Showing posts with label Homeschool. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschool. Show all posts

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fall and Photosynthesis Unit

It's finally here!

The first week of fall!

I love fall immensely.

Well… almost immensely.

The arrival of fall means winter is right around the corner. I am not a fan of winter as it is cold and gray. I am not a fan of cold. And really gray isn’t my favorite either. But then after winter, comes spring! I adore spring. See, there is always something to look forward to.

Besides the yummy tastes and smells of fall, that are so awesome, God paints the trees in such amazing beauty. I love how the trees change colors right before our very eyes. It is like watching the greatest painter ever complete His masterpiece in its entire splendor. And we only have a brief moment to take all of that majestic glory in before it is gone for another year.
Genisis 2:9
Do you see the phrase, "pleasing in appearance?"
God's creativity is beyond anything we can imagine and He creates nature for us to enjoy.

Fall also ushers in the natural time to study why and how leaves change color. This year I decided to also go deeper into the process of how plants create their own food, also known as that big giant word; photosynthesis.

Of course that means checking out as many books on the subject from the library and enjoying some educational videos online. We are also going to put together a lapbook and the older ones will most likely have some type of notebooking and research essay to write. And of course no science unit will be complete without at least one or several experiments or hands on activities.


Below is my list of resources I am going to use this week as we explore and learn. I am sure as we go through our study I will find some more great sites, however this is a starting point that will get us moving in the right direction.

Leaf Color Activity - What color will the leaves on the trees change? Answer this question with this fun activity that can be done with almost any age group to some degree. We have done this particular activity a few times and we will be doing it again this year. The kids love it. 

Photosynthesis Video - This quick animated video shows the process of photosynthesis.

NASA put out this very cool video that shows Photosynthesis from Outer Space.

Ellen Mchenry's Basement Workshop is a goldmine of botany and photosynthesis activities. There is also a lapbook with some very cool mini books. The lapbook elements will work great for notebooking also.

Science Made Simple has a quick and easy to read page about photosynthesis.

If you have Netflix, Magic School Bus Gets Planted (season 3 episode 11) is a fun episode about photosynthesis. There is a very cool activity on their site also that would really be fun. Gets Planted - A-maze-ing Plants

There are of course the fun art projects that include reading the book Leaf Man and making leaf men or other fun pictures, leaf rubbings, and even preserving leaves by ironing them between pieces of wax paper. Of course a nature walk or two are in order this week as well. What are you going to do to kick off fall.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Things To Remember

This month I am beginning the planning of my tenth official homeschool year. It is crazy to think that if you include kindergarten that we have been a homeschool family for a whole decade! For us homeschooling isn’t just how we school, it is such a part of our lifestyle that I could not imagine what life would be like if we weren’t homeschooling.

Encouraging Advice I often find myself in conversations about homeschooling. Many times those conversations are with a mom who is just beginning her homeschool adventure. I love these conversations. I love giving encouragement more than advice to moms who are beginning their homeschool adventure. But there is some encouraging advice that I think is so important for all homeschool moms. Even veteran homeschool moms need to hear encouraging advice from time to time.

Remember that you do not have to recreate the classroom at home. One of the reasons you homeschool is so that your kids can learn at home so why turn your home into a classroom? There are many who have a school room or area set up in a classroom style. That is great if it works for them. But if you designate a room or area and find yourself on the couch or at the dinning/kitchen table instead, then maybe a classroom at home isn’t what your homeschool needs. When we moved to our current home, everyone told me how great it was that I could use the extra room as a classroom. I started to set up the room as a classroom and quickly realized that is not what we needed. We school where we are most comfortable and that is how it should be.

Remember homeschooling should be a joy. There should be a joy in the learning adventure. I am not talking rainbows every day that is not joy. Some days will be hard and some days you will question why you made this decision. But joy is different. You and your child should look forward to what the day of learning has in store. Find what they love and teach to their interests. Make learning enjoyable and fun not monotonous and boring. And enjoy the journey together. Don't be afraid to change things up once, twice or several times finding what makes your homeschool a joy for both you and your kids. Lord only knows how many times I have.

