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Summer Reading

As our children have gotten older their love of reading has grown. Back in January I chose the book Holes, by Louis Sachar for our 6th grader to read. He complained about it a bit, but once he got a few chapters into it he seemed to enjoy the story and finished it in just a few weeks.

At the beginning of each summer I carefully select 6-8 books of various genres that are at or a little above their reading level and let them choose two to read over the summer. For our daughter, who will be entering 4th grade, I gathered books like Pippi Longstocking, The Baby-Sitters Club Mysteries, Ten Kids, No Pets, the Mandie series, and the Animal Ark series. Well she was having nothing to do with the books I had chosen and told me they were all too boring. She wanted something with more adventure off her brother’s bookcase. After browsing his shelves for just a few minutes she quickly chose Ferals, by Jacob Grey. While this book is a little dark for her age-wise, it is at her reading level and is full of adventure so hopefully she’ll love it.

For our soon to be 7th grader I chose Where the Red Fern Grows to be his mandatory summer reading book, and then he chose One Eyed Cat, by Paula Fox from a selection of books I had chosen. Our son has been stuck on reading The Warrior series, by Erin Hunter, and anything about Greek Mythology or Percy Jackson for the past year. I’m quite happy to have him branching out and reading a few different things between the other books he loves.

Did you miss my previous post on Encouraging Summer Reading?

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Posted by on May 30, 2017 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling

 

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Mid-Year Curriculum Update

This year we changed things up quite a bit curriculum-wise for our 6th grader. If you read my post Our 2016 – 2017 Curriculum Plans then you may remember our 6th grader had a full line-up of workbooks plus online curriculum. Around October I realized he was greatly lacking in his history knowledge and I was struggling to find a way to make the subject fun and memorable. (History is my least favorite subject.) Researching online I stumbled upon the Acellus Academy homeschool program. I tend to research things to death, so I watched MANY of the sample lessons and talked to fellow homeschool parents in online groups who also use Acellus.

Acellus Academy is an online video lesson program where students watch videos of a teacher teaching a lesson, then answer 5 – 20 questions after the video. A typical day’s lesson may include 3-5 videos, depending on the length of the videos. Best part of all? It’s an app you can download to a laptop or tablet, and the children can wear headphones so they aren’t disturbing others.

On Acellus, our 6th grader is taking:
6th Grade Math (once a week)
6th Grade Language Arts/Reading (5 days a week)
6th Grade Science (3 days a week)
Ancient Civilizations (2 days a week)
Middle School Health (2 days a week)
Middle School Finance (2 days a week)

In addition to Acellus, he’s continuing to take:

Saxon Math 7/6 (4 days a week)
Easy Grammar 6 (3 days a week)
Switched on Schoolhouse Spanish (3 days a week)
Spelling City (4 days a week)
IXL online (2 days a week)
Computer Coding

All in all, most of the book work he now has is the Saxon Math. He likes math, but like most kids, he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time doing problems. It takes coaxing, prodding, and sometimes even bribery to get our son to complete the number of math problems Mom deems appropriate.

Fast-forward to this week, we started our 3rd grader on the Acellus Academy homeschool program as well. I had noticed her watching some of her brother’s science and health lessons she seemed to really enjoy them.

Here are the courses our 3rd grader is taking on Acellus:
3rd Grade Math (once a week)
3rd Grade Language Arts (5 days a week)
3rd Grade Social Studies (3 days a week)
4th Grade Science (2 days a week)
Ecology (2 days a week)
Fine Arts – Music (2 days a week)

In addition to Acellus, she’s using:

Horizons Math 3 (4 days a week)
Sequential Spelling (LOVE this spelling program!) (5 days a week)
Easy Grammar (3 days a week)
IXL online (2 days a week)

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Curriculum

 

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Our 2016 – 2017 Curriculum Plans

This school year our children will be in 6th and 3rd grade. Well, those are their “official” grades anyway. (More about this at What grade are you in?)

This will be our 6th year homeschooling; wow time flies! Before I list what curriculum we’re using this year, let me preface this by telling you I know some people would go crazy without having an all-in-one curriculum. If this is your first year homeschooling then I recommend an all-in-one curriculum for your sanity. The curriculum we’re using I’ve found to work best for our children’s learning styles.

