Sunday, May 29, 2016

Our 2015-2016 Homeschool Year Part 6

Our 2015-2016 homeschool year is now officially complete!

What a blessed, busy, and productive school year we have had!

Having quite successfully completed our 5th year of homeschooling, I thought it would be neat to do a series of posts looking back over our year!

Check out the previous posts:
Part 1 - Spelling
Part 2 - English
Part 3 - History
Part 4 - Science
Part 5 - Math

This will be the final post in this year in review series. Today, I want to look back and see all that Little Brother has done!

Tot School



Little Brother just turned 2 in April, and while he's way too young for "formal" homeschooling, he is at the perfect age to explore and to develop a love for learning.

He still spends a large amount of his time in very unstructured ways just playing and roaming around from this to that. Making messes seems to be a favorite pass time; but he also enjoys helping me with chores like loading the washer/dryer or sweeping the kitchen. Just his being here to see Big Brother doing his school activities and taking part in our family's day to day routine is a big part of his "education" at this point.

One area Little Brother has especially excelled in over this past year has been Scripture memorization! You may remember that we have used the Scripture Talk DVD this year which teaches KJV Scripture passages using fun hand motions. One of Little Brother's greatest joys has been joining in as Big Brother has practiced reciting passages. From gentle daily exposure our toddler has learned Psalm 1, Psalm 100, Matthew 7:24-27, Mark 12:38-34, Ephesians 4:25-32, Ephesians 6:10-18, and John 3:16. Take a look at my blog post about toddlers and Scripture memory here

Another favorite for Little Brother is music. He absolutely LOVES music!! He and I have enjoyed attending local Kindermusik classes that are just perfect for his age group! He learns songs so easily, and some of his favorites are hymns like "What a Day That Will Be," "Amazing Grace," and "Trust and Obey." These he has learned simply from my husband and I singing them to him at naptimes and bedtime. He has a Melissa & Doug piano of his own, a First Act guitar, and a Little Tikes drum.This little dude is a one man band! Any toys that play songs are favorites. He enjoys listening to our local Christan radio station, and his current favorite group to listen to on CD for trips in the van is an acapella quartet called Garment of Praise. He can sing most of the songs on his favorite Garment of Praise CD.

I have ABeka's Nursery Arts and Crafts book which is mostly coloring sheets and simple crafts for learning colors and shapes. We have not ended up using all of this book, but Little Brother does know colors and basic shapes extremely well from just talking about all the colors around him everyday.

We have taken time to play simple "Name the Color" games using M&Ms, LEGO bricks, gummy bears, and more. Check out this post showing the simple file folder colors game I made for Little Brother to play!

Little Brother can count to 12, and he recognizes all the numerals from 0 to 9. He enjoys counting everything from steps to Cheerios to cows! He likes playing with calculators and pointing out the numbers on the buttons.

Little Brother also loves books. He can "read" his favorite books to me since he has them basically memorized. I often leave blanks when reading him familiar books so that he can fill in the words. He loves to discuss pictures, and he seems to especially enjoy books and pictures with animals.

He loves animals; and although we do not have any of our own, Little Brother quickly makes friends with any animals he encounters. Just behind us is a small farm with a few cows, and he could spend hours back there petting and talking to one especially friendly cow! He knows many animal sounds, and he loves to practice them!

Little Brother can currently identify all the capital letters of the alphabet and can give many of their sounds. I made an ABC booklet for him that has a letter of the alphabet on each page along with a picture of something familiar to him that begins with that letter. His favorite page is the page for the letter D because I put Daddy's picture there. (Little Brother is very VERY much a Daddy's boy!)

Pretty much daily he plays a cute little app called Toddler Preschool Activities that I have downloaded for him on my Android smartphone. We use the free version. It introduces letter names, numbers, colors, shapes, and counting to 10. It is surprising to me how easily a 2 year old can learn to use a smartphone!

