Posts for category ‘Teaching Tips’

Teaching Kids to Be Money-Smart
Lesson Pathways | March 8, 2011 | 10:00 am

By Bob Masterson

“Teaching kids to be money-smart” doesn’t happen overnight. Skills and behavior have to be nurtured over time. The skill lies in learning the value of saving, giving, and spending conscientiously and understanding the difference between wants and needs. The behavior comes from the habits formed in doing these things over time and learning from mistakes.


The earlier you start your child on this journey, the better. Children quickly grasp the concept behind spending money, and soon their appetite for “things” can be insatiable. How can we best instill in our children the value of money and living within one’s means?

An allowance is a great means to teach children how to manage money, develop budgeting skills, and encourage independence. By giving your children an allowance, along with the associated responsibility to pay for items and activities they want to enjoy, you can successfully help them to learn that money is a limited resource and to realize the benefits of budgeting it wisely.

How much allowance should you give? As a general rule, allowance should be tied to the expenses you expect your child to cover. It should also designate amounts for saving and giving. In our house, we begin giving an allowance of 50 cents a week when a child turns 6. Ten percent of a child’s allowance goes towards charity, 30 percent toward college, and 20 percent toward long-term savings. Each child is given freedom to determine what she or he will do with the remaining 40 percent of his or her allowance. Our children are responsible for purchasing “extras” for themselves, purchasing gifts for others, and funding personal entertainment expenses.

How can we best instill in our children the value of money and living within one’s means?

For example, our son recently downloaded a video game that he purchased with his spending money. This was an impulse purchase, and my wife questioned him about the wisdom of making this purchase, knowing he had no spending money left. That weekend his friends invited him to see a movie he had been waiting to see, but he was forced to decline the invitation because he had no spending money available. Now that was a teachable moment!


Teaching our children to think through their decisions before proceeding helps them to understand a fact of life: “If I buy this, then I won’t have enough money to do that.” Making wise spending decisions can be difficult, and it’s our job as parents to help our children learn how to be good stewards. We would rather our children learn by making small money mistakes now than by making larger money mistakes later. Our children enjoy the responsibility of managing their own money and have learned—sometimes the hard way—to make adjustments to their finances as priorities or unexpected events occur. The practice of wise stewardship is a skill that will continue to pay dividends when they are out on their own.

So how do you help your child learn how to budget? Identifying specific goals and working toward achieving those goals is an easy and intuitive way to begin. Whether it’s a long-term savings goal, such as college tuition, a vacation, or the purchase of a car, or a short-term goal such as the purchase of a video game or a donation to charity, establishing a goal is the first step toward accomplishing that goal. Amazingly, 97% of the population doesn’t take time to set goals.1 As Benjamin Mays wisely stated: “. . . The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”

Making wise spending decisions can be difficult, and it’s our job as parents to help our children learn how to be good stewards.

My oldest children were saving up for the purchase of an electronic game, which they wanted by Thanksgiving of last year. They each set a goal equaling a third of the total cost and then calculated how much they needed to save each month if they were to achieve their goal. A visual reminder of their progress helped motivate them even more to achieve that goal. The boys were ecstatic when they not only met their goal but actually reached it two weeks ahead of schedule.

Besides creating goals to save for things they want, our children are responsible for giving to charity and for saving up to buy gifts for family and friends. This means they must prioritize their goals and also must frequently postpone reaching a personal savings goal in order to ensure they reach their charity or gift goal. It’s been amazing to see how they have responded so generously in their giving to others—and without complaint.

The establishment of specific goals, combined with visual reminders of their progress, has helped our children see the bigger picture, prioritize more effectively, and make wise money decisions. You, too, will be amazed by the change you observe in your children when they begin putting these simple skills into practice. Habits form early and become more difficult to change the older we get. Don’t put it off!

Bob Masterson and his wife Mary homeschool their nine children—eight boys and one girl—in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Bob and his good friend Jeff Eusebio co-founded FamilyMint to help their own kids and others become was designed around the concept of SMART goals—goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, wRitten, and Timely. The FamilyMint website provides a simple and fun tool (for kids aged 6–18) that teaches and reinforces the concepts that help create money-smart kids. For more information and to use FamilyMint with your family, visit


Copyright 2010. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Fall 2010. Used with permission. Visit them at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC.

For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the , where shipping is always free (U.S. only)!

