Growing Every Day

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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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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?

Ebb-and-Flow

Wow.  It truly doesn’t take long for life to hit warp speed.  That is what seems to have happened at our house.  We have recently returned from a nine day trip up and around New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  It was a wonderful trip centered around a beautiful family wedding in Colorado.

With that said, when we returned our rhythm was gone, for myself, the kids, school.  Of course the learning that occurred on the trip and the possibilities for further learning were huge.  However, the day-to-day flow had disappeared.  We are currently in the process of finding our new focus and flow, which seems to be a part of this crazy journey called homeschool.

I have come down to the fact that the next two months are months of completion.  It is time to focus on the units and topics we want to close out and wrap up.  My goals for Builder are to complete his math mastery challenge on Khan Academy, finish our Level 1 spelling, and complete our Volcano lapbook.  In regards to Princess, my goal is to keep on track with her math at Khan Academy, finish up a bone unit she is working on, and complete the set of sight words we are currently working on, from Tweet Resources.  I fully expect to have other learning opportunities arise, but these are my specific goals and focus.  Completing these items will place us in a good position for starting anew in January.

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Outside of completing our focus items, we are starting to memorize and learn the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States.  There is a nice set of resource papers over at Kindergarten Nana that fits what we need.  We will use these printables as our diving board into deeper learning conversations.  Each day we will read, The Pledge of Allegiance, published by Scholastic to help aide in memory.

P.S. There will soon be an update on our Water of Life project.  We are done collecting and will let you know the final amount given.

Your Turn to Play ~  What would you like to complete by the end of the year?

Tishrei

blue-water-backgroundWater of Life project update:  donations have been slower lately, we are pushing through, however, all the way until November 1st.  We have been looking at maps and talking about areas and regions that look like they would have remote access, if any, to clean water.  A wonderful geography experience of learning about different biomes, and environments.  If you would like to contribute to our clean water project, you may click on the donate button below.  $1, $5, $15, or more can all help another person receive access to clean safe drinking water.

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Tishrei

We like to follow the Hebraic calendar.  God set up the months in the Old Testament, His monthly cycle of blessing.  Builder and Princess have started learning about each month and its key focus.  We are now in the month of Tishrei, the 7th month of the Hebraic calendar.  I have made (am making) a conversation coloring sheet for each month.  These sheets include representations of key points for each month.  As they are coloring the sheets, we discuss some of the aspects of the current month.

Happy New Year

Even though it is the 7th month, this is the beginning of the Hebraic year.  This is the time to restart, refocus, renew for the coming year.

The Month of the Strong

In the Bible, Tishrei is described as “the month of the strong”, or “the month of the ancients”.

The Fall Feasts

Tishrei contains three important times: Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles (or Feast of Booths).  The Feast of Trumpets calls in the new year by sounding the silver trumpets and/or shofars.  The Day of Atonement is when we come before God, seeking what it is that He would desire to cleanse us from.  The Feast of Tabernacles is a time of celebration remembering how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and how they lived in temporary dwellings.  (click here for a post on the Feast of Tabernacles)

Ephraim

Each month is associated with a tribe, Tishrei is associated with Ephraim.  Ephraim means “double fruit”.  This is a month of double portion.  During this month, watch for the double portion of God.

Libra

Each tribe and month is associated with a constellation.  It makes sense that this month is connected with the Libra constellation.  This constellation pictures judgement scales, just as the month of Tishrei largely focuses on the judgement that Jesus paid for us.  Bringing ourselves before the throne of God to allow Him to refine us by the blood of the Lamb, continues to bless His heart and ours.

This has been a fun learning process for us.  We also like to look in the Bible and see different things that happened in each month.  It is fun to find the times where the Bible says “in the seventh month”, because now we have a reference for when that is!  For more information on the Hebraic months and their focus, I would recommend Dr. Robert Heidler’s book A Time to Advance.

Color Wheel

Wow, life has gotten crazy.  It seems we have been here, there, and everywhere all in one day.  That may be a slight overstatement, but you know what I mean!

A quick update on our Water of Life campaign, to collect money to help those around the world who do not have access to clean water.  We have received some donations on this side of cyber space as well as some contributions on our campaign page.  Thank you to all who have contributed.  We have collected roughly 1/3 of our goal to date.  If you would like to contribute to the clean water cause, you can click here to go directly to our campaign page and donate.  $1, $5, $10, or more all goes to helping provide clean and safe water to those in need.  We will submit our final donation of all monies collected here at home on Nov. 1, 2016.

Color Wheel Activity

I love that art gets to be a large part of what we do.  Although, I have very little inspiration, knowledge, and know-how in this area.  However, I believe it has a very important place in the world of learning.  With that in mind, I was so excited to find an amazing art website resource over at Deep Space Sparkle.  If you have time, jump on over and check out her wonderful range of resources.  Lessons are arranged by grades, themes, or even supplies on hand.  There is such a wealth of art resources, I just had to share.

We chose to start with the Play Doh colorwheel activity.  This has been a topic we studied recently so if fit well with what we have been doing.  There is a lovely template of the color wheel to print out.  The kids start with red, yellow, and blue Play Doh balls and begin combining colors to create the secondary colors.  Red squished with yellow becomes the orange ball, etc.

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This was so much fun, Builder just couldn’t stop himself from combining even further to create tertiary colors.  He ended up gluing the Play Doh balls to the paper and created a piece of color wheel art to hang on the wall.  Princess couldn’t stop herself either, she just decided to mash every color together and create a brownish, grayish blob…she was thrilled!

I am super excited to explore Deep Space Sparkle’s website and dive into the wealth of activities on her page.

Your Turn to Play ~ What has been one of your favorite art projects?

 

 

Water and Fire

Water

We are continuing to save toward our Water of Life project to help provide clean water to individuals/villages/schools.  The kids continue to save spare change here and there and are very excited about how their donation bowl is filling up.  Our final donation will be made at the end of our campaign on November 1, 2016.  We would like to invite you to join in our campaign to help those in need of access to safe water.  By clicking on the donation button below, you are able to donate straight to our campaign…be it $1, $5, $15, or more, the money you donate will go 100% toward clean water to those who need it.

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For those of you who may be discussing this with your children, I created this color sheet to show some more concrete facts about the need for clean water.  Feel free to print and use.

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Click Here to download

Fire

In late October, the four of us will have a chance to journey to Colorado for a family wedding.  One of our planned stops on the way is to eat lunch at a volcano!  Yep, Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico.  It is a fairly young, extinct volcano.  After (or maybe before) lunch, we will walk a couple of the trails and explore lava flows, etc. With this in mind, it has given the perfect opportunity for us to begin a little earth science.

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Capulin Volcano National Monument

There is a wonderful volcano lapbook/unit study at Homeschool Share (click here for volcano lapbook).  We have only just started these activities, but I really like the look and detail of the lapbook.  The templates and lesson plans are free to use.  Truly, I was overwhelmed at first with all of the detail provided, but then I realized we don’t have to be done with our study before we leave.  We can study volcanoes as long as we want!  I still sometimes forget this wonderful fact of homeschooling!  If you are interested in some great lapbook or unit study resources, I encourage you to check out the Homeschool Share website.  I haven’t completely figured out the navigation of the site, but it looks like there are some wonderful resources all around.

Your Turn ~ What is a favorite lapbook/unit study topic you have done?

 

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