Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Can't say we haven't been productive though. We have cleaned and decluttered and I've been spending lots of time planning out the rest of the school year. My school room is in order, the papers from the first part of the year are filed away, and I compiled the kids' grades for the first term.
We have also had lots of snow to enjoy. LOTS! We have shoveled and plowed and sledded and piled and climbed and enjoyed, some more than others of course.
We also celebrated a birthday, American Girl style, but more on that another time, because it definitely deserves a post of its own.
Mostly, we have had lots of time together. Cooking, playing, celebrating. Together.
The other day I decided to make some fresh squeezed orange juice to serve with breakfast since we have time to spare at the moment. Nathan came to help and loved feeding the peeled wedges into the juicer.
As he took a sip he marveled at my cooking prowess, "Mom, you even know the recipe for orange juice?"
Yeah, I'm something else in the kitchen . . .
Monday, December 21, 2009
Spark Notes -- study guide for the book. This is not from a Christian perspective so they misinterpret the main message of the book (in my opinion), but it is a good starting point to gain a literary understanding of Pilgrim's Progress.
Ambleside Online -- has a number of links and suggestions for online copies, the best editions, and audio versions available as well.
Bunyan Ministries -- offers coloring pages that provide a perfect hands on activity for the preschool group
J. I. Packer -- wrote a book on the principles in the booklet. I could not get may hands on it, but anything I have read by him I have enjoyed, so I need to keep my eye out for this one.
A Sunday school curriculum -- This builds around Pilgrim's journey and has some fun ideas for acitivities and such. At first it threw me off because it is called the "CM curriculum." I was of course thinking Charlotte Mason, but no . . . I think they are referring to Children's ministry. :-)
Brief biography of John Bunyan -- This gave us enough of what we needed in terms of background and to complete a minibook about him. Just a short, one page summary.
Map of Pilgrim's journey -- we will use this for the cover of our lapbook, and a great reference throughout the reading.
Jimmie (lapbooker extraordinaire) offered a simple tool that helped me organize the actual material and my whirling thoughts into a workable lapbook.
Other products available for purchase if you want more to pull from, or even an organized curriculum to use:
Answers in Genesis -- a study guide combined with the original text of Pilgrim's Progress. This looks like a great resource if you like the all-in-one deals. It has discussion questions, a unit study design, and lots of extra information.
CurrClick -- not the lapbook I was hoping for, but a 127 page notebooking type resource designed for use with Pilgrim's Progress
12 weeks of reading.
- Reading 3 days each week, one day a week for review and more discussion or questions, and one day for extra lapbook work if needed. Each week we will also choose a game from the Sunday School curriculum as well. We may end up moving faster, but I get frustrated when I set my sights too high and end up taking twice as long.
- Ambleside recommended a text broken into 36 weeks, we will use this guideline for the amount we cover, reading three "weeks" each week.
- For our actual reading, we will most likely use this online text that includes the text of the Scriptures right in the body of the text. I may not read them all out loud, but I like the convenience of having them all right there.
We will work on a verse at a time, reciting it a few times each morning until all of the children have it mastered. It was really hard to narrow this list down to the dozen or so verse I think my children can all learn in this amount of time. These are the verses I plan to use: Psalm 38:4, Isaiah 64:6, Titus 1:2, John 12:25, Matthew 7:14, Matthew 7:7, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Ephesians 1:13, Proverbs 6:6, Romans 8:37, Psalm 38:18, Proverbs 23:23, Proverbs 9:10, Revelation 22:14
We will construct a little of this each day (doing two to three mini-books each week), but I don't want it to be a distraction from the text and Scripture discussion either. When we did our parables lapbook at the start of the year it prompted great discussions, so I am excited about another Bible related lapbook.
Cover: The map of the journey. This printed fairly well. Some parts appear to small or unclear to read, but most of it is easy to follow.
Other Graphics (Original pictures from Pilgrim's Progress are in the Public Domain. There are not tons of them out there, but definitely enough to add some authenticity to the lapbooks):
- This site has a few choice pictures with subheadings and fitting quotes
- Another site with a more thorough selection of pictures.
Topics for minibooks:
- Author info
- Characters (I decided not to require my kids to do a mini book on each character, but rather to highlight ones that stand out to them as we go along. They should choose at least one a week, but can do more if they desire) - Pilgrim, Evangelist, Obstinate, Pliable, Help, Worldly Wiseman, Formalist, Hypocrisy, Discretion, Piety, Prudence, Charity, The Interpreter, Apollyon, Shining Ones, Faithful, Talkative, Mr. Byends, Hopeful, Giant Despair, Diffidence, Demas, Temporary
- Locations - (These are just some of the highlights) Destruction, Slough of Despond, Interpreter’s home, Valley of Humiliation, Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity, plain of Ease, Doubting Castle, Delectable Mountains, Enchanted Ground, land of Beulah, and Celestial City.
- Lessons taught
- Memory verses
- Symbolism (for the older kids)
- What is an allegory?
I expect them to complete at least 25 mini-books (just over two each week). For the younger ones I will pre-make many of these, but the older kids can have more, but not complete, freedom to include and exclude what they want.
As the weeks go by I will try to post the progress on the lapbooks, and of course the finished product in March or April. I am interested to see how different each child's book is and to really dig into Pilgrim's Progress in this manner.
