Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Homeschool Update, Potty Training, and Christmas Break!

We are in the midst of our Christmas Break right now, and Big Brother thinks it is pretty awesome that he gets to take a longer break than the local public schoolers thanks to our flexible year-round schedule!

I want to share what we are up to during our break, but first an update on our school year:

So far this year in our homeschool, we have explored Ancient Egypt, deserts, Ancient Greece, the human body, Ancient Rome, and geology using a fun unit study curriculum. (We are looking forward to learning all about the Middle Ages and plants next when we start back in January!)

Our recent study on Rome included Bible study on the life of Jesus. We read Old Testament prophecies about Christ and discovered how He fulfilled each one during His life. We also did an amazing study of Handel's Messiah, which was so enriching and a great way to lead us up to this Christmas season.

Our most recent literature read-aloud was The Bronze Bow. We were able to check it out from our library, and Big Brother and I both agree this was probably one of the best stories we had ever read. Highly recommend!

We have focussed a LOT on earthquakes and volcanoes in science lately. Big Brother even simulated both an earthquake and a volcanic eruption. We watched videos on YouTube of actual eartquakes and volcanic eruptions, too.

To tie this in with our study of Rome, we basically became experts on the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii, Italy during the time of the Roman empire. We read every book we could find on the subject, watched numerous documentaries about the eruption on YouTube, and watched a movie that our library had about Pompeii. Fascinating stuff!

Of course Big Brother also read many books about ancient Rome, watched both Ben Hur and The Robe, made a timeline of all the Roman emporers, and constructed LEGO models of several important Roman landmarks.

Something else we've started recently is having Big Brother go to my mom 2 mornings a week for tutoring in spelling (his only weak score on standardized tests). My mom is a certified tutor with the Barton Reading & Spelling System. Big Brother looks forward to doing these fun lessons at Grana's house...and to the special lunch of macaroni and cheese she makes for him afterward! If you have a child who is dislexic or just seems to be struggling in some way with spelling or reading, the Barton system is definitely worth a look. We are truly blessed that my mom is close by and has this expertise.

Little Brother (2 1/2 now) has reached an important milestone in his life: no more diapers (except at bedtime)! We used a 3 day potty training "boot camp" approach with him, and it pretty much worked. It was probably one of the most exhausting things I've ever done (besides labor), but it worked. Thank the Lord! Potty training and weaning are the two necessary milestones I dread dealing with the most as a mommy. Glad we have both behind us now!

Anyway...

So that brings us to Christmas break!

December 9th was our first day off, and we will not start back until January 4th! Woohoo!! All the hard work we put in over the summer is really paying off now as we are able to slow down and enjoy the Christmas season.

How do you think Big Brother wanted to celebrate the beginning of his break? Why a trip to the library, of course!

He was intent on finding as many books as possible on pirates to enjoy over the next few weeks. Allowing him to choose books on a topic he currently finds interesting has helped keep the spark of learning alive while we are technically out of school. He has had some new and interesting fact about either a specific pirate, the history of pirating, or ships to report to us pretty much every day. And of course he has spent some time dressing up and pretending to be a pirate. Ahoy there, mates!

Big Brother is president of our county's Cloverbuds and 4-H Homeschool clubs. He has had several recent meetings and workshops to attend. He sold candy bars to help earn money for his Cloverbuds Club to sponsor a needy child for Christmas. He and his friends had fun wrapping their gifts for the child. This whole experience was so good for him as he learned a little bit about making sales, worked on counting change, and helped a child in need along the way.

In that same spirit of learning the joy of giving to others this Christmas season, Big Brother also filled 2 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child this year. We just discovered that his boxes were sent to a boy and girl Columbia.

Another fun service project we did was collecting pairs of "silly socks" to send to hospitalized children this Christmas. Big Brother used some of the money he had earned from his chores and collected donations from family and friends. In all he was able to send 105 pairs of socks to the cause! We had so much fun with this that I definitely want to do it again next year!

Christmas music has been major focus for our family this year. We participated in two different community Christmas caroling services, and Big Brother also performed last weekend in his first official piano recital. He worked so hard preparing and perfecting his assigned piece (Angels We Have Heard on High), and he did a wonderful job. His teacher had even taught him how to give a proper bow. Getting to play a real grand piano on stage at a large church in our area for the recital was so exciting for him.



Little Brother has been enjoying all the music, too. Several times this week I have heard him singing parts of Beautiful Star of Bethlehem while playing with his toys. So sweet! He absolutely LOVES the song The Little Drummer Boy. I can hardly wait to see his blue eyes light up when he opens the new drum set we are giving him for Christmas!!

Another way we are creatively spending our time off is by simply coloring. Big Brother has been on somewhat of a coloring craze these last few days especially, and he has finished an entire coloring book for the first time in his life. Little Brother wants to do whatever Big Brother does, of course, so he has been "coloring" a lot, too (mostly drawing lines and little circles with his crayon on the pages in his coloring books, but it is great fine motor skills practice just the same). I have taken the time to do some coloring in some of my Scripture coloring books, too. We all seem to find it so relaxing and fun that I am seriously considering including coloring time into our regular school day routine in the coming semester!

We will be spending lots of time with family on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Thankfully my husband gets 11 total days off from work for the Christmas and New Year's holidays, so we are looking forward to lots of family fun and relaxation coming up!

To you and yours: Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year 2017!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Why Secretary King is Wrong About Homeschoolers



Secretary John B. King, Jr. of the U.S. Department of Education has made some comments recently regarding homeschoolers.

And it looks like the Secretary of Education needs to be educated!


If you have not yet had the pleasure of reading Secretary King's ridiculous remarks, take a look at what he said here.

The man is wrong. On so many levels, he is just wrong.

1.  He claims homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.”

Has this man been living under a rock?!

Homeschoolers are presented with so many amazing opportunities that the amount of choices and the number of options can be dizzying! Having so many unique educational and extracurricular options is one of the beauties of home education. We get to choose the curriculum and activities that are best for each individual student.

And now like never before we have so much to choose from!

My boys are involved in many valuable and enriching activities that they would not have time for if we did public school!

Homeschoolers actually have time for practicing musical instruments; taking field trips at less crowded times so they can actually enjoy and learn something from the experience; and participating in extra clubs, classes, projects, and volunteer work.

