Reading Challenge for 2012

Kerry Beck, Reading 6 Comments

This post includes 2 challenges.
One for 2012.
One for 2011 – to win my book, Becoming a Homeschool Pro

2011 Challenge

If you’d like to enter to win my book, all you have to do is leave a comment on my blog sharing your favorite book of 2011.  I’ll be picking a winner on Tuesday, January 3.  You can see my favorites of 2011 on the post below.

2012 Challenge

After I posted my favorite books of 2011, I read a comment from my friend, Paul Evans.  So far, he’s read 82 books this year.  WOW!!!  His goal next year is 104 (2/week)

I’ve read 41 books this year.  Will finish one more today/tomorrow to make it 42 (1/2 of Paul’s reading list).  I’m not sure I can make it to 100 next year, so I’m making my goal  manageable & public.  My goal is to read 52 books in 2012 – that’s 1 book each week. I think I can do it, even though I plan to start with Atlas Shrugged (big book, small print that I gave Steve last year).

Atlas Shrugged

Other books on my bedside table:

Brenda Warner biography

For Christmas, I gave this to my oldest daughter who is almost finished with it.  She says she can’t put it down. Read it all the way to Houston & back yesterday.

tim tebow biography

I gave this to my middle daughter and will have to wait until she is finished to read it.

18 Minutes Find Your Focus

Recommended by a friend

They say you are more likely to accomplish your goal if you make it public.  That’s why I’m posting it here, on twitter, and on facebook.

What is your reading goal for 2012? 

Feel free to post a comment below and let us know.


Thanksgiving: Pilgrim Book Unit

Holiday, Reading, thanksgiving No Comments

Another great Thanksgiving book as you use this Pilgrim Unit

Learn more about the Pilgrims and native people who were living in Plymouth during the first Thanksgiving. This link has a 7-unit lesson plan that you can use with the kids. During these lessons you will read “Three Young Pilgrims” and this is for kids in grades 3rd-8th. Click on book title to get 7 lessons for Thanksgiving.

Three Young Pilgrims

Young Readers Week Idea:

Keep track of your children’s reading with one of these charts.
Tracking Sheets


Homeschool Reading Primary Arts of Language Reading Package

Book & Curriculum Reviews, Reading No Comments

OK…I’m a week late, but I finally have some reviews of our new products.  They are perfect for your upcoming homeschooling year.

Homeschool reading is easy to teach with IEW’s new reading package called Primary Arts of Language. Jill Pike & Andrew Pudewa have come to the rescue of homeschool moms as they teach their children & students to read.

FREE Shipping on IEW’s Primary Arts of Language Reading Package.  Just click here

Excellence in Literature – Helpful Info

Reading No Comments

As you know I had Janice Campbell (of Excellence in Literature) as my guest on our Free Homeschool Webinars this past week.  Let me tell you…it was OUTSTANDING!  Janice gave some incredible information.

Unfortunately we did not have time to answer questions.  Janice has graciously agreed to write some answers to our attendees’ questions.  Here’s the first one…

Q: We have been using Tapestry of Grace for a year, but our literature discussions have been weak. Is there a way to use your Excellence in Literature books with Tapestry?

A: We have many families who use Excellence in Literature with Tapestry of Grace, as well as with Sonlight and Susan Wise Bauer’s materials. There are many ways to integrate the history and literature, but the two major options are:
  • Focus the curriculum around the history and choose the Excellence In Literature units that match the historic period you are studying, or . . .
  • Focus the curriculum around the  Excellence In Literature sequence and use the history resources to broaden and deepen the context.
Either way works, and you may choose which to pursue, based on the interests and gifts of your student. Whatever you choose, your literature discussion and writing assignments would come from Excellence In Literature, which would give the student a strong foundation in critical thinking and writing. If you do use both curricula, your student could probably do all the readings from both but only the Excellence In Literature writing, so they aren’t overwhelmed.

.Q:  Are Janice’s books available in digital format or ebooks?

.A:  Great Question. Yes, they area available in ebook and you can save some money buy purchasing them here:

Just choose the topic and scroll down to find the book/ebook you want.