We gave him an inexpensive set of alphabet magnets and a magnetic board on which to play with them. These are really a big hit! Sometimes I will write a few letters on his board and then ask him to find the matching magnet letter and place it on top of my letter. This is just an easy little game that is also helping him with letter discrimination. Often he will play with these magnets independently, sorting through the letters and numbers while talking about their names and colors.

Next school year he will be learning more about the alphabet and phonics while making his own ABC books to go along with our AWOA unit studies. I am also looking forward to including him in our Bible time, art, any hands-on activities we do, and as much of our read-aloud time as possible. I can't wait!

I hope you have enjoyed this series! We start back to school on Friday, June 3rd for our first 6 week session of our new year-round schedule

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Our 2015-2016 Homeschool Year Part 5

Our 2015-2016 homeschool year is now officially complete!

What a blessed, busy, and productive school year we have had!

Having quite successfully completed our 5th year of homeschooling, I thought it would be neat to do a series of posts looking back over our year!

Be sure to read the previous posts in this series:

Part 1 - Spelling
Part 2 - English
Part 3 - History
Part 4 - Science

In today's post, let's talk about

Math

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Rod & Staff's math curriculum! It is simple, thorough, mastery based, and it just works! Big Brother is very confident in his math skills, and I am so happy he is getting a solid foundation in math. He knows his facts and he knows how to use them to solve real life problems.



Last year I wrote a post called Why We Love Rod & Staff Math if you would like to check that out!

This year in the textbook I alternated having him complete all the even rows for one lesson and all the odd rows for the next. This worked out extremely well. It gave him just enough practice each day to gain mastery but did not needlessly overwhelm him with too much work at once.

At this level with R&S, the student is expected to copy the problems from his textbook and complete the lessons on separate paper. For the first half of the year, I had Big Brother do this part all on his own. However, it did get to be a challenge for him since he really struggles with focus issues and tends to "zone out" sometimes. So many days I would sit with him and we would take turns. I would copy down a problem into his notebook, then he would write the answer. This really cut his assignment completion time way down, and it helped him stay focussed on math throughout the lesson. It took a lot of the pressure off of having to concentrate so hard on staying on task, and he was able to actually just focus on the math.

Near the end of the year, I started copying down most of the next day's problems into his notebook for him the night before so he could work a bit more independently.

The accompanying workbook also gave him extra practice in things not necessarily covered in the textbook like counting money, measuring, adding/subtracting fractions, and rounding. I assigned him just enough work from this book each day to make sure he was able to master these concepts as well. Since he wasn't having to copy the problems, he was able to complete this part of his math assignments more independently.

The teacher's manual has simple plans for daily drills, teaching, and board work. We enjoyed this part of each day's math lesson very much. I like that before Big Brother encountered any new concepts or facts in his textbook, we had already covered it during our teaching time together.

For some fun math practice, we made up our own Multiplication Go Fish game using index cards. We also used Multiplication Learning Wrap-ups!Check out the blog post I wrote about these here.

Big Brother is really doing well in math, and we plan to continue using Rod & Staff as our main math curriculum since it is working so well!

You won't want to miss my next post which will be looking back at Little Brother and his Tot Schooling this year!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Our 2015-2016 Homeschool Year Part 4

Our 2015-2016 homeschool year is now officially complete!

What a blessed, busy, and productive school year we have had!

Having quite successfully completed our 5th year of homeschooling, I thought it would be neat to do a series of posts looking back over our year!

We have been looking at our homeschool year one subject at a time for the past several days. Don't miss the previous posts in this series!

Part 1 - Spelling
Part 2 - English
Part 3 - History

Today, let's take a look at

Science


We used ABeka's 3rd grade science as our main science curriculum this year year. Big Brother completed reading assignments, quizzes, and tests. We also took time to do several interesting experiments from his textbook, although I do wish we could have done more. Check out a couple neat experiments we did here and here.

