Homeschooling

Handcarts list- science box

We live in pioneer country; this list is the result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on science and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

All levels-

  • A globe- seeing the earth as it appears as a whole, and learning to locate places on it, is an interesting and vital ability.
  • An atlas- closer study of the various places on the globe requires a copy of maps that are larger than a globe would allow.  Look for an atlas that has different maps containing geographical and political information.
  • A book of outline maps, both blank and labeled, for labeling and review.
  • Nature notebook, field guides, and pencils or watercolors (one per student)- Scientific study requires the ability to observe, focus, and think about the world around us.  A nature notebook can facilitate that skill and give you and your children a place to record thoughts, pictures, and any other information related to your science study.  Use the field guides as you go out into the world around you to record the common and Latin names of those things you sketch.  We use our nature notebooks as our science notebooks; we do not have a separate one for textbook/formal study.

Discovery level-

  • DK Publishing has multiple series of books which young children love.  Eyewitness Books, Why….?, and Look Inside are just a few.
  • Science picture books- some of our favorites include H. A. Rey’s books on the constellations, books published by Golden Book on various life science topics (Nature Around the Year, Wonders of Nature, etc.), Gail Gibbons has a series of books on a variety of science fields of study.  Ask your librarian, book store clerk, or other homeschool moms what they love.  There are so many great reads for young children in this genre!
  • Janice Van Cleave has a great series of experiment books for young children that are simple to follow, well thought out, and fun to do.
  • File folder games by CarsonDellosa- fun and effective ways to reinforce vocabulary and concepts.

Late discovery and analysis level-

  • Reader’s Digest How……..Works series- this is not a textbook series.  Each book covers a different discipline of science and is filled with pictures, basic definitions and diagrams, and experiments that reinforce the concept being studied.   These books do not contain enough detailed information to constitute a high school level text, but are an interesting and inviting introduction to the various branches of science.
  • Kids Learn America by Gordon and Snow- We used this book to teach the states and capitols.  There is a USA map to color, as well as regional maps, trivia about each state, and a little something to help you remember the capitol.
  • DK Science Encyclopedia- Written primarily in two-page spreads, this book covers most of the scientific disciplines, i.e. chemistry, physics, biology, earth science, etc.  Each spread provides information on a specific area within those disciplines.  Students gain basic information, and can learn to take notes, outline, as well as creating a framework for science study.  When used in conjunction with the Reader’s Digest series, it allows for comprehensive, in-depth study for the middle/upper grades.
  • Exploring Our World published by the National Geographic Society- This book is an encyclopedic list of geographical terms and photos, maps, and cross-referencing makes geographical studies easy and interesting.  A great reference book!

Application level-

  • High School texts by Apologia, RonJon Publishing, or another homeschool supplier can be effective and clear for high school-level study with a creationist worldview.  (I have read some reviews expressing concerns about misinformation in the science used.  If your children are headed for a traditional university, look for a text written by a more secular company.)  Use in conjunction with hands-on kits for all branches of science. (Timberdoodle is my favorite supplier for anything hands-on.)  To spend less money, or if you are looking for a scientific approach closer to the mainstream, look for second-hand books in you town or on the net.  I used the DK Science Encyclopedia/Reader’s Digest Series and was happy with the result, but I know some parents feel more comfortable with a text for high school.
  • If you choose to send your children to the local high school for science, ask their teenage friends who take classes there.  Which courses are interesting?  Is there time in the lab?  Are the teachers interesting and involved?  I have found my kids’ friends to be honest-to-a-fault and much more helpful than most parents.
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Home and Family

Memorial Day

Today America celebrates Memorial Day.   American’s generally think of today as a day for barbeques, camping, and many consider it the unofficial beginning of summer.  While it may be all of those things, it is so much more.  This holiday gives us a wonderful opportunity to remember those who have given the “last full measure of devotion” so that we can enjoy living in a free land.  In our home, we also express gratitude for those who still serve.

Not sure where to start?  Here are some ideas:

  • Fly the flag.
  • Memorize the National Anthem.
  • Learn the anthems for the various branches of the military.
  • Listen to marches composed by John Philip Sousa.  If possible, attend a performance where military pieces are being played.
  • Locate a local memorial for those who have served and take flowers or a wreath to place beside it.
  • Attend a parade.
  • Know a veteran or someone currently serving in the military?  Make them cookies, a nice meal, or thank you card.
  • Some municipalities have programs in the morning or at sunset to mark Memorial Day or to retire old flags.  Attend as a family.
  • Read some poems or stories about those who have served.  The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, O Captain, My Captain, or Nathan Hale are just a few examples.

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day and enjoy time together as a family!

