Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Discovering Great Artists

7 year old

8 year old
We are using Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn Kohl and Kim Solga. It is a wonderful and inexpensive resource. Each week, we study a new artist and try out their technique for ourselves.

The supplies are pretty use to find. I am NOT a crafty person but I can even handle this and I love the price tag compared to the other art programs out there.

This week we learned about Joseph Stella and mixed media. These are pictures my children created after the lesson. They are very excited about home school days, if they know there is going to be art. I save art for the end of the day to hope motivate them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Balancing Act

Unless you have a maid, driver, personal shopper, and personal chef, you probably have more responsibilities than just as a home schooling mother.  Sometimes it can be hard to balance all of these things.   I know I feel overwhelmed at times.
With all that you do, it is important to have some quiet time for yourself.  I am not a morning person by nature, I am one by habit.  I have to make an effort to wake up before the kids or I feel like I am running behind the rest of the day.  I do a daily devotional, pray and have a cup of coffee.  Then I start breakfast.

There are other things that help me stay somewhat organized. 


If you are more interested in a printable version Motivated Moms is an excellent way to physically check off the daily activities.  They also have an option to have schedule Bible reading.  They also have a new android and apple app.   Motivated Moms spreads out the tasks so it isn’t overwhelmed but your house is guest ready.
Click here to visit Motivated Moms.

For meal planning, I cook many meals in the slow cooker.  I try to make extra so I can freeze half and have a meal ready to go later on.

I also made a reverse meal schedule.  I wrote down what everything I made for dinner for a month. I wrote meal on an index card and put it into an index card box.  When I finished my month, I had thirty dinners I knew my family liked and I knew how to cook.  I use these meals also the framework for my next month.  I reserved a day a week to try something new.  If my family likes it, I put it in the box.  Now my index card box is full of things my family loves.  I get new inspiration from cookbooks from the library, websites, blogs, and food network.

Monday, October 22, 2012

NOEO Science Sale

My favorite science curriculum is on sale for the first time ever.  For one week only everything will be an additional 10% off.  To get the discount, you have to use the code "Add10" at checkout.  I wish they have this sale in the summer!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Life Happens

I have a wonderful schedule created on home school tracker. It fits perfectly with holidays and birthdays and our evenly spaced breaks.

Then everyone gets sick. Not just sniffling but with a stomach virus. For the last week and a half, I have had at least own warm damp body sleeping on my sofa during the day. They don't beg for a snack or to go out and play. They don't even argue with one another. They have been sick, really sick.

So much for perfect schedules, I try to remind myself that we are not behind.  That my best case scenario schedule wasn’t perfect because I can’t see ahead.  I can’t see the next minor emergency but God can.  I need to not be so upset that my plan isn’t working and to allow life to happen.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

My Favorite Free Preschool Resources

The cost of preschool can be as high or low as you want it to be. There are plenty of at home preschool kits where you can easily spend hundreds of dollars for just a few months. There are also many great free resources online. Here are just a few of my favorites.

1 Plus 1 Plus 1 Equals 1 is a site packed full of Montessori rich activities. There are activities like "Tot Trays" designed to inspire hands on learning and exploration. There are tons of free printables to help preschoolers learn the basics. Many include popular cartoon characters like Disney's Doc McStuffins or Nick's "Octonauts." The site is not only inspiring but doable as well.

Starfall is another great free resource. It is computer based, so you might need to help your little with navigating the site. The site helps little ones learn the alphabet and the sounds the make. It helps older children learn how to read and how to become more fluent. Starfall is both educational and entertaining. The original site remains free but they have expanded to include "More Starfall" which is not free.

Letter of a Week is a valuable resource at no cost. There "curriculum" can be used from birth all the way up to 11 years old. The lower levels place the focus on reading to your infant or toddler. The lesson plans include Literature recommendations, nursery rhymes, music, exercise, French, and speech. The lessons are simple and designed to create a love of learning and literature.

Counting Coconuts is a unique blog that has many ideas to use for your preschooler. It has brilliant recommendations for Montessori activities and resources. The blog has gorgeous and inspiring photographs that are sure to give you some great ideas and motivate your preschool. There are free printables and themed activities to keep you as busy as you want to be.

