Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources For Kids

Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources for Kids | Vicki-Arnold.com

Pen pals are a fun way for kids to practice writing skills. My kids have had a couple over the years and it is something they always enjoyed. It’s something I enjoyed as a kid, too. I remember one in particular that I traded a few letters with that lived in Spain.

How to Find a Pen Pal

You can find a pen pal a few different ways:

What to Write About

Depending on your comfort level, the sky is the limit. As a parent, I would caution children to not divulge TOO much information, particulars of regular habits like shopping at such and such every Tuesday or a special event before it happens. Writing about events afterwards allows you a chance to give more details without risking your safety.

Ask questions and then answer them yourself. “What do you like to do for fun? I like to read and ride my bike.”

Tell about something special that happened recently. Maybe you attended a wedding or someone you know had a baby that you got to visit.

Talk about the general area in which you live. Maybe there is a famous landmark near you that you have visited.

Ways to Make Pen Pal Writing Even More Fun

Write in Code

Create a key for your secret code and mail it separately. Then write each other in your very own secret spy code! You will need to assign a code mark for each letter of the alphabet, like A=5, B=9, C=22 or something.

Take Turns Writing a Story

Write the opening paragraph to a story and send it to your pen pal. Have them write the next paragraph and send it back to you. Keep adding to it until you feel it is finished.

Mail Something Unusual

You don’t have to send a letter in an envelope every time. Here are a few things you can mail through the postal service:

Get Creative With Your Envelopes

Try decorating your envelopes for some added fun. Try using washi tape, creative letteringuse your envelope as your canvas for some artwork, or don’t even bother with an envelope.

A Couple More Resources

I came across a couple other resources while writing this post that I thought I would pass along, too.

Writing That’s Fun for Kids

Writing That's Fun for Kids! | Vicki-Arnold.com

Writing isn’t something that comes naturally for all kids. For some kids, it is down right hard. Whether you have a kid who struggles with a writing disability or just doesn’t like to write, making it boring is never going to work. Even kids who like to write, don’t like to write boring stuff!

One of the things I’d like to work with my kids this year is to learn to like writing a bit more. I’ve had a mixture of one who struggled to write fluidly and one who can, but just doesn’t like to and I’d like to help them both. Writing is a great tool for communication and there are many professions that benefit from being able to write well.

Let’s try adding some fun to writing and see where that takes us!

Writing That’s Fun for Kids

Create Your Own Mad Libs

My kids LOVE mad libs. They love the silly stories that are produced. To make their own, have them write a simple story (1-2 paragraphs), but encourage them to use good descriptive sentences. You will want to double space your lines to make it easier to read. This is their mad lib story frame.

Now, go through the story and circle some nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns…you get the idea. Write what type of word it is (noun, verb, etc.) on the line below. Erase the circled word.

Have each child take a turn asking the other(s) for words to fill in the blanks. Read your silly story and laugh and laugh!

Journaling

Don’t roll your eyes, journaling can be FUN! This doesn’t have to be a soon forgotten “dear diary” affair. Try putting a twist on the journal:

  • Use story prompts. Giving a kid a blank page can be paralyzing to some, start them with a question or statement or two and see where they go.
  • Write a fictional journal. Have them write from the perspective of a favorite book or movie character or historical figure.
  • Head back to the future or jump into the past. Write from the perspective of themselves 10 years from now or 5 years ago.
  • Don’t go it alone. Write with them. Write notes or letters to each other and keep it as a top secret, between you and me thing. You might be surprised how well this works.

Get Biographical

Some kids like to talk about themselves, let them write their life’s story. You can make this a longer-term project by picking life events that happened and asking them to write about those individually. Then compile them in chronological order to create a memoir or autobiography.

If you have a kid that is interested in people, have them interview someone special to them and then write their biography. This could even be turned into a gift for the biographee.

Not ready for a longer length biography? Try creating a profile! Have them do them for friends and family or have them make up some characters. Encourage them to think about things like what the character would like or dislike, are they a generally happy or grumpy person. Encourage them to create details.

Writing doesn’t have to be boring. If you have a reluctant writer, try something new. Sometimes that is all it takes to light a passion aflame!