If you invest in any of Janice Campbell’s resources by Saturday, June 25 (midnight), I will send you a FREE copy of my ebook, “Using Reading Journals with Classics”.
You can post a comment on this blog and we will send you the ebook on Monday, June 27.
Here’s the site you can find all of Janice’s resources. ENJOY!

What Should You Do During Summer Break?

Boys, Homeschooling, Reading 2 Comments


I realize that many homeschoolers have a year-round school.  For me, I enjoyed a break from “formal school” during the summer.  I figured if God took a break from his work, I should take a break also.

Does that mean we quit “schooling”?

Of course not!  We simply took a break from specific curriculum.  As far as I’m concerned, I am always educating my children.

But the question comes up, “What should we be doing during our summer break?”

My first response is reading!  At any & all ages!

When my children were young, we read every afternoon before they took a nap or had quiet time.  We also read before bedtime.

As they got older, they used their quiet time to read alone.  We continued to read in the evenings as a family.

Let me share some tips for Summer Reading.

1.  Set Summer Reading Goals
My kids liked  awards.  To earn their summer reading award, they had to read a certain number of books or a certain number of books.  They earned many of our library’s Summer Reading Prizes.

As a family, we had reading goals.  One year, I told them I would take them to Schlitterbahn (water park) if they achieved our family reading goals.  We had a blast that summer  – reading & swimming.

2.  Consistent Time to Read Each Day
I’ve already alluded to this.  We had quiet reading time in the afternoon.  This allowed my kids to read their books and it gave me some time alone.  Whenever you choose to read, stick to it, especially on days you are at home.

There will be days when you have special family events and you may miss that day’s reading time.  Just make it up over the next week.

3.  Choosing Books
Let your children choose the books they want to read this summer.  They will enjoy their reading much more if they are interested in the books. If you have a son who doesn’t want to read, let HIM choose the books.  He’ll be more likely to finish the book.

Of course, you have the final say on a book.  If it’s inappropriate for your child, you should suggest other books you know they would enjoy.

4.  Audio Books
If your kids are struggling, get some audio books from the library.  Let them listen to the books.  If they are able, let them follow along as they listen to the books.  This is also helpful for boys who aren’t interested in reading.

You can also listen to books in the car.  We’ve listened to several Henty books.  I recommend Jim Weiss and Jim Hodges.  Both provide excellent recordings.

As an added bonus…you’ll be learning history!

5.  Read Together
If it’s not already obvious, you should be reading aloud, in addition to your children reading individually.  Family reading time is a blessing!  Not only will you be able to read and enjoy classic books, you can also discuss the stories.

I hope these tips help as you continue to read this summer.  Reading is not just for the school year.  Reading is a lifetime activity that you can encourage year-round.

Saturday Review: Artsy Animals

Book & Curriculum Reviews, Reading No Comments

I’ve decided to make Saturdays my “review” day.  My plan is to post reviews of books or curricula to help you make wise decisions in what to purchase.  The first program is called Artsy Animals, by Sharon Jeffus.  It is a learn to read program that is so cool.  I wish it was around when my kids were learning to read.  Oh well…there’s still time for grandkids.

Oh and BTW, I do not make any money when you invest in Sharon’s program.  There may be curricula throughout the year that I sell (full disclosure that I may make money on some items, but not others).  Hope that’s okay.

To learn more or get your own copy of Artsy Animals, visit Sharon’s website:

How to Encourage Kids to Love Writing

Curriculum Connection, Homeschooling, Reading, Writing No Comments

This summer I’ve been posting reviews of our writing products as well as some articles about writing. This is an article that I wrote last summer that I thought you might find helpful.

Do you have children that complain about writing lessons? Last summer, I discovered (again) that giving my children a purpose for writing increases their motivation and willingness to fulfill their assignments. It is also a fantastic way to teach the process of writing format through publishing.

A few years ago, all three of my children wrote books which are now available for purchase. My son worked for an entire year studying about the jungle and choosing just the right animal or plant to include in his ABC Jungle Book. After making these choices, he wrote a paragraph about each one, using a writing stylistic checklist.