Remember homeschooling is about relationship. The greatest benefit of homeschooling is the relationship you get to cultivate with your child. The best part of homeschooling is that you get to spend so much time with your kids! Being able to spend your days hanging out with your kids gives you the opportunity to build strong relationships with your kids. 

Remember your time with Jesus. This is so vital. Your time with the Lord is the most important thing. That is what will carry your throughout the hard days. That is how your good days become great. My time with the Lord is so important to my day. The days I don’t spend time with the Lord, shows in my reactions to what the day brings. My patience is short, and I get stressed faster.

Enjoy your adventure and remember there isn’t a one right way to homeschool. What works for your family is unique to your family.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Olympic Resources

I love, love, love the Olympics. Every two years our normal routine stops so that we can watch all of the very talented athletes make their countries proud. I love rooting for Team USA or the underdog if we aren't competing in a particular event. I love watching the reaction of proud moms and dads as they cheer on their sons and daughters. And I love that for two weeks, the whole world comes together in one giant melting pot of athletic awesomeness.

We have fun learning about the country in which the games are being held. We love learning about the little details of the games like the torch, the medals and the mascots. We follow the medal count and even the weather at the venue. And we watch a lot of sports for two whole weeks.

We started talking about the Olympics last week during our Coffee Time. We talked about the places that the past Winter Olympic games have been held and marked the locations on a map. This was a lot of fun. I found a printable map online that had the longitude and latitude guides. Then using the info on this site, and an atlas, I gave the kids the coordinates of each location and they found it on their map marking it with the year. Talk about a fun way to practice map skills and learn a bit of geography. With help even the little ones learning to write their numbers can do this activity.

Below are links to several resources I will be using this year during our study. I have been researching and deciding what we will focus on this year. We will be compiling what we learn into a lapbook so we have a written record of all the learning we do. The most fun about doing the Olympic unit is the opportunity to learn about history, and culture that you would probably not get a chance to otherwise. And to remember that learning is supposed to be fun and inspire curiosity which leads to more learning.

The Games

Sochi 2014 - This is the official site for the 2014 games. is the official Olympic page. Here you can find out about past and future Olympics along with of course this year's Olympics.

NBC Olympics - If you live in the USA this site is a must. It has the television schedule for all the events. A must if you want to know when curling will be on. This is also where you can find out more about the athletes of Team USA.

Sochi Venues -  This video shows a quick look around where the games are being held.

The Mascots

Mascot Page -This is the official Mascot site. Here you can find out more about the The Polar Bear, The Hare, and The Leopard. You can also find out about the Paralympic Mascots The Ray of Light and The Snowflake. Clicking around you can also find the history of the mascots and past mascots.

Coloring Pages - This site has coloring pages of the Mascots.

The Medals

2014 Medals - Here you can find out about the key features of the medals... what they are made of... how big they are, and more.

Medal Unveiling - This link takes you to when the medals were unveiled. The close up pictures of the medals are well worth the click.

The Torch

The Torch specifics and designs.

Torch Relay firsts and fun trivia. From the depths of a lake to to outer-space this torch relay has had it's moments of glory.

Watch the videos of the torch going to the North Pole, blasting off into outer-space, plunging into the depths of the World's deepest lake.


Science and Engineering - This site by NBC Learn has several very cool videos about the science behind snow, ice, bobsleds and even half pipes.

Science of Winter Olympics -  The National Science Foundation has videos about friction, air lift, and drag just to name a few. We watched these during the 2010 Olympics and loved them.


So far this time for history we have been reading books about Russia that I picked up from the library. We have also read the Magic Tree House book Hour of the Olympics and used the Study Guide.

For some quick reference material I have used this site in the past.
Time for Kids has some pictures, quick facts and a few other fun things.

Activity Packs and Other Stuff

DLTK - A site full of  Olympic crafts and activities for Pre K to Early Elementary

Homeschool Helper Olympic Lapbook - I used this lapbook as a starting point when we started lapbooking years ago.

Printables for Kinder thru third these are some fun Olympic themed activities.

KidZone has some fun math pages with the Olympic theme.

