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Toddler Motor Skills, Merit Badges, H.A. Grueber History

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, June 11, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 46 June 11, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Guest Article
-- Toddler Motor Skills
Helpful Tips
-- Merit Badges for Fun
Resource Review
-- H.A. Grueber History Series
Reader Question
-- Decision to Homeschool
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

[Editor's note: Although I no longer personally have toddlers
under foot (do I actually MISS those days? wow!), I thought
this article by Rachel Paxton was a delightful reminder that
homeschooling starts at birth. :-) -- Heather]


Developing Toddler Motor Skills
by Rachel Paxton

If you have a toddler, you already know that he or she is a
little bundle of endless energy! My twin boys turned two several
months ago, and they have been non-stop action since they learned
to walk. There is never a dull moment! It's been a long time
since I've had a toddler in the house and I had forgotten how
quickly they grow and how much they learn during this toddler

At this age toddlers are developing many motor skills. There are
two main types of motor skills: gross motor skills and fine motor
skills. Gross motor skills involve large muscles, and are
strengthened by walking/running, climbing, and general play.
Fine motor skills involve mostly the hands and fingers and hand
to eye coordination. Your toddler will strengthen many of these
abilities on his or her own, but there are many ways you can
encourage and help them to develop their motor skills.

Eating and Grooming

The easiest way to encourage your toddler to develop motor skills
is to have them help with everyday activities like feeding and
grooming themselves. Toddlers are famously messy when eating,
but this is the age when they should be using a spoon and fork to
feed themselves, as messy as it may be. This will greatly help
their fine motor skills and hand to eye coordination. Your
toddler will also enjoy dressing and undressing, combing their
own hair, and brushing their own teeth.

Drawing and Coloring

A toddler as young as 18 months old is capable of coloring. I
didn't know this until my boys brought home their first coloring
page from Sunday School. I couldn't believe it! Toddlers love
to scribble. Walmart sells some great oversized coloring books
that my boys love to color in. Sit and color with them and show
them how to hold the crayon. My boys love to take the crayons
out of my hands and tell me "no" when I try to color on the same
page with them!

Puzzles and Shape Sorters

Puzzles and shape sorters are great for toddlers 18+ months old.
Again, I was surprised at how young my boys were able to place
pieces into a wooden puzzle. It took them a couple of months to
figure out which pieces went where and to be able to turn the
pieces just the right way to fit into the puzzle, but it kept
them busy for 10-15 minutes at a time and it was amazing how much
they remembered each time they sat down to do their puzzles.
Shape sorters are also great. We've had several different ones,
and the boys have responded better to some than others. We found
a neat one at Baby Depot that is shaped like a toolbox on the
outside and is a shape sorter on the inside. My boys have spent
many hours figuring out which shapes go where. The toolbox makes
a sound when the shape is placed in the correct hole.

Songs with Hand Motions

Toddlers love to sing and dance. Songs with hand motions are a
great way for toddlers to learn fine motor skills. My boys
started doing small hand motions at around 18 months old, but
after about age 2 they were ready to do most of the hand motions
to their favorite songs. Some of their favorites: "Itsy-Bitsy
Spider", "Patty Cake", "If You're Happy and You Know it Clap Your
Hands". Sunday school favorites include: "Deep and Wide" and
"This Little Light of Mine".

Free Play and Exercise

Playing is a great way to develop both gross and fine motor
skills. Running, jumping, hopping, and skipping are all skills
your toddler will eventually master. I'll never forget the first
time one of my boys jumped. He squatted all the way down on the
ground and threw himself up in the air with his hands all the way
up, and jumped about a half an inch off the ground. It was the
most hysterical thing I'd ever seen. When you catch your toddler
doing these types of activities you can encourage them to keep
doing them to develop these skills.

While your toddler may or may not be ready for a tricycle yet,
this is a good age to introduce one to them, so they will know
what's expected and be ready to jump on and pedal away when
they're ready.

