Friday, May 20, 2011

Hands-on Learning!

If you have children than most likely you have a hands-on learner!  What child doesn't like something tangible in their hands to be feeling, touching, playing with, manipulating, creating, or building.   Hands on learning is also a great method for the child with a short attention span!

I wanted to highlight a few great products that we use and love perfect for my hands-on learner! 

All About Spelling

I can't remember how I stumbled across All About Spelling but I am so thankful I did!!  It's been a lifesaver.  All About Spelling is multi sensorylogical, No gaps, mastery-based, continual review, clear, and scripted lesson plans!

A friend who I had referred to AAS wrote this to me recently, "We are 1/3 of the way through the All About Spelling level 1. It's so awesome! Even better than I expected. And, it's perfect having the reading books to go along with it. Keegan is really enjoying it. Thanks again!"  For more testimonies click here.

I love the short, easy lessons.  I love that it's scripted.  I love the beautiful readers that go along for reinforcement.  And I love the magnetic tiles and the fun, hands-on approach!   The rules really do sink in for my daughter and she applies what she has learned when sounding out words and when having to spell words!  

They also started an All About Reading program!  Here is the Story behind the start of the spelling program!

XTB Devotionals!

Another favorite in our home is the XTB Devotionals.  These Bible devotionals are beautifully presented with full-color illustrations and are intended for children ages 7-11.  Each lesson is short, but jam packed full of solid Biblical truth!  Each day the child looks up a specific chapter and verse in their own Bible (which I love).  The lessons offer fun, hands on activities such as: fill in the blank, crossword puzzles, decoding a message,  matching, circling correct answers, and much more.  Everyday ends with a prayer/application as well!  Highly recommend these!  For a preview click here.

You can't go wrong with ordering products from Timberdoodle.  They offer tons of hands-on products!!  One of my favorite purchases was a set of 5 Geopuzzles!   What a FUN way to learn geography!  Children ages 4-12 will learn with amazing accuracy the countries of Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia and the USA.

I love how the puzzles are shaped like the states/countries and have the capital printed on it as well as the name of the state/country.  You also learn how the entire continent fits together!

"A lapbook is a project book or file folder, laid out in a creative manner, that fits in the child’s lap" 

Lapbooks can be used for preschool age all the way up to high school.  Mine are obviously for younger learners but I have seen some amazing lapbooks created by older students!

This is a free lapbook based on the story "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and you can see the outside cover here.  And when you open up the flaps you can see different pockets that emphasize shapes, ABC's, numbers and colors.  This lapbook, along with many other great ones, can be found at 1+1+1=1 Blog



Grammar Punk is an entirely new way to teach grammar!  They have curriculum for grades K-12 and you can view all your options here.   Here are a few highlights of the program:
  • Grammar punk uses dice and cards to make it feel more like a game! 
  • The dice introduce the grammar & punctuation concepts one at a time.
  • Helps spark creativity and strengthen vocabulary.
  • It is FUN and Hands-On!

The lessons start out with introducing words, then words into sentences, and finally sentences into paragraphs.  Subjects covered are too many to list but here are a few: consonant blends, vowels, vowel pairs, words ending in -er, er, ing, syllables, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, capitalization, periods, commas, subjects, question marks, quotation marks, exclamation points, and much more!

If there is anything I have learned since beginning the homeschool journey, it is that learning can and SHOULD be fun!!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Homeschooling on a Budget!

One thing you learn quickly when you sign up to homeschool your children is that there are many costs involved.  Yes there are those amazing folks out there who will say they homeschool with virtually no cost out of their pockets.  It is possible (or so I've heard).   However for many families out there, the reality is there are alot of expenses that come along with the decision to homeschool:  curriculum, school supplies, field trips, co-op fees, music/art lessons, and purchasing office supplies (laminator, printer, ink, bookshelves, etc).

For this next school year I have been determined to make my money stretch as far as possible.  And wanted to share a few tips with you that I have learned along the way!

