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The Big Payoff of Reading Aloud to Kids of All Ages

Reading aloud to kids

Out of all the different ways that we can help our kids succeed in school, the number one thing that parents can do requires nothing more than a free library card and time. We can read to them.

In 1983, the U.S. Department of Education was concerned about low academic performance scores, so they funded a Commission on Reading who spent two years combing through thousands of research reports conducted over the previous twenty-five years, and in 1985 they published their findings in a report titled Becoming a Nation of Readers. Amidst all of their digging, they discovered that reading out loud to kids is the number one most important thing we can do to help our kids become successful learners.

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children,” the report said. “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”

I’ve Seen It First Hand

I homeschool all my kids, so I have had the privilege of watching them learn to read. (Well, the first five that is; the four year old is just starting.) And I’ve noticed reading happens in different ways for different kids. A few of my kids were early fluent readers, reading simple chapter books independently before Kindergarten. But a couple of them did not take to it so easily.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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The Congressional Award

A Secret Weapon for Rising Stars

congressional award, amazing kids, secret weapon

Most of us have heard of the Eagle Scout Award through the Boy Scouts. But what about the Congressional Award? If that one is unfamiliar to you, you’re not alone. Keep reading because this prestigious award is not only a bright gold star on any student’s resume, but the activities they do to earn it are life changing.

The Congressional Award was established by the United States Congress in 1979 to recognize initiative, service and achievement in young people. It is a non-competitive program open to all 14-23 year olds (kids can register at 13 ½ and start working on it at 14).

I first learned about the Congressional Award when my son was about to graduate from high school. By then, Chase had so much on his plate that it didn’t seem possible to add one more thing – or so I thought at that time. Looking back, that was really foolish on my part.

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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The Secret to Raising an Accomplished Kid

raising an accomplished kid, opera, the hobbit, star of the show,

What will your child accomplish this year? A year can hold a multitude of achievements, but there is a secret to raising an accomplished kid that many people overlook. 

Recently I was talking to an admissions officer at one of my daughter’s top choice colleges, and after discussing some of the highlights of her resume, the admissions officer asked, “Are we talking about one student?” She was amazed that one student could have “so many” accomplishments. But to be perfectly honest, I was amazed at her amazement.

My 16 year old is focused, and she works hard at pursuing her passion. But she has not done anything truly extraordinary. She has not done anything that any motivated 16 year old couldn’t do.

She wasn’t a semifinalist in the prestigious Intel Science Competition while living in a homeless shelter like Long Island high school student Samantha Garvey. She didn’t receive a $1 million celebrity investment in an app she had written like 17 year old tech wizard Nick D’Aliosio did. She didn’t gather over 170,000 signatures on a petition to insist that a woman should moderate one of the presidential debates like three girls her age from New Jersey did. And she is certainly not a Nobel Prize laureate like young Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

The way I see it, this admissions officer’s statement was not actually a commentary on my child’s “exceptional achievements” but rather an indictment of society’s woefully low expectations.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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This 1 Habit Could Change Everything

habit word on computer pc keyboard key

What if you could focus on ONE thing, and that ONE thing could change EVERYthing? That’s exactly what happened when a man named Paul O’Neill took over  an international aluminum company that was failing in the late 80’s. And the same habit can overhaul your life too.

Shareholders and financial analysts panicked when O’Neill took the helm of Alcoa and began a highly irregular focus on safety. He didn’t talk about increasing profits. He didn’t talk about lowering costs. He didn’t talk about anything that a CEO of company as big as Alcoa typically talks about. Instead, he was laser focused on what appeared to be a strange obsession with safety.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Grow It Again

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Hi, I’m Sam. I’m 11 years old, and I’m Jenni’s son. My mom asked me to write a blog post on re-growing food scraps. This is something I like to do because it’s fun and easy and leaves room in your garbage can. I am passionate about gardening, so my mom got me a book called Grow It Again. Most of my tips come from this book. Although a few come from my own experiences. Growing food from the fruits and vegtables in your home is a great activity for families to do together.

I’m going to show you how to grow food again in three different ways:

  1. Take it from the top
  2. Seed time
  3. From the ground up

Take It From The Top

I will show you how to grow two different foods in this category: pineapples and carrots.

Carrots

Let’s start with carrots.

Step one — Take a small, shallow container, and place a layer of stones at the bottom.

Step two — Cut the off about 2 ½ inches from the top of the carrot. Kids should have an adult help.

Step three — Place the carrot tops in the container with the rocks, and pour a thin layer of water in the carrots (about half an inch high).

Tips

Carrots seem to sprout best with a few carrot tops in the same container. Space them one to two inches apart.

Every other day, change the water.

Once you start to see tiny little green stems (check with a magnifying glass once a week), plant the carrot tops in soil in their own containers, and then water two to three times a week.

They like to live in partial sun.

