Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Preparing for a new year of homeschooling

What to do about all the old curriculum materials... That's the big topic this week in my homeschool supply closet!

Here are some options for getting rid of old books and homeschool materials to prepare for the new year:

1: Send a message about items for sale to your local homeschool email list

I'm a member of a local Yahoo Group and our group allows us to sell homeschool materials to fellow subscribers. I always post "For Sale" and the item name in the subject line, then post a description in the body. I disclose the condition of the books, that the items are from a non-smoking home and include my email address, so no one accidentally hits the "reply all" button. This can be a great way to make friends with other homeschool families. Several times I have met new homeschool moms who I can encourage, and seasoned homeschool moms who have great ideas to share!

2: Use the Amazon Trade-In Program

You won't always get top dollar for books this way, but it sure is easy! They also pay in my favorite currency: Amazon gift cards. Amazon will pay shipping costs. and you can print the label from home. It's definitely worth looking at what they'll offer for your items, especially older or more obscure titles. Click on this link and enter the exact title of the book you're curious about, and they'll give you an estimate of what it's worth in their Trade-In Program.

3: Post high-value items on EBay

Items that have held a lot of their value, like IEW and Math-U-See, can be good to sell on EBay. The best way to see if your item is worth going to the trouble of posting is to search for similar items. What are they selling for?

4: Bless another homeschool family

If you ask around at church, a homeschool group, or on your local homeschool email group, you're sure to find someone who would love free materials.

5: Attend a curriculum swap

I've only been to one curriculum swap, and some moms got together at a playground and swapped teacher guides, reference books and more at a picnic table while the kids played.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What's for lunch? Homeschool edition

A hot lunch is perk #643 on a list of a thousand reasons why I love homeschooling. Who doesn't love a hot lunch? Now don't be impressed, because I'm not going to any trouble in the kitchen; I'm embracing the crock pot and casserole dish.

Here's a list of my go-to recipes for easy, inexpensive hot lunches at home:

Cheesy Polenta in the crock pot:
This dish is gluten-free for those avoiding gluten, and any leftovers can be stored in the fridge then sliced and heated up in a skillet. Cheesy polenta is good both ways! Top with leftovers from the dinner before,

Breakfast casserole:
This dish is for breakfast, lunch or dinner in my house. I've altered the recipe a dozen ways, adding broccoli or spinach, substituting ground beef for sausage... but I always use a full dozen eggs.

And any other four-hour-or less-crock pot recipe from this book...

Add some veggies with yogurt dip or hummus, and lunch is served!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

PSAT just two months away

It's hard to believe August is already here. I'm looking at our calendar and many weekends are already booked through the fall. How did we get so busy? One event that is on the calendar is the PSAT for my 16-year-olds.

PSAT/NMSQT test dates for the next two years are:
  • 2014: Wednesday, October 15 and Saturday, October 18
  • 2015: Wednesday, October 14 and Saturday, October 17
The PSAT is offered only in October, and since it's inexpensive and easy to find a testing location, it's a test my big boys will take. Some families skip this practice version of the SAT, but my plan is to have the boys take it and then evaluate what they need in orders to prepare for the big test. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An All About Spelling giveaway!

I've been a bad, bad blogger this summer, haven't I? Hopefully this fantastic giveaway link will help you forgive my absence until I add a new post: All About Spelling is hosting a giveaway until August 5.

This multi sensory spelling program is something I wish I had discovered on day one of homeschooling. Click on over and enter their drawing if you like!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

C16's 9th grade curriculum 2013-2014

Wrapping up our fourth year of homeschooling, I finally feel ready to share our homeschool curriculum choices and my position on different topics. I didn't want to lead anyone astray before! The truth is that every family is different and the beauty of homeschooling is that we don't all have to agree on the same curriculum, schedules, etc.

C16 has worked hard to get on track to complete high school in 3 more years and begin university studies. For example. In 2010-2011 he completed Gamma, Delta and Epsilon levels of Math-U-See. 

Science - Elemental Science: Biology for the Logic Stage He will take the final test of this 36-week biology program tomorrow. Though it is written for the 6th grade, the author shares ways to make it work for younger and older grades. I beefed up this program to make sure he can earn a high school credit for Biology. 

