Wednesday, December 31, 2014

To grade or not to grade.....



When I first began our homeschooling journey I never felt that a letter on a paper was really important. That does not mean that I do not look over my children's work and mark things wrong, because I do. I require my children to correct the things that are wrong so that I am sure that they master what they are learning before moving on. I begin to keep official grades and transcripts when my children enter the 9th grade.

We are blessed to live in a state that does not require us to be accountable to the state for how we homeschool. Not every state is the same so it is best to know what your state requires of homeschoolers. You can find this all out by going to HLSDA laws for homeschooling. There are many sites on the web to help with record keeping. One such site is Homeschooling Resources to Help Parents Raise Lifelong Learners.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fall Term Wrap-up


As we wrap up the first half of this year’s homeschooling year I thought it would be good to share our experience. I first want to say how very privileged I feel that we homeschool. The children have not only made academic strides but they have also gained many life lessons. Our year started out rocky again with a kiddo in the hospital with Para influenza. All of my best-laid plans were turned upside down. So often I find myself wondering why I fall victim to the “perfect, flawless beginning” each and every year. Over the years I have learned that the only way to approach homeschooling is to work around life instead of trying to work life around homeschooling.

Within weeks of the year starting my eldest child, in her first year of college, was blindsided by a breakup with her boyfriend of several years. Loves first heartbreak and wow was it rough. Realizing that she would have to find a way to deal with this trial without being able to interrupt her classes was tough. She pulled through and ended up successfully completing her first semester of college classes with flying colors.

Early on in the semester I realized that some of my kiddos were really struggling with their math. Again, I was reminded that just because one child succeeds with a curriculum does not mean that the others will have the same success. Over the years I am constantly reminded that homeschooling is not a cheap way out. Instead of making every child fit into the same cookie cutter mold, for true success to be found each child really needs their own custom fit curriculum. Each and every year I reevaluate how successful each and every child are doing and adjust to make them successful, confident learners. Sometimes this also means that a curriculum that is supposed to take more of the load off of mom just cannot be. In November I headed out to Mardel to purchase more math curriculum, not a cheap change but in the end will be so worth it.

Having a child with chronic, life threatening conditions always adds an extra element of craziness to homeschooling. Well, my daughter was granted a Make A Wish and the beginning of December we headed off to Disney World for a week. Normally, I would prefer to do schoolwork up until the week before Christmas but this year that just was not going to happen. The week before our big trip the kiddos were too excited to focus on schoolwork and I was running around trying to get everything in order in order for the trip to happen. So, basically Thanksgiving was our cut off for schoolwork. Again, my mommy brain was freaking because I knew where I wanted everyone to be academically by the end of the term and that did not quit happen.

Next, yet another devastating experience was the tragic loss of one of my eldest daughters friends from suicide. Again, her world was shaken and it was finals week. Life does not stop for tragedy. My daughter was able to pull it together to take a final the day after her friend’s death. One of her professors let her skip a final based on her exemplary grades.

Even though life has thrown some curve balls there was also greats strides gained this first term. My first grader is now a pretty fluent reader, and will actually be starting some 2nd grade curriculum in the spring. Co-op classes for the older children were amazing and they have learned so much. My son just last week was commenting on how whenever he reads something he is constantly annotating the text in his mind, LOL. The kiddos have read some amazing literature. Of course I am taking about “classics” not junk books. My 3rd and 6th graders have produced some amazing compositions and have come a long way with their writing skills. My 8th grader has taken a great interest in history and has immersed him into a growing stack of history books of all kinds. It is so fun to see your child find their nitch. My 3rd grader would be completely content if she could tailor all of her curriculum around animals. I am so very thankful for Apologia Science for their amazing elementary series on animals in creation.


