We have added some fun items to our HSAP lending library directed toward helping students develop critical thinking skills. Among them are Mind Benders workbooks, developed by The Critical Thinking Co. Read the description of this series of workbooks, as taken from the company website, below:
"This is our best-selling deductive thinking puzzles series that develops the logic, reading comprehension, and mental organization skills vital to achieving higher grades and top test scores in all subjects. These award-winning, fun puzzles are also great for developing real-life, problem-solving skills!
Students learn to carefully analyze each Mind Benders® story and its clues, identifying logical associations between people, places, and things. The key is to make sure you get all the information out of each clue, by starting with the most obvious associations, then deducing the less obvious associations until everything finally fits together."
Let's take a look at the levels available in our very own lending library.
Mind Benders Verbal is a level intended for kindergarten through 2nd grade learners. The exercises in this level are designed to be read to the child, but a capable early reader could certainly read them independently.
Above are examples of the types of deductive reasoning questions that Mind Benders Verbal contains. Answers to all questions are provided at the back of this book.
Mind Benders Level 3 is intended for children in grades 3 - 6. As you can see in the photo below, the complexity of the deductive work increases significantly from the previous levels. Again, an answer key is provided.
Another book we have available is Mind Benders Level 5, which is designed for 7th through 12th grade students.
The activities in this level are presented in a similar format to previous levels, but with added complexity.
We have a few other offerings from the highly-respected Critical Thinking Company available in our lending library. Stop in during open library hours to take a look!
We have been busy adding many delightful student resources to the lending library this winter. It is so exciting to have high quality curriculum available for our HSAP children to use. But did you know, we have several new parent resources available as well? One area that we are trying to build up in the lending library is our selection of materials for families with struggling learners. If you have a child for whom "school" is not always easy, some of the items below might be worth checking out.
We have a new set of DVDs from Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP called the Struggling Learner Seminar Series. The individual DVDs in the set can be viewed in the above photo. These DVDs may offer valuable insight for parents who are trying to put their finger on a child's learning difficulty, or for those who have a child who has been diagnosed with a learning challenge and are looking for effective strategies for their child.
Another set that is new to our library is Dianne Craft's, Teaching the Right Brain Child DVD and guide. Take a look at the front (above) and back (below) of this set to decide if these items might be helpful to you.
Along with Diane Craft's DVDs and guides for parents, we have also acquired several of her student materials. Make plans to visit us soon, and look for all of these new tools in the Parent Resources area of our lending library.
The Ottumwa HSAP staff recently visited the Mid-Prairie HSAP in rural Kalona, Iowa. This HSAP is one of the largest homeschool support programs in our state, serving over 400 students! The Mid-Prairie staff and the lending library are rich resources for families. While we were visiting their facility, Heather, Missy, and I were able to expand our knowledge about a variety of curriculum options. One program that was completely new and intriguing to us was Beast Academy Math. Mid-Prairie HSAP participants are finding this math program to be wonderful, so we ordered a few of the Beast Academy Math books to share with our homeschool families in Ottumwa. We have 4th grade and 5th grade levels of this math curriculum now available in our own lending library for parents to explore. These are definitely not your ordinary math books!
Beast Academy offers math curriculum for grades 2 through 5 in a fun, colorful, graphic novel format. This unique visual approach to math is appealing to many children, as graphic novels have gained popularity in the areas of reading and online media. Each grade level of Beast Academy contains 4 math guides and 4 math practice books, providing for one year of math learning. Above, the first guide and practice book from the 4th grade set is pictured.
Take a look at the Table of Contents for the 4A guide book. Graphic novel characters are introduced at the beginning of this book and instructions for use are provided. The topics of study listed for book 4A are essentially 1/4 (one school quarter) of learning for the year. Beast Academy Math is considered a rigorous math program. Some families find that while all four books in a level could be completed in one school year, their students take a bit longer to complete them. Families who homeschool year-round might find this curriculum to be a good fit, for this reason.
Above is an example of the graphic novel illustrations that Beast Academy guide books offer. Students love this fun format.
