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:

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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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Homeschooling Through Transitions: the hard times and the happy ones

4 Practical Tips for Homeschooling Through Family Transitions

**Originally published February 2016** I enjoy these practical tips, even now, during seasons of what feels like temporary chaos. My children are older now, we have a small farm, and much more on our plate in this season than normal. These have been wonderful reminders for me! Maybe they will help you as well!

My oldest child is soon turning 5 years old (say whaaaaa?).  I am by no means a homeschool expert; I have researched and read since I was 3 months pregnant with my first child, played around with schedules, dreamed of homeschool room ideas, used a few different curricula and tried different learning activities for my two oldest to try and find them the best personalized learning solutions so that they don’t miss out on their education.

And still, I am a no expert; I don’t think we become experts until we have graduated at least 1 homeschooled child! Haha

In the last few years we have had several family transitions- 2 babies born, rather large moves (one cross country), and job changes for the husband (one job that meant a LOT of travel)- that means we have “schooled” through some tough changes.

No matter how uncomfortable or scary our changes have been for the kids, I have found that homeschool ALWAYS makes our home feel like, well … home.  After the latest move my daughter told us she didn’t like this rent house, it wasn’t home.  So, as any mama would do I stayed up that night contemplating what would make all the kids (because she was surely expressing what her 2 year old brother was feeling but couldn’t say himself), feel comfortable again, feel at home.

And I almost immediately knew it was school- school, our Bible, reading, activities, learning and working their brains together, that is what made our house home and gave our days intention.  Homeschooling isn’t just school- it is a lifestyle, it is IN the center of our home, of which the central focus is Jesus Christ.

Schooling Through Transitions:

1. Prioritize:

What is most important to your family?  For us it is reading/phonics, math, handwriting, and Bible/read alouds.  My kids are still very young (though my oldest is ambitious), so our main subjects that require “work” are only for the oldest: reading/phonics, math, handwriting, and copywork.

Science and art are on the back burner until the fall, after we move and get settled in the home we are buying.  (I did this because getting out all the things we need for science and art is a mess while living out of boxes, and keeping the  baby hands off of it in a home that is not exactly set up for homeschooling is hard!  But if your children are older and can work independently and more responsibly, then go for it.) 

Also, make sure you are doing work that everyone loves- because otherwise you are less likely to make it work during the transition.

2.  Start earlier than scheduled in the year:

Even year-round schoolers like us take a break and have a specific date in mind for introducing their full-on school year.  When you are expecting a new baby, or making a move, you know school is going to get delayed at some point.  For us, we have always moved school earlier, again prioritizing the most important subjects, and then taken a break when needed (the week OF moving/baby being born) and then slowly gotten back into the groove of things.

3. Get back into routine:

Most homeschoolers I have talked with or asked have said getting back into the routine of school after a big life event is not only comforting, but helps all the kids behavior wise as well. (And that is definitely true in our home!) 

Most kids do well with structure and expectations, so it would make sense that their routine at home helps with behavior and a sense of stability.

4.  Relax:

At this time, it will do everyone good to relax (I know, easier said than done).  We kept a general routine, but some days I had to get meals made for the week or things packed up for a move, so the kids just colored while we talked about the letters they heard in words I called out.  I know mine are young, but this would be okay to do with olders too!  Reviewing math facts, memory work, having them do copy work and art, etc can get you by until things become more formal after your transitions.  The beauty of homeschool is that in general, we can take breaks when needed and always have time to catch back up (there aren’t hours spent standing in lines, taking bathroom breaks, etc so we can do double the work in half the time when we really need to!). 

So breathe, Mama- relax and find learning opportunities in everyday life to make your life easier through this transition!

How does your family school through big life events?

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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 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!

Bird Watching {Nature Study for the New Year}

This winter (Mostly Jan-Feb) has been bitterly cold on the farm. Between the ice and wind, we have been inside with very little nature study in our school days. When My Dad sent the kids a see through, window mounted bird feeder as a little Valentine special, we were all so excited!

We spend our mornings at a big table my husband made, eating breakfast, reading Bible stories, reciting poems, listening to hymns, and singing little finger play songs (surprisingly my oldest 2 enjoy the songs and nursery rhymes along with their youngest sisters). Now, we get watch birds eat right at our big window!

This may be one of my favorite gifts we have ever received, and oooh how it enriches our homeschool days! It will be fun to add in bird watching with our nature studies, right from our breakfast table. We’ve already had a few different visitors perch and enjoy their seed. And the kids are loving the idea of comparing these birds to other ones in other regions. We’ve had a look at some of the more tropical birds like Toucans after deciding to check out Costa Rica Focus, and the burgeoning birdwatchers are keen to see them up close. Maybe one day!

Part of our nature study this spring will include some beautiful field guides I got the kids this fall-I chose guides from the National Wildlife Federation Field Guide series. I could sit and stare at the pictures in these guides all day long. My oldest pours over books like field guides, and her younger siblings are following suit. I plan to rearrange some nature and science books for spring in the coming weeks, so these are moving from our science book shelf, to the science basket near our bird watching window. 🙂

This week I am so thankful to be thawing out, and have birds to watch, I could care less about the formalities of nature study! Haha but, I am excited to get back into the routine of it.

(As a side note, the bird feeder is very well made, sturdy, and we have had No problems with it mounting to the window. Even in crazy high winds, the feeder stays put! I followed the directions that came in the box for cleaning the window, dampening suction cups, etc, before mounting.)

How does your family nature study? What will you be studying this spring?

