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Reading Aloud: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , — dailynews @ 4:00 am

 read aloud


Reading Aloud: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Do you want your children to love learning, to love reading, to love books and be able to express themselves well? Of course you do. Do you need credentials or special training to make this happen? Absolutely not. You need only your voice, your child and books. Read to them. Read to them everyday and often. Read aloud over and over and over. It is that simple.

The Importance of Reading Aloud from Birth

Reading aloud is a gift that keeps on giving. It is a child’s ticket to language development—speaking, reading, and writing. From birth, a child’s language begins developing. The more multisensory exercise the brain gets, the more it will develop. Right from the start talking, singing, rhyming, playing, reading, and cuddling provides this stimulation. Reading aloud provides precious focused attention for a child and the parent. It is therapeutic down time full of uplifting benefits!

Reading aloud builds a critical bond with the parent through the sharing of sounds, letters, words, stories, questions, answers, emotions, problems and solutions. Long before children can read independently, their grammar, language conventions, phrases and expressions develop because of exposure to the language of the stories and the reader. Talking about the illustrations and stories- the words, ideas, and values shared- lays the foundation for speaking skills. This is where children pick up whimsical, colloquial and historic expressions. From interaction with books and their parents, children learn about the world around them, learn to solve problems and to express themselves.

Opportunities to Read Aloud in Everyday Life

Beyond books and stories, words abound. Look around you. Have a conversation about labels, cards, advertising, signs, license plates, mail, food containers and recipes. Remember though, a fruitful exchange is not one-sided. There must be give and take even if a parent helps the child by suggesting words, or helping the child point or clap, even laughing together counts! It is the exchange that builds language and instills a readiness to read.

Reading aloud is an expressive language experience. Voices, like music, have rhythm and a beat. There are pitch and volume changes, inflections and drama! Children naturally model the rhythm of the words read over and over by the parent. Be sure to read aloud with energy and expression. Have fun with it!

The Value of Repeating Words and Phrases

There is repetition in stories and a lot of it! Repetition is immensely valuable. It builds comfort and reassurance about language. It exposes children to many facets of reading—various print styles, letters, text, words, punctuation, the concept of whole stories (beginnings, middles, endings), patterns, word games, questions and answers. Repetition allows children to feel so comfortable and familiar with a story, they’ll join in recalling words or whole lines long before they can truly read. Books become reliable friends shared over and over. There is no such thing as a book read too many times! Repetition builds a child’s confidence, reassurance, and positive reaction to stories, setting the stage for wanting to read the words.

Many adults fondly recall being read to among their happiest times. Isn’t it wonderful that so much good language learning can occur during such a blissful event? There is no age limit for reading aloud. The benefits are never ending. Read aloud as long as you can; as long as children will allow it.  Older children will often enjoy being read stories, poems or books they might not choose to read on their own. Another gift! Even adults enjoy hearing a story or book read aloud.

Give Your Child a Map for Reading

Children, having been read to regularly, will have been given a map for reading. Print begins to make sense because of the rhythm, rhyme and repetition of reading aloud. Parents add to their children’s wealth of experiences every time they read a story or book aloud. Children gain knowledge from both the story and its language but also from the very valuable exchange of ideas with the parent.

Every read aloud moment is an effortless teaching opportunity, so go grab a book!



Math is a Skill –

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures — Tags: , , — dailynews @ 4:00 am

math book

Math is a Skill

This is a guests blog post written by Logan Schoolcraft


Math is a skill. Just like welding, carpentry, running, singing, or any other worthwhile endeavor. Maybe people don’t give it enough credit, since it’s one of those things that we seem to use on a daily basis.

Perhaps that is part of the problem with some people’s math “skills”—they take them for granted and really don’t work on them. It’s like exercise. If you think you walk and do a lot of physical stuff during the day, but actually you don’t, you are probably not going to be in shape.

On the other hand, if you take time every day, (or some regular routine), to exercise, you’ll start to see and feel the impact it makes. The same is true of your math skills. Keeping sharp doesn’t mean doing math problems (or exercises) all day long. It simply means not letting the already developed skills deteriorate. If you do enough to develop new skills, then all the better.

I made a connection the other day when reading about Abraham Lincoln. He made the comment he was going back to his office to, “practice some more law.” That line got me thinking. He wasn’t going to go fill out another form and have someone sign it (even though that might have been done), but he was going to go look into more law. Law itself. Maybe read on it, study an old case, or develop his own current case.

It’s this “practice some more ____” that I want to instill. If you consider yourself a professional anything, then odds are you do quite a bit of that; whatever it is. Likewise, if I want to be a professional at math, then I need to do quite a bit of it myself. Just a little every day of direct study works for me.

