Homeschooling

Handcart list- odds and ends

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 items not listed anywhere else which I used as part of the backbone of my children’s studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-282013.)

Discovery level-

  • One Smart Cookie and Cookies:Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Jane Dyer and Brooke Dyer.  These books are wonderful introductions to terms and ideas for character education discussion.  We would read 2-4 pages at a time and then talk about the traits listed, how to develop them, and situations where they are used.  Cute illustrations.  Great read!
  • Manners books by Munro Leaf-  This series of 5 books originally printed in the 1950’s uses simple text, quirky illustrations, and straight-forward language to teach the rules of civility to children.  Another book to read in snippets and discuss.

Analysis level-

  • Vocabulary From Classical Roots by Nancy Flowers and Norma Fifer- I used this series to teach Greek and Latin roots to my children.  We would work through a lesson or two, make a 3×5 card for each root taught, and then drill the cards before moving on to the next lesson.  (As you create cards, add them to the pile you have already learned; drill all of them.)  The card pile got taller and my children learned became more and more comfortable with each root and its meaning.   As you complete the series, you will have learned hundreds of root words.  Great for vocabulary development and comprehension.

I am sure this list will be ever-expanding as I discover new resources.  I am always on the look-out for quality, user-friendly curriculum.  Sometimes what I find helps me love what I already have even more; sometimes I fall in love with something I had never seen before.  Who knows what wonderful things I will find next.

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Homeschooling

Handcart list- critical thinking 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 critical thinking and various ways to include it in your studies.  (If you are unfamiliar with the learning levels, please refer to my blogs dated 2/26-282013.)

Discovery level-

  • Household cleaning/sorting items to learn order, pattern, and classification.  Whether your young children are helping you put away their toys or scrub the bathroom, they will be learning how to create order and follow through on a multi-step process.  Consistency and effort are both requirements of thinking with clarity and purpose.  (Who knew having a clean bathroom or loaded dishwasher had so many benefits?)
  • Facts and vocabulary dealing with the world around them.  Without clear and correct information and verbiage, children cannot learn to draw valid conclusions and articulate them.  Give them data with which to work.
  • Word games i.e. Mad-libs, word searches,  crosswords- Early exposure to the fun side of language allows children to experiment with words and enjoy playing with them.  Vocabulary is more easily expanded when learning new word is enjoyable.
  • Math games i.e. tangrams, pentominoes, etc.- Visual and spacial skills are developed as children examine parts of the whole.  Learning to visualize how things go together to create an object helps with science and math studies, and can make the wonders of our Creator even more amazing.
  • Puzzles- Spacial skills again.  And developing the habit of close examination.
  • Picture books without words- When children have the opportunity to tell the story in their own words, they learn to find the words they need.  Watching the pictures closely can encourage them to express not just plot, but also emotional content, and can give them the opportunity to discern positive and negative behaviors.  Besides, they’re just good fun!
  • ThinkFun and Smart Games products- We have a number of critical thinking activities from these two companies.  They make great gifts, and it is not uncommon for the adults in the house to want to “help” the children work through them.  I find them from Timberdoodle and on amazon.com.  They are also sold by toys stores and educational supply companies.

