31 December 2008

29 December 2008

Teaching the Book of Mormon

Over the last 4 years that I've been homeschooling I've come to the conclusion that it's been a good day in our homeschool if we have devotional and scripture reading time. Anything above and beyond that is exceptional. I came to this decision after considering this quote by Joseph Smith, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

If the Book of Mormon is so important I figured that it is imperitive that we learn all we can about the Book of Mormon. We start out each new year using the scripture story books produced by the church, Old Testament Stories, New Testament Stories, Book of Mormon Stories, and Doctrine and Covenants Stories. These are easy to read, include pictures and give us an overview of the book. Then we strive to dig deeper and learn more. I have discovered several great resources for teaching the Book of Mormon and using it as a learning tool in our homeschool.

Discover the Scriptures - Rochelle Keogh
I highly recommend this website. Rochelle Keogh has created a wonderful series of workbooks for students as young as beginning readers to use to learn and understand the Book of Mormon, and other LDS scriptures. Her workbook for beginners covers the Book of Mormon Stories book mentioned above. The workbooks for older readers get right into the scriptures. We have been using her materials for several years in our homeschooling, and they are easy to use as a family or independently.

Book of Mormon Studies - by Heather Martinson
Heather has put together a great study guide that kids can use on their own or could be used as an outline for family devotional time. She incorporates primary songs and instructions on reading the Book of Mormon. She offers this study guide for free.

Plain Book of Mormon - by TimothyWilson
This is a simplified version of the Book of Mormon written at an 8th to 9th grade reading level and incorporates many pictures. It is available as a free PDF download or for online viewing.

Storied Scriptures by Penny Gardner
Penny has provided a wonderful service by breaking the standard works down into manageable reading segments. My family read the Old Testament following the Storied Scriptures daily readings and we learned so much and enjoyed reading the Old Testament with kids ages 8 to 3. WOW!

Scripture Scouts by Roger and Melanie Hoffman, Marvin Payne, and Steven Kapp Perry
My kids love the Scripture Scouts. We own all the CD's and they are listened to over and over. I remember one night when my daughter about age 7, came to me in tears, not sad tears, but tears indicating that she had felt the Spirit testify to hear that what she was listening to on the Scripture Scout CD about the Savior was true. What a testimony building experience for her and for me.

Each episode of Scripture Scouts is about 30 minutes long, and they cover many topics. Once you fall in love with Scripture Scouts check out the AllAbout Family.

We can learn so much from studying the Book of Mormon each day and usually I learn from my kids.

27 December 2008

Scrapbooking Programs

I'm often asked what programs I use for scrapbooking, so here's a quick overview.

For years, since about 1997 I have used Microsoft's Picture It. I still use it for simple and quick little projects. It is simple to use - my 9 and 10 year old daughters have been using it for at least a year. However, Microsoft is no longer making this product. I have found two alternative products that are similar.

Creating Keepsakes Scrapbook Designer is a great product and I have found a great deal for you. DJ Inkers sells it for about $10. It is great for scrapbooking but you can also make cards, invitations, posters, and more. It comes with a lot of clip art, but allows you to also use clipart and more importantly scrapbooking elements from other sources.

Scrapbook Max is another great program that I have found. The wonderful thing about this program is you can download a trial version and use it for 1 month before buying it. The purchase price is fantastic, only $40 and it comes with a large selection of scrapbooking kits. You can purchase more kits from Scrapbook Max, or use kits found on any other scrapbooking website. They also have a wide range of products such as books, calendars, puzzles, etc that they can print and the prices look compatible with many other printing websites that I have found.

Adobe's Photoshop Elements is my program of choice (it has a higher learning curve) but you can do so much more. You have control over virtually every aspect of the page and although I have been using it on and off for years I understand only the most basic aspects of the program. This is a simplified version of Adobe's Photoshop that is a professional use program, but I couldn't tell you what the differences are. Adobe also offers a free trial version of Elements. Costco is currently selling it for $79.99 with a bonus Learn Digital Scrapbooking CD by Linda Sattgast. I've learned a lot from Linda's tutorials on her website The Scrapper's Guide.

There are many other programs that you can use effectively for digital scrapbooking. If you are interested in finding out if you already have one that you can use try Top Ten Reviews Website for a review of other scrapbooking programs.

Each program has it's strengths and weaknesses and you need to choose one that will work best with your scrapbooking style. Another important thing to remember is to save each page in two formats, the format that your program uses, and in a JPG for sharing.

