Making Learning Personalized

We had a jammed pack and busy day of school today.

 I hadn't planned on covering quite so much but one thing sort of led into another and when I looked back over our day I realized we had covered ALL of the subjects; and some of them more than once!

 Everyone was engaged and it seemed like everywhere I looked I saw each one hard at work on all sorts of wonderful and engaging activities.

When I'm teaching my boys I try very hard to make everything we're learning about personal.  

Being able to make a personal connection to what we're learning about makes it much easier for them to remember the materials.  
  • I remind them of field trips we've been on.
  • I remind them of activities we've done together.
  • I use their passions and interests to guide me in what we'll learn about.
  • I encourage them to put themselves in the main characters place when we're reading.
  • We try to make connections to anything and everything we can.  
  • I make sure what they are learning about is relevant to them. 
  • I try to make sure lessons are followed up with hands on activities. 
  • I try to give them choices whenever possible. 
  • I try to make learning fun and engaging; using games whenever I can.
  • I ask the boys about their opinions on what we've done, what they'd like to see us do and I always ask them if they have suggestions about what we can and should be doing.  
  • I encourage them to teach and use their skills to help one another.  
  • I make our lessons relevant to the seasons and what's happening in our lives. 
When Evan insisted that reading was stupid and he didn't need to know how to read, I made sure I was too busy to help him make his supper and had him read all the instructions on the bag of chicken nuggets so he could make them himself.  Three days later and he remembers each and every word!  He learned first hand that reading was important.  It was personal to him that he know how to prepare his dinner and he made the connection that reading had real- life value.

Today, I noticed them making connections on their own.  

For history, we started our day by finishing off the I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor book.  We finished up the story and read through the facts in the back of the book.  The boys were able to relate most of what we had read in other books to this story as well.  They also put themselves in Danny's place and imagined how scary it would be to find themselves in the middle of a war.

After talking for quite a while we decided we were done with World War II for now and we'll take a small break with history before diving into another topic.

Ian has already asked if we could learn about the Vietnam War so I told him I'd look into it.  We were fortunate to find so many amazing books about World War II to study and I'm not sure what I'll find for Vietnam but I promised to try.

I always try to follow their lead and support their interests.

For science, we decided to watch the Science of Disney Imagineering; Electricity movie next & in re-watching this movie the boys were excited to see the Tesla coil; they remembered watching The Sorcerer's Apprentice and watching the Tesla coils perform to music.  I reminded the younger two boys about when we saw the demonstration at Touch Tomorrow with the same coils and we talked about the various things we had witnessed at that demonstration.

We then decided to pull out the Snap Circuit kits and they spent some time playing with them.   Following the directions in the kit they made circuits and we related what we were doing to what we had just learned in the movie.  After the movie they all scattered and spent the rest of the day working at their own pace on their own assignments or interests.

We try to follow up many of our lessons with hands on activities which make the lessons more meaningful and memorable. 

The older boys worked on some writing today.  Ian tried to convince me to let him do spelling again today instead of writing but I explained that writing isn't the same as spelling.  We only do writing one day a week, usually, and I told him I didn't think that was to much to ask of him.  Alec piped up that a little bit of writing each week was very reasonable.

I reminded Ian that he doesn't have to write his own stories each week either.  I then reminded him about copy work and told him he could do a Draw Write Now page too.

They both ended up working on one; Alec drew the raccoon and wrote all about them while Ian chose to write about the arctic wolf.  I was glad to see our books getting some use again and I was thrilled to watch Alec hard at work on some drawings again.  It's been too long since we've seen any art from any of the boys.

Alec's completed page; he told me it was real hard to
draw the back leg that was mostly hidden.  
 I try to give the boys choices and let them pick how they'd like to tackle any given subject. 

Evan is not yet ready for writing but we're working on reading and spelling.  I try to find fun activities to bring reading and spelling to life.  Today, I handed Evan another sheet very similar to yesterday's egg hunt sheet except today's paper had the letters scrambled up alongside each picture.  He quickly decoded each word and wrote them out, double checking his spelling with me on each word.

