Sunday, April 30, 2017

Teach Like Finland - A Book I'm Loving!

I am always reading a couple books and usually have 1-2 audio books going as well. Right now I'm a couple chapters into a new book and enjoying it so much I decided to tell you all about it!

Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy D. Walker (aff) just came out this month. I had been following his blog and decided this would be a perfect book to listen to as an audio book. I like to listen when I am driving, doing chores, or grocery shopping - I've worked my way through nearly 100 audio books from Audible this way.

The book begins with Walker's story of being a teacher in the U.S., where he worked long hours and hit burnout before his first year was over. His wife, a native of Finland, had shared how very different a teacher's days were in her homeland. He didn't believe her tales of shorter days and a more relaxed pace. Finland was outperforming many nations in educational studies. Surely their educational system couldn't be as laid back as his wife shared. After a few years they decided to move to Finland for the slower pace and he ended up working in education.

The book really begins at this point to share the things he discovered first hand about the differences in the educational philosophies, and the similarities. Walker backs up his information with both published studies and personal experience. He also gets very practical in sharing how the day to day educational environment and practices in Finland could be adapted to fit American schools.

As a homeschooling family there have already been many ideas that I love and can incorporate into our days, from small tweaks like encouraging active breaks to interesting ideas like a gallery walk where kids can do presentations in a new way.

What books are you learning from right now?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Week of Unexpected Things

Monday I had a morning doctor's appointment and Daddy took over the homeschooling. By the time I returned children were well into their work. Yes, I'm blessed with an involved husband! Most of the kids finished up their writing project from last week today - except Emma. She is working on a Star Trek inspired story and is not ready to end it. We listened to our current read aloud a couple times today.

Joseph mowed the grass today (first time using the push mower!). It's a beautiful day when children learn a new skill. I did some grocery shopping in the afternoon, Makayla had track practice. Dinner was homemade burgers and fries, with a side of strawberries.

Tuesday Makayla didn't have Seminary so kids had until 8am to get up for the day. One was up at 5am, three at 6am, and it kept going from there. Yeah, most of them are not willing to sleep in. We ate breakfast and moved right into school. Daniel has officially finished his math book for the year and is on review. Joseph and Emma are on their last chapter. The other kids are working their way there.

I've been snuggling up with my younger three boys to read books each morning. Today they wanted a lot of Curious George books as well as some Eric Carle books.

I went to the dentist - apparently I managed to break a tooth. They can't work on it the same day you come in to get it checked (insurance rules) so I will go back next week to get the tooth fixed.

Wednesday's morning plans were thrown off when Mason woke up with pink eye. In to the pediatrician we went for a prescription while Makayla babysat. When I got home several of the kids had started their school work and the rest were playing peacefully. By mid-afternoon things went crazy when I got a letter from a government agency we deal with because of Mason - one of those "we're changing our mind retroactively about the last 10 months and you owe us more money than you make in 4 months" sort of letters. Sigh. I hate dealing with government agencies. My afternoon was spent on the phone and printing out various documents to hand deliver on Thursday.

Thursday started out with an hour spent waiting in a government office to deliver paperwork. We won't hear back about it for a week or two. We're just in limbo - and scrambling to adjust our budget because of a loss of income related to all of this. Have you ever tried to cut out 1/4 of your income overnight? Ahem. It's interesting, to say the least.

Oh, and Oliver joined the ranks of kids with pink eye on Thursday morning too. So that meant another call to the doctor to get a prescription phoned in for him.

We did school and finished our read aloud today. Yay!

I just really don't have it in me to blog another day in this crazy week. Picture Friday with another child or two getting pink eye - that's what I'm expecting. On the government agency front I've done everything I can do, so I'm going to peacefully turn that burden over to God and not think about it until we hear back official news.

I'm going to grab my kids and see who wants to play a board game - I need some laughs and fun.

{Linking here.}

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Homeschool Convention Notes - Day 2

On day two of the homeschool convention I attended 4 classes. These are some of my notes and thoughts about each.

