Archives

Winter Olympics 2014 Activity Pack

Sochi-2014-Winter-Olympics-lWith the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics this week, I have been looking for activities for my kids to do around this theme. Enchanted Homeschooling Mom has a great pack that can be used for Pre-K through 6th grades.  Perfect for those families with multi-age kids. This is not just for home schooling, but would make good weekend actives for all kids surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Winter Olympics 2014 Pack from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom

What We Are Reading Now – 1st Quarter 2014

Reading bookI haven’t updated our reading lists in a while, so here are some of the things we are reading now!

Parents:

Kids:

The links provided for these books are from www.cbd.com. These books are also available at many libraries and through e-readers such as the Kindle. We prefer the Kindle. You can download free software to use Kindle books on your computer, tablet, or smartphone for free. You don’t even need to buy the tablet!

The Gettysburg Address: 150 Year Anniversary

Gettysburg AddressToday, November 19, 2013, marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s address at the Gettysburg battlefield and cemetery dedication. Partially because I am from central Illinois, I enjoy all things Lincoln. Here are some sites to help you learn about the Gettysburg Address with your students.

Abraham Lincoln Online – a collection of Lincoln history and information

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum – I highly recommend you visit if you are ever near Springfield, IL.

 

Under His Hat – A collection of information from primary sources about President Lincoln, in collaboration with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Gettysburg.com – A collection of information about the Gettysburg area

History.com – Information from the History Channel

Saturday Project: Fabric Tool Caddy for Chairs

Chair_FullFor those of us who home school or who do any crafting, you know finding a spot for your or the kids items that are regularly used can be a challenge. Wouldn’t it be great if your pens and scissors, or the kids pencils, crayons, and rulers, were all handy right on your chair? Today’s project gives you just that! The folks at Creating Keepsakes have put together this video tutorial for making your own fabric tool caddy for  chairs. Think of all the fun fabric patterns you could use to keep yourself and the kids organized!

Back to School

BACKPACK3Back to school time, whether at a traditional school coming off a long summer break or a home-schooler returning from a vacation, can be a time of strife and chaos as everyone tries to get back into the “normal” routine.  As with most times of change, a combination of organization and flexibility are key. Here are some of my favorite back-to-school tips:

  • Homeschool – Here is a collection of home school tips and organizational ideas that have worked well for my family. Some of these are home-school specific, but many can be used by families no matter how you decide to educate your kids.
  • School Supply Stock-Up – A list of school supplies to stock up on whenever they are on sale
  • Back-to-School Schedule – Tips for getting your kids back onto a school (and not a vacation) clock
  • Back-to-School Trial Run – Making a day to “practice” going to school
  • Morning Cards – A simple system for taking the chaos out of busy mornings
  • Packing Lunches – Tips for setting up an easy-to-use, kid friendly lunch packing station
  • Lunch Notes – Cute notes to put into your kids lunches
  • Must-Have School Items – A list of must haves
  • Color-Coded Family – How to organized your family through color – even in their school supplies!
  • Family Calendar –  A must-have for busy families
  • Monday Morning Organization – Start your week off right with these tips for Mondays

Even though we don’t actually go back to school at this time of year anymore it is still one of my favorite times. My husband is a teacher so he does go back at this time of year, and it is always a time of transition from summer to a fall schedule. This is my “New Years”! We set goals for the next 12 months, stock up on school supplies (the only kind of shopping I actually like), and in general use this as a time to re-set the family.

Curriculum Review: A Beka Math (intermediate)

Concept: Over 170 lesson per grade level, A Beka Math grades 4-6 teaches the four basic operations through introductions to geometry and algebra, with lessons on fractions, decimals, factoring, and multi-digit operations.

How It Works: A Beka math uses daily lessons with speed drills and weekly tests or quizzes to take your child from addition to pre-algebra. Each lesson has board work, oral and flash card drills, timed speed drill, and the introduction of a new concept or review for tests and quizzes. Test are given every 10 lessons, with a quiz on the 5th lesson between tests. Student workbooks have teaching boxes that introduce the concept, as well as problems designed to reinforce what was learned that day and review previous lessons. Optional problems and “homework” are included.

How We Used It: Generally we followed the lesson plan. We did not purchase the additional concept cards as the concepts are given in the student workbook. We found that for kids who excel in math, A Beka was still on the easy side and at times we did two lessons per day. Generally we skipped the green supplemental problems and the homework unless a child was struggling with a particular concept. We did the daily speed drills and review of facts to solidify quick recall.

Concerns: Even though A Beka is said to be at least one grade level above traditional math curriculum we still found it to be fairly easy. Our math nerds were able to essentially teach themselves just by reading the concept boxes in their workbooks. We found that the material was lacking practical (story) problems, offering only two per day. Because of this, we began supplementing with Challenging Word Problems from Singapore Math. We found that the word problems for Singapore ran about 1 grade level ahead of A Beka math.

Recommendation: We recommend A Beka Math for students who are functioning above grade level in math or easily understand math. We do not recommend this if your student struggles with math.

Curriculum Review: The Story of The World

Concept: As though telling a story, this world history curriculum moves elementary students from ancient times to the modern age over the course of four years. Supplemental activities and tests are available to encourage retention of material and assess progress.