Yeah, I’m one of the people who probably doesn’t need to practice and hone my math skills— especially the basics. But I have to tell myself that I’m not the same person who learned the basics years ago.   Things will look and feel different. And I’ll come away with something new learned. Hopefully, I’ll be able to apply that to even more stuff I’ve learned along the way!

So don’t think of math as a bore or a class to be forgotten. Think of it as a skill to be held up and honored for all it can do for you. And if you get the chance to learn a little more…take it! (It won’t hurt you.)


“Habits are at first cobwebs, then they become cables.”

-Spanish Proverb



Logan Schoolcraft is a private math tutor specializing in distance math tutoring. You can find out more about him and his services at




As they say, “All good things must come to an end”…. and FREEBIE FEBRUARY is no exception.

Tomorrow is the last day.

If you haven’t checked FREEBIE FEBRUARY out, please do so now, while there is still time.  If you have visited the page, please click over again.  A number of new listings were added throughout the month–and we don’t want you to miss a thing.


Bucket of Snow –

winter children's toys a shovel and a bucket with the snow on the white


Bucket of Snow

This is a guest blog post written by Donna Lasinski from has a freebie listing in our FREEBIE FEBRUARY event – please check it out.


How much water does it take to make a bucket of snow?  Make a few guesses with your kids about how much water will be in the bucket after the snow melts. My boys thought that it would be about the same—that a snowflake equaled a drop of water.

They were so surprised to learn how little water it takes to make a full bucket of snow. Now imagine together how much snow would stack up on one of the really rainy summer days.

What you need:

  • bucket
  • snow

What you do:

  1. Fill a bucket of snow to the very top.
  2. Set the bucket in the sun or indoors.
  3. Watch it melt and compare how low the level of the water is to the height of the full bucket.

What did your children learn?


Donna Lasinski is a mother of 3 sons and the author of the Parent Guide to Summer and creator of ThinkStretch Summer Learning Program. also has a winter program to help prevent “brain freeze”.

Red Apple Reading Product Review


Did you see that Red Apple Reading is offering a freebie during’s FREEBIE FEBRUARY event?


Red Apple Reading provides a systematic, fun approach to developing and strengthening core reading skills. The entire program is designed for children ages 3-9 who are reading below a 3rd grade level, and includes three online level options—Park Planet, Island Adventures, and Carnival Fun. All online programs include access for 3 children, a downloadable workbook, lesson reviews, unit reviews, a parent dashboard, flash cards, games, free access to members-only apps, and more.

Regarding the individual programs—

Park Planet – Level B – Best for Ages 5-7

This program includes 76 online lessons, 300 activities and 30 hours of instruction. It works best for young readers just beginning to put sounds together to read words. It covers short vowel sounds, word families, 100 sight words, digraphs, blends, long vowel sounds, and a review of letter sounds in the ABC Tree.

Island Adventures – Level C – Best for Ages 6-9

This program includes another 75 lessons, 375 activities and 35 hours of instruction. It includes more advanced phonics skills, 200 more sight words, vocabulary, and beginning reading comprehension skills.

Carnival Fun – Level A - Best for Ages 3-5 (coming soon)

Due for release by the end of the year, this preschool level is FREE to Complete Package and Lifetime members who purchase before its release (that’s great!). It will include practice in critical pre-reading skills like phonemic awareness, letter sounds, vocabulary, blending, memory, sequencing, and more.

I reviewed both Levels B and C (the Complete Package). Here are the things I liked about these two levels–

  • Lessons have a structured format that works well, and we all know that kids like structure. Lessons begin with animated instructional videos, are followed by fun practice activities and end with a review and quiz. I actually enjoyed the quiz. It’s broken up into segments with encouragement along the way—it wasn’t quiz(zy) at all!
  • The animated video lessons, activities, games and rewards are attractive, fun and motivating. I enjoyed the sounds effects.
  • During the lessons, each new skill builds on the last, so you get a logical learning sequence that encourages rapid progress.
  • Intelligent Question Logic differentiates the practice questions for each child, changing the difficulty of the questions as the child plays in many of the activities.
  • There is a reward game at the end of every unit, which is fun/rewarding.When kids have fun learning, that’s always a plus!
  • Kids can work independently (it’s suggested they work 20-30 minutes daily (1-2 lessons), three to five days a week; or with the parent, when using the supplementary materials.
  • Students can work at their own pace and revisit lessons for extra practice.
  • Kids can access the lessons anytime, anywhere, from an internet-connected desktop or laptop computer—no software to install (I like that).
  • The program/website is easy for kids and parents to use.
  • As a parent, it’s easy to create and edit child accounts, adjust settings for how often you want to receive Progress Report emails, download the User Guide and free resources, etc.
  • Red Apple Reading was developed by experienced classroom teachers, reading intervention teachers, a school psychologist, a speech pathologist, animators, web developers, and parents of school-age children. A lot of people had input.