Dr. Christopher Perrin - Why Children Must Play to Learn

This is a subject I've been reading about lately, as evidenced by the library books on my shelves, so I was interested to hear this class. He started out by helping us define 'play'.
  • Absorbing - We get lost in a new world.
  • Suspends time - We lose track of time and don't want to stop.
  • Self-motivating - We want to do it again and again.
  • Improvisational - We create spontaneously, without planning and preparation.
So can play be true of our studies too? Yes. In learning we want to play, try new things, explore, dive deep, and make connections. What makes for a great engineer? Creative thinking and problem solving - which come from learning to play.

Other things he covered:
  • Math often goes better after some time exercising/using the body in play.
  • Watch closely for screen addiction, it happens without warning. Shut them off if setting limits doesn't work. Don't give kids a smart phone - a dumb phone maybe for when they will be away from home and need to contact for their ride.
  • Choose media that allows room for imagination. He gave an example of older shows where you knew something creepy was happening off screen, but it left a lot to your imagination.
  • Toys - basic is always better, it leaves room for creative play and imagination. Sticks, string, blocks, cardboard boxes, duct tape are great starting places.
  • Outdoor time - get outside, leave the screens inside.
  • Reading time - Read great books AND THEN provide materials for props so kids can incorporate their stories into their play.
  • The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.
My book list from this class - The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally by David Elkind - Which is actually on my shelf from the library and just got nudge up higher on the list to read soon.

Sarah Mackenzie - Connecting with Our Kids Through Books

She went over the many benefits of reading books, especially reading aloud to our children. I'm familiar with the information and we love reading books at our house. Some things she mentioned that made it into my notes:
  • Don't stop reading when your kids can read to themselves. Their listening comprehension is much higher than their reading comprehension. They can enjoy many great books if you will read them aloud.
  • Kids learn to make connections and process information as they read and are read to.
  • Books inspire our kids to be the hero or heroine of their own story.
  • Reading encourages empathy - we live many lives through their pages and learn to love and understand in new ways those who are different than we are.
  • Reading aloud develops relationships and a family culture. You gain and inside language of memories and family jokes or shorthand when you speak using the books you have loved.
Books added to my list from this class - The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma (I've read this but will read it again some time.), Listening for Lions, and On to Oregon.

Rea Berg - Ancient History through Literature

This class is one that I enjoyed but it was interesting because a lot of what she said wasn't the message I took away. (Don't get me wrong, she had great ideas!) Through much of this class I found myself writing down thoughts that were filling my mind on the topic of education and learning. Some of that is as follows:
  • God provides the education of our children. He brings things into their lives when needed. We work and dedicate our meager offering to the Lord and he provides the miracle, multiplying it in the lives of our children.
  • What do we give our time to? What do we read when we are choosing a book for ourselves?
  • Use stories!
  • Seek wisdom out of the best books. Don't waste time on lesser options.
Book list additions from this class - She shared the idea of looking at more than one book for the same topic, which I'm familiar with. I liked the look of these two Noah's Ark books for my little boys: Noah's Ark by Lisbeth Zwerger and Noah's Ark by Peter Spier.

S.D. Smith - Author of The Green Ember

I didn't write down the title of this class but it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of audience participation and a nice long Q&A session too. We had discussion about what makes us love a story or dislike one. He asked the question "What makes a story good?" and here are many of the answers people shared: A villain, adventure, good description, a likeable hero, a problem to solve, adventure, an element of mystery, a character you connect with, a battle, danger, a twist, growth in the characters, limits/imperfections in a character, the guy gets the girl (offered by a teen boy...LOL).

He helped us see that we like characters that make decisions and take action more than characters that are always wishy-washy reactors to their situations.

During the Q&A I didn't take many notes, I was too busy listening and even asking my own question.

My favorite session on this day was definitely this last one with S.D. Smith! He was very humble, funny, and took the comments and questions of the kids and teens just as seriously as those of the adults.

Right before leaving the convention I made one final purchase. I bought four audio CDs of classes I had not been able to attend. I'm looking forward to listening to those in the coming weeks. They are:
  • Symbolism: Mastering Literature's Most Powerful Device by Ian Andrews
  • Failure in Fatherhood: The Story of a Homeschool Family Feud by Ian and Adam Andrews
  • From Critic to Curator or Creator: How to Stop Noticing Everything by S.D. Smith
  • Rabbits with Words: Hot tips on writing by S. D. Smith

Monday, April 24, 2017

Homeschool Convention Notes - Day 1

Jessica and I at the Midwest Homeschool Convention
I'm a note taker. I process things by writing them down. The last few days I spent enjoying the Midwest Homeschool Convention with my friend Jessica. We attended 9 classes over 2 days and I took notes. My notes are not just the things said in each class, they include the thoughts, ideas, and inspiration I received as I listened. I want to record some of it here so they are easy for me to find later. I'll cover day one's classes in this post. Enjoy this peek into my head!

