Tweens are at the perfect age for enjoying books of every type. There's an engaging book out there for even the most stubborn of tweens. Books for this age level (8 -12) should be interesting, as well as educational in some way. As a mother of tweens, we have gone through so many books - practically as quickly as we go through water. Here are five of what I feel are some of the best educational and engaging books for tweens.
Bubba Goes National by Jennifer Walker
Bubba Goes National is about a girl named Leslie and her horse. This book teaches kids not only about relationships with others, but also about caring for horses. There are many 'girl and her horse' stories, but both of my tweens agree there are none like Bubba Goes National. This engaging story will take kids on an exciting journey full of hopes, dreams, and inspiration. Sasha, age 11 says "Bubba Goes National is so good I would recommend it to all my friends. It was the best book I ever read."
Math Doesn't Suck by Danica McKellar
"This book proved that math really doesn't suck," said Amber, age 12. Before reading Math Doesn't Suck, Amber had always hated math - not anymore. It's great for kids in middle school who are still trying to understand that transition between basic math and the more difficult processes. Kids will learn tips and tricks that help them solve problems faster when doing homework and taking tests. They'll also gain insight and a deeper understanding of the hows and whys - but in a language that won't bore them.
Kiss My Math by Danica McKellar
Kiss My Math does the same thing as Math Doesn't Suck, but with pre-algebra in mind. Is your pre-teen struggling with pre-algebra lingo? Confused about what exactly exponents, variables, absolute values, and other such words mean in the world of math? Your tween won't just learn the definitions. This book will explain what to do, including real-life scenarios presented in an enjoyable way.
Girls Rule: A Very Special Book Created Especially for Girls by Ashley Rice
This is a great book to encourage self-esteem and the accomplishment of goals and dreams. Every girl is special and she should know it. Ashley Rice has done a good job at creating this story in which a young girl narrates her life experiences and how she gets through them. In this inspirational tale, girls learn that they have what it takes to make all their dreams come true
The Secret of Zoom by Lynne Jonell
The Secret of Zoom is about a young girl named Christina, who is sheltered from many things in life, as her father believes them to be dangerous. Her home consists of a mansion surrounded by an electric barbed wire fence on the outskirts of a forest. Deep within the forest is the science lab where her mother was apparently blown to pieces when Christina was just a baby. While trying to help a forbidden friend named Taft escape, they discover more than they may have ever cared to know or even suspect. This is an adventurous and engaging story that teaches kids how many things in life are not always as they seem.
Physical education is an integral part of the whole picture. Don't put it on the back burner when it comes to academics. In fact, physical activities may help boost student performance in other areas. Keep this in mind when developing your homeschooled tween's daily schedule and curriculum. This is one of the first things I learned when we started homeschooling years ago. Not only is keeping homeschooled tweens active a good idea for academic purposes, but it also helps encourage a healthy lifestyle overall. It also helps them expend any pent up energy and frustration, which can be a good thing for the whole family.
Exercise with your tween every day. This is extremely important in encouraging an active lifestyle. Whether it's family yoga, nature walks, bike riding, skating, playing basketball in the yard, or a workout routine, the family should include some form of exercise in the daily routine. It's easier for the tween to feel encouraged to participate when it is a part of the normal daily activities. Try to make it happen at around the same time every day. Switch up different activities for a more rounded physical education experience.
Get your homeschooled tween involved in athletics. Sports programs are available in most areas. These can be found with private leagues, organizations like the YMCA, and even with area schools. Homeschooled tweens have an advantage in that they can sometimes join either homeschool leagues or those with area schools if permitted. Churches can also have sports and recreational teams and programs. Not all areas will have leagues specifically for homeschoolers. But usually those with neighborhood organizations are all inclusive.
Take field trips often. Get out and enjoy your area and those surrounding it. Base the field trips on current lessons, as well as other things. The zoo, library, and museum are some of the obvious destinations. But also try nature reserves, wildlife reservations, railroads, the airport, historical buildings, monuments, and anything else interesting. If you're inventive and open-minded, you can find a field trip destination for every lesson every day if you want to. You may not choose to have daily field trips. But be sure your homeschooled tween does get out often and see the world - or at least the neighborhood.
Enroll your tween in dance classes. Many tweens love to dance. So this is a good way to get your homeschooled tween to enjoy being active. It also provides an extra way to get some social interaction. Even if dance is not really your tween's best talent, the classes may still be enjoyable. Let your tween choose the style. From ballet, to jazz, to modern, to hip-hop and more, any tween who is interested can find their style. If your tween is up to it, let him rotate between various styles for an even more interesting and rounded experience.
Encourage stretch breaks in between assignments. This is one of the easiest ways to keep your homeschooled tween active during the day. Make it a routine thing to get up and move around in between lessons. Movements may include dancing, stretching, jumping jacks, or other random actions. As long as your tween gets up and flexes, it's good. Try to make it fun so there isn't any protesting. The actual movement doesn't matter as much as the fact that your tween is not sitting in one place all day long.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
The subject of homework has long been a debate among parents and teachers. Some teachers believe it is essential, while some find other ways to add to the curriculum. There are parents like myself who feel it takes up valuable time. This time could otherwise be spent reading, playing, or learning in other ways. As a mom, homeschool teacher, and former public school parent, I've seen it from more than one side. I've also done research over the years, as well as asked opinions of teachers. My research and opinions below are accompanied by recent conversations with three teachers.
