Thursday, April 30, 2009

Partnering in Public Schools

by Guest Blogger Rebecca Messmann of
See also: Dyslexia information | On Dyslexia Testing

Both of my children are in public schools. It can be the best and the worst of situations depending on how you look at it. The worst is when it comes time to accommodate for their dyslexia.
Every state has some sort of “legal” wording in their educational requirements that deals with dyslexia as a learning disability. The accommodations that are frequently included are things like: extra time to complete assignments, having non-reading subjects read to the child, preferential seating and things like that.
Believe it or not the hard part is not getting the accommodations assigned to your child, which trust me, is hard enough. Nope, the hard part is getting teachers to actually “accommodate” your child appropriately. That is where all or your diplomacy and micro-managing comes into play.
For example, I don’t like anything read to my children right off the bat. I want them to try it first and if they get stuck to ask for help. That means that their hands could be raised several times in the course of reading one passage and that one passage could take them forever to read. It never fails that a teacher will get frustrated and just read the passage to them.
Can I fault the teacher? Yes, to some degree. It is her job to teach my child and not every child learns the same way. She should accommodate based on his needs. But at the same time this is public school we are talking about and she has about 19 other children in her class that also need her attention. Can I expect her to just focus on my child to the exclusion of the others? No.
The best in the world of public schools is to develop a partnership with your child’s teacher. Get in there; let them know you realize it is extra work to accommodate your child but emphasis the importance of it. Then develop a plan that works for everyone. Our plan includes our children bringing home work they do not get completed in class that same night. We do not assist them with that work at home but provide the time for them to finish it on their own. A few times of doing this and the child showing their work or still making mistakes builds the trust with the teacher that we are truly not helping them.
Another plan might be that you spend time in the classroom assisting your child and others that might need it. Sometimes, that extra hand in the classroom can make all the difference for the teacher.
You might also ask if the child can have a buddy that helps him with the reading so he does not have to ask the teacher each time. Be creative and not afraid to get in there and suggest some changes. The bottom line is that the teacher needs to know the accommodations, they need to know how you want those accommodations administered, they need to accommodate to give your child a fair chance at success, and they need to know that you are backing them 100%.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Temporary Homeschooling for Swine Flu?

Because of the swine flu's "imminent pandemic," according to the CDC and WHO, you may find yourself having to prepare makeshift lesson plans for your children -- even if you were not previously homeschooling -- to comply with the "stay at home and don't spread disease" directives. Regardless of how severe this viral outbreak becomes, it is always a good idea to know about the resources that are available to supplement (or indeed, supplant) your children's current curriculum.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

As Unemployment Rises, So Should Education

Unemployment rates keep rising. More and more manufacturing jobs are lost. Chrysler is filing for bankruptcy. Literacy and education are vital to success, but it is even more the case now. We need to become a stronger, smarter nation in order to get ourselves through these economically challenging times.

AVKO urges you to channel the frustration that you may feel with taxation, government spending, joblessness, corporate malfeasance, corporate greed, and anything else going wrong in the world today by helping your fellow man (and children) become the best readers and spellers they can be.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Information About the Sequential Spelling DVD Series!

You may have heard that AVKO will be launching the DVD version of its popular spelling program, Sequential Spelling. On May 21st, the first volume of Sequential Spelling will be available in a new DVD-based format. Your students will be able to learn their spelling by themselves, with minimal supervision by the teacher. Your entire class can do spelling while you step out to finish some paperwork or have a cup of coffee.

Your first chance to view these exciting DVDs will be at the Florida Parent-Educators Association's (FPEA) homeschooling convention in Orlando, Florida (May 21-24). See our page on 2009 homeschooling conventions for more information.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Even More Spelling Resources For AVKO Members

AVKO is known for spelling and for the teaching of spelling and reading to those "hopeless cases" of dyslexia and learning disabilities. Well, AVKO is proud to announce that we have forged an exciting partnership with to provide even more free resources to our members and to the community at large. For the parents and teachers out there who want to be able to customize their own spelling program specifically to the needs of their children -- and aren't afraid of doing a little preparation work -- this is the program for you!

Take advantage of the research- and multi-sensory-based methods of AVKO with the multimedia and fun resources of

Friday, April 24, 2009

The (Complete) I Before E Rule

I'm sure you learned "The" I Before E Rule when you were growing up. But, I'm sure that you also experienced some angst when it came to spelling ie/ei words because the "rule" that you learned just didn't cut the mustard, so to speak. Luckily AVKO has you covered. We have the complete I Before E rule that will show you how to handle those "exceptions" and master the rule.