Really made me think, once again, about our priorities and choices at Christmas time. God gave His Son to save us, and to set the example for us to follow. Selflessness, humility, people-focused, service oriented, giving.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I was quite excited to receive The Tortoise and the Hare from Maestro Classics. This CD, just one of many that they offer, combines music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and professionally narrated tales in a way that children will enjoy and learn through listening.
Bonnie Ward Simon and Stephen Simon have created these sets to help children learn about instruments, classic tales (including Casey at the Bat, Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, and Swan Lake), and the joy of great orchestral music.
Product: The Tortoise and the Hare by Maestro Classics
Details: A CD combining music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra with a re-creation of the classic tale, "The Tortoise and the Hare." The CD repeats the performance twice and includes explanations of the tale and the music, a fun song called "The Pretzel Vendor of Paris," and a music-only version of the Pretzel Vendor song so kids can sing along on their own.
Price: Generally these CDs sell for $16.98 each, but they often have sales, especially when purchasing more than one. At this time they have a deal for 3 CDs for $45.
What we loved . . .
- Very professional productions. From the music to the narration to the interesting facts shared in the other segments of the CD, this is a high quality production.
- The CD offers a great introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, awareness of tempo and the feel of various types of music and instruments, and music appreciation.
- Easy for young ones (preschool) to understand while not sounding too babyish for lower elementary kids to listen along and learn as well.
- Endearing graphics. The conductor, the animals, and the other images are well done and memorable.
- Your child will probably get the most out of it by listening through it with you and discussing what is being played and taught throughout the CD, especially the first time.
Things to keep in mind . . .
- Some kids just don't enjoy classical music, at first, or even for a while. As much as I loved this CD and wanted my kids to feel the same, it didn't keep their attention the way I had hoped. Maybe it was because the story was too familiar, maybe it was the music, I'm not sure, but this unfortunately wasn't something they requested to listen to on their own.
- The tale itself is 20 minutes which we found a bit long for the preschoolers to sit and really pay attention to. They don't mind having it on in the background while they play.
The Maestro Classic website offers bios on the creators, listening samples, lists of available products, and even a few lesson plan ideas for a couple of their musical stories.
If your child enjoys music and stories, or if you want a simple tool to help introduce them to orchestral music, the Maestro Classics definitely will fill that role.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.Disclaimer: This CD was provided to me free of charge from Maestro Classics as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.
Monday, December 14, 2009
In honor of my dear little six year old's birthday, she wanted a gymnastics cake. So, of course I did my best.
Really fairly simple. Butterfinger bar held up with pretzels for the balance beam, skewers for the uneven bars, and Polly as the star of the show. Of course, after I wrote "Brooke 6" and thought I was done she asked, "Where does it say 'Happy Birthday'?" So, we squeezed that in, too.
Happy birthday, Brooke!
My 7-11 baby. All births are memorable, but yours was a bit over the top. Just Daddy and me, the front seat of Grandma and Grandpa's car on a cold dark Sunday morning.
My ballerina gymnast. You are amazing to watch in your small class of older girls. You really hold your own and rise to the challenge.
Lover of green. I need to occasionally remind you that all shades of green don't necessarily match.
Loving older sister. You are so sweet with Nathan. Although he is just 18 months behind you, you show such love and care for him even in the midst of the precious friendship that you share. Of course you have some great older sisters to imitate as well.
Your big eyes and contagious smile are a blessing to our home.
Happy birthday, to a very special little girl.
We don't criticize them for their clumsiness. They don't shy away because they can't quite do it right. They keep trying, and grin up at us in their childish innocence seeking our approving smile or words.
My Christian walk should look similar. Ephesians 5:1,2 says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
Sometimes in working out my faith the shoes might seem too big or the sleeves a touch too long. Sometimes, I might try to imitate God and I don't really understand what He is doing, but I copy and mimic, and humbly follow, knowing He knows best.
Lord, Help me to follow you as a simple child. Not always seeking explanation, but trusting You completely, and knowing I will slowly grow into the wisdom and habits that You lead me through. Thank you for coming to live it out for me in human flesh -- Emmanuel. It still doesn't all make sense, but it helps having that tangible picture to follow after. Thank you for accepting my feeble attempts at following. When I grow up I want to be just like You. ~Amen
2And walk in love, as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Details: An online subscription to a site featuring math competitions and teaching.
Price: Right now this is $59 per year per child. And, knowing the Human Calculator's favorite number is 9 should get you an additional discount.
While I didn't know that we really needed another math product floating around the house, I quickly learned that Mathletics was not just another math product.
This became a common site on our computer screens, as my kids raced against kids from around the world in real time. But, the real competition was against their previous scores. The rewards poured in as my kids' math abilities continued to thrive in this lightly competitive and highly rewarding environment.
In addition to the speed drill type races against other kids they also boosted their math skills. Mathletics offers nine levels of math teaching and practice, from kindergarten through eighth grade. Students learn about various topics and again receive recognition for increasing their math knowledge.
I was surprised to see my kids highly motivated by the characters they chose and getting to "buy" new hairstyles, backgrounds, etc. as they completed more problems correctly.
What we loved . . .