Sarah Mackenzie - Teaching from Rest

I've heard Sarah speak before, read her book, and I'm part of the Read Aloud Revival group. I always come away encouraged. She had us picture our children 20 years from now having a conversation with another person, who finds out they were homeschooled and ask, "What was homeschooling like for you?" She wanted us to think about what words we would hope to hear from our children about their homeschool experience. It was an interesting way to look at it.

She also spoke about being careful not to add things to our homeschool backpack just because we see others doing them. We decide what is important for our homeschool trek and carry that, but we don't overload ourselves with things that, while they may be good, are just not important for our family.

Rea Berg - Charlotte Mason Meets Plato

This was my first time to hear Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books speak. The big things I came away with from this class were:
  • Offer plenty of food for our children's minds, good quality food from the best books.
  • Give our children a vision of greatness.
  • Study our children.
  • Three books I added to my reading list: The End of Education by Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

Adam Andrews - Witches, Wizards, and Wands, Oh My! Evaluating Literature

I've heard Adam Andrews speak many times and I always enjoy it. He is great about pushing you a bit outside of your comfort zone, getting you to think and consider things in different ways. He spoke about our responsibility as readers to sit still, pay attention to the author's message, and not change the subject. When we approach a book it can be easy to be so busy thinking about our own topics sparked by the book as we are reading it that we miss entirely the author's perspective on an idea and the discussion they are inviting us to join them in. When we take the time to understand what they are saying then we can have a conversation with them about that idea (which means we are then free to disagree, agree, ask questions, etc).

He walked us through a structural analysis of the plot, characters, setting, and so on of a story. This I am familiar with from his Teaching the Classics seminar - it's a lot of fun! He also gave some interesting questions to consider when we are evaluating whether or not a book is one we wish to read and share with our children. Here are some of those:
  • In the world of this story what is a good death?
  • What is a good life?
  • What is it like to be a person in this world?
  • Where is hope to be found?
  • Who is the god or higher power of this story? What are they like?

Sarah Mackenzie - Awake, Loving Your Life as a Homeschooling Mom

She had us think about a similar question to the one from her earlier class. This time it was, "What words do you want your children to say in 20 years when asked, 'What was your mom like when you were homeschooling?'" She encouraged us to make small adjustments now. What do we love? Share that with our children. How can you fill your bucket? Make time for that.

She had us picture what our dream homeschooling years would look like and start moving towards that. For example one mom may want to look back and remember going on lots of field trips, while another may want lots of family read alouds, and a third may really love science experiments and discovery.

Lesli Richards - Start Thriving

To be honest, this one was my least favorite of the weekend. Part of that was probably that it was the end of a very long day that had started very early and I just was at my limit of learning. The one takeaway I got was to focus on balance over a whole week so that everybody's bucket gets filled. 

* * * *

In between classes during this day we explored the exhibit hall. Picture a giant hall with more than 175 booths of homeschooling materials to explore, vendors to talk to, speakers to ask questions of, and thousands of homeschool families. It was a lot of fun! I came with just a few things I was looking for, as well as a small budget for fun items to bring home. I bought five books, one game, and two tins of thinking putty. That's it! I think my favorite session on this day was the one by Adam Andrews.

Friday, April 21, 2017

This Week's Notes, Boy Scout Rank Achievement

Monday was day 1 of the last 6 weeks of the school year. We hit the ground running. Math, science, reading, literature, grammar, writing, and even an art project with our fingerprint Usborne book as the inspiration. The kids took a break at 10am when my visiting teacher came to visit and headed outside to run off their energy.

Also on Monday:
  • Thyroid bloodwork for mommy - and a follow up appointment next week.
  • Track practice for Makayla.
  • A mountain of clean laundry was put away - because we just didn't get to it over the Easter weekend.
  • Feeding people. Why do they insist on eating 3 meals a day?
  • Thinking about the homeschool convention. I head there on Friday with a friend. It is going to be a fun 2 days!
Tuesday started early as usual with taking Makayla to Seminary. I was home by 6:05am and realized it was time to start putting things in order for the my trip to the Midwest Homeschool Convention. I printed directions and a parking pass, double checked my hotel reservations, and started a packing list. The day then moved into breakfast, school, dropping a meal off to someone, and more school.

