Category Archives: Homeschooling

School’s Out for the SUMMER…now what?

School’s Out for the SUMMER…now what?

We did it, we finished our first full year of homeschooling!  I am proud of us all for learning new things, and, for surviving!  Whether you home school or not…summer is here!  Did you know that most kids slide back in their educational skills over the summer…which for home schoolers, means we have to re-teach things we already painstakingly learned, and for public schooled kids, can mean lower scores on standardized tests administered early on in the fall.

We finished schooling a few weeks ago, and I gave my kiddos ( and myself) a well deserved break…but starting next week we will spend 15-20 minutes a few days a week doing worksheets, and 20-30 minutes on reading.   My kids and I actually thrive on schedule, so doing this can actually add a little bit of much-needed structure to our long summer days.

Fun ways to incorporate learning into your summer..

    • Summer Reading Programs at your local library…kids get prizes and incentive for reading, and most have programs for pre-readers too!
    • Workbooks…I have fond the easiest, cheapest place to get them is on Amazon.   These are some of my favorites.

 

    • Grocery Cart Math…ask your kids, based on abilities to complete a list of things at the store while you shop…compare prices, count the number of vegetables you see, etc.

 

  • Seek out educational stops on vacation…factory tours, zoos, museums

 

 

 

DIY Magnet Letters

DIY Magnet Letters

It seems like the more senses involved in learning the more the knowledge “sticks.”  So with my kids I try to incorporate different senses as they’re learning their letters, numbers, and use teachable moments.  Well, here’s an easy way to make fun colorful magnet letters.  It’s so easy I can’t rightly call it a craft!  But by moving colorful letters on the fridge it helps reinforce the alphabet and reading skills for little guys and gals!  Get their whole body moving, have letter/word races, and just have some good one-on-one fun with letters!  (Word of Caution:  choking hazard.  Might not want to do this with kiddos under 3.)

I bought these handy-dandy magnet strips for $1 at Walmart and the bag of foam letter stickers for under $5. 

 

All I did was cut the magnet strip in half again (length wise) and then in smaller pieces (about 6-7 pieces for each half strip.) 

Remove the paper backing from the foam letter and magnet pieces.  Stick 2 magnet pieces to the back (sticky side of the letter) and repeat for each letter! 

Seriously, wasn’t that easy?  With the letters being stickers too they’re a little sticky, but not too bad.  And I only used a small portion of the bag so there are lots more letter stickers for other fun projects!  These letters stick to the fridge really well.  Not so much my cookie sheet, but maybe if I can find one made out of something other than aluminum! 

I’ve also seen whole magnet sheets if you want to make a magnetic version of paper dolls or paper cars/trains, animals, whatever your kids are into!  So many possibilities!  Hope this spurs on some ideas for you and your kids, and that you all get excited about learning!

Other posts you may like:

 

 

Alphabet Fun! Help Kids Learn Letters!

Alphabet Fun! Help Kids Learn Letters!

We hear it all the time:  kids are like sponges.  They seem to absorb knowledge from their surroundings.  I think that young children learn best from playing too.  So here’s some fun ways you can help your little ones learn the letters of the alphabet.  My youngest isn’t even 2 years old yet and he knows a couple…that’s how easy it can be!  Surround kids with letters and let them soak them up! 

Learning Time!

