You can find entries on a specific topic if you'd like by clicking on the subject under TOPICS in the left column. There's all sorts of stuff- Lapbooking, Lesson Plans, Recipes, Projects, and More! If you're a homeschooling blogger or have a site geared towards homeschoolers and would like to trade links, let me know!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Homemade Play Dough

I have twin boys that just turned 4 and a daughter that is 9. I sometimes have a little difficulty getting the boys to patiently wait for their "schooling" while I work with my daughter. I am so blessed that the boys love "school". We don't do any official curriculum, but we have certain things we work on regularly: saying their abc's, counting orally and with objects, spelling their names orally (and now starting to write it), reading books, coloring, etc. The problem is sometimes they are done with a independent activity before I can finish with my daughter.
I love the idea of them having an activity box, and often times they will get out their blocks and play with them. But I recently found something they love even more - play dough!

I had seen recipes for homemade playdough on the internet and decided to try it. I wasn't sure how it would go, but it was worth a try. I made a batch last night with things from my kitchen (plus I purchased some Alum out of the spice section of the grocery store). There are lots of recipes on the internet - you can just google "homemade play dough" like I did. Most of them called for large amounts of flour (like 4 cups) but I wanted to try smaller version first. So, here's the recipe I found online and used:

Alum Playdough

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons of Alum
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
liquid food coloring

Pour dry ingredients into large pan. Stir together to mix. Stir oil and food coloring into the water. Pour liquid into the dry ingredients while mixing, squeezing and kneading the playdough. If too sticky, add more flour. Keeps best in the fridge.

I found that we did need like an extra tablespoon of flour.. and there was enough for each of my 3 kids to have plenty to play with. You could add a little extract to make different scents - but I didn't want to entice the boys to eat it. It is all natural since all the ingredients are edible and from the kitchen, but I don't believe it would taste very good. Perhaps that would be for an "older crowd". They sat and contently played with it for a couple hours last night (until bedtime).

The boys weren't sure what to do with it at first, and I decided next time I would give them some cookie cutters to use with it. I also noticed that as I put it away - the dough was a little dry. It will probably need some more water and a little oil when we get it out again. You could also do different colors to give some variety.

Until next time, much love and God bless.

Courtney Short-Prudhomme
Homeschooling Mom Extraordinaire

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A difference in schooling

I want to share a comment posted on my Mandymom.com blog, that I found in my inbox this morning.


"Hi there, I just found your blog and I have been reading it all. :) Just wanted to share my $0.02. I am a native of Brazil and married and living in the USA. I have 3 children and one more on the way and we homeschool. In Brazil, children go to school for half a period. They either go to school in the morning or in the afternoon. We spent 11 years in school instead of 12 years. We don't waste our time with classes like Home Economics, Typing, Drama, Music, etc in school. those are subjects that are taken in your personal time at your own cost, after school. We are still a gifted and talented country. :) Everyone has to take Algebra, Chemistry, Physics, Foreign language in High School. By the time you finish HS you had Calculus.

I went to Public school in California for 2.5 years. I went to Middle and high school. I can tell you that the US school system is weak and deficient. Teachers do not use their time wisely in school. There is a lot of wasted time. There is NO need for 10 hours of school a day, 5 days a week!!! I believe like you do that we as parents are the ones that should be training our children. They are precious gifts from God and we need to spend time pouring our lives into theirs. I truly enjoy my children and love to see them learn and blossom AT HOME. I think we Christian homeschoolers are blessed that we have seen the Light. :) I believe the whole Public school system has nothing to do with education but indoctrination, but that is another subject for another day. :) Be blessed, Tereza"

One thing I want to point out is that, in reality, children today go to school for 14 years, from Pre-K to 12th grade. When I was a kid, Kindergarten was a half-day event, but now, it's not uncommon to have a full-day Kindergarten.

I don't think American children could even fathom attending half-days for their whole grade school "career", but they sure would enjoy it!

Thanks for sharing, Tereza!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How is it going?

So, we're officially into Autumn now. How is your school year going so far? What are the ages of your "students"?

This year, my daughter, Merika, is in first grade and my second child, Nolyn, is in preschool. However, both of them are doing the same curriculum. Having children close in age has been a great benefit in this area, as the same curriculum can be slightly altered to fit both kids, even though they are about two years apart. They work together, helping each other out.

Keagan is two, so he's not doing any official work, but enjoys doing his activity tray and sitting in on lessons and activities with his siblings.

Some days are a little slow, as I am currently 10 weeks pregnant, and sometimes feel very queasy or overwhelmingly tired!

Anyway, let us know how things are going for you- what are your frustrations, what excites you about this year, and what are your hopes?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

So many workbox blog links your mind will explode

Okay, so I gave in and bought Sue Patrick's e-book- The Workbox System. Let me tell you, I love it. I already knew I loved the idea, but reading her book made me adore it even more.

Of course, this should be no surprise to her as her system has taken the homeschool community by storm! It's hugely popular! I wish I had the money to go purchase this all right now, but my husband has a big job coming up and, unforunately, has to shell out money from his own pocket for it. He'll be paid back by his company, but this means that money will be a little tight for now.

So, to prove it's popularity, more links to SPWSers!

I love Julie's set-up. It's always nice to see how people implement this for multiple children. I like her use of magazine holders. That's a really nifty and space conscious idea.

I hope she doesn't mind that I borrowed her photo, but doesn't it look so beautifully organized and colorful?

I have to admit, I am really drawn to colorful, organized spots. And, I've always wanted a wall full of shelving like this.

Maybe you're like Mimi over at Frump's Findings. You're happy with most of your organizational methods, but you do like some of the ideas within the workbox system. Mimi tweaked her system a bit by using "workboxes" labeled with the days of the week. If nothing else, we can all glean some wisdome from the workbox method and come up with our own system that works for us.

