Creating Your Homeschool Space {modify & adjust}

Modify & Adjust

Our dining area probably looks like a mini classroom to some.

I often read advice from one homeschooler to another, “you don’t have to do school at home,” and they’re right, NO, you don’t.  (actually, I am certain I’ve written that before..)

We certainly don’t- our homeschool looks much different than a typical classroom.

But I am not going to deprive our learning environment of helpful tools for the sake of not creating a “classroom at home.”

Someone asked in a homeschool group recently if everyone hangs school posters, ABCs, etc on their walls.

Of course some did, many did not, and some of us trained teachers spoke up with what we know to be true:

If it isn’t at eye level, and isn’t used/referred to almost daily, it probably won’t be used.

My A-ha! Moment

After Christmas I took down our school calendar.

And today I am putting it back up.

I took it down, partly, because it was ONE more thing in the house, and I am tired of things and stuff … but also because it looked like school.

But you know what?!

WE USED THE CALENDAR!  Like, every dang day.

We looove moving the days of the week, the kids enjoy pointing to the dates.  They do well keeping up with the days, and reading a calendar. And frankly, I use it when I need to glance at the month when I am thinking about our activities, travel and such.

Clearly, my “ugh, this room looks like a classroom and there is stuff everywhere, MUST. DE. CLUTTER,” arrow was misguided.  There are probably many other things I could have removed, that would make it feel less cluttered in our home … But our big, ugly, blue school calendar that screams “preschoolers live here,” wasn’t one of them.

We use and enjoy that big ugly school calendar.

It is not like me to question what I know to be true.
And I know what works for us.
I recently wrote a post about changing how you do things because other people’s voices get in your head… y’all I never thought a post like that would resonate with me.  Not because I am immune to self doubt, but because if there is one thing I do not doubt, it is my ability to homeschool my children.

Be Confident in Your Decisions

When we feel doubtful about the process, methods, or our atmosphere in general, we should take it to the Lord.

I know I often find myself frustrated or questioning things, and going forth in prayer is always the most helpful (although in true human fashion I try to figure it out on my own with little in the way of results).

If you want to have a room especially for homeschooling, that has posters, maps, colorful designs, and handwriting charts around the room, DO IT!  Just because you dress up your area with useful tools doesn’t mean you stand at a chalkboard and teach like a public school classroom, (or maybe you do? and that’s fine too).

I recently purchased a waaaay to big for our area larger whiteboard for our homeschool, because I couldn’t fit much on the little art one we had.  I do not stand and teach from it (my husband made an awesome ledge for it to sit upon), but we have it so that we can fit our ideas, brainstorm for topics together, keep different topics of review posted, etc on the board.

(It also helps me with review throughout the week- if I can see what we are studying or what they are interested in, then it is in my brain.  For me, out of sight out of mind is SO true, and I will completely forget what we are wanting to do, enjoying, etc.

In our home, it is about making literacy part of the environment (another post coming on that soon).

I know the benefits and results of modeling for students- modeling writing, making charts for organizing thoughts, brainstorming ideas, writing the date, using information on the board or from a book.  Just like we model how to read by tracking words on the page with our fingers and blending sounds slowly with our mouths, or how to behave in public, use manners, etc., we can model learning in our homeschool.  That is how I use our white board, but it works for us in this season. 

When it isn’t Working

Modify and adjust.

One of the key terms (how often do I write that ….?) in my teacher’s program was modify and adjust.  Don’t be a slave to ANYTHING in your homeschool- not the curriculum, or the term “unschool”; not the planner, not the table, not the 4 walls of your house, not other people’s expectations, not the lack of curriculum, NOTHING.

If it doesn’t work- modify and adjust.  If the perfect, colorful, fun room you set up never gets used and you really need to turn it into a nursery for the coming baby, DO IT.

If you just can’t handle schooling the the basement (although you have room and shelves and tables), because it is so dark and dreary- MOVE TO THE MAIN FLOOR OF THE HOUSE! (<–this is us!)

If the birds chirping and the green grass outside on a warm spring morning are calling your name- move outside!

It’s ok to be excited and want the very best of everything in your home and homeschool.  But when it isn’t working or useful, when it causes stress/clutter, or isn’t getting results- Try something different.

Modify and Adjust.  =)

What is working in this season for you, that maybe you thought you would never do/use?

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Our Fall homeschool Routine {2018}

Our Fall School Routine 2018

 

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that with each season in life, or literal weather season, we can do what works best for our family.

In this season of both life, and weather, we are enjoying the fall 100%! Waking up to the windows open, crisp fall air, and spending a lot of time in nature is what autumn is all bout. So far, we have watched monarch caterpillars flock to our milkweed, make cocoons, and develop into butterflies.

We have enjoyed collecting different colored leaves as they fall, and acorns we have found. We’ve worked together to prep the garden for winter, and finished the last of our harvest. We have raked leaves to feed to the goats, and enjoyed collecting sticks for kindling.

