Our Favorite Apps

April 18th, 2014 / No Comments » / by Terri

rain2It’s Springtime! And while I would rather have my kids out playing under the apple blossoms or even in the Oregon rain puddles, we often find ourselves trapped in the house or the car and need to accomplish something educational (well, the outdoors is loaded with great educational opportunities, but there are times when we need something more measurable). We are trying to hold onto some semblance of school around the Johnson household through the end of May at least, but we are needing to change things up a bit in order to keep everyone’s attention.

I’m excited to share some of the fun things we are doing to keep school interesting, but first, I promised that I would share our favorite educational mobile apps as Part III of the Teaching With Tech series. So, you’ll have to wait until next week’s blog post for ideas that do not involved anything technical (of which, there are many!).

Teaching with Tech, Part I – Favorite Educational Youtube Videos

Teaching with Tech, Part II – Mobile App Best Practices

These are the apps that we use on a daily, weekly or regular basis. They are listed in no particular order, except that we listen, read and memorize the Bible first. Oh, one other thing… these links are all apple because we have an ipad, but if you have an android, just search through the Google Play store.

Our Top 12 Mobile App List:

 

1. Bible.Is or YouVersion for Bible memorization and Bible read-through.

2. Classical Conversations for Cycle 2 memory work

3. BrainPop for general (random) educational information.

4. StarWalk for finding/learning about stars and planets in the night sky

5. Frog Dissection for odor-free and gross-out free frog dissection for high school Biology class

6. Spelling City for weekly spelling lists

7. Letter School and Wet-Dry-Try for handwriting and letter practice

8. World Book for events that happened on this day in history.

9. Helpful aids such as Dictionary and Calculator

10. Kindle and iBooks for reading fiction and nonfiction

11. Quest Magazine for learning fun things from history

12. Timeline Builder for assembling our history timeline.

 

Great news! Timeline Builder has just finished undergoing a major revision and will be updated in the app store by May 1st. To celebrate, we are reducing the price to $3.99 until April 29th. Get version 2.0 now and then receive the upgrade (version 3.0) free when it becomes available around the end of April or beginning of May. Here are some of the fantastic upgrades that you will appreciate:

Font selection – choose from a large selection of fonts for timeline titles, events and descriptions.

Color selection – choose from a large selection of font colors for all of the above too.

Event title wrapping – add as much information to the title now as you want as the text will wrap rather than expand to the sides of the screen.

Higher resolution retina graphics for today’s crystal clear, ultra-sharp retina devices.

Better control over box closure, so that it doesn’t happen by accident when typing in a description.

More date format choices.

Updated for iOS 7.1

 

Question: What are your favorite apps, either Apple or Android?

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Mobile App Best Practices

April 11th, 2014 / 1 Comment » / by Terri

Part II of Tech Series

(Read Part I on Favorite Youtube Videos here)

I am probably a lot like you. I have a love/hate relationship with technology! I’m the gal who has oodles of bookshelves with books that I cannot bear to give away. I love the smell of books, both new and old! My school cabinet is loaded with curricula in all subjects and blank spiral notebooks ready to be filled in with freshly sharpened pencils.

I would rather hear the squeals of children jumping on the trampoline or sliding down the zip line in the backyard, than the cacophony of sounds emitting from the computer speakers.

I feel greater joy when I find my children reading to each other or listening to an audiobook together than I do when I find them playing a video game on the computer in the living room.

But I have to admit that I love my tablet and the educational apps we use for homeschooling. They make my life simpler and the kids think they are extremely fun. Mobile apps are also exceedingly affordable. A couple dollars spent in the app store can deliver a boatload of information for the kids and a quiet 15 minutes a day for mom.

