Saturday, July 31, 2010

Storynory for Kids

NyGirl LOVES Storynory.  My daughter sat at the computer for an hour, completely mesmerized by the audio stories available at this site.

This website is awesome on too many levels.

First of all, this site is a collection of stories for young children which vary in  genre, from classics to fairytales.  There are educational stories as well, bible stories, stories about the saints, and even original stories.  If you have much younger children, they might enjoy stories from the "junior" category.

Click on the story you like, then click on the play button to listen to it.  The storyteller has a wonderfully soothing reading voice, which would suit children really well.

The best part about this site (besides it being FREE) is that these are quick and easy access to audio stories like the classics (Alice in Wonderland, Dickens stories, poetry, and Rudyard Kipling stories) that I have been meaning to introduce to my daughter but just never had time to sit down and do those "read-alouds".  Even if they aren't available at my local library  in CD or mp3 download, I have them available right here at this site.

Not to mention, my two year old enjoys The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood.

I always say, if you can't get a child to read, you can at least get him to listen to a story.

Storynory is a wonderful online audio resource for enchanting our kids with reading. And for our kids who are already reading, this is a great online resource to help introduce them to classic literature they may have never chosen to read on their own.  Plus, it builds their imagination.

NyGirl can't wait to  hear what will happen next on Alice in Wonderland.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First bloggy award

I was happy to receive my first blog award from Julia @ Live Laugh Love!  Check out her blog- she has FABULOUS children and I love to read about her home school.

Thanks, Julia, for the award...

...and now the rules of this award is for me to share 7 things about myself, and to pass this along to 15 bloggers whom I have recently discovered and think are fantastic.  Wow...that's a lot of folks...and since I just recently started following a few more people (but not quite 15)...I will pass this award along to as many bloggers that I enjoy reading (which may not equal 15, mind you!) I am fudging a little on the rules.


So, here goes (7 things about myself):
  1. I love to blog about my life (as you all know).  It is somehow therapeutic and gives me a little energy to keep going.
  2. In my spare time I sit at my piano and write music.  I've always had this dream that one day I would record.  That part is becoming more real as we are moving away from CD's and on to digital music.  I'm starting to check into indie sites like CD BABY.  Maybe I'll really record one day and open up a CD BABY account? Maybe upload my songs to Itunes?  Who knows? :-D Just the thought of it makes me feel happy.
  3. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE  being with and raising my children.  I think homeschooling is an awesome privilege...though not always easy.  Every day is a step closer toward shaping our children for God's kingdom--and I rejoice for that.
  4. More about me...hmmm...I like to go to bed late and sleep in late-- BUT that will have to change soon.
  5. I like learning about new gadgets and playing around with the latest techie stuff that I can get my hands on.  A few years ago I owned a web design/tech consulting business (which I ran from my home)...and I LOVED it- but I put it on a hold for a few years.  It's still kind of floating around up there waiting on my final "go".  Still don't know what to do with it yet because I also love...
  6. FREELANCE WRITING.  So if I could write for a living that is what I would do  (which I guess is why I love blogging so much).
  7. And finally, I love my wonderful husband and children, my friends and family, I love babywearing, I love to eat pizza (no pepperonis please) and TCBY and Olive Garden, and I want to find out more about natural health, and I love Jesus more than anything in the world.

'Nuff said?  :-)

So...I am passing this award on to the following (and these are bloggers that I find interesting and fun for one reason or another--you all are SO different and unique, but each of you contribute something beautiful to my life each time you post):
  1. A Set Apart Life
  2. Alabama Menagerie
  3. Our Crazy Life
  4. Raising A Quiver Full
  5. Mama Jen
  6. Whole Hearted Christian Homeschool
  7. A Mommy's Adventures
  8. Home Grown Mosaic
  9. Raising My LIttle Lady Bug

You guys are the best- you make me think, you make me laugh, and even cry--I am enjoying your keep it up! :-)

Pass it along...(snag the award image and pass it on to your fave bloggers, then tell 7 things about yourself)...

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Full, But Relaxed, Homeschooling Day

Today we had a pretty full school day.