History, Geography, Literature - Tapestry of Grace We're starting week 22 of Year 2 on Monday. We're a little "off" a normal schedule because I found out about Tapestry of Grace during the middle of a school year and switched. We continued through the summer and will begin Year 3 in late-September. He does the Dialectic assignments and will move to Rhetoric in Year 3. There are so many reasons why I enjoy TOG and would recommend it highly, but I'll just share one feature here: it's so easy to adjust a child's level and workload within the program. You buy the curriculum per 9-week-long or year-long unit, and all four levels (Lower Grammar K-3, Upper Grammar 3-6, Dialectic 6-9 and Rhetoric 9-12) are included. This year he is completing each Government (at the Rhetoric level) and Fine Art. Next year I will probably add in the Writing assignments, or perhaps start incorporating IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing). 

Math - He is currently on Lesson 24 of Math-U-See Algebra and, while higher level maths are a challenge for him, he only wants to use this program. Steve Demme is a great teacher! He watches the video for a lesson then we both use the teacher guide book when he has questions. 

Writing - This one was our biggest struggle, but each month is easier than the last. He is working through Voyages in English (I bought the program used from a friend) and completes loads of writing assignments for other subjects, like Tapestry of Grace and Biology.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Our 2013-2014 curriculum for a 16-year-old playing catch up

Wrapping up our fourth year of homeschooling, I finally feel ready to share our homeschool curriculum choices and my position on different topics. I didn't want to lead anyone astray before! The truth is that every family is different and the beauty of homeschooling is that we don't all have to agree on the same curriculum, schedules, etc.

My dear son N16 is catching up to his same-age peers and I couldn't be more grateful for our right to homeschool. Though some days are tough, I stand by my decision to homeschool him, with no regrets. This was the right move for him. 

He's all over the map with his "grade level" and when someone asks him what grade he's in, it takes him a moment to think before he finally just answers "9th."

I'm not claiming that this is is the exact program I would recommend for any and every 9th grade boy, I'm just sharing what works for him in hopes that it will encourage others who have kids with "special needs."

Science - Elemental Science: Biology for the Logic Stage We're almost through with this 36-week biology program. Though it is written for the 6th grade, the author shares ways to make it work for younger and older grades. I have been very happy with this simple program and I'm glad I bought the teacher guide and two of the consumable Student Guides (for N16 and his twin brother, C16). Each week there is a hands-on experiment or demonstration. Next year we will study earth science and Astronomy; I'm not sure if we will stick with Elemental Science or try another program. I'd love your input!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Why I Don't Loathe Standardized Testing

The words "standardized testing" can fill any mom with dread, but, now that we are homeschoolers, I don't think the big bad end-of-grade tests must be so cringe-worthy!

It seems in traditional schools that end-of-grade tests are the hottest topic for teachers all year long. All. Year. Long. Oh, how I don't envy those teachers!

For me, it's just not a big deal.

I'm paraphrasing here, but C16 shared with me after a homeschool conference session that he attended without me something that made me say "aha!" The speaker compared standardized testing in traditional schools to "the tail wagging the dog" instead of "the dog wagging its tail." Now that analogy makes a lot of sense to me and I agree whole-heartedly.
  1. I don't let it consume me, my students or my school.
    Testing takes a couple hours a day for one week a year and that's it. In previous years I had them practice with an inexpensive test prep workbook, but I don't think they need to do that every year.
  2. In my state I get to choose the test we take (Iowa Test so far), when we take it (usually July but this year they took it in April) and what grade level to test at.
  3. My kids need to learn how to take a test... how to fill in a bubble sheet, how to pace themselves, how to skip a problem that is tricky and come back to it later, how to make a best guess when unsure of an answer... because testing, whether we like it or not, is part of life.
  4. I don't want my kids to hate tests... to be afraid of them... to think they aren't good at tests... because, well, why make something miserable when it can be tackled with confidence?
  5. I enjoy seeing their progress day to day, year to year, by working alongside them in their schooling, but it's also nice to get an annual core card to see how we are doing.
    I'll admit that I look forward to getting those score sheets back in the mail each year.
  6. Test results might reveal strengths and weaknesses that I might overlook.I expected the first round of tests to reveal that my boys were were strongest in science and math, but it turns out that, while they do fine in those subjects, they're rock stars at vocabulary. I don't think my boys and I would have noticed just how much they excel at that one subject if it hadn't been pointed out to me. Spelling, however... well, it's a good thing we discovered All About Spelling to help with that subject!
The PSAT will be on our calendar for October, then the SAT is soon to follow. Drivers license tests will be coming shortly as well. I want to prepare my kids to take an occasional test, but it does not take over our homeschool. 