Each day has a nice rhythm to it and looks something like this:

  • I wake 5:30-6am for my coffee, journal, and Jesus time
  • 7am I get the kids up, we have breakfast, brush teeth, and get dressed for the day, morning chores
  • Some mornings we do our morning basket during breakfast, some days it is in the afternoon. (morning basket is our science, history, a read aloud with the littles, a little memory work and whatever else the kids are into. there are handicrafts involved too)
  • 8/830am I do my workout, then the kids do their brain gym/dancing movements from youtube, or we may do animal walks across the room to mama for a bear hug reward
  • by 9/930 We begin table work together
  • 1130/11:45- lunch time!
  • Everyone goes outside to play until naps
  • Our afternoons are filled with: playing games (Uno, rat a tat cat, and Qwirkle are current favorites), being outside, doing chores on the farm, prepping dinner if needed, and reading aloud from our current family chapter book. Some days we do our morning basket here if we didn’t have time in the morning.

The weather outside (rainy or not) determines during which part of the day we do games, read alouds, etc.

Every-other Wednesday afternoon is still poetry tea time, sometimes it is every week if we don’t have an errand or other plans. I plan to hit the zoo 1x a month to take full advantage of membership and homeschool freedom. =)

As we come into winter, I am sure our routine may change up a bit. But for now, this is working well for our family. Fall is our favorite time of the year!

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Math with Reading Eggs & A Coupon Code {a mathseeds workbook review}

Reading Eggs Logo

It has finally happened, that my almost 4 year old is ready for more “table work.” She is a hands on learning kind of girl, but more than anything she loves to write and do school like her older siblings; coloring, blocks, and puzzles just won’t do all the time. She wants to be big. So we have been using the 200 Essential Math Skills for Kindergarten, a Mathseeds workbook from Reading Eggs.

Reading Eggs (and Mathseeds team) is a trusted online literacy and math program; they also have beautiful, fun workbooks to go along with their online program. These can be used without the online program, or right along side it for added comprehension. We received both the K math workbook, and an online subscription; these compliment each other perfectly! The online program allows your student to take a short placement test to determine the level at which they should begin online; it is much more customized than I expected. My daughter will be 4 next week, and while she can identify numbers, count very well, knows colors and shapes, and understands 1:1 correspondence, she cannot identify number words, and needs more basic foundational number sense. The online program is great for solidifying these concepts.

Math K Reading Eggs Mathseeds

200 Essential Math Skills for Kindergarten: How We Use It

Our homeschool may look a bit different than yours (most likely a lot different), but chances are if you are teaching a child math at the kindergarten level you have scoured the internet and homeschool websites looking at every math workbook, textbook, and curriculum on the market. Ask me how I know …

But really, y’all- this is the real deal! The 200 Essential Math Skills for Kindergarten workbook is a solid program. Not only is it solid, it is easy to use, simple, comprehensive, and includes:

  • Year Planner at a glance map- this is so convenient, easy to follow, and takes off any pressure you may have for checking boxes
  • Hands on Learning Activities to help reinforce concepts and add more fun for young learners
  • FULL color but clean pages-my favorite part of this workbook is how tidy the pages are. You know what I mean! It is beautiful, high quality, and colorful, but the pages aren’t so full they’re distracting. Each question is clearly labeled with a highlighted number making it easy for children (and adults) to find the next question on the page.
  • The Mathseeds K book covers:
    • numbers
    • operations
    • patterns
    • geometry
    • and measurement

I also really like how the entire page is used for learning- the top corner of each page has a picture of the learning focus, for example-the number 8 with 8 dots, a short pattern, shapes, 3D shapes, etc. These are simple, small learning cues for my daughter but they give me reminders to talk about what we have been learning- That may be as simple as asking, “what shape is this?” “what letter sound does that begin with?” “read this pattern to me!” It is a fun way for us to connect before and after a page has been completed.

Mathseed K Workbook {reading eggs}

I think Miss’s favorite part of this program are the fun illustrations- they’re so clear, easy to understand (if you’ve used workbooks of any kind you know what I mean-what are some of those pictures supposed to be?!), colorful, and cheerful. She is a very happy girl and would be 100% bored to death with a black and white sheet of paper.

I really do appreciate how easy the pages are for both of us to glance at. Without overwhelming the senses, each page brings delight to learning math using color and pictures. All this, while using large blocks of background color to separate sections and make looking at the page easy for young learners (and tired mamas).

At the end of each lesson is a section that allows you and your child to mark off what they have accomplished! (see image below)

Mathseed K Workbook {reading eggs}

I *love* this feature because often times as homeschool parents we feel like we are just going through the motions. We don’t want to give tests or kill our young children’s love for learning and growing, but we also want to see some progress. This section at the end of the lessons give you a chance to acknowledge what they have accomplished in their lesson, and sort of recap everything.

I take this opportunity to go over what we have been learning by allowing my daughter to narrate what she has done, learned, and enjoyed in that math lesson- it is surprising the details little children can remember! It is sort of our Charlotte Mason spin on a math workbook.

completed page Mathseeds K workbook

We also enjoy acting out some of the lessons using manipulatives; we will place blocks on top of the page once it is completed and she can “teach” me all she has learned and done. We are really excited about this program; it is so simply, straight to the point, and takes no time at all to complete a lesson! I appreciate the easy transition it has given us into a little table work. While my 4 year old begs for table work like her older siblings, you may know that sometimes that can be very short lived, but not with the Mathseeds Math K workbook. She would work in this book as long as I would let her (I think we will have to pick up their reading workbook, too).

There are also “just for fun” pages, and certificates of completion for each map (focus) section. They have really thought of everything!

