Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day of School Tomorrow...SURROUNDED by Boxes!

We're still house-hunting...have to be out of our current rental by the end of the month at the latest, mid-month if possible.  Meanwhile, I'm having to be creative in where I place the boxes of things that have been packed, seeing as we still have to be able to live here for a little while longer.

In my husband's study...

 In the living room, above our school bookshelf...

 Even in the kitchen!

But tomorrow is September 1st, and that means it's time to start school with my 3rd grader.  Here's my Sonlight Instructor's Guide. I split it between two notebooks, 18 weeks in each. Scanned and printed a color copy of the IG cover so both notebooks are easily identifiable.

And here's week 1. My daughter's excited. I'm excited. We're about to start a new adventure, as we explore Sonlight's Core D, the first of two years of Introduction to American History.

I cheated a little bit. For her bedtime story, we started out by reading the first pages of Pedro's Journal.

So while our box-filled living spaces aren't anything like the homeschooling spaces featured in this blog post, and while we may have to take a break in a couple weeks, for now we're going to dig in and get started on our new learning adventure! It really doesn't matter if we have a beautiful room. What matters is that we recognize that learning can happen anywhere, any time, no matter what our circumstances.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Favorite Alphabet Books Revisted

I have a warm spot in my heart for alphabet books.  I love seeing how creative authors can be in an effort to introduce children to this building block of words. And yet, they aren't just for young children! The format of introducing a topic using an alphabetical format can be fun for older children too! So many interesting and more advanced topics can be introduced at any age by the simplicity of the A B Cs.

More than four years ago, I gave a list of favorite Alphabet books for young children in this blog post: Sharing Some of My Favorite Alphabet Books. Those titles still are favorites of mine, especially the ones by Jerry Pallota, since the text has two different degrees of challenge for readers.

Today I'll share some of my favorite alphabet books for older children.

Last school year, my youngest daughter discovered these two delights by author  David Schwartz, G is for Googol, and Q is for Quark.

I'm all about whetting children's appetites for math and the sciences, and I think these two books do an excellent job! While certainly not through studies, they give enough information to the reader to help them recognize the terminoloy and recall a small bit of information about them for when they inevitably encounter them later.  I'm a firm believer that it's far better for children to receive a gradual introduction to advanced math and science topics and vocabulary. It's much harder, I think, for students to have their first encounter with these things as high school students. Better to get bits and pieces when they are young so that as they dig deeper into the subjects in later years, there's at least a slight familiarity with the information. 

The Handmade Alphabet  by Laura Rankin beautifully portrays each letter of the alphabet in American Sign Language, along with an object starting with that letter. This gentle introduction to ASL can be a fun book to expose children to this unique language.

Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions quite deservedly won the Caldecott Medal for its illustrations. I'm always on the lookout for books which help my children learn about the many wonderful cultures around the world.

Then there's B is For Bluegrass: A Kentucky Alphabet and all the others in the Discover America State By State series. (There's also a Discover the World series!) These are great additions to any state study and provide a great way to learn new things about the state you live in or one you plan to visit.

It seems no matter the topic you're studying, you can likely find a book to introduce it using the simple format of an alphabet book! Do you have some favorite alphabet books in your home?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fostering Creativity

The first day of school at our house isn't until next Tuesday, but that doesn't mean there isn't learning going on around here!

This morning, after breakfast, I discovered my daughter busy at the dining room table.  What was she working on? A Translation.  Huh?

Apparently our cat "wrote" his biography. My daughter has taken up the challenge to translate that biography.  The original manuscript consists of rubber stamped paw prints scattered over a sheet of paper. My 8 year old is spending the day writing the life story of our cat, from our cat's perspective.

Most of the time I've been raising my kids, I've had to work a part time job on top of homeschooling, so I really haven't had the time to get them involved in more than a few select outside activities. I also haven't had time to organize crafts, art projects and such for them. But what I have done is always kept a supply of materials available for them to have the free reign of. I keep a cabinet full of paint, paper, brushes, markers, glue, and other things that I've accumulated. I save a few toilet paper tubes and egg cartons. And my kids have always known that they are free to use whatever is there.