Winter Olympics Pack this pack is huge and has something from preK through about third

Here is just a small sampling of what I have found so far. I will be adding more to this list throughout the games so feel free to check back often.

What resources have you found? I could always use more fun ideas.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Coffee Time

Coffee Time is how we begin our school day. Some call it Circle Time others call it Morning Meeting and I am sure it is called many other names as well. We look forward to this time in our day, it’s a great way for all of us to connect and it sets the tone for the whole day.

Our day starts out with our weekly memory verse. On Monday we write it in our journal and discuss what it means. Tuesday we practice it, sometimes I print out a word search for it. On Wednesday we diagram it and identify all the different kinds of words in the verse. On Thursday I write it on the board with several grammatical, spelling and word errors and the kids correct the mistakes. Then on Friday they all recite it to me.

From there we move on to our word of the week which is my way of increasing their vocabulary with some pretty fun words like flabbergast, resplendent, bombastic and balderdash. At the beginning of the week we write the definition in our journals and then the rest of the week we try to come up with reasons to use the word. It is so fun hearing them use the word of the week in some creative ways.

We add different elements throughout the year depending on what we feel like. We do mindbenders and logic problems together. I love doing these because it helps get them problem solving and thinking in new ways. Right now we are going through the Sideways Math at Wayside School books. We have gone through parts of the books every year, and each year they are able to complete more of the problems in the book. If you haven’t ever solved a math problem made of words you have no idea what fun you are missing.

We are going through the US States in order of statehood and sometime during the week we study the next state. I check out books from the library and we go over a deck of flash cards for each state. These aren’t in depth studies just a quick overview. We keep this study fun and light. A friend lent me a book with foods for each state that we are making some of the foods for the state from adding a yummy element to our study.
If there is a holiday to celebrate, we spend some of our time studying, celebrating and enjoying the day. It helps keep our schools days fun and interesting. Besides who doesn’t love a reason to have fun.

Our Coffee Time also includes our group studies. We do Bible together and this year we are going through The Story. This has been so incredibly fun and has opened up a lot of discussion. We always seem to be doing some unit study and I use this time to do any group activities for the study. Currently we are doing the Periodic Table of Elements which has been so enjoyable for all of us. Even the littles can take part in group studies. They won’t learn what the olders learn but they do pick up on things and if you have worksheets or books that are at their level then including them with the olders is really easy.

When we have finished up our time, I give out final instructions and plans or goals for the day. Then the kids disperse to do their independent work and wait for their turn to do one on one lessons with me.

Some days Coffee Time only lasts for a few minutes and other days for a few hours. It really depends on what we feel like doing that day. Our coffee Time hasn't always looked like this. Every year it changes as the kids get older and their interests change. There are so many things you can do during Coffee Time and every year we find fun stuff we will enjoy doing together. If you think that because of your age spans you can’t do a Coffee Time, you should check out Preschoolers and Peace. Kendra has done Circle Time with every age span you can think of.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Daily Routines Bring Peace and Creativity

Daily routines are so important for every child. It helps them know what is coming next and helps them feel like they have some control on the day. It also gives them boundaries. Figuring out a daily and weekly routine that works best for your family and its unique characteristics will help bring a peace to your day. Believe it or not, a routine also helps aid in keeping the creative juices flowing. I used to not think that. I used to think that spontaneity and creativity came from having no routines but I found out from experience that the opposite is true.

Our routine changes as our rhythm changes. Our routine has changed so much since we first started homeschooling and I know that it will continue to change. At the beginning of this school year I found myself trying to make a routine that fit into a mold that wasn’t what worked best for the kids or came close to the personality of our school. I quickly realized this and started tweaking our day to work best for the kids needs and found peace and creativity begin to take their place. Our homeschool has always been more eclectic and delight directed than a school at home approach. Because we homeschool we can keep the bookwork as the backdrop and showcase the learning opportunities and teachable moments throughout our day.