Good Luck finding your scrapbooking style.

13 December 2008

On the first day of Christmas

My kids love to sing "The Twelve days of Christmas" and they especially love to anxiously await some mysterious stranger dropping gifts off on the doorstep for 12 days before Christmas. This miracle has happened at our house 2 0r 3 years. I can distinctly remember 2 years when life was going really rough and this lifted everyone's spirits so much.

This year Isaac is sharing the 12 days of Christmas with us - and I'm adding in a little bit of the history of the Christmas Symbols before the song. While looking up the meaning of the symbols I found out that it is another piece of history that can't be proven for absolute certainty, and some people want to "debunk" the religious symbols (is that surprising) of the song. (The Twelve Days of Christmas, Dennis Bratcher) The greatest part for me was this paragraph that seemed to sum up what I have been struggling to understand about symbols.

"However, on another level, this uncertainty should not prevent us from using the song in celebration of Christmas. Many of the symbols of Christianity were not originally religious, including even the present date of Christmas, but were appropriated from contemporary culture by the Christian Faith as vehicles of worship and proclamation. Perhaps, when all is said and done, historical accuracy is not really the point. Perhaps more important is that Christians can celebrate their rich heritage, and God's grace, through one more avenue this Christmas. Now, when they hear what they once thought was a secular "nonsense song," they will be reminded in one more way of the grace of God working in transforming ways in their lives and in our world. After all, is that not the meaning of Christmas anyway?"

Symbols only have meaning if we give them meaning. The alphabet is just 26 scribbles unless we have been taught that they have meaning. A kiss is just a kiss, or a thimble, unless we attach love and affection in its delivery. I love the symbols of Christmas, and I teach them to my children, just as I teach them to eat, to read, to write, to love and serve one another.

11 December 2008

Mess or Bliss

I walked into this room and my instinctive thought was - "What a mess!"

Then I sat down in the rocking chair, nursed my baby, listened to The Forgotten Carols CD, and had my husband turn of all the bright lights. As I sat there an relaxed I paid more attention to what I was looking at.

Isn't that a beautiful Christmas Tree that the kids decorated?

And here are the scriptures that we just finished reading before they went off to bed. Not only are we reading the Book of Mormon, but for Christmas we are following the advent calendar in the December 2008 Friend (as suggested, organized, and orchestrated by Rebecca).

Here is evidence that we went to Deseret Book to do our Secret Santa Christmas Shopping tonight. The kids willing spent their own money that they have been saving for several months to buy presents for each other, they weren't stingy either.

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

10 December 2008

Reading and the Book of Mormon

I read this essay by Greg Hill on Grant Von Harrison's research behind writing his book Teaching Children to Read Using the Book of Mormon when I was just getting started homeschooling. (You can by the book at BYU or preview it at LDS Literacy.org). This really helped to form some of my most basic beliefs about learning to read and its importance. As we continued to read from the scriptures as a family we can see the impact that it has on our kids education. (See this post on Teaching the Book of Mormon).

Since that time I've been interested everytime I find other books about teaching kids to read by actually using the scriptures. Here are the 3 books that I have found.

Teaching Children to Read Using the Book of Mormon - By Grant Von Harrison ( BYU or preview it at LDS Literacy.org)

Learning to Read using the Book of Mormon, by Camille Funk

Head Start with the Book of Mormon: Using the Scriptures to Teach Children Reading and Writing Skills by Vicki Lynn Rasmussen

I own all three of these books, I have used bits and pieces from each of them. If I could only buy one, I would go with the Head Start book, although I'd like to get the CD version of the 5 Volume Learning to Read Using the Book of Mormon so I could study it more.

I'm so glad that we have such a wide variety of wonderful books to read, but if the only book I could have was the Book of Mormon . . . what a treasure!

08 December 2008

Book of Mormon Stories

A few years ago I searched out some Book of Mormon story books for my kids. I wanted them each to have their own book, on a level appropriate for reading ability, to read and learn to understand and love the stories of the Book of Mormon. I was able to find a few books, but I didn't feel like their were a lot of choices. I've been on the look out for new books since I know have two new little kids. They can use the books of their siblings, but my kids are a little possessive, about "my book of Mormon story book." While sharing is an important concept, I think that these books in a small way represent the "oil in their lamp" the beginning of their testimonies.