Above and below are two sample pages from the Beast Academy 4A workbook. The concepts presented in Beast Academy Math are rigorous and require high-level thinking. Therefore, it is recommended that most students use the set of Beast Academy materials that is one grade level below their current math program.
To learn more about Beast Academy Math, visit https://beastacademy.com, or check out a variety of YouTube videos that review and explore this program. One such video can be viewed below. Visit the Ottumwa HSAP lending library to take advantage of this new math resource.
The Ottumwa Home School Assistance Program is excited to offer an Open House to the public on Thursday, February 21st! The Open House will take place from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. in our classroom and lending library at Douma Elementary. Douma is located at 307 W. Mary Street, and our homeschool classroom can be entered through the door that is seperate but directly east of the school's main entrance. This door is marked with a sign reading "Ottumwa Home School Assistance Program" for easy recognition. We would love to see many of our homeschool families attend, and we would be thrilled to have many new faces from the community take advantage of this event as well!
It's February, and the weather is snowy and cold. Schedules are growing increasingly busy with the wrap up of winter activities and the launch of spring happenings. Attending an evening open house may be something you struggle to find the margin or desire to do. Below are five reasons why attending the Ottumwa HSAP Open House is worth your time.
1. Several new curriculum resources are being added to the lending library! Open House is a great opportunity for you to explore some new core subject and elective offerings available to our families. We also have many new trade books for students to check out. Open House allows you to browse these materials and ask questions, as you think ahead to your curriculum needs for next year.
2. Open House is a time when you can make your voice heard. It's a time when you can share thoughts on homeschooling and resources you'd like to see made available through our program. As you look at materials we currently offer, we'd love to hear what curriculum works for you and what doesn't. We'd like to know what makes certain resources "doable" and others a challenge. Even if you are not currently a participant in our program, Open House is a time when we would love to hear your thoughts. We welcome families who participate in another area HSAP to visit and share what they value about their own quality program, as well as what they notice about ours. Input from Open House attendees is incredibly helpful as we continually work to make improvements in the services and resources we offer to families.
3. Open House is an opportunity to connect with other homeschoolers in our area. It is a time to touch base with other families who are on the home learning journey. It's amazing what encouragement and problem solving can result when homeschooling parents have an opportunity to share stories with each other. Open House lends itself well to these conversations.
4. Open House is a time to share your experience with a friend. Consider bringing someone from our community to Open House with you. This could be a family member, a coworker, an independent homeschooler you know, someone who homeschools through another HSAP, a community leader, that person who sometimes asks you what homeschooling is like...anyone, really! Our desire is to make as many people aware of our services as possible. Even though the Ottumwa HSAP is a district-funded program, many people do not know that we exist to serve homeschooling families in our area. We would love to have the support of our current families at Open House, but the intent of this event is largely to spread the word about our program to the far reaches of our community.
5. Your attendance provides incredible support and encouragement to the Ottumwa HSAP leadership! Heather, Missy, and I believe in the program we are working to provide for homeschool families. We desire to make the Ottumwa HSAP as rich and beneficial as we can. Your presence at Open House serves not only to provide us with feedback regarding your needs, but it also encourages us greatly. It spurs us on to know that our efforts to meet your needs are impactful. Thank you, in advance, for your support!
Handwriting practice is something that many families incorporate into their home learning, and for good reason! Learning to write legibly takes time and repetition. Proper letter formation is foundational to the development of writing skills. The Ottumwa Homeschool Assistance Program offers several books in the Read-Write-Now series. This series provides fine motor skills practice for students to improve their handwriting as well as their drawing abilities. The artistic element that Draw-Write-Now incorporates makes handwriting practice fun and exciting!
Each book in the Draw-Write-Now series provides drawing and writing practice focused on a particular theme. For example, Book 7 features animals of the world from tropical rainforests, northern forests, and forests down under.
Each book follows the same format, largely comprised of pages that teach a child how to draw a specific object or scene. A short paragraph is provided for the student to copy for handwriting practice. Often a question is asked to spark the student’s interest and further thoughts about the subject matter.
Additional learning and drawing activities are included in each book. Below is an example of an activity that teaches map skills and drawing.
