Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘curriculum’

Top 5 Curriculum Choices

Yes, I am still in the mode of reflecting over the past school year.  Reflecting on the past, in order to move into the future.  In doing so, I asked myself the question…

What most helped learning happen this year?

There were some curriculum choices that were just fine and worked well, but I feel that we could have made a different choice without consequence.  The more I thought, the more I found specific choices that were a critical part of our school year.

The short of it…here are the 5 things (in no certain order) for which I am thankful that we found.  I am thankful both for the sake of my sanity and for the sake of my kids learning and success.

#1 – Easy Peasy Curriculum

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This is a free online curriculum found at www.allinonehomeschool.com.  And I must say, that it is a very full curriculum with a lot to offer.  To be honest, I was very leery at first because it is free!  Not the best mindset, but there you have it.  Having a small budget, and finally getting so tired of searching and searching for curriculum that I fell in love with but couldn’t afford, I turned to Easy Peasy.

There are so many subjects available, I didn’t want to get overwhelmed.  So I simply started Builder on the math course and to my surprise, he loved it.  It was a nice blend of computer game practice, video learning, and worksheet practice.  It had a great amount of review with a good balance of moving forward.  Builder is so natural with numbers that he found himself skipping days here-and-there, but the layout of this curriculum made it no big deal to do so.

Builder also used the Easy Peasy History curriculum to study World War II.  And though we didn’t cover the entire Modern History unit, using just the lessons for WWII worked perfectly for us.  This also allowed us to pull in some fun lessons from other places without feeling like we were out of line with the flow of learning.

I was also surprised when Princess saw the math that Builder was doing and requested to start using Easy Peasy as well.  She started in the Math – 1 level and has not looked back.  She has made more progress than I expected and loves to see that she is moving through each day.  It has given her a sense of accomplishment to see how many days she has completed.  We will definitely be continuing with this next year.

#2 – Art for Kids Hub

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In an attempt to bring in art to our school day, we started drawing an animal each day that went along with the abc’s…a-alligator, b-bat, c-cat, etc.  During this process, I would search each day to find a “How-to” step-by-step drawing guide for that day’s animal.  In doing this, we ran across the website www.artforkidshub.com.  We fell in love.

Rob, is a really fun guy who leads you step-by-step through how to draw your chosen picture.  His directions were so easy to follow that we could all join in.  He is very encouraging and the way he teaches clicked with us immediately.  In fact, because of his videos, art went from being a one day a week subject to every day, per my kids request!

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A side note – the more Builder participated in the art videos, the better his handwriting became!  He had always struggled with handwriting; I believe the art videos gave him the confidence and physical practice of the necessary motor skills to help his writing improve.  Great benefit to art!

#3 – Ready2Read

This curriculum was imperative for my daughter.  She does not like to make mistakes, and therefore very often won’t try something new.  Reading has been one of the places I have seen this happen.  Because she just wants to know it, she will not take the time to sound out the words, even though she is very capable of doing so.  When starting down the path of teaching her to read, the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons  was my natural place to start. This worked so well for Builder, but not so much for Princess.

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Then one day, I happened upon Ready2Read by The Moffatt Girls.  It was perfect.  There were so many hands-on reading activities that Princess was very drawn to it simply because she got to “color or play”.  A year later, she is well on her way to reading small sight word books.

In Level 1 of the Ready2Read curriculum, one of the main activities is to build a word garden scene using the word families that she was learning.  This was such a highlight for her because she was able to create a beautiful garden scene, and I think the fact that she had control over where to place the pieces in her garden satisfied her creative side.

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#4 – Mystery Science

This one is a family favorite.  The lessons are very well done, very thorough, and always interest my kids.  I tend to be frugal when it comes to curriculum, activities, and lessons.  Mystery Science is one of those choices that I will pay for each year.  It makes my life so easy when it comes to science.

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Doug, leads you through a story/lesson portion and then has an experiment to go along with what is being taught.  The activity prep leads you through everything you need to do beforehand, during, and after the lesson.  It just made my life easier!

Toward the end of the year, Builder actually began to start the lesson videos on his own.  He knew that Doug would lead him through the lesson, tell him the materials he needed to gather, and then lead him through the experiments.  I would peek a day/couple days before to make sure we had on hand what was needed, and then Builder was able to work it himself.  I love the movement toward autonimous learning!

#5 – Chloe and the Nurb

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Princess wants to be a doctor.  She is so interested in how the body works from the inside to the outside, top to bottom (pun intended!).  One of the science lessons on the Easy Peasy curriculum, led us to a Chloe and the Nurb video.  She watched one and was hooked.  And can I tell you, we have all learned so much!  These videos are so fun and informative.  They can be found on YouTube and they are a part of KidsHealth.org.  I found the easiest way to find the videos was to go to YouTube and simply search for Chloe and the Nurb, (though they can be found on the KidsHealth.org link).

