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Handel’s Messiah: a Christmas Study

Thursday, 18 December 2008 14:40

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-by Mimi Rothschild

Almost all of us could sing (or at least holler) a line or two from the “Hallelujah Chorus.” It’s the one that goes, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” But not all of us know the whole story of this wonderful piece of music.

At this time of year, you can probably find a live performance of Handel’s Messiah in your neighborhood, or on TV. It’s about two and a half hours long, which is a good length for older students, but may be too long for younger children. For the littlest ones, you might prefer to listen to a recording of just a few parts of the whole work.

Georg Frideric Handel wrote his Messiah in just twenty-four days after reading the verses it’s based on: it remains one of the great examples of God’s inspiration in art. The words come primarily from the book of Isaiah. The music was written in 1742. The first performance took place in Dublin in April of that year, and parts of the oratorio are still performed at Easter. Nowadays, though, Messiah is mostly sung at Christmas.

Even if you plan to go to hear a live performance, it is still good to listen and study some of the pieces ahead of time.

“For Unto Us a Child is Born”

For unto us a Child is born. Unto us a Son is given,
And the government shall be upon His shoulder.
And His name shall be called “Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

This section is great for listening practice. There are very few words, but they are repeated in complicated overlapping patterns by all the different singers at different times. Have students take a pencil and paper and check off when they hear particular phrases. For example, you might ask the kids to make a check on the paper each time they hear the word “for” – it stands out well. Older students can listen very closely and say whether they heard male or female (or high or low) voices each time.

In the next section, listen for “shoulder” in the same way. This intensive listening feels like a game, but it helps children develop their attention spans and the habit of close listening.

All the voices then sing “And His name shall be called…” together. Discuss with your students why this might be so important that Handel wanted everyone to sing it strongly together. Read this passage in Isaiah 9:6 together and discuss what it means to say that “the government shall be upon His shoulder.” Remind the children that you have lots of names for them (pet names and nicknames) because they’re so important to you, and in the same way, we have lots of names for Jesus. The Old Testament book of Isaiah uses many of these beautiful names.

“And the Glory”

And the glory, the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

This song, with words from Isaiah 40:5, is a joyful celebration of the arrival of the Christ Child, and a wonderful verse to learn during Advent when we wait to repeat that celebration ourselves.

Reinforce listening practice by listening for the loud and soft parts of this section of Messiah. This is an important first step in music education, and a useful thing for kids to know in their daily lives, too. Have the children lift their hands way up on the loud parts and push them down for the soft parts. For the dramatic silence near the end, hands should be on the table or the floor.

Older students can listen for specific instruments in the orchestra as they play. Have them list the instruments they hear.


For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
The kingdom of the world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ
And he shall reign forever and ever
King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

This section is as close as Messiah gets to having a part you can sing along with, so go ahead and sing along. Then look at some of the difficult words: “hallelujah,” “omnipotent,” “reigneth,” and “reign.” Have your students write the message out in their own words.

If you attend a live performance of Messiah, you may encounter two interesting customs that go along with the “Hallelujah Chorus.” First, people often stand up to listen to it. The story goes that King George was so excited the first time he heard it performed that he spontaneously stood up. Since no one was allowed to sit down while the king was standing, the whole theater full of people stood, too, and now it’s the custom to do so.

The other interesting custom associated with this song is that of allowing the people in the audience to come up and join in with the final chorus. Sometimes you can even buy a copy of the music in the theater so you can sing along.

Whether you enjoy the Messiah in a concert hall, on a CD, or on YouTube, your children will benefit from sharing in this important piece of our cultural and religious heritage.

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.

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Christmas Around the World Lessons

Mimi Rothschild
Wednesday, 10 December 2008 11:12

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-by Mimi Rothschild

As Christmas approaches, our homes can get busy and our kids can get restless. Instead of giving lessons short shrift, take this opportunity to review what you’ve learned so far this school year, using a Christmas Around the World theme.