My boys are also working on mastering climbing jungle gyms at the
park, and playing "catch". Throwing and catching a large ball is
great for developing your toddler's hand to eye coordination. At
first just have your toddler hold out their arms and throw the
ball into their arms so it is easy for them to catch. They will
soon get the idea!


Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of four. For more
inspirational articles and tips for everyday living, visit


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather @ familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tips

Merit Badges for Projects

"Whether officially scouting or not, merit badges make SUPER
learning projects for hands-on boys.


There's a site out there somewhere with OLD badges too, ones
no longer in the book. Those are good too."

-- Chris E. - HomeschoolingBOYS.com member


Using Scout badges for home-school curriculum

"For those who may be using Scouts in their homeschool, I
found this site that may be helpful:


Not sure about all of it, but this gal put a lot of work into
this site and the badges are even broken down into school
subjects. I found some helpful things and thought others might
as well... gave me some ideas of things we can do in our home-
school as we (hopefully) get back into Scouts this year."

-- Shari E. - HomeschoolingBOYS.com member


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas @ familyclassroom.net

Resource Review

H.A. Grueber History Series
-- Review by Cindy Prechtel, HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Nothing New Press has brought a series of classic history texts
back into print for a new generation of students. Now children
of all ages can enjoy the works of 19th century author Helene A.
Grueber. Titles in the series are: The Story of the Ancients,
The Story of the Greeks, The Story of the Romans, The Story of the
Middle Ages, The Story of the Thirteen Colonies, and The Story of
the Great Republic. The Story of the Renaissance and Reformation
and The Story of the Ancient World are also in the process of
being made available by the publisher. Each volume offers easy-
to-read, engaging narratives of the lives and times of the most
important people of the period, arranged chronologically.

In an effort to preserve the work of Grueber, publisher Christine
Miller has been true to the original texts whenever possible.
With the exception of a few updates, each book in the series is
faithfully reprinted as it was published in 1896. Where changes
were necessary, the publisher carefully explains the reasons for
any deviation from the original text. As with most books written
prior to the 20th century, use of these texts enables children to
build a biblical worldview and a rich vocabulary. As you might
guess, some volumes are more challenging to read than others,
with those covering The Story of the Greeks and Romans offering
the most challenge. Thankfully, the author provides pronunciation
guides for places and names the first time they are encountered
(this is done in every book in the series). Each reprinted volume
includes additional maps, a timeline for the period the book
covers, a reading list keyed to the chapters, and an exhaustive
index. Another helpful feature is the addition of illustrations
and photos not available when the books were originally published.

Each volume includes the original preface from the author explain-
ing her goals for writing the text and ideas for the teacher to
implement in the classroom.

As you explore the titles in this series, you will quickly see
that these are not your ordinary 'textbooks'. There are no
lesson plans, comprehension questions or fill-in-the-blank work-
sheets. Instead you are free to use the books as an exciting
narrative of history, stopping whenever you desire for discussion
or digging deeper with books from the library. The rich vocabu-
lary gives plenty of opportunities for dictionary work and for
using context to find the meaning of words. The reading list
provided with each book is keyed to the chapters, so one can
easily find more 'living' books to cover each time period. Those
implementing the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason or the
Classical model, will appreciate the shortparagraphs, which are
perfect for copywork and dictation exercises. Use of a wall or
notebook timeline would also help to make the people and events
covered come to life, as your child is able to see the 'big
picture'. As the author states in her preface, these books may
be used as your main textbook, or as a supplement to any history
curriculum. To help you decide if these books are right for you,
the publisher has provided several sample pages and the table of
contents for each volume at the website listed below.

Christine Miller has gone to great lengths to reprint this
classic series and in doing so has provided a wonderful history
resource for homeschool families to enjoy and treasure for years
to come!