Princess will watch these videos over and over and over.  And then, over again.  You know what?  I am so good with that, because randomly throughout the day she will explain to me something that she has learned.  One of us will do something, and she will let us know how that worked, what our body did to make that happen.  So cool.

We will continue to watch these, over and over and over…and over.  You get the the point.

So there you have it.  My top 5, from this year, that I am so thankful we found.  I am excited to see what next year’s top 5 will be!

And You? ~ What are some of your top picks from this past school year?

 

 

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Finishing Up

Oh sweet heavens, tomorrow is our last “official” day of school!  

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(insert Hallelujah chorus!)

We will take a six-seven week break and start up again after July 4th.  Of course, you know in the homeschooling world summer “break” is not always as it seems.  Learning still happens.  A math lesson here, finish up a handwriting book there.  Learning never really ceases, whether it be book work, or life learning.  The nice thing is that it is not structured, and it gives a much needed break both to kids and to Mama!

A question I get this time of year is, “What does your summer look like?  Planning any trips?”  Do you know what…

I have not planned anything!

And that is what makes my heart happy!  I am not one to fill our summer with camps here and summer classes there.  I am ok with my kids getting bored and having to find ways to entertain themselves.  And for that matter, how to get along with each other when they are bored out of their minds.  So much creativity comes from boredom.  So, I guess you could say my summer plans are to instigate boredom.  (We may go bowling, take some walks, maybe a fun cooking class at our local chocolate store…yum…but overall, not a whole lot planned.)

However, on the schooling front, I do have some goals in mind that I would like to accomplish.

Goal #1 – clean out the school cubbies

This, unfortunately, has become our place to “stuff” school items.

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With my son moving into fourth grade and my daughter moving in to second grade, there are many things stored in these cubbies that we simply don’t need anymore.  And, since space for school organization is at a premium here at our homestead, some things need to go.  Not to mention dusting, eek.  I won’t tell you how long it has been since I’ve done that!

Goal #2 – curriculum

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Yes, that.  We don’t use an all-inclusive curriculum.  I like to piece together this and that to fit each kid’s personality and learning style.  With that, I have a few items I want to reevaluate.  With Builder moving into fourth grade, a couple more subjects are going to be added to the mix, so I want to take a look at his schedule and how to fit it all in.  I am not a fan of doing everything everyday.  Our schedule is a little more block schedule-esque.

Goal #3 – the house

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As seen in a former post, Spinning Plates, I am not strong in keeping multiple aspects of life going at once.  Yes, I am a woman, but multi-tasking is not a strength of mine.  In light of that, when school is going, the house suffers.  Yes, my kids help, but they are still learning.  So much still rests on me, or me informing the kids of what needs to be done.  This takes mental, physical, and in some cases emotional energy, which during the school year just isn’t there many times.  So I am hoping much will be accomplished on the inside, and around the outside of the house.

Goal #4 – scrapbooking

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This is a personal goal.  With Builder and Princess getting a little older, I am finding a little more “me time” here and there.  I used to scrapbook before having the kids, and this is something I want to get back to doing.  I have a feeling the kids will get into it as well and can learn how to collect and keep their own treasured memories.

And there you have it.

My plans and hopes for this summer.  I know full well, it will be over before I know it and that is just fine.  I am blessed and joyful that we get to spend our time together learning and growing as a family, in season and out.

And You? ~ What are some of your summer goals?

Finish Strong

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Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Finish strong.

I hear and see these words a lot during this time of year.  We are almost there.  We have almost made it.  Summer break (if you take one) is in our sights.  I have to be honest though.  My thought is not as much finish strong as finish consistent.  Keep on going, keep on doing, keep on being what we have been throughout the year.

I need to be strong to finish consistent.

This is the time of year reflection begins.  There were goals at the beginning and mid school year…where are we compared to those goals?  Are they realistic to strive for with 5 weeks left to go?  This is the time I make one last readjustment and set our sights on what seems realistic for the next 5 weeks.

To add to all of this reflection, my brain also begins thinking to the future, to future curriculum.  Where will we start next year, what will we focus on?  It doesn’t help that the wonderful world wide web starts sending me messages of 20% off this curriculum and freebies on that curriculum.  Ugh.  These are wonderful, but my head can really start swimming in this sea of possibilities.