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Here is how we use mobile apps in our homeschool. These are my best practices learned over 4 years of iPad use:

  1. 1. Password-protect the tablet or smart phone. I don’t want my children on a mobile device without my knowledge. Password-protecting the device allows me to keep track of who is using it and for what purpose. Another family practice is that any device that can access the internet stays in family rooms.
  2. 2. Use the built-in timer function, if necessary. If the app is game-like, then your child might get carried away and spend more time on the tablet than you would prefer. Set a timer for 30 minutes to alert you both to the lapse of time.
  3. 3. Organize your device for educational success. Place your favorite educational apps on the front page and file games and other “fluff” in folders on successive pages. Folders both condense and tuck away apps that you would rather not draw your kids’ attention away from the apps that you believe have greater educational value.
  4. 4. Use apps strategically. We always work on our Bible and other memory work on the iPad before watching videos, for example. We also get all bookwork completed before pulling out the ipad.

A little thought and organization goes a long way toward using mobile apps successfully for school. Ask your friends what their favorite educational apps are and don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars on a highly recommended 4 or 5 star app. But the great news is that there are many free ones of great value to choose from as well. Apps can help make school fun, but should only be part of the whole school experience.

Question: What are your best practices for mobile app use? How do you use them most effectively in your home?

Watch for Part III where I share the apps we use in our home on a daily or weekly basis.

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It’s Survey Time!

April 4th, 2014 / 2 Comments » / by Terri

Fill out our survey and get a free ebook – That Decisive Battle: How One Small Town Brought an End to the Great War - upon completion.

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Teaching with Technology

March 17th, 2014 / 14 Comments » / by Terri

My family is really loving my preparation for a session that I will be presenting at a few upcoming conferences, specifically Teach Them Diligently in Nashville, TN; Christian Heritage in Bellevue, WA; WHO in Puyallup, WA and OCEAN in Portland, OR. This is why my family is having so much fun…

I am watching recent uploads to some of my favorite educational YouTube channels. Ya, you heard that right… YouTube… the website that I have a love/hate relationship with. Truly, you can find some amazing stuff on YouTube, but you can also find seriously atrocious stuff and navigating your way around it can be challenging. To help my family navigate, I subscribe to my favorite channels; “favorite” videos that I want my kids to watch and turn safety mode “on.” While none of these things truly safeguard your kids from harmful videos on YouTube, my presence does. So we enjoy these videos together.

Would you like to know about some of my favorite YouTube channels? Here are a few… (And be sure to subscribe to my blog updates to the right, if you haven’t already done so.)

1. Spangler Effect – Steve Spangler Science videos are appropriate for all ages. Big science is great fun for everyone. Occasional swear words are bleeped out. Some favorites are…

Water Rockets

Hydrogen Peroxide

2. Mr. Zoller – These social study themed videos are appropriate for kids of all ages. Very informative, but interesting and keep kids’ attention.

Geography of China

Thirteen Colonies

3. Crash Course – These videos are for kids who are a little older, say junior high and high school. A very captivating and fun way to learn some more difficult subjects, such as science and literature.

Hamlet

The Odyssey

4. HistoryTeachers – These are music videos using popular music with new lyrics that teach on topics in history. Very fun, but some have mature(ish) themes, such as beheadings, affairs, etc.

French Revolution

King Henry VIII

5. History Supersizers – Learn about the food and lifestyles of people who lived in a different time. Occasional swearing is bleeped out.

Edwardian

Wartime

6. Nerdy Nummies – While not educational in the same way as the above, many of these baking ideas are taken from school subjects, such as…

Pi Pie Pops

Science Beaker Cake

7. Kahn Academy – Not a YouTube channel perse, but a great resource for learning a whole spectrum of subjects, from Ancient Rome to Genetics.

Tour of Ancient Rome

Punnett Squares

I hope that you have fun with these. Please list your favorite Youtube channels below in the comments box. Who knows, maybe they will make it into my recommendations during my live (and recorded) presentations. And be sure to subscribe to your right for blog updates in the future.) Thanks!

The Truth About Chores

February 17th, 2014 / No Comments » / by Terri

If your home life is anything like mine, then you deal with chores and messes around the house on a constant basis. This is a fact of life for everyone, but for the homeschooling family, a messy and loud household with many opportunities for cleaning up is an ever-present reality.

