Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting Crafty – Kids Christmas Cards

If you’re anything like us, you struggle with finding ways to get your kids involved in the Christmas season. With all there is on the TV and the Internet, it can be pretty easy for little ones to think that it’s all about “get, get, get”. One way that we’ve found to combat that is to let our kids make their own Christmas cards( a great themed craft that you can add to any art curriculum). It helps that I’m a scrap booker, but even if I weren’t, it’s not hard to get them involved. A few pieces of construction paper, some glue, markers and glitter and they’re off! Not only do they get to make something that will brighten a loved one’s holidays, but they get to exercise their creativity and really learn a bit more about the spirit of Christmas, too.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

I love this time of year. The colder weather, the Christmas themed printable worksheets, etc. that I can add to our regular homeschool curriculum, the family gatherings, the joy I see in my children. It’s not all about gifts with our family. They GIVE more gifts than they receive, and that is something that warms my heart most of all.
The day after Thanksgiving is usually spent sleeping (I’m a Black Friday shopper, lol) and putting up Christmas decorations. We inevitably have broken ornaments and things we forgot to pack up last year, which ended up somewhere else in the house. We start planning which cookies we want to make for family and we finally start listening to Christmas music. Yes finally. Our satellite radio company started with the holiday music in the middle of November, but I wouldn’t let anyone listen to it until after Turkey Day. :)
If you celebrate Christmas, what is your favorite part about the kickoff to the holiday season?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Teaching Creative Writing

My seventh grader loves to write. No, not handwriting. He’d rather stab his hand with a pencil, than actually use the pencil for its intended purposes, lol. But he enjoys the writing process. He doesn’t enjoy structure writing, like an assigned essay, but he does enjoy putting together and telling a good story.

For someone with no creative writing talent, like myself, that can be daunting to teach. I can help him with grammar, sentence structure, even mechanics. But that’s about it.

I was looking for a program that would really take that responsibility from me (nope, not ashamed to say that!) and fortunately I found just that. He is going to start his first of many online writing courses from Time4Writing soon, and we are both looking forward to seeing how those go. Fingers crossed that this may also segue into something beneficial for my younger child who at the moment wants absolutely nothing to do with writing… :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Building a Good Vocabulary

Is having a good, strong vocabulary important as an adult? I’d like to think so. Being a lawyer, professional speaker and a teacher require a good vocabulary, but your profession doesn’t have to require a strong vocabulary…you would want to be able to carry on intelligent discussions about anything in life, wouldn’t you?
I want that for my children. I want them to start building their vocabulary early on, and then just keep expanding on that as they get older. A good vocabulary helps them with their reading, spelling, even with their creative writing.
Some of the ways to help your homeschoolers build a strong vocabulary is by playing vocabulary games and using vocabulary flash cards. One of our favorite vocabulary activities is pulling off the next page in our “Word A Day” desk calendar. More often than not, our word for the day is as new to me as it is to them!
What are some ways you help build your children’s vocabulary?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Conquering the Fear of Math

My oldest son, now 12, didn’t get the best start when it came to math. We have joked for years, even before we started homeschooling, that daddy wouldn’t be able to help the kids when it came to math. He’s horrible at it. And that’s by his own admission, not something I say to be mean or pick on him about.

Unfortunately, our kidding gave my son a terrible case of math anxiety. He was nervous about doing math, long before he ever started calculating anything, lol!

We have stressed over the years that we don’t have any undue expectations from him, but having a child that anxious can over a school subject can be tough. Fortunately we found an online math program that helps calm his nerves. He can work at his own pace and the material is presented in a way that seems to stick with him. It also helps that he can re-do a quiz or test that he doesn’t do so well on, so he doesn’t have a bad score looming over him and causing him to dread the next lesson.