So in the midst of this time of pushing through, I remind myself of the task-at-hand.  This is the time to keep focus on that which needs to be done in the present.  With the finish line ever before us, we need to let ourselves focus on the task-at-hand.  My desire and prayer is that I do not miss this present moment for worry or concern of the future moment.  I know it is good to plan.  It is good to set goals.  However, I can so easily get caught up in the future and what I want/need it to be.  If I am always future minded, my present will become a checklist and procedure.  If I trust in the vision given to me by Jesus for the future, and I trust it to be there, then I can have peace in the to-dos of today.  I can be present here, because I know my Jesus is there.  He is there holding in His hand that vision, and He is present here leading me there!  He is the path, and I will walk with Him.  This equals peace, joy, and strength.

Give Him your there, so you can be present here.

Be strong, finish consistent.

Your Turn to Play ~ What is something that helps you push through this time of the year?

Spring has Sprung

Lord have mercy.  It is beautiful outside.  The sun is shining, or sometimes a nice refreshing rain is falling and all we want to do is be outside.  This seems to be the most difficult time of the year, the “almost done” period that coincides with the call of nature.

Time to get serious…

…and head outside!  Now, not everything we do can be done outside.  However, if it is possible, we will do it.  Builder was having real trouble (insert much complaining and whining) with settling to work on his math and word work the other day.  Almost losing it, I declared, “Let’s use sidewalk chalk!”  A chorus of cheers followed.  The magic of sidewalk chalk never ceases to amaze me.

I took the same old math worksheet and wrote the problems on the sidewalk/driveway.  Builder hopped on his tricycle with chalk in hand and drove to each problem solving it quickly.

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His word work was identifying complete and incomplete sentences.  I simply wrote the words “incomplete” and “complete” on the driveway, read aloud the sentences, and Builder wrote the sentence number under the correct title.  Once again the tricycle was involved in driving to and from each category.

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Princess also did her math via sidewalk chalk.  Her word work was not really conducive to working on the pavement, but a clipboard and sitting on the porch worked just as well.

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Another example of springtime adapting…Builder is working on putting together our family tree for social studies.  He has been gluing pictures of each person, copying down birth/death dates, etc.  We have now switched it up a bit.  He is learning to handle old documents such as old obituaries, or birth/death certificates and has become a “History Hunter”!  He finds the required information and anything he deems interesting about the person and records it.  To change it up a bit, today we decided to hop in the van and go find his great grandparents burial site.  Having the grave-site in town helps.  Now we are planning field trips to other states to find other family members grave-sites.  This was just another way to break the monotony, getting outside in the name of learning, growing, and exploring.

This is the time when creative juices must flow to keep on keeping on!  Even the smallest changes keep things fresh.

Your Turn ~ How do you deal with spring fever in regards to homeschooling?

Music Time

I always knew music would become a component of our learning journey.  My husband and I were in band all through middle school, high school, and college, continuing after.  Music is simply a part of who and what we are as individuals and a family.  The same has shown in Builder and Princess.  They go around singing to themselves, to each other, and to us.  Truly, there are days that I feel I live in a musical…and I LOVE IT!

With that, I wasn’t exactly sure when and where to start.  Well, just recently I stumbled upon an amazing resource that I want to share with you.  It is another web resource that has a portion free, and another portion that is available by purchasing a paid premium account.  However, there is enough of the free material to get us well on our way.  It will also give us that period to see if this is truly the best fit for us.  At the moment, we are in love with it.  Granted we honestly have only completed one lesson, but that is all it has taken for all of us to be excited.

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The resource is Hoffman Academy, online piano lessons.  The website is very nice, neat, and easy to maneuver.  I have been impressed with the resources sent my way upon creating our free account.  The lessons are in video style and Mr. Hoffman (the teacher) seems to be a wonderful instructor.  The introductory material on the website refer to him as the Mr. Rogers of piano lessons.  From what I saw in the first video, I can see that.  After the first lesson video, Builder and Princess, were playing their first song – Hot Cross Buns.  In a 13-minute video, not only did he teach them how to play the song, but he introduced where the song originated from, as well as the beginnings of the do-re-mi scale.  So much rich learning introduced in such a way that my kids got it without a hint of effort, and they never lost focus.

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The Hoffman Academy recommends 2-3 lessons a week with daily practice.  With this schedule in mind, there should be about 24 months of lessons in the nine units available.  As I said, we are not very far into this course, but we are super excited about it.  I didn’t want to wait any longer before sharing this resource with you.  I highly recommend you take a look into it, and give it a try.  If you do, be sure to let me know how it works for you and your family.

Your Turn to Play ~ What role did music play in your life growing up?

Mystery Science

Science and I are getting along better these days.

Growing up, and far into adulthood, I never enjoyed science.  It was too…unpredictable.  And it never failed that what I expected to happen, did not in fact happen.  This frustrated me to all ends.  Now, I find myself having to teach it.  Lord have mercy, and He has.