- Friendly competition. While the drills take place against other students, you really compete against your own best times. You receive rewards as you improve your personal score.
- International involvement. My kids loved seeing what countries popped up in the races. New Zealand, UK, Canada, Australia, Puerto Rico, UAE, etc.
- Many levels of material. Topics cover mathematical concepts from kindergarten through eighth grade. It is not just speed drill material. A couple times now, in our "regular" math time, my daughter has said, "Oh yeah, I learned that already on the computer." It is definitely more than just playing games, but the kids don't need to know that.
- Lots of recognition of achievement. Students receive points for topics mastered and improved skills, and printable certificates are available as well.
- Easy to change levels. If you feel your child is struggling or having too easy of a time, you can easily change their level to one more appropriate
Things to consider . . .
- Not a complete curriculum. While Mathletics offers a great supplement to math and definitely presents the material in an interesting and engaging format, it does not offer a thorough math teaching for each level. They seem to present it as a curriculum, but I do not feel it is as thorough as most texts we have used.
- A little pricey if you have multiple children. While in general the price is reasonable, it adds up quickly with many school aged children.
- Parents should check in on their student now and then. You will want to take some time now and then to see what they have worked on, how much time they spend on various topics and activities and check up on them. While the student can easily work independently, you will want to stay involved to make sure they make the most of the time online.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.Disclaimer: This web membership was provided to me free of charge from Mathletics as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.
A wonderful garage sale find nearly five years ago now helps us record the simple passing of ages and growth in our children.
We have one for the boys and one for the girls.
Each birthday and half birthday we measure them to see how they have grown. We all gather round, grab the nearest book, and put a new mark on the appropriate panel.
My oldest son now likes to make sure that this gets done first thing in the morning, since you are tallest right when you wake up. :-)
Although I did not have to create these boards since I found them very inexpensively, you could easily make these yourself. I love that they are simple, sturdy, provide plenty of room for each child, and when we move, we simply take them with us, and reinstall them in our new home.
Here's the specs:
- They are four feet long (from 2 feet to 6 feet) and just about three inches wide.
- A simple yard stick, ruler, or tape measure can help you mark off the inches.
- Then, either free hand if you are able, or grab a couple fitting stencils. Remember not to pick anything too babyish if you want to use them for years to come. Or you could do progressively "older" graphics as you go up the chart.
Simple memories in the making. Definitely works for us.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
This week provided a great balance of fun and work, but unfortunately no pictures to show for it. Of course, lots to get done this time of year, but with homeschooling we at least get to tackle it all together.
The fun . . . Before the temperature dropped on Wednesday night we did get some time to enjoy our first significant snow fall of the season. The girls especially loved it and spent every spare minute outside on Tuesday. They built a snowperson nativity scene, complete with baby Jesus on a broken snow shovel.
Wednesday we ducked out for a couple hours of sledding in the morning before buckling down with our school work in the afternoon as the temps began to plummet.
Despite the single digits on Thursday we enjoyed an open swim time in the afternoon. We met with some other homeschool friends we don't see often enough. They met us at the swim time and we all had a great time (moms talking, kids swimming, doesn't get much better than that!)
Friday we wrapped up our truly productive school week. Despite the various excursions we still got five pretty full days of school in, just not during "normal" school hours.
Books we are reading . . .
- Right now we are listening to The Call of the Wild and The Endless Steppe. The Call of the Wild is a book I have never liked, and I'm not really enjoying it any more this time through. But, it was not a book I picked because I thought I would enjoy it. Others seem to be liking it.
- The Endless Steppe on the other hand I am definitely enjoying. It tells the challenges faced by Polish Jews deported to Siberia during WWII, mostly from the perspective of the daughter in the family. It is high quality historical fiction. Clear glimpses into their difficult lives and unforgettable characters to take you there.
Some websites that have caught our fancy . . .
- My son came across this one. You can listen to air traffic controllers at various airports, and see graphics of flight patterns from today and months past. He found the re-creation of the flight we took out to Hawaii last year . . . wishing we were there again, especially after this week's weather.
- Grace Gems offers downloads and online readings from various authors and pastors of years gone by. Lots of rich encouragement and spiritual nourishment.
- With the gazillion homeschool sites out there, and many of them great ones, too, I could probably easily find a new site each week. I enjoyed looking through Sunflower Schoolhouse. They have lots of links to free homeschooling resources and if you use workboxes they link to a number of other blogs that use that as well.
How was your week? You can see what other people are up to at the Weekly Wrap Up.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Programming seems a difficult task for the untrained, and generally that holds true. However, Tektoma offers web based tutorials to help interested individuals get started in creating their very own computer games.
On the Tektoma website, the creators Tom Marx and Matilda O'Connor have built a place for budding video game designers. Using GameMaker software, a free download, they have put together a number of tutorials to help you understand this somewhat complex program.
GameMaker "allows you to make exciting computer games, without the need to write a single line of code. Using easy to learn drag-and-drop actions, you can create professional looking games within very little time." They make it sound easy, but without the tutorials on Tektoma I could not begin to create a game on my own. I know nothing of rooms and sprites and sound effects. But, with Tektoma, you don't need to know anything to get started.