I watch clearance sales at local stores, keep a box to toss those toilet paper tubes in, and watch thrift stores as well for random craft supplies. Rather than buying "craft kits" which cost a lot more and narrow what a child can do, I like to just let my kids explore with the materials and create what they want to.

For my youngest, much of the time that has come to mean writing books. She's been writing books since before she could actually write letters! She would draw pictures and "scribble" a story. Lately, she's been going back to those and writing out the stories she remembers. We have a large box of her saved stories (consisting of multiple pages of computer paper stapled together!). We tend to go through a lot of paper, so that's another thing I watch for sales on!

Funny thing, coloring books tend to last years at my house. Once in a while my children have each had a desire to color in one, but only occasionally. So they seem to take forever to be used up. I've encouraged free drawing. My oldest two, inspired by the book Harold and the Purple Crayon used to play a game together that they called "Harold and His Sister". Of course they each had a purple crayon. They would spread themselves out on the floor with several sheets of paper in front of them and then tell stories together, and draw them as they told the style of the original Harold.

Now, here's a coloring book series my youngest has been enjoying lately. I have a couple of them. I first heard about the Anti-Coloring books years ago in the Sonlight forums. I finally bought some a couple years ago.  Each page has a partial picture that serves as a prompt. The picture is completed by the child before coloring. My youngest has had a lot of fun with them. You can check them out here:

So anyway, while I was amused at the writing she was doing this morning, I wasn't surprised. My husband and I have endeavored to encourage creativity and imagination, and this morning's activity is the fruit of those efforts.

How have you fostered creativity and imagination in your children?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Free Resources for teaching The Story of the Orchestra

Sonlight Blog Party

As a long-time user of Sonlight Curriculum (for all but about 2 years of my more than two decades of homeschooling), I’m joining in the celebration of their 25th Anniversary Celebration by taking part in this month’s Blog Party.

This month, bloggers are asked to share about projects that tie in with books.

I’d like to share with you one of the projects I worked on this summer. I hunted down resources to enhance our use of the book, The Story of the Orchestra, part of Sonlight’s 3rd Grade Elective Package

I’m so glad that Sonlight includes these elective resources…they are wonderful additions to our curriculum and help make it easy to include areas of instruction too often easily overlooked. In just a few minutes a couple days a week with this book, and your child has the opportunity learn things beyond the “Three Rs”.  

The Story of the Orchestra introduces young children to the instruments, the structure, and the composers of classical music.  In the first part of the book, the varying instrument “families” are explored, followed by the second part where a wide variety of composers are introduced. Also included with this book is a CD, featuring 41 segments of music to go along with the readings.

In my quest to find something hands-on to go with this book, I searched Pinterest, blogs, and Google. I created a board on Pinterest with what I found.  I’ll share here some of what you’ll find there.

  • The website Color My Piano has an incredible array of resources, including a free Musical Instruments Workbook (scroll down…it’s the 32nd item on the page) you can print out. It contains coloring pages and blank lines for taking notes for learning about the musical instruments and the musical instrument families.  For the instruments not included in this resource, but included in the book, I was able to hunt down a coloring picture for each, which you can find links to on my Pinterest board.
  •  Another resource on Homeschool Helper is these free Famous Composers and Musicians Notebooking Pages.  All but five of the composers covered in The Story of the Orchestra are included.  I was able to find another resource with free blank composer notebooking pages plus one for Wagner at the blog Practical Pages. On my Pinterest board, you’ll find pins that link to photos of the remaining four that can be printed and glued onto the blank forms.
  • I pinned some great resources from numerous professional orchestra’s websites including The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, and The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. 

There are even more fun resources than I’ve described here that will go so well with this book to make it come even more alive to your child. As I discover more, I'll add them to that board so that no matter how lightly or how in-depth you'd like to use this book, you'll find something you can use on my board. 

Hope you’ve found this helpful! Let me know if you use any of it and how!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Packing for a Move While Homeschooling

Hard to believe I'll be starting my daughter's 3rd grade year a week from tomorrow!  I'm so glad I got so much prep done early in the summer before we found out we'd have to move.  My days the last couple weeks have been filled with packing.

