Having fun on our Week Off

Last week we were off and we kept busy.  We started off the week with Geocaching. Something we got into about 2 years ago. It’s a great free go-to activity to get out of the house. I also like how it introduces the kids to reading coordinates and tracking distance. They love to watch the map and see how many feet are left until we reach the cache.

Lilly found this one first!

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We did 2 more caches, one being at the local Fish Hatchery. After finding it, we headed inside to take a look around. They had some really neat things inside, and the nice lady at the counter showed the kids what fish eggs look like.

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We also did a small science experiment. We are wrapping up our unit on solids, liquids, and gases, but before moving on we decided to show that states of matter can change and then change again.

We added a few drops of food coloring to water using our Lego trays, popped them in the freezer and recorded the changes, then we let it sit on the counter to see it change back into liquid. They all really enjoyed this and could tell back what was happening using big Science words 🙂

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Our normal weeks look pretty similar, with some Math and Language Art books thrown in too!

Cheers!

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We all have weaknesses… knowing yours and improving

My son is eight. If you believe in the theory of left-right brain, he would be labeled a definite ‘lefty’. I don’t really like labels, and prefer to just think in terms of weaknesses and strengths and improving those. Labels seem harder to overcome once someone puts you in that box.

Here lately, I’ve been thinking about a few of his and one has caught my attention the most: he has trouble being creative. I’m not technically ‘worried’, but I do want to to help him in this area.

He loves Legos, but not in the traditional sense, he can’t stand creating on his own. If you’ve seen the Lego Movie, he’s the guy that wants to super glue all the parts together 🙂 He follows the instruction books to a T, then puts his finished product on the shelf, which looks cool and I’m glad he enjoys it, but every now and then, it would be nice to see him creating something from his imagination.

When we are doing something for school and he needs to create a sentence, yes, just one little sentence, he seems to be struggling. He just wants someone to tell him what to write. He doesn’t even like to try.

So, a weakness my amazing son has is creative thinking. He has plenty of strengths (and I won’t list them now), but to better ourselves we need to work on weaknesses.

To help him with this, I have bought a journal and 4 days a week we will do some creative writing. I hope this will help, and will post back later and update how it is going in a few weeks.

It may be a struggle for him at first, but I’m hoping he will start to enjoy writing and enjoy expressing himself and his thoughts.

Everyone has weaknesses. Some may not be fixable, others may take a lot of time and effort to change. I am just hoping to open him to the world of creative writing and maybe it will trickle down to other things he does as well.

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Sometimes the Timing is Just [OFF]

I was thinking last night how we, as parents, introduce our kids to new things

thinking it will be exciting or helpful in some way, only to find out, they resist it, don’t like it, or just don’t care.

When they react negatively a lot of us think, ‘well it’s just not for my kid’ and move on, figuring ‘oh, well, I tried and they didn’t like it’. Maybe you’re right, but what if you’re not.

Maybe it is for your kid. Maybe they will love it. Maybe your timing is just off.

If you introduce them to something new and you really believe they would naturally enjoy it, but for some reason don’t, maybe put it away for a bit and reintroduce it at a later time.

Perhaps they need to mature more. Or they need to be able to read better without being frustrated. Maybe they need to learn more patience.

Whatever it may be that’s holding them back, they just aren’t there yet, but don’t give up on them.

Think about why they say they don’t like it. Talk to them about it. Maybe they are scared, nervous, or need more confidence. As parents we are there to support them and mentor them along the way. This isn’t just about academics, it’s about everything in life.