Product: Tektoma Game Tutorials for Kids
Details: Web based tutorials geared for kids 7-17 (but fully appropriate for interested adults). Forums, FAQs, and technical help via email as needed
Price: Monthly membership is just $14.95 per month. Or, you can join for a whole year for $140. They have a free 14 day trial for a limited time that can help you see if Tektoma is really what you are looking for.
What we loved . . .
- Easy to follow. Although my 12 year old son jumped into this easily, I was a little more uncertain. But, after a little time watching the videos, I realized that even I could use this program and have fun doing so.
- Very well made. Clear visuals and sound. They really covered the bases. Step by step, everything you need to do shown clearly. They even have a video on how to use the videos. They do move a little fast at times, which is good when you kind of know what you are doing, and it is easy enough to pause or back up a bit if you missed something.
- Great introduction to programming even if you have no knowledge.
- The videos don't just show you what to do, they explain what you are learning as well. With enough use and interest you could easily become independent of the tutorials, at least until you move on to the next type of game. They plan to continue to add to the website, so even if you made it through all of the tutorials that they have, you will likely find more on their site to continue to expand your knowledge and ability.
- You can share your games with others. Once you have created your own game, you can post it to their site for others to see.
- They help you create a variety of games. Racing games, memory games, and arcade games are geared specially toward beginners. Then you can move on to platform and fantasy or adventure games.
Always a downside . . .
- You can easily get hooked and not realize that you have just spent two hours in front of the computer. (ahem . . . not me of course, but my son)
- Make sure you check out the system requirements (Currently, the tutorials are for computers running Windows XP or Vista only. Macintosh versions coming in the future. Broadband internet connection also required).
- I found the GameMaker software complicated, but that's why they made the website. In one of the tutorials they say something to the effect of, "Even if this does not make sense to you now, just keep following along and doing exactly what I do and you will begin to understand." VERY true. I had no idea what all the numbers and labels and tabs meant, but after mimicking his actions in the video, I began to understand what I was doing.
Of course, right now they have that 14 day free trial so you can give it a test drive and see what you think. This might make a great Christmas gift for a computer inclined pre-teen or teenager (or adult . . .) If you would like to find out more about subscribing to Tektoma you can follow this link.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.Disclaimer: This web membership was provided to me free of charge from Tektoma as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Just before Thanksgiving I came across a new challenge for homeschoolers, an Instant Challenge posted weekly over at Delightful Learning.
Basically, at the start of the week she posts a challenge, sometime during the week you hopefully accept the challenge along with your children, and participants return the following week to report on their results.
Last week's challenge involved flying objects, so I easily convinced my kids that we would attempt this project. Michelle makes it incredibly easy, and has everything right in the post that you need to know. The supplies needed, the time allowed, how to score the project (the competition aspect of this hooked my son for sure), and other details to help you enjoy this challenge with your child(ren).
So we set up the room and gathered our supplies:
Then, after a quick review of the rules we dug in. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my kids worked together to come up with an interesting plan for their flying object. We added some incentive as I decided to make my own project. I couldn't benefit from the group interaction, but it encouraged them to try even harder to beat me, or at least to give it a try.
Their flying contraption:
Interesting. I guess next time I will need to specify that you need to use the whole object, not just the piece that you tear off of it. Their idea: a rubber band wrapped with the various other supplies that they fling toward the designated target.
Less creative, but with the supplies all included, just tucked inside the plane. And, just for the record, it flew further . . .
Nevertheless, the kids took their best shot. The girls cheered Blake on as he launched their production. It did well. Went almost 21 feet on its longest run, but still not the 22 feet that mine finished with ease.
I had some sympathy on them, and let them take a second launching time. That round they hit the target, at 21 feet, and easily outscored me with a total of 112 points.
A fun activity perfect for a Friday afternoon when the brain cells are begging for mercy. Can't wait to try this week's challenge . . . the leaning tower.
So, I decided to check out their book from the library. 20 and Counting is an easy read and I finished it in just a couple days. The effects are a bit more lingering.
The book spends quite a bit of time talking about their personal backgrounds and many of the business and career involvements they have pursued over the years. I found those areas mildly interesting. They have some unique stories and experiences to tell, but I really soaked up the rest of the pages that overflowed from their hearts.
You might find encouragement from different passages and stories, as we each have our own challenges and questions, but I wanted to share some of what stood out to me:
- Keep God in the everyday. Michelle talks about bringing God's marvelous creation of our bodies very simply into a potty training time. I have that heart, but I know my parenting is not that intentional about weaving Scriptural principles into the nitty-gritty of life as much as I would like.
- Control your own anger. She gave a simple tip that I confess to having used at least a few times already this week. She referenced the verse, Proverbs 15:1 where it mentions that a soft answer turns away wrath. I have often thought of this in my interactions with others in terms of diffusing their anger. Michelle put a whole new twist on it. When she feels her own anger well up, she lowers her own voice. And, her emotions settle as well. Incredibly simple, but I cannot tell you how well this has worked in our house this week. Too often I set the thermostat for our interactions.
- Blanket time. I tweaked her description of this, which she tweaked from her source as well. And, to be fair, my kids are 5 and 4, not the toddlers that she had at the time. Sometimes my school room gets a little noisy while I try to work through Algebra or sentence diagramming, or some other intense school subject. Usually, I would loudly tell everyone to quiet down, or find something for the little ones to do, or turn on an educational computer game. Well, instead, we now do blanket time. And, as silly as it sounds, my little ones beg for it now.