My friend Amy from Milk & Cookies (and also co-owner of Heart of the Matter Magazine) has some great ideas, along with printables. Sue Patrick was one of the speakers at HOTM's online conferences, which I sadly missed. I am sure there's a whole new wave of homeschooling mothers getting pumped up about it now!

And, speaking of Heart of the Matter, Heather Woodie's article, Thinking Inside the Box: Using the Workbox System, is definitely a good read!

Leah is a mom of four who is using a modified version of the system for her children. She's given several examples of what goes in the clear drawer units, along with photos and other tidbits.

Hilltop Homeschool does the same in her blog. It's always interesting to read how others implement this sytem, and how it improves their homeschooling experience.


Sometimes (okay, often) I come across photos of workbox setups which are just so lovely that I want to grab it out of the picture and place it in my own homes. Cassie's set up is beautiful and ... *sigh*. She used an IKEA shelving unit I was eyeing earlier today in the catalog. Seeing it used as I had intended make me want it all the more. I wonder if my husband could build it for cheaper... hmmmmmmmm...

Her bins are from Target, and man, do they fit nicely! Oh, and Cassie's "check in/check out" cards are "totally awesome duuude". [FYI, Sue Patrick's method calls for children to "clock in" and "clock out" of school, which I think it a great idea. Clocking in helps them get in "school mode".]

Have you noticed how my easy going/unschooling ways have morphed into more structure? Well, I'm finding that my kids are actually hungry for the structure now, which is pleasing, because I'm at the point in life where having a plan and a structure of sorts is really helpful and brings a feeling of peace.

Anyway, I haven't been able to find Cassie's actual blog (if she has one), but you can read more about the system she's organized at Spell Out Loud. I think what is really appealing about it for me, besides the fact that is included IKEAness (one of my obsessions) is that she has used digital scrapbooking (my other obsession) to jazz it up.

Spell Out Loud has also blogged about her own setup, including her toddler workbox system.

Now, I'm a bit nosey, so I love to see what others are putting in their workboxes. Don't get me wrong, I love, love, love to see the workbox setup in photos, but it's like peeking inside someone's bathroom medicine cabinet.... (which I have never, ever done, btw *wink*) .... you often find some interesting stuff! Enduring Prize has opened up her "medicine cabinet", so to speak, and given us a glimpse of the items inside her children's workboxes.

Aimee reminds me of myself. "I am an unschooler at heart but it does drive both my parents and husband crazy that the kids should be doing more formal learning," the blogger at Journey2Learn writes. "I knew to get the kids back into schooling, I would need a new approach."

I can definitely relate. However, as I mentioned before, I've noticed my children are actually craving stucture, and.. well, so am I.

Meet Me In Melange is yet another homeschooling mom that has tweaked the system to fit her needs and style. "I didn’t want to change what we were doing completely, but I did see imense value in altering Sue Patrick’s origional idea to fit our needs. Any idea that helps organize a homeschooling family is worth it’s value in gold, as far as I’m concerned," she writes.

Exactly my thoughts!

Allison at Wazley Academy also uses the Sterilite-style drawer system, and, bless her heart, has actually posted pictures of what's inside. It's like Christmas in Workbox Land!

A Mother's Journal tells the story of her first day of Workboxism. Her day sounds so fantastic, it'll make any mother want to run out and purchase her system today! (Or at least buy Sue Patrick's book!)

Heather talks about some of the amazing organization systems out there, several of which she has already put into use in her own home, and how these revolutionary ideas invented by parents are so darn simple that we could have thought them up ourselves!

"What's most interesting to me about the vast majority of the wonderful ideas that float in homeschool circles is the absolute simplicity of so many that are embraced. We all know that necessity is often the mother of invention. Why, then, do so many of us seem to walk around with the same necessity and no invention?" she muses.

Oh, come on, you know we've all had those moments when a new idea is introduced to us by someone, and we exclaim, "Wow! That's simple and easy... but profound!" shortly followed by, "Why didn't I think of that?"

Tree House Academy
uses shelves to divide out the work, which is also a great idea. The bins are nice for the kids to be able to take to their work station, but going binless is much cheaper, and the kids can (obviously) still see the work they need to do. This is something woodworking husbands could make fairly, maybe with leftover bits of wood (if you're like our family, you may have small shelf-sized pieces littering your garage).

Tina at Being Made New also put the system into play, and I love the bright pink and blue boxes she chose. She said her first week using the system was "the best school week ever". She admits she had some reservations going in, but obviously she was cured within the first few days!

And, if all these links aren't enough to keep your head spinning with ideas, you can join the Workbox Yahoo! Group! I told you it was a major homeschooling craze! You might want to put it on digest, instead of single emails, as some months have brought in over one-thousand messages.

But wait... there's more! There's a whole blog devoted to this workbox system. It's called "What's in the Box?" and it is loaded with ideas (and fun memes!)

Now, I really, really can't wait to get started on it. I'm not a patient woman, but I guess I don't really have a choice, do I?

More on Workboxes

I'm back with more links to bloggers who have implemented Sue Patrick's Workbox System.

There's a site with a comprehensive review of the workbox system explaining everything from how it works to how others have modified it.

Jess @ Color Me Orange shares a way she has modified this system for her eight children. (Could you imagine having 12 boxes for each child?)

Jess sorts things into folders, which she places in bins. When her students have finished a folder, they take the number off the folder and place it on the velcro spot on the bin.

This is also a great idea for small spaces. Some families do not have much room, so condensing the system would be a great idea. I would recommend finding clear envelopes as one of the key components of Sue Patrick's system is that the students can also see what is ahead, not just how much work they have left.