Draw-Write-Now books offer additional pages to extend learning, both about the subject matter of the drawings and in art techniques. These extended learning offerings allow a homeschool parent to turn basic handwriting practice into learning in science, art, history, and more.
Draw-Write-Now books are a wonderful tool for homeschoolers of all kinds. If you consider yourself an unschooler, these books provide a tool for adding a little structure to learning that is student-guided/interest-based. If you are a more traditional homeschooler or follow another methodology for learning, Draw-Write-Now books can be a supplement that is fun and easy to use without disrupting your primary approach to instruction each day. These books are also great for keeping kids busy in times of waiting and transition during the homeschool day. Take a look at this wonderful series the next time you visit the lending library!
We are so fortunate to have an ever-growing lending library available to our HSAP families. Over the past few weeks many items have been ordered, and our shelves will soon be freshly filled with outstanding resources for both parents and students! The lending library offers so much more than just homeschooling curriculum. There are shelves and baskets full of books for families to read for pleasure.
We are in the process of adding both picture books and novels to our student selections. Among our current offerings are two book series worth checking out, especially for children who like fast-paced stories or graphic novels. These book series are fun reads, but they also reinforce learning in history. Let's explore Graphic Library history novels and You Choose history books.
Graphic Library history novels (pictured above) bring historical figures to life through a graphic, or comic-like, format. This genre has gained much popularity over the past few years. Graphic Library history novels bring events in history alive through their colorful illustrations and engaging dialogue. Another great feature of these novels is that they offer a glossary of important terms, as well a list of internet sites and additional reading suggestions to further learning. Students enjoy reading these books for pleasure, but they also can serve as a springboard for diving deeper into a historical time period.
You Choose books are another collection we offer in the lending library. Each book in this series is an "interactive history adventure" allowing the reader to choose the path the story takes as they read. These books are fun to read and reread, making different choices to alter the story each time. Like the Graphic Library history series, You Choose books are wonderful books to read for pleasure, learning along the way.
Take a look at several titles we have available for check out the next time you visit our lending library!
What a gift we have in books! What a privilege to live in a time and place where stories in print abound. Sometimes I walk into a library or bookstore, excited to be there but overwhelmed by the number of choices that lie before me. So many books, so little time. As a homeschool parent, I find this feeling of excitement and overwhelm also exists as I try to guide my daughter as a reader and as I select books to incorporate into her structured language arts instruction. There are countless great reads out there, but there is also a lot of mediocre material. How do we find books that are worthy of our time and that lend themselves well to deep thinking and long term impact? Sarah Mackenzie, in her book The Read-Aloud Family, helps us answer this question.
The Read Aloud Family is a book about "Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your Kids" and the focus is doing this through shared reading experiences. This books offers great insight and encouragement for families in this area, and it includes extensive book lists to guide parents in selecting quality stories. Sarah also offers tips for choosing good books when no book list is available to guide the decision, thus making her ideas applicable to most books we encounter. She proposes the "3 Question Test" for choosing a book to read aloud:
How to Choose a Book - The 3-Question Test
Flip open to the first few pages of an appealing book and read a few paragraphs. Now skip ahead (one-third or halfway through the book) and read a few more paragraphs. Then quickly answer these three questions:
#1 - IMAGES: Can you picture the scene in your mind’s eye? (You are looking for a story that you can see vividly in your own imagination.)
#2 - VOCABULARY: Do the word choices seem rich and varied? (Avoid books with overly simplified or “dumbed-down” language.)
#3 - CURIOSITY: Are you interested in finding out what happens next?
I love Sarah's 3 Question Test because it's easy to remember and easy to do with any book! Her process helps us to "not judge a book by it's cover" while at the same time, allowing us an efficient way to evaluate reading material.
Once you have selected a book to read to your children or for them to read independently, Sarah also offers some wonderful questions to help you dive deeply into conversation with your kids about their reading. What makes these questions great is that they can be asked of almost any book. You can find out more about these valuable ponderings in Chapter 11 of The Read-Aloud Family, titled "Ask Compelling Questions."
Ten GREAT Questions to Ask About Any Book/Story
#1 - What does the character want, and why can’t he or she have it?
#2 - Should he or she (character) have done that?