Wanted to share here the system I've set up for packing. One thing I've learned after multiple moves over many years--several of which were from one state to another--is that it's really hard to ensure boxes end up where you want them. The good folks who unload your truck for you are primarily interested in getting everything out of the truck and inside fast, which doesn't necessarily translate into the boxes being in the RIGHT place.  After our last move, I had a box that was supposed to be placed in our master bedroom end up under several others in a storage area. I was worried for a long time that its important contents had been lost. I was SO glad when it finally turned up!

Actually, our last move, from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, was probably my most successful move yet as far as boxes ending up in the right place. That box was one of only a handful that ended up in the wrong place. That's because it was the first move that I did more than label my boxes. I color-coded them!

Each room/family member was assigned a color. I used squares of colored paper taped onto the boxes to identify each room. Then I made a sign for the front door of our new home so people could check that before putting a box away.

With this move, I have taken that idea and improved on it.  This time, I purchased about a dozen different colors of DUCT TAPE. Each room has its own color...and my girls who share a bedroom each have their own color. As each box is packed, a square of Duct Tape is torn off and affixed to the box. I love how much easier it is to use Duct Tape than squares of colored paper. With the paper, I had to cut it up into pieces and then tape it onto the box. With the duct tape...a piece tears off very easily and since it's tape (duh!) no extra tape needed!  

I've created a large poster identifying each color for where its boxes should go. Seeing as we're actually still house hunting and don't know for sure the layout and thus where a few things will go, those colors are blank for now.

As for homeschooling while of the best decisions I made with our last move was to set aside the entire school year's materials and pack those separately so that they were easy to find on "the other side". As it turned out, we had to leave behind most of our bookshelves, so it was nearly a year before most of my books were unpacked. But because I had the WHOLE school year's materials set aside, rather than just a couple months or a semester's worth, our school year wasn't affected.

So this time around, with the move being a local one, not from one state to antoher, I'm leaving all this year's materials out until just before Moving Day. I'll load them in plastic bins to transport to the new house and reshelve them right away. That will help limit the disruption the move will make in our school year!

What are some moving lessons you've learned? What about moving while homeschooling? Any tips you can share?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Defying Definition

Great article from Time Magazine! (And SONLIGHT CURRICULUM which I use--and have used--for all but my first couple years of homeschooling, is mentioned!)

Why More Urban Parents Are Choosing Homeschooling

Hmmm...let's see...not sure what "sort" of homeschooler I am. Hard to pin me down:

  1. We've been urban (Boston area), rural (central Illinois), semi-rural (west-central Pennsylvania), fringe-rural (central Kentucky) and I suppose the Tidewater area of Virginia might be considered suburban.
  2. I'm conservative-ish but registered Independent, social-justice minded, seek to be globally--rather than Americentric--minded in my perspective on world events and circumstances.
  3. I work a part time job.
  4. I have a daughter with BLUE hair.
  5. My husband has long hair and an earring (and attends a conservative seminary).
  6. I've homeschooled one all the way through high school but also sent two of our kids to public high school after homeschooling them because it was the right thing for them...and it's gone very well for both.
  7. Still homeschooling after over 20 years, with hopefully quite a few more in the future! 

From the article:

"Neither dropouts nor go-with-the-flow conformists, the new urban homeschoolers defy easy labeling. They don’t like what they see in the public schools, but they don’t necessarily want to tear them down. They want control, but mostly in the service of flexibility. They tend to reject newfangled educational theories, but they aren’t such traditionalists that they can’t see the educational value of Skype. They are religious—some of them—but their faith compels them to engage with their neighbors, not withdraw into isolation. Above all, they want a better education than their children can typically get sitting in a traditional classroom for six hours every day. Most homeschooling parents sound satisfied with their choice."

As a mom, with my children spread out over 17 years (oldest is 25, youngest 8), I've found that I'm able to relate with moms in their 20s and moms in their 60s . So also as a homeschooler, because of my varied ways, I'm more easily able to relate to a wide variety of homeschoolers.  I love that I'm hard to define!