For those who have young preschoolers who need a little more flexibility, I recommend this Tot Tray idea. This Montessori inspired method will allow your toddler to choose what he or she is interested in testing out. I use this for my 20 month old and he loves it. This site gives you plenty of ideas, and her blog also has photos plastered with "Tot School" inspiration.

Ginger has a great modification as well. She uses those plastic (clear) drawers instead of clear shoe boxes. Another great idea for small spaces.

Over at Homeschool Creations, Jolanthe has set up a great system for her four children.

"While I love the Workbox System and understand why Sue Patrick set it up the way she did {and why it works that way}, we seriously do not have room for 48 boxes, 4 shelving systems and to implement it the way she recommends," Jolanthe comments. You must check out her colorful system. I just love the photographs!

In another post, she details the system. I think it's one of the best reviews of the Workbox System I've read, so check it out.

If you are using the workbox system and have posted an entry in your blog about it, please leave a link! :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sure Patrick's Workbox System

There's a new homeschooling craze out there, and, in case you haven't heard about it, I'm sharing it with you now!

It's called the Workbox System, created by homeschooling mom Sue Patrick.

Sue's system divides school work into twelve numbered different bins (about shoe box size) for the student to work through (in order).

Leslie from Joyful Mother of 6 explains, "As the child works through a box, the box is then removed from the shelf so that they can see their work diminishing. They can see exactly what is expected of them each day and how much they have left to do before their school day is over. They can also see fun things in boxes which helps to motivate them to finish the more difficult boxes." Click on blog link to see photos of the system these women have set up for their families.

Aureila from Sowing Precious Seeds has also hopped on the bandwagon.

I believe "Walking by the Way" is also doing the workbox system. Her blog has plenty of photos of activities her children are doing! Looks like a blast!

Little Men in My Library gave it a try. I think she accurately describes why it is such a neat and nifty system!

Love To Know managed to sit Sue Patrick down for an interview which you can read here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

At their own pace

Do you ever have moments when you wonder if you should be homeschooling? My oldest child has always been behind in everything, but sometimes, I get it in my head that it is my fault- that I'm not capable of teaching her. At times, I have wondered if I should enroll her in a tutoring program for reading. She just wasn't getting it. Grant it, she's only six, and when I was six I wasn't reading either, but public school children are reading by kindergarten. And, while I hate to compare our progress to that of institutional schools, it's often hard to avoid- especially when many of her little friends and church peers are public schooled or involved in Mother's Day Out preschool programs at churches which use Abeka curriculum (which is quite advanced, in my opinion).

I worry that my darling little girl will feel silly or dumb because others her age (and younger) are reading and writing. Lately, I've noticed that she's started worrying about what others think of her. I don't know where this came from, but she has always been a sensitive little girl.

After purchasing a couple different programs (including Hooked on Phonics, which I think is a ridiculous program, but at least it comes with plenty of books, which made it worth the money), I finally listened to good advice and bought the book Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Siegfried Engelmann, Phyllis Haddox, Elaine Bruner).

This book is all you need, and it's fantastic. It's reading curriculum for beginners in one inexpensive book. I wish I would have bought it a couple years ago!

My daughter is doing so much better, now. Mainly, she struggles with blending sounds to make words, and this book as really helped her understand blending. The book has a script which tells you what to say and how to correct mistakes to keep kids on focused and on track- which is very helpful.

I think it also helps that she's a little older. She may not have grasped this last year or the year before- even with this amazing book (although I think she probably would have, but who knows!), but she is doing well now.

There will always be something she struggles with, but, as I have mentioned before, there are other things she does incredibly well- above those her age, so it evens out in the end.

My oldest boy, who is four, has had the benefit of listening in on the lessons and such over the years, and is not far behind his sister (even though they are 21 months apart), with the exception of writing. Merikalyn's letters are well formed, while Nolyn's are still hard to recognize. Still, at four years old, he is already doing simple math (addition and subtraction), and has already caught on to some of the aspects of reading- such as blending sounds- even though I have not sat down to teach him these things. I think overhearing our lessons while he plays has probably taught him much more than if I would have sat down and tried to cram it in his head. He's just that type of child.

Each child is going to be different, even within a family- and my children are definitely proof of that. While one child may need extra attention and guidance in one subject, another child may catch on quickly. I didn't even realize Nolyn understood all that he did, until I heard him hollering out answers in the background while I walked Merika through a lesson!

Potty training was very similar to our reading issue. Merikalyn struggled with it. As her fourth birthday neared, I vowed to have her potty trained before the party. Well, her birthday came and went, and she was still in pull-ups. I was mortified! So many of my friends had potty-trained two-year-olds, and here I was with a four year old who refused to use the toilet! I wish I could say it happened that year (to her credit, she came a long way with making friends with the porcelain throne that year), but she was FIVE when she finally got it down. Nolyn, on the other hand, was potty trained when he was three... and not by me. My mother-in-law worked with both of the kids when they were at her house, but he as just generally interested in the toilet. One day, I was in the kitchen and saw him run into the bathroom, strip off his diaper and plop his heiny on the toilet! Then, I saw him get off and put back on his diaper! Ha! He had been doing this for a couple weeks, and I was clueless! (He was only wetting his diaper during naps and night time.) A month later, he was in underwear all the time.

My point here is, some kids just take longer to learn things. We may be embarrassed because it's not on the schedule most other children are on, or because it makes us feel like a failure, but eventually, it'll happen. We just have to be patient and loving. We may need to seek a different method of teaching, or we may just need to be more consistent.