Out in the yard, the girls observed our little garden of peas and squash.  I had NyGirl take out her science notebook and pencil, her digital video camera, and a measuring tape.  Of course, BabyZ wanted her own measuring tape, notebook, and pencil too.

Our squash measured at 15 in. and our peas at 6 in. high.

We saw a couple of caterpillars eating away at the leaves.  It won't be long before we'll need to starting weeding the garden.

Afterward, we went back inside and read this book from the library.

Next, on to American History.  From our BJU Heritage 3 studies, we covered a chapter on  the Bill of Rights.  Some of the terms are a bit complicated for NyGirl ("amendments", "ratification", "declaration", "hold these truths to be self evident")...BUT...I figure it doesn't hurt to introduce the concepts.  I don't care so much that she doesn't understand all the minor details of each historical fact.  I just want her to be introduced to the ideas and have a general feeling of what mainly happened.  We came away with a discussion of how grateful we are for our rights in America.  (We followed this up with writing a few sentences of "What I Am Grateful For").  And since we didn't purchase the timeline that accompanies this curriculum, we created our own out of index cards.  We've never done much with timelines in the past, so I should probably update to let you know how it turns out for us.

Next on today's agenda- on to Geography.  Actually, it wasn't on the just kinda crept up on us.  I was digging in our pantry (where we keep most of our homeschoooling supplies) for BabyZ's counting bears, and out tumbled all of our games from the top shelf- right splat on the floor.  So I had to clean up.  While cleaning up, I realized that the United states puzzle that fell would go along good with what we were just learning about the colonies and how they ratified the Constitution.

So...out came the puzzle for NyGirl, and while we did that BabyZ kept busy with her own puzzle...and counting bears.

Counting bears- new fun for BabyZ.

We finished up our day with our next Saxon math lesson, a grammar lesson, a handwriting practice sheet, and a bible lesson from our Explorers workbook.

AND...believe it or not...we had a VERY relaxed day.  And how could it have been THIS relaxing when we covered so many subjects?

Hmmm....I question that myself.  In fact, in just a few posts previously, I talked about how our days were so packed full of subjects during one of our earlier homeschooling years, that I would never make that mistake again.

At this point, however, I can assuredly say, that I still whole-heartedly stand by my decision not to overcrowd my children's schedules.  But that is, presumably, if I am the one overcrowding their schedules!  You see what I mean?  The main difference in a long school day that is productive and one that is intensely difficult with each second on the clock, is who is initiating the learning.

Sure, I oversee the lessons.  But, I feel like although I planned the outline and prepared to tackle the day's presumed lesson, I wanted to step backward a little and at least make them feel like they were leading the show.  So they wanted to keep going.  NyGirl thought she was the one who initiated going outside to check on the garden.  And when I slightly suggested the video camera and notebook, she hopped all over that idea because she could play like a scientist and detective.  Then she knew when we went back inside that we need to cover the basics like math and grammar...but I let her have her choice of grammar book for the day (between Shurley Grammar - which I totally do not prefer at this point, and BJU--and, uh...she actually chose both).  And with History, she looked forward to creating the timeline. I tried to make it as fun as I could (being that she feels it's her hardest subject, with terms like "ratification"-- I mean, I completely understand!)  When we stumbled upon the U.S. puzzle, she had a blast.  Of course, we had plenty of breaks for snacks, lunch, free time, play,and PBS.

So that was our day in a nutshell.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Tonight at church, the evangelist asked an interesting question:

"Are you hungry for Him?" he asked.

I began to wonder about the Scripture that  says in the last days there would be a famine of His Word.

You know...I began to really think.  Who is my Jesus to me?

I call him my Jesus.  He is mine. I think of Him that way.  And I have to continue to remind myself daily...

"Did I partake of my Savior?"

"Did I drink from His fountain of Living Waters?"

" Did I consume Him as my daily Bread, my Living Bread in as much earnest as He wishes to consume me?"

I want to be hungry for Jesus.  I want to be thirsty for Yeshua's Living waters so that I will never thirst again.

Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING can ever satisfy the way He does.

He just makes that itch go away.  He replaces that horrific sadness with a joy so deep.  That deep yearning - He fills it.   The void- He consumes it with His presence until it is full.