Homeschooling

Handcart list- math box

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on mathematics and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • a good math course with objects to use as manipulatives  (we love Math U See for visual and kinesthetic learners if you have the money).
  • Saxon Math is also good, and can often be found second-hand.
  • Manipulatives- young learners need to learn that “5” is the symbol for a group of five things.  One… two… three… four… five.  Teaching math in the abstract is not only not helpful, it can create a host of challenges when math becomes more difficult and they need to understand how the “real world” relates to their math assignment.
  • Family Math and Family Math for Young Children published by the Lawrence Hall of Science.  These books contain learning games and activities which encourage mathematical thinking and exploration.  We loved to take one day a week of our studies for non-traditional math time.  These books provide LOTS of ideas!
  • Picture books- many authors including Cindy Neuschwander and David M Schwartz have written entertaining books which explore and play with a whole host of mathematical concepts.  Illustrators Stephen Kellogg and Phyllis Hornung are also names for which to look.  There are also great picture books which introduce mathematicians and math history such as The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kevin Hawkes.

Analysis and Application level-

  • A good math course-Even if your students are not planning on a career where math is heavily involved, the discipline and logic required for algebra, geometry, and trigonometry is beneficial.
  • How Math Works  published by Reader’s Digest- This book deals with topics not often covered in standard math books including statistics, measurement, shapes, and some logic.  (Could be used for an advanced late discovery learner who loves math.)
  • A tutor (barter is often a good option for this if money is tight), or enrolling your youth in a math class at the local school is recommended if you are not fully comfortable with upper level math.  Do not allow the subject matter to be so intimidating (to Mom) that your youth fail to continue in their studies!  (And yes, you could benefit from learning it too, but you have a family to raise, a house to keep, and other things that require your attention.  If you have time– great.  If not, that’s okay.)
Home and Family

Life’s little surprises

Last evening we had a bread baking class in our home.  Our new neighbor and her teen-aged daughter came over and we made bread, meal-in-one wraps, and cinnamon rolls together.  (Recipes for basic breads posted on 2/21/2013.)   Then we ate results of our labors in a shared meal.  While the cooking was fun and the food was seriously tasty,  my favorite bits were the unexpected moments.  Having a young woman really talk to me about life, school, and goals is something which hasn’t happened since my children grew up and left home.  Watching her mother’s face as she realized how much money she can save as she cooks from scratch was such fun; seeing how much her father enjoyed the food was even better.  (We’ll be cooking more together as school gets out for the summer.  I’m looking forward to that!)

Other unexpected events included our three-year-old grandson playing with their son, and keeping him busy.  Our five-year-old grandson who struggles with focus spending 40 minutes on a book of word finds;  I was blown away.  Even the 16 month-old twins were enjoying the meal and visiting.  It was surprisingly relaxing and we have a new family on the block who will be a tremendous boon to the neighborhood.  Who knows?  We may have just gained a baby-sitter, and willing hands for the garden.

The entire experience reminded me why we live in communities.  We are here to serve, share, and find joy in each other!  While I am not an extrovert by nature, I still feel gratitude when a sweet experience like this one happens.

May you have a great day filled with a pleasant surprise or two!

Homeschooling

Handcart list- language arts box

We live in pioneer country; this list is a result of a question posed to me by a friend.  “What books would you load into a handcart and push to Missouri if need be?”  While the list is a bit long for that actual event, it does represent the items without which I would feel lost as I teach.  This list contains my thoughts on why each item is on the list, and how I use them.  Remember each resource is a favorite because it lends itself to being used in different ways for different learners. This list focuses on language arts and various ways to expand your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery level-

  • McGuffey’s Readers (Revised Edition, set of seven books)- the Primer begins with the alphabet and very basic beginning reading.  The books progress through to the Sixth Reader, which is a great text for teaching vocabulary, comprehension, elocution, and vocal reading on a high school level.  I have used the books as readers,  a dictation source,  presentation pieces, and a resource for excerpts to incorporate into our history study.
  • McGuffey’s Speller- The companion to the McGuffey Readers, this book covers spelling lists beginning with basic reading/spelling words through vocabulary for high school learners.  I don’t have my students study every word on every list.  Some are archaic, and unnecessary; others are already known by the students, and can be skipped.  The lists in the back of the book contains foreign words and words that are not used every day.  These lists are some of my favorites.  Look them up in a dictionary, and you can have a vocabulary list for Mom for that week!
  • Phonics rule flash cards- the English language is much more phonetic than most people think.  Over 90% of the words we use follow phonics rules, and if your children are taught  the sounds of each letter and the rules that govern that letter, reading and writing will be so much simpler.  Phonogram cards should have both the sounds for the individual letters and the rules for them, as well as the sounds and rules for the most common blends i.e. “ea”, “th”, “ough”, etc.
  • Reading phone- two elbows, and one straight 3 inch piece of PVC makes one of the handiest reading/elocution tools ever!  Put them together so they look like a phone receiver and talk into it.  If your young one is struggling to move from decoding to fluency, or your teen needs help cleaning up the “um”, “like”, and “you know” from there public speaking pieces, have them speak into it as they talk.  They will be able to hear themselves clearly; it will make smoothing things out much easier.  My daughter even discovered that having her son use it on the days when he can’t seem to “quiet down” works wonders.  He can hear how loud he actually is and is able to correct it.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.  Use these with older discovery learners.
  • Mad-Libs- I love these priceless, silly gems in tablet form.  You can find them at book stores, second-hand, or on the web.  Help your children learn the proper terms for the various parts of speech as you giggle your way through these fill-in stories.  I am still giving them as gifts to my adult children.  They are just fun.
  • Lots of paper (lined and unlined), pencils, erasers, crayons- having the tools for writing, creating, and experimenting with letters and words encourages growth;  not having them can prove to be frustrating to Moms and budding authors.  Doesn’t look good?  No problem.  Toss it, and start over.
  • Quality picture books- look for well-constructed phrases, clear pictures, and text that is fun to read.  Illustrations can be watercolor, photographs, pencil drawings, or any other media.  Be aware of harsh, creepy, or distasteful pictures, or texts that are mindless, dark, or introduce unsavory topics.