Analysis level-

  • Conversation that requires thought and clarity.  Teach your children to speak clearly and articulately.  One of the most effective tools for critical thinking is exposure to contrasting points of view followed by discussion of the merits of each argument.  While this may not be helpful during the discovery phase, it becomes vital as youth grow and prepare for adulthood.
  • Logic problems- sometimes called quizzles or mind benders.  I learned to love these puzzles-on-a-grid as a child.  You can find them for every learning level from The Critical Thinking Company.  If you have an advanced or gifted learner, I would begin them in mid-late discovery level.  Others will do better waiting until they’re 10-12 or so.  Start slowly.  They require inference skills which have to be nurtured.  But be warned.  They can be addictive!
  • Crossword, sudoku, and other brain teasers- Much critical thinking ability is developed through looking at the world in different ways.  That requires thought and concentration.  Brain teaser puzzles help keep us mentally nimble.  These games are great to introduce when children are young, but have great impact as they enter the teen years.
  • Editorial section of the newspaper- Current events can be disturbing, but having only partial information makes things worse.  Teaching your older children what is happening, and helping them learn to think through the challenges of the modern world can allow them to process what is happening.  We read editorials (those from syndicated columnists and those from the local populace)  each morning as part of group time and then dissected them.  Do you agree or disagree? What is the premise of the article?  Is there a flaw or uninformed statement?  What words are the most persuasive?  The most inflammatory? Makes for some focused, in-depth discussion.  We also love editorial cartoons!
  • Games which encourage multi-step and/or logical thinking (ThinkFun and other companies) keep learning fun and low-key.  Rush Hour, Cool Moves, Q-Bitz, Labyrinth and other such games are favorites for our family.  There are always new fun things to find.  Have fun!

Application level-

  • Introductory Logic published by Mars Hill Press- Written from a traditional Christian perspective, this course is well-thought-out and teaches the basics of formal logic.  It will make you think! Purchase both the student and teacher texts.
  • Anything in the analysis level list- just keep them thinking!

For more ideas on critical thinking, see my blog post on April 17, 2013.

Homeschooling

Handcart list- fine arts

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 fine 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-

  • Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh- tell the stories in this book as you listen to the music of each of the twenty composers about whom Kavanaugh writes.   The history of each is written in a style that makes a great read-aloud book.  No need to research, and compile.  He has done it for you.
  • Recordings of a variety of musical genres.  One good starting point can be Beethoven’s Wig volumes 1,2, and 3.  Beethoven’s Wig is a fun, easy introduction to classical music.  Each composition is on the cds twice, once with silly lyrics and once as it was meant to be played.  Love them!
  • Copies of visual art pieces.  Find calendars or other inexpensive resources for prints with the work of famous artists.  Dover Publishing has prints in 3×5 card form for art study.  The book Mommy, It’s A Renoir!  has activities to teach art appreciation to young people.
  • An art anthology (or two) with pieces of classic and religious art- You can study time periods, or individual artists; but make art study part of the exposure you give your children.   Lift their sights as they see the vast array of art created by gifted, inspired individuals.  (Classic art study is a good introduction to the ideas of celebrating the beauty of the  human form vs. form for arousal’s sake.  There is a difference.)
  • Various art media for experimentation-crayons, chalk, clay, pencils, paints.  There are so many great, messy ways to experience creating your own masterpiece.  Let them get in there and try a variety of methods.  They may well surprise you!  Try your hand at it too.  Make it family experience.

Analysis and Application levels-

  • Experience with playing a musical instrument- This can help with brain development, self-image, focus, and self-discipline.  Don’t set things in concrete for them.  Let them dabble a bit if they need.  Piano, strings, brass, whatever calls to them.  Give it a year or two.  Some will continue.  Some won’t.  That’s okay too.  The experience may teach them that serious musical study isn’t for them, or it may begin a love that lasts through their lifetime.
  • Continue with experience through various art media.  Sculpting, whittling, and other forms which require the use of sharp implements are better suited for these stages.  If your child is interested, consider art classes through Community Education or the local school.
  • Attend community events which focus on the fine arts.  Museums, concerts, and other venues can allow for and expanded appreciation for the creative process.
Finances, Homeschooling

Differences in curriculum

Confession: I am homeschool catalog junkie.  As a mom, I created our curriculum each year.  With very limited funds, we used what I could find second-hand or on major markdown, create myself, borrow from the library, and request from Grandma and Grandpa as gifts.  No apologies for what we did.  It worked well.  All my children went to college.  They were offered multiple scholarships, and both daughters graduated with honors.  (My sons have not completed their university educations, but are both at the top of their class and thriving!)  Each of them are contributing adults in the communities in which they live.  I wouldn’t change them for the world!