How can we best manage our homes and maintain our sanity?

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Here are my 5 Best Tips for Keeping Your Home and Your Sanity:

1. Remember that this is a season!

I know that you hear it all the time, words like… “Oh, they grow up so fast!” and “This too shall pass,” and “It’s just a season.” It’s easy to just stop hearing these wise words and not really believe them anyway. As someone who has been raising kids for 20 years, I have now reached that place where I can say with emphasis, “Oh, they do grow up so fast!” But I am still raising little ones too, so I also know that 18-20 years of raising kids and helping them manage their life and messes is a long, LONG process!

Here is where I have landed on this issue… I like a clean house. I just do! But I also realize that living with children means that I will live with a little bit of a mess, sometimes a lot of big messes. My husband and I find ourselves looking forward to a home with less stuff, where everything is almost always in its place, but know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will miss the squeals and the fingerprints when we get there. So, we have resigned ourselves to a “lived in” look in our home, cherishing these years with all the mess and work that they bring with them.

But that doesn’t mean that we give up and decide that all is lost when it comes to keeping an orderly home. We have daily and weekly chores that must be done in our home both by us and by the children. Here’s how we tackle them and the big question that we ask ourselves when faced with an untidy or even downright messy house:

2. What Can You Do in 5 Minutes?

When I look around the house and I find it not up to my standards of clean and tidy, I try to ask myself this simple question… what can I do that would make a difference in the next 5 minutes? Sometimes, it’s doing a load of dishes or a load of laundry. Sometimes, it is clearing off the dining room table or the bathroom counter. Sometimes, it’s interrupting the kids and doing a quick 5 minute pick-up of the living room. If all you have is 5 minutes, you can make a measurable difference in one small portion of your home. Will your house be spotless in such a small amount of time? No, but you’ve made a difference.

When the children and I work together, we place bets on how long it will take us to accomplish a certain job. I usually hear the kids shout out anything between 2 and 10 minutes. We then work as quickly as we can, timing ourselves by the clock and see whose guess came the closest. We are always surprised by how quickly we can get a job done when we work together.

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This shot was candid and not staged!

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

You are not the housekeeper of your home, you are the homemaker. Big difference! Teaching our kids how to work is one of our primary jobs as “homemaker” and “parent”. In our home, our children have pets that they care for, daily chores to accomplish and weekly cleaning that usually gets tackled on Saturday. They also have to clean their rooms on a regular basis, but are encouraged to keep it tidy all the time (some children do a better job at this than others, that’s for sure!).

Draw up a chore chart so your children know what chores they are responsible for on a daily and weekly basis. This will make your job so much easier as you can just check the chart if kids need reminders. Better yet, they can check the chart and not even need reminders. It seems to take maturity and diligence to get them to this point of responsibility though.

4. Shoes Make You Feel More Energetic

I learned a long time ago from the Flylady (is she still around?) that wearing shoes make you feel more ready to do work. You feel more like you are “on task” with shoes on your feet. I don’t always obey this rule. I find myself wearing slippers quite often during the winter months. But I do keep this in mind if I have some significant house work to accomplish in a given hour of my day. If my husband takes the kids on a field trip or out for a hike, I will get jazzed up by the idea of an empty house, lace up my shoes, tackle extra housework in record time and then enjoy some much deserved R&R in the solitude of my empty home.

5. Get Help

After 24 years of cleaning my own home with the help of my husband and children, I did something radical (for me!). I asked my husband if I could hire a teenager to come over every other week to clean the house. We actually argued over this one because Todd felt like we were “giving up” or not managing our home well enough by employing help. He also felt that it would make life too easy for our children if someone else did so much of the heavy cleaning. After I pleaded with him for a few weeks, he gave in and allowed me to give it a try.

We now have a young lady come over twice a month to deep clean our house. I must admit that I love it! We still clean thoroughly on the off weeks that she doesn’t come, but it gives me the breathing room that I need to focus on some other things, like school and our business.

