Category Archives: Education

Use Movies to Teach




I remember way back in school when the teacher would roll out that lovely tv on a cart. I

rarely knew exactly which video was on the roster that day, but it was often better than regular

classwork.  It’s always fun for kids to have variety so with the advent of streaming options (like

Amazon and Hulu) and DVD rental services (like Redbox and Netflix), there are plenty of options

for media use in schools and homeschools alike.



Any topic can be taught using movies. Documentaries are available for topics from poverty to

living in counties outside of the US to how to make things. On top of that, there are TV shows

about history, physics, and Earth.

If you find that a topic has not yet been covered, consider it a challenge and ask your

students to research and produce their own documentary. Consider creating a YouTube or

SchoolTube channel. Or, if you prefer, create a website where you can instantly post the movie

your students create.



To extend learning, ask students to consider what happens next, how they can help if a

topic requires action, or to retell the information. Allow for individualized or group projects.

Give options for presentations which are flexible such as songs, art, acting it out, etc.

Don’t be afraid to learn with your students. Nobody knows everything. Learning together is a

great way to show that you are human. Plus, learning with kids helps them understand that you

are a life-long learner, which shows them the pros of being a learner for life.



So, what are you waiting for? Teaching through movies is only a click or two away. 😊


About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas


I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. Additional services include public speaking, transcript preparation, and more. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you.

Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at



My Favorite Valentine Books

Every year I go back to old standbys for each holiday clients wish to celebrate, but I also

like to add in new activities when possible.

I was working on lesson plans for clients and found some cool books for your homeschool or

classroom this year. Links are included if they are available for each book. Some links may be

via affiliates.


The Berenstain Bears’ Valentine Party

Berenstain Bears’ books tend to teach solid life lessons while entertaining children. Try opening your lesson to include student discussions about the topic of how to include others. Also consider allowing students to act out the book using puppets, action figures, or students themselves.

The Valentine Bears

Consider using The Valentine Bears as a whole group activity or in listening centers. Discuss how people sacrifice for each other to brighten a day. Allow students to discuss kind acts and safety boundaries to round out the lesson.

Junie B. Jones: Junie B. My Valentim

Junie B., the B. is for Beatrice and don’t forget it, makes mistakes and has some fun along the way. Junie books help students evaluate wise choices versus inappropriate choices with some laughter along the way. Consider having students rewrite a chapter or page to tell what happens if Junie makes a different choice.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse!

Given the popularity of books like “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”, it’s likely that kids will enjoy this book, too. Consider using this book to practice predictive text, make valentine’s in the classroom as not every student will have an opportunity to do so at home, and practice rhyming activities.




Transcript FAQ

Many homeschool and unschool families ask what is needed when requesting for me to

write their child’s transcripts. I suggest that you keep some basic information as your child

moves through the high school years. Unschoolers may have to be a bit more diligent in

keeping track of activities and classes chosen as their choices may be more eclectic than

traditional homeschoolers or those who use many state or locally run public school courses

such as those provided by FLVS in Florida.



Keep a list of:

Course names

Course descriptions

Grades (if given)

Activities such as volunteerism, school band participation, tennis practice

Dates for beginning and end of activities, courses, and the beginning/end of your high school program

Job training program or college entrance requirements for your school or schools of choice


Also, be certain I have the following information:

Student name

Student birthdate

School name (such as Lewis Homeschool Program)



Phone number

Contact name (parent/guardian)

Date your transcript must be completed


It is acceptable to use courses outside of those used in public schools, but keep in mind your

child’s college and/or job aspirations so you can gear activities and classes, and eventually the

transcript, toward these goals.

Be certain to include sciences, language arts, mathematics, social studies and history, as well

as language if your child is college-bound. Be certain you request transcript writing services as

early as possible. I can always add in current courses in progress or recently finished courses,

but may be back-logged if you wait too long to request your service. Waiting may mean the

difference between sending applications in on time or sending them in late and being wait-

listed or denied college entrance.

     If you have further questions, please contact me via the form on my transcript request page. I look forward to putting my experience to work for you!

Our Trip to Legoland

My family recently visited Legoland-Florida. I know my youngest enjoys Lego blocks and rides. However, I was slightly concerned that my preteen and teen would find less to do than my youngest kiddo.

We were pleasantly surprised! There were a ton of

activities for ALL ages!

Legoland-Florida was decorated for Christmas when we arrived. My kids were delighted to see this tree made of Lego bricks!