Spring Fever
Lesson Pathways | March 1, 2011 | 10:00 am

Flower BudIt seems like we’ve all been infected with the dreaded Spring Fever around here. The malady that comes this time of year when the weather starts teasing us. Warming up just enough to give us thoughts of running barefoot in the grass on a warm sunny day. The only problem is…it’s still winter in most parts of the U.S. and school is a long time from being over. Our visions of great things happening in our school day, sadly are pushed into “What great things can I do NEXT YEAR?”

There is still hope for this year…I’ve found a couple of remedies for Spring Fever, I’d like to share with you to help breathe some fresh life into school time.

Science Fair Projects

Let your students pick their own projects and explore a new topic area. There are great websites out there with projects just right for any age. My son wants to make a solar oven and explore the different kinds of foods he can cook. We can use this interest to branch out into learning about other energy sources.

Plant something

It’s just about the right time to start seedlings indoors for your spring/summer garden. Take your kids to the store and let them pick out something they want to grow (and hopefully eat). Experiment with different containers to see which seeds grow best in which containers. Measure the seedlings height and compare their growth.

Theme Days

Have a pajama day where everyone does all their work in their pj’s. Game day…where you play “educational” games for the day. Make up silly days. Get your kids involved and let them come up with some themes. You’d be surprised at what kind of fun they can imagine.

Field trips

Now is the perfect time to plan some field trips in your community. Don’t limit yourself to the normal field trips. Find a small business owner who might be willing to give you a tour of their shop. Visit your local library’s story hour. Recently our library had a story hour that was advertised for younger children, but we went with our 3rd and 4th graders, who had a blast.

Nature Walks and Nature Journals

Let’s face it, when the weather gets nice, we all just want to be outside. Take advantage of this by going on some nature walks. Make up simple scavenger hunts—colors, types of flowers, etc. Pull out all your nature guides and see what you find. Dig up a shovelful of dirt and dump it on a poster board. Sketch all the signs of life there. Go on a hike and have kids stop as much as they’d like. The slower the better.

Join forces!

Get together with some other families for a day of learning activities. We just had a friend over for a couple of hours to learn all about Roman Numerals. Learning is always more fun with friends.

Unit Studies

Feeling bogged down in history and science….it’s time to do a unit study on a topic of interest. I have been using Lesson Pathways for my history and science this year. If I feel a need for change, I just look up our grade level to find a new interesting subject to study. It’s great and easy, too.

Don’t let Spring Fever take the joy out of your school year.
There’s a remedy just right for you!

Christy V. lives in the Smoky Mountains with her husband and children. She is a former Music Teacher but absolutely loves homeschooling her kids. She loves reading, singing, hiking and blogging. You can follow her blog at

Writing Series Wrap Up
Lesson Pathways | February 16, 2011 | 10:00 am

PresentAll good things must come to an end.  But for you and your children, it’s a beginning.

The Writing Strategies Series on Lesson Pathways blog may be over, but now is the time that you can put your resources together and foster a lifelong love of writing in your student.

Feel free to bookmark our posts to refer to later if you need them.

  • Teaching Writing That’s Fun to Read
  • The Writing Process
  • Choosing A Topic
  • Giving Writing Feedback
  • Motivating Your Child to Write
  • We hope that you enjoyed this series on teaching writing.  Do you have any thoughts you want share with us?  We’re looking for volunteer bloggers!  Drop us a line at to learn more!

    The Pathway to Teaching an Active Child
    Lesson Pathways | February 8, 2011 | 10:00 am

    handstandDay 1 of Homeschooling

    As we sat and tried to read the beautifully illustrated book about clouds, my son’s body was wiggling all over, his hands were twiddling like crazy, and he was full of one thing – BOREDOM! All my carefully planned lessons for the year were going to be a complete flop with this highly active child!

    All too soon I realized that his learning style was totally different than mine. And I had just finished creating a year’s worth of lesson plans that I would enjoy…. What to do now?

    Determined to make his first year of homeschooling a success, I began scouring the Internet for resources and activities for my active child. Before long, I landed on Lesson Pathways.

    My quick search for a lesson on clouds hit with success! A quick trip to the local supermarket and I was ready to try again. My son was skeptical as I pulled back out the Cloud book, but I was prepared for his reaction. I quickly added a piece of blue paper and a can of Redi Whip. Now I had his attention (and that of his younger sister as well ☺ ).

    Six months later, we are still thriving on the hugely hands on lesson plans found in Lessons Pathways, and I have a household that LOVES Monday’s, which for them is “When all the fun starts”.

