Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is It Really Nearing 2012??

So, I meant to be more active in posting our goings on with regard to our homeschooling adventures, but of course, it's been busy. Just keeping the boys interested and on task while a toddler insists on disrupting class time has kept me very preoccupied. However, I have some great tips!
Lachlan attacking Connor mid lesson... *sigh*
I've been marking my calender down with important dates to help with lesson planning as well as having a few days of nonsense (but educational) fun. So, for starters check out  Holiday Insights that has each month with listed little known holidays (not national of course, like Pen Pal Day). It's been fun to surprise the kids with Picnic w/Your Teddy Bear Day or Cashew Day. This has enabled me to discuss things like, fantasy and reality, creative writing, and measuring/cooking (we made our own cashew butter). It helps me also remember that there is a lesson in nearly everything.

Also, utilizing videos to teach concepts has been a great tool. Try checking out The KidsKnowIt Network which has great videos that range from math skills and science to creative writing. I have the kids watch the movie, take the interactive quiz and then have worksheets designed around the theme. I also have made a playlist on Youtube with various videos that are educational and fun. We are currently discussing the virtues Diligence and Perseverance. I searched for the story of the Little Engine That Could and we watched the short video and discussed it.

So remember, making learning fun doesn't just benefit the kids by peaking their interest. It is also good for you as a parent because when the kids are having fun learning, you are spending less time struggling to get a lesson across.

I'll try to share more, but of course it's that chaotic Christmas season, so we'll see how it all goes! Good luck!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pirates In the Classroom!

Avast ye maties! After rousing me swabs from their quarters and setting them to their vittles (freshly plundered from the Super1), we scuttled to the map room to set our course for intellect. We donned our finest piratey clothes and I (first mate and fine wench that I am) my favorite booty. We honored fallen mates by telling their tales through verse and song. We studied "The Code" to ensure smooth sailing for the day and no thought of mutiny would arise.

By midday, we were feeling a bit scurvy, and headed for the galley to feast on limeade and hardtack with peanut butter and jelly. We frittered about on deck while a squall raged outside, chasing the pup and crossing our swords for practice.

For our final lessons, we reviewed our special pirate speak, and made artwork. Tis was a fine day, and all the poor land lubbers who trugged home from the King's school, long after we were through with our lessons, who grubbed on about us fraternizin' in the fresh air during their hours of instruction, we simply gave the eye and laughed 'em to scorn. Arrrg!

Pirate Fun Links:
My Littlest Matey

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Handwriting Skills

    After watching both the boys struggle with their handwriting, every morning, and struggling to comprehend what was written in their journals, I decided daily handwriting practice was necessary. I started out by printing blank handwriting sheets and random ones that were appropriate for their age. Then I stumbled onto a great site that has many handwriting exercises as well as a program that allows you to create a handwriting practice sheet using any words you want. You could create a handwriting practice sheet using spelling words, or the student's name.

    So, after much grumbling, the boys have settled into practicing the art of legible handwriting skills. If you are interested visit TLS Books and check out their handwriting pages. There are many other printables that are all free. There is a link to donate, which I think they deserve a donation for offering such a great free resource!

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Pledge of Allegiance

    On this day, in 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance was first printed. So today, we have been learning about the Pledge and all week we have had an art lesson on the symbols of our country. I feel it is important for my kids to learn about our country and how it is meant to be respected and that we began with God as our foundation. I think this is especially relevant now, due to the disrespect being paid by so many, even our own president. So, here are some of the resources I used this week, if you need inspiration of your own!

    We discussed symbols by first defining what a symbol is. We listed what some of the symbols for our country are. Then, I had them create a booklet with construction paper and printed coloring pages. I had them color this flag/US image: US FLAG/US and put their name on one of the stripes, then cut it out for them (difficult shape). Then I had them paste it to the front of the construction paper book. Then I printed this flag image: US FLAG and had them color it and (I cut this out) paste it onto the back of the construction paper book.
    • A booklet I printed for them to cut and color. I then stapled it for them:
    American Symbols Coloring Book
    • Worksheets for further comprehension of the Pledge of Allegiance:
    The Pledge of Allegiance in pictures
    Understanding the Pledge of Allegiance  - Just have it print, pages 2-4.