So, I Before E, except after C...but what what "science" and "weight"?

The Complete I Before E Rule - With Explanations

Memorize the following poem and learn how to apply each part of the rule. Explanations
Use i before e Unless you have a reason not to, use ie as in thief, believe, priest, etc.

Except after c except after c Means: use cei as in receive, deceive, ceiling, etc.

Or when sounded as "EYE" or "AY"
as in Einstein and weigh.
Or when sounded as EYE or AY Means: use ei in "EYE" words such as Einstein, Eileen, Heidi, stein, Steinbrenner, etc. It also means use ei in "AY" words such as weigh, eight, vein, veil.

Neither, weird, foreign, leisure,
Seize, forfeit, and height
Are Exceptions spelled right
And so are: protein and caffeine forfeiture, codeine, heifer, etc. Memorize these!

But don't let the C-I-E-N words get you uptight! Means: cien as in efficient, ancient, conscience, and sufficient etc.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Banned Books

Books are banned and censored for many reasons -- language, themes, anti-religious content, content seen as immoral, etc. For whatever reasons a book is banned, it's interesting to see which books make the lists of most popularly banned books. Many of these books are considered great works of art and the highest form of literature by the academic and arts community at large. Some of them are much less well-known.

In the educational setting, controversy provides a particularly useful launching off point for discussion of ethics and morality, discussions about censorship, and discussions of the themes that are contentious.

Learn more about Banned Books from the American Library Association's website devoted to them. In fact, there is a Banned Books Week in September.

View the list of most frequently banned books from 2000-2007 (PDF)

We welcome your discussion as to particular books you think don't belong on the list, books you were surprised to not see on the list, or anything else related to banned books.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Novel Technique for Teaching Keyboarding

AVKO firmly believes that mistakes are opportunities to learn. In fact, we use this motto in a lot of our materials. Learning keyboarding is no exception. In fact, one has to get past making mistakes while learning to type in order to build up speed and accuracy. So, we have provided you with the instructions of how to temporarily disable the backspace key (replaced with the asterisk [*] symbol) on your computer. So, every time the student pushes the backspace button, an asterisk symbol appears. This method will allow you to re-map a PC's keyboard and change any keys to what you want as well. Note that this method makes global changes -- this will affect every program on the machine until the action is reversed.

Download the PDF Instructions on how to use this free piece of software (KeyTweak) and get started today.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Word Games for Your Students

HomeschoolWell's blog had a great post about word games that you can do with your homeschooling students that I thought I'd share with you all.

The one that really stands out to me, and something that I actually did as a student doing independent spelling in elementary school (and loved), is making your own creative definitions for words. The examples that HomeschoolWell's blog uses are as follows for these "clever redefinitions":
  • warship, adoration of the navy
  • judicious, Passover recipes
  • kindred, fear of family reunions
  • bashful, being harsh or abusive toward someone
  • miniscule, the odds of minuscule being spelled correctly
  • rebuffs, polished athletic shoes
AVKO has made available a template for students to use for drawing pictures to go along with the definitions for words they are trying to learn. Personalizing the information in this way makes it much more memorable -- especially for your more visual students.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lessons from the movie "The Reader"

I recently watched the movie "The Reader" with Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet. Though this movie (rated R) is not suitable for all audiences, and may shock the sensibilities of some (due to its graphic sex scenes), it has some powerful messages about literacy amid the backdrop of the Second World War. There are also really powerful undertones of pride, shame, ignorance, and intent to commit crimes (mens rea).
Kate Winslet's character, Hanna, was a factory worker who became a Secret Service (SS) agent and was in fact one of those who would decide who died and who didn't. After the war, she carried on with her life as a worker on the trolley. She met up with the young Michael and began a love affair. He would read to her the books that he was studying in school before their trysts. Hanna disappeared and Michael carried on with his life, entering law school. On a law school field trip, they attend the war crimes trials for SS agents, of which one on trial is Hanna. Hanna gets scapegoated as the leader of the six SS agents because she was ignorant as to what was going on and wasn't really aware of the implications of her actions. In fact, we find out, she was illiterate and could possibly have written the documents and orders that they claim she did. Instead of submitting to a handwriting analysis and thereby exposing her illiteracy, she confessed falsely to all that they had accused her of. She was sentenced to life in jail.

