Monday, September 4, 2017

'Twas the Night Before the First Day of Homeschool...

...and all is in readiness! I'm feeling as ready as we can be for our first day of school tomorrow. The last major task I had set to do was to put together my daughter's daily checklist. In this way she is learning to work independently and take control of her own education.

Last school year I found an awesome free printable schedule sheet from Anna Joy's blog Path Through the Narrow Gate. I'm somewhat of a relaxed homeschooler, but there were things I wanted to get done that sometimes failed to get accomplished because we simply forgot about them!  Sure, we didn't forget about the major subjects (Sonlight Currriculum's awesome Instructor's Guide helps ensure that!), but some of those nice extras got overlooked and set by the wayside. I wanted that to change.

So last school year I printed out a set of these blank schedules. Unlike the creator, I choose NOT to put times on them, but simply have a checklist. And we proceeded to have the best school year ever, completing everything I had wanted my daughter to do for her fourth grade year! This, even though we'd had to squeeze in some extras that I had wanted her to do in 3rd grade, but because of several unexpected major life events, had to weed when I realized there just wasn't time.

So this year, I have chosen to use them again, and have modified how we're using them. One school day goes on each card, and then every subject we're going to cover in a school day is written down. They are color-coded based on how many days a week that subject is repeated (I'll post another time how I figured out which days to do what.). Everything in brown (such as most of her Sonlight-specific work) is repeated all five school days.

Finally, I placed a foil star next to the subjects my daughter can do independently. Because I work a part time job in the late evening, I often am getting to bed very late at night, so I'm not prepared to teach until mid-morning at the earliest. With this system, my daughter can go ahead and get ready before I get out of bed, have her breakfast, and immediately get started on any schoolwork with a star on it for that day.

Each day's checklist is slipped inside one of these plastic pockets I purchased a couple years ago for (as set of 10 is less than $15!), and all five days' lists are hung on a hook in the hall across from my daughter's desk.

You can see in the first photo that the top thing on the list is "Monday Meeting".  With my daughter being a 5th grader this year, I want to give her even more guidance in learning to organize her time and get her tasks done. And since two of her three older siblings chose to attend public high school after homeschooling, I want her to begin training now for keeping track of her assignments.  I purchased her a student planner, and each Monday, I will let her know where she needs to be in each workbook, how far she needs to be in her independent reading, Bible memorization, etc. She'll write this down in her student planner to refer to the rest of the week.

So, these wall checklists are her general assigments. She will then refer to her planner for specifics on each subject.

Below that is one more's items she can choose to do if she finishes before I'm finished with my morning coffee, is bored, or just simply wants something to do (as long as her daily work is complete). It's educational things I want to encourage her to do, but chose not to have them as part of the regular schedule (with the exception of a couple items which, she said are so fun, she wanted to remember she can do them even on days that they're not scheduled!)

Just a few more hours to go!  Praying for a great school year!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

If you've done some sort of "morning board" in your homeschool, but now your kids are older and what you have isn't working any more, check out this video on my Facebook page where I share what I just finished creating for my daughter.

She's starting fifth grade this year, and I wanted something that would work well for at least a couple years into middle school. That, plus our curriculum (Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere--Core F--this year, and two years of world history following that--Cores G & H) helped me determine what things I put on there.

I used colored cardstock, scrapbooking paper, Post-It pockets, images I googled, free printables from bloggers and Teachers Pay Teachers, and an assortment of other supplies to fill up every space. It took me quite a few hours over a little more than a week to complete, but I had fun and I'm rather delighted with the outcome.

Take a tour of our "Homeschool Highlights" board!

Here are some of the items I used:

An Elmer's tri-fold foam board like this

 Fun pockets:

And these to hang it on my wall:

Have you implemented a "morning board" of some sort in your homeschool? What have you included on it?

Friday, September 4, 2015

FREE PIZZA!! How I'm Utilizing Pizza Hut's Book It! Program This Year

There's still time to sign up for this year's Book It! Program, where your children can get rewarded for their reading with a FREE personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. And YES, homeschoolers can participate as well as classroom students.  I've been using it for years with my children.

