Friday, July 22, 2011

Window on the World

One of the things I love about my friend Jewel is that she loves to talk homeschool and share ideas, books and tips she's picked up along the way. She's really a wealth of knowledge! Just recently her friend told her about a book called Window on the World: When we Pray God Works by Daphne Spraggett and Jill Johnstone. Jewel ordered one for herself and when I saw this stunning book: I had to have one for myself!

This beautiful book features a country or people group on each two-page spread. It's full of captivating pictures, information about that country (or people group) and how we can pray for them and the missionaries in that area. It's a book that will be loved by all the members of your family regardless of age. Short stories about featured countries or people groups help relate foreign lands and people to children (and adults) in the West. Each page includes a small map putting the country into perspective with neighboring countries, a fact box with essential country, and people information and prayer points that children can ask God for as well as thank God for.

Description (from Amazon): "Window on the World is your ticket to travel around the world! Find out how God is changing the lives of families everywhere through prayer-from the frozen arctic to the hottest desert, on the highest mountains and in crowded cities. Window on the World brings alive the culture, history, and traditions of all sorts of different people. With ‘Fact Files’ and ‘Do You Know?’ features, each section brings you information, true stories, maps, and easy-to-use prayer points that take you into homes around the world. See how children live, what they like to do, what they eat and wear and what they hope and dream."

We have many missionary friends all over the Earth and we pray for them often. I would like to do this more for missionaries all over the globe. We'll be integrating this into our Bible curriculum this year. I think it'll be great to help the kids to be more 'mission-minded' and have global missions fresh in their minds. We will study people groups and countries and we see how they live, what they believe and we learn about the mission efforts in that area, but most importantly: we'll be praying for God to work in the lives of those people in that area.

I picked this book up from Amazon for about $13 (paperback and hardback are both available).

Thanks for telling me about this book Jewel!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tot School

Plans are underway for Zoe to begin "Tot School". Basically the idea behind Tot School is intentional, fun, learning-centered time with your tot. I think back to my time when Robert and Andrew were little. I'd sit on the floor and sing them songs, talk about colors, letters, numbers, shapes and read a ton of books. We'd work puzzles, sort objects by shape, color, type, etc. Now that I have two big boys and a little tot, I've noticed that my intentional "learning" time with Zoe is significantly less because I'm busy teaching math or science to my two older boys the majority of the day. I want to spend this time focused completely on Zoe and having fun as we focus on early-learning skills.

You can head over to 1+1+1=1 and learn more about Tot School. A bunch of moms and tots all over the globe participate in Tot School and share their ideas. The power of the online community never ceases to amaze me. As a homeschooling mom, I don't feel like I have to re-invent the wheel or come up with a million ideas all on my own. We can come together to share with other moms who are homeschooling or doing Tot School too.

One of the ideas that several moms doing Tot School is "tot trays". You put the activity on a tray. This tray provides the place to do many of the activities, and is easy for them to clean-up. I had originally planned on purchasing trays like these,

but they've proven hard to find. Oriental Trading is no longer carrying them and I found some online (in really ugly colors) and they are still expensive and the shipping was outrageous.

Never underestimate the power of the Wal-Mart clearance isle. I found these for $1 each. These will definitely hold us over for a while and if I can score some of the other kind for a decent price, great, but for now, I think these will be just fine!

Some ideas for Tot School may include: pouring, transferring, beading, spooning, hiding items in uncooked pasta or beans, sorting, matching, counting, cutting, gluing, simple arts and crafts, fine motor skills, stickers, etc.

These are things to do WITH your child. If you're looking for Tot Tray ideas, you should head over to 1+1+1=1 and check them out. There are lots of activities for a variety of ages. Most importantly, it should be FUN!

I'm off to make some Tot School plans for this cute girlie!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Morning Meeting and Monsters!!

I did some updating to our Morning Meeting area for this upcoming school year. I use the space below my two white boards for our Morning Meeting. Our Morning Meeting consists of two sections: the calendar and the morning meeting board.