Many people cannot or would rather not hire a maid, but it is working really well for us in this “season” of my life. She does a fantastic job and she works for a smaller fee than the large housecleaning services available. So, if you find yourself drowning in housework, employ some of the tips above. I’d rather give up some of my housekeeping duties and focus more on other things that seem more important right now. Besides let’s face it, a family of 8 will always keep me plenty busy with cooking, teaching, driving, piano practicing, and listening.

Question: What are your best tips for maintaining your home and your sanity?

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Why Use “Living” Books?

February 4th, 2014 / No Comments » / by Terri

Why and How You Should Use Living Books

As I write this, we are halfway through the school year. We are definitely in our groove when it comes to school and have a solid routine. Eventually though, the comfort of routine wears off and monotony settles in. How can you keep your children excited about learning? The answer is to supply them with “living books.”

So, what are “living books” and why should you use them for teaching your children? Here are some definitions of a living book:

A living book is written by a single person, a real and knowable person.

A living book is a literary expression of the author’s own ideas and love of the subject.

A living book is personal in tone and feel. It touches the heart and emotions, and the intellect.

The author of a living book addresses the reader as an intelligent and capable thinker.

In a living book, ideas are presented creatively in a way that stimulates the imagination.

child-reading-book

This idea of a living book stands in stark contrast to a textbook. So what then is a textbook? Read on:

A textbook is a non-literary expression of collected facts and information.

A textbook is impersonal in tone and feel. It touches only the intellect.

In a textbook, facts are presented without creativity in a way that deadens the imagination.

[Excerpted from Educating the WholeHearted Child (copyright 1994, 1996 Clay Clarkson). Used by permission. For more information, contact Whole Heart Ministries (P.O. Box 3445, Monument, CO 80132, 719-488-4466) or visit their website at www.wholeheart.org.]

Charlotte Mason, a British educator from England in the previous century, whose ideas are currently experiencing a rebirth among American home schools, wrote this in her volume 1 of The Original Homeschooling Series, “The fatal mistake is in the notion that he (the student) must learn ‘outlines’ of the whole history… just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

Have you ever experienced this in your home schooling adventures? You set out to cover a certain amount of history in a particular year, just to find out that your child becomes fascinated by a single character or time in history. This happened to us a couple of years ago. We were studying modern history with the goal of getting through the years 1850 to the present. I had allotted 4-5 weeks for studying the Civil War, which I thought was plenty. What I didn’t realize was how fascinated my children were to become with not only this event in history, but the general time period as well.

After 6 weeks of reading the books I had planned to read and doing the activities I had planned to do, my children were begging for more. I reluctantly gave in and let them guide their own education for a while. They chose more library books from the time period. My daughter sewed some period clothing, complete with snood and gloves. My son converted some cast-off clothing we found at Goodwill into a union soldier’s uniform. We went to a Civil War reenactment, made a soldier’s meal of hard tack and goober peas, and talked Dad into crafting some wooden rifles in the shop.

We stayed on this topic for probably a total of 9-10 weeks. Since that time, I have realized that learning does not follow a set pattern. In fact, more learning often takes place when allowed to progress naturally rather than on a set schedule. Last year, we studied the medieval time period. We were supposed to get to the year 1600, but only studied through a portion of the 15th century. And we did not get to all of the historical figures that I would have liked. But those events and people that my children gravitated toward allowed them to soak in the particular time period in history and gain more depth than if I had pushed them through on my schedule.

I am not saying that a schedule is bad. A schedule is a wonderful and necessary tool, but let it be your servant and not your master. Take the time to slow down and read “living books”. Read the first part of this article once again to remind yourself what a “living book” is and learn to identify them when browsing your library’s shelves.