Everyone found rides they enjoyed. We ended up going on several rides multiple times. A huge favorite was driving school. Flying school was a close second.

Of course, my oldest enjoys roller coasters, so she became our official guide to make sure she had a chance to ride each coaster during our visit.

Driving school is fun! This popular attraction also has a version for younger kids close by.

Between roller coasters, water rides, driving and boat school options, everyone had a blast!

Children attempting to drive is quite interesting. We have some work to do before anyone takes a real driving test.

To cap off our day of fun, we enjoyed Milo’s Journey which is a STEM class you can choose to pay for and attend. The classes are inside the Imagination Zone which has literally TONS of Lego bricks for your children to use for physics and engineering activities.

What’s even better is that there are several other classes we plan to go back and try out, too!

During our class, the children had a laptop and Lego kit. The instructions for their assignment were on the laptop and easy to access.

During our class, students had the opportunity to build and program a rover!

Each child had access to their own laptop and Lego kit. After the kids programmed their rovers, a race was held!

Our instructor was extremely patient, clear, and helpful. It was so much fun that my kids asked to do it again!

I highly encourage homeschoolers to attend Homeschool Days as the rate is slightly lower if you reserve your tickets and pay in advance. Remember to bring your homeschool ID, which your local support group is likely to have, when you arrive at the park.

For a list of rides, parking information, and class info, check out the Legoland site!

Be sure to check out hours of operation and note that the water park area is open only part of the year. We live close by, so we will visit again when the water park is open (in warmer weather).

If you live far from the area, consider making the trip and staying at the Legoland Hotel or Beach Retreat

Legoland is inclusive. You are encouraged to contact Legoland personnel in advance of your visit to discuss any special needs and how they can be of service to you.

In addition, our STEM class teacher was extremely helpful and read my children’s cues. She was able to determine how much or how little assistance they needed and backed off if help seemed to agitate a student.

I have no doubt that the new STEM classes and teachers are well-equipped to help those with varying exceptionalities.

I highly encourage families, teachers, and homeschoolers to visit Legoland as well as the new STEM classes. There is far more to see, do, and learn about than a single blog post can cover. 

Make sure you check for events as well. The Christmas Bricktacular is just one of many events each year.

My family looks forward to going back again soon. We hope to see you there!

5 Things I Learned From Homeschooling


When people find out that we homeschool there are a variety of reactions. Usually there is a response included like “I could never do that” or “how do you find the time”. I used to feel the same way. But I have learned a lot from homeschooling so I thought I’d share just a few things I found interesting. I would love to hear your perspective as well.

I like having a flexible schedule.

When we made the move from public to homeschool, I worried how I would manage it all. Funny thing is that once I had free reign over our schedule, we actually had extra time and less stress! Consider the time spent going to book fairs, teacher conferences, and other events.

Consider that these events are pre-scheduled and you cannot move them to suit your work and free time schedules. So, yes, pubiic school is a fine choice. But, homeschooling opened up more time for us to choose where to go and what to do. Flexibility has been helpful to my family so I appreciate this.

I don’t mind lesson planning.

I used to seriously hate writing lesson plans for my students. I loved thinking of great lessons and researching fun learning projects, but hated how quickly I had to write them up in the schedule and how limited my choices were as the district and school already decided on basal curriculum choices. It was my job to fit these items in along with other information and projects my students would enjoy that were outside the basic academic subjects.

I often integrated art, science, and social studies into language arts and math time, but that is no small feat. I am thankful that though lesson planning is not always a piece of cake, I now have time and flexibility to work on integration of topics and to move outside of a pre-scripted academic path when my children want to explore other topics.

I have friends, not co-workers.

I am friendly most of the time. I like to talk with new people and hear about their journey. When I worked in public schools, I made a few friends who lasted beyond the post I left years ago. But most people did not have my phone number, address, or email. I really did not care to see them aside from at work because we had personality conflicts or just didn’t care to hang out away from work.

That’s ok. Nothing wrong with knowing who your tribe is or is not.

Homeschooling has given me a chance to meet people locally and beyond my area who have similar interests and ideals. I like that I can talk with them and they immediately understand my perspective. I like that they sometimes challenge me as well. Sure, this can be found in other places. I happen to have found kindred spirits throughout life, but especially while homeschooling.

I like managing a multi-age classroom.

I used to think multi-age classrooms would be difficult to manage once children aged out of pre-k. The thing is that chronological age does not tell as much as you might think about a student’s developmental stage.

