Monday, February 28, 2011

Fun with Math & Books

My kids really enjoy reading math books that have challenges in them. When I find them, I just set them out and at some point they will be discovered. This one is called, Go Figure! (A totally cool book about numbers) by DK Publishing.

 I always leave a book I want my kids to find in conspicuous places like our living room coffee table- somehow they always gets noticed and poured through afterward!

With topics such as:
• Where do NUMBERS come from? A look at numbers in different cultures
• MAGIC Numbers- cool number tricks and special numbers like Pi, nature's numbers, and Pascal's Triangle
• SHAPING Up- a fun look at shapes in the world
• The World of MATH- probability, fractals, chaos theory, and the art of math
My kids had a great time looking through and learning about some fun concepts in math. I feel a math journal page or two coming on! I think one is due on Prime Numbers and how they are special and what they are used for. Do you know? Prime numbers are used in encrypting because the really large ones are so unbreakable in codes.

Some other fun math books we've enjoyed include, Cool Math, The Math Book for Girls (and other beings who can count), and Real World Math for Hands On Fun. We have others, but we haven't gotten a chance to use them yet.

This is a fun way to add to your math journal! I checked on my math journal link above to see what is up with the missing pages and have fixed it. If you've visited my math journal link before and thought it wasn't much, please visit again! You will find more examples of our math journaling now. We will definitely be scheduling in a math notebooking day this week. My 8yr old will doing a page on equivalent fractions. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More Game Storage

I recently rearranged the stop of the boys' closet so we can fit more games up there. Some of you might remember that I got rid of 18 other game boxes last summer. We also have games in our coat closet in the hallway- on a bookcase I have in there. But after Christmas, somehow we needed more storage. We are huge gaming family... ahem.

Ok and there are the games that Dan and I had when we were young (like Monopoly, Othello, Clue) and some games from our young and married days.

Oh...and the games on the shelf in our school room that are NOT part of the 18 in that storage system linked above.

Dan would say we have too many games. I don't agree. For example, there are some really great add-ons for Dominion that look appealing!

I will concede that since J5 will play Ticket to Ride, Stratego, and other more difficult games, we might be able to part with those really young games at this point. Gasp.

Does your family enjoy games? Sometimes on a really cold day or a really rainy day, we put the names of a bunch of games in a hat and spend the day drawing choices and playing that game together. Order pizza or Chinese and have a great family game day! Any day!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tracking in the Snow

I had been thinking it would be fun to take a walk in the snow at the Lab of Ornithology when I8 suggested the same thing! So, we trekked out one day to try it and boy was it busy. We passed quite a few hikers or actually, they passed us and there were some well worn cross country ski marks.

 E12 made these tracking books for the younger boys for Christmas. He spent a lot of time on it and it turned out really well. Did you know beetles and grasshoppers leave tracks?

 A bunny trail- on a frozen creek as we crossed a bridge starting out

 still bunny

 a winter afternoon

 deer tracks

 bunny track close up

 I8...ready for tracking. The Childhood of Famous Americans book on Daniel Boone is his absolute favorite- he loves those adventuring sorts of stories.

 a beech tree with an issue- fungus I think

 These were under a bridge- I'm thinking raccoon although we aren't sure. You can compare them with the book up there! Under the decking is water so this animal was probably taking a sip.

Next time we go, we won't do any other errands with the walk. Sometimes that means there is collectively too much grump for a nice walk. I'll have to resist the urge to combine the trip! It is snowing like crazy today, but we hope to go again sometime.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tea Time

R10 recently welcomed a new American Girl doll into her doll family. She'd been saving for a doll since her last birthday in June. She was all set to get Ruthie when she realized Elizabeth was still available!

 Felicity was delighted to see Elizabeth for tea!
Elizabeth makes the 8th doll in her historical doll collection...five of which she has purchased herself. I, for one, am impressed with her saving power. Welcome Elizabeth!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We've been having the kids, and particularly E12, read classic literature this year. Up until now, the kids have read various titles based on interest alone, but this year we upped the ante on our 7th grader and he's had to read them even if the didn't find them exciting. Enter the novels of Jules Verne.

The first one E12 read was Journey to the Center of the Earth. Oh my goodness. You'd have thought we'd asked him to read the most awful thing in the known universe! He did a lot of reading and thinking on this book. We tried to incorporate some thought provoking questions or at least let him research a bit more on some topics at his request. I had found a nice set of questions which I have now misplaced the link to! I'll come back and add it when I find it. If I find it! He'd read 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, but he read this one again and enjoyed it. I8 has read the full version of Leagues too and thoroughly enjoys it each time.

For Christmas he received a new game- Around the World in 80 Days by Rio Grande Games. This game maker produces a lot of games we enjoy, so we hope this one will be enjoyable. However, I wouldn't let him play it until he'd read the story. A few years ago I started to write a unit for this book, but with opium dens, sacrificing women on funeral pyres, riding a train which runs over Native Americans, and the entire journey being the result of a bet...well we decided to put it on hold for a bit!