Homeschoolers have time to play, explore, and develop their creativity in a safe and secure environment.

Homeschoolers are not only accepted into every major college, but they are being actively recruited by them! Trust me. I was a homeschooled student myself once upon a time, and when I was in high school there were colleges all over the country daily bombarding me with so many letters and phone calls I was tempted to change my name and move away! You see colleges have long ago figured out that homeschoolers have developed the skills it takes to be successful (both in college and in life). Homeschooled students not only consistently out-score their public schooled counterparts on college entrance exams, but they are independent learners who take responsibility for their own education.

Sorry, Secretary King, but just who are you saying has limited opportunities?!

And who is he to say what is "good for all kids" anyway? He's never even met mine (and probably not yours either), so how dare he claim to know what is best for them!

2. Secretary King says that “students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school”—unless parents are “very intentional about it.”

Rapid instructional experience?

Nope.

He's got me there.

Because my children are learning, growing, and developing according to their own unique God-ordained time-tables. My boys are not being force-fed standards-based "education" in an attempt to get higher test scores and more school funding then passed along with the rest of the herd to the next grade level year after year without ever truly mastering the material that has been thrown at them.

Wow. I had no idea my children were missing out on getting a "rapid instructional experience." (I am being sarcastic, in case you weren't sure.)

And as for homeschooling parents being "intentional" about it:

Homeschooling is an intentional act! I do not know of anyone who is homeschooling by accident, do you?

We know that in order to educate our own children we are going to have to actually do it. Homeschooling parents are some of the most intentional when it comes to making curriculum choices, seeking opportunities to socialize, or picking out extracurricular activities.

Sorry Mr. Secretary, but the parents who you should worry are not being "very intentional" about their child's education are the ones who blindly send their child to be babysat by your flawed system all day everyday.

3. According to HSLDA, "King said the school experience includes building relationships with peers, teachers and mentors—elements which are difficult to achieve in homeschooling, he said, unless parents focus on it."

Again and again I see public schooled children who have no idea how to interact with anyone outside of their narrow age group. One way homeschooled children are often quickly identified is by the way they are comfortable conversing and interacting with people of all ages.

Big Brother has good friends who are anywhere from age 2 to 82. And he can relate just as easily to one as the other!

He has meaningful relationships with his sibling, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.

He has good relationships with his piano and horseback riding teachers, our local librarians, 4H leaders and club members, and the other students and families in our local homeschool group.

Most importantly, my son does NOT have the "adults are our enemies" or "school is bad" or "little kids are not cool" mentality that is so common among public schooled students who have so much of their lives dictated by their age and their rank in the "system."

Sorry again Mr. Secretary, but homeschoolers are way ahead of your students when it comes to developing healthy and meaningful relationships.

And please don't just take my word for it!

Grab a copy of The Well-Adjusted Child and see just how homeschooling really is best for a child's social development.

Take a look at all the studies that have been done by the National Home Education Research Institute that show homeschooled students out-scoring and out-succeeding public schooled students every.single.time.

Take the time to read just a few of the host of amazing homeschool blogs out there written by some of the most intentional parents you will ever meet.

Visit some of the many homeschool conferences held all over the country each year and be totally overwhelmed by all the options that are presented.

Pick almost any town in America and find a homeschool support group or co-op (or several) full of families who are involved in all sorts of activities and have meaningful relationships with each other and their community.

Walk up to almost any homeschooled student and immediately see the difference in how they respond to you in conversation. And listen to what they say. You could learn a lot from a homeschooler!

Yes, I truly hope Secretary King gets a clue about what he's talking about before he ever mentions homeschoolers again!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Homeschool Field Trip: Mammoth Cave



In my last post, I mentioned that our homeschool group was planning a field trip to Mammoth Cave National Park. We took that trip earlier this week.

Mammoth Cave is the largest cave system in the world. It is located in Edmonson County, Kentucky. Getting there is about a 2 hour drive for our family.

We passed the time in the van listening to Little Bear Wheeler's Historical Devotions on CD. Big Brother is interested in learning about the Battle of Little Big Horn right now, so we listened to Little Bear's stories about it.

Along with 3 other homeschooling families, we had reserved our tour tickets several weeks ago. Because we had a toddler in our crew and some adults with back problems, we picked the Frozen Niagara tour. This tour is shorter and less strenuous than some of the others that are available.

If you plan to tour Mammoth Cave sometime, I recommend reserving your tickets ahead of time, too. Tours sizes are limited, and they fill up quickly.

The Visitor's Center is nice. There is a small museum with various displays and a short film to watch. And of course there is a gift shop.

All the rangers we encountered were knowledgeable and helpful. Big Brother saw a display advertising the park's Junior Ranger program. So he picked up an Adventure Booklet before we departed on our tour.

For the Frozen Niagara tour, we had to board a bus and ride a few miles to a different cave entrance. My husband and boys had never ridden on the "school bus" type of bus before, so that alone was an adventure for them!

Poor Little Brother. He loved the bus rides to and from the cave. And as long as our group was walking and exploring the cave, he was fine. But when the tour guide would have everyone stop so he could talk...not so much. I honestly cannot remember anything the tour guide said along the tour. I really hope the other folks around us were able to hear him!

Oh well. Little people have limits. That was precisely why we had chosen the shorter tour!

Big Brother had a great time. He had taken one of the longer tours once when he was about 3 years old, but he did not remember much about it. Because we had done some learning about caves before the trip, he was proud to be able to point out to me the stalagtites and stalagmites and to tell me the difference between them.

There were some stunning formations along this tour, and there were a couple places where we did have to duck down to get through some passages. But it was nothing extremely adventurous. Just a brief introduction to the cave.

After arriving back at the Visitor's Center, Big Brother used some of his Spend money to buy a nifty little Mammoth Cave ink pen. He bought the pen so he could use it to fill in the worksheets in his Adventure Booklet.

Each completed worksheet was worth either 1 or 2 "bat points," and he had to earn at least 9 of these points to become an official Junior Ranger.

So my husband took Little Brother outside to explore while Big Brother and I found a comfy spot to work. Some pages were simple word searches and crossword puzzles, others were about preservation or cave safety.

Big Brother's favorite page was about bats. He learned that a bat can flap its wings up to 600 times in one minute! So for an exercise, he had to flap his arms and count how many times he could do it for one minute. We found a clock on the wall, and I timed him as he flapped his arms like wings. He was able to flap only 62 times. We marveled at how amazingly God has designed the bat!