Any and everything I have been wanting in life, I found that He alone is the answer.

I can turn right or left-- but He is always surrounding me, beckoning me to look to Him.  He is never too far away- an "ever present help".  He has never, ever left me alone, and never, ever will.

So, am I hungry? Do I long to hear His words, sit in His presence at His feet and enjoy His company?  Do I long to hear Him speak the Words of Life that sustain my soul?  Do I long to partake of His presence here and now...and also at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in the days to come?


I want to be hungry. Hungry for more of my Lord.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kentuck Festival

The kids had a great time at our local crafts festival.  Hundreds of vendors and artists showed up.  Thankfully, there were special activities for the kids to get involved in.

So they paint and create in the hot summer heat.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Toddlers growing up, and a bit of American history

It is becoming SO much easier to accomplish school tasks around and other things around the house now that BabyZ is finally growing up.

It's bitter sweet-- she is no longer small enough for me to zip her around in my sling, but also no longer crying all day long, can communicate (she talks up a storm!), and is now interested in her own little things - like drawing with crayons and markers.

So-- *sigh* (of both a bit of sadness for seeing most of babyhood beginning to disappear and also of relief as I embrace this new stage!) is liberating.

Although I cannot make any claims to our home school being toddler-interruption-free (is there any such thing?), I can definitely say we've come a long way.

Sitting at our kitchen table sometimes for school now-- WOW.  That is all I can say.  We couldn't do this for nearly two years.  Any kind of resemblance of formal schooling (chalk/marker boards, sitting at tables), all went out the window shortly after BabyZ was born.  Now, we are finally able to find ourselves doing these things...these small, simple things...and we are amazed.  Funny how you miss the simple things of life when they are difficult to access for a while.  When you are finally able to do them again, it almost becomes fun in a strange kind of way.

We still don't prefer all the formalities so often, (I'd much rather the kids get out and learn), but we do like a healthy balance of seatwork and outside activity.  So we did all of our "seatwork" early this morning and had a blast learning about Congress.

Yeah...Congress. And the House of Representatives, and Senate, and the three branches of government (things I haven't studies since high school!) I really like the way our curriculum brings it out:

We are only on lesson 3, but so far enjoying it.  I will have to sit down soon and write up a curriculum review for it, after a few more lessons.

Here is an example of a letter writing activity where the lesson suggested that my daughter pretend she were one of the delegates at the meeting (Articles of Confederation), and write a letter to his 4 year old daughter describing what happened at the meeting.

Considering we were having a hard time with creative writing up until now, I would say these types of writing exercises have been helping her.  We went from a typical two sentence answer to a whole page!  Whoo-hoo!!  I like that the curriculum has a writing exercise like this for most of the lessons I have seen so far.  I have to double check to be sure they are included all the way through.

So, in Lesson 3, we also photocopied the song "America The Beautiful".


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Story of the World curriculum review

We began our 2nd semester kindergarten with Story of the World, Volume 1.  We were attempting our lifestyle at a classical education that year, and this curriculum pick for history seemed a good fit at the time.  We got midway through the curriculum and enjoyed many of the hands-on activities.  They were all read-alouds, and since my child enjoyed that kind of thing, it went well (me reading out loud to her each story).  We did the accompanying activity pages and coloring sheets, and the fun projects.  For example when we studied ancient Africa, we dressed up in African clothing that day and cooked a traditional African meal.  Fun :-)  By the middle of the book, though, the chapters began to address the Greeks and their culture of pagan god worship.  This is where we ended our studies in this book, since I was not interested in introducing Zeus, Venus and the rest to my child.  We have moved on since to enjoy Robin Sampson's history materials as well as Christian Liberty Press and Bob Jones University.

Math U See Primer Curriculum Review

We used the Math U See Primer during our kindergarten year.  I was pregnant, tired, and a wee bit loopy, so I needed a good math program that was easy for my 5 year old, yet challenging enough to keep her up/ahead of grade level.  I also needed for it to be ALMOST teacher-free. 