We'll see many of these moments as our children grow, I'm sure. What makes it worth it is... once they get it, they really GET it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Submissions

I realize the posts have been very infrequent here at TPM. I would like to encourage those of you who have homeschooling links, photos, or articles you've written to send them to us to be featured at TPM.

Email me at talkto (at) mandymom (dot) com.

God bless!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Initial Paintings

Head on over to my blog to learn how to make these lovely initial paintings with your kids. Even parents who aren't creative can easily organize this project!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You Know You're a Homeschool Mom When....

I found this on a website and thought it was very appropiate and had to share.... How many can you relate to?


You Know You're A Homeschool Mom When...


*When a child busts a lip, and after seeing she's okay, you round up some Scotch tape to capture some blood and look at it under the microscope.


*You find dead animals and actually consider saving them to dissect later.


*Your children never, ever leave the "why?" stage.


*You look at every room in your home to try and imagine how to squeeze in another bookshelf.


*You turn your china cabinet into book shelves.

*When your teenager decides to take one community college course, and comes home and asks you why the teacher wrote "At" on his paper. (A+)


*You ask for, and get, a copier instead of a diamond tennis bracelet for your wedding anniversary or Christmas.


*Your kids think reading history is best accomplished while lying on the floor with their head resting on the side of their patient dog.


*Your husband can walk in at the end of a long day and tell how the science experiment went just by looking at the house.


*You never have to drive your child's forgotten lunch to school.


*Your child will never suffer the embarrassment of group showers after PE.


*The only debate about the school lunch program is whose turn it is to cook.


*You never have to face the dilemma of whether to take your child's side or the teacher's side in a dispute at school.


*If your child gets drugs at school, it's probably Tylenol.


*Your neighbors think you are insane.


*Your kids learn new vocabulary from their extensive collection of "Calvin & Hobbes" books.


*Your formal dining room now has a computer, copy machine, and many book shelves and there are educational posters and maps all over the walls.


*You have meal worms growing in a container....on purpose.

*If you get caught talking to yourself, you can claim you're having a PTA meeting.


*Talking out loud to yourself is a parent/teacher conference.


*You take off for a teacher in-service day because the principal needs clean underwear.


*You can't make it through a movie without pointing out the historical inaccuracies.


*You step on math manipulatives on your pre-dawn stumble to the bathroom.


*The teacher gets to kiss the principal in the faculty lounge and no one gossips.


*Your honor student can actually read the bumper sticker that you put on your car.


*If your child claims that the dog ate his homework, you can ask the dog.


*Someday your children will consider you to be a miracle-working expert and will turn to you for advice.


*Your kids refer to the neighbor kids as "government school inmates."


*You can't make it through the grocery produce department without asking your preschooler the name and color of every vegetable.


*You can't put your produce in your cart without asking your older student to estimate its weight and verify its accuracy.


*You live in a one-house schoolroom

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Story Cookies

I've seen this recipe around before, thought it was a great idea, but never tried it. I'm really excited about doing it this year. We've love to hear from those of you that have done this with your kids before or plan on doing it this year.


To be made the evening before Easter
You need:

1 cup whole pecans

1 tsp. Vinegar

3 egg whites

Pinch salt

1 cup sugar

Zipper baggie

Wooden spoon

Tape

Bible


Preheat oven to 300 degrees (this is important-don't wait until you're half done with the recipe)!Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces.


Explain that after Jesus was arrested. He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3.


Let each child smell the vinegar.


Put 1 tsp. Vinegar into mixing bowl.


Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.


Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life.


Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:10-11.


Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl.


Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.


So far, the ingredients are not very appetizing.


Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16.


Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed.


Explain that the color white Represents --in God's eyes -- the purity of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isa. 1:18 and John 3:1-3.


Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper-covered cookie sheet.


Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matt. 27:57-60.


Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read Matt. 27:65-66.


GO TO BED!


Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20 and 22.


On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie.


Notice the cracked surface and take a Bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter, Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt. 28:1-9


Share The Easter Cookie Story With Friends and Family

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring and Easter Homeschool Carnival


Looking for great Easter Crafts?

Angela over at The Sustala Six has a wonderful Easter Lapbook based on the Resurrection eggs. They made it last year, but the wonderful thing about Jesus is... He's timeless!

Squidoo also has some great ideas for Easter Lapbooks, along with printables (worksheets and more).

Homeschool Share has a wonderful collection of papers and ideas for an Easter Unit or Lapbook as well which goes deeper into the subject with bible verses, history, and even recipes!

Safely Gathered In shows you how to make your own containers of Wheat Grass, which I think is a great activity for Spring, and to also illustrate for our children how the Word of God should affect out lives.

Ever wondered about the Jewish customs of Passover? Read up over at HomeGrownKids!

Of course, there's always the ever-fun (and messy) egg-dying. Last year, we dyed eggs with our friends John and Ashley (the adults in the photos). This was the first time I had ever dyed an egg! (I know, crazy, right?)

Do you have any crafts, activities, or information posted on your blog that would suit this entry? Please, leave us a link!

Christian Unschooling: Interview of MandyMom


Mandy Mom and her husband, Brandon. (Brandon Dad? Ha!)

Curious to know more about your host here at The Precious Mind? You can read Jena's interview of Mandy Mom over at Christian Unschooling! Then, when you're done with that, stop by Jena's lovely blog @ http://www.yarnsoftheheart.com/

Monday, March 30, 2009

Free Homeschooling Resources for all grades and ages.

I know many people cannot afford to purchase curriculum. We have been so fortunate to have funds and curriculum donated to us by family and friends, but we've also added to that by other methods.

