Welcome to Teaching with TLC

Teaching with TLC began as an educational outreach in 2006 to help encourage parents and educators. I'm a mom of five and an educator who enjoys sharing creative and practical teaching tips. Actually, I'm a bit obsessed with making learning FUN! Here's how you can get started:
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Enjoy making learning FUN!

Making Poetry FUN

Poetry can be so much FUN! My kids and I enjoy reading poetry, and we recently dove into a poetry unit, which included learning more about figurative language and various types of poems.

Many picture books use lots of poetry so most children are already familiar with the basic couplets and quatrains and the simple AABB or ABAB patterns. I wanted to further stretch my children's knowledge of poetry and show them different styles of poetry, so I first brought out my favorite poetry books by Shel Silverstein from when I was a child. What a wonderful blast from the past!

 I also enjoyed using poetry books by Jack Prelutsky when I taught elementary school.

Here are a couple of my favorite poetry collections. The Big Book of Poetry is a good assortment of all styles and For Laughing Out Loud is just plain FUNNY!

I couldn't forget the classic poems, such as Mother Goose.

My kids and I took turns reading the books mentioned above, but it is refreshing to hear a different voice reading poems. Poetry Speaks to Children is one of the highest rated poetry books on CD that kids really enjoy.

After reading lots of poetry books, I had my sons choose two of their favorites to memorize and then recite them in front of our family. I did this as a child and still remember the poem I recited in fourth grade.

"Spaghetti, spaghetti, all over the place. Up to my elbows, up to my face......."

Good times! Anyone else remember memorizing poems?

To get their creative juices flowing, we began with making shape poems. Kids can spend days just creating different free verse poems or simple couplets using this site.

Here is one of Colton's poems.

I read aloud Words, Wit, and Wonder to my kids to help learn the fundamental tools of writing poems. It is written on a simplistic level that children can really understand.

Next, we reviewed figurative language so my boys can relate to why the poets use it in their writing. I HIGHLY recommend purchasing Poetry: A Step By Step guide to Writing Great Poems for the mid-upper elementary grades. I adapted it for my sixth and seventh graders and it was simply awesome!!!

My kids had matched the words and phrases to the correct type of figurative language. This was a terrific review activity to our study of figurative language last school year.

Now it was time to use our knowledge of poetry and begin writing poems. I reminded my boys that they are creating their own books that they can keep forever- something they will share with their younger siblings for years and even with their own children when they are older. Using this approach completely changes their perception towards their assignments, and they try to do their very best. They are not just completing assignments, they are creating masterpieces that will be treasured by others for many years.

Here are some examples of their poems.

Enjoy having FUN with poetry!

Grab some FREE Ebooks for yourself, friends, and family!

Hurry and grab some Ebooks for yourself and also gift them to friends and family without leaving your home and no money out of your pocket- Christmas shopping really can't get any better than this!

My blogging friend Shannon Long from Technology Rocks shared this post on how you can give an Ebook when it's on sale or free to anyone with an email account? Yes, I am for real!

{And you don't have to own a Kindle- you can download Kindle books to iPhonesAndroidsiPadsMacs and Pc's!}

But it even gets better folks...
Amazon will let you select when the Ebook will be gifted, which means you can purchase books on sale or that have gone FREE now and then give them for Christmas! Is that not totally cool?

So to celebrate the holidays, I am offering 3 FREE homeschool Ebooks valued at $27.85!

You can grab them for yourself or gift them to friends and family. This deal will only be effective from Dec 12- 16 so quickly make your list and check it twice and knock out some Christmas shopping while treating yourself, too.

This deal has expired but you can receive a 30% discount when you purchase all three books! Use this code TS6CZUBJ  and begin shopping HERE.

Make sure to follow Shannon's simple instructions on how to gift a book, so they will not even know that you got them for free- WOW!


Using Strengths to Guide Your Teaching

I heard an encouraging story today while attending Community Bible Study. It reminds me of how parents naturally want their children to excel in every area of academics and extra-curricular activities, but the reality is- God made each child differently for His purpose. He never intended for our children to excel in everything.