This curriculum answered my prayers.  I remember lying on the couch at 81/2 months pregnant while Mr. Demme taught my daughter math!  It was great to have a math curriculum which came with an instructional DVD (where someone ELSE was the instructor), at least for that season of my life.  NyGirl learned a lot in math that year - counting by 1's, 5's, 10's, telling time, basic addition and subtraction, skip counting, etc.

Another easy lunch- quick and healthy chicken salad sandwhiches

Okay, you gotta know our family loves chicken! :-)

And since we always have leftover (as is typical for us)...I thought...why not create yet ANOTHER YouTube video about using leftovers for kids' lunches?  Plus, it was a healthy meal. is a video I made today right before our lunchtime to show you how I make a QUICK and HEALTHY chicken sandwhich (or chicken salad) for my kids' lunch during a busy day at home with them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mini Pizzas – A Kid Friendly Homeschooling Lunch

Here is a quick and easy lunch I like to make in the middle of homeschooling during the days when I'm running low on ingredients.  In between grocery shopping I like to make our food pantry here's something your kids might like...enjoy the video (pls. rate and comment!!  I LOVE comments!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Learning from my past homeschooling mistakes

I've been thinking back on how we did school in our home these past few years and realized something: the reason it sometimes felt awkward, or even difficult at times, was all due to scheduling.

And the real crux of the matter is - I overscheduled my kids on activities and subjects.

In case it doesn't quite seem like it, I really am quite a structured gal. Possibly the big reason for burnout during our 1st grade year with NyGirl was attempting to create a rigid schedule (that seemed all too wonderful on paper), and attempting to bring it to reality-- when all along, we just wanted to be free to enjoy the path that learning took.

For example: let's say I scheduled for Day 1:
  • Mathematics (1 hour- which, by the way, sometimes took us 2 hours during 2nd grade when we used Saxon 3!!!)
  • Grammar (Shurley Grammar)- 30-45 minutes
  • Geography  & History lesson (Story of the World)- 1 hour
  • Bible - 1 hour (ideally)
  • Handwriting - 15 minutes
  • Spelling - another 15-20 minutes
  • French - 30 minutes
  • Piano- 30 minutes
  • Science--well...gotta wait til Day is crowded already
  • Ballet lessons - out for 2 hours in the evening (counts partly as P.E.)

Okay...this was a snippet of our school day back in 2008-2009.  I had a toddling 1 year old to keep up with and a massive cleaning and organizing rehaul to launch for our home since the re-carpeting (and EVERYTHING was out of place).  My hands were full.

By that April, I considered private school.

And you must know why already.  Our schedule was CROWDED.

Never again, never again, never again, I tell you.

Okay, and it's a nice looking "school day", I suppose...unless you are a free spirit like me  attempting to box your educational experiences into 5 hour school days, straight from the curriculum.

The worst part about this schedule-- it left absolutely NO ROOM for us to ENJOY learning.

From time to time, I would stumble upon a wonderful educational resource I really liked, but felt I could not "fit it in" to our already pressure packed schedule.

It was stifling, to the say the least.

Call it baby brain fog, or whatever it is...I just wasn't thinking clearly that year.  At least for our kindergarten year, I had enough sense to relax and let learning take its own beautiful shape in NyGirl's life.

So...I say all that to say this: don't make my mistakes!!! :-)  Save yourself the trouble, and just enjoy learning together.

What I do suggest:
  • Gather together your materials, your resources, curriculum, etc., and use them as TOOLS for learning.
  • Make out a sketch of your learning goals for the year, break it down into bit-size goals, and try to reach those goals in reasonably portions (like, don't even assume that you are going to tackle 8 different subjects in one semester - especially for a young just really want to!)
  • Sketch out a semi schedule (rough draft) for how your school days will look one week in advance (I do that once a week, because each of our weeks look different)
  • Leave room -- LOTS of room- for explored learning.  Be adaptable.  If in the middle of showing your child about amphibians from a science text, you suddenly think of a website that might be of interest...go GET on the COMPUTER, and have fun!  (I'm telling you - I had some real issues, b/c I would have 2 years ago skipped any and all ideas that sounded fun in favor of sticking to the curriculum.  Not good for my fam.  Not good.)