  • Bathtub Letters:  For less than $10 you can buy a set of foam bathtub letters.  While kids are washing up let them play and make alphabet soup!  They get clean and learn at the same time! (This is how my oldest really learned his letters!)
  • Bathtub crayons or foam soap:  write your child’s name with bathtub crayons/soap.  These are usually the easiest/first letters they’ll recognize.
  • Play patty-cake:  use the first letter of your child’s name for the last line:  “And make it with a __ for {child’s name} and me!”  So simple, yet still exposing them to letters!
  • Salt trays:  Take a cookie sheet and sprinkle salt on it.  Help your little one use their finger to write a letter or even their whole name.  Even if they’re really young this can be a great tactile activity.
  • Shaving cream:  If you don’t want a big mess put a little shaving cream in a large plastic baggie (with a touch of paint if you want color) and seal it closed.  Let your child mix it up and then lay it on the table  and they can write letters and designs on the bag.
  • Finger paint:  There are so many ideas for finger paints to practice letters–shaving cream, pudding, honey, or you can make your own finger paints with water, cornstarch, and food coloring!  Use a cookie sheet again or right on the table if you don’t mind a little mess! Paper plates are another easy clean up alternative to use with finger paints.
  • Dough:  with playdough or cookie dough roll out a couple long sections and make a letter or two.  You can even make different edible doughs using things like peanut butter and powdered milk if you’re worried about really little kiddos eating it! Or make cut out cookies with letter-shaped cookie cutters! Yumm!
  • Letter Look-out: while driving in the car or out on a walk go on a letter look out where you hunt down the alphabet using the letters in signs and license plates around you. 
  • Refrigerator Magnets:  you know those little magnet letters for the fridge…well break out the trusty cookie sheet again, {who knew they had so many uses!} and your kids have their own magnet board and lots of fun with letters!  If you’re really creative you could even make your own letter magnets with sticker magnet sheets and printed off letters. Just stick the paper letters to the magnet sheet, cut them out and viola! {hmmm….maybe future post here!}  😉
  • Sing:  there’s more than just the ABC song we all learned.  You can sing the Banana-Nana Fo-fana song and expose your kids to letter sounds changing the common words/names they know.  Songs like Bingo  help reinforce letters too!  {And kids don’t know if you’re tone-deaf or not, so belt it out and have fun!}
  • DVD’s:  One of our favorite DVD’s that helped all my kids learn their letters and sounds is the Leap Frog Letter Factory.  Just half and hour but they go through all 26 letters and sounds and has a catchy tune to help learn.
  • Games: If your kids are into computer games try starfall.com, pbskids.org, or sesamestreet.org for lots of fun educational games.  Starfall is a free website and even used by some kindergartens as part of their curriculum.  Look for board games too that help reinforce reading skills.
  • Puzzles:  use alphabet puzzles for your preschooler or word-finds for your elementary school aged kids.
  • Doodle:  let your child doodle with washable markers and crayons and show them how to write their name. Beware: you may have to repeat this a lot!  My youngest is in the do-it-again phase and want’s me to fill his paper with T’s, the first letter in his name. But let me tell ya, he recognizes the letter “T” where ever he sees it now!
  • And no brainer but still must be listed: READ!  Whether you read at bedtime, naptime, during snack, first thing in the morning…at some time during your busy day take a little time to read to your child/children.  There’s usually free library story times in public libraries too.  Let your kids see youreading.  Order a kids magazine or something you can read together.  The time together is precious and helping them develop reading skills as well as a stronger bond with you.

    Cuddle up with a good book!

 

There’s something in this list for babies on up to school-aged children.  Try a variety of ideas to help them learn with all their senses.  The more exposure, the better they learn!  But don’t push… make sure that this is play, that it’s FUN and your little sponges will soak it all in! 

 

Curriculum Deal…Last Day so Don’t Miss Out!

Curriculum Deal…Last Day so Don’t Miss Out!

Both Courtney and I use My Father’s World curriculum.  You’ll see the banner on our side bar.  We don’t receive any kind of commission from the company.  We just really love their products and believe in their vision and thus, we want to share it with you!  Lucky you!  😉

I’ve only just begun the homeschooling journey…one full year under my belt!  And being new at it all I’ve looked at quite a few options trying to decide what will work best for us.  I always come back to My Father’s World.  I order catalogs and hear what others use, research, and I come back to…yup, you guessed it: My Father’s World.  For now, it’s the best fit in our home. 

What do I like about My Father’s World?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked!  Let me share!

  • It’s a Bible-based curriculum…’nuf said. :) 
  • It’s user-friendly!  It’s all planned out for me and easy to follow, but with a LOT of room for flexibility!  And you know how I like my flexibility!
  • Much of MFW uses a hands-on approach to learning.  Great for my active little guys and gals!
  • It’s family friendly!  For now, I can do the Bible time lessons and activities with all four of my little ones (ages 7, 5, 3, 21mo)! In grades 2-8 we can do the same core lessons all together and break off into age appropriate subjects afterward. That saves me time, energy, and sanity!
  • It uses a Charlotte Mason approach to education which has structure, but it doesn’t dumb it down for kids. It promotes the idea that children should also have some structure-free time to learn and explore God’s creation on their own.  Charlotte Mason was also concerned with the character development in children too, and that is very noticeable in the lessons. 
  • My Father’s World has a strong reading/literature focus and includes a lot of books which you can buy at a cheaper price through MFW or you can check out from your local library using their reading lists.
  • MFW is well-rounded including lessons in art, drawing, and music.
  • It is reasonable priced and very customer-friendly.  For instance: MFW came out with a 2nd edition of their kindergarten teachers manual for next year, but I could trade in my 1st edition manual and buy the newer version at half-price.  They were very helpful, professional, and friendly as I’ve dealt with them via phone and email.  They offer different packages and individual items so it’s easy to customize it to fit your budget.
  • They have a high standards and a global perspective.  The Hazell’s, who founded and developed the curriculum, are Bible translators, educators, and homeschooling parents themselves with impressive credentials AND big hearts. 

