Monday, August 31, 2015

How we Practice Spelling

There are lots of spelling programs out there. I've read through many of them, and to be honest I can't even remember which programs I've pulled ideas from...I have a really hard time just taking a curriculum and then doing exactly what we're supposed to do. Mostly because I know what my kids need and what they are capable of doing.

The Bear is very CEREBRAL. That's the best way I can describe it; she loves doing mental work, she loves workbooks. For her spelling I'm using the spelling list at the back of the 2nd grade Write Source book. I give her a pre-test, to see which words she already knows how to spell (this is the most frustrating part for her because she hates not knowing things). Once I'm done giving her the words, she checks the work herself. If she spelled it incorrectly she circles the word and writes it correctly below her other words. Then throughout the day I ask her to spell the 2 or 3 words she missed (she answers orally). Then the next day the words she missed previously are the first words I have her spell for the next pre-test. If she misses the previous day's words again we'll combine day 1 and day 2 words and take an extra day to practice them. Her favorite part of this is pointing out any time someone uses her spelling words or when she finds it in a book she's reading. 

 (This process would work with any grade level spelling words, and any list you found online. But success for your child depends mostly on their learning style. If they love book work, computing things in their head and learn best from reading and writing, then this would be a great approach.) 


 Buddy has very different learning styles than the Bear. In general he is much more creative, very kinesthetic (which I think is partially because he's a boy) and likes to fidget/has a hard time sitting still for very long (which I think is partially because he's still young). The main reason I do any spelling with him at all is because I'm hoping it will help with his reading skills. (He has to work really hard to remember a few sounds, specifically the difference between W, Y and U.

At the beginning of the week we select 6 simple words. These words are easy to sound out. I wasn't sure if I should do a combination of vowel sounds or use all the same vowel sounds. This week his words were: it ,in, an, at, us, up.

Day 1: look at the words, sound them out. Repeat 3 times.
Day 2: look at the words, write them down in your notebook. Read them as you write.
Day 3: compose the words using magnetic letters.
Day 4: compose the words using bottle cap letters
Day 5: "test" on the white board. Any words he misses he will continue to study the next week.

Here are some other spelling practice ideas that we have used for my kinesthetic guy (and fun practice for sister when she wants to join in).
*Since we live close to a beach, we may have a day where he writes his words in the sand.
*Use sight word cards spread across the floor: either jump on the word when called or "rescue it" by grabbing it and moving it to another location.
*Tape spelling words all over a room. Have a race to find the called for word first. (Also a great activity for preschoolers for number and letter recognition.)
*Have your speller copy the weeks words outside using chalk. Then *play hopscotch on your words. Or *play tag and only one spelling word is "base." Or use a *squirt gun to spray down your spelling words.

I think spelling is an important part of reading and writing, because being good at spelling will only make reading and writing easier. I also enjoy it because it's one of those things where I can see obvious improvement.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book Review: Max and Ruby

Favorite Board Books: Max and Ruby Counting Peas and Max's Birthday
First of all, have I mentioned that we LOVE our library. As we've moved all over the Northwest, the first thing we always look up is what kind of children's section they have in the local library. Our current library has an amazing children's section because it is totally enclosed and separate from the adult section of the library AND it has it's own private bathroom back there!

We love these two Max and Ruby books because they are particularly funny. We also think "Max's Breakfast" is hilarious. Max is just a spunky dude and knows what he wants. I read these books over and over...and over and over to my kids and they loved them (especially Squeaker who is 3). Even the Bear, who is 6.5, laughed at these books!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Schooling at the Dump

So, I have to admit that the dump is one of the coolest places we've been. Seriously! There are little bucket loaders zooming all around, pick up trucks dumping their loads, bottles and cans being tossed into dumpsters and plastic bottles being poured into metal cages to be weighed. And then when that's all over the kids get about $2! How great is that, getting paid to witness all sorts of machinery and noise and general hub-bub. It's down-right exciting and we enjoy it every time we go! But, what are my kids learning from this experience? 

The obvious answer is that we are UTILIZING our KNOWLEDGE about the importance of RECYCLING. Not only do we talk about keeping our Earth clean, we practice it. We also get PRACTICE COUNTING and ESTIMATING. If we're lucky we'll get a guy who will actually count how many bottles we brought, in which case we know exactly how much money we're going to get. Each bottle is worth .05 CENTS so Buddy and the Bear COUNT BY 5'S before hand to see how much money they should get. But sometimes, like today, we had a guy in a hurry so he just dumped the bottles and weighed them, so we got a little less money, an ESTIMATE. The Bear has a difficult time with ESTIMATION, she likes to be PRECISE...(like her mom) so we need all the practice we can get.