Honestly, simply following up on some of Big Brother's interests outside the textbook has probably led to the most fun and learning we have experienced for science this entire year!

His 4-H Cloverbuds Club has spent several months collecting plastic lids for a special recycling project, and his involvement in that project sparked an interest in learning more about recycling. Check out my blog post about how we have studied recycling here

I am proud to report that Big Brother's Cloverbuds Club (which is made up of six 5-8 year olds), has collected more plastic to be recycled than any of the other, bigger 4-H clubs in our whole county!

Over last few weeks of school, Big Brother has taken an interest in birdwatching. So we have been reading a lot about birds and identifying and photographing the birds that live in our yard. He even made a simple pine cone birdfeeder using peanut butter and oats which seemed to attract cardinals.



We discovered 2 different robin's nests in our backyard, and Big Brother has been fascinated with watching these nests and seeing how the adult birds care for their babies.





As another 4-H project, he also painted a goard bird house which he has placed in our front yard hoping to attract a family of birds.



He also enjoyed visiting a local park and taking some time to observe all the different water birds that made their homes around the pond.



Another recent fascination for Big Brother is forensic science. He is even tossing around ideas about a possible future career in this field. So we have checked out nearly every book our local library has related to the topics of forensics and crime investigation. He has learned about things like fingerprint, DNA & hair analysis; ballistics; handwriting analysis; and how scientific knowledge, methods, and equipment are an extremely important part of catching and convicting criminals.

We are looking forward to taking a fun approach to studying science with AWOA unit studies next year!

Don't miss the next part in this series! My next post will be looking back at math!

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Our 2015-2016 Homeschool Year Part 3

Our 2015-2016 homeschool year is now officially complete!

What a blessed, busy, and productive school year we have had!

Having quite successfully completed our 5th year of homeschooling, I thought it would be neat to do a series of posts looking back at our homeschool year one subject at a time.

Check out the previous posts in this series:

Part 1 - Spelling
Part 2 - English

Today's post is Part 3, and we are looking back at what we did in:

History

Big Brother is a true history buff! Of all the things he learns in our homeschool, history is usually his favorite to talk about.

This year we used ABeka's Our American Heritage as our main curriculum. It was interesting to go through the history of America by learning about the lives of famous from various time periods.



In addition to his textbook reading, quizzes/tests, and map study; Big Brother also completed an American history notebook this year which included a simple timeline and a brief report about each person he studied. I am very proud of the work he put into this project!





We found a fun website called The Inspired Instructor where there are lots of games that are specifically designed to be used along with ABeka 3rd Grade history. Big Brother has enjoyed playing these games for review on several occasions.

Since we live in Kentucky, learning about Daniel Boone this year was especially interesting. Back in December we were able to take a field trip to visit Cumberland Gap National Park where Boone and the brave pioneers with him blazed a trail through the mountains into Kentucky in the late 1700's. This trip was one of the highlights of Big Brother's school year! Check out my blog post about it here!

To supplement what we were studying in history this year, I also allowed Big Brother to watch several shows, documentaries, movies, and video clips including:

Liberty's Kids
Drive Thru History - American History
Inspiring Animated Heroes DVDs
Schoolhouse Rock history videos on YouTube (The Shot Heard 'Round the World, No More King, Fireworks, Elbow Room, The Preamble)
America: The Birth of Freedom
Beyond the Mask

We also discovered The Imagination Station book series this year. If you have ever listened to the Adventures in Odyssey radio show, then the characters in these books will be familiar. The books feature stories from various times and places in history, and Big Brother has absolutely devoured them!

Another American history resource we LOVE is a set of History Devotions by Richard "Little Bear" Wheeler on CD. This set originally belonged to my brother who loved it very much when he was Big Brother's age, and it has now been passed on to us. Little Bear is a very talented storyteller, and he has a wonderful way of not only bringing history to life but also showing how God's hand can be seen working through people and events in history.