My friend Jodi Lynn asked me if the rumors were true. Is homeschooling more expensive than government schools? The truth is, it can be but it doesn't have to be! There is a lot of free homeschooling material available online. Stores like Half-Priced Books, Dollar Tree, and Goodwill hold so much for homeschoolers as well. (Read my post on MandyMom.com titled "A Fruitful Dollar Tree")

Some curriculum tools, like math manipulatives, are expensive. If you're doing the Montessori method, those items can add up quickly. However, if you approach it with a creative eye, you'll find you can easily substitute other items or make them yourself for much less.

Workbooks can be expensive as well, but Dollar Tree has workbooks up to 1st or 2nd grade for only a buck. We have a few pricey workbooks that need to last us through every child. We either copy the pages, slip them in protective sheets (which you can then write on with wipe off markers), or use another paper to write the answer. In my Dollar Tree post on MandyMom.com, you'll see that we don't write in our Math workbooks. The kids use their math manipulatives (squares, bears, beans, or macaroni) to work out the problems, then write down the answer on another paper.

When you purchase curriculum, you're really investing in something, and you want it to last. You can find creative ways to stretch it out for all of your children.

Here are a few sites I've really enjoyed checking out over the last few weeks.

Free World U is free curriculum site. The only catch is that you need to register (but that's free, of course). They offer digital flash cards on a variety of subjects. Subjects are divided out by school and grade (all the way up to highschool).

For example, Preschool subjects not only include the regulars of Colors, Shapes, Letters, and Numbers, but also Social Issues, Environment, and Weather.

Twelfth grade includes Principles of American Democracy, Principles of Economics, Physics, Probability and Statistics, and Calculus!

This site will make a wonderful addition to your homeschool. Check it out!


1+1+1=1 has a theme on her site called Tot School. You can draw a lot of inspiration from these posts, and even join in.

One of my buddies was telling me about Hippo Campus. Here's an excerpt from the site information page: "HippoCampus is a project of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education (MITE). The goal of HippoCampus is to provide high-quality, multimedia content on general education subjects to high school and college students free of charge."

Did you know the government has a free resource page? Check it out here: http://free.ed.gov/

I think I've mentioned this site before, and if so, here it is again. The Discovery Channel is very informative, but did you know you can also gather much from their website? They also have a resource page to help teachers enhance the curriculum.

While Teach-nology isn't totally free, they do have a lot of freebies to offer. Check out these free worksheets and free lesson plans (many of these link to other sites).

The Teacher's Cafe has loads of free resources too.

Those links should keep you busy for a while!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Great homeschooling tools for cheap!

Are you unschooling, deschooling, delight driven, or Montessori in your home education methods? I haven't been writing about our homeschooling adventures here, but you can see lots of photos and explanations over at my blog, http://mandymom.com

Take today's post for example:

A Fruitful Dollar Tree Dollar Tree is awesome. I'm sure most you know that, and those of you who don't probably don't have to live on a tight budget. For home educating families like ourselves, Dollar Tree holds a plethora of goodies, especially if you think outside the curriculum box. I had a few things in mind, so we headed over to our neighborhood store to grab a "few" items. [Read more]



Even our eighteen-month-old is involved in our methods!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A relaxed day of homeschooling.

Children can't help but learn. People often ask if I have to stand over my children and force feed them knowledge, but, the truth is, homeschooling, at this point, is pretty easy going.

This is what has happened so far today. First comes breakfast. While I prepare, my daughter traces the alphabet with her finger (on a mat which is on the kitchen table). I pour them a new kind of cereal, and they want to know exactly what is in it, how it is made, and who made it. This is a popular question at meal time. Then we count out grapes, and they tell ask where grapes grow. After breakfast, I begin cleaning up the dishes in the sink leftover from the previous night, and the children dig into their "math box" full of math manipulatives of all kinds. They sort out shapes and colors, build things with blocks, and count the dots on dominos. The baby tags along, going wherever his siblings go and trying to do whatever they do. Before I do some work online, I write out a few sentences on a piece of paper. My daughter traces them, writes them on her own, and then sounds out the words. After lunch, the baby goes down for a nap and all those awake insist on making Valentines for Nana and Poppa (even though Valentine's Day was a couple weeks ago). They get out the cool scissors, paper, and pens. My daughter asks how to spell Nana and Poppa. She accidently adds an additional P, so it looks more like Popppa. My four-year-old sorts and counts change while my oldest and youngest sit at the piano pounding away the keys. The baby has always had an interest in the piano ever since he could stand on his tippy-toes to reach the keys. I don't think we'll have to force him piano lessons when the time comes because, like my daughter, he enjoys making music. Seconds later, they've moved onto something else. My middle child pretends to cook "Dad a healthy lunch", my daughter pulls out a coloring book, and the baby uses the livingroom as a jungle gym. He climbs up and down the couch, over his sister, under the chairs, stands up on the math box and tumbles onto the couch (and then off of it once again) and... once dad walks in the door... he's up on his lap. Soon we'll have bible study and bible trivia.... and more fun spontaneous education. Plus, I know the children are ready to read a few more chapters in the book we're going through!

With three children under the age of five, there's no need for strict lessons. Some days are more structured, but most are not. We do sit down and do crafts and projects, but it's not a daily thing. Sometimes I'm really involved in everything, and other days, like today, the kids do a lot more on their own while I tend to the house, the laundry, and the baby.

What does your homeschool look like?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

8 Ways to a More Organized Homeschool Carnival



Heart of the Matter is hosting 8 Ways to a More Organized Homeschool Carnival. Every Wednesday for 8 weeks they will publish a collaborative article brimming with tips and advice to help you organize all aspects of your homeschool life. Anyone can submit! Sift through your archives for posts that you would like to share, old or new.

Everyone who submits a post will be entered for a chance to win an amazing prize package, currently valued at $100!