Using The Starfall Home Membership in our Homeschool {an honest review}

Starfall.com

We have enjoyed learning games from Starfall Education Foundation for many years. The last several weeks we have had a chance to use The Starfall Home Membership which offers even MORE wonderful math tools and phonemic exploration for children learning to read, learn early math skills, and sing nursery rhymes.

This has probably been one of our favorite products to review that all my children can use. Even my 18 month old can use the app, but because I don’t yet give her screen time, she enjoys singing and dancing to the songs and rhymes with her 3 older siblings as they learn through games and play.

About The Starfall Home Membership

Starfall is a publicly supported non-profit organization that offers free and low cost learning experiences for children via their website and apps. We have been using Starfall since my oldest was a toddler; my mother is a veteran school teacher of over 20 years, and when she introduced me to Starfall 6 years ago, I knew it was amazing! The Starfall Home Membership not only supports a noble organization, as they are constantly updating & expanding content in their apps/programs thanks to members, it offers even more quality resources to families. (Your $35 membership is also tax deductible!)

The Starfall Home Membership is one account for use by immediate family (including grandparents) for one year. One email and password is all your family needs to authorize all your computers and mobile devices. It can be used in a web browser, or via the Starfall App (this is how we use it the most, as my children do not yet get a lot of computer time).

Below are only a few of the many activities included with The Starfall Home Membership:

  • ABC rhyme’s
  • Historical American Folk Songs
  • 48 Nursery Rhyme songs (in the form of a playlist, which can be shuffled, or played continuously in the app!)
  • seasonal songs and activities
  • more math songs
  • identifying colors activities
  • SO many more 2nd grade level activities in both language arts and math (too many to name them all)

Starfall Membership

In all, there are nearly 1,000 activities that can be accessed when you purchase The Starfall Home Membership! There are many ways for your children to grow in both language, math, and critical thinking skills with Starfall when you join. I am really kicking myself for not having joined sooner; I can imagine number sense and math in general would have been much smoother for my very analytical thinking child, had I used all that Starfall offers! She is now 7 years old, enjoys using Starfall for math practice, as well as the folk songs and reading stories from the I’m Reading section. She soaks up everything she can about cultures and history, so the Greek Myths, Folk Tales, and Chinese Fables are favorites.

My now 5 year old is a very bright boy, who loves to read and do math. Starfall’s learning games have allowed him to expand his mathematical thinking far beyond where we are in our homeschool math curriculum, making those concepts easier for him to grow on later. They are simple, yet challenging and *very* developmentally appropriate, all while being effective. We all know boys typically enjoy learning through games and activity, so Starfall is perfect for my son! The number sense activities allow him to see the digits, as well as the amount they represent, ideal for visual learners.

A few days a week, while I am schooling with my older children, my 3 year old sits next to me and uses the app for her “learning time.” She has already learned so much about sorting letters, their sounds, capital and lower case, counting, and 1:1 correspondence with Starfall! It is something she (and I) looks forward to, and I can feel 100% certain she is “safe” while using The Starfall Home Membership. There is much to be said for peace of mind when handing a small child a device, especially when it involves education.

Starfall In Our Homeschool

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On top of all this, Starfall Education Foundation‘s website offers a Starfall Parent-Teacher Center FULL of helpful teaching and learning tools. I found guides for using Pre-K through 2nd grade levels with outlines for using both the free program, and the expanded content for members. There is a plethora of resources that support the concepts learned within The Starfall Home Membership.

In the printable downloads sections there are language, writing, and math resources which include: printable books, writing prompts, crossword puzzles and other phonemic activities, grammar and parts of speech activities, journaling, counting money, value, more and less than, and the list goes on! It is truly a treasure trove of resources that make learning fun and solidify those early learning concepts.

I am so thankful for Starfall Education Foundation. I am even more thankful for their option to become a member through The Starfall Home Membership, how they have helped my children grow, and develop confidence through play based learning.

Connect with The Starfall Education Foundation:

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Put on a Happy Face {Baby #3}

My third born is most definitely her own littler person. All children are their own born persons, just as God intended, but this one … this one at barely 3 years old, while twirling on the top of a picnic table in nothing but a tu-tu and muddeclared herself a fairy princess.

We had never even discussed, read about, or watched anything to do with fairies. Or Princesses for that matter. *insert eye roll here*

So from that point on, I realized our Little Miss will forever be her own burst of light , arcing over everyone as they dance in her glow.

Then I bought her a fairy…

And a fairy book.

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But I’ve concluded in the realization of who she is- kind hearted, the life of the party, sincere, excited, bright, eager to learn, and independent- she is just that scary thing I feared about raising girls.

She is *all girl,* with a little mud thrown in.

My first born girl is so predictably me-a serious tomboy, genuine and fun loving but introverted, living in a world of books and over analyzation. Mister lives in a world of all-things-Daddy, outdoors, sports, and engineering; he finds value in learning, quality time, and problem solving.

She is vivacious, finds fun in anything-alone or in a crowd- loves spontaneity; she flirts with risk, and dances everywhere she goes, with a perfect ballet twirl thrown in (yea, that part she didn’t get from me).

She will forever do her own thing. I only pray that she is certain that thing is always aligned with loving Jesus, and that I give her the grace she needs to be who she is, in Him. He is going to do wonderful things with her life, with the personality He gave her. I know that.

Baby #3 is the epitome of the word rainbow; a prism through which light shines lighting up the world around her. She is boundless energy, eager to share with anyone willing to sit a spell dance along.

I am thankful for the chance to dance along with her.

happy face

So proud of her happy face man, with “thick hair”

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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