I hope you are enjoying this series of posts, and that you will continue to join me as we take a look back at our homeschool year!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Our 2015-2016 Homeschool Year Part 2

Our 2015-2016 homeschool year is now officially complete!

What a blessed, busy, and productive school year we have had!

Having quite successfully completed our 5th year of homeschooling, I thought it would be neat to do a series of posts looking back over our year!

We are taking a look at each subject one at a time to see what worked for us...and what did not!

This post is Part 2 in that series!

Don't miss Part 1!

Today let's look back at:

English

We used Rod & Staff 3rd grade English this year.



R&S has a very good English curriculum, and Big Brother has learned so much about nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs this year. He has actually enjoyed learning how to diagram sentences, too!



Something we did in order to accomodate his unique learning style was to do as many of the lessons as possible out loud and/or using the dry erase board. We used the worksheets that came with the curriculum as well. Most of the time I would only mark a certain number of questions/sentences from each lesson for him to complete so as not to overwhelm him.

I was so excited this year to see Big Brother successfully compose and write his first short poem! This was something he seriously struggled with last year. Rhyming has always been a challenge to him for some reason. But when we came to the section on poetry this year, he was ready to write a cute little poem for me about one of his all-time favorite topics:

Cowboys
(by Big Brother)

As the cowboys ride the range,
Sitting in the saddle,
They gently sing a lullaby,
As they herd the cattle.


Short and sweet! :)

As a part of our morning homeschool routine, we also used ABeka's Oral Language Exercises



These daily exercises could not be easier to implement! Each week we focus on a certain grammar rule or trouble spot (such as knowing when to use lie or lay, good or well, etc.), and each day has 10 practice sentences which demonstrate the correct language. I simply read the sentences one at a time, and Big Brother repeats them. The purpose is to gently help correct grammar and proper speech patterns become familiar and natural to the student. This one booklet may be used year after year and with all grade levels. We did not make it through the whole book this year, but this is something we plan to continue using again and again. I highly recommend this simple resource!

As another activity to practice his writing skills and to provide some personal enrichment, Big Brother has also been corresponding with a pen-pal through Love for the Elderly's Senior Buddy program. This neat program connected him with an older lady in another state who lives in an assisted living facility. He has really enjoyed sending and receiving cards, letters, and pictures with his new friend!

Stay tuned to this blog as I continue sharing a look back at our 2015-2016 homeschool year each day!

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our 2015-2016 Homeschool Year Part 1

Our 2015-2016 homeschool year is now officially complete!

What a blessed, busy, and productive school year we have had!

Having quite successfully completed our 5th year of homeschooling, I thought it would be neat to do a series of posts looking back over our year!

In this series, we will look back at our school year one subject at a time to see what we have done, what worked for us, and what was a big flop!

I hope you will stay tuned to this blog each day for the next week or so! Enjoy the posts!!

Today, let's talk about what we did in:


Spelling



We used Rod & Staff 3rd grade Spelling this year. Big Brother completed all the textbook work independently, and he never missed a single word on any of his weekly spelling tests all year long. I like the simplicity of the R&S Spelling curriculum. I feel like the lessons included a good mix of vocabulary practice, phonics reinforcement, spelling rules, and dictionary skills.





I do wish we had done some more hands-on spelling games/activities, and that is something we will be focussing on with AWOA next year!

Did you see the post I wrote about our LEGO spelling game? Check that out here!



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Friday, May 13, 2016

Considering Homeschooling? NOW is a Good Time!

I am very thankful that my brother and I were home educated by our Christian parents. I am thankful my husband's parents were able to send him and his siblings to a good Christian school at their church. And I am extremely thankful to be able to enjoy the blessings of homeschooling our children to the glory of God!

Today I am especially thankful!

With today's headlines about the Obama administration issuing the decree demanding that public schools nationwide must accomodate "transgender" students allowing them to use their choice of bathroom, locker rooms, etc. I am saddened to think there are still Christian people sending their children to be educated in this environment!