Testing is not the most important part of my homeschool, but it does matter a little. 

What are your thoughts on standardized tests?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Whack! And giggle!

I wish you could hear little bambino's uncontrollable laughter while A3 "whacks" letters with his Do-A-Dot markers!

I've managed to avoid Chuck E Cheese this far, but last week we went to a birthday party there and my arcade-free streak was broken. Little A3 *loved* playing a Whack-A-Mole type game, so I tried to recreate that as well as I could with a little activity at home this morning with Do-A-Dot markers (Amazon affiliate link).

It goes something like this:

"Find the letter that says "ffff"" I prompt...

"Whack" with the do-a-dot by A3...

Friday, April 25, 2014

Jamestown, round 2! Our second time through American History

We've just completed week 20 of Tapestry of Grace Year 2, a study of Jamestown. Oh, how good this is to revisit a topic and see how much the twins remember!  

Our first unit study as homeschoolers back in 2010 was a study of this first permanent American settlement. We then went chronologically through American History, but, around the point of World War 1, I discovered Tapestry of Grace and decided to change course and start a new plan with Ancient Times. 

I now know first hand how much of a joy this four-year classical education cycle of history can be in our homeschool!

In the spirit of a weekly wrap up, here's what we did this week:

* Watched Pocahontas as a family (just like we did back in 2010) 

* Browsed educational materials and videos at 

* Completed the TOG geography assignments about North America and began our memory work of the 13 colonies (much easier this go around, but review is still needed) 

* Read books about Jamestown, King James I and Galileo

* Completed more lessons for All About Spelling (affiliate link) 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

3 Letter sound and letter recognition apps for the little ones

My little monkey, A3, sure is crazy about learning letters! Maybe it's because he has these fun iPad games to play with...

1 Starfall ABCs
This app isn't as flashy as the Elmo app I will describe in a moment, but it's usually A3's top pick. The gumballs for "G" seem to be his favorites.

More than just letter sounds, the game introduces other concepts like "on and off" for the letter "o."

Distinguishing one letter from another is a skill tested during this game, where he sorts "o" and "n."

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Story about Ping.. and our two ducklings

How many books can we find to borrow from the library about ducks? Nine, it turns out. Yep. Nine books about ducks. We've been pretty duck-crazy around here since my DH and A3 brought home two little ducklings while I was off at my first homeschool convention last month. 

The Story About Ping is a classic tale (and a Five in a Row book, but we are still using Before Five in a Row with A3 so I haven't bought that guide yet). Taking place on the Yangzte River, this is the first children's book (I think) my preschooler has read about China, so of course we went to our world map to locate China. Every new place he learns about he compares to Russia, the country we studied back in February during the Winter Olympics, in both size and distance from home ("China is far away like Russia is far away.")

It's easy to find loads of books about any topic by using the library's web catalog or asking a librarian for help.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Last Child in the Woods & EE Week

I've been reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Have you heard about this book by Richard Louv?

I've been meaning to read this guide for some time; when I heard about it a few years back, I only skimmed a paperback copy while drinking a hazelnut latte at Barnes & Noble.

It's easy to think about nature and going outdoors this time if year, isn't? When the weather is glorious, when tomatoes need to be planted, when flowers start blooming... It's easy to say, "kids, lets go outside."

Just being outside has value, enormous value, no matter what we are doing... Playing with sticks, looking at clouds, walking across rocks...