How would you define yourself as a homeschooler?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Using a Reading Log as Penmanship

As I'm packing for our move, I'm finding things that are bringing back memories. Something I found today on a shelf was my oldest daughter's Reading Log from 2nd grade. She's 25 years old now and living on her own in another city, so that gives you an idea as to how old it is.

Once I was confident in her printing ability, I decided there wasn't really a need to have a formal handwriting program for her, but I did want her to work on neatness. So I came up with the idea of having her use a composition book as a Reading Log. I asked her to write the title and author of the book, and then draw a picture depicting a scene or character(s) from the book.

All these years later, it's so much fun to go back through this and see what she read, as well as her progress in writing and drawing. It's quite the keepsake, actually!

This was also her horse-crazy period, so as I page through her notebook, I see a LOT of horse books. I have often quipped about how this was God's joke on me. You see, back when I was in the 3rd and 4th grade, a classmate of mine, Barbara, used to always read horse books...and pretty much only horse books. And because she did this, I pretty much refused to read horse books. Then God gave me a horse-crazy daughter who read every horse book she could get her hands on, memorized breeds and horse facts and more.  Yeah, the joke was on me!

Sometimes we as homeschooling parents feel like we need to have a workbook or textbook for everything. But it's OK sometimes to forego them! Or at least as they progress through elementary school, if you are happy with the quality of their work in a subject such as handwriting, it's OK to just do something non-formal as a way of honing up those skills.

This time of year, you can get a composition book for less than a dollar at all the back to school sales. The ways you can use them in homeschooling are endless. And because the pages are stitched together, the book can indeed become something precious you go back to look at years from now.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

NOT Back to School!

Public schools in our community had their first day today. (We're not starting up homeschooling until September 1st).

Originally, before I found out we're having to move, I had planned to host a party today. A "NOT Back to School Party" with a few other homeschool families I'm connected with. But due to our impending move, I felt I needed to, unfortunately, cancel it.

But I wasn't going to let the party's cancellation mean I didn't do something fun with my homeschooled daughter. So I took her to McDonald's for lunch to get a Happy Meal...a rare treat. She got to eat her lunch there and play in the Play Place.  And while she played, I discovered there was another homeschooling mom there with her kindergartener. She herself had been homeschooled growing up, as had her husband. And now they're beginning the journey with their own children!

I encourage you to have fun with your kids on the first day of public school in your area if it hasn't already happened where you are. Even if you generally start the same day as they do, why not have your first day be something fun?  Celebrate your freedom by going outside, go to a park, go to a movie, or eat out. Even in a public school classroom, the first day is often not a very academic one...filled with learning new procedures and meeting new people.

If I'd not cancelled the party, I'll describe what was planned. We did the same thing last school year, and it was a lot of fun!  We had what was called a "Sandwich Potluck".

Each family brings the following to share:
-- one sandwich per attendee, (1/2 sandwich for each under age 5)
-- one side, or bag of chips, or dessert
-- one bottle of pop or juice
The sandwiches get cut into quarters (half sandwiches in half) so that everyone can have small portions to choose from potluck-style.

Be sure to label your sandwiches as to what's in them. Keep in mind the following as possible helpful information:
-- any peanuts or other nuts in the bread or contents?
-- gluten free

Encourage people to bring outdoor games to play as well as chairs and blankets for sitting on. This can be hosted at someone's home, or at an area park.

As I've said before, remember as you start your new school year, RELAX. Have fun on your first day!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Homeschooling While Moving

So just as I'm making final plans for starting our homeschool on September 1st, we get some unsettling news. The house we rent has been sold, and we have to find a new place and be out in just over a month's time!

So how does that gel with homeschooling?  Well, seeing as this is my 12th move in 30 years, I've got a few moving tricks up my sleeve...but the trial's still out as to just how I'll juggle the two. 

Stay tuned over the coming days as I share our moving & homeschooling adventure, including moving and packing tips and see how I figure out a Plan B for this school year!

My daughter next to a HUGE bag of bubble wrap we were able to acquire!