#3 - How is X like Y? Or how is X different from Y? (Compare characters)
#4 - Who is the most ___________ in this story?
#5 - What does the story or character remind you of?
#6 - What is the character most afraid of?
#7 - What would you change about the setting or main character if you were writing this book?
#8 - What surprised you most?
#9 - Which character most reminds you of yourself?
#10 - What is something that you don’t want to forget from this book (or from this chapter)?
The 3-Question Test and the ten questions that Sarah offers in The Read-Aloud Family are only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of valuable information available in her book. We will soon have a copy available for check-out in our lending library. Otherwise, consider purchasing your own here. This book is definitely one that I consider a must-read for every homeschooling parent. Additionally, Sarah Mackenzie offers wonderful content through her website, www.readaloudrevival.com and her podcast. Spend some time learning from Sarah's expertise today by visiting our lending library, ordering your very own copy, or checking out her online resources. You will be glad you did! -Jenn
“The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A good book is hard to find...not because there are no good books out there, but because there are so many books on the shelves these days! Every homeschooling parent wants their children to love learning through books. We want our kids to enjoy reading, and we want them to learn language skills, as well as values, as they enjoy a good story. But choosing a good story and determining how to use that story to develop a love of learning while sharpening skills can be a challenge. Total Language Plus offers book guides for upper elementary, middle school, and high school students that do just that. Total Language Plus book guides accompany well-known, well-written novels. These guides provide an opportunity for kids to not only read good writing and enjoy a quality story, but also to become critical thinkers, competent writers, and more. We offer several of these novels and Total Language Plus guides in our HSAP lending library, and we are able to order more of these titles with ease. Let's take a closer look at this literature-based language program.
Total Language Plus (TLP) is a language arts program that teaches reading comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar through classic literature selections. Titles are available for 3rd through 12th grade learners. A complete list of offerings by grade level can be found here. Total Language Plus essentially provides study guides to accompany well-respected novels, many of which are available through our lending library, the Ottumwa Public Library, or the Great Prairie AEA Media Center. The many guides available in our lending library, as consumables, are available for checkout, but they cannot be written in by students. A separate notebook for recording answers is suggested. The photo above features one of the high school-level offerings available in our lending library, The Call of the Wild, by Jack London.
A helpful aspect of the TLP study guides is that they provide a planning grid to guide your timeline of instruction. It is recommended that students complete one novel and guide per quarter. The planning grid offers a suggested way to do this, although families can pick and choose aspects of the study guide to complete or omit to fit their needs.
TLP study guides offer a large selection of suggested projects and extension questions to enrich learning for each unit/week. These projects and questions are engaging and provide opportunities for students to choose learning activities that suit their learning style well. They also offer flexibility for busy families to choose meaningful learning tasks that fit into their schedule.
Reading comprehension questions are provided for each chapter of the novel read.
Vocabulary instruction is provided for each unit as well. The above photo shows one type of vocabulary work included in each guide.
There is a spelling component to the TLP study guides at all levels, available to those who wish to continue spelling instruction or practice as part of their student's language arts learning.
Finally, TLP study guides offer a grammar piece. This does not provide in-depth grammar instruction, but it is a nice way to provide grammar work within the context of a novel study.
Make plans to visit the HSAP lending library, where you will find all of our Total Language Plus novels and guides in grade-level baskets located in the language arts section. In the meantime, you can learn more about these materials at the company website.
Science in the homeschool setting can be a wonderful subject to facilitate multi-age learning. Not only is it a time saver to do one science lesson for multiple students, it also provides an opportunity for them to investigate and problem solve together, ultimately strengthening their bond with each other. We are pleased to offer Master Books Elementary Science materials to meet the needs of the 3rd through 6th grade learners in your family. This program is hands-on, easy to use, designed to cover an entire year of science learning, and lends itself well to students of various ages/grade levels. Let’s take a closer look.
