The “Not” Back-to-School Blog Hop {Curriculum Week}

"Not" Back to School Blog Hop at iHomeschool Network

It’s here!  The crazy weekly blog hop that will make us all feel wonderfully inspired and a teeny bit inadequate all at the same time!  Woohoo!

Hey, just keepin’ it real folks…

But seriously, as we all are getting started with our schooling, wading gently into the water after a low-key summer, the iHomeschool Network blog hop is the place to be.  Let’s get motivated!

Homeschool Planning 2012-2013

Speaking of motivated, have I mentioned lately that I’m up to my ears in planning?  Well, actually now it’s only up to my belly button, so I’m making progress.  Last week the living room looked like this:

Homeschool Planning

And now my supplies and materials are organized into nice neat piles on the floor instead and it looks like this:

Homeschool Planning

Progress, people!  That’s what I’m talking about!  (Don’t you dare say you don’t see a difference!)

So for those of you who don’t know much about me, here’s the scoop in a nutshell: I have four children whom I’ve been homeschooling for seven years (this year will be my eighth).  My oldest son is 12 and will be in 7th grade; my only daughter is 9 and will be in 4th grade; my two younger boys are 6 and 5 and will be in 1st and K respectively, though they are learning almost as if they were twins.  My youngest won’t be left behind.  He’s very stubborn and precocious.

We started out GRE test prep in Denver, CO, but have moved into more of an eclectic homeschool, mostly due to the fact that I want to give the best, individualized education to each child, and each of my children is unique.  So we now base our structure loosely on the Well-Trained Mind skeleton and resources, but add a lot of Charlotte Mason methods, and whatever else I feel will work in our home.

This year is the first time I will be intentionally including the younger two in the bulk of our subjects.  For things like history, science, geography, and art, we will all learn together, get further into the adventure of notebooking (all together- fabulous!) and then my older two will have some independent work to take away as well.

7th grade curricula and resources

  • Teaching Textbooks Algebra I – We moved into TT last year for Pre-Algebra on the recommendation of our assessor (in Ohio we have to get yearly portfolio assessments if we choose not to do standardized tests) and we like it very much.  Before TT we used Saxon for Colin and it worked very well, but TT can be done independently which helps with Mom-time management.
  • Rod and Staff Grammar 7 – We’ve been using R & S since 4th grade and are very happy with the thoroughness and rigor of the program.  I’m a grammar nerd and get all giddy about diagramming, word roots, and stuff like that.
  • Thames and Cosmos Chem C2000 Chemistry Set and Mastering the Periodic Table – Our chemistry this year is going to be out of my comfort zone.  There will be a lot of experiments, some of which will include the younger ones, and I have a lot of peripheral resources.  (We’ve never used textbooks, and I hope to avoid them until highschool.)  Unlike history, which is chronological, all of our resources choose to go through the periodic table differently.  I’ll keep you posted on how things work out, but since I’m a non-science mom, this is the subject I’m least excited about.
  • History – We have always used the Well-Trained Mind resource suggestions and this is our second time going through the Story of the World series.  We are studying the Middle Ages this year (with activity book) and Colin will supplement with outlining and timeline work through the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and other living books webpage.  One exciting new-to-us resource is Heritage History** CD sets of public domain books.  We have the Christian Europe and Spanish Empire libraries as well as the British Middle Ages curriculum (which includes supplemental resources in addition to the books) and there are great books for family read-alouds and independent reading for Colin.  We will be primarily using notebooking as a way to document all we are learning.  Notebooking Pages has a wonderful set of Middle Ages resources, including basic pages, and specific pages for people and events of the time.
  • Rosetta Stone German 3 – Colin is probably halfway finished with this program and we’re considering finding him an online highschool German course when he completes it.  Rosetta Stone has been great for our children’s pronunciation, understanding and vocabulary, but the grammar is all by immersion so there are no rules taught.  I’m looking forward to getting him the nuts and bolts to round out his German skills.
  • US Geography – We will be notebooking through the 50 states as a family.  This is something the kids enjoy immensely, and we try to take trips, watch documentaries, and cook fun cuisine from some of the states as well.  This year we’re planning a weekend trip to Tennessee.  (You can get a free sample of a state notebooking page set here!)
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing Student Intensive – We haven’t focused a lot on writing in the past in terms of curriculum simply because I didn’t think it was all that necessary yet.  I think good writing is incredibly important, don’t get me wrong; I just think that the way it is taught is counter-productive.  I think kids who read great literature, and a lot of it, will have a natural bent toward writing as they get older.  So now that Colin is in middle school we are focusing a bit more on it so we can build skills for high school.

