Kindergarten!

We started our official homeschool year this week. Seahawk is in 8th grade now, Munchkin is in 6th, and Small Fry is in Kindergarten (I suppose that might mean I’ll have to change his blog nickname soon since he’s not really that small anymore…). I’ll give each of these boys a special day here on the blog to talk about their favorite things and what we’re planning to use for their curriculum this year. Today, I’m starting with my brand-new Kindergartner.

I told him he could decorate this sign any way he liked. He chose to fill the K with stars, and then he drew a fan near the bottom because "I like to make fans." He drew a picture of an envelope next to the fan because he "likes to mail things." Then he filled the rest of the area with random letters because he loves to write, even though he's not proficient enough to write anything but his name yet. Speaking of his name, he wrote that on his paper too, but I marked that out for privacy reasons. That's what the green box on the left is.

I told him he could decorate this sign any way he liked. He chose to fill the K with stars, and then he drew a fan near the bottom because “I like to make fans.” He drew a picture of an envelope next to the fan because he “likes to mail things.” Then he filled the rest of the area with random letters because he loves to write, even though he’s not proficient enough to write anything but his name yet. Speaking of his name, he wrote that on his paper too, but I marked that out for privacy reasons. That’s what the green box on the left is. Oh, and that’s not a black eye he has. He just likes to use my eyeliner to get pirate eyepatches sometimes.

Small Fry is 5 years old. His birthday is right near Will’s and mine (all three of us are in a 9-day period in July), so that’s pretty special. His favorite foods are spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, pizza, pickles, blueberries, and ramen (a newfound love). He started learning to read about six months ago, and we’re really going to be cracking down on that skill over the next few months. He also loves to watch movies (just like his dad) and play outside with his big brothers and their friends.

For his Kindergarten year, we’re keeping things pretty simple. We will continue to work on real life skills like having him help in the kitchen and learn to really clean up after himself. For official curriculum, we’re going to use things we started during the spring and summer and focus hard on really getting the concepts down. This includes just a few subjects:

Reading: We will finish up the Eclectic Foundations curriculum we reviewed a few months ago. When that’s done, I think I’ll just have him practice his reading using easy readers from the library.

Math: We’re using Starfall Kindergarten Mathematics with him. Even though it was designed to be used in a classroom setting, I’m really impressed with it and have been modifying it to work with just one student. So far, it’s a hit with Small Fry.

French: He got his very own Rosetta Stone account on my computer this week (we have the full program, which allows up to 5 students and were only using 4 before now). On the first day, he made it through half a lesson. Considering that first lesson is quite involved, I’m impressed that he made it that far – and was doing quite well with it.

Geography: We are currently reviewing Let’s Go Geography, a curriculum for kids in grades K-4. I’ll have that review up here on the blog in about two weeks.

That’s it. Like I said, I want his Kindergarten year to be full of meaningful education, but I don’t want him to get burned out on school, so we’re keeping it very basic until more is absolutely needed.

Blessings,

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A Journey Through Learning (review)

I love creating lap books with my children. I think they’re such a neat way to showcase the things a child has learned,  but they can sometimes be cumbersome to try to figure out how to fill if you’re working from scratch. This is where companies like A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks come in. For this review, Munchkin and I worked on their lapbook entitled The Greatest Inventors.

I received a downloadable PDF from which I was able to print all the elements to create the lapbook (except the file folders, but I got a pack of 25 for under $4 at Walmart). Included in the PDF were not only a large variety of creative mini books as well as information on all the different inventors covered. These include:

  • Johannes Guttenberg
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • John Deere
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Louis Braille
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Galileo Galilei
  • George Stephenson
  • Thomas Edison
  • Dr. Jonas Salk
  • George Washington Carver
  • Henry Ford
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Robert Fulton
  • Guglielmo Marconi and George Eastman
  • Eli Whitman

inventors coverIn addition to studying all of these great inventors, there are mini books for students to explore what an invention is, their favorite invention and inventor of the study, and to create their own invention.

Once the pages were printed, doing the actual study was quite simple. I would have Munchkin read the information page on the inventor and then work through the instructions on the mini book for that inventor. It was usually just answering a couple of questions about the inventor and folding or cutting/gluing the elements together and then pasting them into the file folder.

To keep this study light, easy, and fun for summertime, I had Munchkin work on about 2 inventors per week. At this pace, he’ll finish up in about two more weeks from now. If we’d been working during the school year, I imagine the pace would have been comparable, but we would have been a lot more intense in our studies; I would have had him learn more about each inventor than just what was included in the information page in the lapbook study itself.

