Hello everyone! This is Veronica’s husband taking over a little category on this blog called “homeschooling with papa”. When I married this blog host, I knew I had hit the lotto for my family: she’s super cute and an accomplished young woman with a post-graduate education and a love for her Roman Catholic faith. Our children were born to two teachers, and their mother gets to stay home to be their teacher.
This is a short post explaining why I started creating reading guides for The National Geographic Magazine and some background for how they work.
Background: We do our best to balance what we can (well, at least I do the dishes every night) and so when I come home from work, there is plenty to do to supplement the learning that the kids do during the day.
One resource that I’ve always wanted to introduce to my children was The National Geographic Magazine. As we end our oldest daughter’s second homeschooling year, I decided to take the Nat Geo and use it as a launching pad for exploring science, reading, geography, and the world that is academia.
Many blogs and online resources discuss unique topics in unique ways. In fact, there are too many. I don’t have time to vet them all. The NatGeo saves me time and presents the information in the best way possible: in text and in print. The texts are beautiful literature, mixing everything an AP English high school teacher dreams of: narrative, explanatory, and hints of argumentative writing. The topics are current and exciting. And the images. The images in two-page spread are gorgeous to behold.
Starting to read: With that in mind, I started taking smaller articles and reading them aloud to the seven- and four-year olds. It was such a revelation to see them engage with unique, specific topics, such as plants that eat ants and a man who is on a mission to take pictures of every single animal species. (He calls it the Photo Ark, and only a Western-educated person would understand the full resonance of that title bearing from the Judeo-Christian story of Noah and his Ark and the rainbow.) At the end of each reading, my children were excited to discuss the topics.
Each reading guide will include:
1. Warnings about content from a concerned, Catholic dad
2. Article summaries and recommendations to start
3. Vocabulary and Geographic terms to explore
4. Discussion Questions: after you read the text aloud to your younger children, answering and clearing up any questions they may have, use these questions to discuss and process information
How to use the guides: There will be a longer post about this, and other resources, but here is a description.
papa: Hi kids, we’re going to read a little article about an animal that got its leg cut off! How gross!
papa: (shows picture) Look, there it is! What can you see?
4: Where is it?
7: Right there, can’t you see his legs? It looks like a lizard.
papa: It’s like a lizard, but it’s a salamander. They have four legs and a tail like lizards, but they live in water and have wet skin like frogs.
4 & 7: (nod in agreement, captivated by father’s wisdom and intelligence)
papa: Let’s see how this little three-legged friend ended up stuck in this amber.
Oops, I almost forgot. This is amber. Amber was a sticky goo, like syrup or honey.
4: Honey! I like honey!
7: Me too, on the tea that mama makes!
papa: And what happens when it gets on your fingers?
4 & 7: It gets sticky on your hands!
papa: So remember that when we read the story about the salamander.
(papa reads the story, stopping to explain)
– hatchling is a baby salamander; predator hunts salamanders, and it “ripped off its left front leg”! Did you think it liked that? What would that feel like?
– tree resin is that amber like honey; what happens when Mr. Salamander escaped and then fell in? Amber becomes hard like rock and it preserves, or saves the salamander in it frozen for us to find!
(papa decides paragraphs two and three are too challenging for 4-year-old, and only marginally useful for the 7-year-old, so he reads it really fast without much explanation)
papa: ok, now it is time for questions!
(at this point, papa and kiddos engage in conversation about the reading using some of the questions. I might add or skip some, they are only meant to provide a guide for talking with my children. Did they understand it? What kinds of questions might lead to more questions for young elementary school aged children? How does it relate to other things? at one point, papa reminds kids that this is the same as Jurassic Park dinosaur movie)
The only requirement is that children listen to most of it and that the adult continue asking questions. Writing, research, projects, coloring, videos, and all kinds of other activities can, and should be added. But to start, the kids have now engaged with a gorgeous image and interesting text.
April 2016: Here is the first document, with a post to follow about it. If you find it useful, let us know! [NGMRG 2016.04]