    I would read a page, we would look at the pictures, and he would build me a cloud on his page from what we learned. It was AWESOME! My son, that only yesterday told me “I HATE LEARNING”, was now totally engrossed in the material! And not only was he totally into it, the whole family was soon getting involved in the hands on fun.

    Six months later, we are still thriving on the hugely hands on lesson plans found in Lessons Pathways, and I have a household that LOVES Monday’s, which for them is “When all the fun starts”.

    Bringing Action Into Your Home

    Are you struggling with an active child’s lack of interest in learning what you are presenting through workbooks and table work? Here are a few great tips for adjusting your lessons to their needs:

    1. Try not to stop them from moving – they are still listening even if they are pacing your living room or dribbling a ball at the same time.
    2. When sitting is unavoidable, keep lessons short and offer little breaks in between each part.
    3. Play games! They acquire information fastest when participating in a science lab, drama presentation, skit, field trip, dance, or other active activity.
    4. Finally, check out Lesson Pathways for their great hands on applications!

    And, as a Homeschooling Mama that appreciates using friends as my #1 resource, I would love to hear back from you. What are your tricks and tips for teaching the kinesthetic or physically active learner?

    This post was written by Jody N.  A homeschool mom of two, living with her family in west Michigan.  You can read more about her and our other contributors by visiting the Our People page.

    Motivating Your Child To Write
    Lesson Pathways | February 2, 2011 | 9:20 am

    This is our final installment in the series “Teaching Writing.”  Today, Crystal shares with us a few tips on motivating children to write.

    Boy writingDo not put statements in the negative form.
    And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
    If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
    great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
    Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
    Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
    If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
    Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.”

    ~William Safire, “Great Rules of Writing”

    Is it any wonder that it can be so hard to get kids to write?

    There are a few simple guidelines that you can follow to help your child become more comfortable with writing. Who knows, they might even enjoy it!

    Rule number one in getting a child to begin to write and to be comfortable writing is to make it personal to the child. Let them write about things that they know and things that they like.

    Make it fun. Not all writing is about format. Let it be about content and creativity.

    Remember that there will be times for focus on usage, content, format, etc. Those things will come a lot easier (for everyone involved) if you begin by fostering a love of writing. Give useful feedback — “I really enjoyed the way you described your favorite toy.” Encourage in areas that need more work — “Tell me more about what made you feel scared.”

    Finally, I beg of you, please — never, ever use writing as a form of discipline. So many middle school students have come to me hating writing, in large part because they were made to write as punishment.

    Crystal P. lives in Illinois with her many children, pets, and her husband.  She is a former (and probably future) middle school language arts teacher.  She is currently working from home as an independent copywriter,editor, and Lesson Pathways team member. You can follow her blog at

    Giving Writing Feedback
    Lesson Pathways | January 26, 2011 | 10:00 am

    We hope you’ve been enjoying our series on teaching writing.  Today, we’re proud to present more great ideas from Crystal P. on how to give feedback.

    Report CardWhether grading your child’s writing or simply giving feedback, you want to put a positive spin on it, while still guiding your child through mistakes, making him a better writer. Here are a few simple tips to do help you along your way.

    Make your expectations known up front. Let your child know if you are grading to look for grammar, content, organization, etc. Try to keep focus on one or two of these aspects (especially through the elementary years). Let your child know, for example, if you expect all words to be spelled correctly or if you are looking for specific types of sentences.

    Use a writing rubric. This allows you to grade on multiple skills (grammar, content, fluency, etc) but allows for some wiggle room. It’s not pass or fail, all or nothing, and it helps you avoid making red marks all over your student’s paper. One example (of the many, many available) can be found here. (This will open a PDF file).

    Allow for free writing. When you do this, you’re looking for completion and attention to subject matter (if one was assigned). Don’t worry about spelling and grammar conventions. Let your child be free and creative. Use this as a chance to praise your child’s writing skills and and encourage them to write. Remember that not all writing has to be formulaic. Keeping this in mind will make the writing experience more enjoyable for you and your child.