Our daily school routine starts late in the morning because that is when they seem ready to learn. Starting before they are really awake is not a good idea.
Most mornings we start off with Coffee Time. If you have seen Kendra Fletcher's Preschoolers and Peace then you might know it as Circle Time. In a classroom it is often called Morning Meeting of Work. We spend a chunk of time in the morning together doing all sorts of fun things to get the brain juices flowing and set the pace for our day.
After Coffee Time we either have lunch or start independent work depending on what time it is.
During our independent work I rotate through the kids doing one-on-one lessons with them.
They do school related activities until mid to late afternoon.

We don't have a real schedule where I keep the clock. We do have lunch around the same time each day and I do have a specific time when school is over and free time commences.

This is the routine that works well for us in the season of life we are in. I am ready to change up our routine when it no longer works for us. I will know when that happens when the peace of our day disappears. I know that our routine is not about me and my agenda as much it is about the kids and their personalities and their learning needs.

When you find a routine that fits your homeschool, stick with it until it doesn’t work anymore. That is my advice to any homeschool mom who is trying to make a schedule or routine that brings peace to their day. It is so important that peace rule your homeschool day in order really enjoy the adventures.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Finding Rhythm In Your Homeschool

Every homeschool family has a unique rhythm. Every successful homeschool has found that rhythm and recognizes that it changes like the tides. I'm okay with this as it keeps me on my toes and keeps things interesting.

Every year in our house, the tide seems to change with the seasons. When it is hot, it seems to be more independent work and experiments. There is a fun mood among all ready to enjoy whatever projects we decide to do. When it is cold, we seem to be more into book reading and some independent work. Everyone seems to go into hibernation mode. When it is warm, we tend to do a more well-rounded day of fun learning and keep more on routine. There is more sense of getting things done, being more task oriented.

Knowing how the kids respond to the seasons has helped how I plan our school year. While the learning never stops in our house how we learn takes on a new appearance in a regular rhythm. As the kids have gotten older I have looked back on the years and realize that even those rhythms have changed more than once.

Keeping open to the changing of the rhythms has helped me keep our homeschool going on a good note more than once. The freedom of homeschooling allows for that ability to adjust to the rhythms that work best for your family.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pumpkin Unit Resources

Every year during the fall, we do fun pumpkin related activities. This year will be no exception except that the older ones have already done everything and really don't want to do the same stuff again. Besides they are too old to enjoy the stuff that preschoolers and kindergartners love. Really how many times do they want to count pumpkin seeds and learn adjectives describing pumpkins? Soooooo in a way I feel like it is back to the drawing board for plans.

Little G will make the crafts and do the activities she hasn't done yet and the olders will join in where they want.

I am going to have each of them cook one pumpkin food item this year. I have pinned so many yummy looking recipes I am sure they will be excited when they get to choose something to cook or bake. And I am stocked on pumpkin puree.

I am thinking we will play a guess the pumpkin's weight game with some pumpkins. Have them all make estimations and see how close they are.

I am looking for some other fun things the older kids can do still. The amount of preschool/kindergarten activities and worksheets available is beyond plentiful. Sadly once they hit a certain age, the resources become very scarce.

I put together a list of current resources that look like they will be fun all around. I will update this list as I find more. (I hope I find more.) I have posted ideas every year for the past few years. Here are the links to those posts. I did find that some of the links no longer work but a few still do.

Pumpkin Unit 2008 

Pumpkin Unit 2010

Preschool through Elementary Fun

Homeschool Helper has some ideas to get you started. There is somethng to do in every subject area to begin a fun week or two of pumpkin filled fun.

Meet Penny has some fun activities and a lapbook for the younger ones. Some of the printables work for early elementary also.

1+1+1=1 has soooo many fun printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Little Blots has a cute mini book of the Parable of the Sower in the shape of a pumpkin.

Preschool Mom has several pumpkin printables, activities, games. Lots of great stuff for preschool and kindergarten.

A to Z Teacher Stuff has so many fun pumpkin themed printables, games, activity centers,  and so much more.

Upper Grade Learning Fun

Pumpkins and More This site has a wide variety of ideas from the history of the pumpkin to nutrition to fun activities. A great resource for any pumpkin study.

Lapbooks & Multi Level Resources

123 Learn Curriculum Has a fun little lapbook for preschoolers.

Here is a Squiddo Lens with several resources for a pumpkin lapbook.