I am using my same calendar from last year, but I added a strip of the monster border to spruce it up a bit and to tie it all together! Can you guess what our theme might be for this year?

For the Morning Meeting Board, I used two pieces of foam board as the base. I had originally planned to cover it with the same fabric that is on my bulletin boards, but I decided that was too much hassle, so I got out that cute monster border and viola! a cute home-made bulletin board for about $3. I ran a piece of border down the middle too because that seam wasn't so pretty.

After we add the date to the calendar, we move over to the Morning Meeting Board. (The calendar part is pretty obvious, right? Please say yes because I am not done cutting out my months and numbers yet!)

First we have our "Today is...", "Yesterday was...", "Tomorrow will be..." section. This reinforces the days of the week, their order, etc.
I just created these using Microsoft Word. Once I printed them out, I mounted them on cardstock and laminated them. I made a pocket to hold the extra days. I laminated that too to make it more durable. I do have a toddler running around, you know and this is within her reach!

Next, we have our weather section. The kids check the weather each morning after breakfast and they update the weather at the Morning Meeting. They add the big weather card to the "What's the Weather?" to show that day's weather and the small weather card on the one that shows all 5 weekdays. I like this because it helps show them the weather over a duration of time. The pocket holds all the pieces.

You can find these prinatables at: Homeschool Creations and 1+1+1=1.

The next two things are included in the weather and calendar part of the morning meeting. We have a place to write the day and the date two different ways. This is good reinforcement for your older kiddos. We also have a place to chart the inside and outside temperatures. I just mounted these on cardstock and laminated them. You can use a dry-erase or wet-erase marker to change these each day. I personally prefer a Vis-a-Vis wet erase marker (like you'd use on a transparency).

You can find these printables at: Homeschool Creations and 1+1+1=1.

I love the "Make the Date" section of our morning meeting. This is where the kiddos can practice counting coins to form the date. For example, if the date is the 13th, they'll use coins to make 13 cents. All the pieces are in the little pocket!

You can find these printables at 1+1+1=1.

We also have a Color of the Day on our Morning Meeting Board. This is mainly for the benefit of Zoe, but will be good reinforcement for Andrew (K) this year too. We take the time to point out a few things around the room that are that color or think of other things that are that color too. For older kids, have them practice spelling those color words!
You can find this at: 1+1+1=1. This pocket she's created is blank, so it's good for other things too! Save it as a template. (I used it to hold my days of the week.)

This year, we are studying US Geography. By using these clips, I can change the geography section as often as I need to include whatever we are studying. Here I've clipped an Alabama flashcard.
We'll find Alabama on our map, talk about the capital and a few fun facts about the state. We'll also talk about Mountain Regions, Rivers, Trails, etc. this year in geography. We'll touch on it at Morning Meeting and go more in depth later in the day.

Next I have our weekly Bible verse and our Character Quality we are studying. For Bible, we use Developing Godly Character in Children. Each week, I print our verse and character quality on cardstock and slide them into these clips. This makes it easy to remove them and hang a new one each week.

We also have a weather graph to chart the weather over the course of the month.
You can find this printable at Confessions of a Homeschooler.

One more thing we do each day is our Place Value Chart. Each day we add a straw to the "ones" pocket. When we get to 10, we bundle them up with a rubber-band and move them over to the tens place and put a 0 in the ones place. We do this everyday. It reinforces those place-value skills AND it helps me keep up with how many days we've been in school that year! This pocket chart is beside one of my white boards.

I picked this up at my local teacher supply store for about $12 I think. You should be able to find it online too.

Well, that's basically our Morning Meeting portion of our school day. I hope I've given you some ideas and some inspiration to have your own morning meeting with your kiddos!