DLTK Kids is a must visit site for non-crafty moms. It contains many crafts sorted by ABC's, 123's, Books, Shapes, Animal Crafts, Bible Crafts, Different Cultures, and holidays to name a few. The crafts require simple house hold items. The instructions state what age the craft is appropriate for. You can print the templates right at home. The site also contains songs, coloring sheets, and printables.

These sites help you create a rich learning environment in your home. They provide low stress activities at no cost, so you can spend more time and money on other things. What are some of your favorite free preschool sites?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Preschool Expectations

I don’t have too many expectations for preschool.  I don’t do flashcards or thick workbooks.  I want to be careful not to kill the joy of learning by forcing my little man to sit at desks for hours listening to me lecture.   In my opinion, that is not what preschool is about.

That isn’t to say we avoid learning.  Preschool isn’t a four letter word to be avoided. Preschool means before school. Preschool for my kids began at birth.  I named the object that they saw.  I let them play and explore.  I talked to them and read to them. 

Now my son is three I answer questions constantly.  “Where did the sun go?” or “Why can’t I eat a cookie for dinner?” 

Play is an essential part of learning at this stage.  Pretending and building towers or castles out of Legos is more valuable that piles of worksheets. My son is learning to work with others, to share, and discovering the world around him.  After crashing innumerable towers, He knows to build a wide base for a taller tower.  After trying to build a tower on my dog, he knows that flat surfaces are better too.

Just because he doesn’t do a math worksheet doesn’t mean he can’t count.  We count everything: the steps on the stairs, the scoops of flour for the pancakes, the petals on a flower, the wheels on the bus and the dinosaur toys on his shelf.  He learned to count down when he turned a box into a shape ship to blast off in.

I still read to him constantly, I use a great picture book reading list and load up at the library.  He shows and interest in helicopters, fire trucks, or the rain forest I check out a book on the subject.  Now, he knows about rotors, CRVs and sloths. 

I don’t force him to write his letters.   However, he does have his little notebook he carries around pretending to take notes. He uses crayons and he has proper grip of the crayon.  That will help him transition to pencil later.

He paints with tempera paints that he can mix together to know that two colors can mix together and make another color.  He has learned the colors because as I pour the paints, I call out their names and when I give him a choice of shirts, I ask if he would like to wear the green one or the red one.

Preschool doesn’t have to be high pressure and stressful.  It is as hard or efficient as you make it.  The most important part of preschool should be developing the love of learning in a natural unforced way.  It doesn’t have to happen at a desk or in a circle.  It can happen in the grocery store, the kitchen table, or a mother’s lap.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My experience with Lower Level Saxon Math

I think Saxon Math gets a bad rap.  I have read so many bad reviews from home schoolers.  Some have likened it to “watching paint dry” or as being “torture.”  Based upon these types of reviews, I avoided it like the plague for a long time.  I switch my non-abstract thinking child from Singapore, Math in Focus, and too Math Mammoth to name a few, that was torture. 

They didn’t work.  She just didn’t get it.  She needed more review on basic facts before even considering abstract multi-part word problems.  She is mildly dyslexic and needs to review math concepts many more times than my non-dyslexic child.  Saxon’s math fact cards are great for this purpose.

She also needs hands on manipulatives.  Saxon includes geo-boards, dominoes, pattern blocks, and linking cubes.  She loves them all.  Rather than repeating a concept over and over and getting a deer in the headlights look, she can play with the manipulatives and see what I mean.  She finally gets math.

Saxon is also great for the non-STEM moms and beginning home schoolers.  The lower grades contain scripts so you know exactly what to say, what manipulatives to use, and what to review and when to review it.  It can give the educator more confidence.

The spiral aspect helps keep things fresh.  She doesn’t have to wait another year before seeing addition again or money.  She gets to review money, calendars, and number patterns daily.  She enjoys the routine of the program. 

While Saxon might not work for some, if your child is struggling to fit in a Singapore style math, consider a less abstract math program like Saxon.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Near Year Started 15 days ago...

I can’t believe how smoothly everything is going this year.  Sonlight is working like a charm.  I have finally found a flow that is working for our unique family.