Though everyday cases of discrimination and shame for illiteracy are admittedly less dramatic, much pain could be avoided if we all took steps to get involved, help our nation's children learn to read, and help those who have fallen through the cracks.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Free Literature E-books You Can Use As Part of Your Curriculum

Did you know that there is an entire library of free books available for your use online? Full-text, free literature books. Books whose titles you'd recognize without straining your head. As part of Google's goal of indexing all of the information in the universe, they have made public domain books available for your use. These books will supplement your language arts curriculum immensely.

Full-text literature books available on Google

You can create assignments out of these books, use them for pleasure reading as part of the curriculum, or use them for vocabulary building, choral reading, or anything else.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spelling Evaluations

As President Barack Obama and other Obama Administration officials are being "graded" for their performance up to this point, it's a good time to start thinking about evaluating your present spelling system. Are you unsure if your current spelling program is working the way you think it should? Are you seeing the gains you need to be seeing?

AVKO has a very simple method for evaluating your current spelling program. This is available in the literacy textbook, The Teaching of Reading & Spelling: A Continuum from Kindergarten through College. This book is available for free as a downloadable e-book with AVKO membership. However, some of the chapters are also available for free download, even without membership. This is one of them! Download Chapter 45 of The Teaching of Reading now to start your evaluation.

Are you already using Sequential Spelling? Do you want to customize the program and track progress with some more quantitative data? Use our Tracking Progress templates to do your own scientific analyses for the school board or just document your student's gains.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Teaching Spelling Patterns vs. Spelling Rules

We're frequently asked about the teaching of spelling rules and how a spelling program can be effective without teaching spelling rules. Here's my answer: English spelling has definite patterns, but these are not easily encapsulated nor understood by simplistic and abstract spelling rules.

If you want a program that has zero preparation work on your part (but can still be customized, as necessary, to meet the needs of all of your children) and is very quick and painless, definitely go with AVKO. In our experience, it's not about efficacy per se that really separates out the various Orton-Gillingham-based programs -- all of the O-G methods are effective, especially for dyslexics. What does separate out the programs is the ease for the parents to teach it, and the students' levels of frustration. When the complicated rules for spelling are taught, it becomes more of a hassle most of the time. The rules are very abstract, have multiple exceptions, and are not easy to remember. But, most importantly, when rules are taught, and the child tries to apply what he has learned and gets to an exception, he gets even more frustrated than if he had misspelled it after never having studied a supposed-rule to begin with.

In some languages, it makes sense to teach rules. In English, it makes sense to teach patterns. Being an amalgamation of so many different languages and retaining so much of their original phonics, it becomes very difficult to teach rules that cut across the entire spectrum. So, we don't.

However, we do have materials available on teaching the spelling patterns that are common (and uncommonly taught) in English. I would recommend that you see our page on Sequential Spelling ( -- on there, there is a link to how to customize your Sequential Spelling program. This will be of great interest to you, I'm sure.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Earn Money from Home Referring AVKO Memberships!

Help get the word out about AVKO's resources and membership -- and earn money at the same time! All you need is a PayPal account and to share the link to AVKO membership with friends, family, and cyberspace. Simply put the link to AVKO membership on your personal blog, in your e-mail signature, in an e-mail to your friends, on Facebook, or on cards you pass out to people with the e-mail address that is linked to your PayPal account.

A commission of 10% will be awarded for all referred memberships and retail materials when the customer puts your PayPal e-mail address in the "Referrer" box for during membership sign-up or in the "Comments" box for other sales.

No paperwork to fill out or tax forms for annual commissions of less than $600.00. Disbursements of commissions will occur at least every two weeks.

For promotional materials or advertising graphics, please see the Retail section of the website. Contact Brian for more information.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time Management for Busy People: E-mail Management

Homeschoolers and school educators are some of the most pressed people for time. We don't want to waste any precious time on rummaging through virtual stacks of e-mail messages. I want to spend a few minutes extolling Google's Gmail e-mail platform that you can use for free and dramatically increase your e-mail productivity.
  • Gmail has arguably the best spam filters in the industry; you won't have to sift through your messages marked as spam and only real messages will enter your inbox.
  • Gmail organizes messages with the same subject line in the same "conversation" -- which is similar to a thread in a discussion board. You can see the entire conversation history in one easily organized spot.
  • Use POP and IMAP to condense all of your e-mail accounts into one Gmail account. Access all of your messages from anywhere -- without the security risks of downloading all your messages into an e-mail management program if you don't want to.
  • Use the filters to pre-sort your messages. For example, I have all of my subscriptions (news headlines, social networking automated messages, Google Alerts, and business e-mails) sorted into various folders (called labels) so that my inbox isn't cluttered.
  • You have gigs and gigs of storage space to keep EVERY message you send and receive. Never worry about your inbox being too full or not being able to receive large attachments.
  • Use Google's powerful search features to find all of those messages.
  • A chat platform is built right in -- chat with your friends on AIM, Gmail, and other platforms.
  • Many more features -- more are added weekly. You can add optional components to customize the platform how you want it. Your suggestions are heard by the Google staff.
  • Getting Started Guide for Gmail users.
Even if you don't use Gmail or don't want to switch, here are some general e-mail efficiency tips:

  • Have a scheduled time to deal with e-mail. This may be multiple times during the day, but it shouldn't be the first thing you do. You can easily get bogged down in answering silly, small e-mails when you have more important things to do during the day.
  • Enact a system so that you know which messages need to be followed up on -- flags (in Outlook), stars (in Gmail), or a special folder (or "label" in Gmail).
  • If your e-mail system doesn't have a good spam filter, keep your subscriptions and subscriptions in a separate e-mail address so your good e-mail address isn't cluttered with all of the ensuing spam.
  • Keep your inbox CLEAN! If you're done with an e-mail, delete it or archive it (in Gmail).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Take the AVKO Challenge: The Real Extreme Makeover

Do you have a student or child who is a terrible speller? Is s/he reading at a level way below what s/he would be expected to read at? Take the AVKO Challenge -- a real extreme makeover!

Don McCabe will work with your child and you will see dramatic improvements within weeks. The truly amazing part is that Don can teach anyone to tutor their own students or children to do what he and The AVKO Educational Research Foundation have been doing for 35 years now.

View AVKO's free videos for more information on Sequential Spelling and the tutoring methods used.

You can teach yourself these same principles if you are unable to come to the AVKO Foundation's reading clinic in Birch Run, Michigan, USA. The first step is to become a member of the AVKO Foundation, a $25/year fee. This entitles you to free, downloadable e-books for your reference, tutor training, and supplemental curriculum. The most important of these books is The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: A Continuum from Kindergarten through College.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Request AVKO Promotional Materials for Your School, Community, or Homeschool Convention

The 2009 Spring/Summer Homeschooling Convention season is upon us. See our page on where AVKO will be represented at the various conferences, and to learn about the different conventions across the country. We would like to announce that one of our retail partners, Heppner's Legacy, will be attending various conventions around the country. Nancy Bjorkman will be speaking at many of these conventions. See Heppner's Legacy's 2009 Convention Schedule to learn more. Nancy speaks on a variety of topics including encouragement for new homeschoolers, time management, math outside the book, and your family's learning style.

If you will be attending any of the many homeschooling or educational fairs and want to share the good news about AVKO's low-cost and free materials for language arts, request our free promotional materials, including CDs, DVDs, pamphlets, business cards, etc.

If you are interested in becoming an AVKO retail partner, please contact us.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Free Educational Worksheets

Every curriculum should include some built-in fun. This includes recess, non-educational games, non-specifically educational films, puzzles and riddles, and educational worksheets. Here, we've composed a list of a few such resources that you and your students will appreciate.

  • AVKO's list of online word games - View this list of fun and popular word games online. Nearly all of them are free.
  • Sequential Spelling crossword puzzles, free with AVKO membership - These crossword puzzles made out of the Sequential Spelling evaluation tests will review the word families learned throughout the series.
  • Worksheet Works - This free resource site has worksheets for math, geography, spelling, miscellaneous topics, and even puzzles! You can customize the worksheets to suit your needs, print them out, and use them at your will.
  • Check out Homeschool Well's blogpost of the same topic for some more great links. I'd recommend that you subscribe to this blog.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Dyslexic and the Dictionary

by Guest Blogger Rebecca Messmann of
See also: Information on Dictionaries and Other Reference Materials | Instilling Curiosity to Learn New Words

Sometimes in today’s world of technology and instant gratification we forget the rewards of doing things the hard way. Until this year I think it has been at least ten years since I picked up an actual, real life dictionary. Oh, I looked words up for sure; I just used online resources instead of actually dragging out the dust covered door stop of a dictionary.

Then my oldest son entered 5th grade and started bringing home this wonderful sheet of paper called “Mountain Language.” I have no idea if his teacher designed this herself or if it’s a standard worksheet somewhere in the halls of education, that’s another blog. Today, I want to mention just one piece of that work sheet. (See also the Worksheet Works website for dictionary word placement worksheets).