Friday, August 7, 2015

FRIDAY FEATURE: Gentle Spelling

If you have a child who is a generally good speller, many spelling programs can be rather frustrating, because you may feel your child isn't learning anything new. Over the years, depending on the needs of each of my children, I've used varying methods for spelling. However, once they've become basically adept, I found so many programs to be more "busy work" than truly instructional, and one of the advantages of homeschooling is to be able to eliminate "busy work"!

My youngest daughter is a natural speller. Now, that's not to say that she's a perfect speller. She does make errors on occasion...more in her earlier years than now, about to start third grade. But in general, she does spell fairly well.

When I do discover a spelling error, I have some basic criteria for determining whether or not to correct it.

  1. Does the spelling error make sense? In other words, when I look at HOW the word was spelled...given what I know about her level of understanding of phonics, does her misspelling have some logic? 
  2. Is this is a word she's going to be using regularly, or is it one she's unlikely to use again for some time? At her age (8), I really want to focus on words that will be common in her writing. If it's unlikely she'll be using the word again any time soon, I see no reason to focus on it.
  3. Was it misspelled while copying it from another source? I'm teaching my daughter that she needs to be paying attention to things such as spelling and punctuation when she's copying something down, so I will have her take a second look at a word when I know she's copying from a book or sign or some other source.
  4. How old is the child? I rarely correct spelling before about the first grade, unless my child asks, especially if the spelling fits #1 above. I still get warm fuzzies remembering how my daughter spelled the word "mouse" as M-A-O-O-S when she was about 4 years old. At first I couldn't decipher it, but after a moment, I realized it made perfect sense when you said it out loud, slowly. The "ow" sound in the word "mouse" when dragged out, sounds like the sounds "ah" and "oo"!

If it is indeed going to be a word I foresee her using regularly, I have come up with a way for her to keep track of these and have them readily available for review.  I purchased a pocket chart like this one.

Next I cut card stock into strips to fit the pockets. Dollar Tree also has some "Word Strips" in their educational supply section that fit in the pockets. I made a fancy "Spelling" sign as you see here that fills the top pocket, and the three middle pockets are for putting the cards my daughter writes her words on. The bottom pocket has extra cards. By limiting the number of pockets, it keeps the words fresh and keeps them from being overwhelming. Whenever my daughter needs to recall how to spell that word, she can refer to her chart. I hang in a place easy for her to view from her school desk.

Do you have a fun way you've come up with to help your child review spelling?

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Preparing for Your Homeschool Adventure

It's Thursday, so since many on the web "throwback" to the past in some way, I've decided I'll use Thursdays to share about some of my past experiences in homeschooling...things I've learned, how I taught a certain age or topic with my three older children. Sometimes I'll talk about younger chidlren, sometimes older children. That way, even though my daily blogging will be more focused on what I'm currently doing with my youngest, I'll also be able to share things that will be helpful to those teaching children of any grade, since I have homeschooled from preschool all the way through high school.

When I was first getting ready to start my first "official" year of homeschooling, I can remember how nervous I was. My head was full of questions. I didn't feel very sure of myself. Curriculum choices were overwhelming, and prices seemed daunting! One day, as I spoke to a homeschooling mom at church who had been doing this about ten years, I expressed my worries. Her admonition to me is exactly what I tell moms today who are just starting out:


But what does that look like? How does a new homeschool mom "relax"? It's a huge responsibility to take on the academic education of your child. I must admit that it's taken me all these years to really grasp just what "relax" means. And I suppose I'm still learning, even after over 20 years of homeschooling. I think the family crisis I spoke about in an earlier post (Don't Forget Joy) helped me a lot because, well...I had no choice! I was having to balance so many balls that I knew I had to ease up somewhere, and so I did.

First of all, I felt my teenagers had to be my priority, as far as academics was concerned, so I spent most of my educational time with them. My first grader, well...mostly she needed ME. So she came with me on nearly every hospital visit to the NICU where her baby sister was. Sometimes she brought a book to look at, or workbooks to do, but a lot of the time was just spent experiencing life. She interacted with the nurses, she learned a lot about baby care. She saw her parents deal with high stress. And she knew she was important.