Free How to Draw Tutorials

40+ Free How to Draw Tutorials - People, animals, flowers, and more - Vicki-Arnold.com

Art is one of those subjects that seems to intimidate a lot of homeschool moms, that or they simply feel inadequate to teach. A hands-on art class is a fantastic tool, but if you can’t afford it or fit it into your schedule, the internet can certainly help.

One recommendation before jumping into the free tutorials. If you haven’t heard about See The Light art DVDs, those are a fantastic resource as well. I reviewed one of the classes previously, so you can read my review of the Pointillism class to get a better idea of what they are.

This post will be part of a series that I will put together over time. This post will focus on DRAWING tutorials. Look for more art tutorial round-ups soon-ish.

How to Draw Tutorials

How to Draw People

How to Draw Animals

How to Draw Flowers

How to Draw Other Objects

Story Prompts to Encourage Creative Writing

20 Prompts to Encourage Creative Writing for Kids - vicki-arnold.com

You can probably imaging that I like to write. I kind of love it, in fact, but I know not everyone does. Some kids are reluctant to write, they can’t seem to make a connection with what’s in their imagination to their hand to put it on paper. Some draw a blank when a blank piece of paper is put in front of them.

Some just think it is boring

That’s when a story prompt can be of help. Simple questions or statements that get their creative juices flowing. Here’s a list of story prompts to help the process along:

Story Prompts That Ask a Question

  • What would happen if you woke up suddenly with one super power?
  • How would you spend $1,000 dollars?
  • What would the perfect meal be?
  • Where would you travel if money and time weren’t a problem?
  • What fictional character would you like to live a day in their life?
  • What is your idea of the perfect day?
  • What holiday would you like to create?
  • How would you like to change the world?
  • Which would you rather be, rich and sad or poor and happy?
  • What time period would you like to live in?

Statement Story Prompts

  • I had never been so surprised in my life.
  • There was only one option if they wanted to find the buried treasure, they must…
  • Suddenly, everyone in the room jumped.
  • The best story I ever heard went like this.
  • If there was one thing I dreaded most in school, it would be…
  • He felt the wind in his hair as he rode along the trail.
  • My family always does this when we celebrate Thanksgiving.
  • The little dog scampered up the hill and what he saw made him run even faster.
  • My favorite thing to do in the whole wide world is…
  • If I could witness one event in history, I would pick…

Get creative and you can probably come up with some prompts that involve your child’s interests. Involve superheroes, animals, or family members and see what kind of creative story your young writer can come up with.

Facebook Resources for Homeschoolers

Facebook Resources for Homeschoolers| Vicki-Arnold.com

Facebook has three distinct sections that homeschoolers can use to their advantage: profiles, pages, and groups. A brief description:

  • Profiles – This is what you create when you sign up for Facebook, profiles are for people. You have to send a friend request to connect your profile with someone else’s or vice versa. You control the privacy settings that determine what others see.
  • Pages – These are public pages that are for businesses, public figures, blogs, etc. All you have to do to connect with pages is to click like. All info posted on a page is public, but it won’t all find its way into your news feed (more on that later).
  • Groups – Groups are where groups of users can gather to discuss common interests. Groups can be set up three ways. Open groups can be found in searches and anyone can see the posts. Closed group content can only be seen by members, but the group still shows up in searched and you can request to join. Secret groups are not found in searches and can not be linked to, members have to be added directly via email.

How Homeschoolers Can Use Facebook Profiles

This one is pretty basic, you can’t really do anything on Facebook unless you have a profile. It is a great way for people to stay connected as they go about their lives. Just be sure to go through the privacy settings to know exactly what you are sharing with the world.

Use your Facebook profile to:

  • connect with family and friends, near and far
  • join groups for encouragement, resources, and information
  • like and follow pages of businesses, blogs, and ministries you like and/or support

How Homeschoolers Can Use Facebook Pages

These can be great if you understand how they work. Just about every brand, blog, and business is on Facebook. If you have a favorite curriculum, blog, or anything else, just do a search for them.

Before you go all like happy and giddy to have all your favorites in one place, you should know how Facebook works. Only a portion of the posts that each page posts will show in your news feed. True story. Facebook uses a super secretive (and super frustrating to some, ahem, bloggers) algorithm to figure out what you want to see. The theory is that you don’t actually want to see EVERYTHING that a page posts, just the best.