The motivation worked. E12 read the book and guess what. He actually found a Jules Verne book he enjoys and he admitted the first one he'd read wasn't so bad! Around the World in 80 Days came so highly recommended that R10 read it in short order as well.

 Looks like a fun game play- we plan to try it out this week.

In addition to these classics, E12 has been participating in a Book Club for 7-9th graders this year. They gather having read the book and they watch the movie based on the book- usually the classic movie version. So far this year they've read Treasure Island, A Christmas Carol, and The Hobbit. Next on the list is To Kill a Mockingbird- this one is a bit mature, but we may go for it.

E12 isn't the only one reading classics...R10 just finished plowing through The Wind in the Willows. I8 has read a few as well, but it's hard for me to keep up these days!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Coon Skin Cap

You might remember that I8 had been doing a unit on Cowboy Charlie this past fall. He loves all things pioneer and Old West! I was commissioned to help him make a coon skin cap which I undertook using instructions from the Homeschool in the Woods unit on the Early 19th Century.

He chose some "fur" that didn't look like a coon at all and I started the task. Then Christmas happened and you know we got him the Frontier Craft Kit and of course it had a coon skin cap! Not only that, but you could buy just coon tails. So, we got one for J5- just the tail. When it showed up in his stocking he had one thing to say, "Santa went coon huntin'!" That one still makes me laugh!

 Great set of directions, but I didn't need to do the tail directions after buying them from the Corps of Rediscovery.

 The finished product- is that a crazy nice hat or what?
 Just getting started...

He loves this cap! Here he is wearing it when we took our tracking walk. Wait till you see all the tracks we were able to see. I8 has finished his fringed coin bag and the tomahawk. He started the possibles bag, but we need a little modern intervention to kick start that one again. I still need to finish putting together J5's cap, but I8 has been enjoying his for a few weeks now. Imagine sitting in a meeting and sewing a coon cap for your boy. Yeah...

Oh and the tail is real!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

4-H Demonstration: Making a Drawstring Bag

R10 spent some time recently preparing for her 4-H Public Presentation which was on Making a Drawstring Bag. All of our kids participated in this event right on down to J5. They really enjoy this part of 4-H! All of them did demonstrations this year. R10 worked on this sewing demonstration.

 She prepared her poster- this is the second side. I like her creative display.

 Here she is practicing for me in her room- which leaves her facing the opposite direction than where she'll normally be oriented.

 She attached several styles of bags not just the one she made. The green one is her finished product which she gave to the judge.

 As she was practicing for her demo, she learned something new about her machine. If you hit the switch then the needle will stay down to make the turn without using the handwheel. So lovely!

All of the kids worked hard on their presentations and posters. Each of them prepared an outline and made sure they knew what they were doing each step of the way. R10 earned a blue and gold sticker for her demo on February 10th. She gets to move up to the county level and do the demo again in a few weeks. This is her third year doing public presentations and each year she's gone to county. She's hoping to make it to district this year. Good luck R10!

For those of you who are new to Blog, She Wrote, R10 has a sewing blog at Miss Bliss. Feel free to hop on over and check out her stuff. It's a fairly new blog that we work on together. Sewing is a main portion of her curriculum. I can teach a lot of basic skills through her sewing and she loves it!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Little Ninos Pizzeria- Making Pizza!

I8 and J5 finished up a unit on Little Nino's pizzeria which involved making pizza. Of course. I8 loves to help in the kitchen and this was no exception. He and I worked alone on this for the most part. We used a pizza acitivty kit to get us started and did a little experiment with our yeast. Unfortunately, the yeast were not super vibrant and the experiment flopped a bit. So, when it was time to make the dough, we used some yeast we had on hand instead.

 Our yeast was not up for making big bubbles. I think they were tired.

 Kneading was a bit of trouble- very sticky dough, but he had fun anyway. During his 4H presentation on making dough, this fingers really got stuck but he held it together.

 He let it rise and punched it down!

 Everyone loves to roll out the dough- still loving my new 2/3 sheet pans. Use them ALL the time.

 Ready for the oven!

 I think we need to bake the dough a touch before adding the toppings, then we'd have a blonder pizza in the end. This was a fun project which turned into a presentation for I8.

I8 used these pictures on his poster for the 4-H public presentation he did on making pizza and pizza dough. He did an excellent job even though there were a few mis-haps along the way. Next year he is going to do something less complex. On the whole though, he did really well. Great job I8!

Friday, February 18, 2011

TOS Expo Winner!

I'm sorry for the delay in announcing the winner of the previous TOS Expo Contest! I've been caught up in a 10 Days Adventure. Cindy is the winner of a download from last October's Expo to Go!

Congratulations and thanks for playing along!

10 Days of Getting Started: Keep It Simple!

Well here we are at the final day of the 10 Days Blog Hop. I've had a great time. I hope you have too! I'll have the chance to catch up with some of the other blogs now. I'm anxious to work on some more habit training CM style when all this is over! I hope you've been inspired by our efforts as well. Today, I want to talk about keeping things simple.
Seems like an easy idea, right? Well if you've been around a while, then you know how easy it is to be caught up in a whirlwind of information. Sometimes as homeschoolers we make things entirely too complicated. My last piece of advice to those who are just starting is to keep things simple!

