Teach Your Monster to Read

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I just wanted to share this website because my daughter really enjoys it. I know she is 8, and she doesn’t really need this website (she reads pretty well), but we stumbled across it about two months ago and she likes getting on here almost everyday.

I can hear her laughing and squealing as the game plays out. I would say it’s probably best for ages 8 and under.

Check it out Teach Your Monster to Read

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Time has flown by, and somehow I’ve completely neglected this blog…

It’s crazy to me that my last post was back in July and Thanksgiving is next week! Ahhh! What happened? I’m not sure, life I guess. I did think about sitting down and writing a post a few times; however, that proved to be easier ‘thought of’ than done.

Anyhow….

Homeschool is going fairly well. It has been somewhat of a roller coaster these last few months. We started off strong, like most homeschoolers, then sort of dwindled unexpectedly. Caden, my nephew, also stopped coming here about a month ago. His mom will be teaching him since she is able to stay at home now. It’s nice to be back to just two kids, but the kids miss playing with him. Luckily, he still goes on field trips with us.

I started a part-time job in August, so that has taken a small toll on our schooling. Mainly, we we actually get things done. It’s not bad, it’s just not consistent each day, so we just do things as we feel like it right now. Although, sometimes (most times) I leave the kids with a small list of things I would like them to accomplish while I’m at work it I have a long shift. It works nicely and gives them something to do other than resort back to their screens.

In September, I started a homeschool Facebook group for taking field trips and to take advantage of some awesome group discounts. We have had two trips so far and both turned out well. I encourage you to find a group of people you really like and plan things with them. I always wanted to do this, but never had the guts, this year changed when I really noticed my kids wanting that extra social interaction and to make some friends who weren’t related to them, so I put my shyness away and went with it. It’s been great for both of them and myself.

My guy also turned 9 in September and we celebrated with a party then a limo to laser tag with his friends.

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Our daughter turned 8, and we also had a party then a party bus to a local skating rink and ice cream. Both parties were a blast and so much fun. Not sure how we will top those in the coming years!

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I’ll be posting some of the trips we have gone on over the last few months in upcoming posts this week. Hopefully, I can start posting weekly again! Fingers crossed. There is something soothing about sitting down at the computer in the morning, alone, just typing away.

Just finished our first week of school!

Actually, we only had 3 days of school last week, and 3 this week. That’s why we homeschool though, so we can go on trips or take off days when we need to 🙂 We were supposed to start school on Monday last week, but I ended up needing to watch my sister’s two kids, and this week we took a field trip, so it was  another short week. It’s kind of nice starting off this year slow, to get into the groove again. We ended up having a 6 week break (WAY longer than I had planned)!

Here they are, proud to be moving up the ladder and getting more independent. Turner, our 3rd grader.

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Lilly, our 2nd grader.

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Caden, my nephew, also in 2nd grade.

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The kids said they had a ton of fun this week, my daughter even said she liked Math! (Although, I’m not sure why, because we didn’t do anything different, other than have complete one-on-one time, only her and I were at the table at once. Oh, and she loved writing on the window with dry erase markers!)

I really like our morning meeting time that I have implemented with things such as talking about famous quotes, learning a new ASL phrase, setting goals and plans to achieve them, assigning the kids an endeavor (they LOVE this!). We also meditate for 5 minutes, I recently read this interesting article about how good it is for you, which I’ll link to soon.

Another thing we do is have a character trait of the week. They each spell it on the board and we look up the definition in the dictionary, whoever shows that trait the most during the week wins the card and we will count them up at the end of the year to see who has the most with a small prize.

I am really trying to focus on character building, learning through natural ways and great discussions this year. There are so many ways to learn and grow without workbooks.

For History we started where we left off in SOTW Ancient, chapter 17. The kids really liked the story and compared it to The Hunger Games, it sounded just like it too (the people put names in a bowl then drew 7 boys and 7 girls to be sent off to another island with a Minotaur, then a prince ‘volunteers’ to go and kill it, which he does). They had fun working together as a group to build a Lego labyrinth (which Turner then compared to The Maze Runner!)

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We are studying a famous artist each week and this week we focused on Paul Cezanne and his painting, ‘The Blue Vase’. They used oil pastels and drew their own vase. I think they turned out amazing. I really like the look of oil pastels. Lilly has been crazy about them since we scored some for $1 at yard sale, and draws each day.