Check it out!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The 5-minute homeschool

by MandyMom

Homeschooling littles can be difficult. You may be new to the game, and you aren't sure what you should do. Should you buy curriculum? Should you set up a schedule? Even homeschooling parents who have been at it for years may find they need to change their tactics down the line. Different children require different approaches.

I see so many parents set out to make their children geniuses. They pile on the work, schedule in hours of education, and have high expectations. Sure, many of these children may do well. They may be able to read third grade level books at age five, but are they enjoying education? Are they allowed free time to play? Is the family so busy doing "school work" that they've failed to do "life work"?



As Christians, I don't believe it is possible for us to separate education from religion and still manage to give our children the proper biblical worldview. In our home, our goal is to raise children who love and serve God, and who, above all else, seek heavenly wisdom. Therefore, as we teach our children "every day education", the main focus must be biblical wisdom and glorifying the Lord.

If we are cramming them with knowledge so they will be the smartest child on the block and "make us proud" then our priorities are not right, and we have lost sight of the goal.

On the other hand, there are those parents who leave their children to themselves to learn. While I may agree with some of the unschooling aspects, there is one point that I whole-heartedly cannot support.

Children left to themselves will learn, but will they learn what is pure and right? While I believe it is good for children to have time to explore, think, and learn on their own at times, I believe this must be done under the watchful eye of the parent, and I do believe it is important that we do schedule in some things.

For parents like myself who don't like to plan every second of the day and who have young children that are not ready for too structured of an education, there is the five-minute approach.

The five-minute method helps put things in perspective. If you take everything five minutes at a time, you don't have to worry about stopping in the middle to make lunch, or putting everything on pause to nurse the baby or run an errand. Little ones will be able to pay attention for five minutes at a time without getting too distracted and wiggly.

Most of all, five minutes is plenty of time to teach younger children what they need to learn without overwhelming them. Sometimes we may spend too much time focusing on a particular subject or task because we feel our child is not understanding. She may not be, but if we teach it in spurts and don't overwhelm her (or make her feel like she is dumb for not catching on), she'll pick it up in no time.

Those with larger families will find this method helps them to give each child one-on-one attention without feeling spread to thin. Your curriculum, should you use something specific, can be adapted to fit.

So, you're probably wondering what the five-minute approach is. The best way to explain this is to tell you how we do it in our own home.

It helps to have a timer, or at least a clock nearby that you can keep on eye on. Here's a day in the life of our homeschool.

After we have pretty much prepared for the day the homeschooling begins. We spend five minutes reading a bible story from a children's book. We talk about it for a bit, go over the key points, and then close in prayer. Now, this usually takes ten minutes. We shouldn't be so focused on the clock that cut things short.

Breakfast usually follows this devotional time. In my household, we usually don't sit down for breakfast together except on weekends. While the children eat, I tidy up a few things, tend to the baby, or complete a few tasks after I've grabbed a banana or handful of granola.

I keep an ear out for the children because they always have interesting conversations going on during this time! If I pay attention here and there to what they are saying, I can use that "information" later in a biblical lesson or during art time (depending on what it is they are talking about, of course).

Once breakfast winds down we take five minutes to take care of our rooms. This means making the bed, putting away toys, and bringing dirty clothes down so I can start a load of laundry. Either we can set the timer and focus on our own areas for five minutes, or we can all work together in one room for five minutes at a time (five minutes in one bedroom, five minutes in another bedroom, five minutes in the livingroom, etc). Sometimes it is fun to make it into a game of "beat the clock" or pretending that we must keep moving moving moving so the "lazy monster" doesn't get us.

I am trying to teach our five-year-old how to play the piano, but it is slow going. Instead of stressing her out by trying to beat these lessons into her head until she gets it (and thereby stressing myself out as well), we just take five minutes a day (sometimes every other day) to poke around on the piano some. Every piano lesson we focus on the proper way to hold her hands and on pressing one key at a time. Piano time use to be very frustrating for both of us until I realized that this was something I couldn't push on her. She enjoys plinking the keys, and I don't want her to hate the piano because I've pressured her to learn something she's not ready for. The five minute method allows me to see where she is and make note of whether she's ready to begin a more formal piano lesson.

Whenever you feel like you aren't getting a particular lesson through (whether in math, reading, or piano), step back and just focus on the basics. I would rather teach the same little bit every day and encourage her rather than move ahead when she isn't ready.

We also read for five-minutes at a time, sometimes longer if the children beg me to continue. One thing that I have found very helpful in getting children to "soak in" what they are reading is to have them draw a picture of what we read once we've finished the excerpt or chapter of that day. Sometimes I read a couple paragraphs and then go over what we just read (rewording it or defining some of the words we read). This helps keep my children focused on the book. Drawing out the scenes puts their creativity to work and helps them imagine what they are reading.



Sonlight has a Mathtacular DVD which my children love. It fits perfectly into our five-minute method because it is divided up into short little sections. We take five minutes to learn new letters and sounds, five minutes to read rhymes and children's books, and five minutes to talk about community, maps, and history!

We also take five minutes here and there throughout the day to "train" and disciple the children. During these sessions they learn various things, like practical household chores (how to fold clothes, how to vacuum, how to set the table) or biblical principles and facts (they are currently learning the books of the Law in the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). They get time with Mom (and Dad when he's home), working beside me and learning as we go. Often, I am learning at the same time! I never memorized verses (although I knew some of my favorites) or the books of the bible growing up, but it is something I have set out to do alongside my children.

The children have plenty of time to play inbetween little sessions. We take time for crafts and games as well. Now and then they get to watch a special movie or a documentary on history, animals, or "how things work", which of course take much longer than five or ten minutes!