Education World has a wide variety of pumpkin lessons for pretty much every grade level.

Folder Games

File Folder Fun has some fun pumpkin themed games. These are great for reinforcing learning.



Crafts & Cooking Galore

I really like this Thankful Pumpkin Craft. It works well for preschool through elementary. This year, each one of the kids will make one and they will hang on the wall durning the month of November to remind us what we are thankful for.

I love this curled paper pumpkin craft for the olders. No two pumpkins will look the same.

This Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage is seriously one of the cutest carved pumpkin ideas ever.I know my girls would love to make this.

This Pumpkin Pie Spice Decoration recipe reminds of cinnamon Christmas ornaments. But seriously who wouldn't love the pleasing scent of pumpkin pie cookie ornaments.

Here is how I make pumpkin puree in the slow cooker which is awesome in pumpkin pancakes.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Oral Reports in Homeschool

We have decided that oral reports are a fun addition to our homeschool, at least if Little G is doing them. Oh my goodness she was so hilarious while presenting her report on alkali metals, I so wish I would have videoed it. She was actually very informative; I was truly impressed as she is only six. What I loved the most was that she was so animated while presenting and was always direct and to the point. She did all her own research and made her own power point presentation with a little help from her older sisters. She did her oral report all by herself. She had a blast and learned so much. She already wants to do her next presentation.
For us, the assignment was easy. They chose one of the elements to research and present. (Well, G chose three.) I had them use the books we checked out from the library and they did some research online using reliable resources. They made a Power Point presentation to go along with their report. Then we all gathered in the living-room and connected the computer to the TV and they did their presentation. 

I love that oral reports were their idea. If it was mine, they would not have been so enthusiastic, of this I am sure. Public speaking is a really important skill to have, at some point we all need to present something to someone. This week I realized that oral reports are such a valuable tool to use in teaching the kids. I let them completely do their own thing. I love that they asked to do extra work and I love it even more that they are absolutely enjoying the learning process.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Seeing The Benefit of Rest

Monday was our first day back to the formal schooling since last week’s break. All of us were refreshed and ready for this next block of our formal school year. The moans and groans from the week before last were replaced with excitement and enthusiasm over learning about the Periodic Table of Elements. We started reviewing what they had started learning a couple weeks ago when the burnout had started to set in. This time they were interested in the properties of Hydrogen and were so much more receptive in learning about the alkali metals.

2 Hydrogen Atoms
+ 1 Oxygen Atom
= Happy Face Water Molecule
All of them are enjoying the learning process this week. When they were told they each had to choose one alkali metal to study, there were smiles instead of tears. Little G chose three elements to study instead of one. She now knows that lithium is used in batteries, and looks cool when it reacts with water. She loved watching the reaction on the video we found. Then she explored cesium and rubidium on her own because she wanted to. She actually prepped a quick oral report complete with a power point presentation she will do in front of the family. The others are also prepping little mini reports for their choices. There is a lot of fun leaning going on in the house. You can hear little statements like, “There’s potassium in chocolate! That means it’s healthy, right?” and “Mommy can you get me some H2O, I’m thirsty.”

I am so glad I followed through on my plan to just close the books for a week even though we were in the middle of a unit. If I had pressed on and just continued the course to get it done, they would not have learned much, if anything at all and our days would have been miserable. Allowing for breaks and rests in the adventure should be as much as a part of our school routine as math, reading, writing and any other subject. I am learning how to be creative in my homeschool calendar so that we can continue to enjoy our homeschool adventure. I have three weeks scheduled for Christmas and New Years instead of the traditional two. I know we are going to need another break by then. This is something that allows the learning to be so much more fun and enjoyable. If the learning is fun and enjoyable, the learning will stick. If it is boring and unmemorable, you have just wasted a bunch of time and energy for something that will quickly be forgotten.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Learning On Our Week Off

We spent the week taking a break from school work. It was a much needed break as everyone was just tired and burnt out. I originally planned on spending the week doing some major school planning but in reality I didn’t do any school planning or prep work until Thursday. Instead I took a break from planning, it was nice.