Now...with all this said, I want to remain balanced here.

I am still a stickler for routine and some sort of schedule.  Don't get me wrong, our school days have a structure to some degree, though it's not set in stone.  But I always know what my kids are going to be learning about each day (and if we deviate from it a bit, I am perfectly open to that).  But it is still important to me that younger kids have a routine to follow so they know what to expect.  And somehow, in the middle of my routine, I still wish to be creative.

Does that make sense?

And if it doesn't get any more confusing...I am all about "cutting the twaddle", as Mary Pride  (author of The Complete Guide to getting Started in Homeschooling) would say.  You can't cut twaddle (or senseless activities /time waster, whatever you want to call them), if you don't know what your SPECIFIC educational goals for your child are in each subject. So...while I am open to creativity and freedom to explore topics, I don't necessarily want to repeat activities or try our hands at projects that I don't feel would help strengthen my child's learning about the topic.  That would be on her free time.

Example: if we are learning about science- say butterflies.

If Day 1, we read a few stories about butterflies, then that's great.

If Day 2, we watch a DVD on butterflies, even better.  (I might have her narrate what she learned in a notebook).

If Day 3, she wants to color a picture of a butterfly...fine.  It doesn't help reinforce her learning of butterflies, (except maybe if she is able to tell me what kind of butterfly she is coloring, or we look it up).  Just the act of coloring the butterfly MIGHT be considered twaddle in Mary Pride's book...not sure about that...but I would be open to a coloring page for a 3rd grader.

If Day 4, she wants to color yet another coloring page on butterflies, I would let her (OF COURSE!!)  But, is she learning anything of value at this point, or is she simply enjoying the art of coloring a beautiful butterfly?  So, at this point, I would say, we probably aren't still learning our topic or subject matter, but enjoying a nice art class :-)  And if she kept wanting to just color day after day for her butterfly topic, I would opt to say that we aren't really fulfilling our educational goals for her at this point.

This is where many public schools get stuck (and I am NOT bashing public schools, for all of my friends out there who have chosen public education!!!)  I'm just saying.

I remember doing coloring sheets in the 10th grade when our history teacher had nothing more to give us.  I am not talking about anything intricate (like color coding the different parts of the human body in science, for example). But I mean, like during the Christmas holidays, we colored Santa Clause.  In 10th grade.  I am serious.  Fun...but funny too.

So...I'm just saying.


That's my take on past learning mistakes and what I keep learning.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A bit about relaxed homeschooling

For me, it is important to relax this year. Really.
I have done education the hard way for too many years to count, when all along my child could have done just fine without all of my 'interventions'.
Check out my YouTube video to hear some of my tips on relaxed homeschooling:

Don't forget to rate and comment in YouTube too! :-)

Thanks...oh, and let me know if there are any additional video topics you would like for me to cover.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Welchel- a Youtube VideoBook Review

This book (SO You're Thinking About Homeschooling) has helped me to see the home educating family from different perspectives.

I think one of the beauties of homeschooling is that there are such a wide array of people and types of families that are home educating.  And we do it in SO many different ways.

I am one of those folks that LOVE to watch documentaries.  From time to time I even stumble upon a reality tv show that I sort of like...  (the more wholesome ones, though, like 19 Kids and Counting...just to clear that up!)

The reason I like documentaries?

I am into PEOPLE.  Different lifestyles.  Different ways of thinking, modes of living.  Cultural differences.

All of this stuff intrigues me.

So, it goes to say that I am joyfully intrigued by any book or movie or podcast or YouTube channel, for that matter, that introduces me to DIFFERENT homeschooling families - and not just around the U.S., but around the globe.

That is one of the very reasons I enjoyed reading this book by Lisa Welchel.

I did a short review on the book on my YouTube channel.  Check it out, and leave me  a comment, rate, subscribe...all that stuff !  Thanks for watching.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Marker boards and math...

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you'll know how much I have had an aversion to marker boards since BabyZ has been board.  In fact, I have been anti-chalk board and anti-marker board for a LONG time now.  I have been trying to get away from the rigid "school" approach and into more relaxed modes of learning.