They each get their blanket, spread it out, and choose one book and one toy. The rules are no talking and no leaving the blanket. For about a half hour I expect them to entertain themselves quietly while I teach the older kids in an environment much more conducive to learning. Another simple, but life saving method. :-)
- Love and joy in the home. What so many people love about the Duggars is their obvious love for one another, and the peaceful home they have as a result. It isn't perfect, and I love that their book is transparent about those rough spots as well. But, grounded on Scripture and a relationship with Jesus Christ, they clearly take the call to train up the next generation seriously while recognizing the great blessing that children bring to the home. If we model it, they will generally follow.
Parenting is a continual journey, and I continually search out those who I see doing things right so I can continue to learn and grow as a Christian, wife, and mother. Learning from those that are at least a few steps ahead, even if our paths look a little different, definitely works for me.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Not words you hear too often. Not words I recall hearing in our house until we started using All About Spelling after receiving it through the TOS Crew to review.
The perfect spelling curriculum for a variety of learning styles, from the beginner through middle school, students needing remedial spelling help (or phonics review -- this was great for my third grade daughter), or parents seeking a solid curriculum geared specifically toward the homeschool environment.
Product: All About Spelling
Details: A multi-sensory, logical, gap-free, mastery based, review-filled, and easy to use spelling curriculum for preschool through middle school.
Price: $26.95 for the starter kit (used throughout all levels); $29.95 for Level 1; $39.95 for each level 2-5 (level 6 coming in the near future)
What we loved . . .
- This curriculum is clearly designed with the homeschooler in mind. Not some rewrite of a classroom program. Scripted lessons geared toward a one-on-one interaction with your child.
- Very hands on. Lots to look at and touch to keep the learning interesting and keep the student engaged.
- It works! My third grader has had a few glitches in her reading. We'd resolved most of the issues, but I hadn't been able to nail down one or two last areas that she was missing because she has a tendency to read whole words (despite her phonics upbringing) :-) This program has helped her slow down and helped us both identify and solve these remaining problem areas, already making a huge difference. I know it's not plugged as a reading program, but it ended up working that way for us.
- Based on ability not grade level. We know that kids don't often fit the mold they "should." All About Spelling presents spelling in a progressive format, but not restricting it to grade level classification. While Level 1 had lots of easy material for my third grader, it ended up being a great place to start her off to make sure that we didn't miss anything.
- Easy to use. A quick glance through the lesson and all the materials on hand and we can quickly jump right into the lesson.
- Comes with just about everything that you need. With the starter pack and Level 1 (and we also received Level 2 which we have just begun to work with) you have everything you need. Letter tiles, magnets, CD, Phonogram cards, sound cards, key cards (with rules to learn along the way), and the spelling word cards. You do also need a magnet board, a file box for the cards, and possibly a dry erase board or chalkboard for spelling practice.
But, the downside . . .
- Yes, this is a little expensive for "just" a spelling curriculum. However, most of the material can easily be used for later children with little or no additional purchase depending on your methods and preferences. And, I really felt like it reached into far more than just spelling. If I did not know how much we would love this product the price would turn me off, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it.
- It does take a little time to set up at first. Cards need to be torn along perforated lines (LOTS of cards), letter tiles need to be cut apart, and magnets affixed to the backs of them. With some extra hands this isn't a huge project, but it does take some prep before the first lesson.
- Others have done it, but I had a hard time working through two students in the same level at the same time. Trying to keep their cards straight did not work well for me. I kept forgetting and putting them back in the wrong divider, or reviewing the wrong set with each child. So, since my younger daughter is just in kindergarten, and my third grader is moving pretty quickly, I am just waiting until she is done with level one at least to begin my younger daughter.
I definitely highly recommend this product.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.Disclaimer: This spelling curriculum was provided to me free of charge from All About Spelling as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
There are only so many hours in a day. So,we obviously make choices. I like the reminder that whenever we choose to do something we simultaneously choose to not do hundreds of other things.
Well, one thing that I don't enjoy is playing certain board games. Now, I still treasure the time with my kids, the conversations peppered in throughout the time spent together, the smiles, the shared memories. But, the actual game. Hmmm.
Not my favorite pastime.
So, I sometimes intentionally lose. I might even stoop to reverse cheating.
"Are you sure it's my turn? Well, you can go ahead and take another one."
"I need to go check on ______ really quick, so go ahead and skip me this round."
"I'll sell you Boardwalk for a dollar."
Now, some games I do enjoy, and other activities with my kids I enjoy more (like reading books outloud, going on nature walks, or enjoying a good meal together). So, we still get lots of quality time together, but when it comes to certain board games, I'd rather rush it along. Plus, when you have multiple kids asking to play multiple games, you need to keep things moving, so I'm willing to take one for, uh, the team.
Intentional losing really has worked for me.
I guess this is also a good reminder, that what works for one person, might just not work for another. We all have our own love languages, preferences, and opinions. So, I'll keep playing those games, but I can't promise that I won't at least occasionally "help" them along.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Ever since a child I have had a heart for missions. In Brownies when we talked about careers, I drew an airplane because I really wanted to be a missionary pilot. It carried me through college, with a major in International Ministries. God brought my husband and myself overseas for a year, and then he turned our hearts to those needing the gospel right around us, and He has since planted us where I never thought I would be -- within 40 miles of my birthplace.
