Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FREE curriculum choices

I really do think great curriculum is worth paying for BUT there are times when budgets are tight and you need something to teach a specific subject or even to give extra practice on a subject.

This list is posted and updated by a fellow homeschooling mom and it is a great resource. I love that it is broken down by categories and even if you don't homeschool your kids there are great resources for after school learing or projects.

Free Curriculum

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Resources and Curriculum

When you begin to look for homeschool materials it can be overwhelming. There are lots of choices. One of the best resource books is Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks for Homeschooling.  She really breaks down learning and teaching styles and then pairs the best resources for each style. 

For more info on the Charlotte Mason philosophy, as well as curriculum and book lists Simply Charlotte Mason is a great resource.  For a free Charlotte Mason Curriculum check out Ambleside Online.  Both of these sites have great reading lists for all ages/grades that are free to access.

We have used several different curriculum choices since we started homeschooling in 2005.  They all have different strengths but are all great choices for different reasons.  We started with Sonlight which may be one of the best known Christian curriculum choices.    We also used Winterpromise and loved their Animal Worlds program.   We actually still read some of the books from this program.  This past year we read some of the books from their Children Around the World program as we studied world cultures.  As I blogged at the first of the year we used My Father's World Exploring Country and Cultures this year for a year of world geography, missions and world cultures.  It has been a fun year and it has been great to learn more about the cultures many of our families and friends are serving.  This year brings us some more changes.  As I started researching different curriculum I knew I wanted to do something that would start a four year rotation of history based on The Well Trained Mind.  We already use many of the resources from Peace Hill Press and love them.  As I researched I knew that Winterpromise wasn't the way I wanted to go.  I really like their choices but haven't been pleased with their Instructor Guides.  I Like My Father's World and love their focus on the Bible but wanted something a little different.  I began to read and research Tapestry of Grace.  I like their Biblical focus.  I liked the four year history rotation.  I like that the boys are studying the same thing but on their own level.  I really like that it incorporates writing into the year.  I also like the independence it promotes in older students.  Then a friend offered to let me borrow her year one and that cinched the deal for me.  I am in the planning stages and am looking forward to seeing how this works for us this year.

Friday, July 23, 2010

147 millions reasons to say yes to God

Do you know how many orphans there are in the world?  There are an estimated 147 million .  Do you know how many Christian families it would take from your church to solve the orphan problem in America?  The statistics state that if one family in every four churches would adopt in America it would solve the orphan issue in America. 

"Saying Yes to God" is the subtitle on Kay Warren's blog/website. Kay Warren and her comments are the catalyst for the journey we are on. In this article, Kay says "Not everyone should adopt, but more should than do. Every family should at least ask the question, 'God, do you want our family to foster or adopt a child?' How do you know the answer unless you’ve asked the question?" OUCH!

When Tim read this it impacted him greatly. We had discussed adoption early in our relationship but put it away once we had children. God has blessed our lives richly with our boys. We began to pray. We contacted YWAM about adopting through their program in Ethiopia. We got an email back explaining that they weren't accepting applications at the time. I breathed a small sigh of relief as I knew this would give me a little more time to process this decision. But as the days went by and I began to read more and more, God began to do a work in my life. I couldn't help but see that this was more than just a decision it was a question of obedience.

A couple of weeks ago we got an email from Becky at YWAM Ethiopia that they were accepting applications. Last week on the day before my 40th birthday I called and started the application process with YWAM Ethiopia. Timbo announced on facebook that we were beginning this process. The response we have gotten has been as varied as our friendships. Most have been supportive but a few have been downright hostile.

I am not going to try to convince anyone that our decision is the correct one. All I can say is that this is what God has asked us to do. I can't answer the question for anyone else but I know that when we asked the question the answer was loud and clear. God has broken our hearts over the plight of orphans.  God has specifically put in our heart the desire and love for a child that we haven't met.  If someone disagrees with us I hope they will take it to God and let him work it out. ;-) 

We have found that we have 147 million reason to say yes to God.  Hopefully soon that will be 147 million minus one.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

10 reasons I love 40

Wow! I am 40 years old today and I am loving it!

1. I am more content.

2. I have four wonderful boys.

3. Being 40 means I have been married for almost 20 years to the awesome Timbo.

4. I am learning to accept the gray hair I have.

5. I am still younger than my brother. :-)

6. If our future follows our past then we will live in another 10 states in the next 20 years. I like moving.

7. I have an awesome accountability partner.

8. I can actually appreciate being more mature than I was at 20, 30 or even 39.

9. I actually remember when Al Gore created the Internet and I appreciate him doing so.

10. God has been gracious to me and I realize that more and more every day.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Preschool Fun

We have had a lot of fun this year using resources from Tot School.  I posted here with photos of our favorite tot book.  I haven't actually made any more books because they were too much work for me not easy for W to use.  But there are some other ideas we have used.  Here are how we used some of the games from Making Learning Fun to use with the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  W also loves to play with his aquadoodle, blocks from Math U See and the wooden letter pieces from Handwriting Without Tears.