There is no limit to the things you can teach in five minutes, and you could also change this ten or fifteen minutes. The point is not to live by the clock or the timer, but to allow you to focus on the things you need to accomplish without overwhelming yourself or your children.

As homeschooling mothers, we not only have to teach our children, but we also have to care for the home, cleaning, preparing meals, running errands, and helping others in our community. Doing lessons and sessions in spurts helps us accomplish those things without stressing out.

We can be more productive with our time, instead of wasting it. We can glorify God five minutes at a time as we teach our children, care for our homes, and nourish ourselves with His Word.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Charlotte Mason, Horton Hears a Who Unit Study, and Christian Homeschooling links

It's been a while since I've posted, so I figured it was about time that I do a little work for my blog, instead of leaving it up to my wonderful assistants! (Even though they do a great job of providing information, links, and encouragement!)

Every now and then I like to surf the web for great links. While some of these don't suit our methods, they may be a help to you, so I'm passing them along.

Curriculum can be expensive, but AmblesideOnline.org has provided a free curriculum reading plan based on some of the aspects of the Charlotte Mason style (for grades 0-12!). They also provide a page of resources, including vintage CM "programmes" and exams.

SimplyCharlotteMason.com offers a free e-book called Education Is. The site also details the Scripture Memory System, which you can make yourself. But wait! That's not all! Sonya has generously provided another free e-book a SCM called Masterly Inactivity. The whole site is full of useful information, so give it a look!

Did your children recently watch Horton Hears a Who? Is it one of their favorite bedtime books? Well you'll probably enjoy this unit study put together by Homegrown Hearts

Looking for encouragement? Christianhomeschooling.us has articles that will inform and inspire!

Btw, do you have a blog? We'd appreciate if you'd lend your support by posting our link (and graphic, if you'd like) to our blog!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recycling

by Mommy N

I know.... it's sounds like an odd subject for a homeschool blog, but there is so much more to recycling than just taking your used cardboard boxes and aluminum cans to the local recycling center.

Recycling has become a new game to me. Although we do take our cardboard boxes and our aluminum cans to the local center (about 20 minutes away), I like to do so much more with everyday items so I don't have to throw things away. I haven't become a trash junkie, keeping everything, but I keep things I know I will and can reuse.


Here are a few items I have been able to reuse and what I'm doing with them now:



* baby wipe container - pencil, bead, candle, or button holder, etc.

* Enfamil containers - can be used for drums for the baby - just add beans or noodles and glue the lid on

* map container - rain stick

* baby food jar - store tree seeds in when learning about trees; homemade baby food; rubberband, small staples, and/or trashbag/bread tie containers

* Clorox wipe container - pencil/marker holder

* Diaper box - old clothes or paint clothes

*Peanut butter jar - hide-n-seek jar

(add rice and few small items - have kids find items by rolling the jar around to uncover what's hidden in the rice - K really liked this one!)


Those are just a few of the hundreds of everyday items that be "recycled" into another everyday use so they don't have to be thrown away. What other items do you "recycle" and how do you use them?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Local Homeschool Groups

by Mommy N
My husband and I attended a homeschool leadership meeting, Saturday, Jan.31. It was very informative and worth the time. I know this seems kind of lengthy, but our right to homeschool is under attack and a lot of homeschoolers don't even know it.

Like some of you I was preparing myself for homeschooling my young children, 3 years and 10 months, for when the time was right. I knew I didn't need to register them with the state until they turned 7. I still had a few years, but I think learning from others experience is vital to having less stress, so I joined a local support group. What I didn't know was that God was using what I thought was preparation for my own children's education to actually be preparation to teach junior high and high school levels with very little notice (two weeks). In December, my husband and I got custody over two of my teenage nieces, 15 and 12. I went from reading young children's books, doing crafts, playing blocks, and racing cars to teaching an actual Bible study and relearning and teaching Algebra, Biology, Literature, World History, World Geography, Spanish, English, Home Ec., and Physical Science. It's been a very fun and interesting month.

Had I not joined our local group last year, I would not have had any idea what curriculum I was going to use, because I wouldn't have had the advice or knowledge from experienced homeschoolers. I would not have had any clue where to start, much less how to start.

The support you have as an individual homeschool mom is important. Please make sure it's support and advice from those that have experience, not just from those that are in the same place as you.

Our local support group has a variety of people that are different in appearance, but like-minded in their purpose to teach their children about Christ. If you haven't joined a local support group because your children don't have to be registered with the state yet, or because you have enough socialization, I would recommend, join anyway. The support and ideas you can and will get (if you want them) or give will be well worth it to you or to someone else. Although joining a local support group is not vital to homeschool success, it can be very helpful in times you never would have imagined, and informative in things you never would have thought.

Also,If you are not a member of http://www.parentalrights.org/ or haven't signed their petition, I would suggest looking into it. The last thing we need as a parent, whether we homeschool or not, is for our children to be able to make adult decisions for themselves because the government says they have the right to and that the parent doesn't have that right over their child. If you really want to get involved go to http://www.10and2.org/ for more information about how you can be proactive in amending the U.S. Constitution.



God entrusted each one of us with the children He created through us, not through the government.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's ok to...

by Mommy N

As a people, we have become impatient and aren't interested in waiting until later for anything. We want everything as soon and as quickly as possible.


I know when my kids get sick, I want to rush to the doctor in hopes of getting a cure-all quick fix prescription. Truth is, there's not one. They usually have to suffer through at least a day or two of being sick before they start feeling better.


If we have to suffer with our illness for a day or two while our bodies recover, than you would think it should be o.k. if we don't answer the phone for a couple of hours while we finish our school work.