And of course, there is all the SOCIALIZATION that my kids get too, like PRACTICE STANDING IN LINE, SMALL TALK with the counter/weigher person, and HOW TO BE COURTEOUS in a loud setting. We also get practice TAKING TURNS to hold the money and then put it in the piggy bank. We also DISCUSS the IMPORTANCE OF SAVING MONEY and then practice it every time we come to the dump. (Our kids earn .10 cents a day in chore money that they accumulate over several months. They then pay tithing on that money and can spend the rest however they want. They practice saving all their dump money, even though they really want to spend it.)

Check out my other ideas on how to get out of the house and keep learning at the river, in the woods, at the docks, and at the grocery store.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Homeschooling at the River

 So, I have cheated here a little bit, these are 2 different bodies of water...but we definitely were able to learn a lot while we were at both of these locations! Don't forget to check out other homeschooling AWAY FROM HOME ideas: in the woods, at the docks and at the grocery store!


So what did we learn while we were out and about? Buddy is quite the animal catcher (I often find him catching spiders) so he got more practice carefully HANDLING ANIMALS, this time it was a frog! And since we live in a very moderate climate we EXPERIENCED 100 degree weather so we can better UNDERSTAND differences in temperature...we spent a lot of time DISCUSSING the WEATHER and why it is so much cooler where we live. This discussion has led to further learning, this week we will work on the question, "What causes the Weather?" in our Daily Science work book!

The kids were able to EXPERIMENT with cooling themselves off, watching their hats float downriver, and watching their hats sink in the water once saturated. My youngest, Squeaker, got to OBSERVE EVAPORATION. She hates to get her clothes wet, so we sat in the sun for about 5 minutes and watched her pants dry out!

We also OBSERVED the flow of the river and discussed where rivers are going, what causes white rapids and DEFINED and COMPARED different BODIES OF WATER (lake, river, creek, waterfall).

We love getting out of the house to learn, explore and grow. Happy homeschooling!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Homeschooling in a Small Space

 I must admit that I am quite envious of other homeschooling moms. It seems like many of these other bloggers live on small farms with acres of land for their kids to roam and an entire room dedicated to their "classroom." Back when we lived in Idaho I had the entire basement to use as a school/craft room, but my oldest was only 4.5 when we left!



Now we're in California and real estate is MUCH more expensive...like 3x as expensive. So we live in an apartment. Here's how we manage to homeschool 2 kids plus a preschooler. The main thing is that we're outside A LOT! Anything messy goes outside. We paint outside and do our baking soda experiments OUTSIDE! If you live in a very cold climate (it's very moderate year round here) you could get out of the house by taking your stuff to the library or a community center.

All of our book learning, reading and writing happens either on the couch or at the dinner table. Sometimes it happens in the middle of the kitchen floor or in a bed, but most of the time we're sitting on the couch. I've considered purchasing those little lap desks so the kids could sit up and have a hard surface to write on. I think it would help, but in the long run I don't know where I'd store them!


Storage is a big deal in our apartment. It's about 800 square feet with 3 beds, 1 bath and one living space. The kitchen is pretty decent sized probably because they assumed you'd put your table in there. Instead we put our table in the living room which meant I had room to put up two big shelves in the kitchen (which is important because there was no pantry and only 1 cupboard to store food!). So on two shelves I store all our main school supplies: each child has a milk crate with all their work books, notebooks and pencil boxes. The other shelf has some math manipulatives, maps, flashcards, art supplies and communal school books (like our Daily Science and brain teasers).


Right next to the shelves we have a HUGE blank wall, so that's where I hung my bulletin board, made of a hollow-core door, fabric and LOTS of staples. This is where I hang schedules, their chore charts, number charts (which we use all the time) and their art work. I take pictures of their art work so every month I can recycle what's on the board (that way we're not hanging onto things that cause clutter and we still have a copy of their work).


The 3rd bedroom in our house is the Bear's room, plus an office (a corner desk with computer) and the playroom. The closet has no doors on it, so we put a low shelf for toys, on top of which we stacked another white container to wrangle smaller toys, next to which we have turquoise container for more schooling tools.

 In these drawers I store little learning tools that aren't used as frequently as the items in the kitchen. Things like a box full of dice, geometric pattern block shapes, a geoboard and rubber bands, stickers, string and beads, alphabet stamps, a jar full of bottle lids with letters on them, construction paper, coloring books, drawing books, magnet letters and Unifix cubes.

I'm sure anyone who is fabulous at organizing and keeping things organized could do wonders with 800 square feet, but I'm not that person. I like my system because I can just chuck the stamps back into the drawer when we're done with them. I still have all the supplies I need to make our homeschool function and provide enough opportunities for my kids who have very different learning styles.