Homework vs Study Time
Besides what is being taught in class, kids may need or desire to do extra research on their own. They also may want to read unassigned books for the pure enjoyment of reading. However, when homework takes up a substantial amount of time, this may not be possible. The student may tire or run out of time before extracurricular activities or bedtime. Children should be free to explore and learn as much as possible and too much homework may hinder that process. My personal thought is that study time needs to be reevaluated and should be done freely versus being assigned. I expressed some of my thoughts on how to do that in another writeup: "Should Current Homework and Study Methods be Reevaluated?"
Ann W, a teacher and parent, shared the following with me:
"There are several negative effects of traditional homework assignments, especially upon elementary school children. In my experience as a parent and former public school teacher, I've seen both sides to the issue. If homework lacks substance or too much is assigned, children become increasingly frustrated and may develop a bad attitude toward school. In our own experience, homework took four hours of time to complete. Not only did this take away from our family time together, it also reduced the amount of time our child was able to devote to individual reading.
"Down time and actually having the time to read for pleasure can refresh and prepare a student for further learning. Excessive homework, such as writing 20 spelling words 25 times each by a child who can spell all the words correctly and has a fine motor disability, creates a stressful atmosphere and is a waste of precious time. That is just one of the reasons, among many, that we eventually chose to home school our daughter."
Benefits or Drawbacks?
This is the area where it seems the answer varies depending on who you ask. Not all teachers agree and not all parents agree. According to an article on Scholastic.com, there is not credible evidence to suggest that there is a tangible benefit from homework. In fact, in that same article, there is evidence of a no-homework policy working well for students. The argument given by one teacher is that homework is essentially the same as if an adult went to work and then came home and kept working for several more hours. Some may in fact do this, but why put so much pressure on anyone, especially children?
Then, there are those who argue there are indeed benefits. For instance, Sandra Peterson, a teacher, tutor, and home educator shared this with me:
"Especially in the subject of math, homework is, in my opinion, essential. Homework is one of the best day-to-day assessment tools a teacher can utilize. Daily homework can alert a teacher to comprehension problems early enough that the lesson can be re-taught. This is important in math since one concept builds upon another. If the student does not understand how to find factors, they may not understand how to reduce fractions or make equivalent fractions from two fractions with unlike denominators. Many students learn best by practicing skills in a lesson or by summarizing what they have learned in an essay. Not that homework is rote learning, but homework can provide one more opportunity to cement those concepts in the brain. Homework can also be utilized to allow the student to express his individuality, especially in the creative writing portion of the language arts curriculum."
When Can Kids be Kids?
Another argument against homework is that often kids are spending so much time on it, there is no time left for anything else. What about extracurricular activities? What about family time or just regular kid time? When my kids were in traditional school, by the time my oldest was finished with homework, she had no time to do anything but eat dinner and prepare for bed. Yes, learning is extremely important. But so is downtime, fun time, and fitness. All have benefits and all are necessary. If children are spending all their time on homework, where is the time for any of this?
High school teacher Amanda Herron told me what works for her students:
"I teach on a block schedule, instead of traditional, which means our students have four classes a day (instead of eight) and stay in one class for 90 minutes (instead of 55). I rarely, if ever, give homework because I feel that as an effective teacher I should cover what I need to in 90 minutes. Research does back up that daily practice of concepts helps with memory retention, but I feel that in 90 minutes my lessons should teach the concept and offer practice time. By doing traditional 'homework' assignments in class, the students have peer coaches and teachers to ask questions and get help. Especially at the high school level, few parents can help on homework assignments. Also, our students have such full, high-stress lives. At my school, we have a high teen parent rate, added to the necessity of after-school jobs for essentials like gas (and unfortunately for some of my students, family groceries due to the high-unemployment in our area). Colleges are looking for sports, extra-curriculars and community service. If every teacher assigns an additional 45 minutes of homework, our students (with only four teachers) would need an extra three hours in their schedules.
"The average schedule for one of my students:
7:00 a.m. ~ Bus stop.
7:40 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. ~ School day
3:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. ~ Sports (football, basketball, etc)
5:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. ~ after school job or baby sit children/siblings until parents get home from later-shift jobs
"There is no time in my students schedules for homework every night. They would not be finished until after 1:00a.m. At schools with traditional schedules (more classes meeting in a day) that could go longer. So, I'm not a fan. I get a better result from my students by keeping practice and project times in class and I have no problem doing this and still covering my state-mandated standards."
What is Being Taught in Class?
A final question that I struggle with often: "What's being taught in class?" If a child is learning for hours throughout the day, why is it necessary to then come home and repeat the process? Haven't they been learning all day already? As someone who has had children in public school and has educated them at home, I have seen things as both a parent and teacher. Whenever we are homeschooling, I have found the children complete more lessons in less time than when they attended traditional school. That's why I struggle so much in understanding why it's necessary to repeat lessons during a time that should be family time.
Because of homeschooling, the performance of most of my kids has increased. They sometimes complete two grade levels per subject every school year. This is without having extra work to complete at the end of the day. Because of this, I'm left to wonder why traditional schools need to assign extra work outside of class. Shouldn't the length of their school days compensate for that? I have the utmost respect for educators and believe most do have the students' best interests in mind. It's just something I have yet to understand, based on research and personal experience.
*Thanks to Amanda Herron, Sandra Peterson, and Ann W for your opinions.
**I originally published this content via Yahoo Contributor Network
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