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Growing Together

Family Learning Newsletter

Volume 1, Number 2

A Tri-Weekly On-Line Publication

November 19, 2004

One cannot fix one's eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.
- Jane Austen
Photo from
Photographer: Ian Britton


Welcome to the second issue of Growing Together Family Learning Newsletter. This publication is primarily for families of preschool and elementary-school aged children. It is eclectic, non-denominational and non-partisan, with a focus on living books & ideas and hands-on learning.

I appreciate all the wonderful ideas I have already received from subscribers! Of course, this is just a beginning. I look forward to seeing this newsletter grow and improve. I plan to include downloadable lesson plans and activities, crafts, recipes, book and curriculum reviews, children's art and literature, essays, humor, and cartoons, as well as articles on home education.

This issue contains many articles on preschool learning or early reading skills. Preschool children are constantly learning, primarily with their hands, their bodies, and their senses. The other day, I was at the park with Sarah, James, Addie, and Patricia Elizabeth. I had been watching the children running, climbing, and exploring; joyfully seeking activities that challenge their bodies and their minds. I never cease to be amazed how children - in the words of John Holt - are "natural learners."

I caught myself eavesdropping on two mothers. I gathered that each of these ladies had a child, about four years old, who attended an excellent Montessori preschool. One of these moms made a comment that was in sync with my thoughts: "They are going to be learning. It's just a matter of what they will be learning." How true! The strength of the Montessori school, like most families, day care programs, and home schools, seems to lie in knowing this, and filling the children's environment with enriching things with which to fill their minds.

One of these ladies said a second thing that struck me. It was something like this: "I am so glad he's going to preschool! When I get home, the last thing I want to do is teach him. We just get to do the fun stuff! We get out the playdough, blocks, and things like that." I had to grin. The learning is in the fun stuff, I thought. Even without the fine preschool, through their trips to the park, their explorations with the texture and properties of playdough and different ways to create with blocks ... well, that child is learning at home. The playtime, the physical movement, the sensory experiences, the creative play, the time with an adult who is crazy about him and relishes his discoveries: that is the good stuff!

Thank you for joining me! I hope you find something helpful here.

Editor: Stephanie Marshall Ward; comments and suggestions are always welcome!

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Backgrounds are courtesy of Graphics by Irene. Thank you!

It must be remembered that the purpose of education is not to fill the minds of students with facts ... it is to teach them to think. - Robert Hutchins

Last Issue (Volume 1, Number 1)

In This Issue:
    Perspectives on Learning:
  • The Learning Moment
    by Theresa Willingham
    The author of this article eloquently describes a spontaneous learning experience with her children, in which they discussed rodents, vocabulary, relationships, and values.
  • Moving a Puddle
    by Sandra Dodd
    The author of this article offers a delightful window into her family's life, as unschoolers, providing a wonderful example of a natural learning experience.

    Exploring Nature With Children:
  • Remembering My Parents
    by Dr. Ernest Marshall
    The author relates, beautifully, how his parents inspired a lifelong love of nature and learning.
  • Caterpillar Secrets
    by Sue Smith Heavenrich
    Fall is a great time to study caterpillars. This author offers a wonderful account of living nature study in her family.

    Preschool Learning:
  • Enriching your Child's Language Skills From Birth through Early Elementary School
    by Stephanie Ward
    This article offers encouraging tips for instilling a love of language and literacy during infancy and early childhood. You will probably read these suggestions and say "Yes! I already do that!"
  • Bumping-and-Crashing, Touching-and-Feeling: Suggestions for Helping Toddlers' and Preschoolers' Sensorimotor Development Blossom
    by Stephanie Ward
    Active preschoolers develop their minds and bodies as they run, jump, crash, and climb. The information in this article is from the perspective of sensory integration theory, which occupational therapists use in helping children with special needs. However, I feel it is a wonderful model for how a "typical" young child develops, and suggests fun ways to play with your child.
  • Homeschooling Preschoolers
    by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    This article offers tips on creating an atmosphere of learning in your home, an overview of skills to explore with a preschooler, and suggested activities. It also provides a comprehensive list of recommended resources.

    Learning to Read:
  • Nurturing Early Reading Skills
    by Stephanie Ward
    This article discusses different approaches to helping children learn to read, with suggested activities.
  • Optimizing Our Homes for Literacy
    by Mark B. Thogmartin, PhD
    This article explores ways parents can create an environment in which a child's reading skills are likely to blossom.
  • Learning to Read
    by Sue Smith Heavenrich
    This article offers a joyful, balanced approach to developing early literacy skills.
  • A "Typical" Scope and Sequence for Learning to Read
    by Stephanie Ward

    Unit Studies:
  • Unit Studies
    by Jane R. Boswell
    This article explores living family learning through unit studies.
  • Ben Franklin & His Times: A Simple Unit Study
    by Stephanie Ward

  • C.S. Lewis
    by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    How did C.S. Lewis, author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, initially develop the idea for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? What books did he enjoy as a child? Could his experiences be seen as an inspiration to homeschooling families? You and your children can find the answers to these questions, and much more, in this wonderful article about Lewis' life.

  • Tidbits
    Links to Thanksgiving activity ideas, a math game "on the cheap," elephant ears.

Growing Together Family Learning Newsletter, Copyright 2004, Stephanie Marshall Ward; All materials in this newsletter are the copyrighted. For permission to reprint any contents please contact the newsletter editor.

Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo from
Photographer: Ian Britton

For More Information:

PBS TeacherSource
Many creative lesson plans organized by subject and grade level.

Learning Treasures
I recommend this site and free newsletter for free lesson ideas, worksheets, and tips. Belinda offers a wonderful Cooking With Kids section with fun, kid-friendly recipes, and Kids Kreate with ideas on crafts to do with your children.

Home Educator's Family Times
This publication offers both on-line and print versions. It includes lists of available home schooling curricula, home education articles, book reviews, and conference information

Knowledge House
This is the web page of contributor Teri Ann Berg Olsen; it offers articles, reviews, links, and publications to promote learning at home. It includes a large collection of "Not Just for Kids" Mini Unit Studies.

Radical Unschooling: Sandra Dodd Expounds Upon How People Learn
This page offers a large collection of interesting articles on home education, unschooling, and other parenting issues.

Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books
Web site of contributor Mark Thogmartin, author of Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books.

Living Math!
"I want to build a bridge," writes webmistress Julie Brennan. "I'd like to close the gap between math and history, science, literature and humanity created by the isolated way we approach math education." This site advocates a dynamic approach to math education, incorporating a variety of "living books," reading about math history, active exploration of math and science concepts, and games. It offers comprehensive book lists and a discussion group. Highly recommended!
They sell a "curriculum fair in a box" for parents who are new to home education. This includes sample curricula from various sources to help parents with this decision, kits for helping develop portfolios, and "compliance kits," to make home school record keeping easier. "3Moms" also offers a free weekly home school newsletter with resources, lesson plans, and online programs.

We welcome your reactions, comments, and suggestions. We are also open to submissions of articles, essays, book reviews, and children's stories, poems and art. Please e-mail Stephanie Marshall Ward.

Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time. - Rabbinical Saying

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me." - Erma Bombeck

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