Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lesson Planning ~

In an attempt to prepare for this years new studies. I went looking for a helpful lesson plan template that would fit my needs.
I really don't follow a rigid, timely schedule. I found that when I do it usually falls apart after the second week. ~
I do, however, have a need to manage tasks and have some sort of organization to gather thoughts and objectives I want to accomplish.
After never finding what I needed, I decided to create my own for my lesson planning notebook.
You can find my lesson plan template here.

I decided to create one page for both of my learners to make it easier to see "at a glance". The boxes are small because I tend to over-write and over-plan, sound familiar? :)
This will keep me on track while using this, with my daily notebook journal I will write in daily of their "actual learning tasks" I will have all that I need to move forward weekly with their assignments.

Happy Planning everyone~

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spigot~ a Kids Science - E-Zine

I had been looking for some magazines and e-zines for my boys and found this e-zine called Spigot. A Science Magazine for kids and the classroom. Specifically designed for elementary and middle schoolers, this online, free magazine is packed with interesting information. For each article there is something called "Trickles, Teaching Guides" for each article. Here is a bit more about it:

"Trickles is written for the teacher to help make lesson planning and teaching a little bit easier. For each article, Trickles offers vocabulary words, ideas for skill and comprehension lessons, the reading level, and links to the National Standards. It's all in the spirit of "good preparation makes for a good lesson." ~ Valerie Girandola, Editor and Chief of Spigot Science Magazine

The lesson plans cover vocabulary words, comprehension and other skill suggestions. These also are in line national standards.

I subscribed to this e-zine so that my son will receive any new issues directly in his e mail box and thought this might be something to share with other who have children who enjoy learning science. I plan to keep up with the blog and new information and also check out their archived magazines also ~

Spigot's "Tap into Learning" blog is also very interesting you can find it here.

Hope you have a chance to check it out.. :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Saving time and money~two things everyone can use more of....

In these economic times, many of us are always looking for new ways to save money and watch our pennies as we raise our familes~ Living on a Dime - you can sign up for a free newletter as well delivered right to your email box.

What a great new site I found out about~ this site is so interesting, it has something for just about everyone. Recipes, time and money saving tips. I love the video for folding sheets~ how many times have we tried to fold those fitted sheets?

Now we have a place to go to get all these tidbits of helpful information, for saving money AND keeping up our homes. Check this site out.. I just loved it~

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A new curriculum for learning: Lesson Pathways~

There is a new online curriculum that was just recently launched that I wanted to let everyone know about.

I decided to become a Beta Tester for this product and have really liked what I have seen so far. This program could be used as a full curriculum or as a supplement.

I hope others have a chance to check out this new program~ here is the latest press release for Lesson Pathways that appeared on the Choosy Homeschooler Blog:

this provides a great deal more information. We are planning to use this as a supplement this year to mix things up as I so often like to do, I love finding new ways and new things to show my boys it makes things so much more fun and interesting~ don't you think?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Homeschooling Organization - for "Home" and the "Schooling"

It is that time of year again~ time for planning, organizing, purging and re-evaluating... others are taking stock in how their home functions, is it chaotic all the time? clutter, stacks of books, mounds of papers ~ it seems overwhelming and endless.