4th grade curricula and resources

  • Math on the Level – Our sweet Maddy is not a math person.  We have tried a handful of different math curricula over the years and all have frustrated her until I finally stepped outside of the textbook box.  It was a scary transition, but looking back I see a lot of progress and a lot less angst.  Math on the Level is a non-traditional program that includes all concepts required to learn from PreK to Pre-Algebra organized in books that give tips and tricks for teaching each of the concepts.  It is teacher intensive and requires a lot of assessment on my part, but it has been worth it.  The company also has a very active yahoo email group that supports each other and answers questions.
  • Rod and Staff Grammar 4
  • Sequential Spelling – We took off of formal spelling last year.  I have never liked the traditional spelling curricula with the words per week that you have to write and rewrite until you memorize them.  I trust my children’s reading to give them good skills in spelling, and for the most part it has.  I am going to lightly work through Sequential Spelling lessons with Maddy just to add to her knowledge of spelling patterns.  SS is a program not based around levels of words for each grade, but instead on patterns and was originally created for dyslexic children.  One word list, for example, includes the words: all, stall, install, recall, and installment.
  • HistoryStory of the World, Volume 2 (Middle Ages), beginner level ebooks from Heritage History**, and notebooking.
  • Chemistry for the Grammar Stage – This classical-based curriculum was affordable, lays out all readings and includes all worksheets and notebooking pages.  Again, I’m a bit uncomfortable with the way our different chemistry resources each choose to go through the material differently, but it will simply take a bit more intentionality in my planning to make it work.
  • Rosetta Stone German 1 & 2 – Maddy’s just about done with German 1 and will be moving up this fall.  She sounds so cute speaking German!
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing Student Intensive – We’re doing the middle school level; I’m including her along with my oldest because Maddy loves to write and she can handle the activities.
  • US Geography – Notebooking all the way!  Here’s a free North American bird example for you to try out from Notebooking Pages.

1st grade curricula and resources

Kindergarten curricula and resources

Together we will cover art, music, health, nutrition, and life skills. That can mean Dentist Near Me are priced using a sliding scale, so lower income patients pay less for the dental services they receive.

My husband and I are classical musicians so our home is filled with the music of Bach and Mozart and Stravinsky and we “talk shop” often.  I also am an art junkie, and love to test myself and the kids on their knowledge of famous styles and techniques of the great master artists.  These kinds of things just happen in our home and I’ve learned that it is enough, that I don’t need to make sure I get a composer study in each week.  It’s just another way to embrace the actual reality of our life and not get overwhelmed with expectations that are inappropriate for our family or too high.

 

Whew!!  So there you have it.  Our plan for the year!  Link up with the “Not” Back-to-School Hop with your own curriculum plans!

**To get a free Spanish Empire CD library, purchase any other library or curriculum at Heritage History and enter code CHRISglo at checkout!  You must add the Spanish Empire CD as well and the amount will come off when you add the code.**

This post contains affiliate links.  See my Disclosure page for details.

1000 Yard Solar System Model

1000 Yard Solar System

This spring and summer we’ve been studying astronomy.  We visited our local observatory to see the stars (and Saturn for the first time through a telescope!), read about all of the planets and the sun, and have done notebooking pages about what we’ve learned.

This past week I came across a great activity I hoped would help my kids understand just how vast the solar system is, in a way that even my younger ones could appreciate.   So on a beautiful, sunny and breezy day, we trekked out to a local park with some materials in hand.