 Hopefully this can help someone who is worried about homeschooling in a small space! You can do it! Get some shelves and get to work! Happy homeschooling!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Not Back-to-School

We are year-round schoolers (mostly because my husband and I feel like this more accurately represents adult life...in that summer vacation isn't a reality beyond public school). But, we just recently had about a week and a half off of all regular book and computer work. Our brief vacation is now over and we are back to the daily grind of things...this is what today, our first day back to school looked like:
We had 4 loads of laundry to do, which is most of the mess you see, mixed in with pencil boxes, notebooks and school books...and of course toys.

I got Squeaker a little preschool workbook so she could do "school" with us too. The Bear decided to take a break from her math to help sister. Speaking of math, I'm trying something new with her...which is really hard for me since I like to control things. Each day the Bear is assigned one lesson in her Go Math! book, but I'm giving her the freedom to work on it at her own pace. In the past, I've sat down with her and made her finish it, but I'm trying to give her more responsibility and ownership of her work. Also, if she doesn't finish her lesson she can't do any of the fun stuff like play on Prodigygame.com or ride her bike!

Here is the Bear checking her spelling pre-test. We haven't done any official spelling work with her before. In the past I've just let her sound things out and enjoy the process of writing. However, since she is quite an advanced reader I'm starting to push her in spelling and writing this year. Her Write Source book has an alphabetized spelling list that we're going to work through. Today I tested her on all the letter "A" words and she only missed 3, so we'll practice those for the next few days and move on to "B" words soon. 

Once we finished our "have-to's" (reading, writing and math) with Buddy and the Bear...and I finished washing and drying my mound of laundry we went off to the dump to recycle our water bottles and pick up balloons for a fun experiment we'll do later. Once we got home we read in our Daily Science book. Then the kids cleaned up the living room, did their other chores and watched "They Might Be Giants" videos on YouTube while I exercised. That was our day!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Homeschool in the Woods


It took us about an hour to get away from it all, and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT! Homeschooling in nature is so rewarding! We got to DISCOVER tiny frogs and DISCUSS/HYPOTHESIZE what would happen to the little guy since he was missing a leg! We got plenty of EXERCISE running through the forest and splashing through the streams. We COMPARED the different species of ferns (and later read about them and learned their names), DISCUSSED and OBSERVED fire and water damage, and we ANALYZED our environment to MAKE DECISIONS about how to cross the creek, climb over fallen trees and continue our adventure up the canyon. We also got to OBSERVE Roosevelt Elk and APPLY knowledge we had previous gained to DISCUSS their behavior and DIFFERENTIATE male from female, bodily functions, IDENTIFY scat, and DISCUSS a harem.

Don't forget to check out grocery store schooling and homeschool at the docks!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Homeschooling at the Dock


Utilizing our community is one of the most fun ways we homeschool. I've already discussed homeschooling at the grocery store and today we had some fun science discussions down at the docks!

We OBSERVED Harbor Seal behavior and discussed intelligence in animals (they knew which fish guts were Salmon and which were Rock Fish...they don't like Rock Fish guts). We DISCUSSED and PRACTICED water safety, we watched a fisherman gut and clean fish, we OBSERVED sea gull behavior and HYPOTHESIZED about their behavior around the seals. We also DISCUSSED and COMPARED seals to sea lions. We also got a good dose of SOCIALIZATION as we chatted with the other tourists on the docks and asked the captain questions about fish and boating.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Book Review: Sandra Boynton Books


If I HAD to pick a favorite Sandra Boynton book it would be "Barnyard Dance." This book has such a great rhythm that you really can "clap your hands and stomp your feet!"


Purchase on Amazon!
We love Sandra because of her cute characters and simple, flowing rhymes. These books are universally loved by boys and girls. My oldest would recite these books when she was 2 and now she loves reading them to our 3 year old. Hope you enjoy!

(If you follow the link to Amazon you'll be helping to support this blog!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Favorite YouTube Videos for Homeschooling

Learn months of the year with this catchy tune. The video isn't that great, but we sing this song all the time!

They Might Be Giants has a ton of super fun video songs for kids! We love this tune about the number zero and this one about the Days of the Week.

Okay, TMBG have a ton of amazing kids videos and they aren't afraid to use big words like PALEONTOLOGISTINCANDESCENT GAS/ATOMIC ENERGY, COLOR SPECTRUM, VENTRICLE, and NONAGON. I love their videos because they are 1. scientifically accurate 2. they give you just enough new information to pique your interest in the subject (like, I wonder if a Triops is real?) 3. they have really funny animation that gets us all laughing. And 4. it's NOT kid music. I really can't stand kid music, it's always so whiney and rinky-dinky-tinky. Ugh. But I could listen to They Might Be Giants all day long! And if your kids are younger and you need some good letter recognition videos try E eats everything, Alphabet Lost and Found, or Letter Shapes. You can also try ZYX, and Vowels. Here are a couple simple math videos too: One Dozen Monkeys and I Can Add.