Click HERE to purchase your workbooks! Use the code: WK10GSD6TMB to get 10% off your purchase. Click the banner below for 4 free weeks of online learning from Reading Eggs!

 

Check out more Reading Eggs workbook and online learning reviews from the Crew:

Connect with Reading Eggs

 

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

My Favorite Things: August

This month I want to try to begin a series of posts about my favorite “things,” that help me in my family life, and thus homeschool life (because homeschool is our lifestyle, right?).

  1. The Read Aloud Revival Premium Membership– I have heard Sarah discuss it on her podcast for ages. I’ve been a loyal listener for a few years, and never really thought the Membership applied to me. Our whole family life revolves around books, after all. Boy was I wrong! After a very hard summer (emotionally physically, mentally) for our family, I needed to simplify, set new goals for our homeschool, and get started FRESH. And I needed to do this without the drudgery of “too many things” on our to do’s. Just because it is good, beautiful, and wonderful doesn’t mean we have to cram it in right now. We have SO many days, so many weeks, so many month, and years to add in the many wonderful homeschool resources. They don’t all have to fit RIGHT NOW. (remind me of this in 3 months haha)
  2. The Read Aloud Revival Book Bag– Nope, I am not being paid to tell you how much I love RAR. I just really do. And her book bag is no exception; beautiful, perfect for library trips, easy to load, strong, wide straps, lined with a zippered pocket … I could go on but I won’t. These make great gifts (I think each child will get one for Christmas because I love mine) and you get a discounted rate when you are a RAR Premium Members!
  3. Thriftbooks– I love books. I love cheap books. I love cheap books that come in the mail.
  4. Little Jewel Books– I wasn’t so sure what to expect with these, but I ordered 2 I thought we would like for our family. These are beautiful little books … really they aren’t so little. I have found them to be perfect for my almost 4 year old 3rd born who needs a little “help” remembering right from wrong. The covers are enticing, and the pages are really lovely. I can’t wait to order many more!
Rain = happy ducks

ducks swimming in the flooded chicken run

  1. Rain- We have been in a pretty serious drought in our neck of the county since the winter. This month, however, mother nature has decided to bless us with something like 20 days of rain. I am *so thankful* for the rain! The pond my finally fill up this year, the grass and trees feel better, and the ducks are sure enjoying it!
  2. Playing games- In our efforts to take a step back in everything, we have found our afternoons and evening usually empty, meaning we have time to play games as a family, crochet, and water color. Mostly, I play UNO with my son and oldest girl while the other do crafts, art, etc. It has been so pleasant!
  3. Reading Aloud-We have finally found our groove for reading aloud again, and *it is perfect.* Even the 2 year old is getting better about being quiet so we can listen. Whew whooo!
  4. More Free Time- did I mention we all have more free time now? Everyone is picking up books more often, playing outside more often, loving on the goats, playing pretend, climbing new trees MORE. It makes my heart happy, and I can already see a big difference in the kids’ emotionally without the stress of everything we had on our plates before.

What have you enjoyed most this month?

 

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Homeschool Video-Based Art Curriculum {a review}

We have been using Art of the Ancients from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. This is a new edition book from their Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray series. Art is always a fun topic in our home; we have really enjoyed ARTistic Pursuits when we reviewed it in the past. This time was no different!

Homeschool Video Art Lessons K-3

K-3 Volume 2, Art of the Ancients

This beautiful, hardcover, 64 page book consists of 18 lesson, 6 of which are video based lessons focused on chalk pastels and clay sculpture. It comes with 2 discs: 1 DVD, and 1 Blue-ray Disc.

The lessons on ancient art are thorough, allow students to see creativity and life differently than they may in their own culture, and introduce new experiences in chalk pastels and clay. We already had chalks and sculpting clay on hand; we used these chalks, and this clay set. You can use any brand that you may have on hand-one lessons even suggests using sidewalk chalks outdoors!

Volume 2- Ancients {homeschool art video lessons}

There are prep notes found at the beginning of every lesson, allowing the parent or teacher to better prepare for teaching. Simple suggestions like how to set up before hand for a group (4 small children at home, anyone?), or moving the lesson outside, are just what I needed to help our lesson go smoothly.

Each lesson in Art of the Ancients gives the history of an ancient culture, and the art they used in every day life- from cave drawings and carved city walls, to more sophisticated statues and pillars, students get an intimate look at the beauty found in ancient history and it’s purpose. There are over 100 illustrations found in the course book!

After the history portion of the lesson, students will find an opportunity for a picture study- our favorite part! Here is a chance to practice some narration (for all your Charlotte Mason homeschoolers!) and pay close attention to details in art. I found that often times, my children are better at finding the details than I am! Simple prompts which ask what the children see (how many, what size, what kind/shape) or where something is hiding in the picture encourages young learners to look at details, while other questions encourage them to see the art as a whole piece.

Lastly, children create! The instructions for creating your own piece of art are easy to understand and implement. The supplies needed are listed in a box at the top of the page, followed by a brief description about the type of art, explanation of new vocabulary, and instructions of how to create.