Comparing yourself to well established homeschoolers may only serve to discourage you. Keep yourself focused on the vision you have established and work toward that vision. Great homeschooling does not require gobs of amazing curriculum. It doesn't require serious equipment and fancy school rooms. It doesn't require expensive items others have. All it requires is the desire to achieve a vision and consistency.

As you are starting, if you are hitting some math skills, enjoying good books about all kinds of things, and working on refining your child's written communication skills on a daily basis, then you are having a great homeschooling day!

Try not to be overwhelmed with all the information out there. Just take things slow and steady and add in things if you want to as you get really good at doing important things consistently.

Keep your schedule light- that includes sports, lessons, and everything else under the sun you are bound to figure out are available to homeschoolers everywhere. Your time will be well spent if you spend it establishing good habits and learning about your students and how you work together.

And lastly, it may take some time to get a groove! Parenting and homeschooling are not guaranteed to be easy. As Jim Trelease says, parenting was not meant to be a time saving endeavor! Take the time to read and learn and understand how you can work with your children the best. Then keep at it and find a mentor- someone who can share the wisdom they've collected after years of homeschooling.

Heather

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

Thursday, February 17, 2011

10 Days of Getting Started: How about Math?

Well I have two days left to blog on "Getting Started" and I had a good list of topics some of which ended up together and I blogged extra days. I'm saving some sage advice for tomorrow so today I thought I'd go ahead with my original idea of a math post. Math and science are sometimes the intimidators when it comes to homeschooling. I'll list some of the math programs I know folks use and I'll provide some details on the ones we have or do use. Then I will share some of my favorite math websites we use for practice and enrichment.

Math on the Level-This the program we use primarily in our homeschool. Developed by Carlita Boyles, it's a program that relies on math maturation in order to teach kids. There is no scope and sequence set in stone, rather there is a list of concepts kids must know before they get to Algebra. Some things require prior mastery of skills and some things don't. The hallmark of MOTL is that you as the parent choose when your child is ready to learn a concept rather than the publisher. MOTL is a great way to teach math if you like putting together what and how your children learn something. For me, it is a great way to do living math- that applied math we sometimes see so little of- like an after thought so many times. It is teacher intensive, but well worth the time IF that is how you want to teach math. It's not for everyone. I have lots of homeschooling pals who carve their own path in math. MOTL is a great way to have sort of a "spine" to rely on if you are going your own way. It's pricey at \$315 with shipping, but that is your whole program from Pre-K to grade 8 (or whenever you start algebra). There is an Excel spreadsheet you can use to have review problems come up regularly based on what your child needs to review. This is the "5-a-Day" which is another hallmark of Math on the Level- five math problems a day! I have other posts on how we use Math on the Level. Feel free to check them out. Also be sure to check out our math journals.

Horizons- We have the entire Horizons series except for the newest pre-Algebra level. We used it a long time because it's cheap, thorough, and visually pleasing. It's a spiral program which is great for my oldest son. Spiraling means that it teaches new things in a lesson while reviewing older concepts all the time. As opposed to the mastery method where you teach that concept and just that one until it's mastered. Eventually, we left Horizons because my other kids, especially my daughter, did not do well with it. Too much repetition and too many problems! Also, teaching three levels of Horizons required that I do three 45 minute lessons (or at least two since my oldest prefers to read and do himself) which was just too much.

Singapore- "Singapore Math" is not a trade name but a general term referring to the math curriculum, or syllabus, designed by Singapore’s Ministry of Education. Singapore students regularly perform well on math tests in comparison to other countries so people became interested in how they did math and formed this program based on that. Several publishers produce a Singapore syllabus program.

Math U See- this is a method where you watch videos of math teaching and work with manipulatives to learn math. This is a very popular program though I have not seen it personally beyond what is on their website.

RightStart - uses the AL Abacus to provide a visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experience. RightStart seems heavy on trinkets and price to me, but a lot of homeschoolers really like it. I use their elementary card games for math fact practice.

Miquon- Based on the belief that mathematical insight grows out of observation, investigation, and the discovery of patterns. The concrete models are the way the kids learn with this program. They are not a supplement.
Life of Fred- Oh how we love Life of Fred! This one is a non-traditional text book written to the student format with math portrayed in a story form. Fred covers Fractions through Calculus and everything in between in a series of reasonably priced books. The student gets to try out problems along the way and every ten chapters they take a bridge test in order to move to the next set of chapters. I love Fred because he makes my students think! Not many folks are satisfied with Fred as a full program, though it is a stand alone curriculum, but many of us use it as as supplement to traditional math. For \$25 to \$30 a book, it's easy to add it on to any program. Fred is entertaining and though provoking and he is a standard part of our homeschool!