Have you discovered any tips for overcoming any homeschool anxiety in your “classroom?”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Free-Thinking Homeschoolers

Some people would automatically associate the phrase “free-thinking homeschoolers” with other phrases, such as secular homeschoolers or even unschoolers.
Wanna know something? That association isn’t always correct.
Free thinking homeschoolers should be defined exactly how it sounds. As homeschooling families who are trying to raise children to think for themselves. They have open discussions on everything from spiritual beliefs and political affiliations to favorite foods and favorite movies.
I like to think that I am helping my boys be free thinkers. I was an adult, married with a child, before I fully realized that SO many of my opinions or beliefs weren’t really mine; they were my parents and they were projected onto me. Some of those things I did agree with them on, but I had to find my own way on many of them as well. My husband is the same boat, to a degree.
Our hope is that if we start now, while they are so young, that they understand they do, and will always have, the ability to form their own thoughts and be proud of that.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Planting Herbs Boosts Learning and Cooking Skills

Building life skills in your kids is very important – some might say more important than building academic skills. After all, if your child can’t cook for him or herself, they’re in for a rough time of it in their older years. We’ve actually found one of the best ways to teach cooking is to grow our own herbs. We plant thyme, oregano, cilantro, dill and quite a few others. Not only does it boost our sons’ cooking skills, but it also helps them learn more about plants, gardening and even a bit of history and science about plants. (when we venture into where those herbs we use originally came from).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pocketknives – The Dreaded Question

In almost every little boy’s life there will come a day when he asks, “Mom, dad, can I have a pocketknife?” If you’re anything like me, my first instinct was to say, “When you’re 18.” That’s not what happened, though. We put our sons in Boy Scouts, where they learned knife safety, the right ways to hold and carry a knife and the importance of proper care. Of course, we don’t let them use their knives unsupervised (not even the seventh grader), but I really think that owning a knife (after proper training) is a way to introduce greater responsibility and build a feeling of independence in our kids.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Money Matters and Kids – How Young Is Too Young?

It’s important to have a good sense of money in life. However, when do you introduce those concepts to your kids? When you get right down to it, money can be extremely confusing (just look at my checkbook register!). My husband and I decided that it really was never too early to start teaching our kids about money – both how it’s valued and the real, hidden value of money. That is – it’s easily spent, but not easily earned. So far it’s working out well. Our seventh grader has gotten all of this down, finally, lol. He’s even helping our second grader try and get a good grasp of monetary denominations and they are both really beginning to understand how important money management is.

Now…if I could just get off of long enough to really work on this myself…

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dine Out and Learn Geography

If you’re looking for a way to get your seventh grader interested in geography, (besides just playing some really cool geography games online, lol) then dining out might be the answer. Huh? How can food help at all with learning geography? Believe it or not, it did in our situation. Our oldest didn’t have much interest in geography at all. But he did love to try new foods, and when he started asking about where particular dishes came from, we knew what we had to do. From spaghetti to fried chicken, we’ve been exploring the world through food. It’s helped a lot with geography, but it’s also helped to introduce him to cultural studies too. And it’s broadened his palate at the same time!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Need Government Lessons? To City Hall!

We struggled with finding ways to teach our second and seventh graders about government (on any level). They think titles like “President” and “Governor” are cool, but they struggle with understanding just what responsibilities go along with those titles. While we could tell them about how the government works and let them explore online learning sites, nothing beats “hands-on” education. We contacted our local City Hall to find out if they would let our kids come visit and learn and, what do you know, they said yes! It was fun and educational (both for the kids and for us adults). It was pretty amazing how welcoming they were – judges, clerks, court officers – everyone. Next on our agenda is the state capitol – they have homeschool tours every year.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Digging Local History

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to explore historical sites on our travels. We took a trip to Charlotte and got down and dirty with some local history sites and even got to see a live archaeological dig, for example. You don’t have to go far afield to get into history, though. Some of our favorite spots are in our local area. You can find history almost anywhere – your courthouse, historic battlefields around your town or county and much more await you. We spend several days each month just learning what’s gone on within our own little area of the country and it’s always amazing what we haven’t learned yet.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why Hit National Parks?

No matter where you live in the US, chances are good that there are at least one or two national parks within easy traveling distance. We’ve chosen to make those the focus of many trips for our family, both the day-trip variety and longer excursions. We’ve found that national parks can be amazing places to let your kids explore nature and even the history of the nation – most parks put on educational programs throughout the year (whether you are homeschooling or roadschooling, perfect educational stop). You just need to plan ahead and see what’s on offer. Whether you like caves or trees, geology or wildlife, we’ve found it in national parks. Not to mention the fact that the kids really enjoy the trips.
Please share about any visits you and your family have made to some National Parks! (I could use a few new ideas, lol!)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Traveling? Hit Some Historic Sites!