For our 3rd grader we’ll be using:

easy grammar 3Horizons Math 3
IXL Math (online)
Khan Academy (online) for additional help & instructional videos
Switched on Schoolhouse Language Arts (trying this out for the 1st time)
Easy Grammar 3
Spelling City (online)
IXL Science (online)
Harcourt Science 3rd grade
IXL Social Studies (online)
Learn Our History dvds
Typing Teacher (online)

For our 6th grader we’re starting on:

math lukeSaxon Math 7/6 & Teaching Textbooks (haven’t decided which one we like best yet… they’re both new to us this year) *See update below
IXL Math (online)
Khan Academy (online) for additional help & instructional videos
Easy Grammar 6
Spelling City (online)
IXL Language Arts (online)
Reading Comprehension 6
IXL Science (online)
Science Is…
IXL Social Studies (online)
New World History & Geography (Abeka)
Switched on Schoolhouse Spanish (1st & 2nd quarter)
Computer Coding (online) (3rd & 4th quarter)

scratch games

IXL online consists mostly of practice questions/answers, but it’s a wonderful resource to assure we don’t miss an important topic. What’s even better is we have access to all of the grade levels at once! This is hugely helpful when a child is ahead a grade level in some subjects, but not in others.

For reading both children have daily silent reading requirements and read-aloud several times a week as well. Both children also keep a writing journal throughout the year. Their typical writing assignments include poetry, fairy tales, idioms, short essays, book reports, etc. This is simply what works for us.

This year our children are also enrolled in these classes outside of the home:

  • American History – co-op (3rd grader)
  • Plant Biology – co-op (3rd grader)
  • Literature – co-op (3rd grader)
  • Chemistry – co-op (6th grader)
  • World History – co-op (6th grader)
  • Art History & Elements of Art – local artists (both children)

***Update 9/2016: We’ve decided on Saxon math for our 6th grader. He didn’t like doing his math on the computer and now that he’s been using Saxon for a few weeks I’m in love with it. 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2016 in Curriculum

 

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School During the Summer?

Whether you choose to do year-round schooling or not, sometimes it’s nice to go at a different pace for the summer months. There are many different ways for children to continue learning over the summer without even calling it “school”.

Summer Projects:

Teach your child how to code! They’ll have a blast learning how since it’s more like playing a game than “learning”, plus it never hurts to know more about computer programming.
Our favorite websites for learning to code are: Scratch and Code.org  These are geared towards all ages, so even adults can practice and learn how to code quickly. There are examples and an assortment of projects for all levels, so the challenge never ends.

2015-12-29 10.50.08  2015-12-29 11.35.30

Work on science projects, science experiments, engineering skills, life skills (lawn care, cooking, automotive care, etc.). The list is limited to only what you can imagine.

Here are some links you may find helpful.

Engineering Ideas

Science Experiements

History & Geography Projects

Summer Camps:

Music camps, art camps, science camps, sports camps, theater, dance, and gymnastic camps, and so on. For those living in the Mobile area the possibilities are endless. Check out MobileBay Parents for a list of available camps.

summer reading 5thgradeSummer Reading:

We can’t forget about summer reading! Our children are both pretty good about reading daily, but for the summer I try to make sure they expand their interests a bit more and try other things.

Here are some of the books we’re reading this summer. The Greek Gods book I’m reading aloud to them and the I Love People is a writing/thinking book I have both children working through together.

There are many Summer Reading programs available to help encourage your children as well. The Mobile Public Library has a great one, plus there’s the one from Barnes & Noble where your child can earn a free book.

Summer Schedule:

A typical week-day in the summer when we’re at home looks like this:

2016-05-25 11.31.04

This is a simple checklist I use to make sure we stay on track.

  • Wake up (typically 7 – 8am)
  • Listen to music, read, draw, or play in their rooms
  • 9am Read with Mom (I read, they listen, we ask questions and discuss after each chapter)
  • Get dressed, eat breakfast
  • Morning chore
  • Play outside
  • Write & Draw/practice Cursive (twice a week)
  • Math/Language Arts (twice a week)
  • Social Studies/Science (twice a week)
  • Eat lunch
  • Electronics time (I break up the electronic time into 1 hour segments)
  • Art
  • Read Aloud
  • Outside chores
  • Play a board game/card game
  • Silent reading
  • Electronics time
  • Play with Legos
  • Afternoon chore

On the days when we have VBS, music camp, martial arts camp, etc. our typical day looks like this:

  • Wake up (typically 7am)
  • Get dressed, eat breakfast
  • Morning chore
  • ———-> summer movie, visit the park, VBS, etc.
  • Play outside
  • Outside chores
  • Silent reading
  • Afternoon chore
  • Read with Mom
  • Electronics time (typically this is right before dinner)
 
 

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PE isn’t a Real Subject… is it?