The learning at our house didn’t stop though. There were lots of games that fall under the learning category like Scrabble, SET, Catan and Monopoly. We read a lot of books about how make all sorts of crafts. There was a lot of sewing going on this week too. Little stuffed bears and accessories were made this week. The girls had checked out some books about ballet and they spent the week practicing the dance positions and techniques. Basketball games were played and walks were taken.

The kids loved having the whole week off to relax. Even though we weren’t “doing school” the kids were still learning. Shhh I won’t tell if you won’t.

Bible Memory and Language Skills

We don’t really use grammar and language books very much. We have them but I rarely use them. They are just tools in my homeschool belt that I pull out when I need to. Instead most of the time, we do grammar and language when we are memorizing our Bible verses. Having the kids identify all of the different types of words and how they work together is one of my most favorite ways to teach language and grammar skills. The best part about teaching language skills this way is that I only have to do one language lesson instead of four. Each one of them learns the part that they are ready for and everyone is involved.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalm 27:14 ESV

If this was the verse for the week, I would spend the first day just reading it and having them copy it into their daily journals. Then the next day we would start identifying the different words in the verse; the verbs, the nouns, and all the supporting characters. We would talk about the punctuation and in this case why there are two semi-colons and a comma. We would also identify the subjects and predicates. Then the next day I would write it out with spelling and grammar mistakes and have the kids identify and correct the mistakes. We would then really talk about the meaning of the verse. Why repeat the phrase? How do we wait? Why should we wait? What is the Lord going to do if we wait? What other verses talk about waiting for and on the Lord? What does God do when we wait for Him?

By the end of the week they will have learned more than just grammar and the verse will hopefully be written in their heart. This is really what I am going for in the end.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When it is Time to Change Things Up

When we start out our homeschool adventure everything is new and exciting. School days consist of games, art projects and nature walks. We have no real worries because even a trip to the grocery store is a school lesson of some sort from counting the apples to exploring the seafood case. Everything we do presents an obvious learning opportunity.

But then they get older and the learning can become more difficult for them and the learning opportunities are not as obvious as they once were. Fun and games tend to get pushed to the side to make way for the more serious learning. If you have little ones and big ones, everything gets a bit more complicated. (Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace is an expert at keeping sanity while homeschooling with little ones.) It’s easy to get burnt out when you are a homeschool mom. I have gotten burnt out more than once in the decade (Wow, that long already?) I have been teaching my little ones at home. I have even had moments when I want to throw in the towel. Even if you don’t homeschool, as a mom we have all had those moments. Those are the moments when we want to hide in the closet with a box of chocolates. But those are the moments when we need to remember why we do what we do. Holding onto the why is so important. That is also when it is time to change things up a bit. Explore a new approach or throw out the book and forge a new path.

The carefree days of the young homeschool mom are not gone completely, just morphed into a wiser and more experienced homeschool mom who knows that the fun and games will change into new fun and games. More complex science experiments than a simple will it sink or float. If you are a homeschool mom to a little remember to have fun and enjoy the ride, just be prepared that the ride is actually a roller coaster with ups downs twists and turns. There are fun parts and scary parts and at times the world will be upside down. That is parenting for you. Just remember the why and hold onto that. When I am exhausted, I hold onto the why so that I can keep the kids learning while using more than just textbooks and worksheets. Here are a few ideas to help when you just want to hide in the closet.

☺ Movie Day – Critique National Treasure or Night at the Museum for accuracy.

☺ Game Day – Scrabble in Spanish or French, or all animals or foods? Jeopardy for a Final Exam is fun too. Change up the board game rules

☺ Kitchen Day – Tell the kids to cook or bake something from start to finish. Have them do the clean up too of course.

☺ Outdoor Day – Have the kids set up an obstacle course to run through. Let them use cones, boxes or whatever you have that can be used outside.

☺ Science Day – There are so many science projects that take what we all have around the house and take no real prep time. Like examining an egg that’s been sitting in vinegar.