A child may be very advanced in math, but less advanced in language arts compared to her peers. A multi-age classroom lets students help each other work on their weaknesses by teaching others using their strengths. Of course, a teacher or parent is there to assist when needed, too.

There’s more to life than academics.

I used to push academics even in early childhood settings. I wanted my kids to be advanced in every way. The thing is that every kid is unique and develops at least a little bit differently than others. That’s ok. That’s how it is supposed to be.

Gentle guidance is far different than a push, plus being pushy often turns kids away from the very information you desperately want them to understand.

Slow down. Be patient. Offer opportunities. Help when special needs dictate it’s needed.

They will get there. Plus, while working on academics there will b time to work on other things like building, drawing, cooking, learning to compare prices at the grocery store, etc. Sometimes life skills can be academic as well as helpful. Plus, non-academic activities can help students work on the skills they need to thrive as adults.

Our Trip to The Crayola Experience – Orlando

Our Trip to the Crayola Experience – Orlando

Location: Crayola Experience
8001 South Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, Florida 32809


Recently my family went to the Crayola Experience. Imagine this, teen, preteen (is it tween

these days?), and elementary kiddo all being dragged away from the electronic devices for a day

of family time. As you can imagine, this was not automatically the first choice on everyone’s list.

But that wasn’t the case for long.

Once we got inside, ALL 3 kids were ready to check it out. Not one complaint. Not one “Can

we go now?!”. It was fantastic!

I can’t remember the last time we ALL had fun at the same field trip or theme park.


For those who have never been here before, The Crayola Experience has 26 unique

attractions to explore. When you arrive, you purchase your tickets and go past a ticket check

employee at a podium. When you buy tickets, they give you a bag for your art projects and

tokens for a couple of the attractions which require tokens. You CAN purchase more tokens and

I found this to be helpful as my children enjoyed the token vending machines.

Once past the purchase area, you go upstairs via stairs or elevator (yay highly accessible) and

proceed to have a BLAST! You walk in near the Wrap it up exhibit where you name and put the

label on your own crayon, then proceed though the other attractions at your own pace. The

Crayola Experience includes model magic, painting, mystery challenges, spin art, art alive, a play

structure, food, a gift shop, a place to draw ON the walls in Scribble Square, and more!

Because I am the mom, I have to add my two-cents. I LOVED the Melt and Mold area! You

choose a color and melt the crayon into a shape you choose from options currently available. I

chose a sea horse. My son chose a ring. Sure, you can use these to color, but I plan to save mine

as a keepsake.

My most finicky child love, love, loved the Doodle in the Dark area. We all liked it, don’t get

me wrong, but she LOVED it. I nearly had to drag her away when it was time to go. She cannot

wait to get back and draw with the neon colors in the blacklight area. LOVE it!

My littlest kiddo enjoyed creating a frog to put into the Rockin’ Paper show. He colored a

frog. The attendant added clips the bottom of the frog’s body. Then the frog danced! So cute! It

was a tiny bit loud so if you have kids with sensory avoidance issues, bring noise cancelling



My oldest daughter loved nearly everything, including making her own crayon (name and all)

and the marker and crayon vending machines. The model magic vending machine was high on

her list, too, because we LOVE to sculpt with model magic at home, too.

The Crayola Experience is an awesome opportunity to practice social skills, map skills, learn how

things are made, practice working alone as well as on a team, practice using money and tokens,

and much more. Because this can be a loud outing, be sure to consider any special needs and

plan accordingly. If you have any questions, please give The Crayola Experience a call. They

were very, very thoughtful and kind during our visit and I am sure they would be willing to help

you as best they can, too.



Check out upcoming events like:

Screamin’ Green Hauntoween – (10/7 to 10/31) Halloween themed activities abound

during this event!

Crayola After Dark (for adults) – (10/19) Meet up with your friends or a date to sample wine

and make a craft!

Check the calendar for other activities and hours of operation.


Needless to say, we will be back.


Also, using this link and the code TRC, you will qualify for a special lower

price ticket for The Crayola Experience in Orlando, Florida. This code is not good at other

locations so be sure to follow the link to get your tickets to the Orlando Crayola Experience.


Also, homeschoolers can book a field trip in October 2017 for only $8.99 per

person, including parents or other chaperones for groups of 15 guests or more (kids under the

age of 3 are free). Please Contact Denise McKinnie for details at 407-757-1718 or . She is a pleasure to work with and will help make your trip a

successful event.