    There are so many free resources out there, all you have to do is google search. I searched for free printables and free worksheets.

    We ended, with an excellent powerpoint presentation that I highly suggest you check out. It really got a great discussion going and the kids learned new terms and we went beyond just the pledge and talked about our country and government. If you don't have powerpoint viewer, it is a free download here:

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    First Day of Homeschool: Review

    Well, being realistic, I know that it's going to take time for the boys to recognize, that I am their instructor, and they cannot grin and get away with messing around. So, it was a slow start this morning, because there was a lot of hopping around and excitement. I chose to include a bible verse and instruction in the first part of our morning routine and chose Ephesians 6:1-3

    "Children, obey your parents in the Lord. For this is right. Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise: so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."

    I explained that one of the reasons we obey our parents, is because it is a way to show respect. God even tells us, that when you obey, things will be good and you will live a long life. I explained this by telling them how I tell them not to play with something sharp, because if they disobeyed and played with it anyway, they could get cut, which would hurt. If they were to consistently disobey, it's possible they wouldn't live for long. For example, if I told them, "Don't play in the road!" and they did anyway, they could get hit and killed by a car.

    We did the pledge of allegiance, then it was journal time. This took longer than expected, because they had trouble following the instructions and I made them start over. Then, it was time for lunch and a run outside. We checked on the chickens, and tried to chase down Chloe (the kitty), but she was too busy hunting bugs.

    I had stayed up (too late) and printed worksheets with a "first day of school" theme that included coloring pages. This was meant to ease back into working. There was a word search, and decoding a message. Whoever finished first was allowed to read until the other finished.

    Next, we had art and music. I found a great site that gives really fun lesson ideas. First, we talked about how music can set a mood or make someone feel an emotion, depending on how the music is played. The example I gave was to play the selection "The Elephant" from "The Carnival of Animals". We talked about what it was about the song that made it about an elephant. Then, I had them get a blank piece of paper divided into four sections and numbered. I played four different pieces a few times over while they thought about what it made them imagine. Then, they drew the picture one of the boxes. When we were done, I played the pieces again, revealing what the composer what trying to help us see in our minds. The music I used was:
    When they were done listening for the last time, I had them each explain what their picture was about, while the music played. It was fun to see what the music made them think of.

    Next, we went on to another packet that finalized our lesson on "Parts of a Letter" and we talked about writing a friendly letter. It was a short exercise, but helped them learn how to write it neatly.

    We then had the final packet, that I photocopied from workbooks. It was a variety packet that had two sided pages of math, spelling, writing, and reading. This is taking longer, because each packet is specific to their ability, so I have to take the time to explain each page.

    Finally, I want the day to end with reading. Since Roald Dahl's birthday is coming up mid month, we are going to the library to pick up James and the Giant Peach. At the end of each day, we will read from that and at the end of Roald Dahl's birth week, we will watch the movie James and the Giant Peach. I projected about four hours for the day, and we ended up taking five and a half. Not bad!

    I got some really great ideas for the first day/week of school activities and lesson plans, from HotChalk's Lesson Plan Page. Fun resource, and where I got my "draw what you hear" lesson.

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    First Day of School: September 1, 2011

    Officially, we start our regularly scheduled class time, later this week, but we have been working on letter writing and we continue to explore the parts of a letter and why we write to people instead of just calling or emailing. Some of those reasons include:
    • because it's nice to get something personal in the mail
    • another way to stay in touch
    • to practice our handwriting
    They really got into it and have written four letters already. Tomorrow, one of their tasks is to take the dog for a walk up our long driveway and put the mail in the mail box with the flag up.

    I've been working on a weekly chore/classroom schedule that will be flexible and then a daily schedule as well. I am trying to ensure they get the proper mount of time to keep the "officials" happy as well as keeping the boys engaged and interested. I think if you are willing to put in the research time, you can find so many resources for projects and field trips that you will have to pick and choose to avoid overload. Just looking at calendar events is a great way to start. For example, September has the following special days that you can design weekly lesson plans and projects around:
    • Read a book Day - 09/06
    • Pledge of Allegiance first printed in 1892 - 09/08
    • Roald Dahl's Birthday - 09/13
    • Native American Day - 09/23
    • Johnny Appleseed's Birthday - 09/26
    Think of all the activities you can do just with those days. I had to choose from so many to put on the calendar. I could have had something different every day. One of the resources I use to find out what is going on each month is  Teacher Vision.