Master Books has created several sets of upper elementary science curriculum. The Science Starters sets include Physical and Earth Science, General Science and Astronomy, as well as Chemistry and Physics. Master Books also offers Elementary Anatomy and a Soil, Sea, and Sky set. Each curriculum set includes high-quality student learning texts, a student journal or worksheets, and provides hands-on learning using everyday, household supplies. Master Books sets also provide a teacher’s guide that contains a user-friendly lesson schedule, as well as quizzes and tests. There is enough material provided in each of Master Books' science offerings for a family to complete a 30-45 minute lesson two or three times per week, finishing the curriculum in one school year.
The photos above are taken from the "Forces & Motion" text, which is part of the Master Books Elementary Physical and Earth Science set. Most of the lessons in the Master Books sets follow a similar format as the one seen above, offering engaging material, a hands-on activity, an opportunity to "dig deeper," and follow-up questions.
The student journals and teacher's guides provided with Master Books sets are black and white books that are easy to use. Student journals and worksheets (top photo, above) provide a great space for children to record their learning. One of the positive aspects of this curriculum is that it is relatively affordable. Student journals can be purchased for less than $5 each here. This makes it possible for every student in a family to have their own journal without breaking the bank. The correlating teacher guides (bottom photo, above) offer objectives and notes to help parents guide their students, as well as the answers to each lesson's follow up questions.
Master Books sets provide scheduling and assessment pieces. A timeline for lessons and assessments is laid out for parents, although adjustments can certainly be made to accommodate individual families needs and desires. Quizzes and tests are offered at two levels. Level one is for younger learners and level two is for older students, making this science curriculum ideal for teaching multiple children in one homeschool family.
Make an appointment to visit our lending library, or stop by during open library hours to investigate Master Books science materials. We have a few sets available for check out, with more on the way!
Over the years many book series have been written that capture children's hearts and imaginations. The Magic Tree House books, written by Mary Pope Osborne, is one such series that has delighted young readers, especially those who are newly discovering their ability to read chapter books. Not only do these books captivate children, they also lend themselves well to extended learning that can help families accomplish home school learning goals. We are grateful to offer several books from this fictional adventure collection in our Ottumwa Home School Assistance Program lending library.
When you visit our lending library, you will find a tub on one of our carts that contains several Magic Tree House books. Mary Pope Osborne has written thirty titles (find the complete book list here) and we offer several of them for check out. It is our desire to continue adding books to our collection, as well.
The books in the Magic Tree House collection, which are suggested for children ages 6-9, are inspired by a variety of topics involving animals, forces of nature, historical time periods, and geographical locations. For this reason, they excite children and often spark their interest in the topic that each book is based upon. Magic Tree House books can be easily used to not only increase a child's reading skill and reading enjoyment, but also as a springboard for unit study learning or as a supplement to your regular science or history curriculum.
Mary Pope Osborne has made her books beneficial for children beyond simply reading her original series. She, along with members of her family, has created other companion books like the Merlin Missions (some of which we have available) and also her Magic Tree House Research Guides, which have recently been renamed Fact Trackers. In the photo above, you will see our lending library copy of Magic Tree House Book 4, Afternoons on the Amazon. Beside it is a copy of the Magic Tree House Research Guide/Fact Tracker titled Rain Forests. While we do not currently house any of the Research Guide/Fact Tracker books in our HSAP library, many of them are available for check out through the Ottumwa Public Library or the Great Prairia AEA Media Center.
The Research Guide/Fact Tracker books are nonfiction companion books that allow readers to explore content from the fictional Magic Tree House books at a deeper, factual level. Above is a photo of the Rain Forests Research Guide table of contents. An example of how the Magic Tree House books can be used for home school learning is that a child could read Afternoon on the Amazon as part of their primary reading instruction or for pleasure. A parent could then use the Rain Forest Research Guide/Fact Tracker as an extension for science and the study of rain forests or plants. In the lower elementary grades, using the Magic Tree House books and guides could provide the majority of structured reading, science, and/or social studies instruction. In the upper elementary grades, I would suggest only using these materials for pleasure reading or supplementation of a more structured reading, science, and/or social studies curriculum.
Make plans to visit our lending library to check out these great books! --Jenn
The Ottumwa Home School Assistance Program staff are continually striving to provide high quality resources and information to make your home school journey a rich and wonderful experience. This blog is designed to highlight and communicate with families about these resources.