Finding Your Child’s Reading “ON” Button

Finding Your Child's Reading "ON" Button | RaisingArrows.netA lot of homeschool parents find themselves stumped by teaching their child to read.  Often, they will get through all the phonics lessons in a choice curriculum, only to realize their child still doesn’t read fluently.  Sometimes a child does quite well with learning to read, but fails to find enjoyment in reading anything they don’t have to.

The fact of the matter is this happens even in public and parochial schooling as well.  You’ve probably heard of the Accelerated Reader Program widely used in public schools to encourage students to achieve higher reading levels via monitoring software and incentives.  While this program can be helpful, it misses the heart of why we teach reading, and often causes more problems by encouraging kids to avoid books that are not AR approved because they will not receive “points” for those books.

The key to reading success is finding your child’s reading “ON” button.  This happens when everything you have taught them clicks and their reading begins to soar.  But you might be a little stumped about how to find that button and flip the switch.  Let me share with how you can guide your child toward fluent and voracious reading with a few simple tactics you can start implementing today.

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Study your child

Be a student of your child

First and foremost, you must know your child.  In particular, you need to know what subjects interest them.  This is easy to see in some children, but harder to figure out in others.

For instance, my 9 year loves all things domestic.  She’s a fan of cooking, hosting parties, keeping house, and is especially drawn to frontier living.  I know she’ll enjoy books like the Little House on the Prairie series or Life with Lilly series.

But what about my son who would prefer to fill his days with airsofting and hunting?  Currently, he is reading hunting magazines and Army field manuals, but we originally found his “ON” button via books about World War II.  He is looking for books that offer strategy and intrigue.  He is looking for books that are rarely found in the children’s section of the local library.  We had to think outside the box with him, and I am certain the AR program would not have met his reading needs in a useful way.

Finding Your Child's Reading "ON" Button |

Be purposeful in choosing reading material for your home

Once you begin to study and know your child, look for ways to bring purposeful reading material into your home.  Don’t limit yourself to the exact interest your child has, but rather dig deeper into the WHY.

Suppose you have a child who seems to prefer playing video games to just about any other activity.  Consider the games that are his favorites.  Why are they favorites?  Do they involve cars?  Consider piquing his interest with books about cars.  Maybe he likes games that involve treasure hunting.  Look into archeology books or books about pirates.

Be purposeful about the books you choose and where you choose to keep them in your home.  You want to spark imagination and light a fire that motivates your child to hunger for more information.

And don’t forget magazines, ebooks, and blogs as useful ways to get your child reading!  {You can check out my son’s airsoft blog HERE!}


Visit the library and look for specific topics

Don’t forget to utilize your local library.  Go to the library with purpose.  It is not uncommon for our children to head to the library with topics in mind.  One son really enjoys learning about knights.  We look specifically for books on knights.  And remember my son who enjoys airsofting?  He spends most of his time in the adult non-fiction section, looking for books on battles and military tactics.

Don’t limit yourself to the children’s section of the library.  In fact, I’ve been rather disappointed in the teen section of our local library and prefer my older children look in the adult section of the library for books that are meatier.


Don’t be afraid to start with twaddle
{but don’t stay there}

Some people will tell you to avoid twaddle at all costs, but if you have a struggling reader you may need to start with the easy stuff and work your way up.  A comic book here and there may be just what your child needs to get them interested in reading.  My only caution would be to avoid feeding an appetite for “easy” reading.  You want your child’s reading abilities to grow.

Finding Your Child's Reading "ON" Button

Now, what do you do with all these books you’ve acquired that are supposed to lead your child to proficient reading?  Here are some quick tips and ideas to get you started on the right path:

  • Leave books laying out in obvious places.
  • Have your child read aloud to you in small increments, building up as you go.
  • Have your child read a page and draw a picture, act out a scene, build something from it with blocks or Legos.  Get their mind and body working together and learning from the material.
  • Have a movie night after a book that has a corresponding movie has been read.  Ask them about differences and if they liked the book or movie better (you might be surprised!).
  • Explore things in books or magazines further.  Is there a website listed?  Check it out!  Want to know more about how something was made?  Look it up!  Encourage your child to keep digging for information based on what they learned in the reading material.