My location has not changed much, and neither has my passion. We rarely go a day without some discussion about missions or a missionary we know. My kids don't have the hunger to go that I had, but they love to see His Word going out, and share a part of it. They raise money for mission projects, pray fervently for overseas pastors and missionaries, look for items to donate to local ministries, and get excited about ways to be a part of the Great Commission, a great command with a great promise.
Matther 28:19,20 says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Familiar words. Sometimes too familiar. Sharing our faith is not an option. It is part of the Christian walk. My first place of ministry is in my home, as I teach my kids, and disciple them in the faith. All that Christ has taught me, I pass along to them in bits and pieces.
Outside the home, I must also share my faith. I try, but don't rest in His strength in this area often enough. The sporadic conversations that make passing reference to prayer or God's help are not quite what He had in mind. The gospel message needs to pass through my lips on a more regular basis.
I also remember being challenged to share with our peers. It is easy for me to share my faith with kids. My kids, kids at church, kids at AWANA, kids at the park. But adults are harder for me. Pride, fear of failure, wanting to sound knowledgeable, not a crutch-reliant religious wimp. I talk easily about how I love homeschooling, why does my God's incredible love for me not slip in so comfortably?
Lord, please give me opportunity to share the gospel and the vision and courage not to let it slip past. Help me to continue to live it out before my kids, that they might grow with a hunger to share Your Word with the world as well. ~Amen
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all
that I commanded you;
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
If I had to summarize "missions" I would probably stray a bit from Wikipedia's definition, "that which is designed to form a viable indigenous church-planting and world changing movement." I look at missions in a broader sense and on a more personal level. Missions requires the willingness to step out of our comfort zone, surrender all to the advancement of the gospel, and engage both individuals and the culture at large by drawing them to a closer, personal relationship with the Triune God.
Missions doesn't just take place overseas. It doesn't have to wait for a certain age or financial circumstance. Missions should have a place in each Christian's life.
With a background in missions, I have an especially tender spot for teaching my children about the topic, both past and present, domestic and international. Here are a few of the things we have done in our home to instill an interest in missions:
Songs -- both contemporary and hymns. Many songs have stirring mission's messages. Not just to stir an emotional response, but to spark conversation, prompt prayers, and bring some self examination. Some of my favorites: Please Don't Send Me to Africa (Just a fun song, but has some serious challenges to our "comfortable" thinking as well); What if I Gave All; Rescuing the Perishing
Missionary/Christian Biographies -- Each day at the close of our Bible time we read at least a few pages from a biography. These have grown my own faith and brought about many sincere discussions from my kids. We have read about George Muller, Amy Carmichael, Nate Saint, various martyrs, Missionary Stories with the Millers, and many others. Next on our list is Through Gates of Splendor.
Get involved financially -- You may have heard the "pray, give, and go" teaching of missions involvement, and kids can easily find ways to participate in the first two. I try to be careful, because I don't want them begging others for money, and I don't want to pay them without reason just so they have some to give. They collect change off sidewalks, tithe any money they do receive, and often get creative in ways of making money. They also more generously look through their belongings when they realize someone less fortunate could really benefit from their parting with an item.
- Their motivation swells when they have a focus of their giving. Child sponsorships, specific missionary needs, local pregnancy centers, ministry projects (like Sonlight's one verse project), etc. With the economy as it is, many missionaries are in a difficult place right now, and struggling through it thousands of miles away from their support network. If you need more ideas for places to give feel free to contact me.
Find local service projects -- we have participated in Feed My Starving Children, perfect for any child aged five and up. This time of year child assistance groups need help buying, wrapping, and distributing presents (Angel Tree is just one of many nation wide programs with this type of ministry).
Carry tracts around -- many websites offer free tracts if you want to give this a try before you put money into it. I like to keep a few in my purse for those "chance" meetings. Even if I don't pull them out as often as I would like, just having them there is a reminder to me what my conversation should be about.
Take the $5 challenge -- Pastors and churches have occasionally done something like this. Give each family member $5 and challenge them to advance the cause of the gospel with it. They cannot just give it away though. They can use it to buy something for a ministry use or ingredients or supplies for some type of project to share the Good News. Even just bake some cookies and bring them to some neighbors with a meaningful Christmas card would work well this time of year. It is amazing what kids can come up with given this type of challenge.
Do a unit study on missions -- if you want a formal teaching time on missions, Christmas seems to me the perfect time for that. The FREE download, Teaching Kids to Have a Heart for the World, includes multiple volumes with 500 pages of information you could use in your homeschool.
PRAY -- the easiest and perhaps the most significant act any individual can participate in for the cause of missions. Don't know where to start? Many mission organizations have prayer tips for missions and missionaries. For some practical help check out Operation Mobilization, Wycliffe , or any other mission's website for concrete ways to pray as well as missionaries and projects around the world if you are not familiar with any personally. Pray for local ministries, international ministries, and for your own family's missions involvement.