Please note that this post is the result of free tickets given in exchange for my honest opinion of

The Crayola Experience,



6 Apple Activities For Autumn

September is here and autumn is soon to come!

It’s time for apples, pumpkins, and cooler weather. Well, unless you live in Florida like I do. Then, it’s ridiculously warm to hot regardless of season. So while I sit here with my jealousy over seasons others get to experience, I thought I’d share some of my favorite apple activities.


Go Apple Picking
Book to read: Apple Picking Day!

Have you ever gone to an orchard to pick your own apples? It’s a ton of fun, and tires the kids out! Call in advance to find out how far away your nearest orchard is and be sure you have appropriate clothing as well as any gear you need. Likely, they will have containers for you, but you may need to brig your own. If you use a ladder, be careful. Kids scamper up quickly, so be sure to review safety rules in advance.


Make Apple Prints

Book to read: Apples

To make apple prints you need paint, apples cut in half, and paper. Get ready because this can get messy! We often do this activity outside or use smocks. Use the apple halves to learn about and discuss the parts of an apple. Then, use the halves to make designs, pictures, or any other artistic creation your heart desires.


Bake An Apple Pie

Book to read: The Apple Pie Tree

Each year my kids ask to bake at least one apple pie. Oh, yes, it’s definitely time consuming. But WOW is baking a pie a good way to have quality family time. Plus, once it’s finished you get to eat a delicious treat!


Make Apple Sauce

Book to read: Applesauce Day

Applesauce is delicious warm or cold, in my opinion. Try your hand at making homemade applesauce ans see if your family likes it better than store-bought brands. This is a great opportunity to teach children about measurement, temperatures, and following a recipe.


Taste Test Apples

Book to read: How Do Apples Grow?

Consider buying several types of apples and comparing them. Use a notepad or whiteboard to record your family’s responses. Who prefers to eat golden delicious? Who thinks Gala are not as red as red delicious? Who prefers Granny Smith? To save money, buy 1-3 of each apple you plan to try and cut them into slices. Try a type of apple you haven’t heard of before. I tend to overeat when doing this activity because, well, it’s for science!

Study The Life Cycle With Art

Book to read: Seed, Sprout, Fruit: An Apple Tree Life Cycle

Examine the apples you purchased, read books, and sketch the apples you will eat. Show your children how to order the steps in the apple life cycle. Have them sketch each part and post everyone’s work. Ask your children to explain the life cycle to you. Use tissue paper or construction paper to design a new type of apple you would like to see and label the parts. 


Affiliate links may be included in posts on this site.


About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas


I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for youPlease contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at


7 Science Lesson Tips

Sometimes people ask how I deal with teaching so many different ages and grades when tutoring or homeschooling. They have a point. There are a lot of ways to make teaching easier, though. Lets talk about how to plan for science lessons and NOT give yourself a headache.

1. Plan ahead.

Planning lessons in advance and having the correct tools on hand makes life so much easier. But with busy lives and multiple children, I know this is a challenge. It may help to take a day or two off and plan a week or month in advance, create lists of materials needed, and even set up folders or shelves with the items for each experiment on them assuming nothing dangerous is in the reach of kids.



2. Safety first!

Post and review safety rules often. Include pictures of items like safety goggles so your kids are more likely to remember the rules. Remember to set the example.

If they need goggles, you need goggles.

If they need to walk while holding a beaker, so do you.

If someone breaks a rule, refer back to the rule and it’s matching image. Make your own or buy one like this.



3. Practice using tools.

I don’t know about you, but when I get a new thing, I want to check it out. This holds true for science tools like beakers, bunsen burners, pipettes, etc. Kids ALWAYS want to play with new items.


The question is, have they had enough time to play safely, then practice using the materials responsibly? If so, then you are ready for lessons. If not, well, let’s just say broken glass isn’t fun so let the kids practice A LOT under your supervision before beginning lessons.



4. Stop for safety.

If your students are not focused or are being unsafe, stop. You can always start again later or on another day. Sometimes it takes a brain break or time outside to get those wiggles out and refocus on the lesson.



5. Ask your kids.

Ask your kids what they want to learn. Ask them how they think a scientific inquiry should proceed. When you use open-ended questions and student-chosen lessons, when possible, it helps your children to internalize the information because it will likely be more important and interesting to them.