Have you noticed lately everyone is in "planning mode" ? Everyone it seems is busily preparing lessons, looking for programs scurrying to figure out just what might be best to use this year.
Fall cleaning is right around the corner, try working on that while your trying to teach/work, run errands, keep up your households every day functions... it can just get exhausting. There are some helpful things I have learned along my way and I would like to share them with you~
Depending on who you speak to will depend on what level they are at when it comes to homemaking and taking care of the home. All families are different and so you can get a bunch of different perspectives when it comes to taking care of your home.
We have to do what works for us as individuals and as parents. Feelings of guilt and despair might mean that your not happy with how things are going or perhaps need to find a way to make some changes as to how you might be able to care and keep your home.
Here are some things I do to help myself in the area of homemaking and home organizing~
Organizing Information:
* My daily home journal has saved me so many times I can hardly believe it. This is a five subject binder I started about two years ago. I date the page in the right hand corner and any phone calls that come in, phone calls I make, people who stop by or things I do or am waiting for responses for I add to this page. I write down the peoples names, phone numbers etc.. so I can refer back to this whenever I need to. (this is handy for everything from homeschooling to daily family events.. it eleviates the "where did I put his number" or "what was the coaches name and address again" etc...
On the inside of the top cover I add all our necessary information as I call it:
medical/dental insurance information: group numbers, phone number, policy information.
doctors/dentist numbers along with fax numbers or emails
birthdays I need to remember
Anything I need for quick reference.
* I keep a place on the side of my refrigerator called "Family Center", (when the boys were much younger I labled this, now that they are older they "know" what/where it is so I have long since removed this). This is where we keep our calendar, important phone numbers of friends and family, emergency numbers and also information we use often. ( library hours, club numbers and hours, notes to others) I also will print off a comic or a homeschooling quote or something fun for the boys also. I tend to clip articles that they might find interesting too, for instance just this morning there was an article about a man who was coming to NH to "pan" for gold. You can just imagine the interest in that article !
* Baskets for each child. My boys when they were much younger had asthma along with other health concerns and I needed a place to store their medications in a safe convenient spot. I found out laundry room shelf right above our washer and dryer served as a perfect place. I went and purchased baskets with a handle in the middle, (similiar those used for storing cleaning products) labeled each basket with the child's name and I have everything I needed for them when it came to their medicines I even would store their refill prescriptions in this basket etc..
*House cleaning:
Storage for cleaning products: I also use this kind of a basket for our cleaners. I add to this basket everything I will need even paper towels and laytex gloves. The handle is handy so I can pick it up and go and clean from room to room. I have one cleaning basket for our upstairs and one of our downstairs which makes things much easier also.
I have tried several different things to help me keep things clean and tidy in my home. For us and for the ages my children are at I have found doing certain things on certain days works better and allows me to spend time doing other things I would rather do than house cleaning.
On certain days I will clean the bathrooms and assign chores like vacuuming and trashes etc.. to my boys.
Fridays is usually the day I end up dusting the whole house, giving the whole house a good vacuum, cleaning/sweeping our farmers porch, stripping beds and tidying up my studio.
Daily chores I will do is either before or right after dinner I will do a "sweep" through the house going through each room and picking things up or having the boys help me as I go.. often times not much needs to be done, but this just helps again keeping things tidy and making sure everything is in it's place for the next day.
I like baskets for keeping things like newspapers and magazines, in our den and living - we also put childrens books for learning like DK encyclopedias, science resource books, childrens almanacs on our coffee table in our den. The boys will often pick these books up and begin reading so this is really great to have available to them whenever they feel like picking up a book.
*Daily Chores or daily/routine errands: I tried chore charts and they just didnt work. With all good intentions they were supposed to but I think the boys would get overwhelmed at looking to see all that they had to do whether it be for the day or the week.
I decided I too, needed a place to set up a structure of how our chores looked for the week and even for me, to decide when/how I was going to do certain routine tasks that needed to be done.
I purchased a calendar wipe board. On it I add everyones chores not just the boys but mine.
On each day each child will have couple things they are responsible for, for me I add my groccery shopping day, my errands day, or wash days ( I dont do wash every day... that would make me crazy- my oldest son has his wash day set for every week) and I choose to do wash 3x per week which works very well). etc.. it works VERY well and we can all refer back to it.. - it seems to give the idea that we are more of a "team player" than just a list of to do's. :)
* This is also posted on our Family Center also.
Meal Planning/Grocceries:
I found that I was spending a whole bunch of time writing up my groccery list and many of the items I have to purchase every week. I also started using a few cookbooks to help me in my planning so I decided the best thing for me was to design a groccery list that adapted to my needs and to how I cook. I print out this excel spreadsheet every week and go through on Wednesdays and circle the items I want, only after, I have on the bottom written out our weekly menu of meals. You can find this list here.
I have actually found with a "kind of schedule" you can really get alot accomplished and juggle quite a few things at one time.
Other hints I have found help and I am sure you may have used or heard of are:

* USE your caller ID don't answer calls when your in the middle of something you dislike doing or when teaching. Too many distractions really can hinder what your trying to accomplish.
*IF you decide to take a call OR need to return calls and know it is just friendly chatter to a relative or friend, make use of the headphone pieces you can plug into your cordless phone, this helps free your hands up for folding clothes, or dusting and your able to get a few things done at the same time.
* Don't over book yourself for the week. Be sure when making plans to keep in mind your family rhythm and your daily routines so they don't effect your day and make things too topsy turvey if you can help it. (example if you have swim classes until Noon, making plans an hour later might be stretching things a bit for YOU and your children).
* Allow for some down time. Give yourself and your children "down time", where they can play quietly for a few hours, - yes a few hours, in their room - schedules and plans are nice but they can create children/families to become too dependent on always having to do something. Creating a balance between their academics, chores, and play can make for a much happier and well adjusted child.