One of the hardest subjects for a lot of kids to get into (our seventh grader, for instance) is history. He loves hearing about history, and has a genuine interest in discovering more…but just reading from a book can be dry and boring. However, there are a lot of ways that you can include history and even get your kids to really enjoy the subject. When we travel, we try to plan ahead and find out what historic sites there are in our destination, as well as along the way. We build in a little extra time during the trip so that we can hit those stops and let the kids get their hands “dirty” in history. We’re homeschoolers; we know to incorporate a little education in everything, don’t we?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Does Your Seventh Grader Really Need Cursive?

If you remember back when you were in school, chances are good that you recall learning cursive. Once you had “mastered” printing (does anyone every really master handwriting?), it was time to move on to cursive. This seems to be a dying art these days though. More and more public schools are cutting cursive from their curriculum to focus on things like typing. Is it important that your kids learn it? These days, it’s probably not that vital. They should know how to read it, but there is little reason for cursive to be a huge part of your homeschool curriculum unless you just want it to be.
So…how many homeschoolers out there still want it to be? :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Computer Time and Your 7th Grader

If you’re anything like we are, then technology has become a big part of your life. Computers seem almost inescapable today, especially if you homeschool and don’t use a traditional homeschool curriculum (traditional like a complete boxed program, or textbooks). Of course, letting your 7th grader have access to a computer opens up other things – like gaming, for instance. Chances are good that your student (like ours) is going to want to spend some time with online games. Minecraft, anyone? ;)

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this as long as you make sure the games he or she wants to play fit with your family’s morals and views. The real problem becomes how much time is wise? This can be pretty hard to determine, but we found that we needed to limit it to no more than an hour or so per day really. We use extra game time as a reward for doing well in studies, but keep “regular” play time to a minimum. If we didn’t, they would eat, sleep and breathe games, lol!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Homeschool and Standardized Tests

I hated standardized tests when I was school. I always did well on them, but I hated the pressure and the importance that was placed on them. No one cared if I actually learned anything, they just cared that I scored high enough (even if my correct answer was nothing more than a good guess).

When we started homeschooling, that was one thing I wanted to make sure I didn’t do…put SO much importance on testing. I wanted them to study to learn, not study to test. Retaining what they were taught, rather than cramming for a test then forgetting more than half of it right after the test was done. So whenever we have a test we need to do, it was just another lesson. No worries. No announcements that it was test day. No pressure.

Homeschool standardized tests are handled no differently around here. I hate that we have to do them, but the law requires it. Even so, they know it’s a test, but because we haven’t made tests such a big deal, they aren’t nervous or anxious when they start. They treat them as any other lesson (albeit a more boring lesson, lol) and they do their best.

If you are homeschooling family, how do you handle tests (standardized or otherwise)?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Too Early for a Cell Phone?

This is a question that I think every parent has on their minds. Everyone has one nowadays. Even though my children are homeschooled, their desire for a cell phone is no less than those of public school kids, lol.

I think the fact that they are homeschooled gives me a good reason to wait a little longer than parents of public school children. I can see a child, even an elementary aged child, having one in case they need to get a hold of their parents after school or something. Without my children being away from me all day, I just didn’t see a real need for them to have one.

That did change when my oldest (now 12) turned 10. We ended up getting him one because he was starting to go on overnight Scout camping trips and such without us. We wanted him to have a way to call us if he needed to, even if because he was a little homesick but didn’t want to say anything to anyone else.

Ultimately, we made the choice not because it was something cool that he wanted. We made the choice because I felt it was a safety net, for both he as well as for myself.

Do your kids already have cell phones, and if so, what made you decide to go ahead and get them one?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Gadgets and Technology

How old were your kids when the things on their birthday and holiday wish lists went from reasonably priced toys to gadgets and/or electronic that equals your monthly mortgage, or at the very least, a car payment?
It seems that every year, that age of “ooohhh, shiny!” gets younger and younger. My children are 12 and 7 and they already ask for things such as iPods, iPads and eReaders. Of course, just because they ask doesn’t mean they receive, lol. But it’s harder to buy other stuff for them when we know how badly they want those pricier items.
To be quite honest, I can justify many of the gadgets they ask for. I can justify MP3 players, as I am a huge fan of all kinds of music. I can justify tablets because they can do so much of their online homeschool curriculum stuff on them. I can justify eReaders because anything that helps to encourage and promote reading (because they want to, not because they have to!) is a plus in my book. And honestly…I can justify their “want” because I want them same things for myself! :)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Giving a Helping Hand