The 1000 Yard Solar System

This activity uses a scaled down solar system, based around a sun that is 8 inches in diameter.  I bought a bouncy ball at Walmart and gathered other items that would approximate the sizes of the planets in comparison.

Kids holding planets

We used peppercorns for Earth and Venus, a less-than-one-inch stone for Jupiter and an even smaller one for Saturn, two beads for Neptune and Uranus, and three sesame seeds for Mercury, Mars and Pluto, knowing full well that the sesame seeds were actually way too big.  I simply needed something they could actually carry and sesame seeds were the smallest things we had!

I gave each child two or three planets and coached (especially the younger ones) to be very careful not to drop them!

Peppercorn earth

We then proceeded to place the sun in the grass at the far end of the field and talk about how big each of our steps would be.  One giant step (a yard) in this model would be 3,600,000 miles!  We talked about how big the earth is to us, and how long it takes to drive the 500 miles to see Nanny and Gramps in New Jersey; we talked about light years and how long it takes the sun’s light to reach us (8 minutes) in comparison to how long it takes the light of the nearest star to reach us (Alpha Centauri- 4.3 years).  When they were fully impressed by the sheer numbers, we began walking out the distances to the planets.

Walking to Mercury

It was ten yards to get to Mercury.  Ten groups of 3,600,000 miles!!  So my oldest dropped Mercury where it belonged.

Mercury as sesame seed

We continued on, taking the necessary steps, placing the inner planets in their respective places.  My oldest, in charge of the tiniest planets, dropped the sesame-seed Mars.  While it was in the air, the breeze took it a foot out of orbit.  We laughed about how one foot was actually 1,200,000 miles!  I told him he messed up the whole solar system.  He was crushed.

When it came time to march to Jupiter, the kids started giggling.  It was 95 yards away!  So we began the steps and somewhere along the way my youngest lost Uranus in the asteroid belt.  Alas, never trust a five-year-old with such an important planet.  So far we’d thrown off the whole solar system, and maybe the Milky Way, before we even reached the outer planets.

By the time we got to this point, we could barely see the sun.  The bright orange ball was waaaay in the distance and would soon be unrecognizable.  Can you see it out by the tree?

Solar System model- sun from asteroid belt

We continued on our way, out to Saturn (112 yards) and then out to where Uranus would be if Zachary hadn’t dropped it (249 yards).  But we couldn’t even make it that far.  We ran into a forest (and I am prone to bad poison ivy) and had to stop.

By this point, the kids were tired of walking and had gained a great appreciation for the vastness of space and how small our little place in it really is.  God is amazing!

So the little ones wanted to run back to the sun, and eventually they all collapsed of exhaustion around the bright orange ball.

1000 yard solar system finish

This was a fantastic activity!  We loved getting out into a wide-open space and trying to fathom together how big our solar system really is.

What fun activities have you done lately?

This post contains an affiliate link for a product I love!

Homeschool Highlights- a change is coming…

We’ve officially reached the start of our seventh year of homeschooling.  Four children: 6th grade, 3rd, and two Kindergarteners, as my youngest will not be left behind by his just-a-bit-older brother.
I’ve learned a lot these last six years.  It’s really a cliche, but they all learn differently.  And when it comes to numbers, in our house anyway, we have three that just “get it” and one that doesn’t.
Our little girl is wired in an artistic, verbal way, and while she can learn math concepts, it is not organic for her.  As her younger brothers fast approach her knowledge, and surpass her with innate skill, she learns her own way, in her own sweet time, the way that numbers function and connect.  
For a while this was a great source of frustration for me as a mom.  I have an easy time with numbers.  I was always good at math, and learned concepts with ease.  My oldest learns as I learn, and so I didn’t appreciate what a gift that really was until it was Maddy’s turn.  Why didn’t she get it?  Why couldn’t she count by twos or threes, or memorize her facts, or even remember her birthdate, well into second grade?
Needless to say, Saxon, which worked great for my oldest, would have been a disaster for Maddy.  I tried a year of Singapore in first grade, because the workbooks were colorful, but by the end of the year, I wasn’t satisfied with her progress.  She fought math, and I can’t say I was the most patient thing either.  We repeated first grade math, but this time with Horizon.  She completed the curriculum early and things began to click.  
But I still wasn’t convinced.  I think it was all her maturity, not the curriculum.
So I’ve done something radical and outside the box.
This math-lover has changed to a non-traditional math program.  A living math program called Math on the Level with no workbooks and no textbooks, and I’m a bit freaked out about it.
Because, you see, I work very well with textbooks.  I’m a traditional learner, thank you very much.  And it would have been nice to have all my children learn as I do.