Last year I noticed that a girl in my primary class had a Book of Mormon story book that I had not seen before. I finally took the time today at church, about the Book of Mormon stories book that their daughter had. It was one that I'd never run across before in my search of books for my kids. I came home and in my search on the Cedarfort website I found several books about the Book of Mormon that I never have seen before.

The young girl had this book, Jr. Book of Mormon. This one is for young children, ages 2 and up, it has a lot of illustrations, and short stories.

"Book of Mormon Stories for Little Children" is one that we already own, I bought it for Emily in my previous search. It only has a few pictures, and it appropriate for a beginning reader to read to themselves.

My First Book of Mormon Stories by Deanna Draper Buck is a board book for the youngest reader. We have really enjoyed ours, and other books in this series. Even though it is a board book it is quite large, and is wonderfully illustrated.

I found the Book of Mormon Reader Activity book by Joylnne Stapp several years ago when I began homeschooling my children. My daughter enjoyed reading it and doing the activities in the book. She has recently relocated her copy and is again reading the book and doing the activities in it again. I may have to buy a new copy for my other children so that they can do the activities as well.

Who's Your Hero? Vol. 1: Book of Mormon Stories Applied to Children by David Bowman is Isaac's favorite book for scripture reading time. This is different than scripture time. Scripture Time is in the evening with Dad, and we read from the Book of Mormon, Scripture Reading Time is part of our home school day, immediately following our devotional. The kids get about 15 minutes to read, something involving the scriptures. Isaac's book, volume 1 has stories about Nephi, Abinidi, and Ammon, and then it has a section where it shows the kids how they can be like these scripture hero's in their everyday life.

"And it Came to Pass" looks like a great book to read to understand the story line of the Book of Mormon, and to understand how if fits into the flow of history. I would love to be able to read this book. You can preview the first 22 pages of this book online, and what a great resource.

"The 2 Hour Book of Mormon" by Larry Anderson is supposed to be readable in 2 hours by a young reader and helps prepare them to read the Book of Mormon for the first time.

The LDS.org website now has the online Book of Mormon Stories online in several formats, mp3, pdf, html, and video. Even better, they also have the New Testament, Old Testament, and Doctrine and Covenants in the same formats. The LDS.org website also has the Scriptures available to read online, but even better, the computer can read them to you. My kids love to get online and listen to a chapter read outloud while they follow along as part of their scripture reading time.The church is continually providing us with wonderful resources in a variety of formats to teach our children.

This is the Book of Mormon that I bought for myself. It is a large and heavy book. We use it daily for our family scripture study, and ours has fallen apart. I took it down to a copy center and had the broken binding cut off and had it spiral bound in two sections. It is much easier for us to read it this way. They have done a wonderful job of adding definitions, footnotes, quotes, and pictures to the book. It makes it easy to answer questions and discuss what we are reading. Although I bought story books for my kids to read on their own I also feel that it is very important for them to hear and read the Book of Mormon in its original form daily.

01 December 2008

Hobbit - Hobbit - Hobbit

Kevin likes to say Hobbit, Hobbit, Hobbit, in the hopes that Daddy will read outloud to us again tonight. Unfortunately, tonight we had to tell him, not tonight, The Hobbit is over. We have really enjoyed our evenings lately as Brad has read outloud to the whole family. I really enjoyed have a few minutes (30 or more somenights) to sit quietly, to hold a baby, to work on a plastic canvas project, or to just close my eyes and listen.

We were trying to decide what book to read next. Brad is going to start reading "The Red Badge of Courage" so that he can attend a book group meeting with the Statesmen book group. While I was trying to find out if it would be an appropriate book to read aloud to the family I found this great article in the New York Times on the importance of reading out loud to you kids.

Hey Brad - another thing we've been doing right all along.

The books that are mentioned look like great ones to add to our collection.

Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children: Selections from Shakespeare, Twain, Dickens, O.Henry, London, Longfellow, Irving Aesop, Homer, Cervantes, Hawthorne, and More by William F. Russell

Hey! Listen to This: Stories to Read Aloud - by Jim Trelease


Published: November 13, 1984

'' READING to your children may be the single most powerful contribution that you, as a parent, can make toward their success in school,'' William F. Russell says.

The one common factor in all children who learned to read easily, he says, is not a high I.Q., not family income, not parents with college degrees. Rather, it is that those children had been read to regularly by their parents from whatever materials happened to be at hand - newspapers, road signs, even product labels.