What We Think

My children have been pleading to do art since we received our book in the mail. Each time we open the book we are glad we did! The simple history lessons are fun, meaningful, and help make history come alive. My 7.5 yo enjoys reading it for fun, and everyone loves the beautiful art found inside. Lessons are short enough to hold young children’s attention & make it easy to fit into an already full life. They are very easy on mama, not parent intensive at all, which is always nice!

My toddler watched the video lessons along with us, enjoying the clay and pinch pot-making. My 3 year old followed right along in her care free way, using chalks and clay independently, while her 2 older siblings were much more serious about their work. 😉

We have loved this program and will likely use more books from the Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray series. Thank you ARTistic Pursuits!

 

Pinch Pot-making {homeschool art curriculum}

pinch pots {homeschool art}

 

Video Art Lessons

 

Chalk Pastel Art

Connect with ARTistic Pursuits

Read more reviews on this and other books from this series by clicking the banner below:

 

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Homeschool Cursive Writing with Memoria Press {a review}

Recently, we have been using a cursive program from Memoria Press-I love so many of their products and there is always something new on my wish list. This time,we have been using New American Cursive 2 (Famous Americans).

We began learning cursive a few months back at my 7 year old daughter’s request. With a few developmental struggles (vision dysfunction) that make writing difficult, cursive has been a wonderful gift for my daughter when it comes to writing. Memoria Press’s New American Cursive 2 has been a large part of that. After learning the basic letters and connections, this book has stepped in for extra practice and fun learning!

New American Cursive 2- Famous Americans

There are a several things I love about this program, one being the ease of the letter formations. The letters are at a slight slant, extra strokes have been eliminated, and the letters are very similar in appearance to those in print which children read every day via books and on paper. This is makes it easier for them to remember what the letters look like, how to form them, and also accommodates their small hands and earlier fine motor skills. For example, a traditional F in cursive is more intricate to form with loops and curls than the F in New American Cursive. My daughter has learned writing them both ways, and prefers the New American Cursive script.

The Introduction and Teaching Guide in the first 8 pages of the student book are helpful & motivating! For a parent and/or teacher, teaching cursive can be … well, intimidating! But Memoria Press has taken that out of the equation. The simple, clear, and encouraging explanations found in this part of the book offer support:

  • ideas for extra practice
  • words of encouragement for our children
  • tips on what to focus on (progress vs perfection each time)
  • ideas for testing/grading work (including allowing the child to self-evaluate)
  • and alternative exercises to help wake up the whole brain, which is so important for fine motor skills like penmanship

Teaching cursive is so easy with this program; it is open and go! I also like that I can apply all their teaching helps to many aspects of our homeschool! Such a great reminder of all our freedoms in homeschooling.

memoria press- completed cursive page

Lesson Structure:

The beginning of this book gives a refresher on forming the cursive letters; it covers the letters themselves and their connections. There are 125 lessons total, with the spiral at the top of the book making it easy for left or right handed writers. The book is geared towards most first graders; I believe you could use it for a student in varying “grades,” based on their development.

Lessons give simple cues for the different types of connections using Mr. Meerkat, who is found throughout the book. I love that each lesson is only a page (most of the time), the instructions are simple and easy for students to follow independently, and students get to circle their best letter in many lessons-this created a sense of ownership for my daughter, taking the “work” out of writing. She loves making her “very best” letters and words.

In later lessons, students focus on different skills of cursive: slant, spacing, and size. There are gentle reminders instructing the student to focus on these areas, which is very helpful.

This book uses quotes from famous Americans like Ben Franklin, to build character and confidence. My daughter recognized many of the quotes from our studies in the past, and enjoyed writing them for practice. We used some of the quotes as reminders in our homeschool these past few weeks, which was fun.

Creative Writing

Between the practice lessons are wonderfully fun creative writing pages:

  • journaling prompts with illustrations
  • opportunities for dictation
  • capital letter usage
  • writing thank you notes
  • addressing envelopes
  • writing proper letters
  • and more!

In the back of the student book you will find reproducible pages in different line sizes. These are meant to be photo copied for extra practice at your convenience; different students have different fine motor skills. Some children will need smaller lines while others will need larger spaced lines for now.

What We Think

We have LOVED this book! My daughter often picks it up outside of school time to practice. It is relaxing for her, she looks forward to the lessons, and enjoys seeing her progress. Again, Memoria Press has brought a program into our home that is easy on my time, has built my child’s confidence, and allows independence. We will definitely continue using this book all through our summer this year, and move on to the next level when she is ready!

Connect with Memoria Press

 

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Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Learning to Read: Rhyme, Memorization, & Phonics {and a llama llama review}

You probably know by now, our family loves to read! My youngest children begin their love of learning with poems and rhyming books from some of the greatest authors of children’s literature. I have videos of my oldest at 18 months old reading a Llama Llama book from memory; that book, as well as many other Llama Llama books have become favorites in our home. But my favorite part of this character series is the rhyming!
The latest book from Anna Dewdey, a teacher, mother, and enthusiastic proponent of reading aloud to children, is Llama Llama Loves to Read. Anna’s passion for children and building their love for reading is evident in all her books. This time our children shared Llama Llama’s love for learning to read in this beautifully illustrated (as always) 40 page picture book.
llama llama loves to read
Llama Llama learns at school.
Counting, writing, reading, rules.
Friends and school — there’s nothing better.
Llama learning all the letters!
All of my children have learned to read organically; simply by listening to others read to them. We know research tells us reading aloud to children increases their own love for learning, as well as relationships, and test scores (yes, especially test scores!). What many may not know, is that reading rhyming books, poems, and nursery rhymes to children increases their overall literacy!
Rhythm and rhyming increase listening and speaking skills, which are the very foundation of learning to read and write. A child will not learn to read as easily if they lack the skill of hearing rhyming patterns and sounds-which is done by being read to early in life. (This is also why educators take courses in all areas of development, including physical education, where we learn to combine rhythm, motion, and rhymes! Think of the hand clapping games from your childhood-they were important, whether you knew it or not!)
Rhyming books like Llama Llama Loves to Read not only help build a child’s confidence as they learn the rhyming words on the pages, these books increase their fluency and set the stage for future independent reading.