And now I'll leave you with a few magnificent monsters that you'll find in my school room this year. I am not done with them all, but here's a preview!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Playdough Mats

I love playdough. Children love playing with playdough and there are so many learning activities that can be done using it. One of the things playdough can be used for is teaching basic math skills. You can do sorting activities, counting activities, size discrimination activities, addition and subtraction activities etc. These can be teacher led or child led activities. It can be used for fun imaginative creating too.

One thing I like to do with playdough is to use 'playdough mats'. Over at Homeschool Creations, Jolanthe has created some awesome number and alphabet playdough mats. There are is a set for numbers 0-10, numbers 11-20 and alphabet.

These are extremely well designed. I printed mine on white cardstock and laminated them. They are awesome. Perfect for a tot or preschooler, a kindergartener or some extra fun for your early elementary student. Once I had mine all laminated and my little Seoul Sister was napping, the boys (K and 2nd grade), got to work on them. They were a huge hit!

The alphabet has a capital letter, a lower case letter and a picture of something that starts with the letter. The number set has the number and dots corresponding to to that number. The child can also form mini balls to place on each of the dots to count along with 1:1 correspondence.

Thanks so much to Homeschool Creations for providing these AWESOME and FREE printables!

Here's some photos of my boys having fun trying out the playdough mats this afternoon!

Andrew was excited because he made a really BIG snake.

When he's really concentrating, he gets that tongue going.

Even big brother Robert loves a playdough break!

He made an 8 and counted 8 mini-balls!

All done!

When we finished with the numbers, we thought we'd give the letter playdough mats a try. Andrew said he started with the letter Z for his little sister. Such a great big brother!

Head on over to Homeschool Creations and get you some playdough mats and some other great printables!


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Family Discipleship

One of the things you may (or may not) know about me is that I am a former Children's Ministry Director. One of the things I was (and still am) passionate about is Family Discipleship. We feel strongly that the parents' primary responsibility is to come alongside their children and disciple them. We are to model for them what it is to be a fully-devoted follower of Christ and guide them as they embark on their spiritual journeys. Unfortunately, there is a major disconnect for many families in this area.

From my personal experience, I see how my parents tended to my emotional, social, physical and academic needs, but they "outsourced" my spiritual development to the Christian school and the church. They didn't know how to do it any differently. Maybe they felt inadequate. They dropped me off to a children's pastor or a youth pastor and saw those people as the "experts" and spiritual things were not discussed in my house without an air of uncomfortableness. I've found that this is not all that uncommon still in the church today. The church and the Christian schools should be partnering with parents to raise their kids: not doing it for them. Parents need equipping, not replacing. Parents have to stop being so passive and be intentional.

Michael's family was the same way. When we got married and started our family, we said that was one thing we wanted to change for our family. We wanted to start a new legacy. It's not always easy. Some nights, I just feel like screaming at the child who has disobeyed for the 935th time that day and my flesh wants to yell, spank his butt and send him off crying to his room. It takes time to sit and explain to the child why it is important to obey. It takes time to pull out that Bible and give them a word from THE Word. It takes a lot of self-control (especially on my part) to pray with the child to ask for forgiveness and for help in making better choices. However, we are seeing the fruit of our efforts.

This is our primary reason for homeschooling our children. Yes, academics are important to us and fortunately, it doesn't have to be one or the other. We can have a strong emphasis on academics and a strong emphasis on their spiritual development at the same time. We are in the trenches with them all day. We are there when the frustration over a math problem turns into a discussion of James 1:5 (If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. ) or 2 Corinthians 4:8 (We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.) or Philippians 4:13 (I can do everything through him who gives me strength.) It's not always pretty, but we are doing much more than filling their minds with academic knowledge. We are pointing them to the Father. We are showing them how to go to Him, "our very present help in time of need". They have seen us push aside the textbooks to spend time praying for a friend who was ill or to go serve someone who needed us that day. We're teaching them about life as a follower of Jesus. Sometimes that means spending an afternoon loving on His people, sometimes it's cleaning the house (even when we don't want to) before daddy comes home.