A Duck, Rabbit, Squirrel and an Eagle
from Charles Swindoll's "Insight For Living"

"Once upon a time, the animals decided they should do something meaningful to meet the problems of the new world. So they organized a school. 
They adopted an activity curriculum of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects. 
The duck was excellent at swimming; in fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying, and was very poor at running. Since he was slow in running, he had to drop swimming and stay after school to practice running. This caused his web feet to be badly worn, so that he was only average in swimming. But average was quite acceptable so nobody worried about that--except the duck. 
 The rabbit started at the top of his class in running, but developed a nervous twitch in his leg muscles because of so much make-up work in swimming.
The squirrel was excellent in climbing, but he encountered constant frustration in flying class because his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the treetop down. He developed "charlie horses" from overexertion, and so only got a C in climbing and a D in running. 
The eagle was a problem child and was severely disciplined for being a non-conformist. In climbing, he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his way to get there. 
A duck is a duck--and only a duck. It is built to swim, not to run or fly and certainly not to climb. A squirrel is a squirrel--and only that. To move it out of its forte, climbing, and then expect it to swim or fly will drive a squirrel nuts. (insert giggle from me) Eagles are beautiful creatures in the air but not in a foot race. The rabbit will win every time unless, of course, the eagle gets hungry. 
What is true of creatures in the forest is true of Christians in the family; both the family of believers and the family under your roof. God has not made us all the same. He never intended to. It was He who planned and designed the differences, unique capabilities, and variations. 
If God made you a duck--you're a duck, friend. Swim like mad, but don't get bent out of shape because you wobble when you run or flap instead of fly. Furthermore, if you're an eagle, stop expecting squirrels to soar, or rabbits to build the same kind of nests you do."
What is the message of the story?

Relax. Cultivate your children's capabilities. Maximize their strengths. Do not handicap their unique skills by spending too much time on making them average in everything. Help them create their own style, and appreciate your children for who God created them to be. Now back to the story- 
"Rabbits don't fly. Eagles don't swim. Ducks look funny trying to climb. Squirrels don't have feathers. Stop comparing. There's plenty of room in the forest."

Have FUN Creating Holiday Traditions

As you can see on my blog, I absolutely love celebrating holidays. I look forward to using these special times of the year as springboards for teaching since it makes learning so much FUN. I also like continuing our family traditions that can be traced back for generations.

I've never given much thought to the origins of most holiday traditions or symbols in America. I've heard the debates on why or why not families should participate in certain celebrations, and I try to be considerate of everyone's views.

Kirk Cameron is on a mission to reveal the truth about the holidays. He feels too many have been deceived for far too long. Watch this excellent interview.

Last night, my husband and I went to see "Saving Christmas," and I learned a lot about Christmas traditions. I hope many people will be able to experience freedom after viewing the movie.

Recently, I have been taking a Community Bible Study class. We've been digging deep into the Word and learning about 1 Corinthians. It reminds me a lot of the message of "Saving Christmas." Read what Paul says about being released from false teachings.
1 Corinthians 8:4-8 (NIV)- So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.
The meat was given as a sacrifice to the false gods and later sold in the marketplace. Paul recognized that he could eat the meat without sinning, even though others felt like it was tainted. Paul knew his one and only God created the meat and he was not bound by the Pagan laws because he did not believe in them

This study reaffirmed that I am free from the Pagan laws since I do not believe in them. It makes me sad that so many Christians feel like they are in bondage to certain false customs and traditions. More and more Christians are even going "dark" during certain times of the year and refusing to have no part in a holiday.

I choose to live each day in freedom for I know that only God created every single day of the year and I will give only Him the glory.
Psalm 118:24-"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
God wants us to be joyful and not hide from others. How can we be the light to the world if we are disassociating ourselves and going "dark?"

My study Bible states to be respectful of others and do not cause them to stumble, but we do not have to be bound by fear of offending rigid or legalistic Christians. I have learned that we are only slaves to Him (not to false Gods or the beliefs of others) and we can live freely to enjoy each and every day of the year.
1 Peter 2:15-16-"For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves."
Here are some of the reasons I've heard from fellow parents on why they did not celebrate certain holiday traditions.

