Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm a Writer! Authors as Mentors Encouraging kids to Write

We recently spent a month doing a lesson on Authors as Mentors. This is where we really delve into one author's work and read several of his/her books, analyze and discuss the writing and finally, try to model our own writing after our author mentor. We did this in our Reading Club and Writer's Workshop.

I did some research on what authors to include and I settled on Tomie DePaola and Patricia Polacco. My older daughter had done this same lesson when she was in school and she loved the Tomie DiPaola books and I still had them so it seemed natural to start this lesson with his work.

·        We reviewed different writing techniques such as simile, alliteration, metaphor, hyperbole, and onomatopoeia.

·        We practiced using those techniques.

·        We talked about Tomie DePaola and we read a brief biography to understand how Tomie became an author and illustrator. We also learned how he comes up with ideas for his stories.

·        I read aloud one of his books and we tried to find some of the writing techniques we had previously learned.

·        In Writer's Workshop, we brainstormed ideas for our own story. We talked about things that were happening in Buttercup's life at the time (ice skating lessons, a visit to her cousins' house, getting our Christmas picture taken)

·        I encouraged Buttercup to write down all of those ideas. For now, we would only pick one, but we agreed that it would be good to keep a list for future stories.

·        She picked a topic and told the story on 5 fingers.

·        Then, she wrote those 5 sentences down.

·        We alternated days in Reading Club and Writer's Workshop; that means, we would read aloud on one day, and do some writing the next day.

      ·        In Reading Club, we read other Tomie DePaola books and talked about writing      techniques that he used in all of the books we read.

·        Some of the things we noticed were:

o   He names the setting within the first sentence.

o   He uses words in Italian.

o   He uses words in bold letters for emphasis.

o   He uses what we call the list of 3 (naming 3 things within a sentence).

o   His stories are about him or things he heard or experienced growing up.

·        Since Buttercup had already written her story in 5 sentences, we went back to edit the story and try to include some of our mentor author's techniques.

·        When Buttercup was happy with her story, we cut out strips of paper (5, one for each sentence of her story). She re wrote her sentences on each strip of paper.

·        She then glued the sentences to the bottom of a bigger piece of construction paper.

·        Next, Buttercup made a drawing to go along with each sentence of her story. As our mentor author is also an artist and illustrated his own books, we thought it would be perfect for Buttercup to illustrate her book too.

Buttercup is so proud of her book. She loves to go back and read it every once in a while. Writing was such a challenge for her because she thought it was boring and never had ideas. Giving her some structure, encouraging her to jot down moments she may want to remember later, and guiding her through the process has made the writing process much easier.

We followed the same process as we read through some of Patricia Polacco's books. And Buttercup wrote another book.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Hands on electronics projects

I recently had the opportunity to do a fun hands on science project with Buttercup. It was an electronics project from EEME's hands-on projects teach kids about electronics. Each project is paired with online curricula to not only guide the kids in assembling the project but also to teach the concepts applied.

This is what is included in the kits:

  • A fun indoor activity to do with your 7-12 year old that will teach them something at the same time!
  • A project kit in the mail with all the material needed to build your project (including a breadboard, resistors, circuits, LEDs, battery)
  • A set of online videos that will (1) teach you and your kid how to put together the kit, and (2) explain the electrical engineering concepts behind it
  • Interactive quizzes to test your kid's learning

The whole process was seamless and easy to complete.

We received the kit in the mail; we got Project Genius Light. I then we registered my email on their website. I liked that all they asked for was my email. I wasn't required to complete a long form with all of my information. That was a big plus for me.

Once I registered I was able to access the video instructions for our project. Buttercup is 7 years old, so she is on the younger range of the recommended ages (7-12), and she had no problems whatsoever following the instructions in the video. The two of us worked on it together which is the way it's intended to be.

The instructor is clear, easy to understand and the video is easy to follow. And the best part is that they quiz you throughout the project. So Buttercup definitely learned some good stuff.

The electronics projects available are perfect for homeschoolers since they can be done anytime, with parental assistance, and with video instruction.

Now here is the best part, the folks at have generously offered Adventures of a Homeschool Mom readers an incredible 50% discount on Project Genius Light. All you have to do is send an email to with "50% promo - Adventures of a Homeschool Mom" in the subject.

I know you and your child will enjoy this project as much as we did.

Happy Homeschooling Adventures!

Disclosure: I received a kit in order to do the review. All of the opinions in this review are my own. I did not receive any compensation for this review.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Russia Unit Study!

Here's my newest unit study - Russia!

I'm so excited about this one because it was a country that was completely new for me. Until I did this unit study I knew very little about Russia; just bits and pieces from Russian students I had in the past combined with some very basic information.

The Russia unit study was Buttercup's idea. I don't know why, but she is fascinated with Russia, so when I asked which country she wanted to study, she did not hesitate to ask for Russia.

In order to prepare for this unit study, I had to do lots and lots of research. I read books and other resource material to come up with an 8 week program that would cover enough information.

We started with some basic information about Russia; location, size, language, currency.

Next we read this great book "Introduction to Asia" which had lots of stuff about Russia's climate and different climate zones.
We learned about Russia's favorite pastimes and some of the foods they typically eat.
We really got into the part about music and art and I found a YouTube video of Swan Lake for Buttercup and me to watch. The video was 2 hours long and we watched in 1/2 hour increments, but Buttercup loved it. We would pause to talk about what we thought was happening based on the tone of the music, the dances, the scenery and the dancers' facial expressions. It was a lot of fun and made watching a ballet an interesting experience, that was not at all boring.
Nesting doll template included in unit study

Buttercup's nesting doll activity
As the end of the year approached, I was able to find a local production of The Nutcracker ballet, so I took Buttercup. My recommendation for anyone taking their children to the ballet would be to read up on the story before you go; do some activities pre-show. We didn't do that and honestly we were kind of confused about the story. I'm sure we would have had a much better experience had we done a little research prior to seeing the ballet. We still enjoyed it and will do things differently next time!

The Russia unit study is perfect for the classroom as well as homeschool. It covers most subject areas:

·        Math

·        Social Studies

·        Geography

·        Science

·        Foreign Language

·        Reading

·        Writing

You can get this comprehensive unit study right here for a small fee. I hope that by charging a small fee for some of the lessons I offer will allow me to continue to offer other things for free, like my printables.

I welcome feedback on the study units, if you would like me to add something of interest to you, please let me know and I will do my best to include it in an upgraded version.

 Thanks for your support!