As homeschooling parents, one of the often overlooked subjects is Physical Education.

But is PE a “real” subject?

Of course it is! It’s also very important for a child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Learning to stay active as a child will also help a child remain active as an adult.

There are many studies which show regular physical activity helps reduce stress levels and provides for a better night’s sleep. Don’t believe me? Check out these links: Kids Health and Exercise for Children and 10 Benefits of Physical Activity

Physical activity for children doesn’t have to be typical sports like baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. There are also activities like:

  • swimming
  • tennis
  • martial arts
  • gymnastics
  • dance
  • fencing
  • horseback riding
  • golf
  • ice skating
  • roller skating
  • laser tag
  • bowling
In addition to being great exercise, martial arts helps with self discipline, respect, and confidence.

In addition to being great exercise, martial arts helps with self discipline, respect, and confidence.

Keep in mind many sports are seasonal, while others are year-round. No matter which activity you and your child choose, make sure they stay active even in the off-season.

In our family we are quite partial to martial arts. I just can’t say enough great things about how much karate has helped our children. Sure they’ve learned self-defense and have greater flexibility and muscle strength, but the most important lessons they’ve learned are discipline, respect, focus, and confidence. My very wiggly, “can’t sit still longer than two minutes” 6 year old became a focused and calm 7 year old after just a few months. I highly recommend martial arts for ALL children, (it’s not just for boys). The benefits are for life!

Can’t afford to pay for special classes for your children?

family fun run

Our daughter, age 5, walking with my husband in a kids fun run downtown.

No worries! Try some of these ideas:

  • Schedule 20 minutes twice a week for your family to walk around the neighborhood.
  • Go for a family bike ride.
  • See who can do the most push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks.
  • Have a hula-hoop contest. See which member of your family can hula the longest.
  • See who can jump rope across the driveway first, or see who jump rope the longest without tripping.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt at the local park or around your neighborhood.
  • Go Geocaching. If you plan a route where there are many geocaches you’ll get plenty of exercise by getting in and out of the car frequently and seeing who can find the geocache first.
  • Enter the whole family in a Family Fun Run or Walk-a-thon. Most of these everyone walks and/or runs at their own pace.
  • Go roller skating on their cheap-skate day/time (often this is only $4 per skater)
  • Take them to a jump house place like Pump-it-Up, House of Bounce, Jumps-a-lot, Kangaroos, etc. on a regular basis.
  • Join your local YMCA. They offer family memberships which include swimming pool and gym access, plus many other benefits. Staying active as a family is well-worth the cost.

The key is to actually get out there and do it. Children watch what we adults do. If we’re sitting on the couch day after day and aren’t interested in going for a 20 minute walk, why should they be interested?

 

Haven’t seen an activity your child would be interested in yet?

iceskating

Ice skating (and roller skating) is great exercise. It also improves balance, coordination, and confidence.

As parents sometimes we just have to give them a little push. Schedule a time for them to go for a walk or bike ride with friends. Offer to take them bowling, roller skating, or to play laser tag with friends. Think laser tag isn’t physical? Ha! You obviously haven’t played it. There’s a lot of fast-walking, ducking behind obstacles, poking your head around corners, crouching down to avoid on-coming fire, etc. Trust me, you’ll be sweating after 1-2 games. We try to go every couple of months and use it for report card rewards as well.

While ice skating isn’t available year round, roller skating is! Both activities will improve balance and coordination. Plus working all those different muscles takes a lot of energy. Invite some friends. Exercise is ALWAYS better with friends. Even for us adults!

Horseback riding helps build core muscles, strengthens leg muscles, improves balance, coordination, and focus.

Horseback riding helps build core muscles, strengthens leg muscles, improves balance, coordination, and focus.

When it comes to getting children active, horseback riding is often overlooked. I think most people consider it a leisure activity, but really it takes a whole lot of muscles to stay balanced and seated properly when walking, trotting, turning, and stopping a horse. It doesn’t matter whether your child is interested in English or western style, both will improve your child’s physical and mental health.

How much exercise should my child get each day?

According to the CDC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, 60 minutes each day. Think it’s not possible? Don’t worry, it IS possible! It just takes planning it into your family schedule gradually. Start with the above tips, slowly adding in some activities several times a week and go from there. Oh, and if your child begins complaining they’re tired after an activity, that’s okay. It’s GOOD to be tired after exercise. A child who has worked hard exercising will work up an appetite and sleep better.