Pineapple

Now for pineapple. Pineapple is one of my personal favorites, but it takes a long time to grow.

There are a few ways to grow pineapples, but the one I’m going to teach here is the one I have had the most success with.

Step one — Cut off the top of a pineapple. (Have an adult help.)

Step two — Cut all the flesh of the pineapple off, and keep cutting until you see tiny black dots on the rim of the pineapple top.

Step three — Peel all the leaves off from the first inch and a half.

Step four — Leave the top out on the counter to dry for about four to five days in room temperature.

Step five — Plant in potting soil in a large pot, and in a few days it will start to root.

One of my pineapple plants grow from the top of a fruit

One of my pineapple plants grow from the top of a fruit

Tips

Water every time the soil gets dry.

If you follow the steps, you will probably grow a healthy plant, but don’t expect a pineapple any time soon. It takes about two years before you see a blossom and about another seven months to produce a pineapple.

Seed Time

I’m going to show you how to sprout seeds that are difficult to grow, but if you follow these steps you will be able to grow them just fine. The three plants I will show today are oranges, apples, and avocado. I’m going to start with oranges because I live in Florida, and that’s one of the most common crops here.

Oranges

Step one — Take a small round plastic container or plastic cup, and put just a few stones at the bottom.

Step two — Fill it the rest of the way with soil and crushed egg shells for nutrition.

Step three — Take about three seeds from a ripe orange, and place them about an inch or two apart in the soil (the farther apart the better), but make sure the seeds are not too far into the soil.

Step three — Moisten the soil just a little.

Step four — Take a plastic sandwich bag, and put it over the container. Then wrap a rubber band around it to keep it in place

Step five — Leave it in a sunny window indoors.

Step six — Check every week to make sure the soil is moist, and in about three weeks, when you see sprouts, take the bag off.

Tips

Keep the seeds in a pot until they are strong enough to handle the environment.

Apples

Apples cannot grow in Florida because they need to go through a process called winterization, but when planting the seeds you can fake it!

Step one — Take out the seeds.

Step two — Put the seeds in a wet napkin.

Step three — Put the napkin in the refrigerator.

Step four — Check every day.

Step five — When it roots plant in soil.

Tips

If you live where it does not snow, you wont have any success with growing apples, even if you winterize the seeds in the fridge.

Avocado

Avocados are fun but difficult If you like a challenge, this is the plant for you!

Step one — Take out the avocado pit, and peel off the skin. Have an adult help.

Step two — Take toothpicks, and stick them into the avocado seed around the circumference of the seed. You want to put in 3 or 4 toothpicks. If the seed splits in two, it’s ok just tie the two halves together with a string.

Step three — Place the seed over a 4 to 5 inch cup filled with water. Make sure the bottom of the seed is in the water.

Step four — Once the root is three inches long, place it in soil, and water it three to seven times a week.

Tips

Be careful with the roots. They can be broken very easily.

This plant likes full sun.

From The Ground Up

In this category I am going to teach you how to grow two plants: garlic and ginger.

Garlic

Garlic is also one of my favorites. It’s fast, easy, and fun!

Step one — Take a small, shallow container (about the size of the carrot container), and place a layer of stones.

Step two — Peel about three garlic cloves, and place them in the stones so that they  are standing up. Make sure the pointy end of the clove is facing up.

Step three — Fill the container with about a ¼ inch of water, and leave it in a sunny windowsill for two days.

Step four — Plant in soil.

Tips

Clip the tops of the garlic every week. They get big quickly.

The tops are good in salads and are very healthy.

You can grow the garlic in the container with the water for a very long time. That was one of the things I did.

Ginger

Ginger is fairly easy to grow, so it is something I would say you should try.

Step one — Get a container like the one you put the garlic in.  Place a small layer of stones at the bottom and then fill it almost to the top with soil.

Step two — Place the ginger root flat on top of the soil.

Step three — Put soil around the ginger but leave its back out because ginger prefers it that way.

Step four — Water the soil just a little, and keep it in a sunny window. Within a few days it should root.

Tips

Water when the soil gets dry.

Transplant when the container gets too small.

Give the plant part sun.

They will eventually grow shoots. Some may die, but new ones will replace them.

They grow quickly. In about a month, the plant will be about three feet.

Don’t eat the shoots.

 

If you have any questions contact me at thesam326@gmail.com. You can also visit my blog and leave me questions and comments.

Sam Stahlmann

Farmer Sam is a sixth grader who is passionate about farming and learning alternative growing methods. He blogs about gardening, growing all sorts of plants and keeping a healthy worm farm. Visit him at farmersamblog.wordpress.com.

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I Wish I Had This For My Older Kids

Passport2Purity

When I saw the opportunity to review FamilyLife’s Passport 2 Purity, I jumped on it! I have an 11-year-old boy, and I knew this would be perfect timing for him. My older kids have had “the talk,” but they have all been very respectful about not sharing that information with the younger siblings. So I was pretty sure my Sammy didn’t know much about this stuff. (I was right!)