In theory, this is great for you. In reality, you may miss a LOT that you actually want to see. The only way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to actually go to the page and scroll through their wall. This may be a pain, but it is truly the only way you will see it all.

The nice thing is you can actually go to your profile, scroll down, and you will find a section with all your “likes.” You can then click to see them all on one page. An easy way to find the ones you have liked so far.

Use your profile to like pages of:

How Homeschoolers Can Use Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are a lot of fun. You get to interact with people who share a common interest, find great resources through extra eyes on the world wide web, and be encouraged that you are not alone in your life circumstances.

You can set your settings to receive notifications whenever anyone posts in the group, when friends post in the group, or no notifications at all. Which one you choose will depend largely on the group. For example, a large, active group would overwhelm our notifications if you set it to receive them when anyone posted. However, a smaller group that is more specific in its focus may be one you want to receive them all so you do not miss anything, particularly if it is a long time between postings.

My favorite homeschool related Facebook groups:

All you have to do to find great resources on Facebook is to search them out. Ask friends for their recommendations or start with the ones listed here, and then explore. As you go, Facebook will give you recommendations based on your interests.

Just remember that Facebook is a tool for you to use, don’t let it rule and ruin your day!

Homeschool Resources on Pinterest – Organized by Subject

Homeschool Resources on Pinterest - Over 75 boards organized by subject! vicki-arnold.com

It’s no secret. I love Pinterest.

But before we get started with this post, I want to say this: if you are struggling with comparison or guilt over things you see on Pinterest or blogs, please read the post I wrote just for you. If you are wondering what Pinterest has to do with homeschooling, please read this post.

Pinterest is such a great tool.

Think of it like your bookmarks folder, but 100 times better. But I’ve already covered that so let’s get down to some great resources.

Linked below are Pinterest boards organized by subject. I hope you find just what you are looking for!

Homeschool Resources on Pinterest

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Homeschool :: Writing on Pinterest.

 

Language Arts

General Language Arts

Phonics & Reading

Literature

Spelling & Vocabulary

Writing & Grammar

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Homeschool :: Geography on Pinterest.

Social Studies

General Social Studies Boards

History

Geography

Government & Economics

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Homeschool :: Science on Pinterest.

 

Science

General Science & Experiments

Physics

Earth & Space Science

Biology

Chemistry

Nature Study

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Homeschool :: Math on Pinterest.

Math

General Math Resources

Early Math

Elementary Math

Higher Level Math

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Homeschool :: Art on Pinterest.

Fine Arts

Art

Music

 

Raising Independent Learners

Raising Independent Learners - vicki-arnold.com

One of the most important goals we have in our homeschool is to raise independent learners. I will not be there to hold their hands through everything their whole life. This is why my educational philosophy lies heavily in the “teach them how to think, not what to think” category.

We are in the throes of raising our kids. I don’t have packaged success stories for you, but what I do have is a game plan and some theories. That’s what I’m sharing today, how we are planning to raise independent learners.

4 Thoughts on Raising Independent Learners

Teaching vs. Doing Things For Them

Have you heard the term helicopter parent? This is the type of parent who is constantly hovering over their child to “keep them safe” or to “help”. The problem is, this kills a child’s self-confidence. The parent is effectively communicating, “I don’t think you can handle this” to their child.

Our goal is to teach them the things they need to know and then let them actually DO them. We aim to give them the tools, resources, and confidence to try and succeed or fail. We WANT them to learn the natural consequences to their actions, good and bad. Big and small.

This can be hard to walk out because my natural instinct is that I don’t want anything bad happening to my baby! But it is vitally important that they learn that they can try things and that we will be there when they fail and to celebrate with them when they succeed.

One way this worked out in our life was with piano lessons. In the beginning, I would remind them to practice a couple times a week. Then I dropped off my reminders and let them take ownership of that. One child wrote it down in her planner and did it (almost) daily.

Another did not and ended up “forgetting” to practice each week. This lead to a slowing of progress that rather frustrated that kid. When we had a discussion about this, the lightbulb clicked that it was his responsibility and he never complained about the slow lessons again. He also didn’t practice very often, but his progress returned when he took ownership of the situation.

Using Student Planners

This is a relatively new one for us. We started using a student planner for my oldest two students last year (4th & 5th grade). We started with the Ultimate Student Planner, but my oldest has moved to the Student Planner that matches my Well-Planned Day family planner this year.