For more information or to order:

Last Issue's Reader Question

Two issues ago Pam wrote in asking for help in making a decision to
homeschool her 8 and 10 year old children. To view her details,
see the 6/4 issue at our website here:


We had SO many caring answers that I had to split them up into 2 groups!
The second half of your answers for Pam are below. :-)

Our Readers' Responses

"I hear so well what you are saying! I was there a few years ago,
and sometimes there are no right or wrong answers to what's the best
way to go. There are, however, right and wrong ways for each family

When my kids were younger, they were going to Christian school and
I was teaching Spanish there, also. Everything seemed to be perfect.
After all, I went to school with them, and we came back together.
But, I felt what you are feeling: I was spending a lot of time with
a lot of kids, but not enough with mine. I also had this gut feeling
that you described. I didn't do anything then, and when the kids got
older, my son in 6th grade had a really bad experience with a class-
mate who was bullying him to the point that my son no longer wanted
to go back to school. To make matters worse, the school wasn't
responding properly to this bullying kid, because he was the president
of the board's son.

Right then and there I knew what I had to do, and my kids were ready
also. I have been homeschooling them for 5 years now, they are all
teenagers -- and it has been the best decision of my life. We have
gone on 2 missions trips to Mexico, a trip to Argentina, and we'll
be going on an historic trip back east in October. I have given my
kids time to explore things they would like to explore. My son had
a succesful Ebay business for a couple of years, my daughter gradua-
ted at 16, and has plans to go on through discipleship training with
YWAM (Youth With A Mission) for 5 months. My younger son enjoys
being home and spending time playing his guitar and piano -- at will
-- in his free time.

I believe that schools are fine when kids are younger, but things get
more complicated as they get older. Peer pressure is different when
they are little kids and we have more control/influence. In fact, we
have seen many of their former friends making really bad choices in
their teen years, trying to 'fit in'.

I hope this helps you plan for your family as unique, not as what
everybody else thinks is right or wrong. I have seen many succesful
kids come from schools also, and that was the right choice for them."
-- Silvia L.


"It sounds like you know in your heart what you should be doing, and
your husband does too. Your children should not make the decision.
You can see things that they can't see. My own little social butter-
fly felt the same about homeschooling. She was at preschool and
loved it. Everything was about which friends to play with and who
she could have a playdate with. Now (our 2nd year) she never talks
about going off to school and, while she still loves her friends,
family is more important. She loves playing with her brother who is
only 2 1/2. It did help her to know she could see friends regularly.

It will not be the 'Leave it to Beaver' scene you picture. You will
have good days and not so good. Try it this summer. You may feel
better that your kids still have a chance at the school they love.
If, after the summer, you love homeschooling (and I think you will)
you can withdraw your children and the school will happily fill
their spot from the waiting list. I don't think the summer alone
will be long enough to sway your children's opinion. It took my
daughter months to get into a comfortable routine.

Also, start small with a little assignment or science experiment at
breakfast; a great read aloud after lunch; lots of freetime for
hobbies, not TV or computer games though. Once your children realize
they have more time for stuff they enjoy they will like it too.

I also recommend reading all you can on the website for Home School
Legal Defense Association (hslda.org), especially everything about
virtual charter schools. I know some parents love them but there
are two sides to the issue. I want you to make your decisions with
your eyes open to the pros and cons of virtual charter schools. I
would also highly recommend a membership to HSLDA should you decide
to go for it. They have a plethora of information to share and
offer legal advice and protection for homeschool related issues
should you ever need it.

If you need more information for your heart, and you and your hus-
band have already prayed and prayed over this, you should look at
your local high schools. Usually the elementary years are nice
for good students who are popular, but what are they really teaching
in your local high school? Here in Massachusetts there is a lot we
disagree with that fits into the 'health' curriculum. And it isn't
just the sex-ed curriculum or the fact that Planned Parenthood (you
know -- the nation's largest chain of abortion providers) passes
out condoms!" V. in MA


"Maybe you could try homeschooling for the summer and see how it
goes. That way you have all the freedom you need without having to
give up your spot if it doesn't work out come fall. If you're
worried about the kids getting too far ahead if they return to
school you can cover subjects they're interested and the school has
already touched on more in-depth. Good luck with your decision!"
-- Casey K.


