What’s Wrong!

This PDF shows what balanced literacy is supposed to look like in a classroom.  On the surface, these things don’t look awful … but look more closely.  Nowhere is the child told to sound out a word!  That’s the crux of the matter.  English is a phonetic system.  Granted its phonics comes to us via several language backgrounds which makes it hard to decode at times, but it CAN be done. When morphology and etymology are considered before phonology is consulted, most words in English are indeed decodable! 

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What’s Wrong with Balanced Literacy?

The answer to that question will take some time. Sorry. Here goes:

On the surface, the name Balanced Literacy sounds wonderful, right?  I mean, what could be better than something completely balanced?  We hear about balanced meals, balanced approaches to work life vs family life, and a host of other applications.  The thing is, balanced literacy is nothing more than Whole Language (think Dick and Jane readers) repackaged for the new century.  In case you are wondering, Whole Language was debunked during the 90s and Balanced Literacy arose from its ashes. 

This quote from a NY Times article in 2014 sums up one of the most problematic perspectives on Balanced Literacy:

“The fatal flaw of balanced literacy is that it is least able to help students who most need it. It plays well in brownstone Brooklyn, where children have enrichment coming out of their noses, and may be more “ready” for balanced literacy than children without such advantages.”

The thing is, some of Balanced Literacy’s ideas do work … but ONLY after someone’s reading skills have reached the level of automaticity. They are not at all appropriate for someone still learning how to decode or how the English language works.

Here’s a report about Balanced Literacy and why it doesn’t qualify as “Good Instruction.” If you need more ammunition against Balanced Literacy, here’s Shanahan’s take. Learn what GOOD Instruction consists of and provide it.

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