    Well, ready or not! Here we come! What are you excited about this year?

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    August Giveaway! Complete Curriculum from Oak Meadows!

    Check out the blog post by Mothering Magazine for the details on how to win a complete curriculum from Oak Meadows. Don't pass this up! I entered and would love to win the curriculum for next school year so I don't have to think about it!

    Before entering, check out Oak Meadows website:

    Good luck! Looks like a great package and whoever wins will gain an amazing resource for their homeschooling needs.

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    End of Summer: School Preview

    So the kids are excited for school! They enjoyed the short two hour exercise, where we wrote a letter to a friend of their choice. Then, they read for about half an hour each. I've decided, to continue our letter writing exercises, as long as they are enjoying them. It's good for them to learn the importance of writing and receiving hand written letters.

    Tomorrow, I have another exercise already on the whiteboard and I found a fantastic pdf file that an ingenious 2nd grader (I'm sure with help from mom and/or dad) put together on the basics of letter writing. I printed some of the exercises off from that and wanted to share the link, so that any homeschooler can utilize this valuable little teaching gem.

    by Randee Newbanks
    2nd Grade
    Gerald Elementary

    Also, here is a great handout that discusses the parts of a letter. Cute visual to help a student remember. Click on the image and print it out! Enjoy!

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    20 Reasons...

    Testing... Testing... 1, 2, 3...

    I decided to do a classroom test. I wanted to see how the kids would do, and to break in the new classroom and how I arranged it. Here are some pictures of the "little red classroom".

    from doorway, looking in

    Teacher's area, and listening center

    doorway in: behind door is an organizer for their paperwork 

    Flag in place of honor.

    This morning, I decided a good exercise would be letter writing. We talked about the different parts of a letter (date, salutation, body, etc). I put an example on the whiteboard and a list of possible topics to write about. Lachlan even sat on the floor with a lap desk and colored on a piece of paper briefly. My mom visited and distracted him the rest of the time (though we will all have to work around him at some point). We broke for lunch and after taking care of their animals, decided to read on their own at their desks. Chloe strode in to visit and is sleeping on my lap. So far, a positive sign that this can be done!

    Quality and the Herd Mentality

    Many homeschooling parents are subject to ridicule and skepticism for the choice they have made, to take their children's education into their own hands. Their reasons are valid and well thought through. No one makes a decision like this, light-heartedly and without considering the effort it will take to ensure their child is receiving a better education (in their opinion) than one offered in the public school system. Some of the reasons are one or a combination of the following:
    • avoiding bullies (either after an encounter or as a preemptive measure)
    • for religious reasons
    • disappointment in child's low scores despite known ability
    • child expresses disinterest, or contempt for school
    • behaviors learned by other (troubled) children, is brought home
    • negative experience with inexperienced or cruel teachers
    • medical reasons (too many to list)
    There are more, and every parent has a story to tell as to why they have avoided public school or pulled their children from the public school system. Here is a list, that some say was done, with heavy sarcasm, by a homeschooling mom who got tired of  explaining why she was homeschooling, to those who just really don't get it. No one knows the true author, but it's certainly stuff I have thought.