This completed Big Brother's requirements, and we let one of the rangers check his booklet. The ranger awarded him with a nice certificate and an official Mammoth Cave National Park Junior Ranger badge.

Big Brother was so proud of himself I thought he was going to cry. It isn't easy for him to sit down and fill in worksheets at home, not to mention on a fun field trip with all his buddies around. But he was determined to earn that badge, and he had worked diligently. For him, it was a huge accomplishment!



And here it is a couple days later, and he is still wearing his badge.



If you go to Mammoth Cave:

- Be prepared to hear and see a lot of references to evolution and "millions of years." I recommend watching Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD with your family first to get a Biblical perspective on the subject.

- Bring a jacket or sweater. It is always cooler inside the cave.

- Choose your tour and reserve your tickets well ahead of time. Remember Mammoth Cave National Park is located in the Central Time Zone so plan accordingly.

- Use the restroom before your tour starts.

- Pick up a free Junior Ranger Adventure Booklet from the Visitor's Center. You have to ask for them at the information desk.

- Be patient and understanding with little ones, whether your own or someone else's on the tour. It is dark in there, and some children might be sensitive or even a little scared.

- Have fun!



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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Christian Homeschool Science Co-op: Learning About Caves!

Our homeschool group has a field trip to Mammoth Cave coming up.

To help us get ready for the trip, I taught a one-day science co-op class. There our students watched an exciting video, conducted a cool experiment, and learned some interesting things about caves.



We watched Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD. The children loved it! Buddy goes exploring deep inside of a cave, crawls on his belly, squeezes through tight passages, and repels down into deep caverns. He meets several interesting cave-dwelling animals such as bats and blind cave fish. Throughout the episode, Buddy shows how real scientific evidence found in caves support the Biblical belief in a worldwide flood during the time of Noah. The children were totally fascinated by Buddy's adventure, and now they are even more excited about going on a little cave adventure of our own soon! (Although our tour will not be anywhere near as extreme as Buddy's was!)

I highly recommend this DVD!



The following science experiment let the students watch a demonstration of how caves form as they made their own clay caves. The homeschoolers in my class yesterday ranged in age from 2 to 11, so this activity is fun for all ages.

Clay Caves Science Experiment

Materials Needed For Each Student:

* 1 regular size can of play-doh
* 3 or 4 sugar cubes
* clear plastic cup or bowl
* warm water
* paper towels or napkins
* pencil & paper

1. Briefly discuss with students how caves like Mammoth Cave form. A layer of water soluble limestone is dissolved over time by water. Sandstone and shale, which are not as water soluble, form the roof of the cave. Contrary to popular scientific belief, millions of years are not necessary for this process to happen. Most likely the layer of fossil-filled limestone was laid down by the waters of Noah's flood, and the cave formed sometime thereafter.

2. Give each student a can of play-doh (or some type of modeling clay). Tell the students to flatten their clay into the shape of a little pancake. This clay represents the sandstone.

3. Give each student 3 or 4 sugar cubes. These represent limestone. Have the students place one sugar cube touching the edge of their clay pancakes. The remaining sugar cubes should be placed in a row behind this sugar cube. Make sure the cubes touch one another.

4. Now tell the students to roll their clay securely over the sugar cubes to form a ball around them. Make sure the sugar cube touching the edge of the clay is still exposed.

5. Fill each student's clear plastic cup or bowl with warm water. (Make sure whatever plastic cups or bowls you use are big enough for the clay balls to be covered completely with water!)

6. Give each student a pencil and sheet of paper so they can record their experiment. Ask them to write down a hypothesis (what they think will happen when they put the clay ball containing sugar cubes into the warm water).

7. Now let the students drop their balls of clay into the warm water. The water should cover the ball. Make especially sure the exposed sugar cube is completely submerged. Have students record what they see happening right away onto their papers (probably nothing, or perhaps some students may see bubbles).

8. What starts happening next? Students should continue watching the clay balls and writing down their observations. The sugar will start dissolving in the water, and it will leave a trail of bubbles as it does.

9. After 10 to 15 minutes or so, hand out paper towels or napkins to each student. Let them carefully remove their clay from the water and place it on the towels. Have students look inside the ball where the sugar cubes were. They should see a little cave left behind!

10. Have students finish recording what happened onto their papers. Review how this demonstrated cave formation.

This co-op class was fun and easy to teach. Try these activities with your own students and post back here in the comments to let me know how it goes! You might even want to share pictures of your own clay caves on my Facebook page!

And don't forget to grab your copy of Buddy Davis' Extreme Caving DVD!



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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Piano Curriculum Christian Homeschoolers Will Love!

Every child should study piano!

And whether you can afford to send your child to a teacher for private lessons or not, there are two good quality, inexpensive piano curricula that I highly recommend for Christian homeschoolers!

As a musician and former piano teacher, I cannot stress enough the importance of having your child learn piano. Music is a wonderful gift to us straight from the heart of God, and this gift has many benefits. The study of a musical instrument:

* builds character and self-discipline

* improves concentration and focus

* exercises both sides of the brain

* builds self-esteem

* sharpens skills needed for math and reading

* provides a creative outlet that can be shared and enjoyed for a lifetime



Why Piano?

Even if your child is more interested in guitar, violin, flute, drums, or some other instrument, most musicians and teachers recommend studying piano first (or at least in addition to the favored instrument).

Why?

Because all the musical concepts that need to be understood when playing any instrument can be most easily demonstrated, studied, and mastered using the piano. Once a person has a good grasp of how to navigate a piano keyboard, that knowledge is easily translated to understanding other instruments so much better and being able to master them faster.

I started out learning piano at a young age. I was able to pick up both guitar and bass very quickly then in my early teens. This came to me so easily because I was able apply the musical concepts I had already learned from the piano.

Music is not totally some mysterious talent that you either have or you don't. Music is an orderly system of simple patterns that anyone can (and should!) study and understand.

So now that you see why studying music and especially piano is so important, let me share with you my favorite curricula that I guarantee you will love!

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!

Madonna Woods Piano Course for Christians

This piano course has 6 levels that gently lead the student from absolute beginner to advanced pianist. I used this curriculum the most when I was a piano teacher, and I can guarantee you it is top-notch.