Blue Grotto, Capri, Italy
My 8 year old and 7 year old are both using:
Sonlight B& C for History, Bible, Geography, Reading
NOEO Physics Level I for science
Discovering Great Artists
Piano Lessons for music
All About Spelling for Spelling
Rod & Staff for Grammar

My 8 year is doing well with Singapore Math so I am not switching.
My 7 year needed more review and lesson abstract thinking, so we switched to Saxon Math.

I took an unschooling approach to Health and Physical education.  As interests and topics arise, we discuss them, read about them, or try it out.

My little self proclaimed scientist joins in and observes NOEO Physics.  He also enjoys Sonlight Preschool Package for 3 year olds.  He loves sitting on my lap and listening to stories over and over again.  His favorite this week is caps for sale. 

The girls have loved listening to the Sonlight book selections.  They really enjoyed Red Sails to Capri.  They are now saving their allowance money to visit the Blue Grotto, in Capri. Currently they have $4.74 dedicated to the trip.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Homeschool Portfolio

Many home schoolers keep portfolios of a child’s work. It is a good way to see how a child progresses. It can be a wonderful keepsake when the children get older. Some states and umbrella programs require keeping a portfolio.
My state requires a portfolio. Portfolios are not difficult to create and they are not as intimidating as I first thought they would be. Some can be very detailed and others are very basic. Here are the four basic parts of my portfolios:

Resources used and book lists
For my resources used section, I just start a word document at the beginning of the year and write the curriculum I am planning to use. Don’t forget to add sports, outside classes, lessons and co-ops. They all count towards education.

My book list is harder to complete at the beginning of the year because I don’t always know in advance which books each child will read. For my book list section I start another document and add all the readers my child reads as they complete them. You can also create a book list with Homeschool Tracker.

There are many ways to keep track of attendance. You could print off a calendar and mark which days you did school work, Donna Young has some really great Attendance Forms. There a tons of other Attendance Forms online. I use Homeschool Tracker. It is super simple. Any day that you mark an assignment as complete, they count that day as present. I just click on the reports tab and then attendance. I select the date we started school and the current date. Then I click to load the report and print at the end of the end or right before a portfolio review.

Lesson Plans
I rely heavily on Homeschool Tracker plus for this. I create lesson plans during the summer and submit them to a specific date every two weeks. I mark the assignments we complete daily. Right before a review I print them out. Donna Young has many great forms for lesson plans or wouldn’t be too difficult to create an excel sheet or to use a printed home school planner.

Samples of Work
In this section I try to select one or two examples of a child’s work for the year from each subject. This could be art work, worksheets, narrations, lab forms, test, and photographs of things that don’t easily fit in a binder. This is my favorite part of a portfolio. My kids love to look back a see what they have completed that year. They also love to see their portfolios from past years and see how far they have come.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Old Schoolhouse Digital Version Review

I have been reading “The Old Schoolhouse” magazine for a while now. I must admit I was a little reluctant when the switched to digital. While the no longer have the paper version of the magazine, what they have now is so much better. For starters, I don’t have to wait for months to get the next issue. They now have 12 issues a year instead of 4. They also have a cool app for android and apple. It is so easy to use. You can view the pictures or a text version. You can search the magazine by keyword. You can save articles for later. There are even videos so you can see the products or writers. With the new app I feel more a part of the “TOS” community. I highly recommend the digital version of the magazine and the apps.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Almost to the finish line!

We have 174 of the 180 days we need to complete. I am so excited to finish. At the finish line, I ditched Heart of Dakota's Science completely. I just couldn't stomach it anymore. My kids don't even see the point. We read a page about the sun. The majority of the page was bible related, not facts about the sun. The only facts about the sun were that the sun is very big, 93 million miles away, you can see it in the daytime, and it is bright. My kids already knew this. They asked is that it? I told them yeah that's it. And it is, it is the last time I will use there science. I loved using Real Science Odyssey for kids. I was hoping for something even meatier with HOD. It wasn't. I am undecided as to what we will use next year. I ditched the Morning Bells book long ago. It was painfully boring. I also ditched The history section of Beyond. I got tired of reading about stories of the poor white children who were brave when they saw the mean indians and their "cruel designs." I want a history that is a little less distorted. I loved using SOTW I am a little sad we finished them all. I just ordered Sonlight Core B/C. Based upon the reviews, I didn't ordered their science. I am trying to decided between NOEO and Elemental Science. HOD wasn't all bad. We liked the poetry and the Bible memorization, my kids liked the crafts, and I liked the read alouds. My favorite part was emerging reader selections. The pluses aren't worth continuing. I can't wait to start fresh in the fall.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beast Academy for a Girly Girl?