Ultimately, you are looking to foster your child’s drive to learn.  Reading is still one of the best ways to gather information and a skill every child needs to acquire and become adept at.  Be your child’s best encourager and keep looking for that reading “ON” button!


Want to know more about the Life with Lily series my 9 year old daughter enjoys?
Click the button below:

Life with Lily

Our Art & Artist Homeschool Time {+ HUGE Giveaway!}

Art & Artist Time

When we started Art & Artist time as our Special School, there was no doubt in my mind as to what I would be using.
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See the Light
We own the entire Art Class library from See the Light, but when we went through it 3 years ago, my Middles were Littles and not as capable as they are now.  My 8 year old has been begging to do them again, and my Bigs could use a refresher, so I decided to start there.  (See the Light also has actual Artist-inspired DVDs called Art Projects that I plan to use next.)

So, let me give you what a typical Art & Artist Time looks like.

art around the table

I serve a snack at the dining room table.  (It’s not good to do Art on an empty tummy!)  While the kids eat, I gather the supplies we need.  We clear the table and pull out the laptop, I put in the DVD while everyone finds a seat and their supplies.  We watch the video and follow along.  I pause as needed to let everyone catch up.

A note on supplies:
Most of See the Light’s lessons do not require special supplies.  I do buy pencils, drawing paper and kneaded erasers and keep them in a box in the closet.  Everyone sits in on the lessons, but only the four oldest children (ages 7 & up) are given the nice supplies.  The little boys (ages 2 & 4) use regular pencils and scratch paper.  They get to feel a part of things and I don’t feel wasteful of our art supplies.

A great Christian homeschool art curriculum

To help you get started on your own Art & Artist Time, how about a fantastic deal from See the Light?!

+ 10% off on all other products on the same order

To get this awesome deal, use coupon code:
(expires Sept 15)


And here’s some more GREAT news!

For the first time ever, See the Light is giving away the ENTIRE ART CLASS SET!  That’s 9 DVDs and 36 Lessons (retails for $99.99!)!  You are going to love this!  Enter to win below!  (if you are reading this via email, click here to go to the giveaway post)

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italki – The Online Homeschool Foreign Language Program I’m Telling Everyone About!

Learning a Foreign Language with {review of online foreign language instruction} |
{This post contains my personal opinions and experiences.  I was compensated for the time it took to create this review and I received 6 lessons for free.  However, we loved it so much, we have since purchased another 10 lessons, and plan to do another 10 after that.  This post also contains my referral code which would give me free lessons if a reader clicks and buys.  Thank you!}

My oldest daughter, Meg, loves languages.  She is taking formal Spanish via a computer program plus teaching herself bits and pieces of several other languages.  She’s a quick study; however, she has told me on multiple occasions that she really needs someone to speak the languages with her because the computer lacks the interaction and feedback of a live person.

So, when I learned about, an online foreign language instruction site that provides teacher/student interaction via Skype sessions, I was hopeful this might be the answer to her dilemma.

Answer would be an understatement.

Within a couple of lessons, it was obvious to us that italki was EXACTLY what Meg needed. review |

I’m sure by now, you are a little curious about what this program entails.  And if you are anything like me, you might even be a little skeptical of anything involving strangers online.  Let me give you a run down of how we use italki.

How to get started with

First, we set up an account.  I used my email address and Meg’s name.  That way, every email that came from came to me.  I chose to leave Meg’s profile blank for safety purposes.  You will need to have a Skype account and input the account name so the teacher can connect with your student.  {Skype is free.  Just download and go!}

Next, Ty and I sat down and looked through French teachers.  Lamar from italki had suggested a few professional teachers to us, so we started there.  {By the way, Lamar is super helpful!  A company with prompt and courteous customer service always gets my attention.}  You’ll see on the italki Homeschool page suggestions for teachers in several different languages. Our teacher, Melissa, is on there!  We chose her because of her credentials.  We absolutely made the right choice!

Once you have a profile set up and you have chosen a teacher in the language you are wanting your child to learn, you need to purchase either by the lesson or a package of lessons.  We did a package because it is cheaper.

Lesson pricing for italki

How much does italki cost?