The Passport 2 Purity program is designed help prepare your child for their journey into adolescence. Let’s face it, the world they are walking into is much different than when we were young. Their’s is a world of sexting, cyber bullying, online stalking and perhaps the most blatant moral defiance in the history of our country. Innocence is under attack, and you cannot win the battle with a single awkward talk or a strict set of rules. The only real defense for your child is a strong relationship with you and with God.

FamilyLife developed Passport 2 Purity to assist parents in building heart-to-heart communication with their preteens, while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare them for the potentially turbulent years ahead. It is actually designed to be done as a mother-daughter or father-son team, over the course of a weekend getaway, but we broke all the rules.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Weekly Leader — June 19, 2015

Out_Of_Box2
If this is your first time seeing the Weekly Leader, scroll down and read all about it below the line. Then pop back up to the top for next week’s suggestions.

Weekly Leader for the second week in June.

Mastermind Monday

As a family, think of 25 different ways to raise money.

TED Talk Tuesday

A performance of “Mathemagic”

*Note — You may not always agree with the perspective of a TED Talk, but rather than shy away from it, use it as an opportunity to explain why you don’t agree.

What’s Up Wednesday

The four lunar eclipses of 2014/2015

Think Tank Thursday

Have everyone in the family tell a story from their own childhood (even kids can tell stories from when they were younger).

Famous Friday

Charlie Brannock

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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You Can Do It — Find A Pre-College Program

pre-college-student

This summer, my daughter (a rising high school junior) will be attending a summer music intensive pre-college program at a prominent school of the arts. It’s a three-week residential program, where she will get a taste of college life, and have the opportunity to take classes and private lessons with other rising juniors and seniors.

At the end of the three weeks, she will have earned three college credits, had a chance to collaborate with other kids who are passionate about music and experienced a small taste of life in music college. Plus, it’s a great addition to her high school resume because it shows passion, commitment and accomplishment (as with any college program, kids typically have to be accepted into these too).

To find the right programs for your kids, start by looking at your student’s top choices for college. If they have pre-college opportunities, it could be a chance for your student to network with school faculty and get a feel for what the school is really like. You can also Google “pre-college programs for [your child’s interest] .”

Consider also looking into programs that will strengthen a particular skill set your teen might need for her intended major. For example, if your daughter wants to be an interior designer, she will need a strong art portfolio. Consider finding a good summer pre-college art program. If you have a child who wants to be computer programmer, strong math skills might be important. Look for a summer math intensive at one of her top choice universities.

Counting the Cost

These programs can be pricey, but don’t let that discourage you. Many offer scholarships, and if you start planning early enough, kids can raise their own money. Crowd funding sites like Go Fund Me can help them raise money. They could also sell old clothes and other household items online or use income from a small business.

One way that my daughter raised money for her summer program was by doing henna tattoos. She also used crowd funding and received a partial scholarship.

Planning ahead can make every opportunity available to every kid who knows what they want!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Mini Experts Are Motivated To Learn

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-sailor-kid-looking-binoculars-against-blue-sky-background-image53320573

Every parent wants their kid to be motivated to learn, but we all know that school is not always so motivating. As an adult, I figured out that I love history, but there was something about the rote memorization of facts and dates and those dry text book chapters that made history one of my least favorite subjects in school.

School (the standard American way) can suck the motivation to learn out of most kids at one point or another. But when a person is really interested in something, even a dry textbook can become interesting.

One way to motivate our kids to learn is to be on the lookout for things that genuinely pique their interest. When we find something, we can help them dive in as deeply into as they want to go.

  • Make a trip to the library and let them pick books on the topic
  • Set up field trips to explore something in a hands-on way
  • Introduce them to experts on the topic
  • Watch documentaries about it together
  • Help them build collections that relate to their interest
  • Help them memorize a boat load of interesting facts about their topic

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Weekly Leader — June 12, 2015

Out_Of_Box2
If this is your first time seeing the Weekly Leader, scroll down and read all about it below the line. Then pop back up to the top for next week’s suggestions.

Weekly Leader for the second week in June.

Mastermind Monday

Think about a few ethical dilemmas, such as “How would you handle it if a group of friends were making racist jokes?” or “What would you do if you found a wallet with cash in it?” Write them on strips of paper and pass them around at the dinner table. Have each person read their dilemma and talk about it.

TED Talk Tuesday

Science is for everyone, kids included

*Note — You may not always agree with the perspective of a TED Talk, but rather than shy away from it, use it as an opportunity to explain why you don’t agree.

What’s Up Wednesday

Water shortage in California

Think Tank Thursday

Make a list of all the things that you would like to do as a family before everyone leaves the nest.

Famous Friday

Margaret Knight

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with nine kids between them (ages 4 to 28) and #10 due in August. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to parent on purpose.

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