The entire public school system in America is flawed at its very core. Christians should especially take note that God in His Word NEVER gives the responsibility for teaching and training children to anyone but PARENTS!

Whether parents take on this responsibility themselves by homeschooling or delegate this task to others by sending their children to a public or private school, God still holds parents ultimately accountable for the raising of their own children. You will be held accountable for what your children are taught to believe is normal, moral, and accepted.

Sadly more and more of the curriculum, rules, and policies of American public schools are determined on a federal level. The ideal of a little country public school where there were some Christian teachers and where Godly principles were still upheld to some extent is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Local school boards and individual teachers have little to no say over anything, and parents have even less.

I am seeing that many people are outraged at this federal order that has been issued today, and they should be. But my question to Christian people is: What are you going to do about it?

No matter who gets elected into office this year, surely we can see that the our culture is moving further and further away from Godliness and closer and closer toward a humanistic society of moral relativism where basically anything (except true Christianity) goes. The Scriptures plainly warned us that these days would come. Good is called evil, and evil is called good. This will continue to grow worse and worse until the end of time. It isn't going to get any better, folks.

It is time for the Christian parents of this nation to wake up from their sleep. They need to realize the seriousness of what is truly happening and that their children are at stake here.

This is so much more than a simple bathroom issue!

My husband and I both agree that if we had a child in the public school system right now, this right issue here would have been the last straw!

So I want to strongly urge the Christian believers of this nation who are upset about today's news to honestly and prayerfully consider home educating your children (or finiding a truly Christ-honoring private school that you can be a part of) for your children's good and for God's glory.

I am sure many parents will be considering making this momentous step in the days to come. Really with the current school year drawing soon to a close, this is a perfect time to start planning to homeschool for next year!

It may seem overwhelming to some of you, but I assure you homeschooling is nowhere near as hard or as complicated as you might think; and best of all: God will be there! I can personally testify to God's faithfulness
to bless our homeschooling efforts.

If you are looking into starting homeschooling but have no idea where to start, I encourage you to first check out the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) to find out what the laws are that govern homeschooling in your state. It is legal in all 50 states at this time, but it is handled a bit differently in each one. Thankfully (for now) in KY we are blessed with a lot of homeschooling freedom!

Then I encourage you to find a local homeschool support group in your area (Google, Facebook, local library, or your church are all good places to start looking) so you have someone to help point you in the right direction for finding the best curriculum for your family and special activities or information specific to your area.

I also encourage you to check out the many hundreds of homeschool blogs that are out there for support and inspiration.

Any material sacrifice you may have to make in order to get your children out of the public school environment is going to be extemely small when compared to the eternal souls of your children.


If you are a Christian, and you STILL have your children in public school...why? What is holding you back from making a stand? If you are new to homeschooling or considering it, feel free to send me a message and I would be glad to help!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

LEGO Spelling Practice

Later this week, Big Brother will take his final spelling test of this school year. As you may remember, we have used Rod & Staff 3rd Grade Spelling curriculum this year. He completed his textbook last week, so this week he will be taking a final review test that will include words he has studied throughout the year.

To help him get ready for this final test (and to have some fun), I came up with this simple LEGO themed spelling game!



For this simple game we used:

- 25 LEGO bricks (the number of words on his spelling list this week)
- 1 sheet of red paper
- 1 sheet of green paper
- a dry erase board & marker

Last night I prepared for this activity by writing one spelling word on each LEGO brick using the dry erase marker (don't worry, it comes off easily!). I intentionally misspelled several of the words.

This morning I introduced the activity to Big Brother. Of course anything involving LEGOs really gets his attention!

I would pick up a LEGO brick and say the spelling word written on it out loud to him. Then I would hand him the brick, and he would first have to look at the word and decide whether or not it was spelled correctly.

If the word was misspelled, he placed the LEGO brick on the red paper. If he decided the word was spelled correctly, he placed it on the green paper. Then he wrote the word correctly on the dry erase board.