1) Buy used when possible - from craigslist we purchased a gently used Pottery Barn Wall Storage Unit, table, 4 chairs, and a chalkboard for 1/2 the price of what it would cost brand new.  I have also been purchasing majority of my curriculum for next school year off of a used curriculum website called Homeschool Classifieds.  There are many other wonderful used curriculum websites out there as well! Check around for any used curriculum sales going on in your area too!

2) Borrow nonconsumable resources- I am so thankful for friends, whose kids are a year or two ahead of mine, who have allowed me to borrow things when they are not needing them.  It never hurts to ask!

3) Do not be a compulsive buyer.  There are SO many tempting curriculum/resources out there both online and at homeschool curriculum exhibits.  Give yourself plenty of time to plan and prepare for the next school year and ask yourself  "Do I absolutely need this for my child?" or "Are we really going to use this art curriculum or is it most likely going to sit on the shelf?"   For a younger child, start with the essentials (reading, writing, & math) and then add extra's only if you know you will make the time for it!

4) Set a budget!  I worked on a budget for this next school year and it definately helps to know what amount you have to work with!  If you are constantly buying little things here and there and not paying attention to the can add up quickly.

5) Don't fill your schedule with a million activities - I have had moments where I feel like I should have my child signed up for various activities (aka - soccer, piano, gymnastics, ballet, etc...).   All those things also can add up very quickly especially when you have a handful of kids.   Not to mention you feel like you are going insane with all the hustle and bustle.   My philosophy in my home is "keep it simple because they are still so little".  I have chosen not to commit to things that take up our evenings/weekends or anything that require more than once a week of their time.  Our one exception is Awanas which takes place 1x week in the evenings. 

6) Invest in a Laminator - if you want to protect pages and be able to use things over and over with all your kids!

7) Take full advantage of the library!  Free is a very good price!

8) Out with the old and in with the new - sell anything that is just sitting and you have no plans to use.  Take the money you make and turn around and purchase things you are going to use!

9) There are many free online resources you can take advantage of such as: Starfall, Super Teacher Worksheets, Preschool Palace, and so much more (check out my A-Z curriculum for more free resources)

10) Check to see if  a curriculum company offers a payment plan option.  That way you are still getting what you want and making small, affordable, monthly payments (Sonlight & Winter Promise are two companies I know of who offer payment plans).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's not Rocket Science!

At the start of this school year I can remember thinking "how in the world am I going to teach my middle daughter, Lover Girl, how to read?".  When my oldest was her age she already knew her letters and sounds and was starting to read (plus my oldest attended a preschool for 2 years and now I was doing preschool at home).  There I sat with Lover Girl on our first official day of school and it felt like such an impossible task to accomplish.   I thought to myself "this is going to be a LONG year".  I am so thankful for a free online preschool program I came across called Preschool Palace.  It teaches 3 letters, 1 color, 1 shape, and 1 number each month and its FREE.  So I started this our second week of school.  I also decided to hang up a pocket wall chart as a visual reference.  If you have a hands-on/visual child like mine I highly recommend something like this!

Every week when a new letter was introduced we would add it to the pocket chart.  I would then print 4 pictures of words that started with that letter.  Once a week dd2 would take all the cards out, mix them up, and then have to figure out the right letter they went with. 

Also at the start of each month I would print up everything for the month from Preschool Palace and put them in 4 file folders (1 for each week of the month).  I also cut out pictures from magazines and put them in sandwich baggies and into the corresponding folders.  I would cut out words that started with the letters we would be focusing on that month, cut out pictures to go along with the color we would be learning, and cut out pictures with the same number of items of the number we were learning.  I preferred to cut everything out myself to make things go quickly and easily.

And of course we did lots of crafts related to the letter we were learning!

I got all my ABC craft ideas from Homeschool Creations and Moments of Mommyhood

We also added in the Language Lesson Book by Queen homeschool.  And I purchased a writing tablet with the wider lines so she could practice writing her letters and numbers.  I spent about 30 minutes 4x week doing sit down school with her....and now drumroll please....she just started reading Bob Books!
 (Yes I am patting myself on the back right now!).  Teaching your child to read may feel overwhelming, like you're trying to teach them rocket science, but it really doesn't have to be that complicated (of course I can tell you that now not 9 months ago!)