One of the many things I wish to instill into my children is that they should always be ready to help others in need; whether this is someone in our family, a friend or someone in our community.
While there are many benefits to homeschooling, the flexibility of our schedule so we can volunteer and help is a wonderful thing. We participate in community service projects with our Scouts; projects like a city clean up, meal delivery for the elderly and clothing collections for those that need them a couple of times a year. We also like to do things during the holidays with our homeschool group. We sing Christmas carols at local nursing homes, and we bring fruit and greeting cards for the residents there.
Some people help out by contributing financially, and that’s great. But I do want them to realize that writing a check, while beneficial, isn’t the only way to help someone out. Donating your time can just as appreciated, if not more so, by those in need.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Homeschooling Hobby…

I am a scrapbooking fiend. I also like to make my own greeting cards. Having that hobby has saved my sanity more times than I count, lol. Surprisingly, it came in handy for homeschooling projects and activities as well.

The boys (ages 12 and 7) have enjoyed working on scrap pages for my books, so I decided this year we would try to let them do their own scrapbooks. They started off working with some of their favorite photos from this year, but then decided they wanted to scrap about things they learned about.

I discovered that there is actually a homeschool method similar to that, called lapbooking. The boys spend a certain amount of time learning about a place/person/concept/etc., then they create these little mini-scrapbooks (or lapbooks) with artwork, photos, and stories; just anything they want to include in them.

Outside of the fact that are choosing what they are learning, and really enjoying having that control, they are getting in extra arts and crafts time too, lol. And when they are working on their new hobby, I can have some time with my old hobby. :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sports for Homeschoolers?

My oldest was only six when we started homeschooling. I was so consumed with making sure I had my footing when it came to the academic stuff, that I didn’t give much thought to the athletic side of things. He was playing soccer, but had only just started and he was still in that phase where it was just cool to roll around in the grass, lol.
Fast forward 7 years and he has played twice a year EVERY year. With this fall season just ending, he has 15 seasons under his belt. He’s very serious about it, and even though I am biased because he’s mine, he’s really very good. But next spring will be his last time with our local recreation department because they only go up to a certain age after that season he will be too old.
We have contacted the local school board to see if they would let him play at the middle school level (cause…you know…we do pay taxes even though he doesn’t attend their school) but they wouldn’t even consider the idea. We live in such a rural area that there isn’t a homeschool athletics association or anything. So we are facing signing him up with a traveling league, that will ultimately cost us a few hundred dollars a season (travel included).
What about you guys? Are your kids allowed to play with the local school system? Are you fortunate enough to have homeschool athletic association?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Free Resources

I don't know about you, but I sure do love to find something free. I tend to enjoy it a bit more if it didn't cost a whole lot. Well, here are a few things for you to enjoy... yes. a . few. free. things.... :)

I have found that there are so many good resources for homeschoolers on the web, that almost every time I sit down to find something in particular, I find ten in particular! I want to know what is good and what isn't. So,here are a few things that I thought I would share with you, that I know are great resources.

Well, here's your chance... take a gander... and it's all for free!

Easy Fun School - fun resources that might make things a bit easier
Homeschool News
Free Writing Resources
Carschooling - fun school things to do in the car
Learning Games for Kids - free educational resource
Home Hearts - a guide to homeschooling
Homeschool Central - advice for homeschoolers
Homeschool highlights - homeschool curriculum reviews and articles
Faith and a Full House - homeschoolers life and times - free online forum for homeschool parents
Unscramble Puzzles - word scramble puzzles for spelling practice and fun
Spelling City- they offer a free and premium paid version

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Technology in Education

Have you ever wondered what our future holds? Well, judging by the past, I would say that it hold more technological advances. We will probably see things that we could never imagine would come to pass. But, how does this apply to education? Truly it must apply, or we really cannot say that we are educating our children for the future. Without technology training how can we say our children are prepared to face their future?
Yes, we must give each child technological training. Education today must model real life application of technology. If not, we cannot truly be preparing them. I look at young people today and see kids who don't socialize - they social network. Kids that don't talk, they text. Children who have the world at their fingertips as they carry around their smartphones. It is unbelievable, but it seems as if this is our future. Wouldn't it be wise for homeschoolers to make sure that their children are well versed in technology and the application of it to life and the work force? Yes, true education prepares the whole person. Education includes reading writing arithmetic but also life skills. Technology is becoming such a part of our daily lives that it would be nearly be considered life skills. Make sure that as we educate, we don't forget preparation for the future.