A motivated child could easily work through this piano course independently. All the necessary instruction is clearly presented. And even if you have no prior musical experience you could still follow along and guide your child in their lessons.

My favorite aspect of Madonna Woods Piano Course for Christians is that it teaches using classic hymns, Sunday School songs, and Gospel songs. Children are really motivated to practice when the songs they play are familiar and so meaningful. Some classical composers are also introduced along with arrangements of their music.

The design of the books is simple and not distracting. Text and pictures are all printed in black and white. This curriculum is thorough and very meaty, so do not let the simple look cause you to pass it up.

Madonna Woods Piano Course for Christians is geared toward children and youth, but I have had great success using it with adult piano students as well. I would recommend waiting until a child is at least 6-7 years old before starting the first (Preparatory) level.

Purchase this wonderful piano curriculum here!

Alfred's Sacred All-in-One Piano Course

This piano course has 5 levels, and I have used it with several former students as well. This is the curriculum Big Brother is using with his new piano teacher, and he thinks it is fun!

These books are a bit more colorful than the others.

This course is also a top of the line program that I recommend to anyone who wishes to study piano. It could probably be started with a younger child of 4-5 if he/she seems ready and eager to play piano.

The books in this series also have enough of instruction included so that they really could be used at home without hiring a professional piano teacher.

Theory work is included right in the lesson books. That means there are pages with written exercises for the student to complete to better understand musical concepts covered in the course.

While not as many actual hymns are included in these lesson books, the song lyrics are all about Jesus or the Bible or some Godly character trait. Many of the tunes will be familiar and enjoyable.

Purchase this trusted piano curriculum here!

Have questions about your homeschooler and music? Leave a comment below or ask me on Facebook!

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

It's All Greek to Me!

Have you missed us? We've been crazy busy for the last while, so blog updates have fallen by the wayside.

We did finish our unit on Ancient Egypt, and it was a HUGE success! We ended the unit with a study of Passover and watching the classic The Ten Commandments movie. Big Brother and I discussed the similarities and differences between the Biblical account and the movie. He picked out many glaring differences right away! Even though this movie is an enjoyable classic, t is SO important that we know the truth from God's Word and share it with our children so when they see Hollywood's skewed version, they can tell the difference!

So on August 8th we moved on to Unit 2 of A World of Adventure: Ancient Greece!

We kicked off this unit by watching the Drive Thru History DVD titled "Greece and the Word". This whole series happens to be a family favorite. Big Brother laughed hysterically at Dave Stotts' fast-paced and fun way of exploring history. He really learned a lot from this DVD, and we are referring back to it all the time as we are continuing to cover ancient Greece.

Since the Greeks were fascinated with the human body, that is the focus of our science class for this unit. So far we have read about the major body systems, played a puzzle game to learn the names of many of our bones, measured our heart rates and chest expansion, and watched several interesting DVDs from Answers in Genesis's "Body of Evidence" series featuring Dr. David Menton. These DVDs are pretty in-depth and are actually recommended for high schoolers, but 8 year old Big Brother has still picked up a lot of good information from them.

We have enjoyed reading and discussing Aesop's Fables, the parables of Jesus, various Biblical Proverbs, and stories from Greek Mythology. (Big Brother says he's very glad the One true God is NOTHING like the many selfish and silly gods that the ancient Greeks believed lived on Mount Olympus!)

We are working on memorizing Psalm 139 for this unit. This will be the longest Scripture passage Big Brother has ever committed to memory! So far he knows the first 8 verses. We are just working on this a little at a time each morning.

It has been interesting to see just how much of the ancient Greek culture, art, and language has found it's way into our own.

One day this week while driving through a nearby town, Big Brother noted all the different types of Greek columns he saw on different buildings. He got so excited identifying the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian style columns he saw; and it turned an afternoon of running boring errands into a fun learning experience!

Another way we have been turning van time into learning time has been listening to audiobooks and stories on CD. We've recently discovered storyteller Jim Weiss and Great Hall Productions. His retellings of ancient Egyptian and Greek myths have been just great.

In other news:

Little Brother has been enjoying getting to explore a child sized drum set after his weekly Kindermusik classes. He really seems to have a natural sense of rhythm!

Big Brother has begun taking formal piano lessons at the same local studio where Little Brother attends Kindermusik. He is really excited and practices above and beyond his required time. He's looking forward to getting to use his developing musical talents to minister to seniors at a new local nursing home facility soon.

4-H meetings and activities start back up for the school year this week. Big Brother looks forward to participating in the local Homeschool, Cloverbuds, and Shooting Sports clubs this year.

Our local homeschool support group is also busy! We've had several afternoon meetings for play time at the park, and next week we will be doing a fun science co-op class in preparation for an upcoming group field trip to Mammoth Cave!

Have you started back to school yet? I would love to hear how your year is going so far!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Financial Peace, Jr. - Chores and Money!

My husband and I have been "fans" of financial teacher Dave Ramsey ever since we were dating. We've read his books (some of them numerous times), listened to his show, and implemented many of his "baby step" ideas in our own family's finances. While thankfully we have personally never had any debt to have to get out of, we do use Dave's cash-envelope budgeting system idea, we have an emergency fund in place, and we are currently in a phase of being "gazelle intense" about saving up a good down payment for a home of our own (we currently rent a small duplex unit). Never heard of Dave Ramsey and have no idea what I'm talking about? Check out his website or grab a copy of his bestseller The Total Money Makeover!

One thing that Dave Ramsey promotes is "changing your family tree" and leaving a legacy to your children. My husband and I have really felt strongly that we want to pass Biblical principles of stewardship, strong work ethic, smart budgeting, saving, and generosity on to our boys. That will require us to not only model those principles in front of them; but to actively teach them the value of working, the discipline of saving, the need for making wise spending choices, and the joy of cheerfully giving in ways they can understand now and appreciate as they grow into men.

So as we were looking for ideas for beginning to teach Big Brother how to be wise with money, we were happy to come across Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, Jr. Kit for children ages 3-12!



Dave does not advocate giving children an "allowance" just for existing, because this teaches them to expect to get something for nothing. But he rather encourages parents to set up a system in which their children can earn "commissions" for responsibly completing certain assigned chores. Then parents work with their children to help them learn to budget the money they have earned into simple categories like Give, Save, and Spend.