 

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2016 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling

 

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Benefits of Standardized Testing for Homeschoolers

standardized test - ITBSThough some states don’t require standardized testing, many cover schools (aka umbrella schools) require standardized testing yearly. There are many varying opinions on the pros and cons of giving standardized tests to homeschooled children.

I rode the fence for a while because we homeschoolers often don’t stick to teaching what is expected at certain grades. For example, you may plan to teach Alabama history to your 3rd & 5th grade children the same year rather than teach one child at a time. In most public and private schools however, Alabama history is taught in the 4th grade. If you were to give a standardized test to your oldest child, a 4th grader, he would be certain to score lower in the Social Studies section simply because you hadn’t covered Alabama History yet. As long as you take that into account and don’t stress over it, it’s not a big deal.

Some of the most common standardized tests given to K-12 are the Stanford Achievement Test, Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS), and the California Achievement Test (CAT). Commercial test publishers developed standardized tests to give you a snapshot of the academic skills and abilities of a large number of children in the same grade level. Many people think standardized tests indicate how your child compares academically to grade-level expectations, but really the test shows how your child compares to other children of the same grade level, during the same time-period. (7th month of grade 4, for example).

standardized test2 - ITBSEven if your cover school doesn’t require standardized testing, you should consider having your child tested every 2-3 years starting around 3rd grade. (Though there are tests for the younger grades, I personally feel the hours spent testing puts too much stress on such young children.)

Think of standardized testing as a way to reassure yourself, your spouse, and other family members that your child is learning on-par with other children at their grade level. The key here is to go into testing with the knowledge that your child will very likely be below average in some areas, average in some areas, and above average in some areas. The results are simply comparing your child to others in the same grade and does NOT reflect on your child’s overall intelligence, nor your teaching ability.

How should you use your results? On the days you’re short on teaching time, work on the areas your child scored lower in. Don’t forget to use a variety of teaching methods that include listening, reading, writing or drawing, and hands-on elements when applicable.

 

standardized test1a - ITBS

Sample results from a homeschooled 3rd grader.


 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling

 

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Curriculum Plans for the 2015 – 2016 Year

As August is quickly approaching I’ve been gathering our books and jotting down plans for the upcoming school year. Our oldest is starting 5th grade and has stayed on target or a little ahead of schedule in most subjects. Our youngest technically started 2nd grade in February (the joys of having a late birthday), but for ease of explaining what grade she’s in we’re considering her to be in 2nd grade this coming year.

5th grade booksFor our 5th grader:
Harcourt math (we’ve moved on from Horizons math since we needed better instructions on the “how” behind the math), IXL math (online), Khan Academy (online)
IXL language arts (online)
Easy Grammar 5
All About Spelling, Spelling City (online)
Literature K12 level 5 (this is our first time using this curriculum… we’ll see how it goes)
Writing K12 level 5
Music K12 level 5
Art K12 level 5
Vocabulary – Sylvan, Spelling City (online)
Reading Comprehension – Sylvan
Social Studies – unit studies
US History – public school book & online resources
Science – unit studies & ABeka Health grade 5

2ndgrade booksFor our 2nd grader:

Horizons Math grade 2, IXL math (online), Khan Academy (online)
IXL language arts (online), Daily Language Review
Shurley English 2 (grammar)
All About Spelling, Perfection Spelling
Horizons Phonics & Reading, Explode the Code
BJU Reading 3
Social Studies – unit studies & Famous Americans
Science – Lifepac, ABeka Health grade 3
Music & Art – assorted online resources

 

 

 

daily weekly assignmentsAs for when to do which subjects… that’s where the planning and organizing comes in. Obviously all of the subjects can’t be done on the same day. Otherwise we’d be doing lessons and school work for 8+ hours a day.

Subjects like math, reading, writing, and spelling are done daily, while grammar and science are twice a week. Music, art, and health are typically once a week subjects. I use a simple system of post-its on the books to keep track of which books are done which day while planning. Then I can list my plans in Evernote (or a notebook if I’m feeling old-school).

You’ll notice I like to use multiple resources for teaching some subjects. Some things, like IXL, are simply for practice, but not geared towards learning new concepts. Resources like Khan Academy and Spelling City are great for teaching, practicing what they learn, and then applying the knowledge in their book work.

So, this is my basic plan curriculum-wise. It may change a bit as we get past Christmas (things always seem to evolve as we go) but staying flexible is key. Hope your school year planning is going well.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in Curriculum

 

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