The humor of this is not lost on me, I assure you.
So we have begun this journey.  Our math will be concept and activity based.  We’ll play store, we’ll measure things around the house, we’ll play math games, and cut cookies for fractions.  Math on the Level has books of ideas and suggestion for how to teach concepts, and a comprehensive list of the concepts that need to be understood from K through 8th (up to pre-algebra).  It also has a wonderful and active support group online.  I am excited about the change, as I think Maddy will thrive.  It is outside my comfort zone, but, really…  
It’s not about me, now is it? 

And so, as I purchased this set, I thought, “Great!  This one program has no consumable resources, so I can spend all this money and have my younger three benefit for 6 years!  No more math curriculum for us!”

But what did the younger two boys say?  The ones who learn like their older brother?  The ones who worked through most of Horizons K last year?

“When can we get our new math workbooks, Mommy?  We love math workbooks!”

I can’t make this stuff up.

Homeschool Planning (or "Everyone Must Do it Better Than Me")

Every year it’s been the same.

I assume the way others do things is better.

Even if my way worked the previous year.  Even if I found success in something.  Even though I’m coming up to year seven of my homeschool journey and people often come to me (as the veteran) for advice and encouragement.

I’m still always looking for the next “best” thing.  So I bought this.

And it’s really pretty, and it has awesome quotes, and it includes all of the things that a busy homeschool mom could possibly need, like blank shopping lists and book lists, report cards to fill in at the end, and enough schedule pages for all of my kids.  And everyone who uses it loves it.

But I just can’t bring myself to use it.  I tried.  But I like my way better.

I said it.  I like MY way better.

And I think from now on, I will choose to recognize that there’s a reason friends come to me to find out my way of doing things.  That there is success there, and value in what we are doing and how we accomplish our homeschool goals.  That while my way may need tweaking occasionally, I have finally arrived and no longer need to look to others for the next best thing.

For me, simple spiral bound notebooks, without dates and calendars, without templates and formulas, have become my tools of choice.

I get the 8.5×11 sized notebooks when they are $0.15 a piece at the local office store.  I stock up, so this year I actually have a dozen left from a previous year.  I also get the 5×7 or 4×6 size for the kids’ assignment books.

My planning has multiple parts.  Here, in a nutshell, is the way it works for me:

  • Assessing:  I mentally go through all of the previous year.  I figure out what worked (dictation, Rod and Staff Grammar) and what didn’t (traditional spelling curriculum, Maddy’s math curriculum) and start brainstorming how to improve for the following year.
  • Collecting:  I begin making my purchases early at the local homeschool convention which is usually at the end of March.  I’ve learned to budget and make a list before I go, so that I don’t go hog-wild with everything that “looks” good.  I usually compare any curricula I’m deciding between and spend a good amount of money building up our home library at the used book sales.  Other than that, I allow a little for discretionary spending on things that really interest me.  When I get home, I order online anything else I need to get the best prices, so I make sure to use the coupons from couponcause.com if I’m able to.
  • Big Picture:  At this point we’re just about done with our school year.  I spread all of my books and curricula out on the floor and just take it all in.  Ahhhh, the beauty of it!  I skim through my yearly reads (The Well-Trained Mind, A Charlotte Mason Companion, Educating the Whole-Hearted Child) and jot down notes from each.  I begin to make rough plans for our family subjects (science, history, geography, art, music, Bible/character), bookmark websites, look through magazines, get ideas for books we might need from the library, and just try to formulate an overall course for the year.  
  • Detailing:  In the summer, once I’ve figured out the big picture, I take out my what-I’ve-come-to-see-as-my-trusty spiral notebook and assign one page per week, putting the date at the top.  Then I neatly write (I hate when I make mistakes in my notebooks or journals…anyone else have this problem?) the subjects down the side of the page and flesh out my plan for each one.  I’ll include books to read, chapters in the history book, science experiments, math games to play, recipes to make, art projects and where to find them, etc.  What I don’t include are exact lesson numbers.  I find that if I put lesson numbers in we all just get frustrated if we get behind.  So we just aim for 3-4 lessons per week of math and grammar and go with the flow. We have to have constant breaks because we´re at home most of the time, so I´m glad I went to the Bread Machine Store so we can have mini sandwiches as snacks.  
  • Weekly Assignment Books:  For the kids, I weekly fill in their assignments in their small notebooks.  They have little boxes or circles to check off when they’ve completed something, or they simply cross it off.  This year I plan to have a Monday meeting with Colin, my oldest, and have him write out his own assignment sheet for the week instead.  He is more responsible for budgeting his time, and if he doesn’t finish, he ends up with weekend homework.  And who wants that??
This is what works for me.  Last year was my best year for planning and organization, so why I ever thought I had to do something different is beyond me.  Hopefully this is helpful to someone, maybe just because you were needing confirmation that your way is the right one for you!