Before you begin, find a world map: a wall map, an online map to print out, or a map made by your students can all be great choices. Whenever you work on a new country, have your children find that nation on the map, and mark it with a map pin or sticker. This will give you a good geography review as you go along.

Start in Mexico, where Las Posadas is an important part of the Christmas celebration. This is a sort of parade, in which people reenact the journey of Mary and Joseph, knocking on the door to ask for a place to stay and being told there is only space in the stable. The reenacters are then invited in, and a party is held. Make a piñata for your party from papier mache formed over a blown-up balloon, serve hot chocolate, and sing Christmas carols. This is a great way to have an easy party with fellow homeschool families. During the preparations, use math skills to plan and carry out the refreshments and decorations, review the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, and practice Spanish if you’ve been studying it.

Christmas in England has influenced our American celebration of Christmas enormously. Christmas trees became popular in the United States after Queen Victoria’s German husband introduced the custom to England. Many of our special foods, Christmas hymns, and the custom of Christmas cards also came to us from England. But one of the best ways to incorporate an English Christmas into our lessons is to read or listen to A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Whether your children are ready to read the book aloud to the family, or more of an age to watch The Muppets Christmas Carol on TV, they can enjoy this story. If you’re reading it, keep a list of new vocabulary words you meet in the book, and have the kids look them up in the dictionary.

Next stop on the Christmas Around the World journey: Finland. Practice writing friendly letters by writing letters to Santa Claus at Santa, c/o Arctic Circle, 96930 Rovaniemi, Finland. (If Santa Claus is not part of your holiday tradition, let your students help with Christmas cards, or write to grandparents about what they’re learning.) In Finland, an important Christmas custom is a thorough cleaning of the house. When your students need a break from concentrating on writing, get some good exercise with vigorous housecleaning and return to your studies with renewed energy. Another Finnish custom is to feed the birds the first thing on Christmas morning, before the people in the house eat or any presents are opened, Use this custom to talk about putting others first, as Jesus told us to do, and to review any studies you’ve done about birds.

Onward to France, where Christmas is observed with santons, figures of people from the community who are grouped around the crèche, which is the manger scene of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Review your lessons on community helpers or careers, and make santons from clay or paper to add to your manger scene. France is also the home of the Buche de Noel, a famous Christmas cake made in the shape of a log. Frost a jelly roll to look like a log, review your lessons on plants or trees, and talk with your children about how the plants we associate with Christmas show a picture of Jesus. Those green plants remind us of the way Jesus triumphed over death by His resurrection, and of our own rebirth in Him. This, you can explain, is why we bring trees into our homes at Christmas: to remind ourselves and others of our eternal life through our savior Jesus.

In Ghana, on the west coast of Africa, children walk through the streets in the evening singing carols and calling, “Christ is near! Christ is near!” They dress in splendid costumes and sometimes even dance to the music of brass bands. Christmas in Ghana is a combination of church celebrations and visiting friends and relatives in nearby towns. Homes are decorated with bright paper ornaments. In Ghana, few families have the kind of material abundance that we are used to. Presents, for families that can afford them, are usually shoes or school books. Take this opportunity to talk with your children about the differences in material wealth from one country to another, and to remember that Jesus tells us to help and pray for those who have less than we do. This is also a time to remember that Christmas is not about presents and fancy decorations, even though we enjoy those things, but about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

An Australian Christmas is a summer holiday. Families go camping and have barbecues on the beach. Review the seasons and how the rotation of the earth causes them while you learn about Australian Christmas customs. Other appropriate science topics would be the kinds of animals God has placed in different habitats, and the differences between marsupial and placental mammals. A beautiful custom in Australia is the candlelight carol service. People in cities come out into the center of town with candles to sing Christmas carols together. In Australia, where a relatively high proportion of people live alone, loneliness is as much as problem at Christmas as poverty. Pray with your children about someone you know who might be lonely this Christmas.