"Dear Pam --
It's great that your children have enjoyed public school; however,
they haven't had a taste of homeschooling yet! Take the summer and
find a couple homeschool families in your area that you can do some
activities with. Right away, join a homeschool group - they are
for homeschoolers or those thinking about homeschooling. When your
kids begin to understand that they will still have good friends,
most likely of all ages, and when they discover the freedom home-
schoolers have, they will probably jump into your plan for them feet

It would be normal for them to be nervous. They probably think
they will lose friends from school. Close friends will remain in
their lives... after all, how much time at school is really spent
on quality time with friends? Homeschoolers can play any day with
each other!!! Good luck!" -- Marla J.


"Pam -- I say, 'Go with your gut!' Homeschooling will be less
like Leave it to Beaver and more like a Twilight Zone episode, but
you sound adventurous. At the risk of sounding harsh, we parents
have the God-given responsibility to make decisions for our kids
according to what we believe is best for them. Sometimes they like
it and sometimes they don't, but it's our responsibility. If your
'gut' is telling you to do it, then give it a try. Better to have
tried and failed then to live in regret." -- Noreen S.


"The moment I read the first line of your message I felt a need to
reply even though I didn't know what the question was...

I, too, have an 8 year old son and 10 year old daughter. Although,
I have homeschooled since the beginning. If asked my kids would
love to switch to 'regular school', either public or private, as
they have friends from both as well as their homeschooled friends.

First, I'd like you to consider another situation. If you or your
husband were transferred across the country would you ask your
children to make the decision -- YES or NO? Of course not! You
may want their input on packing of their things, having a going
away party, etc., but you would not let little ones make a decision
that they are not qualified to make.

It is the same with homeschooling. If you feel the conviction to
homeschool, I suggest making a *permanent* change. Make sure to
get the FULL support of your hubby. Don't even consider the option
'if it gets too hard we'll quit'. Trust me -- there are good days
and there are completely AWFUL days. If you give yourself an easy
out, you will take it.

Then sit with the kids and let them know that this is being done
with their best interests in mind. Then, ask their input on little
things... like which subject to do first -- Math or Reading? Sit
on the couch or on the floor? How to decorate your 'school area'?

Most kids are not even qualified to put together a balanced meal
much less make a huge decision like their education. Of course
they'd rather go to school -- they'd also probably rather have
candy and cake for every meal!

Perhaps a good way to temper this over the summer would be to find
a local homeschooling support group and let your kids get to know
kids their age who are homeschooled. Make sure to also let them
know they'll still be able to see and play with their friends from
'regular school'." -- Jodanne

Answer our NEW Question

"I pulled my eleven year old son from our local school system last
year to homeschool him. He was diagnosed with a nonverbal learning
disability and sensory integration dysfunction, and fell further
behind while in public school. While homeschooling him, I have
found that my son has huge 'gaps' in his knowledge base. We have
spent time trying to fill in those gaps and catching him up. The
problem is my system requires homeschooled children to fall within
the twenty-third percentile. I don't see my son making that expec-
tation. He has made tremendous gains behaviorally and academically
from when we first started. How do I go about preparing for a
possible hearing with my local system? Sending him back to public
school is not an option. I would like to continue homeschooling him."
-- Elizabeth in Virginia


Do you have experience with hearings, perhaps even in Virginia?
Or have you been down a similar path with your own child? Your
email 'answer' could be a big help and encouragement to Elizabeth!

Please send your answer to: HN-answers @ familyclassroom.net

Ask YOUR Question

Do you have a question you would like our readers to answer?

Send it to HN-questions @ familyclassroom.net and we'll see
if we can help you out in a future issue!

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This ultra-safe chat is supervised by experienced moms who are
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Come and jump right in! :-)


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Tags: toddler motor skills, preschool fine motor skills, fine motor skills, homeschooling boyscouts, merit badges for projects, scout merit badges for credit, H.A. Grueber History, Christine Miller, classical model, Charlotte Mason, beginning to homeschool

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