Preschool Homeschool Fun!

preschool homeschoolingHaving a preschooler is always excitement. I know there are days when it doesn’t seem like so much fun, but even then there is always excitement. The preschooler is full of energy, giggles, and silliness; and they love it when other people join them. For this reason, I try to make my lesson plans for my youngest exciting and full of fun. Of course, since this is summer… things are definitely even more fun.

During the school term I usually schedule a few of my favorite tried and true curriculum work books for us to use, but then supplement with other great curriculum resources on my ipad and on the internet. This year we used Singapore math books for my youngest and a variety of other fun puzzle based books for language arts. We love to do jigsaw puzzles and play games as well! My youngest daughter seemed to really respond well to the animal games and other kindergarten science curriculum programs. Yet, during the summer… we typically just do the apps or computer programs, read together, and then spend lots of time having fun outside. A few of our favorite apps are cupcake math, short vowels, long vowels, meteor math, bob books, and seasons.

What do you do to make learning loads of fun for your preschooler? Comment and share below!

Summer is a great time for Learning!

summer homeschoolI know, most everyone looks at summer as time for a break. I know I sure do. However, at our house though we don’t do our regular workbooks and textbooks during the summer, we do incorporate some learning into our schedule. We have found the summer to be a great time for reading and catching up on those pesky subjects that just seemed to stump us during the winter.

We love to go to our local library and look up books on subjects that interested us during the year. The library has so much to offer! We also enjoy using various websites to help us catch up in areas that were troublesome. There are many great programs to choose from, but one of our favorites is Vocabulary and Spelling City. They have a great online summer program that really targets fluency and other aspects of reading.  I usually find several great online educational sites that target my children’s specific weak areas, and then put them in the favorites on our browser bar. In this way,  my children can freely choose between them when they get a chance to sit down at the computer.

This would work for any type of homeschooling family from unschoolers to military homeschoolers. I have found that this really comes in handy when we have a rainy day or when boredom strikes! Always have something fun and educational for your kids to do, and you’ll find that it keeps their brains active and they forget alot less of what they learned.

What do you do in the summer to challenge your children?

Time to Prepare!

homeschool scienceI love the diversity of homeschooling families. Each one is different and unique in how they manage their schooling, what curriculum they use, and how they schedule their school year. It seems even after 8 years of college, I am still constantly learning from fellow homeschooling moms! Talk about continuing education!

Planning for a new school year is one of those areas that I have learned so much from my fellow homeschoolers. I homeschool elementary as well as high school and there is always something new and amazing out there that I miss. So, I usually try to spend my free time in the summer researching and developing our homeschool plan for the next school term.

This year, there are a few things in particular that I really want to focus on. I have two in elementary school, two in junior high school, and one in high school. So, I’ve got my work cut out for me! I’m going to list our general plans, and if you have some amazing homeschool curriculum that you would like to share – please do!  I would love to find something new that works great!

For my elementary students, I am focusing on writing and science. I have been able to find some great writing books that really helped us get going. I posted about them here. I am also trying to find a good solid science curriculum. I found a new homeschool science curriculum that is online. We plan to explore that this year and see if we like it.

For my Junior high students, of course, we are focusing on writing. I am going to start them both on Time4Writing this fall to give them some personal feedback on their writing progress.

For my high schooler, we are going to be working on getting some college credit through CLEP testing. So, many of our courses will line up with those tests. She is an avid writer and photographer, so I plan on fostering those strengths this year through some great online courses.

Using Games to Motivate…

home school gamesI know… schooling isn’t always the most exciting part of our kiddos’ day.  Well, I may think so, but I know that they have a different opinion. I have learned though, if I make school ALL hardcore learning then it WILL be the worst part of their day every day. I have had to make myself think ahead to include fun things into our daily routine. If I can include games and other types of fun learning exercises through out the day, MORE learning actually takes place. Over the years, my thinking has evolved. I have to admit I was the hard nosed “teacher” homeschooler.  However, today and six children later… I am more the “let’s make this as fun as we can” homeschooler.

Here are a few of my favorite choices to make learning as fun as possible.

1. For History I like to use the Time Traveler’s Series. It includes fun games and projects that we make every lesson. My kids love history because of this! Also, trivial pursuit is a great board game to play and try to integrate a little history.

2. For Science, we use the Apologia Series. We make scrap books of our science learning, and do all types of experiments. This year we studied Botany, and we did alot of our lessons outside with real live specimens from our backyard!

3. For English, I love to use online teaching writing games along with grammar games and worksheets. For spelling I enjoy using spelling games as well as vocabulary matching. Scrabble, boggle, and other such word games are great for reinforcing what you are teaching!

4. For math, we use manipulatives (beans, pencils, clown counters, base ten blocks, etc.) as well as games like multiplication bingo, match ups, and anything else that I can think of!

What are your favorite games to get your children interested and LEARNING?

Fixing the Gaps

Can you believe that it is already the middle of March. Time just seems to be flying, but our school learning doesn’t always fly at the same pace. For those of you who are wanting to finish up for summer break, you may be staring at a bit of a gap. I know there are a few subjects at our house that have just slipped through the cracks. Most of the time, it is because they are just not our favorites. That is sometimes my fault and sometimes the kid’s fault. Either way, I think it is good character training to make sure that our children finish as well as they start. I didn’t say that was easy – for any of us… just good practice.

1)      The first thing that I do is usually try to find the issue. Why are they not liking this subject? What makes it difficult? Is it the curriculum? Is it how I’m teaching it? Find the issue, and eliminate it if possible.

2)      If the curriculum was the problem, then find another one that better meets your needs. There are so many free offerings online – that if you can’t afford another one at this late stage – don’t sweat it… just “google” it!