We continued in this way until we had gone through the entire pile of LEGO bricks and he had correctly written each spelling word on the board.



Big Brother was able to stay focussed throughout this activity, and it was just a neat way to sneak in some spelling practice.

I love using LEGOs as manipulatives in our homeschool because they can be used in so many different ways! We have found ways to incorporate LEGO play into pretty much every academic subject, and it really makes learning more fun!

Do you have any fun, hands-on spelling activities you would like to share? Or do you have other fun ways to incorporate LEGOs into your studies? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Studying the Game of Chess



As our homeschool year is swiftly winding to a close, I am enjoying finding some fun and interesting learning activities to keep Big Brother busy for the next couple weeks.

Chess is a challenging game that has been around for hundreds of years. Learning to play chess has many positive benefits. They include:

- building concentration
- improving logical reasoning
- practicing a variety of math skills
- learning about game etiquette and good sportsmanship
- learning the historical background of the game

So right now Big Brother is studying the game of chess! I am spending some time each day slowly teaching him what he needs to know in order to understand the game become a good chess player.

It has been so much fun for both of us!

A great resource we are using in this study is a fun book called Chess for Children.

We are reading a few pages at a time together from this book each day and practicing each new skill as it is introduced.

I like that Chess for Children is written as a dialogue between two children (Jess and Jamie) who are learning to play chess. This makes it much more interesting and is easier for Big Brother to understand and enjoy. Even adults who have perhaps never really understood chess before will be playing well after going through this book!

We started out learning about the chessboard and how to name the coordinates of individual spaces on the board. (This is also an important skill that is used in reading maps!)

We are expanding our vocabularies as we learn lots of chess terminology. I have played chess since I was a young teenager, and I am learning lots of terms and interesting facts that I never knew before!

Many people think chess to be too complicated to learn because each type of piece on the game board moves and captures in a different way from the others. Remembering these different moves can seem overwhelming to a new player! But I love the way Chess for Children slowly introduces each piece one at a time, gives the historical significance of that piece, demonstrates its unique moves and abilities, and gives some simple mini-games that can be played to practice using that piece.

For example, the first piece Big Brother studied was the pawn. Each player has 8 pawns, which represent an army of foot soldiers. Big Brother learned that pawns are pretty limited on their moves, and that they are the only chess piece that captures in a different way from the way they move! To practice using pawns correctly, we learned to play a quick mini-game called "Pawn Wars" where to win a player must either:

- get a pawn all the way to his opponent's side of the chessboard
- capture all his opponent's pawns
- trap his opponent so that the opponent cannot make a move

We played this game several times the first day of our chess study, and Big Brother won.every.time. So I know he has a good grasp on how to use his pawns!

We have since moved on to learn about rooks and bishops. Today we will meet the queen! As each piece has been introduced, we have played more practice mini-games using those pieces. All these mini-games are slowly getting Big Brother ready for full chess games that will require him to use all the pieces correctly and strategically.

Doing it this way, mastering each piece and each move one at a time, is allowing him to really build his skills and gain some confidence so that he will not be overwhelmed when faced with his first full game!

The only negative comments I have concerning the book we are using, Chess for Children, is that is has a couple brief references to Star Wars and Harry Potter (both of those are big no-no's in our home for various reasons we won't get into here) and there is a silly drawing of two naked kings that is there to illustrate that leaving your king unprotected is a bad idea. (OK to me the drawing is just cartoonishly silly, it isn't graphic at all, and it actually doesn't show any body parts that it really shouldn't. The drawing honestly didn't jump out at me as being an issue at all, but my ultra-conscientious son seemed to think it inappropriate. That is the only reason I mention it here. You could easily cover this little cartoon with a piece of paper if it bothers anyone in your home.) Otherwise we are totally happy with using this book! 😀

Do you have any chess players at your home? What benefits have you discovered from playing chess? I would love to hear about any chess resources you use!