Make a journal or notebook -- These can provide visual prayer tools as well as learning records. My kids have prayer cards that our church gave us for all their church plants around the world. They look almost like baseball cards with a picture on the front and stats about the church and pastor on the back. I would love to make more of these with our various missionaries, child sponsorships, and even family members that we want to pray for. Anything that brings this larger than life topic down to child size will do wonderfully.
Instilling an eternal perspective in our children's outlook will carry into adulthood and will accomplish more of lasting value even than much of the academics that we must teach.
Can we really afford not to spend time teaching about missions?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
During various seasons in life we have abundantly obvious reasons to give thanks, and other times we feel void of thankfulness.
Yet, our thankfulness should not change based on our external circumstances. Our thankfulness springs from the goodness of God. And, his goodness and love toward us are everlasting.
When my gratitude flickers it more likely comes from a personal emotion or harbored sin, not because God has changed in His expression of love for us.
This week, I seek to give thanks, because God is good -- all the time.
For His lovingkindness is everlasting
Friday, November 20, 2009
Math drills can get dry and physical activity can always play a greater part in our school day. Put the two together, and you get GyMathtics, the "Fun, educational workout."
Product: Gymathtics DVD by Exploramania
Details: 30 minute exercise DVD that also teaches and reviews math facts and patterns during the workout.
What we loved . . .
- Getting active! Sometimes the school day gets a little sedentary. This video provides a simple way to bring more movement into the day while still assisting another subject - math.
- Kids and adults show you how it's done. Rather than just an adult leading, the DVD also includes two kids that participate in the activities.
- Helps in learning some patterns and skip counting. I could see using this concept to help my kids with skip counting or other pattern type learning they are working to master. We can easily do jumping jacks while counting or hop on one foot while we count or some other physical activity. My boys don't need the encouragement, but this would be a simple way to encourage my girls to be more active.
Some challenges we faced . . .
- The people in the video seem a little inauthentic and put on.
- The music did not inspire my kids to participate. My four and five year old loved it, but the skip counting went too quick for them to keep up with. My 8 year old was on the fence, and my 10 and 12 year olds did not enjoy watching or participating with it.
- While I love the idea behind this video, I feel that it attempted to combine two activities and didn't do a very good job of either one. The target age range for math skills is 2-5 grade, but it seemed more like 1-3 grade to me, maybe even kindergarten. However, at the same time, the counting went too quickly for kids that young to stay with them. And, the video was not enjoyed by most of my kids that were in the target age range.
- The cool down didn't take advantage of that time for more math, but talked about big dreams, healthy living, and being nice. Maybe okay things, but they seemed out of place to me, and I always feel that talking about being "nice" without integrating Scripture is kind of fruitless. That's my personal opinion, though, so take it or leave it.
Overall, I could see a benefit to these DVDs, but I think I appreciate the concept behind them more than the actual product. We will definitely work to incorporate more activity in our school work as the day too easily slips away without it. If your kids like getting active with their videos this may be a great addition to your collection. My kids tend to prefer to sit on the couch and critique them, or encourage their younger siblings to participate.
They did put together a well structured program with a warm up, work out and cool down which could make PE planning very easy, especially during the winter months.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.Disclaimer: This DVD was provided to me free of charge from Exploramania as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We have a simple trick in our house for learning and remembering your "9 X ___"
Many of you may already know this, but if you don't this is a life saver. My kids easily master their times tables up to five, and then yawn through the tens, but six through nine present a bigger challenge.
Here is how we make the nines as easy as pie, too:
Place both hands on the table in front of you. Placing them, rather than holding them up keeps kids from flipping them around and making this more difficult later on.
Whatever number you need to multiply by nine, put that finger down. For example, if you are multiplying by seven put down the seventh finger from the left:
Then, you start on the left counting the fingers that are up by tens, and when you get to the finger you tucked under you switch to counting by ones. I compare this to counting by dimes and pennies if my kids get mixed up. So, 9 times 7 is 63.
When first learning this method it helped to skip count by nines while switching which finger we tuck under. I didn't do this step with my first couple and it took them longer to catch on to the concept. With my third child I started with skip counting along with the fingers and the transition to the nine times tables with her was more seamless, and she is almost done relying on them altogether.
Another handy memory tool that relies on our hands is how many days there are in each month of the year. Using one fist and the pointer of the other hand you say the months of the year while touching the knuckle, then the valley between. So, January (31) gets the first knuckle, February the valley (28-29), March (31) back on a knuckle, April (30) into the valley, and so on.
It works out perfectly that you get to the last knuckle on "July" which sends you back to the first knuckle for "August," both of which have 31 days.
Before learning this trick (sometime in high school . . .) I used to go by the rhyme, "30 days hath September, all the rest I can't remember." Which obviously did me very little good.
Have any other great memory tools using fingers or other tricks that you would like to share?
Looking for more inspiration to make your life easier in a variety of realms? Check out Works for Me Wednesday for lots of great sanity-saving tips.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
By His power, we have everything we need to live, not just ordinary, squeak-by-the-pearly-gates livin'. REALLY living. Godly living. Through Him, of course, not ourselves. Through His power, which we have access to. Through His knowledge, not our finite perspectives.
Too often I sell this life short, but these verses hold great hope, and not just for the life to come. We have the great and precious promises of God.