☺ Book Day – If you check out books from the library, have a day where all you do is read. We have about 80 books checked out at any given time. Sometimes it is easy to forget a book that was checked out. Have a day where everyone goes through the stash and read those forgotten treasures. Or do one of the projects in the craft or art book that made its way home.

☺ Nature Day – Some days spending time on a hike or a walk is just what you need to clear your head and restart your momentum.

☺ Field Trip – Of course a field trip is always a fun way to change things up. Explore what is available in your area. Can you take a tour of the local news station? Or do you have a factory of some sort nearby. Field trips don’t have to just be museums and monuments. Think outside the box and be a bit creative.

Using Games in Your Homeschool

At the beginning of this year we completed a Geology Unit Study together. All of the kids learned so much during this fun unit. We didn’t really use a textbook and do review questions and vocabulary quizzes like traditional schooling. Instead we read a bunch of books from the library and found some documentaries to watch. We also did some fun science experiments and activities. For our written work, they put what was learned into a lapbook and then for our final test we played our homemade version of Jeopardy. 

We have played quiz show games a few times and really I need to make sure we play them more often. I have done 3x5s taped onto the white board for the quiz board in the past but this time I decided to make our game as a Power Point presentation and put it up on the TV. If you can connect your computer to your TV, it makes for some fun learning times, like full screen YouTube videos instead of crowding around the computer. I scoured the internet and found a template for Jeopardy and then modified that template to work for what we needed. It worked out great and the kids had a blast. What is even better is that they all learned a lot from our unit and instead of their test at the end being something to dread, they enjoyed it. Even Little G surprised me with how much she remembered. And what they didn’t remember they were able to learn from the others answering which reinforces the information that much more. I have an advantage having more than one or two kids for this. But if you are creative, you can make it work for just one kid too. Be creative and come up with different games to test and review the information like Hangman, Pictionary, Wheel of Fortune or even Are You Smarter Than… . You don’t have to use a computer to play either. I have used 3x5s and the whiteboard for games more times than I can count.

Jeopardy Final Exam
 Another cool thing to note, just the other night while watching TV, Miss H made a connection from what we learned a couple months ago to what she saw. Making up fun games and trying to keep the learning fun, helps them remember what they learn much more than reading a text and regurgitating the answers onto paper.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Taking a Break

Today was the first day of what I am calling our Fall Break or what we have recently been dubbed as Columbus Vacation. No, I do not regard Columbus so much that think he deserves a week nor do I even think he even deserves a day, in fact we usually study Leif Ericson on Columbus day. But this year the week falls on Columbus Day so naturally we just had to call it Columbus Vacation. No matter what we call it, it’s a week off. When I was planning out our official school year I knew we would need a break right • about • now. Last week confirmed we were all ready to take a school break. In years past, I would feel guilty taking a break during the school year. Even when the schools in town were taking days off, I would still feel guilty taking the time off. We take days off when we were feeling burnt out but still, I beat myself up for taking time to relax. Seriously, I knew we all need time to breathe and rest but would fight myself to let us all take a break. Truth is, we all need time to rest. Planning and teaching school while running a house and for some of us, working, takes a lot of energy and creative thinking. As kids they need times where we are not in teacher mode. Not just part of the day but decent chunks of time. And we need time to regroup, do house projects that take more than a few hours and we need rest.

This year I have learned a lot about taking a Sabbath rest. I don’t rest well or at all. I only rest when I get sick and even then I push myself to get back on my feet as fast as possible. I don’t go on vacations and when I do have time off I find myself making a list of to-dos. I think when it comes to school, I am afraid that I won’t get it all in, or that we are always behind (whatever that means), or well like I am failing. 

But here’s the deal. We all need breaks. God invented rest. And taking a break from school is good. So this week I am practicing not beating myself up while we rest. I will prep and plan for the upcoming weeks of fall fun, but letting myself take a break without beating myself up is my main goal. I need rest and the kids need me to be in mommy mode without being in teacher mode.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Immeasurable Sufficient Grace

We all want to do great and always have it all together. But the reality is that we are all really just hot messes who so desperately need Jesus. His grace, His immeasurable grace is sufficient and my inadequacies are what makes Him shine through. The weaker we are, the more His grace can be at work in our lives.