Saxon- Often considered the quintessential homeschool math, it is certainly the grandfather of all the math programs. It is similar to Horizons because it is a spiral program with many problem sets, but it has some distinct differences. For one is is not visually pleasing! Very plain presentation. One thing about Saxon is that it is completely scripted. If you don't know a thing about math, you read the scripting for each lesson and come away fairly certain you got it right. I have never used Saxon, but I did get a good look at it before going with Horizons. We do have Saxon Algebra I which we will be starting shortly. The entire program was on the "free" table at co-op one day. I couldn't leave it behind knowing we'd be needing Algebra very soon. One thing to note- Saxon is well known for its college prep math- the higher math stuff.

Math Mammoth- I love Math Mammoth! It's very simple. It has text boxes on the teaching pages with exercise to follow. Maria is extremely homeschool friendly. I use her program all the time to supplement the problems I give my kids. I wouldn't hesitate to use her full series. It doesn't come with bells and whistles like all the manipulatives some companies rely on and/or provide, but it is thorough and cost effective. You can buy it in full or purchase only those units you need. Great way to go!

Teaching Textbooks- this is a computer based model that allows the student to watch the lessons being laid out on a "whiteboard" and answering questions there. You can track your student's progress and you can even tell how many tries it took to get the correct answer. This is an easy way to go hands off with math if that is your desire. My experience with it is that it is a slow method which would not work for my oldest and I know that it would get old for my other kids as the newness wears off. My daughter knows what math is even if it's disguised in computer "fun"! Also, this one is a bit on the pricey side for one level of math.

Now that you have some idea of the various programs (disclaimer: there may be more I didn't mention), I'll give you some great math sites we enjoy.

Hopefully, this has given you something to ponder in regard to math. Feel free to ask more questions!

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

10 Days of Getting Started: The New Start- Bringing Kids Home from School

Since our beginnings in homeschool commenced after our oldest was enrolled in public school, I thought I'd devote a post to that topic. I'm sure many of you are in the same boat. You've had your kids in a conventional school setting for some amount of time and are now considering pulling them out or perhaps you already have and you are still getting your bearings. Either way, bringing kids home to begin homeschooling does have its own set of challenges. How can we make it a smooth transition?

I think it's important to take into account why you've chosen to bring your child home. It's this reason that will give you a clue as to what your vision will be and what to do to make the transition go well. In our case, we pulled our son out of public school because he needed more of a challenge and he needed inspiring experiences. So, my strategy was just to settle back and allow him to get excited about learning again. We had a very student driven school at that time.

They say it takes one month to adjust for every year your child was in school. So, in my case it only took about month or so to "deschool" our son. Some of you may be bringing children home who have been in school for several years or more. It might take longer for your children to adapt to the homeschool setting.

Some kids may be having academic struggles and anxiety which contributed to you bringing them home. These kids are probably relieved to have left the classroom and I know my son was extremely excited to spend his time differently. However, some kids may be resistant to being homeschooled and that takes a special influence and some time to adjust.

No matter what your reasons are, the advice I have is to relax! You don't have to establish a whole new solid routine the first week your kids are home. Spend time with them. Play games of all kinds. Read to them. Have them read to you. Practice some math- perhaps through games. Generally, just get to know your students. All of this activity will help you to assess where your student really is and what they need most from you as they start out at home. Try not to get caught in the trap of making your homeschool look like a replica of their classroom. A relaxed atmosphere where you can begin to break the molds and habits they are accustomed to from the classroom is all you need.

Remember that we all come to the homeschooling table with some prior experience- typically we know the classroom situation well. You may be having some second thoughts and wondering if this was a good thing to do. My biggest advice here is to create a unique adventure for your children without feeling guilty about bringing them home. Try not to doubt yourself or your ability to teach your children. And most especially, create an atmosphere that represents what your vision is for your school. Don't feel like everything has to be the same for them to like being home.

One of the best things I did at that time was to let my son's interests guide us along the way and we made sure to work on basic skills at the same time. Try not to fall into the "I have to make up time because we or he or she is behind." There is enough time to slow down!

Most importantly, move forward with confidence that you are equipped to handle homeschooling! Your children will enjoy it. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you have about bringing an older child home for school. Just leave a comment!

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unit Study: The Sewing Machine

My new post is up over at Heart of the Matter. I just love writing for them! This month it's a unit study on the sewing machine.

A few months ago I took my daughter to a local craft fair sponsored by her sewing school where she could sell a few things she’d made. While we were there for the afternoon, I had the pleasure of watching the coordinator of the school sell the refurbished machines that were waiting for new owners. There were about 12 machines for sale and half had sold by the time we arrived. The ones that were left included a wonderful little hand crank machine from the early 1950s and a Singer circa 1960- something complete with “cams” to change the stitches. I learned how to sew on a machine just like that! As I was listening to this woman tell the story of each machine- when it was made, who the manufacturer was, and how sturdy a performer it would be, I became inspired to explore the world of the Sewing Machine.

10 Days of Getting Started: To Co-op or Not to Co-op?

That is the question. Do we join a homeschool co-op? Lots of other families do it. Should we? I've been asked to share some schooling with a few friends. Is it worth it? I'm sure some of you have been asked or you know about a local co-op and you wonder if it's a good idea to join.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a part of a homeschool co-op. Co-ops provide some extra fun for the kids and a chance for them to interact with other homeschoolers. At our co-op my kids get to learn things they might not do as much here- like being part of a play or doing pioneer crafts for ten whole weeks! The downside to participating in a co-op is they can make you too busy depending on how long it is and your role there at the co-op.They add to your homeschool expense (very important to consider if you have limited funds to work with as it is) and they take away time at home schooling which is a topic I will talk about soon!