We are very happy with using this program so far! Big Brother was really excited to get his own Dave Ramsey materials and to start regularly earning his own money!

The kit we ordered includes:

- Parent Guide Book
- Activity Book
- 3 zipper money pouches
- Magnetic chore chart & marker
- a download link for a book called Smart Money Smart Kids written by Dave and his daughter, Rachel

The magnetic chart hangs on our fridge, and we use it to keep track of his chores and his earnings. It also has a spot for tracking his saving and giving goals.

The Activity Book features 4 lessons for the child to complete in order to get the most out of the program. There are fun stories about a boy named Junior, Scripture verses, pictures to color, and other fun activities to make the lessons fun and helpful.

My husband and I both read through the Parent Guide before we got started, and we discussed together how this program was going to work in our family. We decided that some things like doing his schoolwork, making his bed, cleaning his room, having good behavior, taking care of his own hygeine, and helping out with something when asked were simply things that are expected of him as a member of this family. So those things do NOT earn him commissions. We felt it important to make this distinction up front so as not to constantly hear "Do I get paid for this?"

We set a weekly limit for how much commission he can earn. We decided that he would complete lessons in his Activity Book on Sunday afternoons with Daddy, I would assign and supervise his daily chores through the week, and he would be paid for his work on Fridays.

This is our first week, and so far it is going great! Big Brother completed his first lesson with Daddy on the value of working on Sunday. He liked the story and activities that went along with it! I assign chores that need to be done each morning, and Big Brother gets right to them after breakfast without a fuss.

We have set it up so that he can actually earn $8 in chore commissions per week ($1 for each year of his age), and if he responsibly completes all his chores every day he will receive a special $2 bonus as an added incentive. So basically if he works well he can get up to $10 total per week to divide among his Give, Save, and Spend money pouches. If he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid. The amount of money he receives (as well as the amount of responsibility) will go up each year on his birthday. We feel these amounts are appropriate and more than fair for him at this time.

We are using a 10-10-80 plan right now to teach him basics of budgeting. He is required to put at least 10% of his pay in his Give pouch and at least 10% in his Save pouch. The other 80% is free to be placed in his Spend pouch or, if he wishes, he may add extra into the Give or Save categories.

Through this program, Big Brother is learning that we have to work to get money and that we have to plan and save up for things we want to buy. For practice, he has chosen his first Saving goal. He is currently working toward saving up $30 to purchase a new LEGO set he has picked out. His math skills are getting a good workout as he has been planning and figuring up how long it will take him to save up $30! Eventually he may set larger saving goals as he gets older such as saving up to buy his first car.

We are also allowing him to choose where the money in his Give pouch will go. "God loves a cheerful giver" according to 2 Corinthians 9:7, so it is important that this money goes to causes that he really cares about. I was very proud when he immediately began listing out big ideas he has for this money! This week he says he plans to put his first Give money in the offering box at church. He has also mentioned giving to our local Christian radio station, making donations to Feed My Starving Children, purchasing supplies and postage for making and sending cards to sick children, and filling a shoebox of his own with gifts for Operation Christmas Child! I am excited because I know he is going to find so much joy and blessing from being able to bless others with money that he has earned on his own!

His Spend pouch is for him to...well...spend! He can bring this money with him whenever we go shopping; and if he sees some toy, book, video, candy, etc. that he wants, instead of begging us for it, he can buy it himself if he has enough spending money. No loans from us, and no taking money from Save or Give to cover impulse purchases! Hopefully this will help him build strong character and wise money habits now so that he will be better prepared for the much bigger challenges he will face in adulthood.

We have told him that as loving parents, we will provide him with things like a home, food, clothing, medical care, and school supplies (including curriculum, field trips, educational activities, etc.) as well as nice Christmas and birthday gifts. Above and beyond that, he is expected to earn his own money to spend on his other "wants!" We hope this will go a long way toward teaching him to be a more grateful, resourceful, and responsible young man.

Of course Little Brother is just 2, and for now a system like this is too far above his level of comprehension. So for now he is just learning to enjoy being helpful at home and that oh so difficult lesson that we can't get everything we want. I am sure someday he will enjoy Financial Peace, Jr. too!

How about you? How do you handle things like chores, allowances, and discussions about money with your children? Have you used Financial Peace, Jr. or some similar system? How did it go? I would love to get your input and thoughts on this topic!

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Our Family Vacation 2016

The joke is "You might be a homeschooler if your family vacations are extended field trips." And for us this is so true!



We just got home earlier this week from a trip to southern Louisiana where we visited my husband's family and enjoyed some wonderful learning experiences together! Now that we have finally dug out from under the insane mountain of laundry we brought home with us, I wanted to share a bit about our trip with you!



Getting there is always part of the fun. We split our trip down there into 2 travel days (it is roughly a 12 hour drive for us total). Along the way Big Brother watched for license plates from different states, played travel bingo with me, and listened to audiobooks. We also made a few interesting rest stops including taking selfies with a huge rocket at a Welcome Center in Alabama!

Little Brother handled the drive surprisingly well. This was his first out of state road trip! We went prepared with a bag loaded with snacks, books, and toys for him. He seemed to enjoy looking out the window and seeing new things and listening to audiobooks and music CDs. Throw in a couple good naps along the way and a stop midway down to play on a playground with some Alabama cousins, and for a 2 year old I must say he handled this trip like a pro!

We visited several very interesting places while in Louisiana:



Global Wildlife Center

I was very much impressed with this place! Thousands of animals roam free over 900 beautiful acres. Visitors are taken on tours in tractor-pulled covered wagons to touch, feed, and learn more about the animals up close! Our boys are both hopeless animal lovers, so this was a wonderful experience for them. Big Brother was excited to get to see both bactrian and dromedary camels on the tour since he had been studying about these in our Egypt/Desert unit study this summer. He was also able to feed a giraffe along with many other interesting animals! We toured at a good time of year because we got to see several baby animals like a new baby giraffe and a baby zebra. (We were warned NOT to feed or touch the zebras because they are quite moody and able to bite straight to the bone with 500 lbs of pressure! Ouch!)



If you ever happen to be in Louisiana, I would definitely recommend making a trip to Global Wildlife! For more information, click here.