But guess what?  NyGirl brought it back out for me to try again...(she is learning odd/even numbers).

I must admit, the marker board was a fun tool for our school today.

Notice I said "tool".

Mmy 2 1/2 year old has FINALLY graduated.  She can now sit through a lesson without destroying our books and papers...and not only that, she is joining in on the marker board fun.

I did have an issue with the marker fumes, though.

Anyone know of a non-toxic, odor-free set of markers we can use for school?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Tot Morning

BabyZ woke up this morning and made a beehive to her blocks, and then on to stickers.

And as for mama- I've been enjoying the resources over at Tot School.  Head over there and check them out if you've got toddlers at home.  Keep them learning this summer!

Tot School

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How To Create A Lapbook- YouTube video

Okay, here is the video I promised on how we do our lapbooking.
NyGirl and I were just finishing up a lapbook on Amelia Earhart that we began a month ago. I'm just beginning my YouTube journey, so bear with me...

I hope you find the video useful, helpful...or something of the sort. Leave me comments and let me know what you think. Also, if there is anything I can address in a future video, please LMK!

Homeschooling in the summer?

Today was a leisurely morning of learning and fun. We got started early so we could head outside and play.
We gathered around the kitchen table (something we haven't been able to do in nearly two years!'s a breath of fresh air to have BabyZ finally able to cooperate with that)...

I was a little surprised that she is starting to draw little noses, mouths, and eyes.

After a quick (15 minute) Saxon lesson and drill sheet, we brought out the Harcourt Complete Curriculum workbook.  This is a comprehensive book we use from time to time.  It is one grade level ahead of NyGirl's level, and I like to introduce her to advance concepts once in a while.  Amazingly, none of it has been excruciatingly difficult for her, although she does get stumped once in a while.  I like that, though, because it makes her think.  "Mom, what are the DETAILS of a paragraph?  What am I supposed to write?" 

I love when I offer suggestions and her brains starts churning, and she just takes off from there.  I am starting to learn how very little teach-y moments our kids need...just teach-able moments- and those are surprisingly VERY different.  Two totally different things.  When I find a teachable moment, I plug in and explain, then step right back out and let her explore it a bit.  But before, I was just a teach-y mama- explaining every detail for what seemed like an eternity until NyGirl's eyes rolled to the back of her head in pure boredom.

I am learning, okay?  :-)

And another thing...I have had more than one person ask me why we "do school" in the summer.  "It just doesn't seem right", they might add. "Kids need plenty of free time to just enjoy the outdoors and enjoy summer activities".  And they are right (about the outdoors and summer activities part).  As for the "school" I said in an earlier post, I just can't fathom why my children would need to take large, 3 month gaps from learning things they enjoy anyway, or to brush up on math skills.

I mean, it's not as if they are pinned down to the kitchen table ALL DAY.  At the most, it is ONE hour.  One hour. (Can we honestly complain about one hour of academic skills brush up?  Seriously.  The public education system has proven that that is the one thing NEEDED in their schools- parents who will work with their kids over the summer).  That's one less hour of television.  One less hour of mindless activity where eventually someone ends up in a squabble due to utter boredom.

I'm not saying everyone should continue with year round schooling -- no way (that is, not unless you really want to).  I mean, we mama-teachers need a break too, you know.  I got my break from April to May.  But funny thing, my kids started BEGGING (not just asking) to have school.

"MOM!!!!  Can I PLEASE go in the home school pantry and find a math activity book?  Can I PLEASE work on the geography puzzle?"

How can you argue with that???


So, here we are in the middle of the summer, early July, doing school. At this rate, I imagine our schedule will look like 3 weeks on, 1 week off for the remaining of the year.

Fun, fun, and fun...okay, before the day is over I think I may have ONE MORE post...(*hint- it's about lapbooking, and there just MIGHT be a YouTube video to go along with it...)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Not quite unschooling, but relaxing up our school!

While many homeschoolers are gearing up for a new school year beginning in August or September, I kinda went a different direction this year and decided  we would have a year-round school with several sporadic breaks.  So...we "ended" our past academic year (2nd grade) in April, took a pretty long break in May, and started our official 3rd grade somewhere between May and June.  Our school days are short-- I don't even know if I can call them school days.  After all, it's the summer, and my kids are going to get out to the water parks and other fun summer activities...