It’s been a long time since we’ve done a lapbook in our homeschool, and doing this review has reminded me just how much I love them. I didn’t learn about lapbooks until the older kids were in upper elementary school, and they (especially Seahawk, who’s going into 8th grade now) already seemed like they were “too old” at that time. Due to this review, Munchkin now realizes that lapbooks are not only a great way to record your learning, but also a lot of fun to build. I specifically asked him if he liked this one, and I was pleasantly surprised when he said that he did. My last memory of lapbooking with either of the older kids was that they didn’t really enjoy it, which is why we haven’t done it. I’m thrilled that he’s become open minded to the prospect of them again.

IMG_0577[1]I also have the blessing of a second “set” of children with whom I can introduce to lapbooking at a young enough age that they’ll appreciate it. Even though this particular lapbook is geared toward grades 2-8, I’m thinking I might do it this school year with Small Fry (Kindergarten) in a more simplified manner. By having me read to him and then having him dictate the answers to fill in the mini books – or even have him answer them in pictures instead of words – I think this could totally work for him. 

Overall, even though I was unsure about requesting this review when the opportunity first arose, I’m really glad we got this opportunity. It reminded me just how much I enjoy lapbooks and that I want to start bringing them back to our homeschool.

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks has tons of lapbooks to choose from. They even have several to go along with outside curriculum, including Apologia and Answers in Genesis. You can choose individual lapbooks for around $8 or bundles, which include between 4 and 7 lapbooks (I didn’t look at all of them, but I looked at a wide variety of the bundles and that’s the range I saw). These bundles range in price from $30 to $45 depending on how many they include. If you want several lapbooks on a single (but wide, such as “natural disasters”) topic, the bundle is definitely the way to go.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a variety of lapbooks from A Journey Through Learning this week. Click the banner below for more information.

Blessings,

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Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}
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Back to Homeschool 2017

The Homeschool Review Crew spent last week doing a blog hop all about getting back to school. I really should have participated, but I wasn’t at a place to be ready for “back to school” yet, so I sat out. But I want anyone who reads here to have the opportunity to read those posts, so I’m going to link back to them from here. I hope some (or all) of them are a blessing to you!

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Curriculum Choices for 2017-18

School Supplies

Planning and Record Keeping

Learning Outside the Home

Dear Homeschool Mom

Blessings,

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Simply Algebra (Math Essentials review)

Math Essentials review

I recently reviewed a Pre-Algebra program with Seahawk, and he’s done really well with it. When the opportunity to review No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials presented itself, I thought the early chapters would make a good supplement to his current pre-algebra course, and then when he finished that, we’d have the Algebra 1 program set aside ready to dive into.

No-Nonsense Algebra is a softcover math textbook, and as its title suggests, it is just Algebra. There are absolutely no frills, lessons are short and self-contained, and there are loads of examples and practice problems. And to make a good textbook even better, author Richard W. Fisher has created video instruction to go with every single lesson in the book. The access passcode is printed right in the book (on the first title page), so you don’t have to ever worry about losing it.

No-Nonsense Algebra covers all the topics you’d expect in an Algebra 1 course:

  • Necessary Tools for Algebra
  • Solving Equations
  • Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
  • Solving and Graphing Inequalities
  • Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • Polynomials
  • Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
  • Radical Expressions and Geometry
  • Quadratic Equations
  • Algebra Word Problems
The very first lesson. Note that there's nothing on the page except the actual information needed and practice problems. That's what I mean by "no frills." Click to enlarge.

The very first lesson. Note that there’s nothing on the page except the actual information needed and practice problems. That’s what I mean by “no frills.” Click to enlarge.

As I mentioned before, Seahawk was the main beneficiary of this math book. He wasn’t thrilled with this (he really likes his online math program), but after the very first lesson he was a convert. He was having trouble wrapping his mind around adding and subtracting negative numbers, and Mr. Fisher’s video lesson explained it much more clearly than anything we’d come across previously. After that one video lesson, Seahawk was able to do all of the practice problems (15 of them) in record time. From then on, doing this book in conjunction with his regular math lesson has been just fine – which is a real testament to the effectiveness of this program, considering it’s summertime and my energetic 13-year-old would rather be spending time outside with his friends.