As you think about whether a co-op is right for your homeschool, consider the following things.
• How long is the co-op? How much of the day will it cost you? How long per semester?
• How much will the co-op cost? Overall and for individual classes?
• What kinds of classes are taught there? Is it strongly academic or is it extra-curricular focused?
• What is your level of commitment, as an adult, to the co-op once you join? Can you handle what is being asked of you?
• Consider your homeschooling vision. Does this co-op line up with the things you value for your school?
I'm going to be talking about keeping things simple in a future post. As a new homeschooler, it is best to get to know your student before taking them out to a regular commitment. So, I would avoid any co-op that is longer than a couple of hours.

Consider the focus of the co-op. One of the things I love about our homeschooling co-op is that it truly is focused on the extracurricular stuff. Having too many hard core classes going on can begin to shift the home right out of the homeschool! Our chapter leader gently reminds us of that often. I want a co-op to offer my kids some fun along with getting to learn with others.

Co-ops are not a good way to keep things simple in your homeschool! Honestly, my recommendation to is to hold off on joining a co-op until you have a good command of your school.  It is difficult enough to get things going in the right direction consistently without adding in extra activities.

Our co-op is two hours long with a 20 minute recess. We meet once a week on Mondays for ten weeks each semester. On the last day we get to enjoy a Co-op Night and see performances and the class showcases. Here's a peek at ours from this past fall. We offer mostly extra-curricular type classes and the kids all have a great time. I'm not interested in a more formal, longer co-op. I find them unnecessary even though they are very popular.

Make sure what is happening at this co-op is worth your time and make sure it aligns with the vision for your school.

I did a post on our co-op within the last year. You can find out more about the specifics if you'd like.

See you next time!

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

Monday, February 14, 2011

10 Days of Getting Started: Curriclum Styles

I did a few bonus posts over the weekend- one on extra supplies to have on hand and one introducing some facts about unit studies. I'd like to talk more about how unit studies work for our homeschool, but before I do I'd like to take a look at some curriculum styles. No series on getting started with homeschooling would be complete without visiting the different types of homeschool curriculum to see what they are all about. I promise I will return to how we use unit studies in our school. Now that I am back home, I can think more clearly and I think a general introduction to some other homeschool methods is in order. The one disclaimer I will make is that I am not an expert on all of these. I know the basics of the major attributes of each of them and that is what I will share here. The list below includes some styles of homeschooling along with some big players in the curriculum world today.  Before the end of the week I will revisit unit studies in more detail. It seems appropriate, as we finish surveying the possibilities, to end with what we use as our primary programs.

Literature based learning- Sonlight which uses many books as the core to the Language Arts and history portion of the program. The "core" for each grade also includes science resources and math resources (typically separate curriculum that is paired with the Sonlight material). The schedule is elaborate and the literature and history timelines coincide. I think the hallmark of this curriculum is the numbers of and choice selection of the books

Classical-there are many resources aimed at classical style homeschooling. Classical homeschoolers study history in chronological order (yes...in case you are wondering, there is another way to organize history as you build in prior knowlege!) The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer is a great resource. There is more to classical education including the idea of teaching the trivium. It includes teaching kids at specific levels. Remember, I'm sharing only the "big ideas" and not too much detail. Be sure to visit 10 Day Blog Hop partner Angela at Milk and Cookies who is sharing about classical education!

Charlotte Mason- Charlotte Mason was a late 19th century British educator who promoted the use of living books, first-hand experiences and good habits. She is fond of using copywork and dictation to help kids learn handwriting and early composition whether it be oral or written. Living books are books usually written by one author to tell about something he is passionate about.  One of my favorite Charlotte Mason homeschoolers is Barb from Harmony Art Mom and the Handbook of Nature Study Blog. Simply Charlotte Mason is another resource you can use to learn more about a CM Education. Ambleside Online is a free resource which you can use to follow along with this method. Be sure to check out Our Journey Westward,Cindy is a 10 Days blog hop pal devoted to the Charlotte Mason method.

traditional- this could be any number of different curriculum that we have and we piece them together to do a bigger job. This is the method that looks most like a traditional classroom. The kids have a separated 6 or more subjects per day provided by different text books or worksheets. Some traditional programs are moving to a digital technology and you can have your different subjects via their web interface or in their disk packaging.

unit study- takes one central idea whether it's a book, concept, topic, person, etc and builds a study around that central idea that includes all the disciplines. Over the weekend, I described it some here. I will definitely write more about how we use unit studies. In the meantime, please use the tabs under my header to explore the Five in a Row units and the other unit studies I have put together.

eclectic-this one is named by definition and this type of homeschooling incorporates pieces of a few or more types of curriculum.

unschooling- this type of learning environment allows kids to explore and learn the things they are most passionate about without it resembling a traditional school. Journey into Unschooling is a great resource for the younger kids. Homeschooling Belle is our 10 Days Blog Hop unschooling expert. The hallmark of unschooling is the lack of formal curriculum- in most cases.