I refuse to teach my child about fantasies.

The fact is children love fantasy. Look on a young child's bookshelf and you will find almost all fiction books with most falling into the fantasy genre. Children make-up imaginary scenes throughout the day. My daughter is constantly dressing up as a Disney princess or playing mom with her baby dolls. My youngest son enjoys acting like a superhero and pretends to fight the bad guys. Two of my other sons build imaginary cities with their Legos and on Minecraft. It's part of how a child's brain is wired. Eventually children will outgrow this, but until then, my family will enjoy sharing imaginative stories and having visits from a leprechaun, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and Santa.

I think most people would be surprised to learn how special days of the year that seem fictional can be traced back to real stories. From St. Patrick to St. Valentine, there were people who did great things for God's kingdom, including St. Nicholas. By the way, Santa was one tough dude! Not only was he a generous man who shared gifts with others, He was a defender of the faith. At the Council of Nicea, Saint Nicholas fought the heretic Arius who was spreading lies that Jesus was not in fact the son of God, but a mere man. Saint Nicholas’ actions produced the Nicene Creed – a statement of faith and belief in Jesus Christ in the Christian church.

I enjoy using Holiday Heroes to link the holidays to Biblical lessons.

In addition, I read these Christmas books and Easter books to my children every year as a tradition to connect the symbolism of the holidays. We also make crafts and enjoy treats to go along with each theme.

I like how Christianity Today states:
God made our imaginations and hardwired us to connect deeply with stories. Jesus himself appealed to people's imagination by telling parables—stories that communicated profound truths. Even if stories are fairy tales, and therefore not empirically true, they still communicate truth. Smart parents will use the Santa story to teach their children to be giving rather than demanding and to experience generosity and grace.
My children may resent me when they learn the truth.

It's ultimately a parent's decision on which traditions they would like to do with their family and exactly how they would like to implement them. They are free to decide to participate in the Elf on the Shelf craze, hang stockings for Santa to fill, or leave carrots for the reindeer. Parents can choose to be completely honest up front or work behind-the-scenes, but no matter what, it is all done in fun and out of love.

I've never worried about my children no longer trusting me when they learn the truth about who the tooth fairy really is. My oldest son was not upset with me when I broke the news to him but actually laughed. In fact, he became the tooth fairy a few times for his younger brothers.

When I was a child, my parents never had the talk with me about how they were working behind-the-scenes during Christmas. I was left to figure it all out on my own. Did I resent them and later need counseling to sort through my emotions? No. I thought it was super sweet how they spent so much time and effort in creating magical memories for their children. In fact, if I called my father right now and asked him if Santa is for real, he would still answer, "Of course he is."

My parents continue to have family traditions by hiding Easter eggs in their yard every year for the grandkids and even for the adults. Yes, all my siblings and our spouses (ages 30's-40's) run around his backyard to collect the eggs that are above eye-level (our kids get the ones that are lower). The adults are VERY competitive. Heels come off and women are dashing through the grass barefooted in sundresses. It is hysterical! Did I mention that my Dad puts money in the plastic eggs? It is quite a sight to see but certainly one of our favorite family Easter traditions.
Our homeschool group's Easter party at our church.
The Easter Bunny (aka my husband) making a visit to our Sunday school party.
By the way, my boys had no idea it was their Dad 
Do I care that Easter eggs are thought to be Pagan symbols? Not a bit. I focus on who created the eggs in the first place, not Pagans, but God. I choose to relate the eggs to wonderful memories of my family coloring eggs and going on hunts together. To my family, the eggs symbolize Christ breaking free from the tomb just as a chick breaks free from an egg. I also use eggs as teaching tools during Easter, such as using the Resurrection Eggs to retell the Easter story and plastic eggs for learning activities.