Want to learn more and see how it works? A Free Trial of the complete first unit of both Park Planet and Island Adventures can be found here. Red Apple Reading—a great supplement for kids just learning to read!


More Homeschool Travel with Rebecca

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures,Travel — Tags: , , — Rebecca Kochenderfer @ 4:00 am


To Tour Or Not To Tour

This blog post is written by Rebecca Kochenderfer, co-founder of


There comes a time in every traveler’s life – the monumental event of all monumental events. You take the plunge, throw off your independence and sign up for a group tour. Old Me had a disdain for what I thought of as “those weak-minded sheep who can only travel if they have a Travel Yoda and a Luggage Sherpa.” New Me (a kinder, gentler, more open-minded Me) was lured in by the ridiculously low prices. And to be honest, I was tired and too lazy to plan out my own darn trip. So I took the leap and signed up for a Christmas Markets Tour through Gate1 Travel.

Since I was drawn in by the prices, let’s run the numbers and see if you really do get more for your money when you take a group tour.

- Airfare first. Gate1 charges $700-$800 for a round-trip ticket from Sacramento to Munich. (no kidding, that’s their real name) charges $1,200.

- Gate1 charges $720 for six hotel stays. charges $1,000 for those same hotels.

So far, tour travel is looking pretty good. I paid Gate1 $2,000 for airfare, six nights in a hotel, two day-tours, two dinners, bus transportation, and a guide (his name was Mykel, not Yoda, and he was awesome). If I had paid for all of that “a la carte”, I would have paid $2,300, not including the cost for the bus and the guide.

But would you do all that, a la carte? Traveling on your own, would you cram four cities, two day tours, and a partridge-in-a-pear-tree all into just six days? Plus there’s the group in group travel. I don’t have any illusions about myself. Sure, I’m a nice person. Smart. Caring. A fine friend. But I’m not a high-end extrovert. I feel a little self-conscious in groups and let’s face it, I’m not that cheery after 6:30 AM wake up calls day after day. Still, I am all about personal growth (and getting a lot for my money) so I went on the Christmas Markets Tour… and loved it.

rebecca tour picCold and tired, but really happy

The tour guide was wonderful and the people on the tour were nice. Best of all, I learned A LOT (Gate 1 guides are great at teaching you about the country you are in).

But I’m not sure I would tour it again. If life had a rewind button, I think I would do it differently. More is not always better when it comes to travel. Sometimes it’s better to slow down and smell the snowflakes.

If you’ve always wanted to see the Christmas Markets of Europe (and they are worth the crowds and the cold), this is what I would recommend:

1) No need to race from Munich to Nürnberg to Salzburg to Vienna (after a while the markets and the crowds all start to look the same). My advice is to make Vienna your home base and visit Salzburg from there (save Munich and Nurnberg  for another trip).

2) Instead of staying in a hotel, rent a roomy AirBNB apartment in Vienna’s city center. I found some beautiful places for $170 a night (the Vienna hotel room on our tour was so tiny we had to step over our luggage in order to get to the bed).

3) From Vienna, take a day tour to Salzburg one day and to Bratislava another day. You’ll find some excellent tours on I also recommend taking  a walking tour of Vienna and going to the Mozart and Hayden concert (even if you are not normally a classical music aficionado,  this concert is a winner. Everyone on the tour loved it).

I think a la carte travel gives you the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the convenience of the short tours without the grueling  “forced march” feel of a full-on tour. And it only costs $400 more ($1,200 for the airfare, $1,000 for six nights in an apartment, and $200 for the tours and concert through For a total of $2,400.) Best of all, no 6:30 AM wake up calls and you get to explore and play at your own pace.

Which brings us back to the big question – to tour or not to tour? If you want to visit as many places as possible in a short time (or if you’re going to a country that is harder to do a la carte — like India or China), then a group tour might be just the thing. But if you want to relax on your vacation (and not return home totally exhausted) then I encourage you to give a la carte travel a try. This way, instead of rushing your way through a vacation, you can relax and build a custom vacation that works for you.