Each teacher has a different rate, so what you are looking for is the ITC/hour.  Because the teachers on italki are from all over the world, there has to be a standard unit to go by.  These are called language credits or italki credits (ITC).  For Melissa, we pay 197 ITC or $19.75 per hour lesson, but with the package (see the red rectangles on the left that say PACKAGE), we are getting 10 lessons for the price of 9.

Once you have purchased ITC, you schedule a lesson.  Each teacher has a list of times and days that work for them.  They are listed in your time zone, so no need to worry about trying to figure out the time difference.  You will receive a notification from italki shortly before your session is to start.

Meg learning French via Skype |

Meg gets herself up the morning of French and gets the computer ready.  She keeps a pen and paper handy as well.  She also has a headset with microphone if needed.

Now, I get to brag!  After 6 lessons, we were so impressed by what we were seeing and hearing, we decided to record a short video of Meg speaking French.  Take a moment to watch the video!

{Can’t see the video? CLICK HERE to watch on YouTube.}

That girl makes me smile!  Now, after 15 lessons, she speaks amazingly well!  She told me recently she has even begun to dream in French!

Who would benefit from italki?

Let me give you my personal opinion on who would benefit most from italki.

  • A student who shows an aptitude for languages.
  • A student who wants to go on to study a foreign language in college.
  • A student who wants the experience of speaking a foreign language with another person.

Foreign language instruction is an area of our daughter’s homeschooling we are willing to spend extra money on.  I have no doubt her aptitude for languages is God-given.  We want to give her every opportunity we can to hone that skill.  Italki is exactly what we needed to do this.

An added benefit just for you!

When you register with italki and make a purchase, you will receive an additional $10 USD worth of language credits!  This offer is only valid through September 15, 2013, and it is only available to new italki users.

How to redeem this special offer:

  1. Register on italki.
  2. Purchase italki language credits.
  3. After that, go to this link:
  4. The italki team will deposit $10 USD credits in your account!

If have any questions about this offer or other italki questions, write to

So, now you can see why I am telling everyone about italki!  This really has been an answer to prayer.  Head on over to italki and check it out for yourself.  I’d love to hear what you think!

Homeschooling the Bigs – 2013/14 School Year Curriculum - Bigs

My bigs are 12 and 15.  While most of their subjects are independent, we do have some corporate subjects that they enjoy working together on.  The two of them have always been very close, so the idea of a jr. high and high school student working together seems very natural here.

We also leave plenty of time for them to pursue their own interests.  My oldest son is working on writing an AirSoft guide as well as working part-time at a shooting lodge.  My daughter is teaching herself guitar, and spends a lot of time taking photos and writing stories and songs.  It is important to us that we avoid cramming their day so full that they are unable to spend focused time and energy on things they enjoy.  (To learn more about how we see view the “Homeschooling Extras”, click HERE.)

So, all that said, here are the actual subjects our Bigs are doing.
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First up, our 12 year old daughter:


She is in 7th grade, and is currently brushing up on her fractions and decimals in math using Khan Academy.  I’ll explain more about that in the section on our son’s curriculum.

She is our highly creative child, who at times baffles me (except for the fact that she is VERY much LIKE me!)  She is currently taking piano lessons and decided a few months ago to teach herself guitar.  After a failed attempt using one online program, we found another from a Christian artist that has proved to be amazing!  Aaron’s Guitar Lessons is the name of the site, and we are very impressed with the results.  She is needing to get a bigger guitar, so we’ll be looking into that soon. (She also wants a ukelele…and drums!)

After taking a break from English, we decided to hit it hard this year with English 6 from Rod & Staff.  She really hates this kind of work, but we know the discipline of learning sentence structure will only make her writing even better.

English 6

She is also learning Spanish through Rosetta Stone and French via  (I’ll have a review out about later this month, but suffice it to say we are INCREDIBLY impressed with the results!)  The gist of iTalki is that you have a teacher who meets with you via Skype for paid lessons.  It has been worth every penny we’ve spent.  Meg is very gifted in languages and has taught herself sign language and some Hindi.  The reason she is pursuing French is because she wants to go to Haiti.  I am hoping to help her find some more opportunities to speak (and sign) with others the languages she is learning.

And now for our 15 year old son:


He’s a sophomore this year, and is seriously motivated to have high school knocked out in 2 years.