I would like to conclude with a couple more quotes. Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion, writes, “If we want the mind of a child to come alive, we feed him living ideas. Ideas reside in living books,…”

I am a rather eclectic homeschooling mom and do not follow the Charlotte Mason method completely. Still, I would like to end with a final word from Charlotte Mason herself:

“…the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” ~Charlotte Mason

For a list of great books to read, I would recommend that you check out these books from your library:

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson

Valerie of Valerie’s Living Books writes, “I have chosen Living Books as my primary curriculum because I want to see my children loving learning rather than enduring an education! In this, my interest has never been in books and resources designed to entice reluctant kids with short attention spans, but rather in materials carefully written with an evident passion to challenge children, encouraging them to reason carefully and respond wholeheartedly.”

And finally, if you are studying the Ancient, Medieval, or the Colonial time period this year, do check out our book series entitled, “What Really Happened…” The authors who contributed to these books are passionate about their subject and this delight gets transferred to the student. This is a great way to introduce your children to amazing individuals from these time periods who changed the course of our world. For more details, go to: Historical Biographies.

Question: What “living” book are you engrossed in?

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How to Get Seriously Productive

January 30th, 2014 / No Comments » / by Terri

People have been asking me how I get so much done. I would love to tell you!

In the past year, I have written and published a book (A Child’s Geography: Explore the Classical World), created a new magazine (Quest Magazine) that publishes a brand new issue consistently every month, developed a new site (Map Center) where you can download Map Trek maps by the piece, and am nearly ready to launch a new web application (Map Studio) where you can create exactly the maps you want for your homeschool lesson, workshop, sermon or classroom. Oh, and I am also writing a 4th volume of A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms.

How in the world can anyone get this much done? I have 5 secret weapons! And they are:

1. I will hire or outsource the stuff that I cannot do, such as coding or editing for example. It just makes good sense. Why should I learn something that will take me hours to learn when someone else already knows how to do it and can do it quickly and hopefully, inexpensively. (Guess what? I also outsource my housecleaning twice a month to a high school girl who works both quickly and at a great price!)

2. I get up early! Yes, I can get more done in 2-3 hours in the wee morning than I can the rest of the day. And staying up late usually doesn’t cut it. Those are your most worn out hours of the day. Get up early and use your freshest hours to accomplish what you really want to accomplish, whether that be writing a book, assembling a digital scrapbook, planning your curriculum, etc.

3. I get away (very occasionally). If you really need to get something done, like you have a looming deadline whether self-imposed or imposed by others, get a hotel room for 24 hours and just get it done. It’s best if you don’t take your spouse along, unless the object of the get-away is to connect with each other. Those are highly valuable times but different from what I am talking about now. I am due for a solo get-away so that I can tackle more of my book. I just need that quiet and interrupted time (on a rare occasion) to get some momentum.

get-away

4. I walk every day. This time not only gets my blood pumping, but it recharges me. It also feeds my creativity. I will usually get some fresh insight while walking that I can use to push my productivity. I also use this time to pray, which is very good for my soul and emotional well-being, not to mention good for those who are being prayed for.

take-a-walk

5. I have an awesome husband that will help me carve out time to get something special accomplished. He really is an amazing man! And, in my work life, I have an incredibly talented administrative assistant, and it’s almost like having another “me”. Wow, what would I do without these two?

While I realize that most people do not have an admin assistant, nor does everyone have a supportive spouse, everyone still has the exact same 24 hours each day. To become more productive, you just need to know how to use those hours to your best advantage. Focus on just points 2, 3 and 4 and you will get more accomplished than you thought you could.

So, go out there and get something done!

Question: What is on your to-do list that you really need to carve some time out to accomplish? For me, it’s writing my book. What’s yours?

Write That Book, Part 4

January 18th, 2014 / No Comments » / by Terri

Okay, chapter 1 is in the works!

This is a mini-blog series to help you finally and thoroughly write that book that you have always wanted to write. You can do this!

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I am giving myself 10 months to write the next volume of A Child’s Geography. I am excited about this one. The subtitle is Explore Medieval Kingdoms and I am rather a medieval history nut, so this is really rather fun!