Bookemon Product Review


Did you see that Bookemon is offering a FREEBIE FEBRUARY listing?  Check it out here. is a website where you (your kids) can create your/their own custom books—it’s a great way to add creativity, technology, and fun to any homeschool program. Just

  • Create a FREE account – credit card information is not requested (of course, they’re hoping at some point, you’ll want to purchase one of your creations, but it’s not necessary)
  • Upload pictures and type in desired text. You can start from scratch or use their templates
  • Save eBooks for FREE or order (and pay for) printed copies
  • E-mail your newly made books to friends, family, teachers, mentors, etc

Bookemon even has an area on their site specifically for educators–a secure spot for school projects. It can be found here. Regarding the Bookemon’s Educator Program:

  • It’s free to create your own edCenter, a secure, private online environment to make school (homeschool) books & school projects collaboratively
  • As a member, you receive special 10% discounts to purchase your own books (if you decide to do so)
  • You also receive up to a 40% discount when purchasing a Young Author Press package (only if desired—not necessary)
  • It’s easy to use management tools in the edCenter – to oversee student activities

What I especially like—

  • The Bookemon site and the bookPress app are free—something homeschoolers appreciate
  • Want to share your final Bookemon product? You can easily e-mail it to family and friends
  • The making app on iPad (bookPress ) lets you share your book or pages with your family and friends using Twitter or Facebook. Kids really like this option
  • Young Author Press lets young authors (K-12) publish their stories and writings in full color books with ISBN-13. Your kids can be recognized as published authors

I went onto the site, and quickly made a book using their template—it’s a short, cute book that includes pictures of my pets. The template was for 20 pages—I didn’t have that many pictures—it was easy to delete pages and make a much smaller book. It was also easy to experiment, and fix any mistakes (I made a few). I then e-mailed the book to myself and received the following e-mail from Bookemon—

My e-mail address has invited you to view this book with the following message:
“this is cool”

To read the book or purchase, use the book link below:
Read Book Online (it was linked, but I removed the link for this review)

To read the book on your iPad, install the bookPress app and click on the following link:
Read Book on iPad (again, I removed the link).

This activity was fun. I felt creative—even using their template.

This is a great way for your kids to share assignments/projects with you, their grandparents, and others. They’ll be proud of the end results. They’ll WANT to make books as part of a book report, state report, biography, etc. They’ll probably make birthday, holiday and sports books in their spare time. You might even find yourself using Bookemon time as a reward—as kids will want to be on it so much.

Fun. And fun learning is forever learning!

Bottle Bust! – from


frozen bottle


Bottle Bust!

This is a guest blog post written by Donna Lasinski from has a freebie listing in our FREEBIE FEBRUARY event – please check it out.

Cold temperatures and freezing water can play lots of nasty tricks. Have your kids ever wondered why sidewalks crack in the winter, or why that glass soda bottle you left in the garage exploded on a cold winter night? Freezing water expands as it changes from water to ice. Try this frozen liquid experiment to see just how much change happens.

Be safe! No one wants to clean out a freezer full of exploded soda and glass!

What You Need:

  • empty plastic soda bottle with a cap
  • water
  • a freezer or a cold winter night

What You Do:

  1. Fill the bottle up with water. Leave no air in the bottle.
  2. Screw the lid on tight.
  3. Put the bottle in the freezer or outdoors (if it is below freezing) overnight.

In the morning, your water bottle should be bulging on the sides. The expanded water had nowhere to go with the lid on tight so it pushed out the sides of the bottle.

The next time you see a cracked sidewalk or a pothole in the spring, your kids will understand the power of freezing water. Water that seeped into cracks in the cement and roads during a thaw, then froze again and expanded so forcefully that the cement cracked and the asphalt crumpled!

Donna Lasinski is a mother of 3 sons and the author of the Parent Guide to Summer and creator of ThinkStretch Summer Learning Program. also has a winter program to help prevent “brain freeze”.

Homeschool Inspired My Company


This is a guest blog post from Nessy Reading Spelling.  Did you see?  They have two listings in’s FREEBIE FEBRUARY event.

Learn more about Nessy and dyslexia

Any visitors that decide they would like to purchase Nessy Reading Spelling from the Nessy Store should quote ‘homeschool’ when asked to enter a coupon code to receive a 20% discount.

Homeschool Inspired My Company

There is a boy who hates school. Every Friday he has a spelling test and every Friday he gets zero out of 20 and every Friday he has to say his score aloud and is laughed at by the whole class. He is called ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’ and he believes it because even though he copies from his friend he can’t even do that properly.

That boy was me. I was lucky. My mom was a math teacher and realised something was wrong. She got me assessed, found out I had dyslexia and decided to teach me at home. School will never be an easy place for dyslexics but after a few years of intensive help at home I went back to school and I never looked back.