With these ideas, you can work on science, math, reading, writing, and social studies, even as you enjoy the preparations for this wonderful holiday.

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Understanding Reading Levels

Mimi Rothschild
Thursday, 13 November 2008 15:52

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-by Mimi Rothschild

You’re at the library, and your darling child runs to you with a wonderful book she just found. She loves the picture on the cover, and she’s excited about reading it, but how can you be sure it’s at the right reading level for her?

It’s great when there’s a reading level number on the book. You can sometimes find these codes on the back cover at the bottom, or on the front, in a top corner. Unfortunately, these numbers aren’t uniform. One series of books will call their books levels 1, 2, and 3 while another calls the same levels “beginning,” “step one,” and “step two.” It can be useful to work through a series, since the books will consistently get more difficult as they move through the levels. When you’re mixing series, don’t rely on the numbers, because there’s no reason to expect them to match.

Books with numbers like “4.3” are more consistent. This generally means the third month of fourth grade. But there really isn’t a consistent definition of what a fourth grader reads. Your students may read more easily or less easily than the hypothetical kids those numbers are designed for. The good thing about this system is that if your child reads one book marked 2.6 comfortably, then he can probably read another one with the same ranking just as easily, even if it’s not in the same series or from the same publisher. Then you can move up to the next number, and the next, with confidence.

A great rule of thumb when there are no reading levels on the book is the Four Word Rule. Have your child read one page aloud. If she stumbles on or doesn’t recognize four or more words, then that book is too hard. Have her choose another one, and remember the more difficult one for the future.

If your child’s heart is set on reading a book that seems too hard or too easy, consider trying it anyway. When it comes to books that are too easy, consider that you probably don’t relax with Fyodor Dostoevsky every evening. Sometimes we don’t need a challenge. Reading for pleasure is an important part of adult life, and kids should develop that habit early.

The book that’s too hard? Let your child work diligently on a few pages, and then read some of the wonderful and challenging book aloud for him to enjoy. Later, let him read some more on his own. Learning to read is hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Shared reading can help kids get that lesson.

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.

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The Math We Use Every Day

Mimi Rothschild
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 16:12

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-by Mimi Rothschild

Some of our students love math. Numbers are their friends, and they get excited about things like the Pythagorean theorem. Some of our students balk at studying math, and tell us they’re going to use calculators anyway, so they don’t need to know all that stuff and can they please do their art lessons instead?

Both groups of students can benefit by getting down to earth and hooking their math lessons up to the real world.

Include your children in these daily math experiences, and you may see your reluctant mathematicians blossom into enthusiasm, while your math whizzes get new appreciation for the practical value of their beloved subject.

• We use algebra for planning. When you pull some cash out of your pocket for that drive-through meal between soccer and play practice, you have to use the amount of money you have, the cost of each burger or taco, and the number of people in the car to calculate how many you should order. When you agreed to this child’s soccer team and that child’s drama troupe in the first place, you had to figure out whether it would be possible to get everyone to the right place at the right time. Use manipulatives or equations to work out these problems, and help your kids get in the habit of doing these kinds of calculations.

• We use percentages and estimation for shopping. In order to stay in our budgets at the grocery store or mall, we have to keep track of what we put in the basket, and then most of us must mentally add on a certain percentage for sales tax. Let your kids take over this task on all your shopping trips, and you’ll be amazed how skilled they’ll get.

• We use basic operations for budgeting time and money. Working out a household budget, the budget for a vacation or holiday, or the schedule for a busy day can use all the basic operations. Let kids get in on the calculations for the family, or for their own budgets and work schedules. Even very young children can join in on this when they figure up what time the family can play a board game together, considering the time dinner is served and how long it takes to clean the kitchen.