We're into physics for science with the 6th grade and under crowd. This week we've been learning about Isaac Newton and his laws of motion. Today we explored force and inertia.

In a moment of clarity today I realized just how refreshing it was to take a week off for spring break. Everyone is cheerful and diligent in their school work again. It confirms the plans I made to put our homeschool on a Sabbath week schedule next fall. We will school 6 weeks and then take the 7th week off for rest. We will have an 8 week summer (all of June and July) and start things back up in August.

I spent part of the afternoon outside with the kids, took Makayla out for some driving practice in the mid-afternoon. In the evening she had another track meet.

Wednesday some of the kids got up earlier than usual, including Tobias (age 17 mos), who was up at 5:00am for the day. My alarm doesn't ring until 5:20am. I missed those 20 minutes! Oh well. We were rolling along pretty well before 8am with school work. I just went with it. Most of the kids have taped their weekly assignment sheets on the dining room wall so they flit between the wall, book shelves, table, couch, floor, piano, and bedroom - depending on where they are most comfortable doing each assignment. Emma prefers to do math on the couch, for example. Makayla does most of her work other than math and piano in her bedroom. Caleb does everything at the table. And on it goes.

Boy Scout Court of Honor tonight - Joseph earned two ranks (Tenderfoot and 2nd Class Scout) and one Merit Badge. It is so strange to see my little boy is taller than I am. Sigh. They just keep growing up.
Joseph pinning on my Mother's pins for the ranks he's earned.

Thursday was a blur with the last school work of the week, grocery shopping (because I'll be gone Saturday), and packing for the homeschool convention.

As I type this is it 4:14am and I'm heading out the door shortly to pick up my friend Jessica and go to our teacher development weekend in Cincinnati at the convention. We have literally hundreds of classes to choose from (and will probably get to 10 or so), hundreds of curriculum vendors to browse, and a lot of fun to enjoy!

Monday, April 17, 2017

School Goals for the Next 6 Weeks

We've reached the last 6 weeks of our school year and so I sat down and set goals for each child to work on. I thought I would share those here for my own records.

Makayla (10th grade)
  • Finish The Magna Charta and read The Scottish Chiefs.
  • Continue with The Power in Your Hands
  • Math U See Geometry - finish.
  • ACT Math Review - 3 practice problems per day.
  • Veterinary Medicine online class - keep going to the end.
  • Literature - Read 1 chapter daily (currently working through The Work and the Glory series)
Joseph (6th grade)
  • Literature - Finish Ranger's Apprentice book 3 and move on to book 4.
  • Math U See Zeta - finish. Then begin review.
  • Fix It Grammar - Keep going.
  • Writing - In the next 6 weeks write: a book report, a movie review, a story, and an essay on a science topic of his choice.
  • Science - Move into physics portion of our study.
Emma (5th grade)
  • Science - Move into physics portion of our study.
  • Writing - In the next 6 weeks write: a book report, a movie review, a story, and an essay on a science topic of her choice.
  • Fix It Grammar - Keep going.
  • Math U See Zeta - finish. Then begin review.
  • Literature - Finish Eldest and begin Brisingr.
Daniel (3rd grade)
  • Literature - Finish Classic Bedtime Stories and then read Poppy.
  • Math U See Delta - Finish and then begin review.
  • Writing - In the next 6 weeks write: a book report, a movie review, a story, and an essay on a science topic of his choice.
  • Science - Move into the physics portion of our study.
Oliver (2nd grade)
  • All About Reading - Finish level 2.
  • Math U See Beta - Finish and then begin review.
  • Science - Move into physics with older kids.
  • Writing - Team up with mom to write: a book report, a movie review, a story, and an essay on a science topic of his choice.
Caleb (Kindergarten)
  • All About Reading - Continue with level 1.
  • Math U See Alpha - Continue.
  • Science - Join older kids for physics fun.
Mason (PreK/K Transition)
  • Finish learning ABCs and their sounds.
  • Practice cutting with his Kumon workbook.
  • Handwriting -practice one letter per day.
  • Story time - Rotate through Aesop's fables, fairy tales, Beatrix Potter with Mom and younger brothers.
  • Science - Join older kids as desired.
Samuel (age 3) and Tobias (age 17 mos) do not have formal school lessons. They like to join Mason for story time and Samuel sometimes joins in science. Mostly they play. A lot of Mason and Caleb's day is still play as well. The rest of the kids finish lessons and are free to explore their own interests or play. Homeschooling is a wonderful life!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

He is Risen!