Now they are beginning their own families, and I am the Grandma.  More catalogs come in the mail than when my children were younger; there are so many more choices now.  I love it!  The games, curriculum options, and diversity of ideas is exciting!  As I watch my grandchildren grow, and work with other moms on curriculum planning, I am discovering these things all over again!  One reality I find most interesting and fascinating to explore is each child needs different things, and any budget can be effective with proper planning and focus.  There is no single perfect curriculum which is ideal for everyone.

Here is a sample of what I have learned.  In our home, we have spelling curriculum from Christian Liberty Press, Rod and Staff Publishers, and a copy of McGuffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book.  While all three are not strictly necessary, there are strengths for each one.  I used the McGuffey…Speller for my children.  It covered K-12, cost me $10, and was effective.  The other two series we have acquired for my grandsons.  Some copies were found second-hand; some we purchased new. I love the Christian Liberty Press books for J, my second grandson who is 5.  He is a dually-exceptional learner and does extremely well with consistent formats and review in logical steps.  Rod and Staff is what the 7 year-old is using.  He is highly gifted and loves that handwriting practice (currently cursive), critical thinking, and spelling are combined in one lesson.  We skip the minimal review sections, test orally, and move on to the next lesson as soon as he is ready.  He is currently in book 3, but will be moving into book 4 shortly.  If we were simply testing his spelling ability he would be in book 5, but because each lesson requires he understand and be able to use each word properly, and encourages a bit of thought, we backed up a bit.

As I expand the companies with which I am familiar, the need to understand how your children learn, and to have a budget seems more and more crucial.  If you have the need and/or desire, you can create your own plan for minimal expense and give your children the chance to soar.  If you are not comfortable creating your own plan, you can look into the myriad of options out there to meet the needs of your child.  There are strengths, weaknesses, and biases in each written curriculum.  World-views differ.  Some focus on traditional learners, while others are better suited for advanced and gifted learners who tend to require less practice, more information, and are able to infer connections differently than their peers.  Many are book and seat-work based, or you can find one which leans heavily on computer-use, or is focused on tactile learning.  If you hunt, the selections are seemingly endless.

The method of education you choose does not need to be dictated by your pocketbook.  Classical education supplies can be purchased in curriculum sets for hundreds of dollars or you can gather your own for much less.   Whether you lean towards child-led learning, Charlotte Mason, or some other method, you can teach for pennies or spend a ton on curriculum and fun stuff.  It is more important that you understand how your children learn, what their gifts are, and purchase (or create) from there.  Teaching your own just gets more and more exciting as time goes by!

My favorite catalogs are Timberdoodle, Veritas Press, Dover Publishing, and Critical Thinking Company.  What are yours?

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.
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, Homemaking, Homeschooling

Pinterest. Who knew?

I’m fairly new to the whole social media scene.  (I’m on Facebook, but mainly to keep up with family and friends we don’t see often.  I don’t have hundreds of friends;  that’s not why I have a page.)  I’ve heard about Pinterest here and there but never decided to check it out until everyone in our Classical Education group started talking about the resources and ideas they were finding.  So I checked it out. I think I’m hooked.  Really hooked.

(To those of you already on Pinterest, none of this will be a revelation.)  I have found great ideas for my home, emergency preparedness, and some yummy-looking recipes!  There are boards for thrift, organization, parenting, gardening, humor- and the list goes on!  Then I started a search for homeschooling ideas and information.  Oh my.  I could get lost in there for days!

There are inspirational quotes for copy work and penmanship.  Free file folder games, coloring pages, and ideas for games to make for a myriad of academic subjects.  I found new resources for both Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches- the two I use the most.   You could plan a great unit study utilizing ideas and resources listed.  All-in-all, there is information, encouragement, and a bit of fun available.

If I seem to disappear for a few days, feel free to join me.  I’ll be lost somewhere on Pinterest!