Still, how can we as homeschoolers spend more time outside, educating our children? That's the question I was trying to answer early, early this morning when I skipped to the back of the book and looked at item #73 on Louv's list of "100 Actions We Can Take." Three website links are given under "green the K-12 curricula," and I will share these with you now.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

100th day of 2014: April 10

It's the 100th day of 2014 and we're taking an hour away from our normal activities to celebrate. I modeled this after "100th day of school" festivities I have seen online. Do you remember doing 100th day activities as a kid? I don't, but why not try it? 

First up, for A3, a hundred pieces of cereal on a string.

He focused for a long time and did his very best laying out 100 pieces on the chart then stringing them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to involve Dad in your homeschool

A few months ago we discovered that history was the easiest subject for my husband to get involved with our homeschool, and we figured out the best tool to help him!

When planning for this school year, I figured that the most natural subject for him to do with C16 would be government. He enjoys learning about the topic, and knowledge about governments near and far, old and new will of course aid in understanding of current events. He and C16 already "talked politics," so I was so sure my plan was a good one! All he would have to do is skim the weekly Government Studies reading assignments that Tapestry of Grace assigns for C16, read the teacher's notes then hold a discussion. Sounds easy, right? Well, doing this regularly didn't work with my husband's irregular schedule, and he finds little time to sit down and read. 

The good news is, homeschooling is adaptable! My plan fizzled, then something even better took its place.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

100th day of the year

Public and private schools celebrate the 100th day of school with a big hoopla. Did they do this when I was in school? I don't member a big fuss about the 100th day, and it seems a little silly to me... But, still... If I can make a fun day for the boys without too much hassle for myself, I'm in!

I first got excited about "100th day" last year on the First Grade Parade blog. I knew I would not be able to do this exactly, as I couldn't predict when our 100th day of school would fall. Isn't flexibility one of the joys of homeschooling?

Instead I came up with a more dependable plan: we will instead celebrate the 100th day of the year. This year it's April 10th, which happens to be a week day! My plan is to stick to the basics for school (just math and a little Tapestry of Grace) then add in some 100th day learning activities and some fun 100th day snacks on Thursday.

Go over to First Grade Parade to see what she did this year, or do a Pinterest or Google search for some inspiration! New York Times also has a list of ideas, many that could be used for middle or high school. Many of these ideas are easily adaptable for the 100th day of the year.

On The Road for Less: 8 tips

Here are eight tips for taking your homeschool on the road for less... less money and less stress:

1 Attend homeschool days
So many attractions, from museums to theme parks to historical sites offer special homeschool days throughout the year. These days often have extra activities and, almost always, deep discounts.

2 Use those museum memberships
ASTC (science centers), AZA and other groups have negotiated free or reduced admission for their members across the country, and sometimes internationally. We've often made turned these attractions into brief stops when traveling. For example, on the road to Legoland we usually stop at the Jacksonville Zoo to stretch our legs and take a break from driving along I-95. During cold or rainy weather pick an indoor attraction, like Dayton's Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, which was another diversion for us. Make the most of those memberships!

3 Coffeepot oatmeal
Free breakfasts are usually junk, but we still gobble up the whole fruit and oatmeal. If there isn't a free breakfast at your hotel, pack oatmeal to make in the coffee cups using hot water from your coffee maker.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What we're doing for Math

The subject we get asked the most questions about is definitely Math. Let me share what we'e using for Math curriculum at the moment:

C16 is continuing down the Math-U-See path with great results. Every once in a while I show him another curriculum that friends are excied about (like Khan Academy or Teaching Textbooks), but he is content with this program by Steve Demme. This is his fourth year of using Mth-U-See; four years ago we started with Gamma (typically a 3rd grade level) and he quickly got caught up to his same-age peers. He's on the 23rd chapter now. When he completes this level, he'll take a pause before beginning Algebra II or Geometry, and probably will join his twin in some math games.

The only trouble with Math-U-See is that we don't take a DVD player with us on the road, so when traveling I take the Teacher's Guide book.

N16 had started Math-U-See Pre-Algebra, but I just got too frustrated guiding him through problems with so many steps (ones where you use all sorts of operations and he often got mixed up). I still am a fan of Math-U-See Pre-Algebra, so I thought that maybe after another year of maturing and mastering basic math concepts he could try it again. If it doesn't work for us when I make a second attempt in the fall, we'll come up with a new plan for math.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Baseball Unit Study wrap up

I'm a total scardie cat. 

