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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Beginning our History Notebook

In the last couple years, on homeschooling boards and through blogs and Pinterest, I've been seeing a lot of buzz about lapbooking and notebooking. I used bits and pieces of ideas I gleaned in the last couple years, but only now and then. Last school year, however, I went a little further and  experimented with a sort of "Notebooking" and "Lapbooking" hybrid.

Inspired initially by a post by Jessica on "Very Mom", I saw an idea for a history notebook, using a composition book. We ran with this and, using a combination of my daughter drawing pictures and writing summaries and gluing in printables I found online, a history notebook was born.

By the end of the school year, we had a great chronicle of what had been studied! But I realized we could do so much more if not constrained by the limited space in a composition book. So as I brainstormed over the summer, I decided to purchase a 3" binder. I found a picture collage of American History images which I saved here, copied it onto Word and added my own title below and slipped it into the notebook.

Then very recently, I saw KarlaCook's idea at her blog Roads To Everywhere, where she does something similar using a notebook. I will likely inlcude some of her ideas too. Haven't decided yet if I will have my daughter put the Sonlight timeline figures in her notebook or in the Sonlight timeline. If she does it in the notebook, then world history events studied later won't be with them, so I'm leaning toward maintaining the timeline.

Another touch I'm adding this year, with the freedom a 3-ring binder gives us, is for my daughter to create "Period Dividers". I saw these free printable ones offered at The Crafty Classroom, but they are for world history, not US history. After doing a little searching and finding nothing similar for our needs, I've decided I'll just have my daughter create her own. Here's what she did today.

Before reading our history and read aloud titles (Pedro's Journal and Walk the World's Rim), we spent a little time talking about how the first peoples arrived here. I showed her this video about the Bering Sea land bridge theory. We talked about other ways that historians are discovering people took thousands of years ago to reach North and South America.

Then I provided her with an activity from this book that I'm now using for the second time through,

I love resources like this that can be used for multiple children! I first purchased this for one of my older children and saved it, so now I am using it again. This book has 3-D interactive maps to color and use that will coordinate with both Cores D and E. In fact, I also used one of them last year for Core C (the one about the Vikings).

Here's the map my daughter did today, and her narration about what we talked about.

One other thing I added in today that I want to share is what I can best describe as a "Poetry Story".  I found this book, The Desert People, at a thrift store several years ago. I found it fitting to add into our Core D studies this year for two reasons. First, I like to have poetry to read every day, and this year's poetry book provided by Sonlight is only read once or twice a week. So I've looked for things to read at other times. Second, while set in more modern times (it was written in the 1960s), it gives a taste of the life of the Hopi living in the desert. Since in Walk the World's Rim we're reading about native peoples in that region of the country, I felt it would be a nice tie-in.

We're spreading this one out over two or three days. As I was reading it aloud, my daughter made a point to say that she found it very interesting. That pleased me and helped me feel I'd made a good choice to include it.

I just realized this week that this beautifully illustrated book was written by the same author as a retired Sonlight book (which I plan to fit in anyway, since I own it from the past 3 times I did this Core),  Secret of the Andes.  Some have found it a difficult and slow moving read, but I remember enjoying it greatly and look forward to reading it again to my youngest. I happened to find this beautifully done video summary of the book that I'll share here in closing for today,.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

First Day, First Week....Homeschooling through a Move: It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Well, we did it! Dove into our first day of school for 2015-2016!

It's hard for me to fathom that I'm now beginning our 22nd year of homeschooling!  I'm sitting here shaking my head in wonder at all the years that have passed.

I'm glad that I've learned to take things slowly the first week or two. Yes, Sonlight has everything broken up and every day assigned so that the work is spread over 36 weeks, but I've come to see that I don't have to be a slave of that schedule. Life's a bit crazy around here anyway, what with our impending move. We're shoving boxes aside and figuring out that there is this item or that which I suddenly can't find. I could let this make me crazy...

...but we'll just go with the flow, and relax. Because there will be days when we're on a roll and extra chapters will get read, an extra worksheet will get completed. And on days like today when I made the executive decision we'd wait to do math and science another day, what did my daughter choose to do while I took an afternoon nap (I work a late evening shift and so am typically up past midnight)?  She chose on her own to watch both Sonlight's Mathtacular and Discover and Do DVDs!

Until we get moved into our new home later this month, I know it's just going to be a good thing to keep a school routine going, even if not everything gets checked off. We'll get it done eventually...if not all of it, most of it.  This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. We have an entire school year to get it all done. So today we had fun, we read together on the couch, learned some grammar and enjoyed some art and poetry, and called it Day One.

By the way, the sign my daughter is holding is a freebie created by Jamielyn over at her blog, I Heart Naptime.

Now, if you forgot about "first day" pictures, or just couldn't be bothered, here's a fun idea from Mari, Second  (or 5th...or 10th...) day of school pictures!