Learning to Read With Rhyme and Memory Work

As I type this, I am thinking of my 3.5 year old daughter (3rd born) that read cvc words to me last week. On her own. Without an ounce of formal instruction or prompting from me. I don’t say this to brag, or inflate my mom ego, I say this to you because it truly has to do with our family culture and environment combined with her eagerness to learn to read. She has told me for months she was going to read soon “like Mister!” (her older brother).  I told her she could learn as soon as she wanted and it wouldn’t be long; she’s been asking all of us to help her write her letters so she could tell us the sounds, and eagerly listens to any book we will read to her. One day last week she brought her little journal to me at the homeschool table and asked that I write words for her … I randomly wrote cat, asked her each letter sound and then she read the whole word. Just blended it. Boom! She continued on to do several more and I was able to record her on video.
So how do I use rhyming to encourage literacy? Simply, we read a book, and the next time (after all, there is always a next time!) I leave out one word of each line or page. For instance, I would read: Llama Llama learns at school. Counting, writing, reading, rules the first time.
But the next time we read it, I would leave out the word school, and maybe even rules, allowing my kids to fill it in for me as I read. This pulls them even more into the story and encourages not only their comprehension but also application of vocabulary, as well as “reading” along with me. So far of my 4 children, none of them have ever been disappointed with their chance to say the next word. Even my youngest, only a toddler, can fill in the simplest words in rhyming books (Llama Llama Time for Bed being one of them).
We also start learning poetry very young, simply because it is SO fun! My oldest memorized a few poems during each season starting at age 3. I am not sure how many poems my oldest three kids know now, but it is probably more than me (I can’t remember them all like they can without some prompting). That same 3 year old that is reading CVC words has spent this year memorizing more poetry than her 2 older siblings combined! Her absolute favorite is The Fairies by William Allingham, along with several others from A Child’s Book of Poems.

Learning Letter Sounds

Before I began reading lessons with any of my children, we sing a phonics song throughout our days. From the time they are about 18 months old (?) until … well, my oldest is 7.5 and we still sing it haha, we don’t say our ABCS.
We sing them along with their correlating sound; during our morning time we do the song with a little letter chart like this one: 
The song goes something like this:
A, /a/, apple
B, /buh/ball
C, /ck/, cat
D, /duh/ dog
… you get the picture. When we sing it while swinging on the swing, playing in the floor, or walking down the driveway, we learn to use other words that make those sounds; instead of E, eh, elephant I may say egg or elbow. It is always fun to hear what other words they can come up with (you will be surprised); sometimes we extend that and just start naming words that rhyme with a word, who knows where we may bunny trail to! But it is a fun and easy, loving, and memorable way to connect with and teach my children naturally, without any formal lessons.
This simple song, along with reading aloud to them, truly lays the foundation for learning to read later. Sometimes when I talk I will just say “t, /t/ train!” when we see a train. Obviously my 7 year old gets less out of this than my 3yo and toddler do, but so often we can forget those little ones are still soaking up everything around them, as Little Miss showed me just last week. Having a literature rich family culture helps support children in their love of learning which, when they are ready, will help them learn to read.

If you want to submerge your children in a literature rich environment, reading rhyming books, poetry, and teaching letter sounds through play are the best places to start!

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Homeschool Spelling That Sticks! {with Memoria Press, a review}

 

Memoria Press has been a favorite curriculum in our home; we have enjoyed their Latin program. These last several weeks we’ve been using their Traditional Spelling II with great success and enjoyment! Memoria Press is a Classical Christian Education company that offers beautiful classical curricula and resources- they’re very well known in most homeschool circles.

All of my kids write notes and stories, or make books and cards what seems like all. day. long. Lady has been ready for more spelling focus in language arts, but because of a few struggles we needed something that included word study, application, and more intention on MY part. She is a vivacious reader, words and vocabulary are her jam, but at 7.5 years old, spelling … not so much! Piecing together ideas for practicing to go with other spelling programs just hasn’t cut it for us. That’s where Traditional Spelling II comes in!

Traditional Spelling II

This is a phonics based spelling program; it’s different than other spelling programs I’ve looked at or used. For us, Traditional Spelling II has taken exactly what we needed (phonics, routine/schedule, & activities) and applied it to spelling. Lessons include definitions, riddles, dictation, application, and color coding parts of words to create understanding of what one sees and hears to build the skill of spelling. It is to be used after a child has foundations in phonics/reading, and is for the grade 1, 2, 3 student. If you have used Memoria Press’s reading program, you probably alreday have some of the 4 required resources.

