Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Homeschool View Tube

Hey! I just found out about this cool new resource--Homeschool View Tube! Think YouTube....but for homeschool families! Thought you might enjoy checking it out. :)

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Black Friday Sale

There are SO many great deals going on right's tempting to tell about every single one! :) This time around I wanted to mention the Black Friday Sale specials at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine store. Here are some of the highlights:

-Subscriptions for just $7.95!!! Yeah--that's how much one issue of the mag would cost if you bought it at a bookstore. Wow! What's more is that subscribers get a bunch of other bonus gifts, special offers, and more. Over $250 value!!

-Extra bonus gifts with purchases of at least $50!

-My favorite thing about TOS Store is that shipping is always FREE!

The Old Schoolhouse also has a new book available called What about Socialization? You know you've heard that concern before! Well, here's your chance to read up on the answers, if you have trouble addressing that concern, plus you can share the book with others who might have concerns about whether or not homeschooled kids can get "proper socialization."

Enjoy the sale and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Countdown to Christmas Activity Book!

When Amy Puetz showed me her Countdown to Christmas book, I was almost in tears within minutes. This book features a wonderful collection of old-fashioned holiday stories, activities, recipes, games, songs, and more---a grouping for every day from December 1-25.

This collection is just the kind of thing I like to do with my children. It's fun. It's interesting. The stories are great, and will also expose my children (and me!) to some old-fashioned language and concepts. The crafts look fun and manageable. Now that I've got this resource I'm looking forward to December 1 so we can get started with it. I really think that this is going to be our most fun December ever!

I strongly encourage you to go check it out for yourself. Amy has her book on sale at a GREAT price right now, PLUS she has an extra freebie book for you as well. You can see sample pages of the book and a list of stories, etc. here. I feel like this is going to be a wonderful thing for my family, and think it will be for your family too! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Place Mat Activity

I found out about this neat item that is available to you free here. Check it out!

Thanksgiving Lapbook Ideas

I found out about this great post full of ideas if you'd like to make a Thanksgiving Lap Book. Check it out here.

How To Set Great Goals for your Homeschool

I found out about this great goal-setting resource that's free from Sonlight. My good friend (in real life!) Jill Evely is one of the contributors to this resource. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Learning Centers

Despite my lack of recent posts, you can rest assured that my life is plenty full and busy, with lots of stuff going on that might even be blog-worthy, if only I consistently had time to tell you about it! On the days when I'm really, really on top of the most important things, I'm lucky if I have even an hour or two to do the remaining business, blogging, emailing, and all of the other behind-the-scenes things that come up in the life of someone that manages children, Christmas shopping, educational issues, business issues, and keeping some relationships going.

After struggling for months to tutor 4 or 5 kids at the kitchen table simultaneously during school time, I decided to try using some learning centers to help the kids have plenty of educational and enriching things to do during school time, and allow me to only work directly with one or two kids at a time. For close to a week now I have been working on cleaning out some nooks and crannies of our family room so that I could somehow set up these centers/stations to keep the little hands and minds occupied.

For a few days I only had one station set up, and each night after the kids were in bed I placed something on that little table. It was fun to see kids gravitating toward that spot, sitting down and giving their attention to whatever was there. They loved it, and it reminded me of a past wish I had to make my home like one big all-you-can-learn-buffet, where everywhere a child turns is something that will feed their body, mind, or spirit. These little centers seem to do that in a way that nothing else has for us.

Yesterday was day one for going full force with the centers. Although our family room isn't huge, I was able to set up 9 different centers for the kids to use. Why so many? Because I knew they would need plenty of things to do while I worked with the kids that go s-l-o-w at their school work. That's why!

In the past I have tried this idea and set up stations that were a little heavy with stuff to do, and it seemed like the kids got a little bored with those after a short while. This time I decided to use some small tables and spaces, and just put out a very slim choice of what to do at that space. The other idea is to not have the same thing there every day.

Probably like a lot of other people, we have collected an awful lot of really neat learning resources that we rarely ever use. I've got tons of games, art books, craft stuff, cards, flash cards, cool learning resources, Leap Pads, Flashmaster, Highlights books with puzzles in them, and lots more. I'm so glad that I have a place to put these things, but the trick is that I am a person that tends to forget what resources we have if they aren't in front of me. So now I am just bringing out a few items from the collection each day, one per center area, and letting the kids enjoy them. After school time that stuff gets put away, and as I got through the day I keep my eyes open for what else is around, and pull some new stuff out to use the next day. Now the kids are grabbing stuff and saying, "Hey! We should use this for centers tomorrow!"