 

Even if you don’t homeschool, they have a lot of educational toys and kits that may be a fun way to be involved with your children’s learning at home.  Any grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends out there that have special kids in your lives?  Check out the website for gift ideas, things like ant farms or magnet sets as well as beloved classics to read.  My Father’s World also has a variety of toddler and preschool toys that are nice to keep little ones busy with a purpose!   

So browse their website (use the link on the right side bar) and see what they’re all about.  If you see anything you like, take advantage of their low $4.95 flat-rate shipping price and their 2011 prices.  THIS IS THE LAST DAY!

 

Valentines Day…all {love}, no $$$

Valentines Day…all {love}, no $$$

This year we decided to opt out of spending money on Valentines Day…we’re crazy like that.  (I was able to grab a few little candies for the kiddos for free with coupons last week!)  Last year our little girl was in surgery on Valentines Day, so we’re excited to have fun actually enjoying the day of love this year!

I made Valentine’s boxes (out of empty cereal boxes) with the kids this morning, and we’ll spend the next week filling them up with artwork, notes, anything handmade!  We’ll have a fun dinner next Tuesday and open up our boxes afterwords!

The boys are excited and have been delivering “mail” to boxes all afternoon!  So far I think the baby girl is the most popular person in the house!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Busy Boxes…Creative Ideas for Keeping Kids Busy!

Busy Boxes…Creative Ideas for Keeping Kids Busy!

We use busy boxes every morning after breakfast, before we start schooling!  It’s a great way to keep them busy while I am cleaning up, prepping for meals, starting laundry, etc.!  I started using them about two years ago…and my oldest has probably outgrown some of the concepts, but he still loves them!  We recently added a few “baby busy boxes” for our one year old!

We rotate through the boxes, doing 2-3 each morning.  I set a timer, and they play for 10 minutes and then switch boxes!

Here are a few of my ideas…but really the possibilities are endless!

Beans with spoons/cups

Sorting…use colored cups and coordinating small objects (just a random collection)…have them sort by color/shape/size

Aquadoodle…a favorite!

Lacing cards

Water box…put a few cups and scoops in box…when they use this one I empty out the box and fill it with a little bit of water and they love it!

Other Ideas (not pictured)

    • Clothes pins and popsicle sticks (you’d be surprised at how fun this is for them)
    • Finger puppets
    • Puzzles
    • Stringing cheerio’s
    • Play-doh
    • Stacking
    • Chalk/chalkboard

How do you keep little ones busy?!

Why Homeschooling Works for Us-Part 2

Why Homeschooling Works for Us-Part 2

(Don’t forget to check out reasons 1-3 if you missed Part 1)

4.  It nurtures independent thinking.  As humans, we often get stuck in a rut.  We do things because “that’s the way we’ve always done them” or “that’s what everyone is doing”.  As my husband and I  looked at the education options open to us we wanted to move beyond that, and we want our children to too.  So, we asked a lot of questions.  Why do schools do things the way they do them?  Who decides what curriculum to use and why?  How much of my child’s time at school will be spent on effective learning?  Why is there one standard set for a variety of children who all learn and process information differently and reach milestones at different times?  Who decides that standard?  How much do politics and money influence school decisions rather than what is best for the students?  What’s best for our children?

Choosing to homeschool already has us going against the norm.  At home, I want to teach my kids to think outside the box, not letting popular opinion be our standard, but rather thinking through many options and deciding what is best for us. (And I know what is best for US is not best for ALL.) At home our kids will gradually take a more active part in the decision-making in their schooling which will foster self-motivation and discipline (or at least that’s our hope!).

5.  It encourages a life-long love of learning.  As a home educator I strive to harness the natural curiosity my children have at a young age and nurture it.   I can make sure learning is fun and playtime is educational.    The learning doesn’t have to stop at 3:00!  My kids can dive deeper into those subjects that interest them.   I can also incorporate these interests in other subjects that might not be as appealing.    One of my goals in education is to teach my kids how to learn.  If you don’t know, where can you find the answer?   I hope they never stop growing and learning!  And we can all learn together!  I learn just as much as my kids!  Not only does this foster a love of learning, but it really unifies us as a family and strengthens our relationships.  Because we homeschool,  my kids get to see me learning right along with them.