6. Try it again.

Try experiments more than once. Scientists do this, so why can’t you? Consider changing one thing in the experiment such as the independent variable and see how that changes the findings. Ask the kids to decide what to change and how. Record the results each time and compare them in a log book like this one.



7. Have fun!

It’s also okay to have fun! There is no reason that science should be boring. Science is always open to change and to new questions. If an experiment sounds bor-ring, consider doing a different one. The goal is to learn how to make a scientific inquiry and go through the scientific process to ensure results are unbiased, reliable, and valid. It’s okay to have fun while you do it!

If you want some ideas to help you get started, check out the options below!

Keep in mind that I reserve the right to use affiliate links throughout my website.

About Melissa, The Reading Coach

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Packwood, M.S. Ed.
Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Several years ago, I left my teaching job to spend more time with my children. I was sad to go, but am thankful for the experiences that classroom teaching provided. My educational experiences paired with real world experiences give me a unique perspective when working with families to achieve their behavioral and educational goals.

I earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy as well as an ESE graduate certificate. I hold a current teaching certificate and am working on my PHD in general psychology. As a consultant and reading coach, I focus on early childhood education, elementary education, reading and literacy, study skills, thematic units, and social skills. I look forward to putting my teaching experience and degrees to work for you. Please contact me with questions or to request services.

You can also contact Melissa, The Reading Coach at


My Favorite Educational Fall Things

As fall approaches, I have gathered some of my favorite educational things in one post. I did include affiliate links, but you certainly don’t have to buy via my links or even online. Many items can be found at your local retailers, too.

One of my family’s traditions is to build Lego kits as often as we can. We were excited to see so many options on Amazon this year.


When we have Halloween or autumn parties, we like to have fun, but also ad educational activities. Nearly any game can be adjusted to do this. Add letters, numbers, words, or sill sentences to make a game educational.


Two of our favorite books for this time of year include the Apple Pie Tree and My Autumn Book.






Also, if you have the cash to spend, you can use the Amazon Echo to play music, learn facts, and more! This gadget can help with making your day more interesting even when the cold weather keeps you indoors.

Thanks for reading and be sure to comment on the Facebook page with your favorite fall things, too!

Uniforms: The Great Equalizer

Many years ago uniforms were widely added to school dress codes and are mandatory in many areas. Not all schools did this, but there was a clear trend. Many argued for uniforms for valid reasons. Many opposed as well. As a former teacher and parent, I find this topic much more cut and dry than most.

Uniforms have been popular in dress codes over the past few decades.

Uniforms: Socioeconomic Equalizer and Anti-Bully Tool

When uniforms became a new fad, many argued that this type of dress code would help those who cannot afford the newest, coolest clothing. This makes sense to some degree. It’s not easy to buy the most popular brands. Then again, most families in need either accepted donations or purchased sale items which likely cost less than a week’s worth of uniforms. Some families cannot afford to go to the laundromat more than once per week which may mean a child must wear a uniform twice in one week, even if dirty.

If students are good people, being taught to be good citizens by their families, then odds are that bullying is not an issue no matter what others wear each day. Make no mistake, bullying begins at home. When it spreads through schools, you can still go back through the chain to find bullying by one or more families at the start.

On top of that, when a family can only afford a few uniforms, the socioeconomic status is still obvious in the wear and tear or unwashed appearance of the clothing. Bullying can still occur with a uniform dress code in place.

Uniforms: Gang Prevention

Another popular opinion is that without clear markings on clothing, gangs will have less of a foothold in schools. I am thankful that people are concerned about safety in schools. The problem is that gangs are not stupid. They will use hairstyles, tattoos, shoe or sock choices, hairbands, and other ways to show their alliance and gang colors or symbols.

Uniforms: Good for Everyone

The pervasive idea that uniforms are good for everyone is a bit of a generalization. After all, those with sensory issues may very well have negative behavioral reactions to the feeling those polo shirts and collars have. This can cause tardiness, ongoing in class behavior issues, and distractions. On the other hand, children who are raised with love, patience and taught to focus on school will likely not have difficulty moving on from seeing what others wear to do school work.

Uniforms may be comfortable for some students, but not all.

In the end, I found uniforms to stifle creativity of my students and children. I am firmly against using them as a mandatory dress code and encourage others to consider the cons along with the pros. It is easier to teach a student who feels comfortable and happy. This may mean polo shirts and cotton/polyester blend pants or it may mean leggings and a t-shirt. The goal is learning. Don’t let uniforms stand in the way.