There is a question on there that says what word fits between the guide words? Two words are given: blue and broke. Then three choices are given: black, break, brush. I have simplified it a bit to show you how to do it.

The child then figures out which one goes in between the guide words and I sing a chorus of halleluiahs. Because now I have a nice easy way to introduce the dictionary to my dyslexic son! Now, I don’t have to send him blindly looking for “how to spell wonderful.” I don’t have to give him nightmares of turning page after page around the “one” words.

This is a simple activity that can introduce the dyslexic child to the dictionary in a very low stress way. The words are there, they just need to match them up with what they find in the dictionary.

I take it one step further and have him define the word he chooses. This just reinforces how I want him to use the dictionary – to find the meaning of words, to find the tenses of words, etc...

Try it and let us know what you think. Do you have any ideas and suggestions on using the dreaded dictionary with dyslexic children?

Friday, April 10, 2009

The 11 Types of Tricky Words

There are a lot of reasons why people misspell words. It's therefore important to recognize the different sources of difficulty so that they may be addressed. AVKO's materials work to alleviate the different reasons why your children and students misspell words; perhaps you even find yourself having some of these problems.

See also: The Teaching of Reading and Spelling: A Continuum from Kindergarten through College (available for free as an e-book with AVKO membership) and The Tricky Words, our popular book that confronts the most entrenched errors relating to these common problems.

1. Homonyms, such as: be, bee, Bea, B.
2. Dialect dependent homonyms, such as: ant, aunt. (In dialects in which aunt rhymes with haunt, aunt, and ant technically aren't homonyms.
3. Heteronyms, such as lead and lead.
4. Typography dependent homographs such as resume and résumé.
5. Similarity of configuration words such as: solder, soldier, solider.
6. Similarity (even identity) of letters in words whose only significant difference is in the transpositions such as in: expect and except.
7. Look-alike letters: n/u n/r n/c e/a being the only difference as in: change and charge; superstitions and superstitious; and ancient, accent, and accident.
8. Words of almost identical meanings but whose pronunciation is ACCENT-DEPENDENT upon the part of speech as in: RECord & reCORD.
9. Words that have two or more acceptable spellings such as: Channukah, Hanukah.
10. Malaprop-prone words such as to circumcise instead of circumscribe.
11. Words easily distinguishable in their base form that can cause problems in other forms such as hop and hope can be misspelled in the -ed and -ing forms.

We are sure you may find a different number of categories into which you may wish to place these words.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Share Your Favorite AVKO Articles, Resources, and Videos with Your Friends

In a previous post (entitled "A Beginner's Guide to Social Networking for Homeschoolers"), we talked about the utility of social networking sites and how to be an intelligent consumer and aggregator of the information that's out there in cyberspace. Today, I want to share with you an easy way to get started on sharing content with your own social networks with a simple, new feature that we have added to the AVKO website.

So, you're on Facebook, Myspace, Delicious, Twitter, HomeschoolBlogger, Blogger, or any of the other social networking sites. What are you going to talk about? Firstly, you'll want to talk about yourself -- what's been happening in your life, family news, photos of recent trips, and anything else you feel comfortable sharing. Next, you'll want to keep people reading by talking about things that others are interested in too. As someone who's interested in education, homeschooling, literacy, the language arts, and/or dyslexia, this is a great place to start. Share what you've been reading -- hard-copy books, internet articles, newspaper headlines, etc. People love to hear about current trends, controversy, and the latest gossip. Share what you've seen in your corner of the world. Did you read an interesting post on someone else's blog? Post a link to it! Did you read an interesting op-ed on The Huffington Post? Post a link to it!

AVKO has made it that much easier for you to print, e-mail, and/or share AVKO webpages with your social networks. So now, when you find an article that you think is a must-read for someone you know or all of your Facebook friends, you can share that page with a click of the mouse. On any webpage, hover your mouse over the "Share or e-mail" button and you have the choice to print, e-mail, or share that link with anyone you want! It's that simple.

A few must-see pages your friends will want to know about:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What kind of tools do you need to homeschool?

What kind of tools do you need to homeschool?
by Guest Blogger Heidi Johnson, Veteran Mom and Homeschool

Just as a carpenter needs tools to do his job, a mom needs tools to be able to homeschool her children. The tools don't have to be fancy, but they do need to be functional. Not every carpenter prefers the same tools. Some couldn't live without a certain tool where another carpenter never uses that tool to get the job done.