Nottoway Plantation

The Civil War era has always been one of my favorite historical periods. So a trip to the deep South would not be complete for me without exploring some part of that history.

There are many of the old Southern plantation homes that have been restored to their former glory and turned into museums and tourist attractions. A few years ago we visited Oak Alley Plantation with its breathtaking views. This time we toured the largest antebellum plantation home still in existence in the South: Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, Louisiana.

The 2 hour drive from my in-law's house to Nottoway was an adventure in itself! We passed through bayou country, crossed the mighty Mississippi River, drove on dirt roads through fields of sugar cane, and passed under an alley of beautiful live oak trees. The scenery was fascinating!

We were able to take a self-guided audio tour of the mansion and grounds at Nottoway. It was amazing!



My favorite room in the mansion was the lovely white ballroom!



Once a thriving sugar cane plantation, Nottoway is now a resort. For more information, click here.


Bass Pro Shop

Ever since our last visit to Louisiana 4 years ago, Big Brother had been looking forward to another visit to Bass Pro Shop in Denham Springs, Louisiana. These stores are located in many places all over the country, and it is so much more than just a sporting goods store! It is more like a free aquarium and museum with some fun thrown in!

We enjoyed seeing many fish, a huge alligator snapping turtle, and lots of mounts. A staff member happened to be conducting a free fish workshop while we were there, so we were able to listen in on some of that.

What Big Brother really wanted to enjoy at Bass Pro was the shooting gallery upstairs. He had saved a coin pouch full of quarters for just this purpose, in fact! Our whole family had fun up there "shooting" at outhouses, skunks, and gators with special laser guns.

Besides all of these special activities on our vacation, the boys were able to enjoy spending some time with my husband's family whom they don't get to see very often. They got to visit and play with a whole host of cousins, trapse through the woods where their Daddy used to play when he was a little boy, sample some crawfish casserole, play with various pets, splash around in a kiddie pool, eat lots of pizza, taste homemade ice cream, visit with their great-grandmother in a nursing home, and enjoy Sunday School and worship services with family. Little Brother also really enjoyed getting to play guitars with Grandpa!

And that was our family vacation this year!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

An Update on Our Progress Through Egypt!

Today we are on Day 25 of the AWOA lesson plan! Big Brother was sick much of last week, so we took a few necessary days off. We had planned to finish our 30 day Egypt unit this Friday before we leave for vacation next week, but it looks like we will be finishing up the week after vacation instead. And we are fine with that! Flexibility is one of the many blessings of homeschooling.

So here is an update on our progress:

We finished reading The Golden Goblet yesterday. Big Brother and I both enjoyed this historical fiction book set in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes very much. We feel as though we have made a new friend in the main character, a lonely little boy named Ranofer. Through reading this story we have not only learned more about life in ancient Egypt; but we have also increased our vocabularies and learned about the elements of literature.

I have been very happy with the writing instruction Big Brother is receiving with this program so far. I love that he is given time over a few days to prepare, write, edit, and rewrite his assignments. He is a reluctant writer, so breaking these assignments into manageable daily steps really helps. I was very pleased yesterday when he presented me with the final version of his first expository paragragh. The assignment was to write a paragragh comparing and contrasting two main characters from The Golden Goblet. Following the instructions in our lesson guide and with minimal help from me, he was able to craft a very nice paragragh! He had a perfect topic sentence, several good supporting sentences, and a concluding "clincher" sentence that tied the whole thing together. This was a major accomplishment for Big Brother, and I am pleased to give him a well deserved A!

For science he is currently creating a Desert Booklet. He is in charge of deciding what information, pictures, etc. is included in this booklet. So far he has created beautiful booklet pages including What is a Desert?; a map marking the main deserts of the world; a report on camels; and reports on the Sahara, Gobi, and North American Deserts. I have allowed him to practice his budding typing skills by typing some of these reports. When it is finished at the end of our unit, I will bind his booklet so that he has a nice keepsake to show for his hard work.

We have done a lot of reading and watching videos about Egypt. Some of Big Brother's favorite books to read for fun lately have been library books from the "You Wouldn't Want to Be..." series. He has read every book our library has in this series related to Egypt!

We played a fun spelling game earlier this week using our dry erase board and a flashlight. I would write 3 words on the board with only one of them spelled correctly. At my signal, he had to shine the light on the correctly spelled word then spell it aloud. Picking out a correctly or incorrectly spelled word from a given list is an area where Big Brother has always struggled on standardized tests, so I was glad to be able to practice this skill with him using an engaging game.

Big Brother has memorized Psalm 23 & 24 over the past few weeks. He has created nicely illustrated booklets for each chapter. To help him practice the verses, I typed and printed each one out. Then I would cut the verse into several pieces and mix up the words. He would then have to put all the words for the verse in order, glue them onto the page in his booklet, then draw a picture at the bottom of the page to illustrate the verse.

Little Brother is a busy boy! His latest fun thing to do (O.K. besides unrolling toilet paper all over the house) is use dry erase markers either on his marker board or in a little dry erase ABC & 123 book he has. One morning this week I noticed he was on a page that was covered with numbers. I absent-mindedly said, "Can you find all the 2's on that page?" and walked off. A few minutes later, Little Brother proudly plops his little book in my lap. I was shocked to see the little fellow had indeed found and put a mark on every single 2 on the page! He also enjoys gluing pictures into his Egypt ABC booklet. I try to help him feel included in school as much as possible.

Well, just now Big Brother has informed me that he is finished with his math assignment for today. I promised to take him for a morning swim for P.E. before we finish up the rest of our work this afternoon. Sometimes getting some energy out early in the day makes the rest of it go more smoothly. And hey, it is summer after all!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mummies, VBS, & Swimming Pools!

Today we finished up Day 19 of our school year. It is hard to believe we only have 11 days left in our Egypt unit study. We are having so much fun this summer! Here are a few interesting happenings I wanted to share:



Hot Dog Mummy!

What study of Ancient Egypt would be complete without learning about mummification? To get some hands on experience and better understand this fascinating process, we decided to mummify a hot dog!

We needed:

- a hot dog (any kind will do)
- a deep plastic container with lid
- a large box of baking soda
- yarn/string
- a ruler
- pencil and paper for making a lab report
- 2 weeks to wait for the process to complete

Here is the page where I found full instructions for completing this "Minding Your Mummies" project!