Included in our review are all required resources for Traditional Spelling II:

Just copying spelling words isn’t usually enough for most students; just as reading is so important for spelling ability, so is using and manipulating words, breaking them down and building them back like a puzzle, seeing the patterns, and practicing the vowel/consonant teams. This process which is used by Memoria Press is a multi-method approach to learning that is appropriate for young students-by using colors, dictation, riddles, and the other many word study activities, children learn using many methods of encoding!

 

How We Use It & What We Think

First- I cannot tell you how much we both look forward to our spelling lessons now, versus before. My daughter didn’t dread spelling before, it just didn’t stick, so she was disappointed when when couldn’t spell a words she knew she’d had in spelling. Knowing that each day we have activities laid out, ready and waiting on us, and helping my daughter encode at her level, has been a blessing for me. She enjoys the daily activities (some of which change weekly, keeping things consistent but fun), and it hits all areas of learning, allowing her to soak it all up.

Each Monday I begin by writing the words in sentences on the board, then we read them together and I go over their definitions (they will be used independently in sentences lasted in the week and thus students need to know the definitions). I pull out the phonics cards we need (card numbers are provided in the teacher’s manual for each lesson under “Teaching Overview“) and we talk about the sight words & spelling sounds, reading the words on the back of the cards that correlate with the sounds.

Memoria Press Lesson 7 Phonics Cards

The Classical Phonics book is a great phonetic resource; Lady likes flipping through this on her own for more “studying.” I’ve also been using it with my 3.5 year old for learning letter sounds; she loves it and asks for it almost daily! But the suggested use is for reading the words found within the book which follow that week’s spelling rules to increase fluency. I can give Lady the page numbers and she is able to look them up herself and read to me, creating independence and building confidence!

Next we begin the daily activities. The teacher’s manual lays out everything I need to do or say, gives card numbers for the Phonics cards, and page numbers for the Classical Phonics book. The Guided Student Work activities from the teacher’s manual are often different each day; these are done on days 1 & 2 and include riddles, filling in blanks of words, and other word practices offered each day. I either write them on my board or say them aloud and Lady writes the answer on her dry erase board.

The Teacher’s Manual is NOT overwhelming; what the teacher says is not paragraph after paragraph of mundane script. It is simple, to the point, consistent, fun, and EASY. The TM is only about as thick as the Student Book, so there is no extra “stuff” or script weighing down my part. I love this because scripted lessons can often feel boring and dry, but these definitely aren’t!

Each day after guided practice with me, she begins her student book activities which include: word sort under phonics focus (day 1), a fun/new word activity, plus the Colorful Letters activity (day 2), reading a paragraph and completing sentences (day 3), dictation word and sentence practice (day 4), and day 5 is the final “test.” Some weeks have different activities for Day 2, separate from the Colorful Letters activity- unscrambling, alphabetical order, sorting by syllables, circling word parts, etc. The various ways she uses the words keeps her interest and increases her ability to write them correctly. The other days’ activities are consistently the same, allowing more practice for important skills in encoding.

Workbook Pages Lesson 7, MP

We have been using the practice sheets as part of our handwriting/copywork. Lady is OBSESSED with cursive writing, so her student book having the cursive form of the words is a huge PLUS. She really likes to write the words in alphabetical order on her practice sheets, then write them in cursive- great meaningful practice (and all her idea).

MP Trad Spelling II

This isn’t a “write the words, take a test on Friday, and forget it next week” program. The lessons are fairly short, holding Lady’s attention, while also being intentional about how we spend our time.

I don’t want to fill our days with meaningless busywork- we need time for read alouds, tea parties, and playing in the dirt; raising chickens, and playing with baby farm animals. Short, focused lessons mean that we have more time to do all the other things we need to, and especially the things we want. I never considered spelling particularly fun in school, it was just something we did. But with Traditional Spelling II I feel like we have a purpose for spelling each week. The word study and a colorful letters portions really help us see the parts of words without too much “stuff,” required.

There are several other programs The Crew has been reviewing, you can see them on Memoria’s website here:

UnBoxing Traditional Spelling II MPress

Read more reviews by the Crew for many Memoria Press products by click the banner below:

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Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Homeschool Weekly Wrap-Up {April 7th}

The last 2 weeks we’ve spent our days adjusting our routine. I think I’ve said it before … at least I’ve thought it-vaulted ceilings and hardwood floors make reading aloud SO. HARD. I feel like I am yelling over a toddler the entire time. At this stage everyone fusses over my lap, so we’ve moved our reading aloud to my room, on the big king sized bed where they can spread out and hear me better.