I cannot end without sharing some of the amazing family experiences we had the privilege of attending this fall. What would childhood be with attending the Ringling Bros. Circus? Clowns, lions and elephants, acrobats, and all of the other fanfare that make a circus experience complete. Next, we visited the Dallas Aquarium and the Texas Discovery Garden where we experienced butterflies flying around us, aquatic creatures, and beautiful flower gardens. Next, we got to enjoy some wonderful theater performances at the Dallas Children’s Theater. We saw Rapunzel!, Rapunzel!, A Very Hairy Fairy Tale and Miracle on 34th Street.  Both performances where amazing. This year our family attended our first ever-live ballet performance of the Nutcracker. Wow, was that spectacular. Hannah especially loved it since she is a very serious dancer. To get us excited for our Disney World trip we got the privilege to attend Disney On Ice, cold but so very magical and fun. Last but not least, sports. Our family took in a Dallas Stars game, a Dallas Mavericks game and a Texas Rangers game.



Our family is enjoying our extended Christmas break as we celebrate the birth of Christ!!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Schoolhouse Teachers.com


I recently had the privilege of reviewing the Yearly Membership for SchoolhouseTeachers.com developed by The Old Schoolhouse MagazineWith the click of a mouse, over 100 courses, from PreK/Elementary, Middle School and High School, are offered by recognized homeschool leaders. You will find everything from dailies, lapbooks, videos, lesson plans, music lessons, unit studies, printables, full semester and year long programs, and so much more. If you have a special needs child, SchoolhouseTeachers.com has this covered. Whether you need full curriculums or help just "filling in the gaps", you are in for a treat. As a member, you get unlimited access and all you have to do is pick a subject, click, and begin. 

SchoolhouseTeacher.com works with both PC and Mac's. The first month you can get FREE. After that you can choose either a monthly fee for $12.95 or a year membership for $139. The site also offers a special SchoolhouseTeachers.com Co-op and Group Membership



The site in continually updated and new subjects and offerings are continually added. Do you want to: learn how to play the guitar, learn a bit of sign language, get help with writing,  dabble in a foreign language, get messy with some art, or find a way for your child to express him/herself, all the resources are at your fingertips.  Your imagination, with the available resources, allow you to find an exciting way to educate even a tough to educate child.  Do you want to make history come alive? The tools are all available for any kind of teaching method that you might want.  What I appreciate about SchoolhouseTeachers.com is the fact that you can work at your own pace and allow your imagination to create fun ways to learn.

As your child's teacher,  you can take advantage of other educator's creativity, expertise and hard work. Another amazing membership perk is the free TOS's Planners. With over 800 pages of schedules, charts, and calendars with limitless styles and formats you can organize your day.  If you are "on the go", a lot, like I am, the digital version of The Old Schoolhouse to Go is free with your yearly membership.

My daughter and I decided to dip our feet into the basics of American Sign Language (ASL). Each of the 16 weekly lessons utilizes a 25-30 minute video that includes downloadable materials such as practice sheets, vocabulary, quizzes and tests. In this course you will learn grammar and syntax rules, vocabulary for about 350 signs, manual alphabet, and numbers. Most importantly, your child will gain a better understanding of the Deaf Community. My daughter has had fun learning sign. Frequently she would forget something learned and it was so easy to go back and find what she needed. 


Secondly, my daughter tackled the beginning weeks of the 10-week supplemental writing mini-course that teaches the student basics of writing, utilizing compare and contrast. Our current curriculum does not have good step by step instruction in the various kinds of writing. I was tickled when I found that this was included in the program.  The course is written in a way that the student can easily understand and apply the concepts needed to build on necessary writing skills. Instead of being intimidated, both my daughter and I were empowered. My daughter successfully wrote her first compare and contrast and did great.

As an added bonus you can join the Facebook group SchoolhouseTeachers.com to share ideas and get help. 

If you are interested in seeing what others have to say about SchoolhouseTeachers.com Click here to read more reviews.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

The beauty of HOMESCHOOLING.....

The beauty of homeschooling is the ability to switch curriculums when something is not working or clicking. My oldest child set the bar high when it comes to math. She was able to go all of the way through Calculus using Teaching Textbooks without much trouble. Well, that is not the case for some of my other children. What works for one does not always work for another. I absolutely adore Rod and Staff in the early elementary years for math, phonics, spelling and grammar. I also use their grammar all of the way through high school as it is a very strong curriculum. Teaching Textbooks is just not working and so we are going back to Rod and Staff math for later elementary and middle school. It will require more work on my part but will be well worth the extra time it will take. So here we go, ready or not!!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Childhood of Famous Americans