And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. (Moroni 7:41)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Makayla All Dressed Up

I promised a few weeks ago to share photos of Makayla in the dress she found for prom. Tonight she's dancing away at this prom hosted by our regional church youth groups.

Makayla had very specific ideas of what she was looking for in a dress (colors: blues or greens).

She also found a couple hairstyles on Pinterest and challenged me to try them on her very curly hair. I think it was a success.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Our Spring Break Week - Family Fun

Saturday we kicked off our family spring break with a trip to the zoo. It was really the perfect weather and we saw many animals that were more active than they will be during the summer heat. So many fun animals and family memories. Favorites ranged from the penguins, anaconda, bats, and kangaroos to the many monkeys and apes - including 6 month old JJ the gorilla.

We finished Saturday off with a shopping trip for Makayla to find a bolero and shoes to go with her dress for Mormon Prom - 5 stores and 90 minutes later we found the perfect items. The rest of the evening was just relaxing at home as a family.

We had a quick family counsel before bed to discuss the plans for the week. We do have some regular life things still going on. Notably - 6am seminary for Makayla, track practice and meets, and  two doctor's appointments, a date night for mommy and daddy, Scouts, a pioneer activity for Emma, and... you get the picture. We challenged the kids to start thinking tonight before bed about some fun things we can fit in around all of that. They started sharing ideas like playing outside, doing a campfire, having a family over to visit, and playing games. We will see what ends up making it into our days. We also have some house organizing and cleaning projects we'll tackle as the week goes on.

Sunday was a peaceful Sabbath day. We had church from 10am-1pm, came home and made lunch, then spent the rest of the day quietly.

Monday was a work project day. Here are some of the jobs we accomplished:
  • scrubbing bathrooms
  • mopping floors
  • washing bedding for 6 of the beds and making beds again
  • switching out the kid's winter clothes for spring
  • decluttering 6 bags of kid clothes
  • working with Emma on cleaning out her area of the closet shelving (the girls have a shelving unit in their closet for things, not clothing.)
We got a new table today. Our giant round table is still in good shape but we need more floor space to make it easier for Mason to use his wheelchair through the downstairs. We switched to a rectangular table that is 8 feet long and 3 feet wide (affiliate link)thanks to Amazon's handy free shipping. It has been wonderful because we can also now play board games more easily! The kids have been doing chess tournaments every morning after breakfast too.

Monday was also date night for my husband and I! We don't always get out of the house for date night, usually we just stay up and do an at home date night. Today we got to go out to dinner and do some shopping.

Tuesday started way too early with Daniel waking me at 4:00am to say he had a headache and felt like throwing up. We got a bucket, started diffusing peppermint oil to help with the nausea, gave him some ibuprofen, and set him up downstairs on the couch just in case. And I moved downstairs to be nearby. He never did throw up, which I'm grateful for.

It rained and thunderstormed until lunch. Of course today was one of the days I had to be out and about. Makayla had an eye doctor appointment, we picked up a few groceries and medications, and stopped at the pet store to price frozen rats for her snake.

Lunch was banana bread and pumpkin bread that daddy baked while we were gone, with fresh veggies and grapes on the side. The afternoon was relaxed, some cleaning, some card games, lots of legos. 

Makayla had a track meet all evening and was in three events again. I attended the last 2 hours of it (saw 2 of her events) while Daddy stayed home and did movie night with the rest of the kids.