Typically, you will enjoy one method over another. Some may fit your children better than others. Explore these options through the links and check out the other blog hop contributors for more words of wisdom on a method they are using. Hopefully, you'll gain more insight and see where you might fit in to these categories.

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

Saturday, February 12, 2011

10 Days of Getting Started: Unit Studies

Since the topic of unit studies seems to be a popular request, I will tackle them in this post. I'll try to talk about what unit studies are, why we like them, and maybe a bit about how we implement them. Unit Studies are a great way to teach kids authentically about a topic. You can base them on a book, a concept, a time in history or just about any topic can be an anchor to your overall study. Often we use books, but sometimes we use other ideas as our anchor. One such unit study is one I wrote for Heart of the Matter digital magazine on Catapults and Trebuchets (pp14-16). Often, I can create a whole study just from an interest that sparks my kids. To me, that is one of the great strengths of the unit study- we can follow up on things our kids are really interested in.

There is plenty of unit study curriculum out there. Our favorite is Five in a Row. These are units based on books. The author, Jane Lambert and her daughter Becky have written exquisite lessons based on picture books or chapter books. We've been using Five in a Row as our core program just about from the beginning of our homeschooling adventure. Our older kids use Beyond Five in a Row and we create a lot of our own unit studies. Amanda Bennett has written many long four week long unit studies based on various topics. She's also started the Download and Go series which is designed to be used for a week long study of a topic. My 12 year old is currently doing the Heroes of Invention study which he has enjoyed a lot.

My favorite unit study resource is Unit Studies Made Easy by Valerie Bendt. In fact, I would say this is perhaps my most favorite homeschooling book of all. This is a terrific book to read to find out about how to put your own unit studies together and how to incorporate writing and evaluation into the study as you go. This book is definitely an equipping type of book. I still pull it out to get ideas and Mrs. Bendt keeps things simple and so effective in how to carry out the study.

Unit studies allow our children to work together on a topic- each working at their own level. Sometimes we do separate studies and sometimes we come all together to follow an adventure. Each student has a set of expectations based on his ability and potential. It's very unifying and quite enjoyable!

For now just think about all the books that would be fun to use as a centerpiece for a unit of study or just a topic that your child has shown an interest in. Unit studies take a book or topic and connect it to all the disciplines like language arts, applied math, science, social studies, art, etc. We integrate a lot of our learning typically only adding in reading instruction (for emerging readers) and math. Language arts I teach through our units of study. We build skills using the study as a basis for copywork, narration, and other forms of writing.

Unit studies are inexpensive and can be quite satisfying. They can be elaborate or simple and you can purchase them ready made or simply make one of your own.

Once again, I'm out of blogging time, but I will continue to share how unit studies have worked for us in our homeschool tomorrow.

Thanks for reading over the weekend! This has been a fun series for me so far.

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

10 Days of Getting Started: The "Icing" Supplies!

I thought I'd just keep on going through the weekend with the blog hop since I have some extra topics. Yesterday I mentioned some basic supplies I like to have on hand. You can do an awful lot with just a few reference books. However, I'm betting you all would like to know the sorts of supplies to have if you a budget for some "icing" items.

Here's a list of things to have once you've gotten all the basic supplies covered. I have a lot of resources at this point, but I've been homeschooling for six years and I have four children so the collection has grown over that time. We didn't get everything at once. Next week I plan to talk about keeping things simple when you are starting out. Part of doing things simply is not overwhelming yourself with supplies and resources for your school. Take it slow!

The icing on the cake:
• Math games- Equate, Right Start games like Corners, etc (I'll mention more in my post on math)
• Prismacolor pencils
• oil pastels
• audio CDs
• chalk board/white board
• microscope- I prefer a digital microscope. We have the Intel QX3 which you can still find used. The digital scope is more home use friendly and is more versatile. Traditional light microscope skills are not so intense that your student couldn't catch up when he is older. The main difference between the two being no ocular lens on a digi scope (the lens that you put your eye up to when you look into a light microscope).
• digital camera- there's lots of fun things you and the kids can do with an inexpensive camera the kids can use. Our kids like making stop motion videos for one.
• laminator- I have a xyron 900 which is very versatile though the cartridges are expensive and we have a Scotch laminator which uses less expensive pouches. I like them both. The Xyron is nice because you can laminate with adhesive backing with our without the laminate front, magnet backing, etc. I don't use one all the time, but if there is something you want to keep on using like reference sheets or games pieces it's really convenient.
• Printer/Copier- I couldn't homeschool easily without my printer. Mine is a Canon MX700 and it's a dream. Research one that isn't so expensive to refill. I always have lots of paper on hand.
• Art Center- I like to have a place where my kids can just grab supplies so they can be creative without permission. We have a caddy that holds coloring tools, paper, stencils, scissors, glue, etc. I also have a place for construction paper.
• Watercolors and watercolor paper- one of our favorites! I like the Prang tray watercolors along with tube watercolors. Crayolas are too weak on this product I think. Too pale compared to the vibrant colors in these other brands. Watercolor paper is a must! It makes such a difference in the product and it holds the wet medium so much better.
• Watercolor pencils- really fun tool to turn a drawing into a watercolor. We use these on the go for our nature study activities. Here's a picture of my kids on a hike doing their drawings if you keep scrolling you'll see how they turned out after we added water while at the playground during baseball one night!
• Butcher Paper and a dispenser if you can get it- this paper is wonderful for lots of projects and will last you forever. I like the 50lb weight because it can handle both wet and dry media.