How It Works: Each week you read through the story book, which gives students insight into the historical time period and culture you are studying. Each chapter is divided into two sections, allowing you to break up reading with review questions. The activities book provides review questions and guides for narration exercises. The activity book also includes map work pages and instructions for students. The back of the activity book has masters of all the map work and coloring pages. The activity book also includes supplemental activities and research you can do to increase student learning and retention.

How We Used It: We have used this program various ways depending on the age our girls were at the time. Initially I read the chapters out loud and guided the girls through the review questions and map work. Coloring pages were done during free time. As the girls got older they started reading the chapters on their own, with me going over review questions and map work with them. We also introduced tests when the girls were in intermediate grades. Some weeks we covered two chapters a week, and other times one, depending on the rest of the kids coursework. We rarely did the supplemental activities and projects, as I felt they were often too involved for what we were trying to accomplish. We do supplement learning with the History Speaks series for branches of government and important documents in American history as we read through the last two volumes of The Story of The World, taking a break from STOW to learn more about America.

Concerns: The curriculum information says it is for 1-4 for read aloud, and 5-8 if they read it on their own. While that is true, the activity pages are clearly for first and second graders. By third grade the girls were bored with the pages. The stories are too much like stories for older kids.

Recommendation: We recommend this curriculum for grades 1-4. After grade 4 we suggest supplementing with more challenging activities for students. We recommend not using the tests until at least second grade, and possibly waiting until third or fourth grade to begin testing. This world history curriculum lays a good foundation for further study in junior high and high school.

 

Curriculum Review: Shurley English

Concept: Based on grade level, Shurley English teaches grammar and writing skills by starting with simple sentences through teaching your child how to write 5 paragraph essays and narratives.

How It Works: Shurley English comes as a basic kit with Teacher’s Manual, Student Workbook, and Jingle CD. Each lesson is completely scripted, giving the home-school parent the exact words to stay to teach grammar and writing to their student. Each lesson is paired with jingles to help students remember the various parts of speech and basic grammar and writing rules. Each year starts out teaching the basic concepts, so you can start this program at any age/grade level. About the 4th week/chapter, students begin getting writing assignments, and older students will have two a week in addition to a weekly test. Shurley also incorporates weekly vocabulary words (8) to teach synonyms and antonyms, which help students improve writing skills. In addition to the kid books, you can add in vocabulary and literature selection books, as well as a practice book with all the sentences students have to classify.

How We Used It: For the younger grades we pretty much followed the script, doing jingles daily and reading the teaching text to give the kids a good base. As they got older, we found that the jingles became boring (because they already knew it) and we stopped using those after a couple of years. Additionally, because each year starts out with teaching the same basic ideas (just more quickly as students progress to higher grade levels) we began doing the first 1-3 chapters all the first week. We did all the writing assignments until the end chapters, which incorporate thank you cards and friendly letters. These we do at different times during the year, as appropriate (say after birthdays). After a few years, generally my kids just read the references in their workbooks that go with what they are learning and then do the activities. At this point (4th and 6th grades) Shurley requires very little teaching from me.

Concerns: The jingles get very boring and are not interesting to older kids. Two writing assignments each week can seem like a lot, especially to students who are not as interested in English (like my house full of math geeks).

Recommendation: We highly recommend Shurley English. While there are flaws with the system, in the end, the grammar and writing basis that this gives students is excellent, and that is the goal of English curriculum. In our opinion the grammar and writing preparation found in Shurley can’t be beaten. We also recommend purchasing the practice booklet as it saves time and hassle in the daily classification of sentences. The vocabulary madness books were too easy and just busy work, so we say skip those. If you aren’t using another reading curriculum, the literature selections are a great way to expose kids to prose and poetry at their grade level.

Curriculum Review: Saxon Math (Early Elementary Grades)

Concept: Saxon Math teaches basic math principles such as counting, skip counting, telling time, number writing, addition, subtraction, and slowly builds on these skills daily to teach higher level math concepts.

How It Works: There are 130 daily lessons with a written assessment every 5th lesson and an oral assessment every 10th lesson. Lessons take approximately 30 minutes a day and include daily meeting activities such as calendar and weather. Each lesson includes a worksheet with side A and B to reinforce skills taught. Lessons are completely scripted and the teachers manual gives you daily lists of items needed for each lesson.

How We Used It: Initially we followed the lesson plan, doing everything listed in a lesson. Very quickly we realized that the pace of these lessons was way too slow for us and so we stopped doing the side B of worksheets and eventually went to doing two lessons each day. Initially we just picked up at the next grade level because our kids used this when they were in school. We got smart and used the placement tests that can be found on the link above for our last child and he tested into Math 1 when he was 4.

Concerns: Overall this curriculum was much to slow-paced and repetitive for our kids. I definitely recommend using the placement tests and starting your child where they place according to those results.

Recommendation: Despite our concerns, we do recommend this curriculum. It gives a great basis for higher-level math and you can switch seamlessly to other more challenging materials (such as A Beka). If your child struggles with math concepts or just isn’t advanced in math, Saxon is a great choice that will get them where they need to be without a lot of tears and fighting. Plus, if our child is more advanced in math you can easily double up lessons and move at a faster pace to cover more material in a short time. If you will be using this curriculum for Kindergarten or First Grade we definitely recommend buying a math manipulatives set. If you are starting this material above First Grade I would suggest that you probably don’t need the manipulatives.