Depending on your personality and your child's, you will choose different tools than another mom might choose. That's the beauty of homeschooling. Here are a few tools that I have used in various forms.

  1. Books - You can use historical fiction to teach history or use chapter books to encourage your child to develop their reading fluency. Another kind of book you could use would be workbooks that you might help reinforce grammar and spelling.

  2. Math books are pretty much a given in most homeschools especially for students in the fifth grade and above.

  3. Hands on tools such as manipulatives, supplies for experiments, and field trips. You can also include music CDs and computer software in this category. It's a proven fact that the more senses you use, the more you will remember what you have learned. So if a child does a workbook page and uses manipulatives like blocks to help him get the correct answer, he will be more likely to understand what he is learning.

  4. Internet - Most people wouldn't think that this would be a tool used for homeschooling but more and more people are using the internet to help them teach their children and give them the best education possible. The internet is growing and developing more and more each day. So much more is available now than even a few years ago. You can view and go so many places from the comfort of your own home. You can tour museums, view artwork, explore any aspect of science and much more. If you use the right program that has education-friendly sites already reviewed for you, you are even better off than the rest of the homeschoolers out there trying to search the internet for themselves. [See AVKO's blog post on using Social Networking sites to your advantage; see also AVKO's Freebies section]

So besides having a belief that you can homeschool your child(ren), using the above tools will help make it all possible. Then you and your child(ren) can enjoy learning and have a great year together.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Stupid is as Stupid Does
by Guest Blogger Rebecca Messmann of

      Eventually, somewhere along the way someone is going to call your dyslexic child stupid.  Because eventually they children have to read out loud in the classroom.  They have to show their work.  They have to work in groups.  As much as they might want to they cannot hide from who they are. 

       Socially, being dyslexic can be a nightmare.  Dyslexic kids don’t look any different; they really don’t act any different.  For all intents and purposes, no one really knows there is anything out of the ordinary going on until the written word gets involved.  Problem is that “written word” sneaks up on them while they are just living their life. 

      My oldest son went to a Cub Scout camp where he was asked to paint the number of the go-cart the whole group made.  Not wanting to draw attention to himself he took the paint brush and proceeded to paint 142, reversing the 4.  Now, it would not have been such a big deal if that was not the car that they raced in, brought back to the pack to use for the rest of the year and basically put on display for everyone and their brother to see. 

      There it was a reversed 4.  A “baby 4.” The “Who goofed up the number 4?” The comments were varied and loud.  By the time I got there to pick him up he had denied ever painting the number.  When the camp leader showed the parents the car and I saw the reversed 4, I of course knew whose work it was.  Shock followed when the camp leader (an adult by the way) announced that it was a “Pretty good car, except for the goof up on the number.” 

      Ah, stupidity.  It’s actually a bad word in our house and while I have not gone so far as to wash someone’s mouth out with soap my children know their fate can be worse if they utter that word as opposed to other bad words.  Unfortunately, it’s not a bad word in other homes.  

      Just recently, a friend of that older son got frustrated with him and told him that “He was stupid because he’s dyslexic.”  Ouch, that one hurt and sent my son into hiding.  Whether it’s the word or the actions sooner or later our children are going to feel “stupid.”

      As a mom I want to gather my boys up and protect them from all of these situations but I can’t.  You can’t either.  But what we can do is prepare them.  We can take that extra step to make sure they know how to react when someone calls their intelligence into question. 

      The first thing we can do is teach our children confidence.  All the way down to how they walk and talk confident people have a “way about them.”  Pick some good role models and let your children watch them and mimic them.  For example, confident people don’t walk with their head down they walk with purpose, head up, looking around at their surroundings, smiling at people. Practice the walk.  Seriously, practice the walk. 

      Next, teach them how to reply to taunts and teasing.  The wrong thing to do is to run away we all know that.  But what do they do if they stay?  Teach them to look people in the eye.  Teach them the words to use.  “No, I am not stupid, I just made a mistake.” Teach them to walk away, slowly and in control. 

      Walk through it, role play, get it out in the open.  Play games with certain responses.  Play a form of charades with “What if” questions.  (See AVKO's previous blog post with resources for hypothetical questions).

      “What if Tommy looks over your shoulder while you are reading and you are stuck on the word ‘again.’  Tommy says to you “Geez, Joe that word is ‘again’ are you stupid or something?”   Ask your child how they would respond or give them a few choices and let them pick one.  Then role play it. 