Analysis level-

  • 1828 Webster’s Dictionary- the ORIGINAL American Dictionary.  Definitions change with time and usage.  In order to understand what was meant in centuries’ old documents, you need a dictionary that defines words the way they were defined when used.  Make use of it when studying early European or American documents/speeches, or even your scriptures.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Solid literature- There is so much great literature out there.  From board books to the classic books for adult reading, there is no way to read it all.  Don’t even try.  Not everyone will fall in love with the same book, or author, or genre; that is as it should be.  Dabble a bit, and find the ones that you love, just make sure that it is good reading, not twaddle.   Does it connect with you on an emotional level?  Does it teach you something?  Does it have real words, complex sentences, and require thought?  Then enjoy!  Leave the dumbed-down, dark, and junky books alone.  Don’t waste your time.  Great reads are out there!
  • Lit. cube- I have two.  One for discovery learners.  One for older learners.  Using them can encourage discussion about the books you are reading, and can take the fear out of writing about them.  (See post dated 4/12/2013 on Lit. Cubes for full instruction.)

Application level-

  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White- This small book will help keep your writing clean, clear, and readable.  It covers the fundamentals of writing better than anything else I have found.
  • Shurley Grammar Kits- learning to parse and diagram the English language is the most effective way to lay a foundation for writing and reading.
  • Classic literature- See solid literature above.
Homeschooling

Science study

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

                                                                                    Albert Einstein

The study of science can be one of the most fascinating parts of your school year.  Teacher and students alike learn discipline, reasoning, observation, and love for God as we study the world around us.

Most science text-books are dry, void of reference to a Creator, and limiting to the student.  Rather than depending on them, get your hands dirty.  Dissect, draw, experiment, and experience what our world has to offer. Do not get between the child and discovery. There are wonderful DVDs available that cover a wide range of subjects.  Watch with your children in order to aid discussion. Using a sketch book for science recording allows for sketches, thoughts, graphs, charts,  tables, and experiments to be contained in one book.  Study each discipline separately.  Human anatomy, botany, astronomy, chemistry, etc. are easiest to understand when studied systematically.  Study the lives of famous scientists. Learn what led up to their discoveries, and the thought-processes they used.  Encourage your students to experiment and invent. You can find science kits, books, stories, and experiment ideas at the library, second-hand stores, on the internet and at the mall.  Give kits as gifts for special events, or request them from grandparents.  If you are going to make the investment, spend money on well-made equipment. Do not buy the cheapest microscope or telescope, for example.  They may not serve you very well. Do your homework before you purchase!

If you study history on a four-year rotation, you can integrate science as a part of those studies.  The rotation may then look something like this: Ancient world- Life Science, Medieval and Renaissance- Earth Science and Astronomy, Early Modern- Chemistry, Late Modern- Physics.  Perhaps summers could be used for computer science, electronics, or anything else on which you want to spend extra time.   (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-28/2013.)

Discovery Level

Memorize facts, figures, tables, vocabulary, etc.

Read biographies, literary science, etc.

Spend time in the kitchen experiencing the wonders of food interaction.  Learn safety and how to improvise.

Keep a nature notebook.

Learn about the world by experiencing it.  Go for nature walks.  Ask questions.  Try new things.  Hands-on activities are a great way to learn, and are often easier to remember.

Organize collections and learn to label and classify.  Try using Latin classification for the serious scholar.

Orderliness and focus are important skills for any scientist.  Encourage these at every opportunity.

Analysis level

Study and outline science texts.

Read and write reports. (Include data from experiments performed or observations from the world around them.)

Biography reading will enhance their study of both history and science.

Put science history dates on a time line; watch for the effects of scientific discovery on history in general.

Perform experiments, go on nature walks, ask questions, etc.

Keep a nature notebook.

Application level

Read biographies of great scientists as you study what was happening in the world around them.  Look at the ways science, history, and literature play off each other and affect the world as a whole.

Take Honors level classes at the local high school or enroll in college courses.

Perform experiments, dissect, investigate.

Learn and utilize the laws and principles of scientific study.

Record experiences in their nature notebook.

Some of my favorite books for science study

How __________ Works  published by Reader’s Digest

Eyewitness Books published by DK Publishing

Time/Life Discoveries  series

Reader’s Digest Pathfinder’s series

Wild Days by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe

Usborne science books

The DK Science Encyclopedia

Field guides published by Golden or the National Audubon Society

There are great books in the non-fiction section of the library to take home and explore.