Here are some that I cling to:
- Greater is He that is in you
- Call unto Me and I will answer thee
- There is no other God like our God
- Wait on the Lord and we will renew our strength
No reason for me to walk this life alone, timidly. I walk in His power, in His confidence, in His promises.
3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
~II Peter 1:3-4~
Friday, November 13, 2009
Our highlight of the week, aside from enjoying our normal days, was a trip to a local farm. It is time to harvest corn here in Illinois, and the farmers are hard at work everywhere.
Our trip included:
- A discussion of products that include corn (everything from paper plates to salad dressing to pop to corn starch to aspirin)
- A demonstration of the various processes of harvesting the corn from the combine harvester to the storage of the product
- A ride in the combine while it harvested corn (my kids loved that, nothing like front row seats to where our food comes from)
- Donuts and cider from our gracious organizer
It was so great to get such a first hand look at how it works and understand how much we rely on corn. The combine was incredible to watch (and ride in!) as it took whole stalks of corn and shredded them, picked the dried ears, and stripped off and saved just the kernels while spewing out all the other plant debris.
It was an amazing day. And, we so appreciated the farmer's disrupting their busy schedule to give us a glimpse of what they do.
Some other items that we learned:
- The corn that is harvested now will partly be used for feed, but it also is used in food for humans. Obviously fresh corn is picked in the summer, but this corn will be used for corn starch, corn meal, corn syrup and many other corn byproducts.
- Farmers spend a lot of money! A bag of corn seed costs $200 to seed just 2 1/2 acres! This farm had 1000 acres, so that right there is a lot of money. They also spend 2 cents for each gallon of water they extract from the corn before storage which amounts to 7000 gallons a day during harvest (20-30 days). I left wondering how they make any money. That doesn't even touch labor, machinery (the combines run over $300,000 easily), gas, etc. That would be a good math project for the day. We also discussed at home the need for them to budget since they have large expenses.
- The moisture content of the corn must be below a certain level for harvest.
- Usually they expect to be done with the harvest by Thanksgiving, but this year due to the rainy October we had, many will be glad if they get it all in by Christmas. Praying for dry days!
Friday evening we dropped the kids off at my in-laws and went to a homeschool support group leaders dinner. I did not know what to expect, but came away greatly encouraged and challenged. The evening provided some fun fellowship with other homeschooling friends, both new and old.
Kevin Swanson brought the challenge for us to keep a clear multi-generational vision for the sake of our children and others' children. Christianity is dwindling in America and we need to disciple our children with intentionality. This is something my husband and I feel very strongly about as well, but I don't think you can hear it often enough and feel pressed again of the need for fervency in this area.
Saturday finally wrapped up our soccer season and we gratefully enjoyed the "warm" weather for these final games. We look forward to having our Saturdays a little more open, at least now and then. :-)
How was your week? I would love to hear, or link up and check out other people's weeks at the Weekly Wrap Up
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Reading lies at the foundation of independent learning. When reading suffers, academic progress becomes a greater challenge. AVKO recognizes this correlation and seeks to eliminate any stumbling block a student might encounter to enable them to read, spell, and write to the best of their ability.
Their website offers help and resources for those of all levels struggling in the areas of reading and writing.
Details: The membership opens up a wide variety of resources on the AVKO website. E-books free for the viewing, informative articles, reading comprehension selections, and instructional videos. See their membership information page for all the details on the benefits of membership.
Price: $25.00 per year (includes 25% discount on all ordered materials as well)
What we liked . . .
- The ebooks that membership provides access to are packed with information. The titles include: The Patterns of English Spelling (All 10 Volumes) with Word Families in Sentence Context; To Teach a Dyslexic; Starting at Square One; The Teaching of Reading & Spelling: a Continuum from Kindergarten through College.; The Reading Teacher's List of Over 5,500 Basic Spelling Words
- Lots of resources to use in conjunction with Sequential Spelling. We don't use this curriculum, but still found the word lists and other activities helpful to enhance our spelling lessons, which in turn enhances our reading lesson.
Challenges we encountered . . .
- I would add a word of caution to those viewing some of their dictation exercises and more "light-hearted" selections (puns, quotes, humor, etc.) Some of these are not suitable for all ages. You might get a little chuckle over them, but I would not use jokes or puns referencing drinking when working with my elementary aged children, or in most academic settings regardless of age.
- Some of the material was not completely beneficial for us since we do not use Sequential Spelling, although it looks like a fantastic program from the samples and information online.
While I would most likely not purchase the AVKO membership, it might be of greater value to those families that need some more help, support, information, and resources for their special needs learners. It is definitely a good value for all that you receive, it simply does not meet a need in our household.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.Disclaimer: This membership was provided to me free of charge from AVKO Educational Research Foundation as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Well I have to say that I was a bit surprised today, and pleasantly so.
While perusing a list of blogs nominated for the homeschool blog awards, I came across little ol' me!
To those of you that nominated me, thank you very much. It really encouraged me.
I know I'm up against 29 other fantastic blogs in the Cyber-buddy category, and just finding my name on the nomination list was appreciated. So, thank you, thank you.
But, now the voting begins. Everyone is eligible to vote now for their favorites in the 25 categories.
Voting will wrap up on November 21, and in the meantime take your time to find some new blogs and vote for your favorites. See the Homeschool Blog Awards for all the details.