      Role play the wrong or not so great choices too.  Let them see a behavior and how it affects the rest of their day.  If they run away and hide, for example, they may miss something neat that is happening.  Other people will wonder what is wrong and keep asking them about it.  Help them to see the consequences of the behavior both good and bad. 

      Just keep in mind that all this work you do now to prepare your child will be with him for the rest of his life.  Adults are not more understanding than kids are about differences.  Facing up to the challenges of living an adult dyslexic life in the “real world” is just as hard as it is to grow up dyslexic, if not harder. 

      We would love to hear from all of you about situations your dyslexic child has faced and how they handled it or how you coached them to handle it the next time. 

Also see Lee Caskey's book The Smell of Stupid, which talks about one dyslexic girl's experiences feeling stupid growing up.  For more information on dyslexia, see the Dyslexia Section of the Website.

Read the Rest of the AVKO Blog | Visit the AVKO Website

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Beginner's Guide to Social Networking for Homeschoolers

Social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Youtube, et al. have overtaken our culture and revolutionized the way that people interact with each other. As a homeschooler or school educator, there are many ways that you can take advantage of these new technologies and abilities to interact with others to your advantage. Everyone now has the ability to share their wisdom and opinions with the world in a way previously unknown. This "everyday" perspective can really be helpful when deciding on a new curriculum, finding resources, and learning about best practices. Use the technology to your advantage with this beginner's guide to blogging for homeschoolers. There are many resources available for learning how to blog and use other social networking sites; for now, I am going to ignore learning how to produce content on these sites. Rather, I'm going to focus on being an informed consumer of all of the social networking content available.

Finding Blogs:

You don't have to be a member of blog sites or have your own blog to read them. Firstly, the three most important blog sites are Blogger, WordPress, and HomeschoolBlogger. Many of your friends, favorite companies, and celebrities already have blogs. Many sites allow you to upload your e-mail contact list to see who's already a member of that site so that you can connect with them. This is one of the easiest ways to get started.

Use a list of blogs: Search for lists of popular blogs that match your interests and needs. Homeschool Blogs; Educational Blogs; See the Blogger's Choice Awards site for lists of popular blogs of many categories.

Use Google's BlogSearch to find blogs talking about what you're interested in. Find all blog's mentioning "homeschooling," "Sequential Spelling," "Orton-Gillingham," "multi-sensory," "freebies," or any other keywords.

Use Google Alerts to send you an e-mail when a new blog post is written about a topic you're interested in. Follow a news story, a method of teaching, celebrity gossip, or anything else without any of the hassle.

Reading Blogs:
Now that you've found all of the blogs you can stand to read, how are you going to read them? Use a blog aggregator to manage your blogs. Many blogging platforms also offer the service of subscribing to the blog via e-mail. Read: you don't have to navigate to each blog's website in order to stay up on them. See a list of blog aggregators here. I

Social Bookmarking:
Social bookmarking sites allow you to manage your bookmarks (also called "favorites") online, let you see what lots of people find useful or interesting, and share the sites that you like with others. Digg and Delicious are two such sites. Upload your bookmarks, view and manage them from anywhere, and search for the most popularly bookmarked sites of any of thousands of topics. See "Homeschooling" on Digg and Delicious.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Creative Writing Prompts for Daily Writing

Daily writing is an important part of English fluency -- the student learns not only how to use the language to create syntactically and grammatically correct sentences, but he learns to create a continuous stream of ideas that are connected by some common theme. It's this fluidity that makes up the most important aspect of fluency. Read our previous blog post revealing the AVKO sample weekly planner. But, what should the students write about each day? To be honest, it doesn't matter. The content does not matter nearly as much as the growing ability to express oneself, connect one's thoughts in a logical manner, and keep the ideas coming. Make it a point to have 5-10 minutes daily of writing time.

Students may wish to write about their day and what they learned that day. Even if your students aren't as excited about scholastic pursuits, this can be an important exercise to review what was learned, realize what they still don't understand or have questions about, and...*gasp*...appreciate what they learned that day.

You and your students may choose to have the daily writing time to be more or less a journaling exercise where students write about what they did that day. This is best for younger children.

For older students, a more creative approach is more useful.