My mom realized that to make things stick you have to be inventive. You have to develop strategies. So that’s exactly what she did, she created a bunch of strategies to help me learn.

She had learned how to teach children with dyslexia and so she started a learning Center. After finishing college I joined her. It was incredible to see how quickly kids can learn once they are taught in the right way. Learning with games kept the children happy and motivated.

I realized what I had to do, that my passion was to help as many children with dyslexia as possible. With the internet you can reach everyone. Together we created Nessy – an online program for kids with reading disabilities like dyslexia.

“Nessy is much more than a game. It is a teaching program.”

The first strategy that we made into a Nessy video helps children understand syllables. You can’t imagine in your head what a syllable looks like. This makes it very hard for a dyslexic to remember. We made a character called Silly Bull. When a bull gets angry, before it will charge it paws the ground. Silly bull beats the ground to sound out the syllables. You can make this funny, the kids can act it out and because they can imagine a Silly Bull. They have a mental ‘hook’ that they can hang that memory on.


It wasn’t until much later that I realized what a huge commitment it is for a parent to home school. It is not an easy option but I can honestly say it turned my life around. Nessy wouldn’t be here today, helping kids with dyslexia, if I hadn’t been home schooled so here is a big thank you to all you home schooling parents! If you aren’t fully appreciated now then you will be when your kids grow up.



Mike Jones is the founder of Nessy Learning

Learn more about Nessy and dyslexia

Any visitors that decide they would like to purchase Nessy Reading Spelling from the Nessy Store should quote ‘homeschool’ when asked to enter a coupon code to receive a 20% discount.

Homeschooling Travel with Rebecca

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures,Travel — Tags: , — Rebecca Kochenderfer @ 4:00 am



Expensive, But Worth It

Written by Rebecca Kochenderfer, co-founder of


I think I may have a snow phobia. When I think about driving in the snow, I don’t envision a landscape of bucolic snow-covered meadows and sparkling snow drifts. No, I see cars sliding into each other and exploding into fiery balls of death. Or I see myself trapped in my car on the side of the road, slowly starving to death while I wait for rescue (I’d have to wait through winter, spring and summer before I starved to death, but in my Phobia I’m fit and thin. And fluent in five languages. But I digress).

I probably shouldn’t be proud of my ability to list “100 ways people die in the snow.” Still, a talent is a talent.

rebsnow         Undoubtedly caused by snow

My children don’t have my snow phobia. They think snowboarding is fun and safe — (ahhh, the blissful ignorance of youth) — and have been begging me for years to take them on a ski vacation. So this year their Christmas present was a snow vacation in Northstar Village  at Lake Tahoe, California.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can travel midweek and off-season when prices are lower. But this was our Christmas vacation so we had to suck it up and pay peak season prices. Supply & demand was not my friend. I can’t imagine a more expensive hobby. Skiing makes golf look like garage sale-ing. But I was determined to get over my snow phobia and I wanted the kids to have a White Christmas experience, so we robbed a bank and spent it all on one weekend. Shockingly, it was worth it.

The weather that weekend was sunny and clear so our drive did not involve any sliding-fireballs-of-death. Still, I was grateful to park in the condo parking garage and not have to drive again for the entire time we were there. One of the reasons I chose Northstar Village is because everything you need is within walking distance and the condos are ski-in/ski-out. Since we were throwing money to the wind this holiday, one smart thing we did was to rent the ski and snowboard supplies from a place that delivered the equipment right to our door. I thought this was going to be more expensive, but it cost the same as if we had rented the equipment in our home town and schlepped it up with us. Plus, the advantage of using a local ski rental place is that if anything happens to your equipment you have someone nearby who can fix it. Black Tie Ski Rentals came to our condo and fit the girls for all the snowboarding equipment they would need. No driving to a rental store or waiting in the super crowded I-shouldn’t-have-come-during-Christmas-vacation rental line at the resort. When one of my daughters wanted to change from snowboard to skis, they came out for free and made the switch. I was very impressed and highly recommend Black Tie Ski Rentals

Renting a condo in the village turned out to be worth it too. The girls were able to come and go and I was able to relax by the fireplace. I found the condo using (I have rented several times through VRBO and AirBNB and never had a bad experience). In the evenings, we walked down to one of the village restaurants and enjoyed a great meal while the girls told us about their crashes and near-crashes (This did not help my Snow Phobia).

All in all, I recommend taking the family on a ski resort vacation. Especially if you can go mid-week when it’s less expensive and less crowded. It turned out to be one of the best family vacations we’ve had and it helped this California girl to see that a person can go to the snow and still live to write about it.


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