• We use fractions and measurement for household tasks. We measure cups and spoons and fractions of cups and spoons when we bake cookies. We measure inches and yards and fractions of both when we cut the fabric for a quilt or the lumber for a woodworking project. We even have to add and multiply and subtract and divide measurements and fractions when we double a recipe or calculate yardage. Getting to eat the cookies or join in the crafty fun is motivation for the kids to help with the calculations, too.

Why not keep a list of all the math skills your family uses in real life? Post the list on the family bulletin board and add to it all year, or check things off in the index in your math book. Your student will be amazed at how useful math really is!

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of Learning By Grace, Inc. the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.

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Sensory Modalities- Multisensory Learning

Mimi Rothschild
Monday, 20 October 2008 13:04

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One of the great things about homeschooling is that we can teach each of our children in the very best way for that particular child. One of the learning differences that matters most is the child’s preferred sensory modality.

That’s a long phrase that means that some children learn better through seeing (visual learners), some through hearing (auditory learners), and some through touching (kinesthetic learners). God has given us our senses, and we all use them in the ways that are best for our uniquely created selves.

How Can I Tell My Child’s Preferred Sensory Modality?

When you get out a map, your visual learners might look closely and study it. Your auditory learners might look at it briefly and then look back at you, listening for an explanation, or start reading the names of the countries out loud. Your kinesthetic learners might touch the map, tracing out a route with their fingers.

Some people are more balanced than others, and might seem to use information from different sensory channels equally. Usually, even more balanced learners show their preferred modality when they’re feeling a little stressed.

Your auditory learner might talk to herself when she is working hard on a math test. Your kinesthetic learner might count on his fingers or doodle numbers in the margins. Your visual learner might write in the margins, too, but he’ll be doing it so he can look at the figures to see whether they look right.

Fortunately, all children learn best when they use all their senses, so you don’t have to be sure about their
preferred modalities. Just include a range of different activities in your lessons. It is so easy for us to think of activities that fit our own preferred modality! Sometimes we need to be reminded of the best activities for the other learning modalities.

Activities for Visual Learners
• Looking at charts and diagrams.
• Color-coding information
• Using graphic organizers to show information
• Practicing with flashcards and worksheets
• Using videos

Activities for Auditory Learners
• Listening to lectures
• Discussing information and ideas
• Reading aloud
• Using learning songs and chants
• Reciting information and doing oral practice

Activities for Kinesthetic Learners
• Using manipulatives
• Doing hands-on practice
• Creating models
• Playing games with information
• Using role play and drama

A perfect lesson would include activities for all the senses. We know that practicing new learning in different ways helps children learn better than practicing for the same amount of time using the same approach. Research also shows that multisensory lessons are learned more easily and remembered longer.

Combine different activities to get the most out of each of them and the best for each learner. Learning videos let visual learners watch and auditory learners listen. Let kinesthetic learners follow along with drawings or manipulatives, or try out what they see on their own. Have kinesthetic learners make graphic organizers with their visual learner siblings, and the auditory learners will join in discussing how to sort the information in the organizers. You can even include cooking, gardening, and nature study to bring in the senses of smell and taste. As far as we know, children don’t use these senses as their preferred learning modality, but we have all seen how cooking a dish from a country being studied can bring that lesson to life.

Soon multisensory lessons will be second nature!

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Creative Writing for Homeschoolers

Mimi Rothschild
Monday, 4 June 2007 08:39

1 Comment

By Mimi Rothschild

One of the best ways for homeschoolers to express themselves is through writing. Writing is an important skill to have no matter how old you are or what industry your in. I encourage all of our Jubilee Academy homeschoolers to continue to write outside of homeschool. One way to have fun and improve your writing skills is to participate in the activities below.

Pre-Kindergarten Homeschoolers
Bible Stories for Kids: Read this creatively written story of Noah and the flood with your pre-k homeschooler.

Elementary Homeschoolers
Picture Story: Elementary homeschool authors can write a fantastic story based on a picture.