I’m linking up with Three Thinking Mothers for their planning week.  Go check them out!

Homeschool Highlights: "Add It" Writing Game

“Add It” writing game

I love finding or creating educational games that let me teach my kiddos painlessly.   Especially for my daughter, games connect her with the concept and help keep her attention. 
 I love the books by Peggy Kaye: 
And I have begun to make up my own games when I need something to bring fun into our lesson while focusing on a specific area of our schooling.
The game “Add It” is so simple and only takes 10 minutes. 
 Start out with a skeleton of a sentence, something basic like this:
The boy kicked the ball.

Then you and your children take turns adding one or two words to the sentence.  
The only two rules of the games are:
~After each turn, the sentence must still be complete.
~No more than 3 describing words (adjectives or adverbs) can be used consecutively.
So the game might look like this:
The small boy kicked the ball.

The small, red-haired boy kicked the ball.

Suddenly, the small, red-haired boy kicked the ball.

Suddenly, the small, red-haired boy kicked the ball to me.

Suddenly, the small, red-haired boy kicked the ball to me in anger.


You get the picture.  This gives you a great opportunity to discuss the difference between adjectives and adverbs, and to identify the types of adjectives and adverbs and their functions in the sentence.
And often, with kids, the sentences take a humorous (and let’s face it, sometimes gross) turn.
What are some writing games you like to play?
*(Oops!  Edited to add the links above)

Homeschool Highlights- Human Body Map

This year we are studying biology in our rotation of the sciences based on the Well-Trained Mind framework.  We spent the fall studying the human body, covering most of the body systems, studying one roughly each week or two and doing little projects, reports and sketches along the way.  Even my 3-and 4-year-olds got into the action and loved doing the experiments from our science resources.
By the new year we were ready to move on to the animal kingdom, but for a wrap up we did a body map project to tie together all we had learned.  
Each of the kids lay down on a roll of wide drawing paper that I got last year and I traced their bodies.  We cut them out…

…and taped them to the wall.  The kids then drew the different organs, colored them in, cut them out and taped them to their bodies.  We tried to pay attention to location, which were in front and which were in back (to overlap properly), and size.  But, let’s just say that we had some pretty big bladders and intestines going on!

They drew in faces and added hair and glasses and frowning eyebrows (Zachary was in a bad mood the one day), and labeled with their names, in case we couldn’t tell who was who.
Maddy was all about decorating herself!

Elliot, my master artist, colored vibrantly and spent a long time making sure the 
shading was even on his kidneys…

Zachary (3) got bored, so he doesn’t have any lungs…

This was a great way to bring closure to our unit on the human body.  And I’m all about closure!  
Can’t have any loose ends!
So how do you do science?  What do you use and what have been your highlights this year?