Still, Dr. Russell, who holds a doctorate in education, prefers good literature, and he offers parents a choice in his new book, ''Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children'' (Crown Publishers, $13.95).

Reading aloud to children may be turning into a national movement. Two years ago, Jim Trelease, a newspaper reporter, artist and father, published ''The Read-Aloud Handbook'' (Penguin Books, $6.95). In an interview he said parents should begin by reading to their 6-month-old infants. By age 2, he added, being read to ought to be a daily activity, preferably before naptime and before going to sleep in the evening.

The prescriptions of Dr. Russell and Mr. Trelease overlap. Mr. Trelease urged that reading aloud be continued in school, from the first day, and at least through elementary school. Dr. Russell agrees but suggests extending the practice into early adolescence. He says it is a mistake for parents to stop reading aloud to their children as soon as they learn to read by themselves.

The complexity and vocabulary of a book that may scare an eighth- grader away may be readily understood when the child hears the work read aloud, Dr. Russell says. Children's first-grade primers, he points out, are written with a controlled vocabulary of only about 350 words, even though most first-graders actually have a ''listening vocabulary'' of almost 10,000 words. In other words, not reading real literature to them is an insult to their intelligence and dulls their appetite for books. Occasionally, Dr. Russell admits, he was tempted by difficult passages to simplify the original text, but as soon as he imagined the authors ''leering'' over his shoulder he left things intact.

Apart from intellectual benefits, much affection can be generated during family reading sessions, bringing children and parents together more effectively than merely watching television might.

In his selected classics, Dr. Russell begins his Level 1, ages 5 to 8, with Hans Christian Andersen's ''The Ugly Duckling'' and concludes with ''The Golden Touch,'' adapted from ''The Wonder Book'' by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Level 2, ages 8 to 11, begins with a selection from Mark Twain and includes an O. Henry story and parts of Romeo and Juliet. Level 3 starts with an excerpt from Stephen Crane's ''The Red Badge of Courage'' and moves to a selection of poems. Finally, he includes ''holiday favorites'' from Easter and Passover to ''A Christmas Carol.'' But in an interview Dr. Russell stressed that the book intends to show parents how to select their own candidates for reading aloud.

Mr. Trelease's book included a guide to more than 300 read-aloud suggestions. The search for materials may lead others to the Seedling Series, paperbacks published quarterly for children by Short Story International. It contains the unabridged works of contemporary writers from all over the world and is available by subscription (P.O. Box 405, Great Neck, N.Y. 11022; four issues for $12.) The series, which is in its fourth year and is aimed at ages 9 to 12, features stories by American and foreign writers.

''We have discovered,'' said Sam Tankel, the publisher, ''that children are fascinated by stories about children, particularly from other countries.''

Since children usually want their favorite stories read over and over again, Dr. Russell urges parents to pick readings that interest them as well. When the adult reader appears uninspired, the message, he warns, is that reading is boring.

Fathers should be as much involved as mothers, Dr. Russell says. Single parents should recruit adult readers of the opposite sex - grandparents, neighbors, friends. The male role, Dr. Russell stresses, is important because children often see reading as a feminine activity: most elementary schoolteachers are women. The male-female issue is especially important for poetry, which is often mistakenly viewed as not a ''manly'' pursuit.

Dr. Russell prefaces each selection with the approximate reading time. He considers it vital that reading sessions not be cut off in midstream because time has run out.

Reading aloud to children is making converts. In Chicago, Mayor Harold Washington plans to begin a media campaign early next year and to distribute information to public schools, libraries, churches and youth organizations and parents.

In Delaware, State Representative Kevin W. Free organized a statewide project in pediatric clinics. As part of the project, trained volunteers talk to parents in waiting rooms about the need to read to their children. The program also trains teen-agers to read aloud to their younger brothers and sisters.

In New York, the United Federation of Teachers supports Parents as Reading Partners, a program that encourages parents and children to read together at least 15 minutes a day.

In an afterword, Dr. Russell cautions: ''Don't think that a book must be either one to read aloud or one of your children's own silent reading. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having your children bring home a Dickens novel, let's say, from which you read aloud one chapter while they read another on their own.''

Reading aloud costs nothing except time. Its only flaw is that it favors children from homes where books are no strangers. That should underscore the importance of building daily reading into early childhood education and child-care programs for poor children.

Finally, reading aloud is not some new-fangled idea. Such readings, for adults as well as children, were part of the American household in the early days of the Republic.