I have actually been evaluating some of my own plans and ideas for this year. The Summer Subject Series seemed to help me get my thoughts in one place and now I am more able to prepare things that will work for my boys and their programs.
After outlining our programs for this year I decided I needed to find a way to take more advantage of all the great resources I have found over time for the boys. I use my bookmarks and have found Stumble Upon and Xerpi to be quite efficient and helpful. I still however, need more because where I am using much more of a kind of literature based learning, I needed somehow to design and write out thoughts ideas for projects, websites and resources I have found on particular subjects. I came up with a Subject Study Plan.
For weekly, monthly and yearly planning:
This year I am using a Teacher Planner. I am dividing up our year into two semesters. September to January is Semester One. February to June will be Semester Two. My reason for doing this is because the first semester I am planning on covering a certain amount of material ( World History) and then Semester Two I will be covering other material (American History).
I thought this would help me break things down just a bit further and as I look at things I can see this will help a bit more in planning for outings and field trips etc..
I am also going to be using something I started with over the summer. A student journal, I had read about this idea in one of Valerie Bendt Unit Studies books and found it works great and works just like my Home Journal I use for our household. You can see a sample of what I am talking about here.
I also use a Weekly Assignment Sheet/Log you can find here. That you can read and get ideas from. This I started using when we first started homeschooling and even though the subjects or programs change the sheet never does. It works so very well for us, I see no reason to change things~
Storing Notebooking Pages:
We use ALOT more notebooking in our homeschooling and since I now have taken to creating my own pages I needed some way to store these in a reasonable way. I need to be able to get to these quickly or have the boys get to them quickly and tried several different things but what I found to work best is to print out about 12-20 pages at a time. Put the pages into a paper protector and store them with subject dividers in a binder. As we need them we pull out our notebooking binder and pull how ever many pages we need and it keeps them nice, safe and tidy.
Here is some of my pages I have created so far and will be adding more as I move along~

Books shelves and "keeping our books: I really like books and my boys are starting to get to be the same way. We are building our home library very quickly with discount book stores, garage sales, book thrift stores, sites like Alibris, Book Closeout, Amazon and others.

Now the hard part is how to create some sort of order to all these books on our shelves. Here is what I decided works best for us.

I found an online book catalogue called Library Thing. I tag my books according to how I plan to use them and the easiest way for me to remember them. This is a great online tool for creating a catalog of your books at home.

For our shelves I separate out the shelves by subject. Math and Math Readers/Literature. History - separated by historical topic this includes biographies, fictional novels, and non fiction and literature for that one particular topic. Science- again my topic and I (like with history) include the biographies, fiction and non fiction all together so I am not to forget about a book I may have picked up along the way that pertains to that topic.

I do separate fiction ( organized by author ) and non-fiction books (organized by author) on one shelf and classical literature on the other. This is just my personal preference so I can pick and find things more quickly.

In order to quickly see the topics I have on the shelf I use cardstock dividers and label the topics so it is very easy and very tidy. I have found this to save me a TON of time when looking for resources.

Keeping Library Books sorted can be tricky also. We have about three library cards from three separate libraries I use. So I needed to find a way to keep track of all of these books and due dates.

I use a libray basket (more than one basket if I have ALOT) for the books and use color coded post it notes for the library books~ for one library I will use yellow and another pink etc.. I will write the due date on the post it note so I can see at a glance when thing are coming due.

Speaking of library books- I have learned to take advantage of our online catalog. I look up books I have recommended to me by my programs I am working on and can click on those books and make a list and send it directly to our library and all I have to do is go and pick them up. Saves time and aggravation. ~

Keeping Track of Lapbook resources and materials:

This is another area I tried several thinks like bins, shelves and such and nothing seemed to work as well as what I am using now.

I use a rolling cart for all my lapbooking packets, materials and resources. My folders, papers, cardstock, glue sticks, scissors, brads, paper clips, stapler, tapes, contact paper -everything I need for lapbooking is on that cart. It works great.

For papers we have cut out for a lapbook or mini-office I use ziplock bags to keep things organzied this helps save on space and clutter also and we rarely look items this way too.


I hope these tips are as helpful to some of you, as I have found them to be, along my way and I will probably keep finding new things and new ways of doing something as I move along as well, sharing and finding new ways to help our children and ourselves is always appreciated in Our Home.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Subject Study for Summer; Learning History in our Home~

Words of Wisdom, ~

Charlotte Mason said " The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn "outlines" of the whole story ... of the world. Let him on the contrary linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the thoughts of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age".