We also practiced some new sight words today using Reading Power Towers.  I stumbled upon this idea through Pinterest and found Teacher Tipster YouTube videos-- this man has AMAZING ideas for fun sight word, spelling and math games and I've been slowly incorporating them into our day.

We only had one empty Pringles can so I made up the sight word game for today and promised the older boys I'd work on some math ones for next week.  Alec thought it looked like so much fun he wanted a turn stacking the cups when Evan was done.

Since it was Evan's first day with these new sight words I worked with Evan reading him each of the words once through and then watching him as he went through the cups reading them aloud and stacking them.  He surprised me by knowing many of the words already the first time we went through them.  He had a great time reading and stacking and was sad when we ran out of cups and the activity was over.  I guess I'll have to look for some taller cans to use next time!  Alec quickly counted up the cups used on one tower, multiplied that by three and told Evan he had used 30 cups to build his tower.  Alec then challenged him to build a taller tower next time.

All 30 cups! 
Working on our spelling 
Making lessons so fun that they beg to do them again lets me know that I succeeded in making lessons personalized.

All of the boys did some reading today.  Ian chose to read two Curious George stories while Evan read two more Dick and Jane stories to me.  He had a sleepover in his room last night with Alec and this time EVAN read out loud to Alec at bedtime.  Alec is great at praising Evan too and his confidence is just soaring.  I always let them choose their own stories.

I was busy working with Alec on something when Evan was ready to read and he told me he had quietly went through and read the entire first Dick and Jane story in his head while waiting for me.  I could tell he had too; he was trying to read so fast his brain and his fingers could barely keep up with his mouth.  He informed me that he's reading two new stories tonight too at bedtime.

Alec wanted to read the Minecraft book that Evan had checked out of the library so he offered to read another chapter out loud to Evan this afternoon.  Evan often benefits from listening to other stories that his brothers offer to read.  I love watching them connect with one another and discuss stories they've read.  Evan and Alec swapped predictions about the story and then tried out plot line ideas for other Minecraft stories on one another.

I love when the boys want to work together on an activity because then THEY are personalizing it for themselves and each other!

 All of the boys did two different activities for math today too.  They each worked independently in their workbooks on two pages.  Ian only has two pages left in his measurement book so he'll finish it up tomorrow, while Evan went on to learn about 1/4's and 1/6's today in his math book.  Alec and I worked on adding fractions with like denominators and reducing the fractions.  We also worked on ordering groups of fractions from least to greatest; both concepts he had no problems with at all.  It's always amazing to me how quickly he catches onto things.

With all of our Easter stuff getting pulled out, I made up a fun math activity for each of the boys today.  Using some extra containers I pulled a good dozen to a dozen and a half of the plastic eggs out of our big bucket for each of the three boys.  Most of our eggs are attached, top and bottom, by a thin line of plastic but I broke them apart and used a permanent marker to write equations on the top side and answers on the bottom.

Evan's eggs all worked with adding up to 12.

Ian had the multiplication fact eggs today and worked with the 6-12 times tables

Alec had the division facts; also working with 6-12's.

They liked that they could narrow down the answer field by matching the egg colors but I liked they had to figure out if the answers were right or not anyway since very few eggs had an obvious match.

It was a fun way to get some additional practice in and they all seemed to enjoy it enough that we'll use it a few more times until Easter comes and all the eggs get packed away again until next year.

Ian matching his eggs 

Evan used strategy and reasoning when making his matches

some of Evan's completed matches 
Alec had giant eggs for division facts 
Making lessons fun and personalized for the season makes them that much more likely to be remembered later. 
Alec was heading out to lunch with his great aunt and so the other two boys and I decided to use the time he was gone to finish up their geography and history reports.  We finished off all the crafts, picked out the snack recipes, wrote up a shopping list and a list of things to pack to bring with us that day.

Each boy took a turn in my craft room and used my Cricut to cut out the letters for the title on the boards.  We glued down the letters and went through a checklist of what we need for the day to make sure we were all set.