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For Physical Education we are working on our golf, bowling, and running skill sets.

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We call them skills, so the kids can see the progress they are making, and can see their progression each time. Just going and playing golf is fun, but to work on a skill set, such as putting 3 in a row, or hitting off the tee… they can then see how well all their hard work is paying off.

Actually, I’ve been calling everything a ‘skill’ this year and they love it. Instead of saying let’s do some Math, I say, ‘Hey, let’s work on your factoring skills, or you multiplication skills.’ In Language Arts, right now we are working on our ‘how to write a paragraph skills’. For some reason, it has helped them focus more when we work.

I think a big reason we are starting off strong, is that I have really taken a lot of time to plan and have a goal for everything. There must be a reason we are doing something, otherwise it’s a waste of time. With this mind set, I have been able to see the smiles on their faces, knowing they have accomplished something great.

New School Year 2015-2016

Two 2nd graders, and one 3rd grader this year! Such fun!

I’m am excited to start the year off next week.

We homeschool Mon-Thurs and start around 8am. Last year we started later and ended up not doing quite a few things because of it. Once 1pm rolls around we are all ready to go our separate ways. Our ‘breaks’ are centered around my nephews’ dad’s schedule: when he comes home, we take time off, generally 7-10 days.

Each day the kids complete Math (either Khan Academy or their Miquon books, Turner will finish with Miquon soon and go to Teaching Textbooks). They also have reading (which is usually done before bed), and their ETC books (which I believe they will all finish those this year). Oh, let’s not forget PE too, staying active is a big deal is this house.

Other than that, we are trying a new thing each morning before anything else, and I call it our morning meeting. We basically sit around our awesome new table fr IKEA and learn a new ASL phrase, discuss a famous quote and how it applies to life or what they think about it, discuss any goals they have and a plan to get there, and we are also have group vocabulary using Freerice.com, they really feel like they are helping others out and never complain about learning some new words! Win-win for us! A few others things we do are dictation and some group memory work every now and then.

It may seem super orderly, but it’s relaxed and fun. Nothing is forced or has a time limit.

Things that they will do a few times a week are keyboard practice, Coding (code.org), Art (we are studying one famous artist a week then creating similar art pieces),  History (SOTW), Science (Mystery Science), and Geography (Little Passports USA Edition).

Another new idea we are implementing is Individual Weekly Questions. During our morning meeting, they each decide on a question they want to know the answer to, then present that information to the class on Thursday during the morning meeting. They are responsible for researching the topic. It will be on something they want to know, whether it’s how Legos are made, or how old the trees in our yard are. I will guide them in finding the answers if they need it, but they are on their own during the presentation.

One last thing we have are endeavors. They love them. I basically write down their endeavor on a card and they work on it in their free time until they completed it. Once they have it mastered, we write a completion date on the card and they keep them so we can look back at all their endeavors each year. Endeavors are skill sets I want them to work on tailored just for them: shoes tying, counting on Spanish, writing their address, knowing the states that border us, writing their birthdate, etc. the possibilities are endless.

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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.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetOur last lapbook we did the first year was on Sharks. We took a trip to the ocean afterwards. On the back of this one we glued the bar graph for the different sized sharks, and we set their drawing of a hammerhead (which we followed another online video) inside for safe keeping. I also made my own card holder for the photos of different sharks.

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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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Bee Unit

The kids have been learning about Bees the past 2 weeks. We got most of the materials from Easy Peasy Zoology. I printed off what we wanted to use (we don’t use everything they have listed, just what works for us).  We also read each day from the book they recommend on Bees.

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The kids really enjoyed learning about Bees. I wanted to share a few photos of the finished product. They colored a bee one day while I was reading. We also cut out hexagons and they glued them to the page to show how the connect.

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During the week, we also watch a few YouTube videos, even one where a bee poops. I know, it’s gross, but Lilly came up to me and asked what bee poop looked like, so we found out. That video lead to another video on the bee dance, and bee hives, etc.  Videos are such a  great learning tool. I’m glad we can look up pretty much anything anytime we need too. (Yes, Lilly writes her ‘g’ backwards).

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We finished up the last day by watching The Bee Movie. They made several references about what was right and wrong during it without me even asking. It wasn’t the best movie, but they liked it enough.

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We really wanted to go to a bee farm. I called around, but my kids were a little scared to be around so many bees, so I will take them when they get a little older.

Next unit…. worms 🙂