Growing Every Day

Posts tagged ‘curriculum’

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?

A Living Creature

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Image courtesy of namakuki at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the bigger ideas of homeschool that I have been wrestling with over the last 2 years (yes, it takes me a while), is that learning is fluid.

 

My experiences in education have not always lent themselves to being fluid.  In a classroom, we did as much fluidity as we could muster.  We pushed back assignments until understanding was there, or mostly there.  We shifted to a fun unit about a topic we had just discovered in another class.  However, the fluid motion of education was very limited. In a sense, I liked this.  It gave me a false sense of control.  I knew where the lessons were going.  I knew how to grade for mastery.  I knew what would be next and the rough timeframe in which it would happen.  Boy, there were a lot of “I’s” in those statements.  Sadly to say, what was taught in the classroom was a large percentage of what was controlled by me and the school district.  And, dare I say, there was much comfort in that.  It felt so good to check off the items accomplished and move on. 

Fast forward to our little home school.  Oh-my-word.  Learning is so very fluid.  In this one year alone we have changed the “structure” of our learning at least 3 times if not 4.  Curriculum has shifted, time frames have shifted, subjects have shifted.  What I thought this year was going to look like, um, yeah, not so much.  But it is beautiful.  It is beautiful to find the right fit for my kids.  To tailor to each what they need, not only in style of learning, but in content as well.  Princess is half way through her “kindergarten” year and I am growing with her, learning the similarities and differences of how she learns compared to her brother.  Being so young, they are both exploring whatever comes to mind, naturally beginning to find interests in life.

We started out the year with a full on-slaught of subjects, until I realized it was really my need of a structured checklist of learning, not what they were interested in learning.  Some of that has stayed, because they need to learn it.  A lot of it has gone on standby because they just aren’t interested or ready yet.  At the moment, each day Princess and Builder have a Math Work focus, a Word Work focus, and a “something extra” focus.  Princess’s extra is Continents and Oceans.  Builder’s extra is working on a family tree.

This is where we are right now.  We throw in some fun science experiments in the afternoon here-and-there, and we are reading through a book at lunchtime about what it would be like to grow up in Jesus’ day.  So, I suppose we are doing more, even if it is not during our “learning time”.  And of course, we are always learning through life.  As I said…fluid.

Your Turn ~ What challenges/adjustments have you run into while homeschooling?

Organization: Rainbow Drawers

Today: Rainbow Drawers.

This is one of the simplest, as well as one of the most marvelous, tools of organization we have for our school area.  They are beneficial because it is something useful for both my kids and myself.  How we use them is pretty simple, yet very effective for us.  (To read about some of my other favorite organization tools, click here.)

For Me

The rainbow drawers serve two purposes for me.  The first helps me keep clutter off my desk (very much needed).  The second is that the drawers give me an easy, organized, presentable way to deliver those papers to my children.

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The top two drawers are for Builder to keep essentials such as notepads, slate board, spirals, etc.  Princess has the next two drawers.  The proceeding drawers are labeled by subject areas, with some drawers sharing similar subjects.  Since I use Sunday afternoon as my prep time for the week, I make sure to print and gather everything needed for each lesson/activity.  If those items were to stay on my desk, it would be a nightmare.  So, after printing and gathering, I place the materials in their designated drawer.

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For Them

Princess’s work is still very theme based, so it is difficult to split her items into subjects.  Because of this, I have been placing all her materials in the second of her pink drawers.  This has been working well, and many times she will dig into whatever sheet is next in her drawer.

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For Builder, his daily list will have an asterik beside any subject that has something printed or gathered for the lesson/activity.  As he is working through his list, he knows when to look in a drawer to complete an assignment.

For a while after we purchased the drawers, they sat empty and unused.  I tried this and that, until we found this system that is working for now.  I know this will shift and change as Princess progresses and our needs change.  As for now, this is our system, and we’re sticking to it!

Your Turn to Play – How do you organize all those pesky papers for upcoming lessons?

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