Of course, he didn’t work on his book for eight hours a day, every day for a year. After all, he’s just a kid! The amazing thing is that he remained motivated all year long. Because of his efforts, he was able to complete his book at the beginning of June.

Here’s how we kept our son motivated, saving us from nagging and arguing. First, we assigned him a writing topic that was interesting to him. He’s been fascinated by jungle plants and animals for years, and was happy to keep reading and learning more. Second, he was excited at the thought of writing his own book, one that he could sell to earn money for his efforts. Because he had a reason for writing, he remained motivated to complete the project.

Here is a review of one of our products, “Medieval History Based Writing”.

Other purposes for writing assignments may include sending a letter to a friend or relative, entering a writing contest, writing a letter to the newspaper editor, writing a summary of your science fair project, sharing a story about an event in your life, writing a ministry letter, or a myriad of other purposes. Do your children have a purpose for their writing?

Once you have given your child a purposeful writing assignment, help them to first put their ideas onto paper, and arrange those ideas in a cohesive, logical order. There’s a program on the market which, in my opinion (as a mother and former teacher) is the best. Check out Teaching Writing: Structure & Style, which excels in teaching your children how to write effectively for a range of reasons – letters, essays, stories, and more.

Use the process of writing format through publishing to add purpose to your child’s writing assignments. Remember, writing assignments don’t have to be about writing – they can, and should, be about a range of topics, preferably based on topics which you and your child are studying at the time. Writing is a skill, one that can be applied to any number of topics. Help your child to write with purpose by asking them to write on many topics, from dragons to trigonometry, summer vacations to science fairs. It makes all the difference in the world!

Copyright Kerry Beck, 2009
You have permission to reprint this article, as long as you don’t make any changes and include the bio below.

Kerry Beck specializes in helping homeschool moms and classroom teachers with elementary writing. Get her free mini-course on Teaching Writing Easily at right now.

Teaching Writing Skills: (Part III)

Curriculum Connection, Homeschooling, Reading, Writing No Comments

This summer I’ve been posting reviews of our writing products as well as some articles about writing. This is an article that I wrote last summer that I thought you might find helpful.

Writing is often a difficult subject to teach kids, but using this method can simplify it for you and your students. Using predictable books to teach writing also simplifies your efforts as a writing teacher. After you outline a simple story, follow the guidelines below.

Day 2
To begin, gather some blank paper, a pen or pencil, and the outline which you completed in part two. Encourage your child to tell the story again, using the outline to keep them on track.

For each line of the outline, have your child write a new sentence based on the keywords he chose. Remember, we are not trying to teach your child to recite the story verbatim. Your child will use his own words to retell the story, often making the tale even more interesting. Continue until you have a new sentence for each line of the outline.

If your children are very young, you may want to write the sentences as they dictate them. Once this is complete, check each sentence to make sure that spelling and punctuation are correct. Do not change the words or rewrite the sentences – let it be your child’s writing, in his own voice.

If you have older students who can edit their own work, have them correct their own spelling and punctuation on day three.

Here’s a video review of some of our writing products,
“Student Writing Intensive: A,B,& C Levels.”

Day 3
On the final day your child will copy his completed paragraph making any of your changes for spelling and punctuation. Of course, there are places you will see that need improving, but you can teach those concepts in a later lesson. This is an activity to help your students see they can write something on their own. They does not have to worry about “what” to write any more because you will give him a source text from which to start. You can repeat this activity as often as necessary. With practice, your child will improve his skills in outlining and writing.

You can perform this exercise using paragraphs or stories from a wide range of interests – dinosaurs, fairy tales, even subjects they are learning about in class.

This is a great method to teach writing to your students!

Copyright Kerry Beck, 2009
You have permission to reprint this article, as long as you don’t make any changes and include the bio below.

Kerry Beck enjoys helping homeschool moms and teachers with middle school writing. Check out Kerry’s free mini-course about Teaching Writing Easily at right now.

How Will You Teach Writing? (Part 2)

Curriculum Connection, Homeschooling, Reading, Writing No Comments

This summer I’ve been posting reviews of our writing products as well as some articles about writing. This is an article that I wrote last summer that I thought you might find helpful.