Most Kindergarten teachers have a leprechaun visit their classrooms while the children are not in the room. Children go all out in creating elaborate traps to catch the leprechaun and his pot of gold. The leprechaun will play some tricks on them and then he leaves them a treat, such as a cookie or cupcake. I never had students return years later to my classroom upset to learn that the leprechaun was not real, but they would comment on how fun it was and how they missed it.

On a side note, I believe God loves these silly traditions and also has a huge sense of humor. There is no other way to explain this true story that happened to my oldest son and I on St. Patrick's Day.

The Great Halloween Debate

This debate is very common in the Christian community. I've heard both sides and never felt convicted to stop participating. My family even volunteered in our church's fall festival that was held on Halloween. I have a hard time accepting that my daughter dressed up as Cinderella or my son as a Ninja Turtle is worshiping false Gods. Just like Paul, I do not believe in false Gods, so therefore, I am not bound by those laws, customs, or dates.

Now to make things more interesting with the Great Halloween Debate, what if it really did not begin with Pagans? Read this article to learn how Halloween might actually be traced back to the days of Noah.
Answers in Genesis also references Psalm 24:1 in the article to emphasize everything belongs to the Lord. Therefore, there is no reason to let Satan have Halloween. It was not his day in the first place!
This year my family went to Disney's Not-So-Spooky Halloween Party and we thoroughly enjoyed it. No guilt. Just pure family fun with lots of yummy candy.

I think Kirk Cameron would smile at my family creating our own traditions since he recently said Christians should be throwing the biggest Halloween party on the block.

Reinvent new meanings for old symbols and traditions.

Christians should be cautious about condemning practices as Pagan just because of their probable origins. Many American traditions and symbols that most Christians participate in and use have Pagan beginnings. They just don't realize it.
  • Funeral ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, and wedding rings have Pagan roots.
  • We still read our Bibles and pray on Thursday, which was originally a day dedicated to Thor (Thor's day). Other days of the week fall into this category, too.
  • The fish (Ichthys) people have on their bumpers of their cars has Pagan origins.
  • It seems that most popular symbols and traditions used in America for the holidays could be traced back to the Pagans. Evergreen Christmas trees, the giving of gifts, holly, stockings, yule logs, and mistletoe were all elements adopted from the ancient Pagan traditions. The Easter bunny, hunting eggs, coloring eggs, and even the word "Easter" is from Pagan roots. The act of dressing up in costumes, carving pumpkins, and going trick-or-treating is considered to be Pagan. Even Thanksgiving Day is debated to begin as Pagan before it was celebrated in America. The cornucopia and foods we typically eat on Thanksgiving, including turkey, were supposedly used in Pagan feasts.
Do you see how you could go on and on? It is exhausting. The bottom line is legalism robs your joy and is never-ending. The more you hide and choose not to create your own traditions out of fear of offending others and God, the less you can celebrate His blessings and be a blessing to others.

Here is my favorite quote from the movie "Saving Christmas."
"We need to make traditions of our own. We need to infuse old symbols with new meaning. We need to arrange our lives and our homes so that every single thing points to Jesus." ~Kirk Cameron
The Believer’s Freedom 

By His grace, we have been brought from the darkness and into the light. We are free in Christ. HERE are some wonderful verses that demonstrate your freedom, which you can use to make wise choices on how to celebrate your faith and create family traditions. Let's go back to the example of meat Paul used in 1 Corinthians. 
1 Corinthians 10:25-26- Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
 Corinthians 10:29-30- For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?  
I encourage you to stop listening to others' opinions about their personal convictions and pray to the one and only God and seek His wisdom.

Have fun creating holiday traditions with your loved ones,

Making Art History FUN

Every summer I like to spend one morning a week focused on art history. During the school year, we tend to be on a tight schedule, but the summer allows us to be more laid back and truly enjoy every minute of bringing art history to life.
If you have read my previous posts on art, you already know that my kids go crazy over art projects, so we do those continuously throughout the school year. But this post is on teaching art history, so this is how we do just that. :)
Beginning in second grade, we complete one module/workbook of the Beginning Drawing with Thomas Kinkade curriculum each summer. My children, including my little ones, enjoy watching the late Thomas Kinkade teach art concepts on the DVD and then they practice creating artwork in their workbooks using the concepts they learned about. Previous summers we've had an "Art Club" meet in our house with our close friends. We complete our art lesson together, eat lunch, and then jump into the pool and swim. My kids get very excited for art club!
TIP: If you only get one module from this set, it has to be Unit 4 which focuses mainly on Art History. I think it does an outstanding job of teaching on an elementary level. 