Here are a few creative writing prompts that you can use with your children for this daily writing time:
  • Personify an animal, object (a rock, your home), or an abstract noun. Make the object come to life by describing what that object would look like, talk like, and act like as a person. See the Mrs. Rogers site for a list of Abstract Nouns.
  • Collect a bunch of paintings, pictures, and illustrations about which the student can create a story. What are the people doing? Thinking? Feeling? What are they about to do? If the picture is a landscape: Who are the people who live there? What is a typical day like there? This prompt works very well with more visual students or those who really love art. It's also good interpersonal skills training for being able to empathize with others, recognize emotions and motivations, etc. Impressionist paintings tend to work very well for this task. Do a Google Images search for paintings, or see art sites like this one on Impressionism.
  • Hypothetical questions: If you went back in time, where and when would you go? If you were a person of the opposite sex for one day, what would you do? If you were a tree, which type of tree would you be? If you could have a superpower, which one would you want to have? Come up with your own or see this list of hypothetical questions you can use.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Language Arts Curriculum Planning on a Budget with AVKO

AVKO understands that homeschoolers and even school educators have an imperative to provide the best possible curriculum, meet the individual needs of each student, and minimize preparation time -- all while staying within a strict budget. With AVKO, a strict budget does not mean that you have to restrict yourself or make compromises that lower the integrity and quality of the education that you provide. We have therefore added a new page to the AVKO website devoted to curriculum planning. Visit the new AVKO Curriculum Planning page for resources to supplement your existing program, or create a complete language arts curriculum from the AVKO materials. Whether you are working with dyslexics, gifted children, English as a Second Language, adults, normal children, or high schoolers preparing to go off to college, AVKO has the materials you need for your language arts program.

Download the new weekly language arts curriculum planning guide that shows you how to integrate the AVKO materials into your school week.

AVKO will help you design a completely customized language arts curriculum to meet your children's specific needs -- while staying within your own budget and limitations as far as preparation time. Contact us for more information.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Rumors Are True...Sequential Spelling on DVD is Coming Soon!

You may have heard the whisperings about a digitized version of Sequential Spelling that would allow a student to learn the AVKO way with minimal help from a teacher...well, it's true.  In May, AVKO will be releasing the DVD version of Sequential Spelling 1, with the rest of the levels to follow eventually.  Intrigued?  Ask for more details.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Need Some Extra Cash? Hook New Retail Partners for AVKO!

Do you need some extra pocket money?  While making money, you'll help others achieve literacy for the first time, overcome problems associated with dyslexia, and increase self-esteem for thousands who previously thought themselves to be stupid.  Become an AVKO sales representative and procure new retail partners for AVKO and earn a commission.  We will provide you with all of the promotional materials you will need (or digital copies if international) to provide information to prospective retailers.  

See the Retailers' Section of the AVKO website for more information, including many of our promotional materials, advertising graphics, logos, New Distributor Form, promotional materials request form, etc.   View our entire catalog of materials and download the PDF (web-viewable and foldable versions available).   Commissions will vary depending on the amount purchased by the new distributor and the size of its distribution network (single physical store, worldwide website/warehouse, national bookstore, etc.)

You can also earn commissions for referring people to become a member of the AVKO Foundation.  Earn 10% of the retail price of Individual and Institutional AVKO Membership.
You may choose to put the code to our shopping cart items on your own website (or blog) and have customers buy that way, earning you 10% for each membership and 5% of all other retail sales (excluding donations).  

Contact Brian McCabe (Brian @, the Operations Manager of AVKO for more information and to receive your Referral Code.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Which Curricula Can You Trust for Your Homeschooling Classroom?

As we move into the spring/summer homeschooling convention season for 2009, it's important to start thinking about new curricula for the classroom.  But, which curricula can you trust?  Whom can you trust out of all of the peddlers of wares?  There's a lot out there: cheap, expensive, ineffective, ineffective for your child, effective for your child but boring, takes too much prep...and the list goes on and on.  There are many ways to rank, critique, and evaluate any curriculum package, but here are some great resources for you to consider when making your decisions:

Review Sites:
Check out these curriculum reviewing sites for lots of information all in one place, organized in a way that won't make you search forever:
Carried by a trusted name in homeschooling:
Sometimes, curriculum being carried by a trusted name is enough, because of their stringent guidelines, reviewing, and vetting processes.  Some of the most trusted names in homeschooling?
Blogs (Or, straight from the horse's...erm...homeschoolers' mouths):
Homeschoolers LOVE to talk about the curriculum they use.  See what they're saying -- and writing -- about their curricula.  Most homeschoolers even list the curricula that they use on their blog's homepage.  If you are not already blogging, get going.  But, even if you're not ready to take the leap into blogging, you can at least take advantage of what OTHERS are saying on THEIR blogs.