Were there some academic areas that suffered? Certainly, for a season. She still bemoans her handwriting to this day, for example. She was a year "behind" when I started her in Teaching Textbook math books a couple years later. But then in her last year of homeschool, I decided to have her skip TT7 and go right from TT6 to Pre-Algebra. The big test came last year when she entered public high school and took Algebra 1. We were both a bit wary. How would she do? Had I prepared her enough?  Her grades were the proof: she passed algebra with a solid A.

So, back to beginning homeschoolers...

With my youngest, who is seven years younger than her sister, I wanted to follow that "relax" advice as much as possible. One reason I love Sonlight Curriculum so much is that it is so literature-rich. It makes it easier to relax when it's already built into your program to snuggle together on the couch reading great and interesting books! Make most of your time together about stories. Stories you read, stories you tell, stories you discover together as you go about your day.

How do you know your child is learning? One thing I've discovered is that with young children, the things they learn that they love will show up in their play! Observe the stories your child plays with his or her dolls or animals or other toys (with my son it was his Matchbox cars!). Pay attention to the pictures being drawn. If you're seeing elements of what you explore together in their play, you can feel confident they are learning.

I'd also done some reading and research into varying "methods" of schooling and decided to work more "Charlotte Mason" and "Montessori" style activities into our day.  One of my favorite websites for was (and still is) 1=1=1=1. You'll find MANY resources for teaching littles on her site. Here's one I recently added to my "Preschool Fun" Pinterest board: Free printables with a Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood theme!

Two other of my Pinterest boards I invite you to explore if you're just getting started are my "Practical Life Skills" and "Developmental Activities" boards. One caveat! It's SO easy to go overboard and print out and laminate WAY more than you can ever really use. All you really need is a couple activities per day for your child to choose from. Too many choices for young children is stressful and overwhelming for them. And laminating isn't always necessary either. Many things will last just fine for a single child if printed on cardstock. Before adding the expense of laminating, consider how long you'll use the printable, for how many children, and how rough your children are on things.

Finally, another way to relax is to spend these early years educating yourself. Does that mean go to college? No. It means, read stories yourself. Take a look at the sorts of books used by Sonlight Curriculum for example, or other popular literature-based programs and begin putting those books on your reading list. Hit your library and read lots of children's and young adult literature, including biographies, stories, and historical fiction. You'll be amazed by how much you learn...and in the years to come it will help you to keep relaxing about how your children are learning through such methods.

Use this season to brush up on your history and your science.  Here are three series that are excellent resources for self-education, all of which you should be able to find in any well-stocked library, though eventually I believe you'll want them as a part of your own home library. They're all written to an audience level of around middle-school age. This means that the information will be in-depth, yet not so academic as to stress you out as you go through the daily challenge of child rearing.

For American History, I can't recommend Joy Hakim's A History of Us enough.

For World History, look for Susan Wise Bower's The Story of the World.

And for an incredible adventure tying history and science together, I absolutely love Joy Hakim's, The Story of Science.

Reading these books will instill in you a love for learning, which your children will observe and "catch". As they see you get excited about learning, they'll come to see that learning never stops. It's not about sitting at a desk and studying for a grade, it's an adventure that never grows old.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Don't Forget Joy

The year my youngest child was born was my most challenging time of homeschooling ever. When she was born, three months prematurely, I had one in high school, one in middle school, and a first grader. Additionally, I worked a part time job (homebased). My kids' ages were far enough apart that it was challenging to combine them in much, so I was teaching three levels, all while dealing with a baby spending three months in a hospital.

Many days all I could do was to simply put one foot in front of the other.

When we're in the midst of a full season in our lives, it is very easy to get lost in all the busy-ness, and lose joy. And lose our focus. We get so focused on just "getting the next thing done" and just getting this done and over with, that we forget to stop, pause, look around, and see the beauty that is our lives...right now.

Earlier this week I was speaking with a family friend whose family is dealing with a longterm crisis that has illuminated the fragility of life. He said to me something like, "I've come to realize that each day is like a long goodbye". As his family works together through the challenge that is their Now, not knowing how long they will all be together, he said he has been learning to find the small joys in today and live each day as though you're saying goodbye.