Worst athlete ever. 

A ball coming at me is not my idea of fun. 

The one year I did play a school sport, the volleyball coach would only put me in for the last two seconds of an already won or lost game and gave me the Sportsmanship award at the end of the season. I was that pitiful. 

I couldn't run a mile without stopping, even if a bear was chasing me. 

Still, I have this desire to love the sport of baseball as much as my husband and his family, so together we can share the all-American pastime with our kids. 

Despite my infant scapegoat (you know the line... "I can't because of the baby, but you go and have fun"), I decided to join in and try tossing and hitting the ball with the kids today for homeschool PE. 

I'm still lousy at it, but we did have fun! We worked up an appetite for a baseball-themed afternoon snack: Tyler Florence's caramel corn. Yum! 

With opening day fast-approaching, are you incorporating baseball in your homeschool? Please share with the Linkup below! 

The Ultimate Homeschool Blogroll

Baseball unit study: chalk pastels

I wish I could take credit for this one, but all the instructions came from Chalk Pastels through the Seasons.

A baseball unit study can touch all curriculum areas, including art!

I helped draw the outline for A3 but the big boys worked on their own. A3 decided to scribble red all over his art when he was done, and I just stood back and let him. It's his art, after all! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Handwriting app and song for wiggly little ones

Is it weird that I've been looking forward to the day when I can attend the Handwriting Without Tears workshop? For a few years now?
I just love the way this company has made handwriting pleasant and easy for the Wiggly Willy types (to borrow a term from Cathy Duffy). Until then (when our new baby is old enough to spend the day with his grandparents while I attend the workshop), here is what has been working for us. 

We've been singing and dancing with the Frog Jump Capitals song (the complete song is on this YouTube video above) and then practicing some capital letters as he wants on the Wet Dry Try app. He could go longer, but I keep this activity to 10-15 minutes while his big brothers do independent work.

Little A3 loves tracing and enjoys learning his letters, or I wouldn't do this now. There's certainly no need to torture a little one with lessons!

I first read about this app back in 2012 over at Passport Academy. It has improved since then with the addition of numbers and lowercase letters, and a feature to make it easier or harder based on your student's level of skill. You can use the HWT recommended order (like in the photo above, where it starts with Frog Jump Capitals and unlocks one letter at a time) or see a view if the alphabet and choose any letter to start with.

Have you tried Wet Dry Try or anything else from Handwriting Without Tears?

(No affiliate links here; I just am enjoying HWT so much that I wanted to share!)


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scoring a baseball game - Baseball Unit Study Link Up

The possibilities for math lessons based on baseball are infinite, but I wanted to start with learning how to score a baseball game in my homeschool baseball unit study. When I initially shared this idea with a friend, she confessed that she was the official scorekeeper for her high school's baseball team so she could watch and meet the cute boys on the field. Obviously she was far more clever than me. 

Cute boy watching aside, baseball scoring provides proof that math is everywhere, and comes in many forms. 

I didn't know the first thing about how to score a baseball game, but fortunately we live in the age of Google and resources are plentiful! Here's what helped me: 

Take a score sheet to a local high school, college or minor league baseball game, or try watching a game on TV and following along with your score sheet. 

Math class dismissed! 

Hip Homeschool Moms

Shopping at my first homeschool conference

I came home from my first ever homeschool convention road-trip with new friends made, ideas, to-do items and just a few purchases from the expo.

While it's entirely possible to homeschool for free or next to free, I just love buying curriculum. Some people have a shoe problem; I have a curriculum problem. If I won the MegaMillions jackpot, I would probably still drive my van with over 100,000 miles on it, but I would go on an enormous curriculum and school supply shopping spree. Then I'd need more storage shelves and cabinets. Then... Well... Maybe going overboard on school materials just isn't a good idea, regardless of funds.