I'm about out of blogging time this morning, but I will leave you with a few of my favorite places to shop for homeschooling supplies.

Rainbow Resource- have just about anything you'd need and the shipping is extremely fair. Anything above \$150 is free shipping.

Discount School Supply- basic art supplies and preschool items I buy here.

Home Science Tools- have the science equipment and kits I like though this is not always first on my list to purchase from I do order from here.

Finally, one of my hall of fame posts is craft supplies to have on hand, so I'll share that link too. It'll be more specific about some things and some of it will be a repeat. I think that post was done when my kids were all younger.

Thanks for reading this extra Saturday post. If you have any questions about the supplies or need another link, feel free to ask!

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

Friday, February 11, 2011

10 Days of Getting Started: Supply Central, What's Essential?

Good morning from Denver! I'm sorry this is posting later than usual this morning, but I didn't get a chance to schedule this before I left and finding internet access has not been easy! I hope you all get a chance to read this today if I've missed your normal blog browsing time of the day!

First, thank you for your opinions on what to hear in regard to curriculum. I will do my best to share with you most of the "big players" and I will share in depth how we do unit studies. Next week! Today is all about supplies! What supplies are essential and what supplies are not so essential, but a whole lot of fun! I'll also share some of my favorite places to purchase homeschool supplies.

The homeschooling world is full of attractive supplies that may or may not be necessary for your school. I've noticed over the last several years that publishers and sellers of educational products of all kinds are attempting to tap into the homeschool market as it is clearly an emerging on that is largely wide open. Keep in mind that many of these companies are not necessarily homeschool friendly. They simply have a product they think you need! Be discerning in what you choose and make sure that anything you purchase is in line with your vision for your school and makes sense for the kinds of learners you have at home.

Here's a list of the things I would make sure and start with:
• pencils- I like regular number 2s, but we have branched out into Bic mechanicals which do not require sharpening!
• great pencil sharpener- great sharpeners are trial and error though I like Boston brand electric sharpeners, but I always have a Fiskars tiny hand sharpener with two sized holes for things like our Prismacolor pencils
• dictionary- We have a Websters' College Dictionary and Webster's New World Student Dictionary which is for roughly middle school age. I wouldn't go any younger than that if you are using a dictionary with a reader. They will quickly out grow a dictionary that is too juvenile.
• table- I like having a table for us all to work at rather than desks. I'll explain more about why when I do some chatting about unit studies. For now, suffice it to say, that our homeschool is just as much about the relationship between my kids as anything else and doing work separately all the time is not in line with our vision. Make sure it's a table that even young children can sit at comfortably either with a simple booster or a shorter table!
• coloring supplies- crayons, markers, colored pencils. Make sure you don't skimp on these. Go for Crayola over the dollar store brands! There is nothing more frustrating for kids than making an effort on their work only discover mostly waxy crayons or markers which run out easily or colored pencils that are faded. I like the nicer brand art supplies too, but I'll mention those in a moment.
• Books! There is nothing better for your homeschool than a print rich environment! I cannot emphasize this enough. You are looking for the good books here- Little House (even for boys), classics, EB White books- the works. If you need help with a homeschool library book list, let me know! I search for books at thrift shops, second hand stores and I hit our library book sale twice or three times a year. If find it much easier to have the good books on hand and our kids visit them over and over. Some of our best homeschool experiences have happened because we have a lot of books in our home (I place them strategically too and I can talk about that!)
• Atlases- We LOVE atlases at my house. We have many. We like the National Geographic Young Explorer atlases, but we have others as well like the Scholastic World Atlas I once found for \$1 at a warehouse sale. My kids love to pour through atlases just to read and discover.
• Maps! Large wall maps are wonderful to record our educational travels and for quick reference on a location. We have two large laminated maps on the wall in our school area along with maps the kids have chosen for their rooms. Gotta love that! We also have a map that I rotate which sits under the vinyl covering on our school table- so it's a table top map!
• Writing Paper- writing paper appropriate for your student is a must! I use StartWrite (see link in my right hand side bar for the moment!) pages for my kids. I make notebooks for writing for them or use them individually, but the emerging writers always have paper at hand.
• Computer- although you can do without it depending on the age of your child, a computer is invaluable in doing research and homeschoolers have their favorite sites and software they use a lot of times. I can share with you our favorites another time.
• Reference Books- I have a shelf where we have only reference books like Usborne or Eyewitness Books on various subjects or one volume encyclopedias. We have the atlases and dictionaries on this shelf too. It's the go to place for looking things up!
I think that's a good start! I'm about out of blogging time for today (gasp!) so I'm going to split this post and add the icing on the cake sort of supplies tomorrow (or next time) along with places to buy them. Seems maybe I could use 12 or more days for Getting Started! Maybe I'll blog through the weekend to add in your requests! If you'll read, I'll blog! Is that against the rules?