My husband has a scientific mind.  The type that are never satisfied with the activity at hand, but has the innate ability to ask the inevitable, “What if we did…”.  This is also how Builder thinks and revels in getting to do science activities with Daddy.  However, doing science each week with Daddy doesn’t exactly work well into our schedule.  So though it works every now and then, we needed a different solution for a more consistent science experience.

So, I have pressed on and pressed into the Lord to help me in this area.  One of my realizations is that science truly sets you up to continue learning.  There is no failure in science, only an opportunity to learn more.  In the past, every time my outcome did not match my expectation I became frustrated at my “inability to do science”.  Now I realize when something doesn’t work out as expected, we get to figure out why.  This leads to a much deeper understanding of the topic at hand.

Now that I wasn’t scared of, or even angry with, science I was better equipped to decide how we wanted to approach it.  We did some individual units found here and there on the web.  However, I really felt like I was shooting in the dark when it came to a forward motion in science.  We were just kind of hit-and-missing.  Recently, I found MysteryScience.

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Builder was the main focus for this choice, however, Princess has jumped right in and joined us in science time.  MysterScience has many units to offer from Plants to Weather to Energy/Motion and beyond.  The material age range listed is from 5-12 years old.  This seems to be about right on the lower end since Princess is 5 and can join right in.  We don’t have experience at the upper level as of yet.

Each unit has a set of mysteries revolving around the theme.  We are currently working our way through Plant Adventures and are on Mystery 3 of 5.  Each Mystery has three parts:

Exploration

Each Mystery has a 20-45 min slideshow/video that is narrated and sets up the mystery at hand.  This section teaches all the information along the way that is needed for the upcoming activity.  The video pauses every now and again with a clarifying or critical thinking question to discuss with your student.

Activity

After each exploration, there is a hands-on activity.  From our experience, these have been very clear and the video leads you step-by-step through the instructions.  This has made it very easy to step into a facilitating role.  The activities we have completed have been anywhere from 25-35 min long.  Both Builder (7) and Princess (5) have loved them.

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The activity from Plant Adventures – Mystery 2: Do Plants Eat Dirt?       (Growing radish seeds)

Optional Extras

Each mystery has optional extras to add to and extend learning.  We have used some of these, but not all.  The total process done in one day pushes our boundaries of focus.  I have tried splitting the whole thing into a two to three day process, but the kids are so excited to do the activity once we get to it that I have not wanted to stop them from doing so.

Mystery Science has a free trial and also pricing for homeschoolers, as well as other school pricing.  We are still in our free trial until June 2017 and we will be purchasing the full version once our trial is over.  It has been so much fun and the work put into it by the creators is spot on.  If you have been searching for a good solid science curriculum, I encourage you to check out www.mysteryscience.com.  For me, it was well worth the exploration.

Your Turn to Play ~ What has been the most difficult subject for you to step into as teacher?

Antarctica – a frozen field trip

Princess has been studying the continents and oceans.  The continent of study last week was Antarctica.  I have been using a well put together unit entitled It’s a Small World by Molly Lynch.  Mostly, I try to use free resources I find around the web, but this unit I would purchase again in a heartbeat.  Builder went through this unit a couple of years ago, and is having fun going through it again with Princess.

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Back to Antarctica…

We went over the information in the unit regarding Antarctica.  Since there is not a population to speak of, we concentrated on mostly the animals and the ice!  We took a look at all the different kind of animals that live there.  We watched The Magic School Bus episode In the Arctic.  (I know it’s not the Antarctic, but the info translates!)  This gave a lot of information as to the adaptations of animals to live in such a cold harsh environment.  The unit mentioned above has a fun experiment using shortening in between two zipper sealed sandwich bags to make “blubber gloves” which allows you to keep your hand in ice water for quite a long while.  We didn’t have enough shortening on hand so we did a few different activities.

We used Google Earth to zoom in and take a look at Antarctica.  The free part of Google Earth is all we use and is enough for us.  It really helps Princess bring into perspective where the continents are and get a “real life” look at the different environments.  She has had a blast investigating the earth.  Now, when she colors the continent on her worksheet she wants to see it on Google Earth so that she can color it correctly!

After exploring with Google Earth, Princess and Builder did some ice excavation!  I had prepared two containers with objects placed in water and frozen it for a few hours.  So the kids used pipettes and syringes with warm water to melt their ice blocks.  Builder decided they needed forks (a.k.a. pick axes) to explore and excavate as well.  I placed the ice blocks in a larger tray so that as it melted the water was contained.  This gave us a chance to talk about what would happen if all of Antarctica melted.

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They had a blast with this activity and went on to create two more of their own ice blocks.  So much fun!

Your Turn ~ What activities/units have you enjoyed doing more than once?

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