Each boy typed in his own letters so they got in a bit of spelling practice as well; not that they noticed all they cared about was getting to run my machine for me.  Evan and I also made up a practice fan for his hands on craft project and talked about what we'd like to differently to make it easier for the kids at the fair.

The boys are proud of their projects and they're getting so excited that the big day is near.  I'm glad to have two boys that are completely done (except for the snacks which we can't do until a day or two before) because I know it's going to take some work to get Alec to complete his on time.

Typing in "South Korea" 

I encourage my boys to take ownership of their learning, their projects, and their activities; including them in as many aspects as I can. 

Ian had disappeared to his room a time or two today.  He's, by far, my most independent and my fastest worker.  He often is the first one to ask what we're going to do and he likes to see all of his work laid out before him.  He then systematically finishes it all up and heads off to play long before his brothers are ever even close to finishing.

Today I could hear him sifting through all the Lego bins in his room.  It was pouring out most of the day and he knew he wasn't going to be able to play outside so he occupied himself making a plow truck.  He showed me his truck after lunch and I was impressed to see all the work he put into it.  He showed me how the plow moved side to side and was already brainstorming up an idea to get the plow blade to move up and down too.

View of the truck with the plow off to the side 
I encourage them to pursue their own interests and applaud their creativity. 

We ended our day decorating Easter eggs.  This year we elected to use liquid watercolors.  I saw a few dripped watercolor eggs on Pinterest and loved how vibrant the colors were.  I set up the table while Alec was at lunch so we were all set to start when he got back.  After trying the first egg with dripping the colors the boys asked for brushes so they could paint their eggs.

They experimented with mixing colors, dripping colors, making pictures on the egg.  They had a lot of fun and were very creative.  Ian told me he was hoping for spring and so he painted a row of flowers on one of his eggs. He also made a whole scene complete with sun, house, grass and sky on another egg.  Another egg prompted a whole story explaining the scenes he was making and what all the symbols stood for.  Alec pulled out his Pokemon book for his final few eggs and tried to draw up a few of his favorite Pokemon to put on the eggs.

They had fun and it was great to get messy and artsy again.

All set up and ready to go 

Trying the drip method

He may not look like it; but Alec loved this!

Moving onto using a brush 

Ian's house, sun, bush and grass scene 

Pretty spring flowers 

The basket of completed eggs 

Throughout the day the boys always work on various life skills; so often in fact that I rarely notice.

Today, however I couldn't help but notice as Ian and Alec worked to help me clean out Alec's fish tank.  Ian and Alec have also been doing their own laundry regularly over the past few weeks; today included.  When it came time to make lunches both Evan and Ian took care of it themselves.  Ian even needed to wash out the pan he needed to make his macaroni and cheese and packed up the left overs all on his own.

I didn't have to lift a single finger the entire time he was in the kitchen.  

I encourage their independence and take any opportunity I can to show them how important the various skills are in real life. 


  1. wow, sounds like quite a learning day! I recently started homeschooling my 4.5 year old and I totally agree with you that it has to align with their passions...otherwise they loose interest in the whole learning process in minutes! thanks for sharing :)

    1. Thanks. We do tend to cover quite a bit in our days; or maybe it just sounds that way since I have three different grades & ages.... I'm not sure but it does keep us busy!

  2. I make personal connections too! but lately I've been seeing how my 4 year old's brain is erasing old memories! You KNOW that children forget most of what's happened in the first few years of their lives, I'm watching it happen- like literally. Trip to the zoo only a few months back, old friends, trip to the planetorium- every time I mention something that happened more than a few months back, he has this black look. When I remind him stuff to juggle his memory he just goes along- I don't think he remembers!

    It's sad isn't it! Thanks for sharing at Practical Mondays!

    1. That is sad. I often break out the photo albums and pictures to help jog their memories but then I think that their only memories probably are from those pictures and my stories.

  3. Keep up the good work, Mother of 3! It looks like it was an amazing homeschool week. We are so hard on ourselves sometimes. Hope you are having a wonderful week and thanks for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week :)


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