All of these things plus lots of books have made for a fun preschool year.  I am hoping to incorporate Letter of the Week this next year.  I have all the lessons laid out in lesson plans for the year and I think it will be a fun year and will give us lots of ideas of things for W to do while the boys are doing school.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

First Grade, Part 2 in my Curriculum Choice Series

This post is pretty easy to write since we will be starting first grade with J in the fall.

Here is my list of what I plan to use.

Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading

Explode the Code

First Language Lessons

Italic Handwriting

Story of the World

Writing Aids

Classic Life Science

Math U See

We have used some of this before OPG and ETC are both old favorites.  We have used MUS from the beginning for math and love the program.  This is our first year using Classic Life Science.  I chose it for the other boys and because it is free it will be nice to see how this program works for all of them.  We will use Writing Aids and SOTW along with Tapestry of Grace.  This is our first year using TOG and I have a feeling there will be a learning curve but I am excited about it. 

Again there are lots of different options for homeschooling.  We lean toward a classic/Charlotte Mason model and my choices reflect that direction. 

Next time I will post some of the things we use for preschool aka keeping W entertained. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Homeschooling Kindergarten and First Grade, part 1

For anyone who reads my blog you know that it is a mishmash of things that are going on in my life some things on church planting, personal devotionals and revelations, some home making and some homeschooling.

In the past year, I have had several people ask me about homeschooling from the general of "How do you start?" to the more specific with curriculum recommendations.

I really am passionate about homeschooling.  I feel strongly that it is what God has called our family to at this season of our life.  I realize that it may not always be this way and reserve the right to change our focus if we feel like God asks us to but right now we love it.  In the fall we will start our 6th year of homeschooling.  I have done kindergarten three times and have come to love the simplicity of the age and their thirst for knowledge.  This year several friends/acquaintances have asked specifically about kindergarten and 1st grade curriculum choices. 

First, there are a literal ton of resources on the web and in print for homeschoolers.  I realize that my choices are not necessarily the best choices for everyone  but I feel confident recommending these to anyone who wants to homeschool kindergarten, I think the best thing you can do is read, read and read some more.  I firmly believe that a child that learns to read and enjoy books will be able to accomplish anything they want to do.

For reading I highly recommend The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  It is a wonderful stand alone phonics/reading program.  We have used this program with three boys and they are all wonderful readers at their own level.  For more reinforcement we use Explode the Code workbooks.  There is a new online version that I am tempted by but so far we have stuck with the workbooks.  These are inexpensive workbooks.  They don't line up exactly with OPG but we haven't had any problem using them.

I have started all the boys using Handwriting without Tears which is a very good program but I don't love the way their handwriting looks.  So I have been switching over to Italic and J will switch to Italic in first grade.  I will start W in Italic and skip HWTHWT is a great program if you have a reluctant writer or one that struggles with correct penmanship.  My problem with it was purely cosmetic.  I will have to say that after almost two years of Italic with G that his handwriting has improved by leaps and bounds. 

Math U See is a home run for elementary math especially if you struggle to explain first grade math concepts to your six year old are not confident teaching math.  We use the DVDs as teaching time.  The boys watch their lesson (usually anywhere from 5-10 minutes) then I go over their worksheets and explain any instructions and they do their work.  If there is something they don't understand I pull out the manipulative's (wonderful Lego like blocks) and we work through the problem together.  Great program developed by a homeschool dad who is also a math teacher.

For science/geography in kindergarten I used a lot of resources recommend by Winterpromise in their Animal World series.  We loved the DK Animal Encyclopedia and also all the books in the One Small Square series which teaches geography and also science.  Again I feel like the ability to be relaxed and read a lot at this age is such a benefit.

I know some people want a box set of curriculum and there are several out there.

One that is free on the net and which I have pulled lots of resources from is Letter of the Week.  Katrina Lybbert has put together a wonderful set of curriculum for teaching preschoolers and early elementary children.  She is developing a science and country curriculum that looks just as fabulous as her original work and the best thing is that she shares her work freely.  Most of the books she recommends can be found in the library or you can easily find substitutes.

to be continued on another day...

Monday, July 12, 2010


I remember when I was little during the summer I spent a lot of time at camps and visiting my grandparents. I enjoyed the care free life during the summer and since I am an extrovert my heart was mostly content to be out and about around people. Every summer it seemed at some point I would reach a point where I would get homesick. I was having fun but I missed home. I missed being around my mom and dad. I was homesick.

As I became a teenager I didn't suffer from homesickness as much. I realized that the time during summer was short and tried to enjoy every day of it.

Now as an adult I am struggling with homesickness again. I don't long for my parents home even though I miss seeing them and love them dearly. I don't even long for the lazy days of summer as a child. I am homesick for my heavenly home.

Funny how you can long for something you have never experienced. I long for the days in heaven when there will be no more tears and no more sadness.