For math, he is doing Khan Academy.  We are having him work through all the Algebra and the Geometry.  He has already finished Algebra I, so he only has 2 credits left for high school work.  He is also going to do Saxon Geometry in addition to Khan.    (Khan Academy is a free online math program that is just the kind of outside-the-box thinking education needs.  I feel like my children are actually UNDERSTANDING math, something I never could wrap my brain around.)


He will finish up a Spanish credit in December using Rosetta Stone.  Our state does not require a foreign language credit, but we feel it is important to have a grasp of another language.

He is doing Apologia Biology with Lab.  He is very excited about the Lab part of this!


Besides the writing done in Tapestry of Grace, he is also doing Rod & Staff English 8.  That particular program is very solid when it comes to Composition and Grammar.  Once he has worked through 8, 9, & 10, I feel confident he will have his English I-IV knocked out.

English 8

 I want to mention here that Blake is using Tapestry of Grace and a yearly program called TeenPact to gain a Government credit for high school as well.  If you have never looked into TeenPact, you should!  It is an incredible Christian program designed to give your student valuable knowledge about the inner workings of government and how they can be involved in that process.  They also offer a public speaking class.  It is one intense week for your student, but the knowledge they gain will carry with them for a lifetime.

Now for the corporate stuff.  These are the subjects my Bigs (and sometimes the other children) share.

First off, is one I’ve already mentioned in this post - Tapestry of Grace is the History & Literature curriculum we are using.  No matter how far I stray away from Tapestry, I always end up back there.  It is so complete and so well done.  We have learned so much (yes, mom included!) using it that I am willing to pay the price.  We are currently in Year 2, but will be moving to Year 3 around the first of the year.

Our Bible time is simply reading from the Bible and discussing.  This has been so fruitful, and such great discussions have come from it.

We are also doing Missions this year.  We are reading from missionary books, notebooking about the people and places we are reading about, and setting aside money and prayer for their efforts.

Speaking of notebooking, most of our notebooking work is coming from  They are having a great sale on Lifetime Memberships (which I own)!  From now until August 15, you can get $15 off a membership.  With it comes access to all the pages on site and all that will be added in the future as well as a notebooking page generator you can use to make your own pages.  I just used it the other day to create a page for Of Plymouth Plantation.  Don’t miss this sale!  (If you would like to see how we do notebooking as a large family, click HERE!)

Be sure to check out my
Homeschooling Mother page
here on Raising Arrows!

Read more curriculum posts by clicking on the links below:

Teach Them Diligently Curriculum Choices

Homeschooling the Middles – 2013/14 School Year Curriculum - Middles

This year, I have 2 middles, ages 7 and almost 9.  They both enjoy acting out what they are learning, so it’s been fun to watch them together.  We’ve been reading Little House on the Prairie books aloud, so they are both into frontier living right now.  After visiting a museum in Colorado, my daughter asked if we could create a “cabin” downstairs by the fireplace just for them.  Absolutely!


Here’s their school work for the year, starting with the 7 year old:
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He is working through Horizons Math 1.  He’ll move into Horizons 2 sometime this year.

Horizons 2He also started A Reason for Handwriting A for reasons I’ll explain below.


He will be doing the 1st grade level of Phonics Museum (there are 2 years to the program – K & 1st, we have used the complete set – you can read my review of it HERE).


We are doing Five in a Row (see my Homeschooling the Littles post to learn more about it.)


I am also reading Apologia Science aloud to my middles this year.  We are doing Flying Creatures and also notebooking (I did not purchase Apologia’s notebooking set, but it looks really great!)


Speaking of notebooking, I am using notebooking pages from the collection at as well as creating my own using their software.  I have a Lifetime Membership there and LOVE it!  You can read more about how we do notebooking as a large family HERE).  Notebooking Pages still has a sale going on where you can get $15 off a Lifetime Membership, so don’t miss it!

Now for our 8 year old daughter (she’ll be 9 soon).  She is doing many of the same things as her brother, just a level up.  Here’s her list:

Melia outside

She will be doing Horizons Math 3.

Horizons 3I purchased her Horizons 3 workbooks from the Teach Them Diligently Store. (YES!  They have an online storefront now!)  By they way, start planning now!  Teach Them Diligently is coming to 4 cities next year!