We have one round kid-size table. At a yard sale a couple months ago I bought two coffee tables for $10. One is rectangular, one is a small square. I bought these because I liked the shape of the design, and the price was right. But I didn't really have a need for them or know where they would go. Now they are working out really well for learning center stations. Plus I can mention the tables by their shape (circle, square, or rectangle) to tell where something is or where to suggest someone go next. I also use a small part of one coffee table, a corner of a couch, plus a regular size table down in this room. So far, so good.

When I showed the kids the stations, they were quite excited about it. In the morning I set everything up and then gave them a tour, explained how it would work, what the rules were, etc. One of the main things I stressed was that it was important to be very quiet so that the person working with me at the table could concentrate. As it turned out, we had near silence for several hours as we did school yesterday. Wow! It was really nice.

I also had each child pick out a silent reading book before we got going, so that if they got finished at their center before it was time to switch, they could sit and read on their own. I figured it made more sense to have them get their books before we got going, rather than have them all going back and forth to the book shelf at different times.

I set up the centers to be clutter-free. Here is some of what I had today:

On small round table I had a box with our connectagons in it. Later my daughter decided to add Dominoes to the table.

Another table had a phonics thing we have that's called Instalearn, which is mainly used by my early readers. For older kids at this station there were Mad Libs, and for my five year old there were some little learning cards that he likes to play with and can do on his own.

We had a cozy station on the corner of one couch for listening to audio books. Station included pillows, blanket, CD player with headphones, and two CDs with read-along books, plus our Bible verses CD to choose from.

Computer station with headphones was set up for the younger kids to go to to play phonics and reading games, etc.

Art station today had two learn-to-draw books (one geared toward youngers, one geared toward olders) and an assortment of crayons, colored pencils, markers, and paper.

One station had a puzzle.

One area (on the floor--I just put out a plastic tablecloth to create the space) for playing with wooden blocks (they have not played with those for a long time and they loved it):

I didn't really micromanage the timing of switching. Since there was plenty to choose from, and the atmosphere was very calm, the kids seemed to enjoy choosing a spot to go, and they played with it for plenty of time and then cleaned up before going on to the next. Some spots were a little more popular than others, so in those cases sometimes I asked the child if they would like to try another station in two minutes or whatever, to give them a gentle nudge to move on so that someone else could enjoy the station they were on.

Like so many things in my life, this will probably take a lot of mom-power to keep it going, so the chance of it falling to the wayside is pretty decent. I often feel that I'm taking a risk by telling about my latest and greatest idea since I feel like so many of them come and go at high speed. Still, I think this idea has merit as a tool to keep the wheels turning here at our school, and maybe it will give a few of you some ideas too.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Making the Holidays Family Friendly

The Holidays are supposed to be all about celebrating with the folks you love, yet all too often the focus is on the preparations instead of the people and the children especially seem to get lost in the shuffle. If holidays are stressful to you, or you come to the end of the day wondering where and what your children were doing all day, this book is for you. It is a reminder of why we celebrate, and how to celebrate in a more family-friendly way. Memories are made at every holiday, are they good ones or bad ones? Learn how to make them good ones for everyone.

Check out this new release ebook from my friend Penny Raine! It's at a super low price right now, too. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Check out this film!

If you enjoy the films from Franklin Springs Family Media, you are probably going to love this one from IVL Media. This documentary follows a pastor's family as God faithfully and miraculously provides for them through all sorts of situations. You can watch the trailer for it here.

Right now they are taking pre-orders, which includes free shipping. Looks like an uplifting night at the movies for the whole family!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Tip for the Reluctant Mathematician

Amazingly, in 16 years of parenthood, it's just been in this year that we've used an abacus to help with math. In the past I guess my kids just learned fine with the Base 10 blocks that we have, or other handy around-the-house manipulatives (cheerios, pretzel sticks, mini marshmallows, etc.).

With my reluctant mathematician, though, these things weren't working too well. So I pulled out our handy dandy Melissa and Doug abacus. (you can find these online, or at parent-teacher type stores. They are very well made, and not expensive.)