VBS

Both of our boys attended a one-day VBS last weekend. My parents offered to take them for the day while my hubby and I enjoyed some much appreciated "date" time. Big Brother had attended several VBS programs before, but this was Little Brother's first. From the sounds of it, they had a wonderful time singing active songs and playing new games. Their lesson was about the story of the fiery furnace and about standing strong for Jesus. I was very impressed when Big Brother came home telling me he had felt challenged to start really putting God first in his life. I have noticed him reading his Bible and praying on his own outside of school time faithfully this week. That really puts a smile on my face! VBS programs and summer Bible camps had a big impact on my life growing up, and I was glad to see my boys getting a taste of that this summer.

Swimming

Big Brother has been desperately needing a new outlet for his seemingly endless energy. After looking at and comparing numerous activities, we decided that swimming would be a great way to get in some fun P.E. this summer! I'm not a fan of the idea of going to a public pool (health concerns as well as the modesty issues involved). Thankfully the Lord worked it out that we were able to go in together with my parents on purchasing a pool and the needed supplies. What could be better than having a private pool at your grandparents' house?!

So this week Big Brother has been very motivated to get our schoolwork finished by lunchtime and so we could go to the pool at my parents' house for an afternoon of P.E. I am working on teaching him swimming skills and safety. He is doing great, and we are both enjoying the exercise. He loves racing me across the pool and playing "Marco Polo." Little Brother is still a little nervous in the water, and that's just fine. He did seem to like the pool better when he had some balls and a toy boat to play with in the water. He also seems to like practicing kicking!

Just a last little note here while I am on the swimming pool! We all sunburn very easily. For the first couple days, I slathered both boys in sunscreen (despite their protests, which were many and loud), but I forgot to use it myself. And I have the worst sunburn ever to prove it! OUCH!!! I found a simple homemade remedy to soothe the pain, though. Mix 4 Tbsp. of baking soda with just enough cold water to make a paste, use a cotton ball to rub it on your sunburn, leave on about 10-15 minutes, and gently rinse. It felt so cool!

And yes, I think I will remember to use my sunscreen from now on!!

So what is your family up to this summer?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Enjoying The Golden Goblet

Today is Day 12 of our 2016-2017 school year using AWOA as our main curriculum.

We are now digging deeply into our assigned literature for this unit, a book called The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. This fictional story about a boy named Ranofer who works in a goldsmith shop is set in the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. We are really enjoying this book very much!

I love reading books aloud in our homeschool, and thankfully Big and Little Brother both also like to hear a good story.

To keep his hands busy while I read aloud as well as to help him actively process what happens in the story each day, Big Brother has created character cards.



As we meet characters in our reading each day, he makes a simple drawing on an index card and we label each card with the character's name. Then he uses these cards something like paper dolls to act out the events of the chapter as we read. This keeps him listening carefully and busily engaged in the story.

His drawings are rather simple, but he has include some good details that he has picked up from listening to the book. For example, he gave Rekh the goldsmith a bad leg just like the character in the story, and he gave the cruel stonecutter Gebu a sour face and a stonecutting tool.

When I first looked through The Golden Goblet before we started reading it together, I had wondered if it might be too challenging for an 8 year old to grasp. But I should not have worried! He loves it, and he even begs for me to keep reading after we finish our assigned chapter each day.

Little Brother is listening in on the reading with us, too. Although I am certain he's not grasping much of the story, he is practicing listening and enjoying either playing quietly with Play-doh or coloring.

I am also enjoying getting into the story of poor Ranofer myself. I have not read ahead to see how it all ends, so I am always excited to see what comes next in each day's assigned chapter!

Click here to find The Golden Goblet on Amazon!!

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

More Fun Spelling Activities!

Spelling is an area that I am really trying to focus on with Big Brother this year. We have liked using Rod & Staff's Spelling curriculum up to this point (and we will pick back up with their 4th grade book next year), but for this year we are enjoying taking a more varied and fun approach to our spelling practice!

Words of Many Colors


For spelling practice yesterday, I gave Big Brother his word list, 6 colored pencils, and a standard dice. On a Post-It note I assigned each number on the dice a certain color. So Big Brother would have to roll the dice to determine which colored pencil to use for writing each of his spelling words. This turned out to be a great way to keep him busy and focussed. (It also went very nicely along with our Joseph Bible story.) He had fun with this simple activity, and he even surprised himself at how quickly he finished the assignment!

Words in the Sand


This was a very good activity for a tactile learner, and it went along so well with our current Egypt/Desert theme. Today I called out his spelling words one at a time, and he wrote them in a pan of sand. Sometimes he used a paintbrush, and sometimes he just used his finger. Very simple and very fun!!

What are some fun ways your children have practiced spelling?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fun Alphabetizing Spelling Activity

Today was Day 3 for us using the A World of Adventure unit study curriculum, and we are loving it!

I wanted to briefly share with you an activity we did for spelling practice today that Big Brother really liked.

Normally being given the assignment of putting words in alphabetical order makes Big Brother groan. For some reason despite having a very high reading level, he still struggles with something as seemingly simple as remembering the order of the ABCs.

But this simple activity helped to make an otherwise boring and troublesome task so much more fun and interesting!

You may remember that we are in the midst of a unit study about Ancient Egypt, and as part of this unit study we are learning about the life of Joseph in the Bible. We all know the story of how Joseph was falsely accused and put into prison.

So to go along with the prison theme today when his spelling lesson called for him to alphabetize his word list, he made a spelling chain!



I cut 21 strips of construction paper so that he would have one link for each word on his current spelling list. Big Brother used a marker to write one spelling word on each strip of paper.

I had a sheet that I normally use when working with Little Brother which has all the capital letters of the alphabet printed out in order in large print, and I allowed Big Brother to use this sheet as a guide.

He carefully put each strip in the correct order, sometimes having to look to the second or third letter to determine which came next. I double-checked his order, and then we worked together to glue the strips together to make an alphabetized spelling chain.

Big Brother was so proud of his chain that he wanted to hang it up in our living room for decoration!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

First Day of School 2016-2017!

Yesterday was officially our first day of school for the 2016-2017 homeschool year! It was great, and I believe I can say that the new curriculum we have chosen for the year is going to be a huge success!

We began our morning with breakfast at about 7:45 followed by prayer and chores.


