By Rachel Lower
I was twelve when my Grandmother gave me "Anne of Green Gables" by Lucy Maude Montgomery. It was summertime. As I opened up the novel to the first page, the idea to write down any words I do not know popped into my head. I could not put the book down. In the end I wanted to read more of the Anne series. In the end I also had a list of approximately thirty words that I did not know. I went to the dictionary and wrote down all the definitions. "I could do more with this", I said to myself. I took a yellow manilla folder and cut out a smaller version of the folder. I did that with a few of the folders. I merged them together into a small booklet. In alphabetical order, I wrote the words and definitions down on each page of my mini dictionary. I decorated the cover with pink and purple acrylic paints. Then I pasted in it a string of braided yarn for decor and to be used as a bookmark. It looked pretty nice! As a matter of fact, I still have it in storage somewhere! I will never forget the definition of "crony". Whether the end result is a mini dictionary or not, having your child write down and then find the definition of words he or she does not know is a great vocabulary builder.
Reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" was a wonderful experience. Remembering there was a movie based on the novel, the idea crossed my mind that I could compare and contrast the novel and the movie. I was surprised by some of the differences. Many books have been made into movies. My sixth grade teacher often had us watch the movie after we had finished reading the book. One book she did this with were "Where the Red Fern Grows". I liked the book better, but it was a treat to see the characters up on screen.
'Side dishes' are yummy. "Call me Ishmael." Researching whales is a great side dish to the novel, "Moby Dick". Pondering questions like "What makes a being a monster?" or writing a report about human kinds search for immortality are great side dishes to "Frankenstein". We can express in our own words the struggle between the good and evil natures of man while reading "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde". I am a big fan of merging language arts, history, science, etc., into similar topics at any given time. I find that it aids in making each book a more memorable experience.
The 'building blocks of a story' quiz, a basic in public schools, is handy in any case. This is where the student is given questions like, "What is the setting of this novel?", "What was this character thinking when...?", "Who were the main characters?". Of course, the finale is usually to give a summary of the whole story. It may not be original, but is does help a child learn.
Author based studies were also a favorite of mine. My all time favorite was 'the month of Dickens'. I read "David Copperfield" and "A Tale of Two Cities". I watched the play "Nicholas Nickleby". I saw the movie "Oliver Twist". I read the story and watched the video of "A Christmas Carol". I listened to "The Old Curiosity Shop" on tape. Alongside all of this I researched the life of Charles Dickens. Poe is next in line in my author based studies all time favorites.
Pretend is fun no matter how old you get. When children start "getting to old" for dolls and castles made from couch cushions, acting becomes a great way to keep that imagination going. When homeschooling, you have a limited amount of actors unless you get together with other homeschooling families or friends and family to put on a play. You can use a pre written script or write your own plays, making the plot up or basing it on a novel. You can make a cardboard stage and an unlimited amount of puppets and go right around the fact that there are only two or three actual performers! With all the new video technology you can film your own movie! Perhaps one project could be to find the climax of a certain novel and then make a video acting out that part of the story.
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