Middle School Homeschoolers
Weekly Writing Challenge: Middle School homeschoolers can hone their writing skills and be creative each week while writing for this wacky weekly writing contest.

High School Homeschoolers
Creative Writing Contest: High School homeschoolers can compete against students all across the country. Enter a creative story or a poem!

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” – Psalm 33:3

In Him,

Mimi Rothschild

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Photography for Homeschoolers

Mimi Rothschild
Thursday, 31 May 2007 13:03

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By Mimi Rothschild

What will are you doing this summer? I’m sure many of you Jubilee Academy homeschoolers have big plans! A great hobby to have for life is photography. People can enjoy snapping pictures in various styles no matter what age they are. Try your hand, and eyes, at photography this summer and see what sort of great shots you can capture! We’d love to see them!

Pre-Kindergarten Homeschoolers
Baby Animal Photos: Look at hundreds of cute and adorable baby animal photos.

Elementary Homeschoolers

Fun Photo Projects: Learn how to make some neat crafts using photos.

Middle School Homeschoolers
Free Photography Contest: Homeschoolers can win big prizes and sharpen their photography skills.

High School Homeschoolers
The Amazing Project 365: Document one year in your homeschool life and be amazed!

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” — Exodus 14:14

In Him,

Mimi Rothschild

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Flowers for Homeschoolers

Mimi Rothschild
Tuesday, 15 May 2007 07:45

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By Mimi Rothschild

Spring is the perfect time to get out in nature and discover the beauty and science found in flowers. Flowers may seem like they are merely for aesthetic beauty, but smart homeschoolers know that without flowers, our entire ecosystem would collapse. What a wonderful God we serve, who provides us with a necessary element of creation that is so beautiful at the same time!

Pre-Kindergarten Homeschoolers
Coloring Pages:
Here are some beautiful flowers for your younger homeschoolers.

Elementary Homeschoolers
Primary Games:
Complete a sunflower jigsaw puzzle and other fun games.

Middle School Homeschoolers
Learn all about the science of flowers at Kidport.

High School Homeschoolers
About Homeschooling:
Learn more about the art of drying and pressing flowers.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

In Him,
The Jubilee Academy

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Classic Movies For Homeschoolers

Mimi Rothschild
Monday, 23 April 2007 07:52

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By Mimi Rothschild

Do you like classic movies? There’s something about an old Orson Welles flick, complete with buttery popcorn and a friend that can make a rainy spring day fun. Let’s explore online to find some great movie-related websites. Here are some wonderful sites about Hollywood glamour and fame.

Pre-Kindergarten Homeschoolers
Classic Movie Kids:
These classic movie kids are were child stars in the golden age of Hollywood.

Elementary Homeschoolers
Here are three great classic movies just for kids.

Middle School Homeschoolers
The Smithsonian:
The Smithsonian has an extensive list of resources that homeschool students can use to learn.

High School Homeschoolers
Turner Classic Movies:
Turner Classic Movies has tons of great content about old movies. From trivia to photos to wallpaper, this site is bursting with great features.

“Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” – Proverbs 10:14

In Him,
The Jubilee Academy

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Spring Crafts For Homeschoolers

Mimi Rothschild
Monday, 19 February 2007 08:09

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Good morning class! Welcome back for another week of homeschool fun. Today we are going to celebrate the changing of the seasons. Isn’t it wonderful that God gave us such variety in his creation? Spring is just around the corner so let’s do some fun crafts to get ready.

Pre-Kindergarten Homeschoolers
Young children will love completing these springtime coloring pages.

Elementary Homeschoolers
Check out these few dozen spring-themed crafts for you to try on for size.

Middle School Homeschoolers
Family Fun:
Family Fun’s got your homeschool family covered when it comes to spring crafts.

High School Homeschoolers
Kaboose – Teens:
Here are some crafts for teens. Several of them are spring themed.

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” – 1 Corinthians 3:16

In Him,
The Jubilee Academy

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