Last week, I told you that I had broken the book down into manageable chunks and was beginning on chapter 1. But you don’t have to start on Chapter 1! That is the beauty of this type of writing.

If you break down your book into topics and subtopics and use a writing editor such as Scrivener, you can begin writing in any part of the book that you choose. My first chapter is about Spain and I was excited to dive right into that country’s history and geography, so that’s where I started.

Have you begun your research yet? I hope so.

Now, I am writing my rough draft. Remember, writing and editing are two very different skills. So different that they use opposite halves of your brain. DO NOT DO THEM AT THE SAME TIME! For now, just write.

Yes, I know, it might be terrible, but don’t worry about it. You will edit later. Just get your thoughts, facts and research out onto the page. Create an outline before you write. I realize that most people hate outlining, but your outline is your map that tells you where to go. Without an outline, you might get lost. And we don’t want that to happen or you might set your book down and not pick it back up for a while.

Here is another writing/re-writing/editing tip for you. Write your book on your computer using a word processing program such as Word or Scrivener (OR a pad of paper and pencil if you prefer). Next, print out your rough draft, three-hole-punch it and place your pages into a binder. This way, you can carry it around with you wherever you go and mark it up as you think about it. I carry my unfinished book around with me everywhere because I never know when I might have a thought that I need to write down or a spare moment to work on it.

Otherwise, if you find yourself without your book in hand and your computer is at home, you can always send yourself a voice memo or note on your phone if you have an inspiring thought or phrase that you want to remember to write in your book.

That’s it for now! For me, I need to get back to my rough draft writing about the many-faceted and truly remarkable land of Spain.

Question: How is your writing coming? Are you following along with me?

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3 Ways to Save Big in a Low-Interest World, Part 2

January 18th, 2014 / 2 Comments » / by Terri

Let’s face it, our money isn’t worth much these days and it isn’t growing very fast either. Last year, at this time, I set out to begin saving in earnest. My husband and I have always made it a point to spent less than we make. In this way, our checking account has grown over the years. But, except for the IRAs we have, we have not been intentionally “saving” in a systematic way.

 Piggy-Bank-trans

Last year, I set out to change all that and you can read Part 1 of my journey here.

Now, I want to report back and reiterate some of what I wrote last January. First, here are the steps that I took to begin saving:

1. I opened my own personal savings account. I consider the money “ours” but I was tired of waiting for my husband to open a savings account for us. We’ve been married 25 years and he has not yet done it, so I asked if he would mind if I opened my own. He didn’t mind, so I did.

2. Into this savings account each month I deposit 10% of my earned income. I haven’t done this with my husband’s earned income, but he is watching me carefully and would like to begin doing the same now. Yay!

3. I also deposit 50% of any money I wasn’t expecting. Hey, that leaves me 50% to spend, right? So, it’s still super fun. This money comes in many forms, but mostly gifts or unexpected royalty checks. Sometimes it is money that I found somewhere that I had forgotten about. It’s still money I wasn’t expecting, so 50% goes into savings.

Now, I am watching my money grow at 1% interest in an Ally account. 1% is terrible interest, but it is way better (100x better!) than .01% that my local bank is offering. Last January, I had exactly $0 in savings when I started this process. Now, 12 months later, I have $6800. Of that, $27 is interest that I wouldn’t have gotten if it was sitting in my checking account.

I know, I know what you are thinking. $27! That’s really hardly anything! Right, but if I stay on track to save like I did last year, then next January, I will have made about $100 in interest over the course of the year ($127 for the 2 years together). Then the year after that, it will be something like $250 or $300 for that year. Do you see how this compound interest is working? In 3 years time, I will have accumulated about $450 in interest. That’s money I didn’t have before! Over time, this makes a difference, even at a small 1%. Think what could happen if interest rates go up!

So, my charge to you (no pun intended)… Open an Ally or Capital One account. Deposit 10% of your income + 50% of any unexpected money that you receive or find. Maybe next year you will report back on how well you money did in 2014.