Here's what I bought:

Math Detective A1 from The Critical Thinking Company
Though I didn't save much money buying it from the tradeshow booth, I did have a chance to meet a rep from The Critical Thinking Company who was extremely helpful. He recommended this series, and I'm excited to try it soon. We used Balance Math recently and even my husband and I worked out the problems. It might have gotten competitive...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Numbers from my first day of my first homeschool conference

Denim jumpers spotted: Zero 

Minutes A3 played quietly during the hour-long session he had to attend with me: 60 (Victory!!! Thank you "play foam," Kumon cutting workbook and lollipops!)

Dollars spent: Just $18, on a workbook from The Critical Thinking Company booth (10% off and, obviously, no shipping fees!)

Miles walked: Lots! I'm glad I wore comfortable shoes!

Nice families met: Tons! Everyone has been extremely polite and gracious. What a nice bunch to be around. 

Shots of espresso in my pre-convention Starbucks drink: 4

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What about math? Part 2

Rather than jumping right in to a math curriculum, I recommend to newbie homeschoolers that they first take a break to show their children that math can be fun and relevant. 

Then.... When you're ready..l have them take a no-pressure placement test like this one from Math-U-See or another program. 

When my should-have-been 7th graders took this test, it became loud and clear to me that they needed to go back to the 3rd grade level, Gamma, and catch up. Math is sequential and if you don't know the basics, like multiplication, life for mom and student is going to be very, very difficult. 

One of the good things about Math-U-See is that the levels are labeled with the Greek alphabet, so my 13-year-old struggling learners didn't have to see "3rd grade" on their books. Even if they had, I would have just explained that if they go back and review the lower levels, math in general will be much easier for them. Now we're in our 4th year of homeschooling and C16 has completed Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Pre-Algebra and more than half of Algebra. 

If you're worried about blowing the budget by purchasing so many levels, consider investing in a program with a strong resale value (like Math-U-See) or using a free curriculum like the Khan Academy

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wrapping up the week: Big brother activities

Each week the big boys are assigned a chore and learning activity of their choosing to do with little A3. This week, little A3 had his first "big brother activity" with our new baby. Oh he was so proud!

Since St Patrick's Day is approaching, the big boys each did a shamrock craft with A3. My favorite craft activities are the kind you can eat or send as cards to loved ones. We mailed two sets of shamrock cards this week. Grandparents - keep an eye out for your mail carrier!

C16 chose this toilet paper tube shamrock stamp activity. They made four hearts then taped them together. After it tried A3 cut out the shamrocks for cards. The idea came from this blog. I'm always grateful for ideas from other blogs!

The activity N16 chose came from our MathArt book. They made pop up cards which introduced symmetry, and involved cutting, folding and gluing. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SAT Prep Part 2 - Khan Academy & The College Board

I'm just starting to poke around the Internet for the best SAT and ACT prep resources for C16, a ninth grader. How excited I am to have stumbled upon this: Khan Academy has partnered with The College Board to offer FREE practice tests and other prep resources for SAT.

Have you tried Khan Academy yet?

Oh and don't forget, my SAT flash card giveaway is still open for entries!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Baseball-infused math lessons for all ages

If you made me declare a "type" for our homeschool style, I'd say eclectic. We use (and love!) Tapestry of Grace, which I guess is a combo of Classical and Unit Study. Then we take breaks here and there and use a Unit Study (like we did in February for the Olympics, and a few years ago for a two month focus on all things baseball.

This year N16 and C16 won't have time to divein to a baseball unit study completely, but we will infuse baseball in our homeschool here and there.

I'm trying something different with N16 this year instead of continuing his Math-U-See Pre Algebra studies, and piecing together my own practical math curriculum. Starting next week we will try these three free math lessons from The Baseball Hall of Fame:

Geometry: Circling The Bases
There's an elementary and a middle school version of this lesson, and we'll post about the middle school plan after we complete it.

Statistics: Batter Up
This one has a high school level, as well as elementary and middle school.

Economics: The Business of Baseball
Economics is a topic that I only enjoy teaching when it relates directly to something the boys are interested in, and here's a lesson for all school ages that we'll use soon.