There are many many wonderful teachers and schools out there, and I’m so grateful that here in the USA public education is always an option for every child.  Please don’t think I’m knocking those great educators/schools, or saying homeschooling is the only way to go. I am questioning the public education system as a whole.  It just won’t reach every child.   Many schools do make a valiant effort, but no system will reach everyone.  Again, I’m not anti-public school!  I attended and graduated from public school.  I’ve worked in public schools.  I also know home school is not ideal for everyone or going to reach every child either.  These are just some of the reasons it’s the best fit for us.

So what’s the best fit for your family?  Leave a comment and share!

Doin' school in their pajamas!

Why Homeschooling Works for Us-Part 1

Why Homeschooling Works for Us-Part 1

People often ask me why we home school.  I know it’s not for everyone, but here’s what we love about homeschooling:

1.   It’s personal and individualized education.  I am so grateful for the option of homeschooling where I can tailor lessons and schedules to work best for each child individually and our family collectively.  I have one son who had a lot of difficulty learning in the traditional classroom setting.  At home we can build on his strengths and work on his weak areas very specifically.  If he’s not so interested in learning addition in his workbook, we can switch to a hands-on activity using animals (which he’s REALLY into right now).  He’s advanced in reading so I can challenge him in this area where he’s a couple grade-levels ahead by choosing an appropriate curriculum that reaches him where he’s at .  He’s very active and creative and I can give him a lot more time to use those gifts.  I know my children better than anyone; I know what will motivate them and can use that to our advantage as we choose what and how we learn.

2.  It’s flexible.  I love that we have flexibility in our schedule.  We can still do school even if we’re snowed in.  We can do all our lessons in three days and give ourselves two fun days if we want.  In those busy mornings where we don’t get as much done, we can finish in the evening.  If my daughter needs more time to work on her handwriting, I can wait until the two little ones are napping and work with her one-on-one.   We can do school in our pajamas if it’s one of those  days.  I don’t like the morning rush of getting everyone ready and out the door.   Homeschooling for us means calmer and more relaxed time together.

3.  It’s hands-on and true-to-life learning.  In home school we get our hands dirty.  If we’re learning about plants, we go outside and study plants.  If we’re learning fractions, we use our lunch as math manipulatives!  And even though it’s a first-grade science lesson where we build our own volcano, my younger children learn too.  One common concern many have with homeschooling is an apparent lack of social interaction.  I would like to point out that there’s plenty of opportunities to interact with people in real-life situations both in and out of the home.  We have four children and myself doing school which means at home we have to learn how to interact with people of multiple ages.  We also have more time to be involved with others.  We meet with other home schoolers.  We have church activities we’re involved in.  We do music lessons and gymnastics class.  There are many different settings to learn social skills, not just a traditional classroom.  And when in life beyond school years are you in one room with 20+ other people the exact same age needing to learn/do the exact same thing anyway?

These are just a few reasons, so stay tuned for Part 2!

Homeschooling…Why???

Homeschooling…Why???

Why did I choose to homeschool?  Because public school won’t give my children a fantastic education?  No.  I don’t doubt that public schools could educate my children.  I went to public school.   Honestly, my reasoning is simple.  I didn’t want to “give” my little (big) boy away for eight hours a day.  I wanted to be the teacher.  I wanted to teach him to count, to read, to write.  I escpecially wanted to teach him to have good character and to grow in God.  So…when Kindergarten registration started in our neighborhood last spring, I ignored it!

I know some people, lots of people, think I am wrong.  Crazy even.  That’s okay.   The only people I really have to answer to are my children, my husband and my God.  So when I tell people, and people give me that “are you stupid” look, followed by their opinion, I just smile and tell them that we love it!  They tell me my kid probably won’t be “normal.”  I reply that I am okay with that, I am not a big fan of “normal” anyhow.  They say my kid won’t be “socialized.”  I assure them he has plenty of interaction at home and elsewhere.  I know homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and I agree.  But it is for me.

We are halfway through our Kindergarten year and we LOVE it.  I love seeing the joy of learning on their faces and in their hearts.

See…happy, functioning, engaged, “normal” little boys!