The way we currently use our planners:

  • I write down our lessons in my planner. I include all three students work for all subjects. I did this for the full semester this year. Not sure what I will do moving forward.
  • Every Sunday night or Monday morning, my two oldest take their planners and then copy their week’s independent work into their planner.
  • Through the week, they are to use their planner to complete their independent work before 3:00 p.m. each day. They are not allowed to use my planner each day.
  • I check their planners periodically and make suggestions.

My goal is to eventually hand off subjects and have them plan out how they complete the lessons. For example, next semester I will probably give my oldest her science book, tell her what she has to cover in the semester and let her plan out how she completes it.

Encouraging God-Given Talents

My children will also have increasing input into what they learn about within the subjects. I want to allow the Holy Spirit to guide my children in the path that God has laid for them. Not dictate my own plans.

I hope to give them the tools, resources, and confidence to do this. God has given each one of them special talents and giftings for a purpose. I want to encourage them to follow His guidance to find that purpose.

Prayer

Truthfully, saying I want to raise independent learners is kind of a lie. I do want them to not be dependent on me for everything, but what I ultimately want is for them to be fully dependent upon God. He is the only one that will be there for them every single moment of their lives.

I pray that they will know that to their core. That they will trust Him and seek His guidance in every thing they do. I pray that my life’s example can give them some glimmer of that. And then I rejoice and praise Him for His infinite and merciful grace.

Where to Buy Homeschool Curriculum

Where to Buy Homeschool Curriculum | Vicki-Arnold.com

One of the most frequently asked questions I get when people tell me they are considering homeschooling is “Where do you buy curriculum?” or “What curriculum do you use?” And I get it. I was rather unaware of what was available when I first started.

Thankfully the world of homeschool curriculum has improved greatly in the time since my husband was homeschooled. My mother-in-law had to get quite creative when sourcing curriculum in the 80’s. Now, there are so many choices, it can make your head spin.

One of the best things to do is to go to a homeschool convention. The curriculum/exhibition hall is a great place to explore the many options available. If you don’t want to wait until convention season or the thought of a crowd makes you anxious, fret not. There are many other places to find curriculum.

Typical Sources for Homeschool Curriculum

What I consider a typical source are direct from the publisher or places that specialized in homeschool curriculum (or have a section dedicated to the niche).

Publisher Direct Sources

These are places you would buy a single subject or maybe a couple subjects as you piece your own curriculum together. This is no where near an exhaustive list. There are so many different curriculums, it literally makes my head spin sometimes. Ok, so not literally, but you get the point.

This is just a sampling of the ones I know of and some my fellow homeschool blogging friends shared with me to help round things out.

Box Curriculum Sources

These sources sell “complete” curriculums. Some cover every single subject and some may leave off one or two for you to place your students at their own level. Typically those are meant to teach multiple grade levels for subjects like history and then leave out math so your students can work individually as needed.

Homeschool Specialty Stores

Other Sources With Homeschool Selections

Unusual Sources for Homeschool Curriculum

Not all of my homeschool curriculum comes from your typical homeschool sources. I have found curriculum at the following places, too:

  • Ollie’s – I’ve sort of fallen in love with this discount chain. We have two relatively close to us and I like to stop in when I can. I usually check out their book selection (which is huge) and then look for organic snacks. In the book section, I have found math workbooks, puzzle books, and books for literature.
  • Goodwill – I am not in these very often, but love when it happens to fall on half-price books or toys days. I have found lots of books for history, literature, and even science. My favorite find though was probably the set of games that I picked up to go with some history lessons.
  • Dollar Tree – This is a great place to find homeschool supplies and even curriculum. I have found workbooks, books, and items for sensory bins.
  • Costco – I’ve been in love with Costco for a long time. There is almost always workbooks on their book tables. I have also picked up nice maps and saw nice globes there this back-to-school season.
  • Half-Priced Books – My favorite location even has a homeschool section now (and it seems to grow each time I am in). My favorite though is the clearance section. I always start there because sometimes I will find a copy of a book that is still on the regular shelves for half off, marked down to $2 simply because it had been there too long.
  • Yard Sales – This one is kind of rare for me, but I have seen homeschool curriculum at yard sales.

Keep your eyes open and you never know where you will come across homeschool curriculum. You might just save a bunch of money, too!