We won't do the videoconferencing or a field trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, but their free curriculum still has great ideas for multiple-day lessons. Add a link to your baseball posts here!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 Field Trip Picks for Baseball Unit Study

Back when A3's first birthday was approaching, my dad was sent on a business trip to Louisville. My mom, on summer break from teaching, was talked into going along. When she said she was heading to the Louisville Slugger Museum, I shared that I had been wishing to take the boys there someday and made a request. I asked her to get our littlest guy a keepsake personalized bat for his first birthday gift (because, really, how many toys does a baby need?). She loved the idea and on his first birthday, he got the gift I hope he will keep forever: a good ole American-made tee-ball-sized baseball bat, complete with his name engraved on the end.

He was playing with it yesterday, and this reminded me that opening day is fast approaching for baseball season.

Before the twins were adopted I researched our school options and gobbled up so many books about education, including a best-selling book by Rafe Esquith: Lighting Their Fires. Among many other inspiring things, the author explained how any why he teaches his students about baseball. His point of view was compelling, and I jumped in and created a unit study for my twins, age 13 at the time.

Our oldest boys are definitely not athletes. If you ask them what their favorite sport is, they'll say "fishing." All things sport were foreign to them, and I wanted them to share a bit of my husband's enthusiasm for the all American pastime.

Our unit study was beefy and thorough - from the physics of the game, to scoring, to Jackie Robinson, to the locations of each MLB team; we consumed all things baseball for about two months. My boys never were inspired to the point that they wanted to join a team, but they were absolutely captivated when we finally did make it to the Louisville Slugger Museum for ourselves. Today little A3 is curious about the sport, an interest I'll jump on through library books, attending a minor league game and playing tee-ball in the back yard. This month if his curiosity keeps up, I'll teach him "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" and do some themed crafts and snacks. When he's older and an official student, I'll pull out more of my notes and items from our 2011 unit study.

 If you're inspired to bring a bit baseball into your homeschool, I'll share some resources over the next few weeks.

 For now, here's a sampling of baseball-inspired field trip ideas:

The Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Kentucky
When we went in 2011 I spent most of my time chasing a toddler, but it definitely will be a trip to repeat.

The Shoeless Joe statue and Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in Greenville, South Carolina
What a great story, and a reminder that being a terrific athlete isn't about having the best gear or flashiest uniforms.

Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York
I need to plan a road trip for this one!

Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia
 Go for a game or just enjoy a guided stadium tour.

Field of Dreams in Dubuque County, Iowa
This one's on my wish list for a trip along the Mississippi River. BYO ball and bat.

If none of these are close by, just head to your local ball field next month and watch any given Little League game for free. Cheer on whoever is up to bat and encourage your kids to try and keep score.

 Have you studied baseball in your homeschool? I'd love to read your ideas! Leave a comment or join the LinkUp below.

  PS You can still enter to win a little SAT prep giveaway until the end of March!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Rubix cube, Greek alphabet and more on YouTube

I can learn just about anything, and so can my boys, on YouTube.

 Just pre screen anything before showing your kids, and that's it! Easy!

The big boys wanted to know how to talk with a British accent before the 2012 Summer Olympics, and we were all saying "duty" after this one...


 What have you learned/taught using YouTube?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SAT prep part 1 (with a little GIVEAWAY!!!) (giveaway ended)

Until C16, my 9th grader, takes the PSAT in October, there isn't much that I feel is urgent to work on for SAT prep. He's continuing his math studies as usual, of course, and I did order just one thing... a few months ago I bought a box set of SAT vocabulary flash cards from Amazon (I buy everything but bananas there these days!).

For a visual learner like C16, these silly comics help him remember the vocabulary words, even if some of the graphics and sayings are a stretch. It's working for him! This week is a review week, so he's taking the 60 flash cards he has worked on so far and refreshing his memory. I'm so happy with how well he has retained the words and definitions, at a pace of 10 flash cards a week. 

This box is OnTheRoad-friendly, which is one of the features I enjoy the most. C16 usually keeps the box in the van door pocket so he can practice them when I'm driving. All in all, I enjoy this product and am glad I bought it. I think you'll like it too, if you have a student preparing for the PSAT or SAT...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Hands down, the best place for homeschoolers to "shop"

Drum roll, please...

And the best place for homeschooler to "shop" is...