In addition to doing this with Seahawk, I decided to have Munchkin (almost 11, going into 6th grade) sit in on the first lesson, just to see how he did with it. While I won’t say that was a complete failure, it was definitely clear after just a few minutes that it was way beyond him. He got very frustrated, so I quickly let him off the hook and continued on with just Seahawk. However… we’ve had such great success with the older son that I’m seriously considering getting the Math Essentials Middle School book for him to use this school year.

One of my favorite things about this text is that it provides constant review for the student. I think this is absolutely vital in helping them to remember what they’ve learned. Without frequent review of the material, it’s too easy to “learn the test,” and that’s not what we want for our students. We want them to actually know what they’re learning so they have the skills they need to succeed long-term. And while not every algebraic concept is useful in the “real world” (I don’t even remember the last time I needed the quadratic equation was – probably when I was taking high school math classes!), many of them are. For this reason, I’m so glad to have the opportunity to use such a solid math book with my boys. And because this is a textbook as opposed to a workbook, I’ll have it on hand for all of them. I’m really glad about that!

There are 60 reviews on No-Nonsense Algebra from members of the Homeschool Review Crew this week. Make sure to click the banner below to find links to the rest of them.

Blessings,

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No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}
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Ladybug Sighting: August 8

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We recently learned that there is such a thing as “print your own temporary tattoos.” How fun is that?! So Will bought a sheet of the tattoo paper from JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts (it was about $10 for a single sheet) and printed some tattoos up for us. He used about half the page for Casey and Kyle tattoos (his comic), and the other half he put my ladybug logo on. These tattoos are good quality; they last much longer than any mainstream varieties our kids have had before. 

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Blessings,

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Rush Revere Time Travel Adventures (book review)

Being a (casual) listener of the Rush Limbaugh radio program, I’d heard of the Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh. I’d even seen some of the books in a few stores. But I’d never actually picked one up or knew exactly what it was (outside of novels about American history). When the opportunity to review the whole series was offered, I talked to my husband about it, and he was interested too – that never happens, especially with physical products! Based on his reaction, I requested to review these books, and I’m really glad I did!

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For this review, we received all five books in the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series: Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, Rush Revere and the First Patriots, Rush Revere and the American Revolution, Rush Revere and the Star Spangled Banner, and Rush Revere and the Presidency. Each of the books revolves around the same main characters: Rush Revere, a middle school substitute history teacher; Tommy, the quarterback of the football team who is the class clown but a closet brainiac; Freedom, a free-spirited girl who was born on the Fourth of July; and Liberty, Mr. Revere’s talking, time-traveling horse.

The purpose of the books is to make American history fun for kids. Each of the books takes place during two eras: the current one and one in the past. Mr. Revere and Liberty use their time-traveling abilities to make history come alive to their students via his smartphone and a projector in the classroom. By traveling back in time and videoing the experience, he sends to the school projector so the students can watch things happen as they’re happening. In the first book, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, there’s a moment after this first class in which Tommy and Freedom figure out his secret (I don’t remember the details offhand), so he takes them with him on subsequent trips. The main focus of the novel is the 1620s, and we meet historical figures such as William Bradford, Myles Standish, and the Indians Squanto, Samoset, and Massasoit. The time-travelers get to experience such events as the boarding of the Mayflower, traveling on the Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving.

required product imageSubsequent books explore different parts of American history. We’re currently reading book 2 (The First Patriots), and so far we’ve met Benjamin Franklin as he’s about to give a speech to the English Parliament in opposition of the Stamp Act. Books 2 and 3 both focus on the period of the American Revolution, while book 4 moves on to the writing of the constitution, the sewing of the first American flag, and the writing of the national anthem. The final book takes place after the successful revolution and focuses on the first three presidents and the work they did in their offices.

Each of these books is what I’d call “average” sized for a children’s novel – about 6×9 and 200-250 pages. The books are beautifully produced with full-color interior pages, and they feel really sturdy. I have no doubt that these will provide my children lots of reading entertainment for years to come. Before then, though, I fully intend for us to read the entire series together. The books are really fun and an easy read-aloud option. I love the they’re fun stories that teach children about history. I know my kids are enjoying them because they normally doodle during read-aloud time, but with these books, they’re captivated and just listen. It’s really rewarding for me as a parent (and the reader!) to experience having their rapt attention. The only thing my kids think are a little cheesy are the illustrations, but that’s an easily forgivable “offense.” Especially when combined with the great text and the other non-illustration images included in the books (maps, pictures of past presidents, etc).