3)      Find a motivation for them. You know your children. What motivates them? What are they passionate about? If you can incorporate this into the subject matter –  your kids will be overflowing with  motivation. This worked well for us with our third grade curriculum online – our kids are techie and love to use the computer…. pure motivation!

4)      Bring it back down… your child got discouraged somewhere… reteaching what you’ve been studying just below their mastery level will enable them to succeed and rebuild the confidence that they lost.

5)      Have a good time… learning never has to be dull! You can incorporate games, educational songs,  contests, and incentives to really put some punch into your lessons!

Homeschool Math – Manic Mania or Amazing?

Homeschooling math can be fun or frenzy. There are always topics that even the most gifted math students have trouble with. What do you do when your homeschool students have trouble with something?

My first response is to reteach the whole lesson. This is usually my go to method. I’ll reteach the lesson in a different manner than the first time I taught it in order to make sure that I cover everything in a comprehensive manner.

Another approach is to go through the lesson again with the use of manipulatives. Using manipulatives to make connections to real world applications can make all the difference.

A third option is to actually take the math to the real world. Find some way that you can immerse the child into a project based method of learning. This is a great way to make the math “real.”

Finally, learning math facts as part of a foundation of understanding can be very beneficial in building upon those foundational math facts. Make sure that kids know their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts and math will be a bit more easy to build upon.

Making the Most of Life’s Interruptions…

homeschoolI love being organized, getting the job done right, and feeling like I’ve accomplished something. Yet, sometimes life just happens and I can’t get to anything that I need to do. This goes against everything that I’m made of. Whether it’s doctors appointments or special meetings, when life interrupts homeschool it can be frustrating, but going with the flow is about the only way to make it without going crazy.

It took me a long while to accept this thinking, and for many years I would get stressed out. Trying to accomplish everything was impossible. Yet, accepting that I couldn’t get it done felt like I was giving in. I finally had to make myself see that homeschooling is freedom in education. Though we have goals and standards we shouldn’t feel like we have to homeschool a certain way. Sure we have things to complete and do… Yet the blessing of homeschooling is that you choose when and where you do it.

When interruptions plague your day, turn to mobile apps, literature games online, or math games that the kids can take along. If you are too sick or too preoccupied to school on the go… Just postpone your homeschooling day. Do school on Saturday if you must. Whatever you do…don’t let the interruption get you down… Be flexible and enjoy life even with its interruptions!

My Last Nerve is Gone…

We’ve heard that old saying, “You’re on my last nerve!” so many times. In fact, in our house it’s a pretty regular saying… but right now I have to admit that my last nerve has already come and gone. I feel at my wit’s end and really don’t want to be here. Ever feel that way?

It’s been pretty rainy at our house all week and I have had a to-do list a mile and a half long. I’ve been working on it for three days, and still I’m not finished. You know, crazy stuff like wait on hold with AT&T FOR EVER while they get a tech specialist to help me. Things like that that seem to rob the joy out of my day and keep me from really homeschooling as my heart desires.  So, for the last two days my dear children have been on their own.

After I get over my own little pity party and guilt trip… I see that they have completed their regular school tasks and finished their math and English practice worksheets. (Suprise!) Two out of three of them did their online lessons (not too bad), and one of them has been working on an art project all afternoon.

You know, sometimes I let all of my preconceived ideas of having to follow our schedule and do it by the book every day direct me… and I miss the fact that my kids are pretty responsible and even dare I say it… dependable when left to their own.  I know that once they start homeschool middle school things will be tougher and require even more responsibility… but, for now I’m thankful that when my last nerve is gone… sometimes my kids can really make my day!

Searching for Homeschool Friendly Colleges

I can’t believe I’m really wrapping up my homeschool journey with my oldest daughter. Time has really flown by. It seems like yesterday when we first brought her home and started homeschooling.

We’ve had some ups and downs but for the most part its been a wonderful eight years. She’s grown into a beautiful, respectful, hard working young woman and I am so happy to be her mother.

The only down side we face right now is the challenge of finding a good college and adequate financial aid to enable her ato attend. There is a myriad of options and financial labyrinth to navigate. I must admit these final months have been fobbed of their sweetness due to these massive decisions.

I am using a few websites for guidance as we make these life change decisions. These have been indispensible in the process…

1)Let’s Homeschool High School – in particular their article on homeschool-friendly colleges.

2) Homeschool Help from HSLDA

3) SAT writing resources – and Test help

4) The Federal Financial Aid Resource page

5) Homeschool Transcripts Help

Homeschooling when Mom’s Sick…

Yes, sometimes it’s mom that just has to call a sick day! I don’t know if your children are like this, but mine are crazy if they don’t have something constructive to do. They are very active children so unless they are zombies in front of the television, they are being quite active. This also means that they are not quiet, and usually when I’m sick I want quiet. So…. this leads me to share with you a recent discovery I made.

I found that if I organize an alternate schedule of things to do on the days that I am sick … the alternate schedule is exciting enough that it keeps their interest and keeps them quiet! (Ahhhhh…..) To do this, I found two ways successful.  I have taken an old large mailing envelope and included in it all the things that I would like for them to do on days when momma is sick and doesn’t need to be disturbed. I include educational videos that we just normally don’t have time to watch, logic puzzles, detailed color pages, tangram puzzles, art assignments, and put them all into the folder with instructions on how to complete each step and how to record what they have done.

Secondly, I also design an online folder as well. In this are all the things that I would like them to accomplish on the computer. I often include whatever classes that I feel they are a bit behind in, and other activities that I know would help them academically. I often include links to writing tutors, online learning games, and general learning games for kids. Each site is educationally sound and I can trust that my children aren’t just “zoning out” for a day while I am under the weather and I can rest easy. ( which is always nice!)