Homeschool Highlights- Planning and Conventions

This weekend I’ll be traveling (alone!) to our regional homeschool convention.  While it feels early to me, it is already time to begin my planning for next year.  In reality, I am always mentally planning for next year, assessing where we are right now and where I want us to be in the future.  As I finish up our 6th (!!) year homeschooling, I finally feel as if I have enough experience under my belt to trust my instincts and my kids’ innate ability to learn with me as their guide.  
I’ve also come to actively trust that God is with us and has an end in mind for each of my children that He will bring to fruition.  The perfectionist in me always found that kind of trusting-with-my-actions difficult, even if I knew in my heart and head that the plans the Lord had for my children weren’t fully dependent on me.  So I overplanned.  Some would argue that I still overplan, but I’ve come a long way from the rigid homeschool mom that I once was!
So convention time is an exciting one for me.  I have a budget, know roughly what we will need for the coming year, and for the first time I see that we are reusing actual curriculum with younger kids, so I will have less curriculum to buy and more overlap in what we already have.  My planning process has many levels and I spread it out over about 5 months from start to finish.
  • Around February, when we turn the corner to the second half of the year and I can breathe easier because I realize the kids have actually learned something, I bring out Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year and The Well-Trained Mind.  I look through the first book to make sure there are no glaring holes in our learning for the year, and to get basic ideas of where we’re headed, and flip through the latter to see what’s coming up next year and to get more motivated to flesh out what is usually by this time of year a watered-down version of our beginning-of-the-year schedule.
  • In March I assess where we are in our curriculum.  Often we are about done with our math curriculum since we never take more than a couple of weeks off at a time, even in summer.  This guarantees the kids will not forget everything and that we can skip the first third of the new year’s math lessons, which are all review.
  • March is also the time I go through our home library and purge and donate what we don’t read anymore, and figure out what I’d like to prioritize to purchase for the coming year.  A good amount of our homeschool budget is spent on books- we have thousands and thousands of them in dozens of categories.  A happy home overflows with good quality books!
  • By the end of March I’ve begun planning what we’ll need to work on for the following year.  I decide what material I really want to get my hands on, or research further, at the convention.  For example, my oldest will be studying pre-algebra and has up till this point always used Saxon.  On a recommendation from our assessor, I am going to check out Teaching Texbooks for the first time.
  • Before the convention I print off the sessions list and highlight any that interest me.  There are always multiple sessions each hour, but since they sell CDs of all of them, I end up coming home with dozens of audios of sessions I missed.  
  • In the vendor hall, I spend time wandering the aisles and jotting down a list of booths I want to return to.  I have a budget to spend at the convention, but often I will come home and check for the best price online.  This year I have an iPhone for the first time so I’ll actually be able to check on site!  Then I will be able to take advantage of free shipping at the booths when I know it’s a good price.
  • Once I’m home, after talking my husband’s ear off, I’ll go through my purchases and my notes and begin fleshing out plans for the coming year.  During the summer I take a weekend retreat to make detailed plans for the fall (through the beginning of December) and another retreat in December when my husband has time off.  Planning includes a lot of prayer about each child as I try to lead them to be the person God created them to be.
My ten year old son just said to me the other day, “You like planning, don’t you…”.  He’s completely right.  I love being the architect of our homeschool, and I get so much joy from knowing I have done all I can to ensure a wonderful experience at home for my children.  And yes, I do like the control as well. 
I’m working on that…
So how do you plan?  Do you attend your local homeschool conventions?

Homeschool Highlights- Montessori Monday

It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted what’s been going on in our schoolroom because…well…nothing’s been going on!  We went to Disney World for a week and took another week off of preschool after that to regroup.  But this week we got back on track and had some fun work out for the boys.  
I found the idea for a fraction game (can’t remember where!  If you know, leave it in the comments please!) with my Montessori fraction insets.  I made a die with the fractions 1/8, 1/4, and 1/2 on it and gave each child an empty frame.  The had to roll and fill their circle with what that fraction piece was.  Whoever filled their circle first won.  It was challenging with all four kids (the older ones wanted to join us) and would be better with only two people.