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Example #1 
When we first got Miquon for Math. I didn’t understand it, so it was hard for me to communicate to my kids what to do. It was frustrating. I put it away and got another Math book. After a few months, we got bored and then I decided to give it another shot. I dove in and did the page myself to make sure I knew what to do before having them try it. What a difference. The timing was off for us before hand, but a few months later it turned out great. Now, we love the books and I recommended them to everyone. And, yes, I tell them it’s hard to understand at first. If we would have given up before, I’m not sure what we would be doing right now for Math, but I do know our Math now is amazing and our kids are excelling because of these books.
Example #2
I bought the game What’s Gru? when they weren’t that great at spelling or reading. They hated the game. I mean hated it. So I put it up. 2 months ago we got it back out. They had a ton of fun because they could actually play it without being frustrated. They had built up better spelling skills and confidence before I reintroduced it to them.
Example #3
We bought my son a Razor electric scooter for Christmas when he was five. I thought he’d love it and zip around everywhere…. nope. For the first year and a half, I drove him around on it. He was scared, and he really couldn’t handle it that well. I almost got rid of it, but we kept it in the garage, and when he was 6 1/2, he decided he could do it. He got out there and rode that thing like a champ! He loves it!

Timing is crucial. Don’t give up because they say “no” or aren’t into it at that moment.

Try again later.

If they still hate it, then maybe it’s time to move on. But ask yourself if they are truly ready for what you want them to do. Don’t set them up to fail.

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A Child’s History of the World Review

So before the summer started this year, I had started Story of the World along side A Child’s History of the World for our History curriculum. I had found a neat website that tried to line up the two books as much as possible, but it became overwhelming trying to get everything organized with two separate books and two different ways to tell the story.

So I needed to switch things, new idea: just use/read through A Child’s History of the World starting and then start SOTW afterwards.

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A Child’s History of the World because it was ‘supposed to be geared towards younger children’. My kids liked it a little, maybe. At first they enjoyed it, then the consent groans, and ‘that book is boring’. So after our first 6 weeks of kinda torturing my kids and myself (actually we skipped it most days)…. I decided to STOP!

So we are about to start our 7th week of school, our 3rd BLOCK. We are going back to and staying with Story of the World. Staring with Ancients. I got ours off Amazon, but I’ve seen them in the bookstores, along with the audio version at our library. We also picked up the Activity guide, which seems worth the money.

Not to mention: Check out these cool videos that correspond with parts of the entire series of SOTW.

Anyways, back to the actual review.

It is definitely written in a younger-child oriented way. It is kind of like your grandpa is telling you an old story, but sometimes it seems a little fake. My kids just didn’t connect with the story at all. They really liked the first few chapters, then got bored. It’s not in-depth at all, so it was a little hard to explain things to them, when I felt like each day we were talking about a completely different subject. No immersion at all. I tried sticking with it, because of all the other rave reviews it had gotten, but in the end, we just can’t keep wasting time on it, when I have another (better) resource.

I think I may recommend it to someone with 3-5 year olds who just want to ‘skim’ history. The thing about books is not everyone likes everything. So what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I don’t think it’s so bad that I’d throw it away, but we will never pick it up again. If anyone wants my copy for cheap, email me 🙂

I would LOVE to hear about other History curriculums. And other people’s takes on what to do AFTER SOTW? Do you just start back at Book 1, or switch entirely?

Lapbooks

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When we first started homeschooling, I read a lot about lapbooks, but never fully understood what they were until I found some helpful YouTube videos, click here for one that explains it really well.

We get our lapbook resources here, but also incorporate our own ideas to add as well, or take some of them out. We customize for us, but its a nice starting block.

My son was a 1st grader and my daughter a Kinder when we made our 1st lapbooks. This was for our Aviation/Wright Brothers unit. We built wooden airplanes, bought and tried out rubber band airplanes, drew an airplane using a video instruction, and of course watched a documentary and learned airplane terms. They HAD A BLAST! And so did I!

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Then we did another for Johnny Appleseed. The kids really enjoyed trying all the different apples, and deciding their favorites, then counting out how many seeds were in each apple. We also added in the corner their favorite apple food and had the kids draw a photo to add. On the bottom we took note of the book we read from.