I absolutely love the Childhood Of Famous Americans series. The traditional textbook method of learning history has never really appealed to me because textbooks tend to only scratch the surface on events in history. I want my children to learn history through reading good books and autobiographies. I want history to come alive through details of historical events and the individuals that helped make history. Childhood of Famous Americans describes the early years of famous American men and women in the form of fictionalized biographies. Geared for elementary aged children these books have pencil sketches though out each book. Each book exposes your child to significant figures who have made a difference in American history. History does not have to be boring and these books are a great introduction to history for your child.  
My 3rd grader is currently reading through this series and is thoroughly enjoying them. She is currently reading, George Washington, and came across a word that she was no familiar with and neither was I. These books also provide an amazing opportunity to learn new words. Our new word for the day is STAVE. A stave is a stick, pole or rod for the aid in walking climbing, or for use as a weapon. She has enjoyed learning about young George. 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Miracle on 34th Street



Tonight we attended Dallas Children's Theater's production of Miracle on 34th Street. The production was amazing!!!! The scenery was spectacular and whimsical. The acting and singing was very professional and was flawlessly executed. There is nothing better than a production such as this to help get you into the holiday spirit amidst all of the over the top commercialism that dominates our culture.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Creative Nature Study


I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and reviewing, “Creative Nature Study: Ideas to Jump-Start or Invigorate Nature Study in Your Homeschool” for the Schoolhouse Review CrewAs homeschoolers we have a very unique opportunity to guide our children’s education in the way we feel will best prepare them for life. This book does an amazing job at giving the tools needed to bring God’s creation into our everyday learning. If you want to ignite desire, curiosity, and the love for learning but just don’t know where to start, look no further. This book is the collaborative effort of various homeschool moms just like you who are passionate about bringing nature into learning. You can find this book and many other great books and resources through The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. God’s creation is a gift, and we need to not keep it packaged up.

I am delighted to see that the curriculum starts with the basics in Chapter 1: “What is Nature Study and Why Do It?” This chapter will ignite the child’s desire to experience creation without feeling overwhelmed. Chapter 2 gives the reader ideas and suggestions for packing a backpack that contains useful tools in the nature quest. My children loved the section on “Nature Study in Unlikely Places.” This section challenges the child to mark off a 1' x 1' square section on which to focus. Inventive imaginations can observe a small area and glean much information. My children were amazed at the amount of things that they were able to observe in such a small area.

Moving on, Chapter 3 tells about Creative Walks such as “I See God.” The assignment is to find God in nature. We put our own little twist on this during our walk and used the word "spy" instead of "see". My 3rd grader said, “I Spy God in when the wind blows and the leaves come spiraling down.” Chapter 4 discusses Projects. Nature studies do not have to end with simply identifying something unfamiliar, rather you can take a more in-depth look into something intriguing by researching. Chapter 5, “Creative Writing,” strengthens and challenges a child to develop essential writing skills without the child even knowing that they are doing so. Writing about fun ideas like a story about the life of a rock allows the child to use his or her imagination. My children had so much fun searching for just the right rock to write a story about. Since my first grader is just beginning the dictation stage of writing with simple sentences I opted to have her tell me a story about her rock and then she illustrate her story in picture form. This activity gives the parent great insight as to what the child needs in the way of developing grammar and writing skills.





Next, Chapter 6 gives nature notebook ideas that will be true keepsakes. Since winter is upon us I have decided to let my children gather their notebooking materials, decorate their notebooks, and then we will tuck them away until Spring. Chapter 7 covers scavenger hunts. This chapter also helps the parent understand how to make learning fun. Children love playing educational games and need not always think that they are “in school.” The chapter includes scavenger hunt printouts to make your hunt complete. I was very happy that these printouts were included. Chapter 8 covers the basics for those that deal with allergies and asthma. I really appreciated this chapter because our whole family suffers from seasonal allergies and asthma and during peak times being outdoors is difficult. 


You also get the opportunity to learn about the contributors and have the ability to sift through the extensive list of resources found in the appendix. This book will never be truly “completed” because as your children grow their thoughts, ideas and perspectives are continually developing as they mature in the Lord as well as in their studies. I appreciate that so many others subjects can be integrated into the daily lessons. I can see that this curriculum teaches life skills that will benefit the child years later. I highly recommend this eBook to all homeschool families. 