This abacus comes in super handy for just about any kind of math we do. It helps my son see for himself how addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division work, and also how they are interrelated. One big plus (that I would have done well to appreciate in my earlier years) is that there are not removable parts. Major helpful when your house is already strewn with parts and pieces of all manner of educational (and otherwise) items.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Free Christmas ebook

Who wants a freebie? I've got one for you--a Christmas ebook with lots of great decorating and activity ideas, as well as recipes! Clickety-click!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'm So Excited About Grandpa Read's Quiet Time Tales!

Do you wish that there was something gentle, classic, and beautiful for your children to watch and listen to?

Do you miss the simplicity of shows like Mr. Rogers and wish you could find something comparable for your children today?

Grandpa Read's Quiet Time Tales is the answer! These beautiful, friendly, and gentle DVDs share classic children's stories with your children in a way that will delight them.

Each 60-minute (approx.) DVD features Grandpa Read, who reads 5 classic children's stories with your children, as well as illustrations and an original song. Grandpa is accompanied by his faithful canine companion Champ, and some special fish friends, Sparky and Wanda.

My very energetic little boys are ages 5, 7, and 8 and they loved watching the sample story and songs. The warmth, humor, friendliness, and classic stories was just the sort of thing I was looking for!

What a wonderful gift for a family with young children, or for a new big brother or sister that needs a calm and enriching activity to do while mommy feeds the new baby! I plan to use these as a quiet educational activity for little boys who need something worthwhile to do when I help other siblings with their school work. :)

Enjoy a discounted price as we accept pre-orders for a limited time. Products will be shipping in early December, so you will be sure to have them by Christmas.

You can now watch a 12 minute sample video here. Gather up your children and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cirque du Soleil

Netflix is one of my favorite ways to introduce my children to cultural events. Yes, I do also like to actually take them to see things in person, but that's not always available here in podunk, KY, plus I prefer to give them a taste of some things without spending big bucks on it, not knowing if they will even really appreciate it.

Cirque du Soleil is one of our favorites. Today we are watching their Journey of Man performance, and all of us are wowed constantly. The creativity, strength, and artistic presentation of their work is astounding. There are many Cirque performances available from Netflix, so you can watch one every couple of months and have 'em last for years.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And the winner is....

Katy from The Country Blossom! I will be sending her the homeschool magazines and some other goodies soon. :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Little Tip To Help The Reluctant Mathematician

My 10 year old son is easily intimidated by math. When he opens his math workbook each day, he usually looks stricken with confusion and frustration, even though 90% of what is on the page is a review of the previous day. He cries. He carries on. He is sure that he cannot manage to understand what on earth he is supposed to it.

In short, it's a little maddening. (is that supposed to have one D or two? oh well. this is about math. Not spelling. or grammar.)

My friend Sooz mentioned an idea to me that she thought might help with Jake's math-a-phobia. A simple dry erase board.

Here's how it works. Basically, just get a smallish dry erase board. The one we started out with was from my office, and it's about 12"x24". Rather than doing the math problems on the workbook page, we do them on the board. This does a lot of good things for my kiddo:

-He's only looking at one math problem. Not the entire page's worth. I think that a lot of his problem is just feeling overwhelmed by all those numbers.

-We can make the numbers bigger, and have a lot more space to work out the problem. Much better than trying to do all of that figurin' in such a small space

-I can help him easier if the number are bigger and we have more space to work. He's not confused about what I'm pointing at or which problem we're working on.

We've been using the dry erase board for a couple weeks now, and math is going much, much better. He actually told me, "When we do math like this, it's really fun!"

Since I needed my dry erase board back in my office, today we purchased a smaller one. It's the size of a piece of paper, so have the feel of an old fashioned slate. We were able to get one with a colored frame that he was excited about, so that made it extra fun. Our board can also have magnets so we can stick it on the fridge when we're not using it, plus it's magnetic itself, and came with a few strong magnets to use with it. The pen has a built in eraser which is another plus.

If your kiddo is struggling with math, why not put a modern spin on the old fashioned slate idea and see if it works for you? (Because, really, isn't $5 a bargain compared to having your kiddo cry over math every day?!)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Podcasts Galore!

I recently found out that Sonlight has a whole bunch of great podcasts available for homeschool moms! There is so much here! Topics include

Goal Setting
Homeschooling if you also work outside the home
Clutter busting
Homeschooling with toddlers
and a whold bunch more

This is a ton of inspirational and practical stuff--check it out!