Our new routine involves mama tending to the farm chores before the kids wake, getting her workout in after breakfast ,and brain warm-ups for all the kids! Day light savings really threw me for a loop this year as far as waking early goes. I am finally getting used to it. I strive for my mornings to look like this:

  • 5:30/6am- mama wakes, breakfast for the hubs, pack his lunch, coffee with him before he leaves
  • tend to meat chicks & LGD pup outside
  • Jesus devotional & coffee with my Help Club for Moms book
  • Prep Breakfast
  • 7am Kids up, eat, morning basket
  • Kid chores and 7yo practice violin- dishwasher, waste baskets, laundry, pick up floors if not done night before
  • 8:15/8:30 Mama works out, kid brain warm-ups (videos on youtube for crossing midline)
  • 9:00 Begin read alouds in my room
  • 9:30/9:45 begin table work- each day includes Reading/LArts for each child, math, handwriting/copy work We do other activities on various days, looping them (Latin, Apologia Science we are reviewing, art, messy play, game school)
  • During that time, the tot (20 months) goes to independent play in her room, and after the 3yo has done school along with us for a while, she also goes to IP
  • 11:30 Lunch
  • 12:15 Tot’s nap, others play outside
  • 12:45 Preschooler’s nap
  • 1:30 5yo naps, 7yo rest time or time with mama
  • 3:00 everyone up from naps-play outside, nature study, handicrafts of their choice
  • 5:30 dinner
  • This time of year, depending on what daddy is doing outside after work and how everyone napped, we are outside after dinner then come in for baths and wind down. We’ve been spending several evenings a week at the table coloring, doing more learning time (science, or new spelling, writing letters, practicing cursive, etc). I LOVE this time because it brings Daddy into our homeschool setting for just a snippet, allowing the kids to tell him all about what they’re learning, show him new skills, inviting him into their world.

**Some evenings are spent folding laundry as a family while watching Create TV on PBS-Martha Bakes, This old House, Lydia, America’s Test Kitchen, etc. They are our favorites! We have pretty much written off all the mind numbingly ridiculous kids shows on Netflix & Amazon. They truly hurt my brain- We are already very picky about what our kids take in (supposedly targeted for kids … targeted being the key word here) but even the appropriate shows are just stupid. These days our shows consist of Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, and sometimes the book adaptations of If You Give a Mouse, or The Snowy Day, or nature shows. Nothing else seems worth our time or brain cells. (If you have any suggestions for quality kid shows that aren’t “twaddle,” please share in the comments!) The amount of content out there that you really wouldn’t want your kids seeing really seems to be overwhelming these days but at least parents have access to more information than ever on how to combat this harmful material being consumed by their children.

Our studies this week have included:

  • David and Saul in the Bible
  • each day we read The Little Island– focusing on narration and seasons (3yo loooves this living book!)
  • read The Apple and The Arrow from our Sonlight Core A, and our missionary stories from The Good News Must Go Out
  • commas in a series, writing sentences, list making and narrating an item from that list (from The Good and The Beautiful LA), spelling from our new Memoria Press (for review), handwriting letter review (5yo),
  • naming and measuring line segments using linking cubes, writing numbers, skip counting (5yo)
  • handicrafts- my daughter is finishing a bag for her co-op sewing class, all of the kids are really into card making, and other paper crafts. We made crowns this week
  • All About Reading level 1-beginning and ending blends, read stories from reader (5yo)
  • the 3yo is learning her letter sounds, enjoys Starfall 1 day a week, and literally writes and draws all day long
  • Science right now is coming from Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Anatomy & Physiology We are loving this just as much as their Astronomy, and I will have a review on that very soon!

In between lessons we have planned special plants for our garden, played outside, studied the bees collecting pollen, taken nature walks in the woods, and observed the changes that come with SPRING! (though this morning we have played in SNOW, and made snow cream … Because winter just doesn’t want to leave us!)

Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Teaching Cursive with a Young Struggling Writer {a review & coupon code}

For at least a year my 7 year old (and oldest) daughter has been begging to learn cursive! Her daily handwriting book transitions to cursive later this school year, and she has been so excited to start. Practicing cursive on her own from what she has seen in every day life, she has learned to write her name, and a few others as well, so it only seemed natural to jump at the chance to review CursiveLogic. As part of our review we used the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack and The Art of Cursive coloring book.

This multi-sensory approach to learning cursive is so easy and common-sense I was asking myself why we didn’t learn this way when I was a child?! As a homeschooling mama I find it easy to teach, and absolutely no fuss- no extra supplies, no clutter to add to our already overflowing shelves of manipulatives. Everything you need to teach a child cursive writing comes in one simple Quick-Start Pack.

About CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack

The CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack is an easy to use and easy to teach cursive program based on 4 letter “strings.” Similarly shaped letters are grouped together in “strings,” which means that connecting those strings comes more naturally! No more dry, tedious practice of repeating individual letters over and over for weeks on end before learning to really write in cursive. If done at the pace recommended, students are writing real words the first week! The program is designed in such a way that with 1:1 instruction, children can complete lessons much more quickly if they’d like, or more slowly (like we’ve done) to fit their needs without getting bored, frustrated, or losing momentum. Regardless of what pace you choose, students are successful at writing and connecting cursive letters from the very beginning!

Included in the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack is:

  • one CursiveLogic workbook
  • access to an instructional webinar (active for 6 months after time of purchase)

The workbook is spiral bound at the top allowing both right and left handed students to use it with ease.  Lower case lessons are found on the front of each page, and upon coming to the end, students simply flip the book over working back through the book on reverse pages. The design is genius, and my daughter was thrilled to tell her daddy all about how she gets to “flip it over to keep going!”

There are a few resource/informational pages in the first section of the workbook, which allowed us to go over the fundamentals of preparing for cursive writing and each time we need a refresher-so easy for student and teacher. The instructions are clear, the pages are crisp and of very high quality making writing on them an experience in itself. (Um … journaling, paper, and pen nerd here!)