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They really enjoy them so much. I think it’s mainly because you get to see all that information you want them to get in a more kid-friendly, eye-appealing way.  Even I tend to be more interested in what we are learning!

The kids enjoy gluing, stapling, and (some) cutting also.

Lap books are a unique way to store the information you want your kids to get, its not the entire unit however. We still do other activities, and I record that in the lap book as well. Like the books we read, the movie/documentary we watched, a field trip we took, etc. It’s nice to see this when we look back at them and remember all the fun things we did. We also put a photo in there if we take one.

It’s been awhile since we did the whole lap book thing, but with our latest Science topic: WORMS, we are using them again. I’ll post about that later.

I highly recommend trying it out and seeing how your kids respond to lapbook learning! 

This year I think we are going to try and do 1-2 a month.  It’s well worth it to me if the kids retain the information better, and look more forward to learning  🙂

4 weeks in and already changes

Things always look good on paper. In fact, if we all lived in a world where we wrote down our goals, to-dos, etc and then it magically happened liked we planned.. the world would be much different. However, paper is just paper. Ideas, thoughts, and goals are all good, and should be written down, but it’s not black and white. Things happen. People change. Interests change, sometimes overnight. And we all have to learn to go with the flow. Pick up the pieces. Let go, and move on. Yet stay positive and find the good in all.

I could sit here complaining about how things haven’t worked out like I had them written down a few weeks ago, but instead I’ll move forward, and think of the good that has come too.

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I had our perfect year planned. We were going to start (and did start) July 7th, after a 2 week break. Everything started off great. I had all the curriculum that I wanted to use. I was excited to jump right in. But after that 1st week things already began changing and I realized my yearly plan was about to be rewritten.

History is awesome. I didn’t always think so either, homeschooling actually brought a new found love of the subject to me. I look forward to relearning history with our kids. For this year I had decided to use Story of the World, Book 1. We actually started back in May with this book. It’s really interesting and in depth, but I also had another book I wanted to use, A Child’s History of the World. We were using both of these, side-by-side.

But it became to much, even after finding this website that breaks down the chapters that coincide with each other.

So I decided to put down Story of the World, and just read through A Child’s History of the World first, then start jumping into all the SOTW books.  Change #1

I also was printing off a page for the kids to see what they needed to do each day, but it seemed like things always went unchecked, or something added, after I had printed it off. Now I am going to just try and keep a mental tab on what we do and how much time it takes (in MO we must have 1000 hours of instruction). They liked checking things off the list, and we may go back to something similar later, but for now we will stick with my general plan that I type out (and can edit at any time).  Change #2

All in all, the first 3 weeks were really fun and we all grew and learned a lot. Our break week went amazing, even getting in some reading time and a few board games throughout.

When things just don’t feel right, don’t be afraid to change them, or alter them in some way. It will never be a perfect system. It’s doesn’t mean you’re failing, it means you’re growing. When we grow, we change. Our likes, dislikes, the way we do things, or don’t do things. It’s life. Embrace it, and move forward.

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Learning with The Magic Tree House Series

We started this series a year ago. Our library has all The Magic Tree House books on both audio or paperback, we chose audio, so we can listen to them in the car as a family.

I can’t say enough about the books!  They are great, my kids LOVE them all! Mary Pope Osborne has done a wonderful job taking kids back to great points of history and creating an interesting story. I myself have even learned a few things 🙂

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Each book is set in a different time period, that Jack and Annie must travel to and complete missions. They discover a magic tree house in the woods in Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, and use the books to travel back and forth. Journey with them to far away lands: get lost in the Amazon, help a baby Panda, sail on a Pirate ship, walk on the Moon, fly with Da’Vinci, or find out how Mona Lisa got her famous smile! With over 50 books in the series, there is something for everyone!

We are on book #40 now.

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Once you start reading the books, head over to The Magic Tree House website. Here you can go on missions and answer questions, afterwards you receive a souvenir for your own virtual tree house you can decorate.  You can also answer 3 questions about each book and earn a stamp in your Passport.  