The program leaves it up to teachers and homeschooling parents to come up with an individualized reading plan for their students. My youngest doesn't need any incentive to read, but I want to direct her reading somewhat, so I wanted to come up with a good plan for her to earn her pizza that would encourage her to stretch herself a little bit. I also wanted to have some sort of fun visual for her to keep track of her reading and how close she was to getting her free pizza.

We're doing American history this school year, and I happen to have a large number of books in our home library that coordinate really well with our curriculum that aren't in the Sonlight schedule. To encourage her to read these, I came up with this plan.

First of all, I picked one of the free printable reading logs available at the Book It! website. I chose the one for keeping track of the number of pages read. Then I found a blank printable pizza image.  I chose one without "slices" and printed several out onto cardstock.

There were also free printable pizza toppings which I printed out onto regular paper.

Rather than having to spend a crazy amount of time cutting out all those pieces, I used my circle punch, very similar to this one. Made the job a whole lot easier!

For every 100 pages she reads, my daughter gets to glue a topping of her choice on the pizza. I decided that 1000 pages would be a good goal for her to earn her pizza. I told her that if she reads more pages than that in a month, then she can earn a treat someplace else, such as a milkshake from Sonic.

Have you used the Book It! program? How have you individualized it for your children? Have you used other reading incentive programs?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Those AHA moments! The Excitement When One Book is a Bridge to Understanding Another.

We're currently reading Walk the World's Rim in Sonlight's Core D. I'm reading it a little faster than the schedule calls for, because I want to be able to add in additional books throughout the year. I've done this Core three times before and a few books have been added and subtracted since 1998 when I first taught it to my oldest daughter. As many of the books I read to her that are no longer scheduled, I'd like to be able to share with my youngest as well. By reading an extra chapter or two here and there as well as reading over the weekend, I can finish faster and, over the course of the year, provide extra days for these additional books.

In today's reading, Chakoh and Esteban and the "Three Señors" (Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, and Andres Dorantes) are trying to establish themselves among the Buffalo People so that they are able to first be able to stay long enough for one of their party to recover physically, but also to be able to secure guides to help them along the next leg of their journey to Mexico City. Estaban creates a scenario where it's believed he's been bitten by a rattle snake so that the "Three Senñors" can use their "magic" to heal him and thus provide them status as powerful Medicine Men and the safety they expect that to provide. What Chakoh quickly realizes was not considered was the pride of the Medicine Man who serves the Buffalo People and the severe danger they are all in should this man's envy cause him to feel his power threatened!

Immediately my thoughts returned to one of my favorite books from Core C, which was among the final stories we read: And the Word Came With Power. Several times I found myself reminding my daughter of things that had happened to author/missionary Joanne Shetler as she sought to bring the gospel message to the Balangao people, who were steeped in fear of evil spirits.  She too faced the jealousy of the Witch Doctor. And just as Ms Shetler had to realize she was facing real power and not simply superstition, so also Cabeza de Baca comes to this realization.

After a night of "cooperation" with the Medicine Man of the Buffalo People, and of observing things that happened to Esteban during that time, Cabeza de Vaca becomes thoughtful:

"This makes me wonder, " he said, "This is exactly the way the Indians that we cured acted."

"My people always behave like this after the Spirit-of-Misfortune breathes on them, said Chakoh. "I have seen it often. So have you."

"Yes, we have. Does it always come and go so suddenly?"

"The Spirit of Misfortune always strikes suddenly, but almost always the medicine man cures my people."

"I see now that we might have saved our payers and vows. We are not the great healers that we thought."

"But you are," said Chakoh. "Our medicine men never cured them as quickly as you."

"And I imagine they never had quite as many patients either. Never mind, Chakoh. I am thinking aloud."    ~ Walk the World's Rim, chapter 5, The Cure

Yet again, I find myself so appreciative of how great books can be used to teach other great books... and how Sonlight has found these and put them together to provide such amazing teaching opportunities...sometimes ones they haven't even predicted!