I have a policy to not answer the phone if I can't talk. The only exception is for my husband. The only time I don't answer his calls is if the kids are in the tub or I'm changing a diaper. I usually check the caller id to see who it is, make a note to myself, and then call the person back as soon as I can talk.


By implementing this policy, we are able to complete our school work with little to no interruptions. It takes the stress away of trying to do too many things and allows me to focus on the kids and any questions they have. One of the worst thing that can happen to us doing school time is to be in the middle of learning something new, the phone ring, I answer it, and my attention leaves them. Usually by the time I get back to them, they are no longer interested in what we were learning.


So, here are a few It's ok to ... that I've implemented that have helped us tremendously.


It's ok...


....to not answer the phone when it rings.

....to not spend 45 minutes to an hour on each subject.

....for them to rewrite their reports 7 times to learn proper grammer rules.

....if they don't understand something the first few times.

....if Home Ec is when they cook dinner.

....if school isn't from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

....if they have school in their pajamas as long as their teeth are brushed.

....if we do science before math or vica versa, as long as they know and understand the importance of Bible Study.

....if we start a little later, as long as they know we might finish later.

....if they need to go to the restroom or get something to drink during class.

....if they ask questions during the middle of our reading aloud time - it means they're paying attention and learning.

....if they don't learn about every battle they would have been taught about in a public school setting.

....encourage them and lift them up - OFTEN.

....if they don't want to do something - they still need to understand the importance of doing things they don't want to do.


I love the fact that God doesn't call the equipped, but He equips the called. If you have been called to homeschool the gifts He has given you, trust that the things you teach them will be exactly what they need.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don't OVER plan - RELAX!!



Most of you that know me or have read the bio Mandy put here, know I haven't been homeschooling long.. but honestly I have changed my curriculum enough times to have been homeschooling for 20 years..I have jumped around trying things out with everything from all work done on the computer (with Time 4 Learning) to unschooling.. everything from a tight 8 hour schedule to no schedule at all. And this is what I have found - no curriculum is perfect.. and most often you will have to make a mixture - or "gumbo" (as said here in Louisiana) - of curriculums to fit your family.

Personally, I think a semblance of a schedule is necessary - not one that's planned to the minute, but at least an outline of your flexible plans... here's a look at our current daily schedule:

School Schedule

1. Bible Reading/Discussion

2. Read Aloud

3. Math

4. Unit Study Reading and Activities

5. Copy work

6. Start work on science project

7. Check email/webkins


Notice that I have not got 20 subjects - spelling, vocabulary, social studies, etc.  That is because our unit studies generally cover most of those subjects.. the large amount of reading we do covers a lot of the vocabulary, critical thinking, syntax/grammar, etc.  I believe in a foundation of the 3 R's, and the rest is lagniappe.  I also include email and my daughter's webkins account, because being computer literate is just as important in this day and age - there aren't too many jobs that don't have at least a small amount of work on the computer.  We also love shows like "How It's Made" and National Geographic documentaries.  We don't do a lot of "busy" work either - I really don't find it necessary to waste time doing endless worksheets.. and 200 math problems in a day.. I would rather have her do other fun/educational projects and activities that don't bore her, but encourage her to learn and want to find out more.. I like Charlotte Mason's school of thought of keeping lessons short and sweet to keep the child's attention.  

I generally try to start school about 8am - but I am somewhat flexible about that.  If we were up a bit later, then our next day starts a little later.. I had once tried to set up time periods for our different "tasks" (some might call them "subjects") but I found that I set my self up for failure, and we would both (my daughter and I) be frustrated.  I think when you try to compartmentalize everything, those unexpected things that inevitably come up each day keep setting you farther and farther behind.  And it sets off a continuous cycle of failure, leading to frustration, and even possibly setting you up to ultimately quit on what God has lead you to do. We also take days off in the week periodically and don't do any school work that day..   The way I look at it - we do school all year long, and don't necessarily take "vacations" when school is out for public school - so we can afford to take days off when we feel like it.  

I guess the key to all facets of homeschooling is to RELAX.. allow God to guide you in the questions of "how much?" and "how long?"...you are not trying to keep up with what the public schools claim to cover.. you are fulfilling your duties as parent and teacher according to the Word and His will.  He designed their minds to naturally desire to learn.. and while I don't take totally to the unschooling notion that it needs no guidance at all - I believe we could relax a little on our expectations that were molded by our own experiences with public school.  You would be suprised what happens when you relax and let nature take it's course, you will see your child begin to WANT to learn and take up researching subjects on their own, and it won't be such a hair-pulling session everytime you sit down to do some "school work".  


For those of us who attended college, you can probably back me up when I say - the only things I really carried over into my college years from public school was my reading and math skills.. the rest was taught to me as if it was the first time I ever heard it.. so when we begin each day I remind myself of these things when I want to feel pressured to follow lesson plans to the "T" or pressure my daughter and myself to finish a book in a certain period of time..


 It breaks my heart when I hear homeschool moms ask how they can fit fun stuff in with all the school work they have to do.  I say - try slowly, taking away busy work here and there - and see the difference that "fun stuff" makes in your child's ability to retain what they  learn, and their attitude in general.  Lapbook/Notebook one subject at a time as you are comfortable.. Pull subjects into your unit studies one at a time - starting with reading, adding in social studies by covering a historial topic, adding math by using manipulatives related to the story being read or subject covered.  Just step out there and try it, there is nothing that says if it doesn't work for you that you can't go back to the way you were doing it.  You will never know until you try.  


Well I hope this rambling of mine makes sense and perhaps helps someone out there getting frustrated and wondering how they will go on homeschooling.  May you have less hair-pulling, white-knuckling, and frustration - and may you have a lot more joy ;-)

Until next time, Much love and God bless.