Overall, I highly recommend these books! I was mildly interested in them before the review because, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m a casual listener of Rush Limbaugh’s radio program. I’d seen the books at Target, but never really looked at them. Now that we’ve read one (and a little bit), I’m excited to keep reading these to my boys, and then to do them again in a few years when the little kids are old enough to start learning “for real.” Rush Revere books are definite keepers in our home!

Blessings,

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Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series {Reviews}
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Paquita – Opening Night

The older boys have been taking dance classes since September, around the time I started taking ballet. The difference between us is that they’ve stuck with it; I didn’t (I found that it hurt my feet because of the split sole on the ballet slippers). They danced in The Nutcracker at Christmastime, and Seahawk had a solo in that.

For the past couple of months, their dance studio has been putting together another production, and this weekend is the performance. Last night was Opening Night, they perform again tonight, and there’s a matinee for the closing tomorrow. I was a backstage helper last night, and I’ll be in the audience on Sunday afternoon. Because I wasn’t in the audience last night, I don’t have pictures of the actual performance (I’ll try to do a new post with those next week), but I do have this one of the boys in their costumes, hanging out backstage. I love how they look like they’re palling around together! Proof that they do sometimes get along 😉

Ballet Boys Paquita opening night

Have a great weekend!

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My Week in Pictures: May 20

Besides the normal school etc…, we had a fun week. Here’s a taste.

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This picture wasn’t taken this week, but it was perfect for Mother’s Day – all four of my boys in one photograph. 

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We found a pond just a few blocks from where we’re staying right now, and there are lots of ducks and geese who live there. The boys have had a really fun time going to visit them. We went twice last week, and it’s really neat to see them interacting with nature so freely. We took some bread one day (old hamburger buns) and taught Small Fry how to tear it very small so that his portion would last a long time. By the end, Will and Seahawk had some of the geese literally eating out of their hands. That was pretty cool. Small Fry tried to let one of them eat from his hand, and it nipped at his fingers even though he did everything right and held his hand very flat. After that he was happy to just toss the bread.

When we ran out of bread, we walked around to the other side of the pond where Seahawk and Munchkin skipped some rocks. Seahawk is a natural at that (at most athletic things, actually) and was able to get 5+ skips a few different times.

IMG_0179After we left the pond, we were going to go to a local ice cream place where they have lots of different (unusual) flavors of ice cream. Will and I went there a week or so ago and had the rose petal flavor (it tastes mostly like vanilla, but there’s an aftertaste that is just what you’d think roses taste like based on their scent). Unfortunately, they were closed by the time we got there, so we went to Dairy Queen instead. Small Fry was pretty excited about the Guardians of the Galaxy cutout there and wanted his picture taken, so we did that for him. He has a photo album that he loves to look at full of pictures of some of the experiences we’ve done together. I’m sure this one will end up in there at some point.

IMG_0217That night, after we’d been asleep for a few hours, Small Fry came into our room crying. I woke up to find out what was going on with him; he said his lip was hurting a lot. I took him into the bathroom so I could turn the light on without bothering anyone else and take a look. He had quite the fat lip and was bleeding just a little bit up underneath. The blood wasn’t severe, so I got him calmed down and back into bed so we could all get enough sleep and deal with it more in the morning.

The following morning, when neither of us were as tired, I got the full story out of him. Turns out he’d fallen out of bed during the night, and because the boys are in such close quarters (all four are sharing one room temporarily), he slammed his face into Seahawk’s bed frame when he fell, hence the fat lip and bleeding. It was very sore all that day, and the next afternoon he came running up to give me a hug and very gently bonked into me. Even though it was hardly any pressure at all, it was enough to break open the scab under his lip and he started bleeding profusely. We got that under control, and everything’s been fine since then.

IMG_0221The last picture I have to share is Munchkin in his new glasses. The boys qualify for their annual eye exams each spring, so we make sure to get them done every year. Seahawk and Small Fry don’t have any issues, but we get them checked anyway. Dragonfly is small enough that he doesn’t need exams yet, but the eye doctor said starting next year, he will. Munchkin, though, wears glasses. He has since he was 5, when he was diagnosed with an astigmatism. He tells me that he doesn’t remember a time that he didn’t have glasses. I remember his first pair of glasses, and that was a magical time. He was small, and didn’t even realize he hadn’t been seeing very well. We took him to pick up his glasses a few days after the eye exam, and as soon as he put them on, his face lit up. He could see so well! That really was a wonderful moment.

Blessings,

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Pictures of the Week: Our Homeschool Week

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’re doing much in the way of school, but I know we’re just fine :). Here are a few pictures showcasing some of the things we’ve done recently. Most of these are review items for which you’ll get to read my thoughts soon (later this month in many cases).