In part I of this series, I told you about Andrew Pudewa’s incredible system to teach students how to write. In his program, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, he teaches students how to write, not how to choose a topic.

There are a number of free writing lessons online that follow Mr. Pudewa’s program. You can start any time – today, the first week of school, over summer vacation. This is a great way to help older children who struggle with writing skills. To begin, find a short story that your child enjoys. For best results, your students should be using predictable books to teach writing.

Day 1 To begin, find a simple, one-page story. Aesop’s Fables are a perfect length, though you may choose any story to begin. Sit down with your child and read the story aloud. Once you are finished, create a “structure” or outline; this will help when you and your child write an outline of key words in the story. Your structure should look like this:






If you are an outline perfectionist, you might have a heart attack since there are no letters on my outline. The only person that will have a hard time with no letters is you. Children have no problem using an outline that has just numbers. In fact, they will find it easier to work with. There should a number for each sentence in the story.

Go back to the story, and re-read the first sentence. Ask your child to choose three key words from the sentence. These words will help him to put the story in his own words, which happens later in this exercise. Underline or circle these words, and then write them beside the “I”. Make sure you write them in order.

Here’s a video review of one of our writing products, “Elegant Essay.”

Choose another three keywords from the second sentence, and write them beside the “1″. It is possible to have fewer than three keywords, although there may not be more than three. Let your child choose which keywords are important to him. Remember, he does not have to remember all the details, just the highlights.

Keep going until you have keywords completed for each sentence in the story. Once they are complete, put the original story away. Using this written structure as a guide, have your child tell you the story once again. It is easier for children to verbalize what they read than it is for them to write it down. The first half of this writing lesson is now completed.

With older students, be sure to have them re-tell the paragraph to you. This may seem childish to you, but it is imperative to help with older kids’ thought pattern as he writes tomorrow.

Join us for the part three, which includes more free writing lessons online. Using the outline you created today, you will take the next step – teaching your children to write a story in their own words.

Copyright Kerry Beck, 2009
You have permission to reprint this article, as long as you don’t make any changes and include the bio below.

Kerry Beck encourages homeschool moms and classroom teachers with writing activities. Check out Kerry’s free mini-course on Teaching Writing Easily at today.

Teaching Writing Skills: Part I

Curriculum Connection, Homeschooling, Reading, Writing No Comments

This summer I’ve been posting reviews of our writing products as well as some articles about writing. This is an article that I wrote last summer that I thought you might find helpful.

When I first started homeschooling, I decided not to buy a Writing Curriculum! Why? Because all the programs I reviewed were writing activities I could do on my own. I taught fifth grade for six years and most homeschool writing programs were like my public school writing curriculum, teaching students “what to write”.

Then I discovered Andrew Pudewa’s Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). He has a terrific flagship product called Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. It is designed to teach students how to write, rather than focusing on choosing a topic. In the public school system, teachers and students brainstorm ideas together. Students select a topic and begin to write. Mr. Pudewa’s program, on the other hand, is designed so students learn how to write. It is an interesting approach, especially considering that most students agonize over selecting a topic.

Andrew’s approach to writing solves the “what to write about” problem by simply telling the students what to write about. His program spends more time teaching “structures” or outlines for a variety of writings, offering lesson plans for writing process. Depending on the type of writing and your purpose for writing, you can use different outlines to organize your thoughts.

Here’s a video review of one of our writing products, “Windows To The World”.

Teaching Writing goes beyond structure, teaching students how to develop their writing “style”; thus, the program name Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. Mr. Pudewa teaches students how to develop and vary their writing style. Students use strong action words and effective adjectives to create powerful sentences. Once students learn how to dress up their sentences, they learn various methods to open their sentences.

Join us for part two of this series, which includes a simple activity that you can do right now to improve your child’s writing skills. Whether you have a younger child, or an older student who is struggling to read and write, these tips will help your student to excel in writing.

Copyright Kerry Beck, 2009
You have permission to reprint this article, as long as you don’t make any changes and include the bio below.

Kerry Beck encourages homeschool moms and classroom teachers with writing lessons. Go get her free mini-course about Teaching Writing Easily at today.

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