    Crystal P. lives in Illinois with her many children, pets, and her husband.  She is a former (and probably future) middle school language arts teacher.  She is currently working from home as an independent copywriter,editor, and Lesson Pathways team member. You can follow her blog at

    Writing Strategies: Choosing A Topic
    Lesson Pathways | January 18, 2011 | 10:26 am

    childs fearsA sure-fire way to produce a look of panic on a student’s face is to tell them to get out their writing journal and write about whatever they want. Sure, there are a random few that are willing to take on this task, but more often than not, the kids will just freeze in place. But it’s not just kids that have this problem. Whether you’re planning a lesson or writing for yourself, you’ll often find that choosing a topic is the the hardest part.

    Of course, there are times when you want to give your child a topic to write on. You might want an autobiography on a famous scientist or a response to a literature assignment. On the other hand, there are times when you want independent writing to take place. It’s good exercise for the brain. But how do you get them to start? Suddenly, a blank piece of paper becomes terrifying.

    Some of the tips that I’ve found useful in guiding my students (or myself) in choosing topics are as follows:

    • Keep a notebook or journal with a page or two dedicated to writing topics. If an idea pops into your head, write it down. You may find that you never use that topic (because hopefully, after awhile, you’ll have several to choose from). However, before you know it, you’ll have a list waiting for you when you’re ready to sit down and start writing.
    • Five minutes of free writing. My students found this method challenging at first, but after a few times, they really looked forward to doing it. The tough part of this is that your pencil cannot stop moving for the entire time. (I generally chose five minutes, but you may want to shorten this time period for younger children). The fun part is that you can write about anything you want. You should write about whatever is in your head at the time. Allow a lot of freedom in this area. I’ve seen students make lists of their friends or what they would like for lunch. They might copy words off of a poster on the wall. I did not place restrictions on this as long as the pencil kept moving. Keep this page in your writing journal for future reference.
    • Draw a tree. The trunk of your tree is your base. Start with the first topic that comes into your head. Begin to draw branches on your tree by adding words related to that topic. You may find out that one of your branches becomes your actual topic.
    • Create a waterfall. I found this especially helpful when I wanted my students to write historical fiction. The top of your waterfall is your “big” topic. For example’s sake, let’s say you are studying the Revolutionary War in history. The Revolutionary War will be the top of your waterfall. Many, many topics can rain down from your waterfall: George Washington, liberty, Delaware, the Boston Tea Party, Green Mountain Boys, etc.

    These methods should keep you and your child armed with a list of ready-made topics whenever the time comes for independent writing. The more often you employ these tricks, the easier choosing a topic will become. I wish you the best of luck in your writing journeys.

    Crystal P. lives in Illinois with her many children, pets, and her husband.  She is a former (and probably future) middle school language arts teacher.  She is currently working from home as an independent copywriter,editor, and Lesson Pathways team member. You can follow her blog at

    The Writing Process
    Lesson Pathways | January 12, 2011 | 12:50 pm

    In order to teach writing effectively, it’s important to thoroughly understand the process of writing.  This post in our series from Crystal P. will help you do just that!

    There are five steps to the writing process.  These include prewriting, drafting, revising, edition, and publishing.


    This is the part that is the hardest for many children.  It’s the part where you have to sit down and figure out what you’re going to write about. Brainstorming, free writing, and keeping a journal of writing ideas are great ways to get started.  I also recommend of these books: Unjournaling – for older students, or 75 Picture Prompts for Young Writers, for the younger grades.

    Once you have chosen a topic, it might be a good idea to form an outline.  Start with your topic. (For older students, this is where you’ll want to prepare your thesis statement).  Then list the main ideas that you want to cover.

    It’s important to remember that not all outlines look same.  Your child will have varying numbers of main ideas, sub points, etc. depending on what their topic is and depending on what their writing or age level is.

    You can find printable outlines that you might be interested in using here or here.


    After brainstorming your topic or creating an outline in the prewriting stage, your child will begin his rough draft.  In my experience, students want this to be their only draft.  It’s important to get your child in the habit of making this a step in their writing process.  An exception to this would be journaling.  That type of writing should be on-the-spot and not necessarily polished.  The drafting stage is when your child will do the heavy lifting, so-to-speak.  This is when you should be putting your thoughts into sentences and paragraphs.

    boy writing


    This stage can be tough for some children because they often confuse it with the editing process.  Revision is a separate step.  This is the stage where your child might want to have someone else (a sibling, friend, parent) take a look at what they have written.  The outside viewer may come up with questions or suggestions to fill in some gaps in the original writing. (In public education, this stage is often called “Peer Editing.”) Some of the questions that your child needs to ask in the revision stage are:

    • Do I have complete sentences?
    • Have I used proper word choice?
    • Do I use enough examples to support my main ideas?
    • Is there a clear introduction and conclusion?
    • Did I use transitions between paragraphs and ideas?