Now that my middle boys are graduated from the elementary grades, I drill my boys weekly on the names of several famous paintings and their creators using Usborne's Famous paintings cards. We focus on six paintings every week and by the end of summer, they will have mastered them all. We plan to have a contest between my two boys to see who knows them the fastest, and yes, there will be a prize!  Breaking up learning into small bits and then playing a game with what they have learned are two tricks to make learning fun.

We are also reading Usborne's Book of Famous Paintings this summer. We take our time with just a small section each week. I don't want my kids to feel like they are doing schoolwork over the summer, but they love it when I read to them so that is simply what I do.
When my children are in 8th grade, we begin God and the History of Art, which is an extensive art history curriculum. We continue to work on sections of that curriculum every summer throughout high school, and they earn an art history credit for high school. It is a terrific program, and I enjoy working alongside of them and learning, too.
Enjoy making art history FUN!

FUN Ways to Teach Prepositions

During the elementary years, I teach my kids a few parts of speech each school year and then we take time practicing what we've learned in our writing assignments. My kids are currently learning about prepositions, and of course, I am looking for ways to make it fun.☺

We read Under, Over, by the Clover: What Is a Preposition? by Brian Cleary

We watched Schoolhouse Rock's Busy Prepositions. 
As you may already know, I LOVE these classic songs.

I printed off this sheet of prepositions to use as a guide for a couple of weeks. I kept it in their school folders and we reviewed it every day. It is 70 of the most used prepositions.

Tip: One thing I have learned about teaching prepositions is that memorizing lists of them does not really help in the long run. When my oldest son was in the fourth grade, he memorized at least one hundred prepositions. We spent a lot of time working on this. However, he could not recall that list a few years later. (One benefit to homeschooling, I get to see what really lasts long-term.) So this time around with my other four children, I am focusing more on being able to identify them and using them to make their writing more descriptive. I will save the rote memorization exercises for other lessons, such as learning the presidents in order and the state capitals.
We discussed a simple trick- many (but not all) prepositions describe positions, such as "anywhere a mouse can go."  HERE is a super simple way to illustrate that point.

This activity was the perfect springboard to lead into a descriptive writing lesson. I had my boys write a  paragraph about an animal using 15 prepositions.

If you have very young children, you can begin to introduce prepositions through this basic activity that teaches the prepositions of place.

I printed off a few FREE worksheets from education.com to review prepositions.

Last, we visited this site, which has several preposition lessons kids can complete on-line.

My favorite lesson was Identify Prepositions. I thought it was also great typing practice.

My boys' top pick was the game Pirate Octopus on a Hunt

Enjoy making learning prepositions FUN,
You may also like these posts:
5 Simple Ways to Make Conjunctions FUN!
10 simple ways to make adjectives and adverbs FUN!

 Check out my book
101 Ways to Make Writing FUN!

FUN activities with plastic Easter eggs and jelly beans

Easter time provides several opportunities for hands-on learning activities. This week on FOX 4's Mom Squad, I share plenty of ways to use plastic Easter eggs and jelly beans to make learning FUN!

Watch the full segment to learn how to use these materials for reviewing these skills:
spelling words
solving math problems

CLICK HERE for a detailed post on jelly bean learning activities.
CLICK HERE for more ideas on how to teach statistics using Easter eggs and jelly beans.

Here are the links to the printables featured on the program:

Jelly Bean Patterns
Statistics (practice finding the mean, median, mode and range)
Graphing Jelly Beans (AWESOME Jelly Bean Unit)

Happy Easter to you and your family,
For more FUN Easter activities, click HERE