The crisis my family endured several years ago was similar, in how it affected our perspective on the Now. As we came out on the other side, and our premature baby grew, and thrived, normalcy began to set in. But then, as typical issues would arise and I found myself thinking, "I can't wait to get past this stage..." I caught myself. With the age difference between my oldest and my youngest, I could see just how fleeting this time was. And I began then to willfully choose Joy. To find joy in both the fun and in the challenging times. Because all too soon they will be gone.

I've now homeschooled for over 20 years...parented for 25. One child is out of the home now, one more is finished with high school, and another is now attending public high school. And this year that tiny premature baby is going to be a 3rd grader. How quickly the time passes! It seems only yesterday I was holding my firstborn, and now my baby years are behind me. Those admonitions from other moms years ago of, "This time goes by SO fast!" feel so much more real to me now. I'm thankful I still have a young one at home so I am able to live out this lesson learned.

With the waning of summer, I'm hearing the sighs of numerous longtime homeschool friends and other parents as they prepare to send their first...or in some cases their last child off to college. Several others have had weddings this year. And they wistfully recall the days curled up on the couch reading books together and even the times wrestling through long division and fractions.

I'm thankful I still have one more left to teach after all these years, while I can still daily choose Joy. And remember that whether it be facing our immortality as my one friend is, or facing a young adult child leaving home, that "Long Goodbye" begins from the very first day that child leaves the womb.

For young moms looking ahead this month to a new school year, I encourage you to find the Joy in each day. I have found that by keeping the "big picture" in mind, recognizing how short these days really are with our children, I'm less likely to complain about the frustrating elements of today and I'm able to remember that I'm building up to eventually saying goodbye to this time, to this child, whether it be until the other side of heaven or simply sending my child off to their own, independent life. When you catch yourself beginning to complain in your mind or say, "I can't wait until this stage is over", remember that this stage, when past, will not occur's gone forever. And you'll miss it.

Start out this school year by deliberately, consciously CHOOSING JOY.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Parent-Teacher Store finds

Today found me finally getting to explore the local Teachers' supply store. In my area we have  Parent-Teacher Store. It's in an area of our nearby city I hadn't ventured into before, and I was excited to finally see what was available there that I couldn't easily find online. I wasn't disappointed.

This was primarily a scouting trip, as I pretty much have all I need for this school year. But I wanted to see what was available to buy locally, as sometimes that's quicker and more convenient (and even cheaper!) than purchasing online.

As a homeschooler, one thing I've discovered is often QUITE expensive to purchase online is classroom posters. Now, I don't have a lot of extra wall space or an in-home classroom (we mostly "school" on the living room couch), so I don't utilize many posters, but over the years I've liked using a few.

Since we'll be covering US History over the next two years, I've been wanting to try out this idea I found on Pinterest: Get two copies of a US map. On one, place Velcro circles on each state (or region for smaller spaces). The other map is cut up, with the Velcro placed on the back. The child can then match the cut out pieces to the whole map. I may use it in conjunction with a free printable game I found on Teacher's Pay Teachers by Kathryn Garcia.

Map posters online I've found to be expensive, and difficult to find with free shipping. I was pleased to find some at the Parent-Teacher Store for only $2.49 each, similar to the one you'll see in the photo on Pinterest. If you use this idea, you'll want a poster without lots of added detail, with only the states (and possibly capitals) labeled much as this one is.

I was also pleased to find this wipe-off map of the state of Kentucky.  Here it is at Amazon so you can look for your own state by entering a search for "Write-On/Wipe-Off State Map (your state name)", but I must say, I paid less than 1/3 of that in the local store. So if you have a Teachers' store in your area, you're likely much better off purchasing one from there.

I can think of many ways I'll use this for my daughter to learn Kentucky geography! On the back side of this poster, you'll find a smaller map with 8 different activities for students to complete.

I do try to give my children a few fun things amongst their school supplies. Even on a tight budget, I try to allow a couple small indulgences. To fulfill this, I was pleased to find some fun pencils for my 3rd grader: two "Third Graders Are #1", one with the books of the Bible on it, and one with information about the state of Kentucky:

Do you have a local Teacher supply store? What are some fun things you've found there that you can't get online, or are just less expensive there?