My boys LOVE history~ they actually enjoy watching the history channel as much as they enjoy Cartoon Network. Seriously they do. They cannot get enough of learning about history.

I would bet they were one of a few boys who sat most of the afternoon and learned about the Korean War on Veterans Day. They were so moved by the interviews and the sacrafices it was truly amazing to watch them and try and answer all the different questions they had upon watching the history special.
We are talking about ANY kind of history, it can be history of trains to the Ancients to deadliest battles, - anything and everything that has to do with past events, they enjoy it all~
I have talked about textbooks and how I have a growing frustration with them. So, having said that I doubt we will be doing too much learning from them this year as we did the last. I really cannot get over the abundance of resources for teaching history. It can really be quite overwhelming.. I try to consider programs I might like and there are things I like about them and yet, I hate that feeling of being "boxed in " again.. once I start to get that impression I will change and put it down.
Having taken this year to slowly study on my own about Dr. Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason, I found that the more I learned, it seemed, they were almost talking to me. It was quite strange because as I read through Ruth Beechick's chapter on history, I became quite excited, because she had actually written what I had been thinking to myself all along. I felt quite inspired having read this chapter in her book "You Can Teach Your Child Successfully".
Here are a few excerpts of what I am referring too:
" In no area of curriculum is there more disenchantment with ttextbooks than in hisotry and the social studies. Disenchanted people include not only certain segments of our population who disagree with points of view in teh books, but hey include, also, educators who are concerned with their effectiveness for teaching. " ~ Dr. Ruth Beechick

This caught my attention. I had not heard these words before, I often thought of them as I would pilferage through books and texts. I was quite relieved and intrigued to have seen this.
and more here:

" The most obvious weakness is the superficial treatment of most topics. Publishers try to get in everything that states and school districts want included, so their scope and sequence charts look as impressive as their art. But in the study, some topics were found to be only mentioned and not developed at all. They were even mentioned in out of context positions, wherever the writers could manage to fit them in."

"Children know this weakness even if they cannot analyze or explain it to you. If your children love to read The Monitor and the Merrimac or books about pyramids or knoghts or explorers or about any of the topics of the social studies but do not love to read their textbooks, they are expressing their discernment". ~ Dr. Ruth Beechick

Upon reading this, I finally felt like I may have been on the right track all along. It also explained alot of the frustration I had been seeing while teaching my boys history~
I remember when we had tried using a popular American History program for fourth grade and it seemed like it was fairly good, it wasnt, the information was sporadic and in chunks, with no real conversation with the reader .
I then, began trying to find a "good" solid, perhaps not completely comprehensive ,American History book~ I looked and looked and finally caved and had picked up a popular Childrens American History Book I had found.
It seemed it would suffice. We openeded it and began reading near the beginning as we were studying the Native American Indians. It had wonderful pictures so that would help with our notebooking pages I would make for them, we started reading and as I did, it had one paragraph for each region of natives. I couldnt believe it.. here, I began reading to my youngest about the Great Plain indians and little snippets about their diet and how they hunted.. etc.. and then it moved to the Northeast etc... my son immediately began asking questions.. like if they are going to talk about what they ate why not talk about how they dressed and why and more things about their lifestyles and daily life..... again, disappointment.
I began pulling from many different resources.. one thing that saved us~ Living Books~ real stories written to create relations between the people or indians who lived long ago.
Living Books and Biographies brought life into our History at home.

It was interesting in attempting to choose a "spine" for our history at home to say the least. We started with Story of the World this year. ( recently changed our spine to Mystery of History, see below)
After reviewing many history programs I found Story of the World would work nicely, and would be used as our Spine for our History. I also use many other books for our history~ but like to have one particular book to refer back to .