There are many reasons we choose to educate our children at home, but if I had to choose my top reason, this would be it. We are able to be intentional with our children each and every day. I get to spend time investing in their lives. Honestly, when Robert was in traditional school, I found myself frustrated at how little I saw him during the week. Mornings were filled with getting dressed in uniform, packing lunches, eating breakfast, getting out the door by 7:15 and carpooling across town. The afternoons were spent doing homework, running to sports practices, music practices, eating dinner and getting ready for bed. I was exhausted and had to do it all again the next day. I felt like I didn't know what was going on in his life. He came home (from his Christian school) asking about things I didn't think I'd have to address in kindergarten. Things are simpler now. My days are busy keeping our home running while educating the kids and wrangling a toddler, but I think about how these times will pass all too quickly. We won't ever get these days back and we're committed to making each and every day count.

I will say, my house was cleaner when they went to school. :-) Now the tables are covered in science projects, art projects and textbooks, but I wouldn't have it any other way! I just will NOT wear a denim jumper though, so don't ask.

*Disclaimer: NO, I don't think that you can only disciple your children if you homeschool. I know many great families who are intentional with their children and they send them to public and private schools. God has led *our* family to educate at home, but it certainly is not the only way to be intentional and to disciple your kiddos! :-)

Great Illustrated Classics

I have to admit, sometimes we homeschool moms don't feel comfortable veering too far from our "curriculums" and books that tell us exactly what to do and when to do it. One area where I struggled with this last year was Reading. I wanted to make sure Robert had the "skills" that go with reading. He was reading books that were listed on 5th and 6th grade reading lists, but I wanted the security of a book/curriculum/teacher's manual to tell me what he should be doing and when. However, this backfired on me. This Reading Curriculum we used was so remedial for where he was, it was more "busy work" and "review" for things he has been able to do for years.

I vowed to make a change to his Language Arts program this year to make it fun and challenging and still cover the skills he will need in these areas. I prayed about it and God led me to some changes that I wouldn't have necessarily chosen last year. I love it when He shows me ways He wants to mold me and change me and grow me. Clearly, He wants much more than just for me to educate my kiddos. He wants to teach me something too.

The first change I made was to his Spelling program. I'll save that for another post because I want to show it off. It ROCKS!

The second change I made was to give up on the "boxed" Reading program, trust my instincts and make something up that works for us. My sweet friend, Jewel told me about "Great Illustrated Classics". I love these books because they are shortened versions of the original classic books. I was thinking about how less daunting "The Call of the Wild" will seem in 9th grade, when a child read it in elementary school in a shortened, simplified version.

So far, I've hit a few used curriculum sales, some used bookstores and a few yard sales and I've found several of these great books. I've been able to add to our library for about $2 a book! We all know how much I love a bargain!

Our plan is to have him read the book, take a comprehension review test on Book Adventure (if one is available online, if not, I'll make one up), draw a picture from a scene in the book and write a brief summary about the book or his favorite part.

Robert is a child who LOVES to read. He ALWAYS has his nose in a book. Telling him we're going to the library or the used book store is like saying we're going to the park to Andrew. It's his idea of fun. I think this will be a much better fit for him and will continue his love for reading without burning him out on the "busy work" of labeling word families.

As we prepare for the upcoming school year, I hope this is encouragement to you homeschooling parents to trust your instincts. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box. It's easy to get caught up in the busy-work, the workbooks, etc., but YOU know your child. You know what he or she needs and is capable of doing. It's okay if they didn't complete a worksheet on it; if he knows it: he knows it. Be willing to think outside the box(ed curriculum) and enjoy a good book with your kiddos! Who knows, maybe you'll learn something too! :)

So far, I've found "Treasure Island", "Great Expectations", "The Jungle Book", "The Call of the Wild", "White Fang", "The Three Musketeers", "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", and "Around the World in 80 Days". I've saved the list in my iPhone, so when I'm out and I spot a book, I'll know if I have it already.