Wednesday morning kids did chores while Daddy rototilled a garden area and some flower beds. The kids have gardened off and on through the years and this year we've made plans to garden again. I have a really poor track record with plants so if anything survives or produces it is likely due to the kids' efforts. More things we did on Wednesday:

  • Driving practice - Makayla left the parking lot for the first time. How do teens ever go from driving around large parking lots to driving on the roads? It was an interesting experience for both of us.
  • Yogurt making - I was given a yogurt maker quite a while ago and this week I pulled it out and made a batch of yogurt, something I haven't done in a long time. It's pretty yummy!
  • Haircuts for 6 of the boys while we played in the back yard. Tobias is the only one who missed out, he was napping.
  • Cub Scouts - we are working on Howling at the Moon so we did some improvisation games (acting), practiced run ons, and planned out our skit for Pack Meeting.
  • Youth activites

Thursday started out with some garden planting (cool weather crops like spinach, broccoli, collards, carrots). Then Tobias and Mommy went to a checkup at the pediatrician's office. We're pretty relaxed about checkups, after the first few months they only happen when I think of them. We're also a slow vax family - we vaccinate but on a slower schedule (generally no more than 2 vaccines per visit).

The kids spent the afternoon outside in the nice weather. They weren't impressed that the bees have come out for the year but they enjoyed the sunshine. Daddy got a project done bricking around the fire pit.

Family movie night happened tonight as well - we watched Hidden Figures. The only person who had already seen it was Makayla, who went to see it in theaters with two of her friends. Many of the kids were in and out during the movie, watching and then playing upstairs, but some of us watched from beginning to end. It was a good movie!

Friday felt like it was Saturday. We had a slow morning where I spent time doing 'office work' - figuring the last of the year's taxes, going through files and shredding old papers, and listening to my kids practice piano.

We had a campfire lunch and roasted hot dogs and smores. It was our first campfire of the spring and everyone loved it. My favorite thing was actually that Tobias is not putting every single thing he picks up in his mouth. He's running and climbing and exploring. It makes it much more enjoyable for me!

In the afternoon Makayla had me try a few new hairstyles for her because tomorrow is Mormon Prom. I think she has narrowed down the possibilities to one hair style - but she could always change her mind tomorrow.

Our evening tonight has some youth work projects to earn money for camp, a movie night for Makayla at a friend's house to watch Les Miserables, and menu planning for me. I'm going to go ahead and press publish on this post so I can get the last 6 weeks of our school year prepared. It's hard to believe we're to that point, but we are.

Linking here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Homeschool Planning for Next Year - In Process!

One of the fun parts of homeschooling is being able to read, research, and plan out our studies each year. Being mother to a rather large family makes it even more fun because I have so many learners to enjoy. This fall I will be working with 7 official students in K, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 11th, as well as two preschoolers tagging along. Yes, really. We're creeping oh so close to graduating our first child - something that was hard to picture more than a decade ago when we started doing our little homeschool preschool lessons.

I decided that since this blog is partially a journal of our homeschooling that I would record here the current plans for 2017-2018. Some things may change, and as you will see, some things are not yet decided. Next week I head to the homeschool convention where I can get my hands on some things I'm waffling over and hopefully firm up decisions.

There are some easy decisions. We'll keep using Math U See for everyone. It will be my first year teaching Algebra 2, which will be interesting. I remember graduating high school and saying something along the lines of never wanting to do Algebra 2 again, despite my A grade. Now it looks like I'll be going through it 9 more times. Oh the irony!

My younger boys will use All About Reading until they are solid readers. Those already reading fluently will have a list of literature to choose from all year and usually read a chapter a day from those and narrate what they are reading.

For my middle kids (Joseph, Emma, Daniel) grammar, copywork, vocabulary, and handwriting are all rolled into one curriculum - Fix-It Grammar. Younger ones (Oliver, Caleb, Mason) will do handwriting via copywork that I write out or print for them using StartWrite software. Makayla may use one of the levels of Fix-It Grammar as well.

Language Arts is one area I am still waffling a bit though. I'm considering the Good and the Beautiful curriculum for some of the kids. Maybe. Writing for the 4th grade and under kids might be Brave Writer materials or projects of our own based on Brave Writer methods. I am considering Cover Story for my 6th and 7th graders, but may just stick with Brave Writer. Or use the Good and the Beautiful. Ha! We will see. My 11th grader is going to use Fiction Writing in High School by Sharon Watson, will probably participate in NaNoWriMo again, and Camp NaNo, and has a large file of stories and novels in various stages of writing.