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Friday, November 14, 2014

Essential Skills Advantage

I recently came across a free online K-6 program that is very appealing to both parent and child. My kids have enjoyed working through the various skill levels as well as obtaining a reward page with a dancing animal after each level completed. My first grader with very limited computer skills was able to navigate and work through the levels without any help. Some of the levels include topics such as hear and spell, word searches, typing, rhyming words, word families and see and spell. My third grader is also enjoying the program for her grade level. Some of the topics covered in the third grade level are compound word parts, creating compounds, compound word search, and compound words part. I am always excited when I stumble upon supplemental learning tools to enhance our current curriculum. The link is http://buyesa.com

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dictation

Now that Phoebe is reading and writing well I decided to add in some dictation today. She did really well and we only had to go back through the paragraph and correct a couple of mistakes such as "wus", "vare", and "lawd".

Artistically Challenged

Look no further..... There is a wonderful site called Art Projects for Kids that can help any parent wanting to bring art into their homeschool day, http://artprojectsforkids.org. She also has a Pinterest page, http://www.pinterest.com/kathybarbro/. My children love art and I am often at a lose as to what and how to bring this into our day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Supplemental Workbooks

Often times my younger children will finish their schoolwork early and are bored and that is when I bring out the workbooks. I have found that workbooks are an amazing supplement to any curriculum as it often fills in the gaps that all curriculums have. Workbooks are beneficial because all curriculums teach concepts a bit different and workbooks are able to give different perspectives and styles of learning. My kids see workbooks as fun rather than learning, LOL. I normally pick up workbooks at Costco throughout the year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Good Reading

The girls picked some really good books at the library this week. We have read them all many times and I feel some creativity coming on. Stay tuned for some fun book related activities.
the dot by Peter H. Reynolds, Isabella's Garden by Glenda Millard, Adventure Annie Goes To Kindergarten by Toni Buzzeo, The Bunny's Night Light by Geoffrey Hayes, The Giant Hug by Sandra Horning, The Best Birthday Party Ever by Jennifer LaRue Huget, Noni Says No by Heather Hartt-Sussman, One Bright Ring by Gretchen Geser

So Many Books

I have always tried to instill in my children the love of reading. Some of my kiddos read only because I make them and some of my kiddos are born book worms. I strongly believe that all of the classics MUST be read and not overlooked. I do allow my children to read what I call "fun" books too. Recently, in the news, was posted a list of classics that have been banned which is such a travesty. I take many books off the the Sonlight Curriculum list in addition to many more. Our home library contains hundreds of books, from picture books on up. This is a very small sampling of our books.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Do you know your states and capitals?

This year I am killing two birds with one stone. My 1st and 3rd grader are both learning their states and capitals!! It is amazing how fast they are both memorizing them. Along with learning states and capitals we are printing out blank maps and filling them in and learning interesting facts about each state. We are kind of going on a states road trip using creative resources without leaving our house.
My avid 3rd grade animal lover is always eager to learn which animals live where. Last year we started mapping where certain animals live using Apologia's, Exploring Creation with Zoology: Land Animals.
Along with various library books as well as our own library of books collected over the years the United States are coming alive.

Welcome Autumn

In order to welcome in Autumn we created crafts after finishing our schoolwork today. Who doesn't like getting their hands messy with paint. Thanks to Pinterest, Google, and some creativity from mom our den is now starting to look a bit like Fall.

Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale

This past week our family went to see, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hairy Fairy Tale" at Dallas Children's Theatre. The show was hilarious and the acting was wonderful. Having read the book and seen the Disney version it was fun to see the plot with a twist.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Random pictures from our day...

Artistic talent

I have a daughter with amazing artistic talent that I have used to my benefit when it comes to homeschooling. Today my youngest is going to do a study on ocean animals so last night I had my daughter draw some ocean animals on a poster board.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fractions Are Fun

First grade is full of fun!!! Today we began fractions. It is amazing how the lightbulb goes off when you begin using fractions with hands on activities. No longer does the child see learning going on, rather they see fun.