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.