I was so happy when Beast Academy arrived. I regret getting economy mail. The 10 day wait was painful. I was impressed at first glance. The guide book is beautifully done in color with high quality paper.

I was a little worried that the Beast Academy wouldn't work for my super girly girl. However, my daughter is in love with it. The beasts in the book are not scary satanic creatures. My daughter describes them as cute and funny. These characters aren't just in there to look good, they help to convey complex math very clearly and simply. The first chapter has a lot of new vocabulary for my daughter. My daughter learned them quickly thanks to the beasts. "Cute angles are acute and obese angles are obtuse."

She reads it to her sister for fun after dinner. She told me today that she has never thought so hard before Beast Academy. She really loves it and wants to drop all other math completely. Since they only have 3a and 3b for sale, I said that isn't going to happen. She spent art time drawing some of the girly characters in the book and made her own "Beast."

The 11th page in 3a guide book says that "Some of the topics in this book go well beyond what is typically taught in a third grade math class." I would have to agree. However, that shouldn't scare people away. The math is taught in an approachable way. There is an accessment test to see if your child is ready or not.

Cally isn't quite ready for Beast Academy but she has fun listening to the comics and playing the Recess Games with Gabby. Beast Academy is a big hit around here. I hope they make more soon! 4 guides and practice books make up a year and they only have two guides and practice books out so far. Each guide is $15 and the practice books are $12. You would need both to really get the most out of it. I am looking forward to seeing more of Beast Academy.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Time4Learning Review

Time4Learning is working out better in my house than I thought it would. We have tried other online programs before. Either my kids hated them or I didn’t think that they had enough educational value. I have been using it as a supplement, not as my main curriculum.
My youngest daughter has dyslexia. She also has a huge love for science. She can’t get enough. I love that Time4Learning has multiple subjects including science. My daughter can learn extra science at her own pace and without her reading ability stopping her learning ability. She begs for more Time4Learning instead of video games now.
My oldest daughter also enjoys Time4Learning. She is not as excited about it as my youngest but she does like reviewing things. She is interested in Art more than any other subject. I wish they would have some art lessons. Art is the subject less likely to be done in my house.
As a parent, Time4Learning is pretty using to use. My kids were able complete lessons on their own without my assistance. (That is a huge deal if you have a child with reading difficulties!) I don’t have to click on the next activity or read instructions.
There is a student records section, where you can go and check up on your child’s progress. It gives a lesson name and a percentage of correct answers. I wish they would let you know which problems the students missed as well. I would prefer a onetime fee or an annual fee rather than a monthly fee. Overall, Time4Learning is a great program and worth looking into.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Sneak Peak

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as a homeschool curriculum, for afterschool enrichment and for summer skill sharpening. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Winter Bored Sets in...

February is dragging on. It feels like the longest month instead of the shortest month. No one is motivated this month. Illnesses don't help things much.
I am thankful Heart of Dakota has our day more streamlined. I don't think I could stand a February full of workbooks. I think we are due for another field trip.
On a positive note using the Gillingham Manual is helping Cally a great deal. The slow pace and daily review is just what she needed. She is having trouble with consonant blends but showing weekly improvement. She even sits and reads to herself unprompted.
The Gillingham Manual isn't as open and go as other programs but it is very through. It allows the teacher to go as fast or as slow as the student needs to go. It is a lot more affordable than other dyslexia programs. After you read through the manual and the Jewel Box, it is not hard to implement.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

So much for plans

After discovering my youngest daughter has dyslexia, I have had to toss out all of my plans and my expectations.  (along with most of my curriculum.)

Instead of 2nd or 3rd grade readers, we are using The Gillingham Manual.

We also made a huge switch to Heart of Dakota.  Both girls are using the left side of Beyond. My oldest is using the right side of the Bigger manual. We are only two days in but retention is higher and much less stress. I will be keeping my fingers crossed.