Grammaropolis is a group making fun videos all about...you guessed it, GRAMMAR! They've been called the modern School House Rocks. They've got videos on nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives!

We like this planet song by Have Fun Teaching. It's VERY repetitive and gives a little bit of info about each planet...and it's new enough that Pluto isn't included. And if you can handle more of his rapping, you should watch this weather video. It is very informative and the chorus is a dance-break for your kids to move around to!

We have watched a lot of Ned and Nellie as well. They are an Australian group that create friendly videos. We used their alphabet sound videos to help teach phonics. But their videos include everything from nursery rhymes to phonics, shapes and colors.

We also LOVE Fitness Blender! They are a cool couple from Washington state that posts free exercise videos on YouTube. The videos are very professional and I love that they have a timer so you know how much time you have left with each exercise. I also love that they don't use music so I can listen to my own jams! And the exercises are simple enough that my 6 year old can follow along and exercise with me!

There is so much on YouTube, but these are some of the things we use and love! I will continue to add new favorite videos as we find them, so check back often! What are your favorite educational YouTube videos?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: Elephant and Piggie Books

Click this picture to purchase from Amazon!

All of these Elephant and Piggie books are great beginning reader books that have funny pictures, lots of emotion and situations your child will relate to! Mo Willems utilizes lots of sight words in these books so they are great practice for your beginning reader! My kids always giggle through these books, and I'm sure yours will too! Happy reading!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Successful Homeschooling

What does a successful homeschool day look like? That's a REALLY DIFFICULT QUESTION to answer because it is totally subjective. (If you'd like more input on the subject I had a great time reading through a few blog posts that may enlighten you: BlogSheWrote, and Homeschool Diaries on Habits of Happy Homeschoolers and Eclectic Homeschooling. And you can visit Successful Homeschooling to get a TON more information and help. And in case you think anyone homeschooling has super powers you should read this.) Here's how I know we're being successful:

Buddy approaches me with questions about multiplication or genealogy or wants to discuss facts about dinosaurs. I know then that I've exposed him to new things that has turned his brain into a question machine. I also know he's had enough QUIET TIME to process new information and create HIS OWN QUESTIONS!


A stellar day in our home includes JUST ONE of these things: have you discussed something in depth? Have you been curious and researched a question? Have your explored or closely observed anything? Have you made anything you are proud of? Have you mastered a skill? Have your learned something new, do you really understand it?  Have you had fun? Did you try something new? Did you visit a new place?


HOMESCHOOLING IS A LOT LIKE PARENTING. It is a slow process that requires consistency and a little bit of work every day. It can be exhausting and you're probably going to worry...a lot...about whether or not "you're doing it right." Are your kids happy, growing, learning, inquisitive? You're doing it right!


My friend and I had an amazing revelation at about the same time in our homeschooling adventures. She said to me, "I realized I shouldn't be teaching public school at home. I need to stop trying to simulate public education and embrace that we're at home!" There are so many chances to expose your kids to amazing things, so go on an adventure and try something new!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Carnival of Homeschoolers!

Carnival of HomeschoolingI got into the August Carnival! You can check out this great homeschooling resource for inspiration and a one-stop-shop of great homeschooling articles!

  I'm so excited to be a part of this group! Here are the last two Carnival's (Each month they are posted on a different blog): July and June.

I've had the chance to do a lot of reading since I started this blog. It's so amazing to read the stories of other women in similar situations: their faith, dedication, love and endurance. I'm so glad to be numbered among them as I blog my experience in homeschooling!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: Tripod Trilogy

The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire by John Christopher. These are great science fiction meets historical fiction books about 200 pages in length. I loved the main character because he messed up but learned from his mistakes. Anyone about 10 and up will love these stories!

All 3 books are set in Europe in what at first seems the 18th century, but is actually the future. Giant, 3 legged monsters roam the planet and have enslaved the human population. We follow our adventurous, and very fallible hero, as he joins a group of free-men who attempt to overthrow these aliens!
Purchase now, on Amazon!

While my advanced reading 6 year old could easily read these books, she wouldn't be able to understand the concepts in these books: agency, government, revolutions, and in general I don't know that she would be able to visualize the description of objects like grenades, abandoned underground railways and the deserted city of Paris.

I am actually not a huge sci-fi fan, but I loved these books! If you'd like to read a more in depth review from an actual book reviewer, check out this site!