Zachary, my youngest, loves these knobless cylinders.  I purchased these extensions for him to use working with all four colors of cylinders.  I also purchased the other set that combines more than one color per page.  He had a lot of fun doing these this week.

Practical works this week included rice spooning with a funnel.  We have horrible light for pictures in our basement and I hate using a flash, but sometimes it’s necessary.  What you can’t see is this little metal scoop that he’s using for transfer the rice.  Unfortunately it’s not available anymore on the website.
I also put out a simple spooning beads activity.  The beads make such a pleasing soft “plink” sound when they hit the little lotus dishes.
Elliot loved this weaving activity.  I cut up spring ribbon and he threaded it through a 
bathroom rack I found at Target.

We have these play dough letter stampers from Lakeshore Learning.  I gave him a printout with pictures of CVC words to sound out and stamp.  Elliot liked this but thought it was too easy.
I made a sound activity with easter eggs.  The fillings included beans, buttons, pennies, rice, oatmeal, peppercorns, and chocolate chips.  Some were challenging to figure out even for me once I had made them!

I’m linking up to Preschool Corner and Montessori Monday.

Homeschool Highlights- Mudluscious spring!


Yesterday, a muddy-rainy second day of spring, the kids and I went to the park for a little creeking, collecting and studying.  Our main goal was arthropods- finding, discussing and bringing home to identify.

We talked about finding bugs, spiders, shrimpy things- whatever.  I had the jars and the bags.  Elliot was more excited to look for rocks, Colin was concerned about thornbushes, Maddy just likes getting wet.

And Zachary?  Well he turned out to be our little explorer.  I fought my mommy-desire to protect my youngest (he is almost four, for goodness’ sake) and let him take the lead.  He didn’t care in the least about thorns, or falling in.  He was on an adventure!

We found holes that things must live in- “I wonder what lives there, Mommy?”, fresh raccoon tracks, flat shale rocks all along the creek bed (one shaped just like Ohio!), buds peeking out everywhere, and enough walking sticks to furnish an entire Everest expedition.  We collected a bug from the back of my sweatshirt, little pill-bug type shrimpy-things (no I’m not a scientist and we have yet to figure out what they are), acorn and seed pods.

Luckily, we saw no poison ivy.  I don’t do well with poison ivy.  But I’ll sacrifice in the name of science.

We missed this.  It’s been too long since we explored together, wondered together.  I love seeing the questions on little faces, the expressions of surprise and excitement at a discovery, the sharing and the guiding, the memory-making.

Welcome spring!  

Homeschool Highlights- Toss-the-Ball Math

We love to shake things up a bit.  
We love to play games to learn things.  Because, really, who loves to memorize facts.  
I adjusted this game idea from the Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas.  Since our Spelling Baseball (I’ll tell you about that in an upcoming post) game is so popular with all four of my children, ages 10 down to 3, I thought they’d all love this too.
You know those big bouncy balls in cages mid-aisle at Wal-mart?  I bought one of those.  I used a thick sharpie permanent marker and wrote numbers from 0-20 all over the ball, about 4 inches apart or so.  To play I sit on the couch (really, this is my favorite part.  My body thanks me for thinking of this.) and have the kids spread out in the living room.  In turn I toss the ball to them and when they catch it I ask them which 2 numbers are nearest to both thumbs.
Then I make up an equation for them to solve, related to their ability.
For my preschoolers, I use subtraction and addition and use a dry-erase board to draw circles for them to count or take away.  The eventual goal is to have them all do mental math, but hey, they’re 5 and 3, so I make an exception.
For my math-struggler, my 8 yo daughter, I also use addition or subtraction, sometimes word problems, and try not to use the dry erase board if I can help it.  We talk about place value and try to figure in our heads how many tens and ones there are and how to manipulate the equation.
My 10 year old gets the hard problems.  I do division, multiplication, square roots, exponents, negative numbers and even sometimes ask him for the numbers by his thumbs and his index fingers.  
Fun times, y’all.
I give points for right answers, but they don’t really mean anything.  The kids just like to get points.  
And I get to sit down.  Just in case you were unsure of what I get out of this game.