At 8:30 we began our school day with Bible. Since we are studying the life of Joseph in A World of Adventure, we started off by watching VeggieTales' fun retelling of Joseph's story The Ballad of Little Joe. It was a hit with both boys, and it really was a fun way to introduce our Bible reading for the day. While I read Genesis 37 aloud and we discussed the story, the boys worked on coloring pictures of Joseph and even made their own coats of many colors using large paper grocery bags.



Our next subject for the morning was Language Arts, and our activities tied into the Bible lesson for the day. Big Brother learned the Greek root word chronos which means "time," and he started creating a vocabulary matching game. So his writing assignment was to write three sentences telling things that happened in the story of Joseph in chronological order. Then the boys made the first pages in their "ABCs of Ancient Egypt" booklets. Today's page, of course was J is for Joseph, and they pasted the pictures of Joseph they had colored earlier onto these pages.


Big Brother practiced his cursive handwriting.


Little Brother enjoyed learning about the shape and sound of the letter J and finding the J magnet in his alphabet set.

Once Language Arts was finished, we were ready to dive head first into Social Studies by enjoying a special "Taste of Egypt" snack (complete with a "finger bowl" just like the Egyptians would have used!) while reading from a few of the library books we had checked out on Egypt.



By this time, Little Brother was asking to go watch The Ballad of Little Joe again, so I fixed him a little "Taste of Egypt" bowl to enjoy in the other room. (He came back in several times for seconds...and thirds...)



Big Brother and I read sections from several different books while we snacked on the floor. We read about the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx of Giza, several different Pharaohs, the flooding of the Nile, and the mummification process. Pretty interesting stuff! We had to watch our time because we could have easily spent the entire day like this. Big Brother said this was his favorite part of the whole day, and I am pretty sure I agree!

One book I want to especially mention that we are using that did not come from the library is called Unwrapping the Pharaohs. This is a Christian-oriented book that gives a Biblical timeline for the history of Ancient Egypt. We just skimmed here and there yesterday, but we are really looking forward to digging into this book and especially meeting the different Pharaohs of the Bible. There is a DVD with this book, and we may check that out on Monday.



Big Brother recorded the different foods we ate for our snack that would have also been eaten by the ancient Egyptians.



For science, we read from several books about deserts and especially about cacti and other desert plants. For a little fun hands on learning project, each of the boys planted their own little cactus seeds!



We paused at about 12:15 for lunch. Over lunch, we talked about all the interesting things we were learning already. After lunch, we played the Worlds of Adventure quiz board game that is part of the AWOA curriculum to review what we had studied so far. This was a very fun way to review and check Big Brother's comprehension.

After our game, we enjoyed some singing time for Fine Arts. I chose a couple of short prayer songs to start teaching the boys: "Change My Heart, Oh God" and "Holiness." Little Brother catches on to song lyrics and melodies so quickly, and he was singing right along with us in no time! After the busyness and excitement of our day up to this point, some quiet singing was very refreshing.

We are re-using parts of our 3rd grade R&S math curriculum from last year rather than going on to 4th grade just yet. I thought a year of review and more hands on math activities would be beneficial for Big Brother. For our first day, I kept math pretty quick and simple. First I quizzed him orally on some multiplication facts. Then he did a few rows of division facts on paper. And to add in some fun, I introduced him to the world of cuissenare rods. He learned what numbers each color rod represents. Then I had him use the rods to show me all the different addition and subtraction facts for 10.

Big Brother's next assignment after math was typing. We have Mavis Beacon's Keyboarding Kidz, and it seems to be very good. Big Brother actually started using this program for fun during our break so he had already completed a few lessons. Yesterday he spent 30 minutes working on his typing skills with Mavis Beacon's fun lessons and games. In today's world, typing and computer skills are very important, so I want Big Brother to get a good start.

To end up the main part of our school day, Big Brother spent some time reading from a library book he chose about Howard Carter, the man who discovered King Tut! He was finished by about 2:15.

Meanwhile, Little Brother and I finished up some laundry and dishes together. Then after reading a quick story or two, Little Brother spent a little time playing his toddler preschool app on my phone while I stretched out on the couch for a much needed few minutes rest! Little Brother very rarely takes a nap during the day anymore, so I have to grab a little quiet rest time whenever I can!

Later in the evening, Big Brother and I took some pictures as part of the 4-H Photography curriculum we are working on together.

And that was our busy, fun first day of homeschool for the year!

We are all looking forward to more to come!!!!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Getting Ready for the New Homeschool Year!

Our little 2 1/2 week break is almost over! We will officially start our 2016-2017 homeschool year this Friday morning (June 3rd)!

We have had a lot of fun enjoying our time off. We have taken this time to play games, play with neighbors in the backyard, read books, paint pictures, watch movies, visit a fish hatchery, make cards for sick children, go to the park, visit the zoo, work on household chores, and much more!

We've had a busy day today purchasing a few needed school supplies and checking out 30 Egypt & desert themed books from our local library just to get us started!

There is a lot of excitement for us right now as we prepare for this new year. This will be our 6th year of homeschooling, but it is going to be very different from any that has come before for several reasons:

1. Big Brother is not really going to be in any certain "grade" this year. He successfully finished 3rd grade already, but I won't consider him in 4th grade until the year after this one. He just turned 8 this Spring, so we are just taking a maturity year...because We can! I guess for simplicity's sake he will probably just keep answering "3rd" when anyone asks him the dreaded "What grade are you in?" question.

2. We are trying out a year round schedule for the first time. Goodbye summer slide! We will be getting our first 30 days of school done before everybody else gets back from the beach! And when everyone else starts back in the fall, we will only be having to do school 4 days a week most of the time! We will have 12 months to log our required school days rather than feeling rushed to complete them in the traditional 9 months.

3. We will have a totally new curriculum with a totally new method! We are beyond excited to dive into A World of Adventure which is a complete history-based Christian unit study curriculum. We have done short unit studies before, but we have never used the unit study method as our main homeschool curriculum.

4. Little Brother will be joining in our homeschool activities much more! At 2 years old, he will be soaking up as much from our unit studies as possible while focussing on becoming more familiar with the alphabet and numbers.

I have our first day's activities and schedule pretty much planned out, and our workboxes are already loaded!



Be sure to watch out for my next post after our first day of school is complete!!

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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