A place with the world's greatest return policy...

A place where someone is eager to help if you need it...

A place where your entire family is welcome...

A place where...


I've kept you waiting long enough...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The best place to learn about caves is...

... Well, inside a cave, of course!

My original plan was to visit the famous Luray Caverns during a trip through the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, but discovered another nearby option through an Internet search: Grand Caverns.

We left our hotel with a plan to arrive around when the attraction opened at 10am (9am during the summer months) and I'm glad we did. The "Grand Caverns" are located inside a state park, and I wish we had planned even more time to explore the park's trails and, if it had been summer, I would have enjoyed the bargain-priced public outdoor pool ($4 per person 3 and up).

The tour begins up a hill inside a small museum (dated, not flashy, but my crew of boys enjoyed it) then a knowledgable guide gathers any tour guests on the hour. Courtesy jackets were available for anyone who forgot one because it is a chilly 54 degrees under ground!

Our guided journey, just over an hour in length, went far beyond the "this is a stalactite" and "this is a stalagmite" speech that I was expecting. Our guide was perfect, but the caverns themselves are absolutely captivating.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Mommy I want to do cutting" Scissors Skills for the Little Ones

A focus for the early years is building fine motor skills, and for A3, using scissors is his favorite way to practice! 

Sometimes I will draw a simple shape on cosntruction paper for him to cut out, or he will cut strips of paper to weave or make into a garland. He'll also make confetti-like pieces to glue on art work instead of coloring or painting. But, by far, these Kumon Workbooks are the easiest way to go! 

This one, Kumon Let's Cut Paper! Food Fun, is his second cutting workbook. Some pages become puzzles, or interactive games (like the pan full of popcorn to open and close) and others get taped together to reveal a larger picture. "Daddy, I made you a hot dog!" 

I keep the workbook in a gallon-sized bag with his safety scissors and tape, so it's roadtrip-ready.

 This can also be an easy, low-mess activity for a waiting room or restaurant table. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Another homeschool perk... Snow days!

There are so many perks of homeschooling, aren't there?

Here's an example of one little perk...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Faberge egg craft

When I first started pulling together Russia-inspired craft ideas for our Olympics unit study, I initially thought we could do something related to Matryoshka dolls. Then I decided that was way to ambitious!

Faberge eggs came to mind next, and a quick Google search revealed an all-inclusive kit perfect for our study: Art In History's Faberge-style Egg kit. Woohoo! I usually would attempt to create these activities from scratch, but sometimes it's best not to reinvent the wheel and I chose the easy way! The kit came with all two of each paint, a brush and sponge, the plaster egg and full instructions online.

The downloadable 13-page lesson plan also included a history of Nicholas II, the geography of the Russian Revolution, a history Faberge and the love story behind the particular egg we would attempt to recreate, the Rosebud Egg.

My two official homeschool students completed the art activity with great care, and A3 did it in his own way!

The first day we used sponges to paint the egg red. Here's A3's egg...

The paint dries quickly enough to complete in one session, but sledding and snowball fights were calling my boys outside!

The second day we added the gold band and painted the base gold...

Then added the details...

I ordered three other history-infused art projects from the website, and I'll share those another day! I'm not an affiliate of Art In History; I just enjoyed their product and thought you might, too!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Homeschool days from Virginia to Tennessee to Florida

So many attractions offer discounts and educational activities on special homeschool days. I try to take advantage of as many of these days as I can! 

Here are some homeschool field trip ideas for 2014:

Thursday 2/27 

Nauticus, Battleship Wisconsin & Hampton Roads Naval Museum Homeschool Day

Norfolk, Virginia

Thursday 2/27 

Orlando area, Florida

Friday, February 14, 2014

What about math?

Four years ago when we began homeschooling I wasn't sure of which math program to choose. My kids hated math, probably because they were so far behind. So, I made this declaration to my newly-adopted pre-teen sons:

"For the first month we won't touch a single math textbook."

During our first month we focused on finding our spot, exploring different homeschool options and showing our kids that school can be fun. 

As far as math was concerned, here are some of the things we tried that went well:

We read "living math" books, like The Adventures of  Penrose the Mathematical Cat