I find myself feeling the most inadequate when I am going over school stuff. Why do I always feel like I am not doing enough with school? I mean really we do so much learning. But yet I start to compare with everyone else and find myself thinking that I am not doing enough and want to do more. Not comparing myself and remembering to rest in God's grace that I can do what needs to get done.

Remember to rest in His grace.

Remember to rest in His grace.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Homemade Watercolor Paint

I have been trying to remember all the fun creative learning ideas that I did when the older kids were younger so that I could do them with Little G. This year is the first year that I have really noticed just how big of an age gap there is between the older kids and Little G. I have also been remembering so many fun things that we have done over the years that would be a blast to do with her. Like making our own water colors. This was so fun. The kids thought it was so cool that they made their own paint. 

Water Color Paint
  • 3 tablespoons clear vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
  • food coloring
Mix vinegar and baking soda in a small bowl but one that can handle the reaction of the vinegar and baking soda.
When the bubbles are settled, add the cornstarch and corn syrup.
Stir it together until it's completely combined, the consistancy is strange if you have never used cornstarch as a thinckening agent.
Put about one tablespoon into little 6 containers. The first time I used a small muffin tin. I think next time I will use empty applesauce containers. Whatever you use, it needs to be small shallow containers.
Add food coloring to each container to make your desired colors.
Use immediatly or let them dry overnight and use like normal watercolor paints. 

Fall Leaves - Homemade Watercolors

I have put this on my list of things to do this fall. I can't wait to show Little G how to make her own paint. I know she is going to love this project. For me remembering the fun learning moments of the past and implementing them today is one of the ways I am remembering how to be more creative in my homeschooling.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Creative and Intentional Homeschooling

I’ve been pondering this week about how much our homeschool has changed over the years. When I had only younger kids school was almost completely delight directed. We spent our days exploring the world in all we did. I turned everything into a math or science lesson and being intentional in our day was really not a problem. We did unit studies and lapbooks all the time because it was easy to incorporate the basics into whatever subject we were studying.

Making a large volcano outside.
They had to reinforce the sides
of the mountain because it was crumbling.
This new season is a bit different. The older kids are past counting seeds in fruit and studying the life-cycle of bugs we discover. While I am still very intentional in making sure I take every learning opportunity that presents itself those opportunities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. Little G is still at the age of unit studies and lapbooks of pumpkins and apples. While I can still have a day full of spontaneous learning with her, the older ones take more effort.

Being intentional and showing the kids that every day learning opportunities abound, you just have to pay attention. I also have to be willing to go the extra mile and let them do crazy projects and And in order to make sure we get all of our subjects in, I have to convince them that they want to delight in grammar and algebra.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Knowing When To Take a Break

This is supposed to be a post about how I am learning to be more creative in my homeschooling. However today was not really about being creative as much as it was about trying to finish up the sections and chapters of what we are studying. Every one of us really is not motivated to do it all and we would have loved to just take the day off. Normally I would just stop and say we are taking a fun day but next week we are taking the whole entire week off. I am calling it fall break. I could call it Columbus Vacation because Monday is Columbus Day. When I was scheduling out our school days for the year, I knew we would need a break by now. Wow, was I so totally right.

So today we spent the day trying to finish up the chapters, sections, and assignments so that we can be ready to take a week off. That was our motivation to do what we needed to get done. In fact Little G decided she would do everything today so that she could be done early and have nothing to do on Friday. So… she gets an extra day off she was finishing up her last math worksheet after dinner. Smart little cookie that daughter of mine. Hmmmm cookies... maybe we'll make cookies for our school day that would be a fun way to start a week long break.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Cool Science Resource

I'm going through the Periodic Table with the kids. Even Little G is learning something about the elements. Like which metals are good at conducting electricity.
I wanted to show them the reactions some elements have with water. You know those fun explosive reations that there is no way I could show them at home - for so many reasons.

Enter this very cool website I found  called The Periodic Table of Videos. We watched a few of these videos today and over the course of our study, we will watch more.

Finding resources online like fun videos is important to rounding out our learning.

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