Question: What is your strategy for saving money? I’d love to hear!

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Starting Chapter One

January 6th, 2014 / No Comments » / by Terri

This is post #3 in a blog series on how to tackle writing a book. If you are planning to write a book or are already deep into the process, I invite you to follow along with me.

See Post #2 for help in finding the time to write. This post will help you get started with your research.

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Here’s a little disclaimer: My blog series will be most helpful for those who are writing non-fiction. I’ll be honest, while I love to read fiction, the idea of writing it scares me to death. I’m sure that I will have some nuggets of wisdom for fiction-writers in terms of organization and scheduling, but I cannot help with plot or character development.

A little background…

In August 2012, I began writing my first full length book. In the past 12 years, I have written a handful of short biographies, illustrated an entire book of maps (actually several) and published over 35 titles, so I definitely understand the book creation world. I already knew how to research my subject and tell a story. I also understood the diligence required in completing a large project. But I had never really written a book before. A real, full-length book, from beginning to end. I didn’t really know what that would look like for me.

So, I mapped out a plan and followed it. In that my book was a book on geography, I decided to write about one country a month. I was covering 10 countries, so I expected to finish up in May of the following year. I’m excited to say that I not only stayed on schedule, but finished the first draft a month early.

Now, I’m doing it again. This time, I will be covering 11 countries, so I am giving myself 11 months to complete the first draft of A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms.

Here are My 5 Top Tips for Starting Your Book:

1. Break down your book idea into chapter subjects. Using sticky notes, write down topics that you want to cover in your book. Begin to organize these ideas by category. You can use a white board or a table to organize your notes by subject. Once you have them clustered by category, you can determine how many chapters you plan to write. I read a book by Dan Poynter years ago called Writing Non-Fiction. This may be very helpful for you in organizing your material.

2. Determine your writing schedule based on your content. If your chapters will be long, then plan a month to write each chapter. If they are shorter, then maybe you can write a chapter every one or two weeks. Make appointments with yourself to write. Mark it on the calendar. Take yourself out for coffee, if that helps. Look forward to these times. I like to write early in the morning snuggled up in a blanket on the couch before anyone else is awake.

3. Pick a chapter to write and begin your research. You do not have to start writing Chapter 1 first. Pick the chapter with the content that you are most excited to dive into. It’s important to gain momentum early and the best way to do this is to write the chapter that looks easier, maybe you have less research to do or maybe you just visited a place that is fresh in your memory to write about. My favorite places to research material are my local library and the internet. Always fact-check by verifying the information on more than one site. Wikipedia, for example, has been known to be riddled with errors. Always double-check your facts.

I just started my research a few days ago. Before diving into Spain, I knew there were certain topics that I wanted to cover in this chapter, such as the historical significance of the Strait of Gibraltar, the UK holding of Gibraltar, the Moor kingdoms, Castile y Leon, Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Columbus, Basque Country, travel by train, bullfighting and origins of Spanish dancing. Who knows what I will find, but I am exciting to dive into these topics!

4. Start a Pinterest board. I’m a visual person. I like to see what I am writing and refer back to images often during the writing process. Last year, I started a Pinterest board to capture images of places I was writing about. I have just begun to do the same for this book. Here is my very new Pinterest board for Explore Medieval Kingdoms. I am looking forward to filling it up more.

5. Begin writing. Once you have picked your chapter to write, just start writing. Do not edit while you write. Do that later. The writing and editing processes are conducted from opposite sides of the brain – one function interrupts the other. So don’t do it! Write first, edit later. Don’t worry about grammar and flow until you have a good chunk of words on a page. Tip: One tool that makes writing topics and chapters out of order easier is Scrivener. With this software, you can write in your book at any place you want. It’s brilliant! You can even reorder chapters and keep track of your research links right inside the writing software. Check it out here - http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ – and download a free trial version.

I’ll post next week with my progress on Chapter One… Spain!

Question: Have you started your book? How’s it coming?

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