Some book references I use: (while using MOH & SOTW)

Usborne Internet Linked Book of Ancient World History
** Update, one thing I love about homeschooling is the flexibility it brings into our lives. After pouring over and reading the enitre SOTW book, I decided to use SOTW as more a supplement to save me a bit more time and effort I elected to use Mystery of History for our Spine instead. Although I am not willing to let go of SOTW at this point since the boys enjoyed the stories, I think the two programs may compliment eachother very nicely.. and just love the fact that I have this kind of flexibility in my teachings at home. **
You can find a list of corresponding chapters between SOTW and MOH here.
This year we began reading many more biographies. I found this taught history so much more eloquently than any textbook or history program. The boys seemed to enjoy learning about people lives and it seemed to bring history to life for them.
I don't ever remember reading a biography of any kind while in grade school or highschool. Do any of you?
Biographies were only spoke about in English and was explained by definition only. So sad, so many children would fall in love with biographies and I believe, shape their perspective on history and what it teaches us about our world and about humanity.
Timelines to help teach:
I am planning on using this timeline for our history. I found this would work best for us.
Here is an interactive timeline I thought was really neat.

These are some sites I plan to use in helping us with our history ~

By now you might be starting to see a trend or a pattern here with many of my sites I chose. They tend to be very different from other sites online with all the lesson plans and "read and answer the questions" kind of teaching.
For me, these sites are much more multi-sensory for my boys who tend to have strengths in their visual and auditorial learning. These sites help them to enjoy and retain much more information.
I think also, I would consider these resources leaning more toward a "living history" as well.

More resources with Living Books:

As you can probably see, literature and living literature plays a huge part in our learning history.

We do not use textbooks we just love living history books~ I really have grown dislike them.

I often glance at living book lists when I can find them to help me find good, solid read alouds for the boys. I have found some very good resources at the following:

This year my plan is to complete the Ancients History while working on American History and Government broken into 4 block cycles. My boys love the many areas of history/social studies so this will be very much a focus this year in our home learning.
For American History, aside from the biographies and timelines, field trips many internet resources and unit studies they also love a hands on approach to learning. For this, I chose Homeschooling in the Woods, Time Traveler History Activity CD's.
These are packed with activities that my boys enjoy, crafts, copywork, projects, and lapbooking/notebooking activities. They are sure to have fun while learning with these.
As the boys create their projects I hope to post the ideas and activities they will be working on as we move along the year. ~
I also plan to read with the boys, "The History of Us" by Joy Hakim.
"Happy History Study", for your learners at home ~

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The World of Catalogs and Magazines~ for home living~ part II

These are some catalog sites and magazines, I have looked at in the past and there is an abundance of resources in here.

There are so many out there I thought I might just give a few sites to share. These are sites I have found some good catalogs and magazines in the past.

I use these not only for teaching ideas but for painting ideas and home organization and decorating. I also like sometimes trying some of the recipes found in certain magazines and surprisingly have found many to be very good and easy which is always helpful with such busy schedules. - this site lists a ton of catalogs to choose from. -Look closely and you will find some for teaching and educational supplies as well. this is a really big directory for catalogs to choose from. - I found this site although I have not used it but plan to look into a few of these~ :)

Classical Homeschooling Magazine
Eclectic Homeschool Online- an on line magazine
Everything Homeschooling - a free on line homeschooling magazine
Family Times - and on line family/parents magazine
Heart of the Matter- one of my most favorites, you can apply for a subscription to come right to your email box.
Homeschool Digest
Homeschooling Today
Secular Homeschooling - an online magazine
Homeschool World- another favorite
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine- many people like this one, myself included
Home Education Magazine
Connections - this is another favorite ezine of mine, an unschooling ezine that keeps me in balance at times. :)

Here is a link for more homeschooling magazines on the internet:

Here are some online kids magazines I have found:
The Bunk Room
The Science Mouse
Directory of kids ezine magazines
ON-Line magazines directory for teens

I have come to the conclusion that there is too many to list~ :)

Personal Note:
Besides the National Geographic, Muse, Cobblestone etc.. some magazines can be great for teaching and exploring topics with your learners. One particular magazines comes to my mind quickly;

One of my most favorite magazines that I think lends itself to wonderful teaching ideas and teachable moments, Yankee Magazine. I can read this magazine cover to cover and find ideas and pick and choose little things for the boys to learn about in our area, one idea for example was an article about stone walls. The article: "New England's Stone Wall Defender" dated, March/April 2009 edition of Yankee Magazine, written by Jim Collins

Robert Thorson, author of the book Stone by Stone, writes of his fascination with New Englands Stone Walls.

In our area, it is common to see stone walls all over the countryside, here in New England. They are examples of a geologic history here in New England. I myself, have always been interested in these since in our travels have never seen these anywhere else but here in New England and there are many reason for this and the article and book talks about these things.

What a fascinating topic for children, who might live in New England or have a stone wall on their property as we do ~ stone walls have much to teach us and exploring these brings pieces of our past to life.

You might like these~

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