    Why Public Schooling Is Better Than Homeschooling
    • Most parents were educated in the under funded public school system, and so are not smart enough to homeschool their own children.
    • Children who receive one-on-one homeschooling will learn more than others, giving them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. This is undemocratic.
    • How can children learn to defend themselves unless they have to fight off bullies on a daily basis?
    • Ridicule from other children is important to the socialization process.
    • Children in public schools can get more practice "Just Saying No" to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.
    • Fluorescent lighting may have significant health benefits.
    • Publicly asking permission to go to the bathroom teaches young people their place in society.
    • The fashion industry depends upon the peer pressure that only public schools can generate.
    • Public schools foster cultural literacy, passing on important traditions like the singing of "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."
    • Homeschooled children may not learn important office career skills, like how to sit still for six hours straight.
    I would add:
    • Children in public schools learn cultural and religious tolerance of all, but only if you don't count Christianity as a valid religion or Christians as humans deserving of rights.
    • Public school teaches valuable life lessons that will help them excel in future careers, especially politics. For example, if you tell a good enough lie, you can get away with anything.
    Of course, there ARE good public school teachers out there. I am afraid that they are becoming fewer and farther between. My boys both had a good start with amazing kindergarten teachers. My second son continued on with another great first grade teacher, but my oldest wilted under the cruelty and dishonesty of his first grade teacher. We are still trying to undo the harm. So, I chose homeschool, because no one can love my kids like me, and with so many resources, and support out there, I know that they will have a richer education by being taught at home. What are your reasons, either for or against homeschooling? Why did you personally choose your child's particular education?

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    The Curriculum Takes Shape

    There are so many good Christian curriculum choices to choose from, it's hard to narrow it down... unless you are hampered by a less than plush savings. So, here are my top curriculum choices that I had to figure out how to afford:

    • My Father's World: a really stellar system that can be used by more than one child. All you have to do is buy extra work books for each extra child. It is very extensive and covers all the subjects in a Christian manner. Proceeds of all purchases goes towards missions work, which is nice to know that my money would go toward children learning in a Godly way. The price wasn't too bad (if you go to the link, you will see the prices), but still up there when I wanted to add art and a few extra readers. 
    • Sonlight: I LOVE this curriculum! It has EVERYTHING! They also are amazing in that they do not charge interest if you need a payment plan. It is the most expensive curriculum of the ones I looked at though, which was disheartening. I had an offer to help pay, but I felt like, this first year trying out homeschool, I didn't want a hefty price tag attached. Still, if you can afford it, it would be so worth it. If this school year is a success and my children aren't thoroughly bored by me, my goal is to go for the Sonlight curriculum. 
    • Rainbow Resource Center: This has been my saving grace for finding text books that don't cost an arm and a leg and they are a Christian based company. I was able to easily find, very good workbooks for math, reading, and vocabulary, but finding a decent science book and workbook are hard to get that are Christian and follow our belief in creation. The same difficulty is there in finding a history book that hasn't been cooked by the socialist loving left (no. Jefferson did NOT host the first of "many" iftars at the Whitehouse). This was my final search before giving in and purchasing a rather expensive program to satisfy these classes. They are also the last books/workbooks I am waiting for in the mail. I also went through the local Borders and got some great workbooks that were deeply discounted. Online, there are so many homeschooling resources, it boggles the mind!

    I am excited, and a little nervous too. I want them to love learning again. They both loved kindergarten (thank you Mrs. Caston!) and Connor loved first grade (thank you Mrs. Goldstein!) and had a great support with his diabetes (WE LOVE NURSE DONNA!), but Russell suffered in first grade with a less than compassionate teacher and while second grade was better, I found he struggled more than ever with focus. So the challenge is to bring back the fun. I am hoping the extra things I have planned will do that. First day of school is September 1st! Wish me luck!

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    New Beginnings

    This year has been filled with new beginnings for our family. A new life really. We moved from Alaska to Montana, after accepting an offer to move down and revive the old family farm. My husband went from being a commercial fisherman in southeast Alaska, to a small organic farmer in Montana. So far we only have chickens and a garden, but will be adding cows at some point and are considering pigs, rabbits and possibly alpacas.

    Along with the farming, we decided to home school our two oldest boys. We asked them if they wanted to, and I was surprised at first by their enthusiasm. There were some not so great experiences with public school (though the very wonderful ones made them bearable). We know we can teach our children to be more honorable men than the public school system can. That is coupled with an increasing distrust for our government and it's enabling programs.

    So, this will be a chronicle of the various things I glean from the web and how I implement the curriculum I've chosen. I'll share our progress in the hopes of encouraging others. This is not a new idea, and with the increasingly vacuous and selfish nature of our society, it is necessary to raise responsible and respectful children. Wish me luck! I am excited and nervous at the same time.

    Deuteronomy 6:5-7

    "5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."