The webinar is for the teacher (or perhaps a much older student that is self directed?) to learn the method of CursiveLogic and how to teach it. This is a very specific method, and is much different from how most of us learned cursive writing. As I mentioned, the method itself is based on learning 4 strings of 6 lower case letters at a time, their pattern, and the catch phrase which is associated with it. Each string has its own color which helps visually when learning, and the repetition of the catch phrase helps make students of all learning types successful at cursive writing! This is a multi-sensory approach to writing; and let me tell you- if you have a a child with a learning difficulty that affects their writing, (or a child that learns outside of the typical tracing/copying/video based learning) this may be just the program for your family! Cursive letters come later in the course, making the transition from lowercase to uppercase seamless.

At just over 45 minutes, the webinar holds all the wisdom to be had when teaching cursive, and using CursiveLogic to do so. This was a very quick and fun, yet important, part of the program. I watched it before we began, and have viewed sections several times before lessons. This really pulled the method and idea of the program together for me, making it easy and natural to teach my 7 year old.

How We Used CursiveLogic

Almost 2 years ago we noticed a few things that seemed off about her learning & writing, so with much investigation and prayer, we took our daughter in for an occupational therapy evaluation which led us to a developmental ophthalmologist. It was one of the very best things we’ve ever done for her, and while the journey has been long and will be part of our life for a while to come, it opened our eyes greatly to a few struggles she is experiencing. One of those struggles includes writing due to a very complicated vision dysfunction diagnosis she received last year. This dysfunction makes it difficult for her to read and write the way most people can.

Her handwriting alone has been a true personal struggle, a point of frustration for her because she is a perfectionist who leans towards anxiety. I have to give a lot of reassurance that her work is her best effort, and that’s what matters-not how perfect it is. Printing and spacing take so much concentrated effort for her that she often forgets what she is writing, as forming letters and numbers don’t come with ease, even after years of practice.

*Insert CursiveLogic here*

CursiveLogic has *truly* changed how she sees writing, how she feels about writing. The process itself has been a learning curve, she is only 7 and has been writing in print since she was 3 or 4. But despite the learning curve, CursiveLogic has come more naturally than print ever did. I asked her today if learning cursive has been easy or hard compared to learning print, her response was, “It isn’t harder … but it is much more fun!” (and let me tell you, as her mama and teacher, it has been easier!)

Tracing each letter string with her finger, then pencil, while repeating the catch phrase that correlates to that string has helped her handwriting tremendously! Learning in strings that are all similar shapes has increased muscle memory, which for her at this time, has not happened with print. I can only imagine that learning cursive the “old” way would have caused her more frustration & built a road block to learning- but not with CursiveLogic!

As a *rule follower* she took the instructions in the workbook very seriously- they are so helpful and clear; she is careful to watch her arm in alignment with the edge of the page, keep her posture, and works on relaxing her hand. These are all things that take a determined effort for her, and while they frustrated her when printing, she has found them a support when writing in cursive. She feels successful and excited to write!

Each day she asks if she can do cursive- it is a reward for after we have completed other work. CursiveLogic has made the process of learning cursive so simple for an otherwise struggling writer. We have taken it slowly with this program, because I was concerned about handwriting and her frustration/anxiety. She hasn’t become overwhelmed at all, and is always eager to get to the parts of the lesson where she uses her pencil. I watch the parts of the webinar for that day’s lesson if I feel I need a refresher, show her what we are doing, and then we work together.

I am very proud of her and the progress she has made, her new found confidence in writing, and thankful for CursiveLogic!

I would absolutely recommend this program for a typical learner, or a struggling learner/writer. The multi-sensory approach to writing cursive makes it attractive to all learning styles, and more effective. Because she was able to start right away forming “strings” and shortly there after words, she felt successful from the start. Using colors and auditory cues to help remember certain formations has also helped with muscle memory- no road blocks here! Every time we get ready for a cursive lesson, there is excitement! We will be writing spelling words in cursive soon, and I can’t wait to share that progress with you. (I will have before and after photos later today when my wordpress cooperates.)

The Art of Cursive

~Calling all fountain pen lovers~ (Yes, that would be me … Oh, and markers, too!)

The Art of Cursive is an absolutely gorgeous coloring book intended for adults or for a student who has completed the program. This coloring book includes 4 lessons (perhaps as a refresher?), is intricate, and will not disappoint. I know many adults who love to color and also work on their handwriting for journaling and scrapbooking- this is a perfect gift idea for them! I promised my daughter we could do it together after she has finished her cursive writing workbook. I have never, ever had beautiful handwriting so I am excited to work in The Art of Cursive to improve my hand.

The pages are thick- perfect for inks, markers, or pencils. I imagine blending markers would be great on these pages as well.

Quick-Start Pack Coupon Code

Using the code CREW2018, you can save 20% on the Quick-Start Pack, which is the webinar + workbook combo.  The code will be active through the end of March. Go ahead and get it for next year’s use, or start now! This would also be a great summer activity/program for students to work through on those hot afternoons during rest or quiet time. Encouraging beautiful penmanship can build confidence and creates an entirely new outlet for young people’s creativity.

Connect With CursiveLogic

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Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links; when you use those links you help support my family, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

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