The power of God is real, as Joanne Shetler knew. But so also Satan has real power, whether through superstition or actual interaction with people, as Cabeza de Vaca was beginning to realize. But as Joanne Shetler came to actually experience "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4

Through stories like this, and the discussions they encourage, I am able to pass on the Power of the Gospel to my daughter in a meaningful way. This is one of the reasons I homeschool, so that I have many opportunities like this. 


In the early grades, I've come to follow a philosophy of believing that exposure is more important than memorizing a bunch of facts. I want to focus more on establishing a familiarity with various areas of knowledge rather than the ability to spit out lots of facts. My thought is that I'm building up a scaffold of information that, given time and experience, my children can build upon. Some areas of knowledge will get built upon more in-depth than others, depending on the interests and needs of each child. My job as their teacher, is to establish that scaffolding.

So last year, part of the scaffolding I wanted to build in my daughter was to introduce some basic geography terms. I used the book Geography From A to Z by Jack Knowlton to accomplish this.

I love this book, because it can be adapted to a wide range of ages. The first time I used it was with my now teenage daughter when she was in the 8th grade. We had a lot of other material to cover, so didn't spend a whole lot of time with it, but I discovered that if we went over 2-3 terms each week, we could stretch the book out over a single school year and it only took a few minutes a day. With my youngest, I decided I wanted to spend a little more time with it, and to my delight found some great FREE resources that we were able to utilize.  I actually ended up creating an entire Pinterest board for the book.

I was delighted to discover this amazing labor-of-love resource from Jennifer over at MamaJenn. She created printable copywork and illustration pages covering EVERY main term found in the book! Best of all, it's a FREE download. I printed the pages out and then used my comb binder to put all the pages together as a workbook (I scanned and printed a color copy of the book cover onto cardstock to use as the cover of the workbook).

Again, 2 or 3 times a week, we spent a few minutes going over a single term from the book. Since my daughter was only in 2nd grade, I decided to not require her to copy the entire definition, but only a key part (for an older student, it would be a good idea to copy the entire thing). I would underline the part I wanted her to copy. For each term, I also sought out either an image or a video to help her get a better understanding and internal image of the land form. Each of these I saved on the Pinterest board. These were added as we covered them and so, due to the limitations of Pinterest at this time, when you look at the board, you'll have to work your way up from the bottom. I am hoping that one of these days, Pinterest will allow for rearranging pins within a board. When that happens, I will fix that board to be more user-friendly.

Julie, over at Butterflies & Barefoot Lasses created some notebooking pages as well. I printed out the photos she includes in her FREE download and had my daughter cut these out and glue them into her workbook. This way she had both her own illustration and an actual photograph of the landform.

Here are a couple more sample pages from what my daughter did last year as a second grader:

Now she has not only a great keepsake, but also a quick and easy reference that she created. In this coming school year, as we study American History, a number of these terms will come up (The Strait of Magellan for example). Because of this project from last year, these terms will have more meaning to her as they come up in her reading. Even if she doesn't remember the meaning specifically, my daughter will know where she can go to review.

Among the other resources you'll find by going to my Pinterest board for this book is a FREE printable Landforms Memory Game from Layers of Learning. Print on cardstock (laminate if you expect to use them with multiple children--I didn't bother since I'll only use it with one) and use for additional review!

You'll find that, for the most part, when I save printable resources on my Pinterest, they are FREE. From my experience, for every printable out there where there is a cost involved, someone else has made something similar that is free. Everyone's priorities are different, and so for some it's easier to go ahead and purchase printables the first time one is found that fits a need. And for classroom teachers, this is often especially the case. But for me, money is tight, and particularly because I'm down to my last child to teach, I have chosen to focus on finding FREE. And so when you explore my Pinterest, you will find just that...lots and lots of FREE printable resources.