    For middle and high school students, I recommend using a more in-depth revision checklist, such as the one found



    Editing is the stage of writing where your child is going to check for grammar and punctuation errors.  If your child has typed his essay on the computer, he can use spell check to get him started with this stage, but remember that spell check doesn’t correct everything.  For example, if he has used the wrong from of “their,” but has spelled it correctly, spell check will not pick up on that.

    The editing stage includes checking for spelling, capitalization, grammar usage, verb tense, and word usage.  If you don’t have the opportunity for peer editing or review, your child can edit on his own.   One of the strategies I frequently is is reading my work backwards.  You can also use this site as an editing checklist.


    The final step is here!  This is the stage where  your child will either write in her neatest handwriting or type and print her work on the computer.  For older children, this is the place where you make sure you have followed the directions to to the letter:  font, margins, spacing, etc.

    I recommend printing out this page (will open in a PDF file) and keeping it displayed as a quick reference to the steps of the writing process.  Happy writing!

    Crystal Pratt lives in Illinois with her many children, pets, and her husband.  She is a former (and probably future) middle school language arts teacher.  She is currently working from home as an independent copywriter,editor, and Lesson Pathways team member.

    Teaching Writing That’s Fun to Read
    Lesson Pathways | January 5, 2011 | 9:03 am

    “I’m going to tell you about…” Seeing this phrase at the beginning of a paragraph/essay/research paper is, to me, the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. I’m also not a real big fan of the “first, next, then, last” system much past third grade. Writing, even expository writing, doesn’t have to be boring.

    Of course, the first thing a writer needs to keep in mind is the audience that the work is intended for. For example, if your high school senior is writing an essay for a college application, he probably doesn’t want to open with a joke… But with that in mind, teaching your child the following tips when teaching writing will not only make the writing more interesting, but the quality of his writing will be improved.

    School Supplies 3

    Hook your audience. The reason movies or television shows open with an exciting or suspenseful scene is to get your attention and keep it. A good hook will draw your readers in so that they want to keep reading. A hook can consist of a number of things: a quotation, a question, an exclamation, reveal something startling, or provide a description. The goal is to get your reader into your second paragraph.

    Use transitions. There are several words and phrases that your writer can use to get from paragraph to paragraph. However, I implore you to teach your child how to use these transitions correctly. I once made the mistake of simply giving a 6th grade class a handout containing transition words. I got pages and pages full of paragraphs that started with “In addition…” The transition word or phrase used should be relevant. I suggest keeping a handout or printout of transitional words and phrases as a permanent component of your child’s writing folder. A quick Google search with the terms “writing transition” will give you plenty of options to choose from so that you can print out a list that is suitable for your child’s age level.

    Proofread. There’s nothing more distracting than trying to read something full of grammatical errors. I’ve had students write the most wonderful, creative stories, but the quality of the story is lost in the run-on sentences, the misspelled words, and the random capital letters. You’ll probably find that your child is not overly receptive to your asking for these errors to be addressed, but it is an important part of the writing process. A technique I like to use is to give the child a familiar piece of work (a fairy tale, poem, etc.) and fill it full of errors. It is uncomfortable to read and the student often sees the value in writing with correct grammar. It doesn’t make them any happier about having to correct the errors, but at least they know why they are doing it.

    Smiley-Face Tricks. This is a set of writing tricks complied by a teacher from Texas (Mary Ellen Ledbetter). Using these tips in your writing adds life and depth to your writing. Some of these tips include using hyphenated modifiers (adjectives), using figurative language, and using parallel groups of words. (I just did that, did you catch it?) Again, you can do a Google search for “Smiley Face Tricks” to find many, many copies of Ms. Ledbetter’s tips. Or you can just click here: (PDF file)

    My final tip is going to go here, in my concluding paragraph. Can you guess what my final tip is? End your writing. Even if your story has a cliffhanger, it should have an ending. Wrap things up. (There are tips for full-circle endings in the Smiley Face Tricks). Summarize and let your reader know that you are done imparting information or telling your story. In summary, teaching your child to utilize some of these tricks when writing will make their writing more interesting, more informative, and more likely to hold a reader’s interest.

    This post was written by Crystal P., a Team Member and teacher.  You can read more of her education-related articles at Crystal’s Thoughts.