Maybe what we're doing this summer is more of an "unschooling" method.  What's amazing is, although we are completely relaxed in our approach, the kids seem to be learning more, taking off and independently learning, and just taking it all in.
There's our science project (backyard garden), for example.

You can read my earlier posts to find out more about the girls are enjoying this.

We've also been hitting up the library a lot.  I've been learning to adapt her reading to easy, quick lessons on spelling or grammar.  I have an article on my homeschool info site on some quick and easy ideas for spelling lessons (no curriculum needed!)

NyGirl reads and reads and reads...and I smile and enjoy watching her "teach herself" about Abraham Lincoln or George Washington.  She decided a few weeks ago, "Mom, I want to learn about all the presidents-- in order!" What mama can't help but to do a little yippee dance on that??

Hey...makes my job easier, right?

Admit it...that's what we all want: for our kids to learn to become independent learners. Even the most structured of us "teacher types" eventually want our children to self explore into topics.

I am learning to let go, and it is FUN!

I haven't always been this way, okay?  Believe me...when I say "teacher type", I am known around my home as the rigid, structured schedule-maker mama, keeping everyone on task.  I have relaxed a bit over the past year (kind of have to when toddlers run the show!) has actually been good for me to have a toddler around these past 2 years of homeschooling.  Ive learned to relax and it's actually done NyGirl a whole lot of good. back to our relaxed homeschooling...

We have been using more and more of resources we have just lying around our house.  Reference books, card games, puzzles, and other materials...the girls just dig them out of our homeschool shelves/pantry, and go for it.  I've made it so they are allowed to go into the pantry at certain times during the day.  If the day leads us into checking on the garden outside our house, then we have science.  If the day leads us into a discussion on rabbits, we head to the library and check our library books and DVD's on rabbits.  If NyGirl is reading about George Washington, it helps to supplement what we are already covering in her history.

By the way, here is the history book we bought for $3 at a local used book fair:
american heritage 3

We like the scope and sequence, because we were looking for an American history text to use as a "spine" (something that gives us a starter or jumping board for other history projects and ideas).  I won't be using every item in the book as is, but it definitely works for us.  The material is concise and to the point, not too lengthy for her grade level, but not too fluffy and 'sweet'. There is just the right amount of concrete material for her to chew on and actually learn factual information and true American history.  It is also from a Christian perspective, which sold me.

But like I said, we are being relaxed this school year.  We have the books, but we are not going to be slaves to the books anymore.  Somehow or other I hope to find a healthy balance between teaching most of the lessons  in the book and allowing NyGirl the creative freedom to explore other subtopics at her whim.  So, the way I would like to see our school go is, if NyGirl decides she has an urge to read about Thomas Jefferson, I want to feel the FREEDOM to place the BJU American Heritage texts on the shelf until NyGirl gets her fill of Thomas Jefferson-- then return to the text later on.

For me...that is a BIG step.  Like I said, I have been a stickler for schedules, routines, and structure.  But I think this creative energy is something needed in our home.  So , as much as I love pre-packaged curriculum, we'll have to free ourselves of the textbook mentality. :-)

I hit the local homeschool used book sale in our town (oh, and check out my article on tips to follow for finding good materials at used book sales). I found a BUNCH of good stuff - Saxon 5/4 math book, BJU Press History, and some maps puzzles.

I believe that puzzle cost me about $8.  And the Saxon math? $20 total.  I would have spent at least $60 or more for the Saxon if I had bought it brand new!

I think we'll be using a lot of these materials sporadically throughout our day.  Each school day, I think I'll plan initially to have an outline for our studies in mind...but not written down in stone.  Kind of a loose idea of what we need to cover each week ...and then just help facilitate or guide my kids in that direction.  So, if I know we would like to cover a few topics on plant life, we'll definitely plan to head out to the garden with notebooks and a camera.  We might come back in and read a book about plants, or visit a website to play a science game.  The whole point is, I don't want to set it all in stone.