Science for the high schooler is Discovering Design with Chemistry by Jay Wile. Science for everyone else is undecided. The rest of the kids will most likely use one of the Apologia Exploring Creation science texts. They've used the Anatomy and Physiology and are currently using Chemistry and Physics, so that leaves Botany, Astronomy, or one of the 3 Zoology books.

History this year will be my own mix of books. My high schooler has requested American History from the Civil War to the present day. She'll use Smithsonian's Children's Encyclopedia of American History as her spine and will read a variety of books to flesh out the information. Some on her list so far are: War Horse, The Green Glass Sea, Brown Girl Dreaming, Hidden Figures, The Endless Steppe. The rest of my children are doing American History from pre-Colonial times up to the Civil War. Their spine book is A Child's First Book of American History. There will be a variety of books based on age, everything from picture books to chapter books for reading aloud or independently.

Fine arts for the family will vary based on age and interest. Children will continue piano lessons. We will study a couple composers and several artists. The middle school and under crowd will continue our art class I teach using our Deep Space Sparkle membership. My high schooler will use books and Craftsy classes to continue to develop her art, and I suspect Emma, who will be in 6th grade, may begin using some of the Craftsy classes as well. They both need to look at the options and make their own decisions.

Health and P.E. are still undecided. Makayla's electives are also undecided. She needs to do a foreign language. I am familiar with Spanish, American Sign Language, and Latin. She is interested in Gaelic. She has a wide range of options for electives - I'm pretty flexible so long as it's affordable. I have no idea what she'll choose yet.

I'm probably forgetting several important things. That's another reason I begin planning early, write everything down, and pray about it all.

Have you used any of the materials I've mentioned? Are you already planning next fall's homeschool curriculum?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Usborne Books - My Experience and a Giveaway!

I've been a homeschooling mom for a long time. Books have played a large part in our days and more than once I've found treasures at library book sales. Usborne books have often been those treasures. Recently I placed my first order of Usborne books through my friend Anna Case. She's been helpful through the process - and is offering a giveaway to one of my readers. I'll get to those details in a moment. First let me share a bit about my experience and the books I chose.

The Usborne website is full of so many books: fiction, nonfiction, activity books, wipe off books, chapter books. It can be a bit overwhelming keeping track of books that catch my eye. Anna reminded me that the wishlist feature can keep track of things for me. I spent time browsing Usborne categories over several weeks while I was thinking about my children's interests. When I came across a title that sounded promising I added it to my wishlist.

The Usborne website doesn't offer a detailed look into their books. There is a description and sometimes an extra picture or two. Once again, she was a great source of help - she pointed me to YouTube. Many Usborne books have been reviewed by people on YouTube. These video reviews share footage from the inside of books, comments about the book from someone holding it in their hands, and sometimes comparisons of Usborne books on similar topics to explain what age each book would fit best. I took my wishlist and spent a week checking YouTube for videos to see inside each book I was considering. That helped me narrow down my list to a more manageable size. I had a specific amount of money budgeted for Usborne books and stayed within that amount. Are you curious about what books I purchased? I'll go over them in groups!

Board Books

My youngest children are 1 and 3 years old. While the 3 year old can be trusted with paper pages, the 1 year old is not gentle enough yet. Both boys are enjoying these books. My 3 year old has some speech delays that we are working on. These board books are sturdy enough for my 1 year old but my 3 year old and I are using them as part of his speech therapy practice. The first book has many familiar things for him to identify or answer questions about. The second book has lifelike pictures of 1000 animals divided into broad categories. There are even some animals I've never heard of!

Activity Books

I chose two color by number books. One is aimed at younger children with bigger pieces of the picture to color in at a time, some portions already printed in color, and younger-child friendly themes. The other color by number has more detailed pictures to color. The smaller books are also activity books. The crossword book begins with simple crosswords of 6 words that grow larger over the course of the book. One hint I have for doing crossword puzzles with non-spellers - have them figure out the answer and you write it in. Simple and fun! The 100 Logic Puzzles has spent more time in my children's hands than on the shelf so far - it has a variety of colorful puzzles and mind-benders to solve.

I have lots of kids who love art and drawing. I have recently introduced some of my middle readers to children's manga books and they are fascinated by the comic book format. This book walks you through comic book creation with doable activities. Fingerprint art will be a fun addition for my littles who love messy art.