Teach Them Diligently Homeschool Convention 2014

Okay, back to curriculum…

Lia is finishing up Phonics Museum.  After that, I’ll have her read aloud to me once or twice a week to make sure she is pronouncing words correctly and understanding what she is reading.  She’s an avid reader, so I have no doubt she will continue to excel.

Now, I mentioned above that I would explain why we were doing handwriting.  After working through Phonics Museum, I decided her handwriting was not as nice as I would like it to be even though the program includes writing, so I pulled out A Reason for Handwriting (Level B) to help with that.  I can already see an improvement after only a couple of months doing it!  I just don’t think Phonics Museum is strong enough in that area, but I like the program enough to keep it and simply supplement with handwriting help.


Soon, she will be starting Phonetic Zoo spelling.  This curriculum worked really well with my oldest son, so I’m expecting similar results with my 8 year old.  (You can read my review of Phonetic Zoo HERE.)

She is also the driving force behind our Art lessons right now.  Art is one of those things I can easily let slip, but this little girl is eager to do art with her siblings, so she gathers them up and puts in one of the See the Light Art lessons.  I cannot rave about this program enough.  We own the entire boxed set and have found it to be so doable there’s no excuse NOT to do it!

See the Light

I have a review of this art curriculum HERE, but I will also be talking more about it later in the month and offering a giveaway of one of their products, so don’t miss it!

She is also doing Five in a Row and Apologia Science with her brother, and taking piano lessons with her sister.  I do want to say that in the past, I have chosen to wait to do the Apologia Science until the child could read it on their own.  I may decide to do that again this year, which would probably exclude my 7 year old and have my 8 year old doing it on her own.  We shall see.

We are also honing her cooking skills.  We decided to do this after working through  We realized that her cooking skills could definitely be channeled into something that would bless and benefit others.  (You can read more about how we used this guide to create a unique education for our children HERE.)

Additionally, we go to a lot of museums, have deep discussions, and just live life.  I don’t require a ton of seat work because there is so much that can and should be learned outside of traditional school.  (You can read more about our philosophy of education HERE.)

By the way, you might have noticed as you are reading through these posts on curriculum that you haven’t seen anything about Bible curriculum.  That’s because this year we are focusing on simply reading through the Bible and discussing what we are reading.  We are doing some missions studies, but I talk about those in my post on Homeschooling the Bigs.

Be sure to check out my
Homeschooling Mother page
here on Raising Arrows!

Read more curriculum posts by clicking on the links below!

Teach Them Diligently Curriculum Choices

Homeschooling the Littles – 2013/14 School Year Curriculum - Littles

This year, I only have one little to school.  He’s 4 1/2 and full of spunk!  While I’m not a big preschool advocate, I do find that for my super high-strung kiddos, a little focused activity actually helps them.  This child needs some structure and some Mommy-time, so that’s what this gives him.  Plus, he’s really excited to be “doing school” with his siblings!
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As with all my younguns, we started out with Rod & Staff’s ABC Series:

Rod & Staff ABC Series

We aren’t doing them in any particular order.  We are just enjoying the activities and doing as many as he would like to do in a setting (or until Mommy gives out!).

Next up, is the curriculum I just started this year that I have wanted to use for years and years and years – Five in a Row. You might wonder why I took so long to use this curriculum.  I think it was because of where I was in my life.  I was a stressed out mom of only littles and I didn’t feel like I could take time away from my older children to do fun stuff with my younger children.  I have a little breathing room now with my bigs being 15 and 12, and I am using Five in a Row with everyone age 8 (almost 9) on down.

Screen Shot 2013-08-03 at 1.01.26 AM

I am also doing a bit of Notebooking with Micah.  He loves to draw pictures about the stories we are reading, so that is what his notebooking looks like right now.  (Remember, I had to let go of the notion that notebooking had to be perfect!)  We are mostly using pages from (Right now Lifetime Memberships are $15 off!) and the Fold N Learn files you can get from the Five in a Row website when you become a subscriber.  (To read more about how we do notebooking as a large family, click HERE!)

And finally, we are doing a lot of reading and playing and imaginating!  Those little years go by incredibly fast.  There is plenty of time to do seat work.  For now, let them play!


Be sure to check out my
Homeschooling Mother page
here on Raising Arrows!

Read more curriculum posts, by clicking on the links below!

Teach Them Diligently Curriculum Choices