I am SO grateful to be living in a state that doesn't require home educators to create lesson plans in advance of each academic semester.  I have tried this before-- for TWO years, in fact.  It drove me nuts!  I would much rather have an idea of what we need to cover (through a scope and sequence, or even a text curriculum), and just plug into it each day- and not being concerned about whether or not we actually finished the LAST PAGE of each textbook at the end of the school year.

It's not that I'm advocating jumping all around academically and not having a plan.  I believe in planning.  Without our plans, our children will lack a very important skill - following directions and taking guidance from those who know better.

But my point is: if we (parent-teachers) take complete control of our children's learning without showing them how to be self-learners and self-motivated, we are doing them a great disservice.  Every thing cannot be spoon-fed, and sometimes it is a good idea to set aside a lesson plan in order to watch our kids just simply ENJOY LEARNING.

And -- that is what I am doing this new 'school year' (I say school year loosely, because I am beginning to really see that 'school' is actually everywhere, and learning takes place no matter where we are).

I am starting to relax, and I have a is going to get FUN!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Follow Me Friday

I am starting something new ...participating in  Follow Me Friday :-)

This is new, different, and exciting...and I can't wait to meet new friends and find new blogs to follow in the process.
Can't wait to meet you and have you meet each other! we go:

Summer Fun Around Town

Yesterday the girls and I took off for a long day out and about town.

First, we headed over to Panera Bread for a quick breakfast treat, then to Walmart to run a few errands and pick up a birthday gift from my little brother.

Next stop, the library.  There was a program for younger 2's and 3's and I thought I would try once again to bring BabyZ to storytime.  As is typical for her, she sort of froze up in public and would not participate much in the singing and dancing.

She did sit still and listen to the stories, though, and enjoyed bubble time - an improvement from our earlier 2's stage:

So...yay for BabyZ!

Then went to the park to meet up with some park friends-- the highlight of our day!

The older girls enjoyed bike riding, roller blading, and playing on scooters. The younger ones ran and climbed and enjoyed the park equipment.

No one could ever convince me that homeschoolers don't have P.E.!

As for me...I had SO much fun catching up with a friend and have some grown up chat for a change. As much as we love our kids, we mamas need a break now and then.

Afterward the girls and I had a snack and rest break then headed back over to the library for an afternoon event they were having for the older kids.  My oldest daughter participated in that (they did science experiment with red dye and celery and learned about water conservation).  While NyGirl enjoyed an hour science lesson and fun with other kids, BabyZ snoozed away in her stroller.  It had been a long day and she was due a nap.

And mama got a break too.  What do you think I did on my break?

Break out the laptop with free WIFI and blog of course! :-)

Garden follow-up

Whoo hoo!  Our little garden is growing, and growing and growing.

So we got started with planting officially on last week...and already, here we are.

This is about 2-3 inches of squash and peas growth.

We are so excited.  For our first garden I think it is doing well. But again, we have to figure out this whole process as we go.

And still more pics:

We stayed outside a while checking our garden and playing in the sun...then we came inside to rest. It was just way too hot.  We had lunch...and then we started talking about our garden.

The thought occurred to me that we had just received a free book about science topics from Barnes and Noble that might discuss plants, so I dug that up, plus a science journal I bought for her last year.

The discussion on how plants receive energy from the sun, which animals, in turn, gain from the plants led to ANOTHER discussion about healthy eating- mainly organic versus plants with pesticides.

Another freedom of not being bound to a curriculum is that we can be creative.  So...I thought about bringing out my two types of flour (whole wheat and white flour)...and this led to a discussion on the nutrients missing from white, the benefits of eating organic wheat (no pesticides).

I placed the two types of flour on a plate...and we just talked and talked and talked.  Fun.

So, there you have our science for the week, in a nutshell. :-)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Natural parenting info list

Do you like natural parenting info?  There is so much out there already...really.  Just googling "natural parenting" will bring up a host of sites-anything from natural health care, natural recipes for kids, or babywearing.

Here is a small list of natural parenting sites and organizations you might find useful.  Start there, and then broaden or narrow your search.

Have fun!
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