We love story telling games and I couldn't resist a storytelling book. You choose a character at the very beginning and on every page you are prompted to choose a path and add to your story. There are boxes prompting you with things to describe or decide. The illustrations are colorful and interesting. We used it as a group our first time through. Each person turned a page and made the decisions for the story, told us what happened next, and then passed the book to the next person, who turned the page and kept things rolling.

Learning Books

The Academy series is part activity book, part unit study. Kids are introduced to many topics related to the career theme. I LOVE these books because they pull together so much information on topics for me. I've taken some pictures from the Architect book to show you what I mean:
  • Top Left: How to Build a Model House - Yes, it shows them how to plot out a house model on grid paper and cut it out to build. 
  • Top Right: Climate - This is talking about how to make a house fit for the elements it will be in. This page includes some science investigations about insulating materials.
  • Bottom Left: Offices - this explains many of the things an architect must keep in mind when designing a functional office complex. It also introduces kids to the Pentagon. (Earlier in the book children are introduced to other famous structures in relation to architecture. 
  • Bottom Right: Area and Perimeter - Putting math to use in a real, applicable way.

Above and Below is a beautiful book about a variety of biomes and habitats. The bottom half of each page has a section that turns over to reveal the below the surface environment and creatures.

I like this book and card set to add some fine arts to our days. Lots of information in the book and on the back of the art cards. We will probably use these in our Morning Basket in the fall.


Who doesn't love a giveaway? My friend Anna has generously offered to allow one winner a $25 shopping spree in Usborne books, which she will ship directly to the winner. There are lots of ways to enter, so use the Rafflecopter below.
This giveaway will end on April 15, 2017. Books will only be shipped within the continental US(sorry, this is not for international friends).

Ready to make an order already? I would love it if you shopped through this link - I'm hosting a party through Anna right now.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Spiritual Boost - General Conference Weekend

Watch the talk this quote comes from here.

One of our favorite weekends has come again. We spent part of Saturday morning cleaning, moving things to the attic, and preparing food. Then the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began streaming from the television and we gathered as a family in the living room for General Conference.

I'll be honest, it is never completely quiet - I do have nine children after all. We listen, some people take notes, others build with legos or draw while listening. In years past we have used a variety of things to help children of all ages to stay relatively quiet for each 2 hour session of General Conference. We have done printed activity pages, notebooks and colored pens, activity stations that include playdoh, and so on. It used to take a lot of effort to prepare for conference.

In recent years our preparations have become simpler. We gather in the living room together and I remind everyone that they are welcome to stay if they can be mostly quiet, or they are welcome to go upstairs to play. However, the rule is that you only get to eat the General Conference candy when it is passed around if you are in the living room with us watching conference. If you are upstairs we won't be calling you down for candy. And candy gets passed around at random times - you never know when mom or dad will decide it's time.

It works surprisingly well. We have watched General Conference as a family for years and even with little ones they quickly become happy to join in. Right now the kids are 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, and 15. During the two sessions on Saturday (4 hours total) only the 3 and 6 year old wandered off for a bit to play upstairs, missing a round of candy. They soon returned and stayed for the rest of the time.

Another thing that helps - we live in a time zone where meals fall during each session of Conference. The morning session starts at noon (lunch time) and the afternoon session goes from 4pm-6pm and we have dinner at 5pm in the middle. General Conference is the only time of year when we eat in the living room for our meals, picnicking on the floor.

The talks were inspiring. I love hearing stories, thinking about things in different ways, and seeing what captures each of my children's attention.

Sunday's morning session had some of my absolute favorite talks of this conference. I can't wait to study them! If you are looking for one to start with check out this one, or this one, or this one. During this session the kids were a little bit louder than yesterday, not unusual for hours 5 and 6 of conference. They still listened, laughed, asked questions, and felt the spirit.

Sunday's afternoon session saw a return of quiet listening. I think the kids were simply worn out! By the end of the weekend I had 14 pages of notes - and I know there is so much more studying to do. The videos are already available to rewatch online and within the week each talk will also be linked in written and audio form.

We keep food simple for General Conference. Lunch each day was lunchmeat subs that you could heat up in the oven if desired, with chips, fruit, and veggies. Dinner on Saturday was pizza. Sunday dinner was homemade cinnamon rolls with your choice of cream cheese, chocolate, or lime frosting.