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Small Fry has continued working on Eclectic Foundations to learn to read. We also received a set of the newest Kwik Stix no-mess paint sticks: Thin Stix. In this picture, he’s making a get well card for Will, who had surgery a couple of weeks ago.

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One of the blessings of living with my in-laws is that they have an electric piano. Will has taken Seahawk’s desire to learn seriously, and they’ve had a few lessons. Besides the lessons, Seahawk practices nearly every day.

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We were blessed with a biography of Jacob de Shazer from YWAM to read. He led a fascinating life, and I’m so glad we get to read about it. In this picture, we’d just finished reading about his involvement in the Doolittle Raid during WWII. The book mentioned that there were reporters on the aircraft carrier with the soldiers, so I looked on YouTube to see if there was any of that footage. Instead I found a newsreel from the event, so we watched that.

Besides what you see here, we’ve also been doing “boring” things like math and science. Also, the boys are learning to type with The Typing Coach.

Have a great weekend!

Blessings,

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Readers in Residence (Apologia Review)

Review of Apologia Readers in Residence

Literature is one of my favorite subjects to teach. There are just so many good books out there, and by using a wide variety of curricula, my boys are exposed to books that are American classics. Sometimes the books we read are new to me, too. But the best thing of all is when they learn to read beyond just the book – critical thinking along with reading comprehension. This last point is something I tend to struggle with (which is a big part of why I started my virtual book club). But Debra Bell from Apologia Educational Ministries is great with it, and she’s developed a literature curriculum called Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth). Munchkin and I have had the pleasure of working through this during the past few weeks (when we weren’t busy moving, that is).

What it is

Readers in Residence is a companion to Apologia’s Writers in Residence program, but you can use them independently of one another. Readers in Residence is designed to help kids problem solve their way through books, starting even before they open to the first chapter.

IMG_0106The student book is huge – 562 pages in an 8.5×11″ spiral bound, consumable book, and there are 6 units for students to work through. In the odd numbered units, students are given a book to read, and in the even numbered units, they choose a book of their own in the same genre as the book from the previous unit. For example, the first unit is Sarah, Plain and Tall, and the second unit is the studen’s choice do a historical fiction book. After reading Charlotte’s Web, they choose an animal fiction book. And upon finishing Because of Winn Dixie, the entire fiction section of the library (or book store) is free reign. Each unit has a different focus, and those with an assigned book have a big unit project as well.

The book includes a suggested daily schedule, covering 4 days a week. I found this really helpful in trying to wrap my mind around the gigantic volume. Knowing where to begin and how much to do in a a given day was super helpful. After I studied the schedule and felt like I had a handle on what to expect from this curriculum, I passed the student book on to Munchkin.

How we used it

IMG_0107Munchkin, who is nearing the end of 5th grade, was pretty much given free reign over this curriculum. I was around when he needed help, but he pretty much did it all on his own. I just went over his answers each day when he’d finished. He dove right into Unit 1: Sarah, Plain and Tall. He’d read this book before, bit it had been a few years, so he was happy to read it again. 

The subtitle of this curriculum is Sleuth, and that’s very fitting. The opening module of the unit teaches students about becoming an expert reader – both what that means and how to become one. They start by exploring the cover of the book and looking for clues as to what the book might be like based on the cover. There’s a diagram showing the different parts do the cover (title, author, illustrator, awards, etc). Then they’re taught the difference between fiction and nonfiction, and this section is where the first exercise is. Students are instructed to find books of both genres at home and write down their titles. The module  continues in this manner, until they’re given instruction to actually pick up the book to read. At that point, they use the information learned to analyze the book before they begin reading.

IMG_0108I had Munchkin follow the schedule laid out in the beginning of the workbook, just for the sake of ease. This fell apart a little bit when we were in the middle of the move, but he’s right back into this book now that we’re settled.

What we think of it

We didn’t make it as far into the curriculum as I’d hoped and expected because our move was sudden and unexpected right in the middle of the review period. Despite that, I really like what I’ve seen so far. I like the 4-day week, I like the methodology behind the program, and I like that my son is learning to take an active role in the books he reads rather than staying a passive reader. I think it’s important to do things deliberately, and Readers in Residence helps students learn to read with a purpose. This is a definite win in my book (pardon the pun).

Blessings,

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Readers in Residence Volume 1 (Sleuth) {Apologia Educational Ministries Review}
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