My kids go to the website once a week and catch up on their newest books that they have finished. They love it!

This series is great for non-readers or readers. You are learning and enjoying a great adventure at the same time.

I highly encourage anyone that has not picked up these books to do so, your kids will thank you.

Enjoying Explode the Code

Since we started homeschooling over a year ago, we have been using these amazing books.  I read about Explode the Code online, and thought it seemed like a good way to go.   And I was right.

The books are easy to understand and are laid out nicely. They all follow the same basic pattern, so once you finish one and go to the next, it’s easy because you already know what to do, the content is just a little more challenging.

Turner started out with Book 1 and is now using Book 3, at the beginning of his 2nd grade year (he technically should be on Book 4, but there was a 2-3 month span last year where we didn’t use them… oh well).

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Lilly started out with Beyond the Code Books A, B, and C in Kindergarten. She really liked them. She is now on Book 1 1/2.

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Yes, I have had my kids use the 1/2 books as well. I have mentioned before we like to work for mastery in subjects before advancing, so I wanted to be sure they were where they needed to be. However, Turner is such a better reader, and we may just go straight to 4 this time around.

We use these books 4 days of the week and they do 2-4 pages each time.  They like to listen to classical music while working on them. It’s takes about 15 minutes for this, so it’s quick and fun.

*They do offer an online version, however, I wanted my kids to have that extra handwriting practice and less screen time, so we opt for the workbooks.  I also order mine off Amazon with Prime Shipping, but I see deals on them all the time through Homeschool sites.

Would LOVE to hear your thoughts on Explode the Code:  how they did or didn’t work for you.

*There is a short video of my son using Book 3 on our Facebook page.

Book list for 1st and 2nd graders

Here is my hopeful list of books we will get through during this school year, 2014-2015.  Our kids will be in 2nd and 1st grade this year.  We use the library as our #1 source, only purchasing books if they do not have them.

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I would love to here your comments on the books on your list, a suggestion to add to mine, or your thoughts of any of the books below.

Finish up Burgess Bird Book by Thornton Burgess –FREE online

Mr. Poppers Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan –possibly the other books in the series also

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, along with the other 2 books in the series

Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh

Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Other AudioBooks on our list to get through

The rest of The Magic Tree House series, we are on book #39 now

King of the Golden River by John Ruskin, FREE audio online

Parables from Nature by Alfred Gatty

Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin

The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, 13 books

Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

Stink series by Megan McDonald

Books to be read for bedtime

Nurse Matilda by Christianna Brand, the movie Nanny McPhee was based off this book  (Lilly)

Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet by Tony Abbott, series of about 10 books I believe  (Turner)

The Sister’s Grimm series by Michael Buckley, 9 books in the series  (Lilly)

Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows, 9 books in the series  (Lilly)

*Yes, we will be busy this year reading some great literature and some just for fun!  I will give an update of what we thought on the book after completing it. Of course, we will be reading other stories, but this list is of the ‘major titles’ we will read together.

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Last Day of School, Full of Surprises :)

2013-2014 has come to a close.  The kids had a great year, it was our first FULL year of homeschooling. A success, and ready for next year. The kids are getting 2 weeks off, and they are excited to play with their friends whenever they like.

Today, we decided to have a day of surprises for them and end with a bang!

Surprise #1:  Donuts!

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Surprise #2:  A 2 hour Art Workshop (Turner opted not to participate, but Lilly had a fantastic time!)

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Surprise #3:  Lunch at one of their favorite Japanese Steakhouses (the ones with the fire!)

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Surprise #4:  Jason and I had printed out Diplomas to make it more official. They loved them and kept saying all day they have graduated and get to move up!

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Surprise #5:  No school work!  They took the afternoon to build.  Lilly built a spaceship, and Turner a Limo.

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Surprise #6:  Later tonight they are going swimming with their friends and we’re getting ice cream!