This wave of homesickness hasn't come out of the blue. As we have watched close friends struggle with the loss of a parent. I long for them to be reunited with those loved ones.

We have friends who are struggling with family issues. I long for them to be home and at rest.

We have friends who are dealing with difficult marriage issues. I long for them to be at home and peace.

We have friends that are just struggling and my heart aches for them. I long for home so that these struggles and trials will be over.

I am homesick for myself. I want to hold my baby. I want to see my family. I want to worship the holiness of God with no sin to mar the experience. I want to be made whole and complete. I long for Him to finish the work that he has started in my soul.

Oh, I long for home. I long for the peace and rest for my friends, my family and myself. I long for home...

Filing system

Over at Well Trained Mind Forums there was discussion about the use of a weekly filing system for all your school work.  I was intrigued by the idea and I love any reason to organize anything so I read and read some more and then I decided that this was something that would help me us stay on track this next year.  I already had a box and tons of file folders so I grabbed some markers and all our school work and went to work. 

This next year we are going to be using Tapestry of Grace for our history/literature/geography/writing and TOG is broken down into four units of nine weeks each.  There are roughly nine weeks of summer until we start our fall session, so I put together a summer session and then four sessions for TOG starting in the fall.

I also used colored folders for each of the boys individual work.  So they each have a set of ten folders.  One is a general folder with their names, then other nine are numbered and used each week.  Right now I am pulling out one weekly master folder which holds any work that we do together and then each boys weekly folder and keeping it in the basket by my chair.

This is my file box.  I chose not to use hanging files because I figured that I wouldn't need them at this point.  You can see the master weekly files at the front and the boys files (colored numbers) sticking up in the back.

Here is my weekly box. I am pulling the files and keep them in this box with any books I want to use with the boys and it also is currently home to my master home management binder which will be finished one day in the distant future soon. 

I did decide to take all our manuals apart.  I thought all of two seconds about it long and hard about it.  My decision was based on the fact that some of our books were tattered and torn in need of a little more care.  I decided to take those books apart and put the pages in page protectors.  I hole punched everything and made spine labels and placed everything in the excess binders I somehow accumulated recycled binders.

I went through all of our plans for next year that I had (grammar, math, phonics and handwriting) and divided out the number of lessons by the number of weeks and then put that number of lesson in each week.  For our summer session, I had some plans of some different fun things we would work on so I planned those weeks out accordingly and placed the resources in the appropriate week.

I am a little bit of geek about organization so this system was a lot of fun to set up.  We are finishing up our second week using it and I am finding that having the work divided out in manageable chunks has made it much easier for me to get through the material we need to in a week. 

Also I have been able to look at plans for next week and actually print out some extra worksheets to go along with certain lessons.  This system seems to work well for me because I am a visual learner and this helps keep my perfectionist/ocd tendencies in check.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Thrifty School Room Decor

We redid our schoolroom this week here.  I wanted something on the walls but wanted something cheap unique.  So I took our world map from last year and cut it into continents.  I then took some black frames that were in storage and framed the maps.  Viola!  Unique artwork in our school room.

Then I wanted the boys to have a place to display all their treasures so I found this blog about making Thrifty Dollar Store Art.  I loved the idea of a cork board.  I headed to our local Dollar Store.  I only visited one of the four that we have in our town.  You know because you need four dollar stores before you have a Target.  They didn't have the cork boards in stock.  But I found white display board that I thought would work.  They also had large letters for wall art.  I spent $5.  I cut the display board down to fit in more recycled frames.  I added letters to spell their names.

For other decorations, I found these cute glasses on sale at Target.  The boys each have one on their desks to keep pencils, pens, highlighters and flags in.

Then Ikea to the rescue with these pop up bins.  They were $4 for 3 bins and we keep chalk/boards, science experiement supplies and aqua wonder supplies organized.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

School Room Redesign

Last year I posted photos of our school room.  We loved it for a while but discovered that it was problematic since W loved to explore. When we were tucked away in the schoolroom aka spare bedroom, he was exploring the rest of the house and leaving a mess in his wake. So we moved school to the living area and rearranged bedrooms to give the boys a playroom and Tim an office.

Fast forward a year and we are at the point of needing a school room again. Since we had moved the boys into the master bedroom, we converted their playroom into our new school room.

We still have a few things to do/adjust but I really think this is going to work well for us.

Here are some pictures of our redesign.

The older two boys have a desk with a bookshelf in between them. They have their boxes and most of their books on the bookshelf along with some different activity oriented boxes.

Then J has a desk on the other wall. Right now we have two more bookcases but our plan is to buy one more desk and a taller bookcase. (I love Ikea.) and W will have a place to play and work with the others.

The larger desk with drawers (why is one of them open?) is mine. I spend most of my time in the black chair and the closet has been converted to my resource closet. It holds text books/binders, extra supplies, extra books we aren't using currently, our globe, some games and my printer.

So far (two weeks in) this has been a great new set up for us.