So stay tuned for more Getting Started in the days to come. I hope this series has been helpful as you begin your journey!

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning

Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 Days of Getting Started: Choosing Curriculum

Now that you have a vision and know some things about yourself and your kids, it's time to choose the curriculum, program, and method you want to use! Hmmm...come to think of it, perhaps this is a two post topic.

There are a lot of homeschooling methods out there. Some of my 10 Day colleagues are writing about some of them now! Make sure and check the link list below! There's Montessori, Classical, Unschooling, Charlotte Mason and Unit Study methods to name a few. There are homeschools that look like classrooms in a home. There are homeschools that look nothing like a classroom. And there's everything in between!

Some homeschoolers like to build their own curriculum and some like it all boxed up for them. Some of us are somewhere in between all of these. We pick and choose from different methods to give our children the best of a lot of worlds.

I think the easiest way to figure out what curriculum to use is to see how the different methods and curriculum line up with your vision and your style- both your teaching style and your children's learning styles! If you and your child are rule followers who like a routine, unschooling is probably not the way to go. Likewise, if you and your child are relaxed and want to explore, then a more scheduled day with a boxed curriculum is probably not for you.

My advice for beginners? Just get some basic things going so that you can see how learning takes place with your kids in your home. There is no rule (even in highly regulated states) that tells you what materials to use and how to use them. So you have time to discover some things about yourselves before you make a huge decision. When I first started homeschooling I was rather convinced that I had to know all about who we were going to be right away so I could buy an awesome program and get moving. My husband, ever the voice of balance in my life, simply said to relax. To work on some basic skills with our son and to enjoy each day. He knew there would be plenty of time to figure more things out and to make bigger decisions down the road.

We have another "rule" at our house that is a corollary to that first tenant. We don't hop from thing to thing to thing. Once I do purchase something, I stick with it for some time and if I'm not sure how we will fit with it, I don't buy it. Now there's good and bad to this corollary. The good is that we don't waste money on something that never gets off the ground and it saves us from the disruption of curriculum angst. Moving from one program to another is not easy for kids. Each one has a set of expectations and flavor that is distinct and some kids do not change gears well. Consistency is key! The not so positive side effect of this corollary is that sometimes we wait too long to make necessary changes.

So, if you don't buy a "program" right away what do you do? Well, you teach and practice math facts. It's a given that primary school kids need to know their math facts so it's a good bet that you can make a program from this when you start out. There a lot of basic math concepts to focus on with household items. We've taught all of our kids the concept of even and odd by using duplo blocks. No special programs required nor did we use special "math" manipulatives.

I have always done writing on my own with the kids. We just write every day. I've written a lot in the category of teaching grammar through our studies. Feel free to click and read from the bottom up!

This relaxed method doesn't have to continue forever. But if you are just starting out, this is a great way to get your bearings and see what types of things you and your children enjoy and what your children respond to. There are a lot of really great programs out there, but they are not one size fits all! You have to find your niche as a homeschooling mom.

In the end, when you do commit to buying something, stick with it. The same, by the way, is true for homeschooling! Some beginners are tempted to quit by the end of one year. You have to wait it out long enough to see some fruit! One year is not long enough- in my humble opinion!

At this point, I will encourage you to visit some blogs below to see what it's like to be a Charlotte Mason homeschooler or a classical homeschooler. Frugal homeschoolers will share how to homeschool without spending gobs of money which I'm inclined to think means no "big box" type programs. We are unit study folks who use Five in a Row as our core curriculum.

I'd be happy to recommend some programs and to do a post on some of the big players in the world of homeschooling. I could give you some good information on using unit studies too. I couldn't decide whether to get into actual curriculum or stay with general advice though next week I plan to share various programs for specific subject areas.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned tomorrow for: Supply Central...What's Essential?

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women in this 10 days adventure between February 7th-18th! We love these ladies and we know you do too.

10 days of socialization for mom | The Homeschool Chick
10 days of classical education | Milk & Cookies
10 days of large families | Chocolate on My Cranium
10 days of special needs | Special Needs Homeschooling
10 days of struggling learners | Homeschooling the Chaotic Family
10 days of homeschooling girls | Homegrown Mom
10 days of homeschool enrichment | Confessions of a Homeschooler
10 days of building a spiritual legacy | Mommy Missions
10 days of frugal homeschooling |The Happy Housewife
10 days of Charlotte Mason | Our Journey Westward
10 days of unschooling | Homeschooling Belle
10 days of organization | Confessions of an Organized Homeschool Mom
10 days of getting started | Blog, She Wrote
10 days of homeschooling boys | The Tie That Binds Us
10 days of homeschooling Montessori |  Fruit in Season
10 days of preschool |  Delightful Learning