Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reading Snacktime: Esperanza Rising, Hot Chocolate and Little Debbie Fall Cakes #DoItYourWay


We just got back from being in Florida for two weeks. We had to jump back into not only our normal chaotic life, but also we are packing up our entire house to start moving Friday and Saturday. I really felt like we needed to take even half an hour to slow down and chill with our snacks, hot chocolate and a book. Here's how it went.

Joel (16) has had a cough and welcomed the time to lounge around on the couch listening to a book.

Michael (14) is pretty chill anyway (my least squeaky wheel) and is happy to hang out with us. I read this book to him a few years ago and we liked it.

Callie (12) BEGGED for more when I was done after half an hour and had to get back to packing.

Eva (9) got super antsy. I let her off the hook to go move her body or do Khan Academy math.

Sam (8) listened for a while then got antsy then listened some more.

We read something different every time and I hope to get into a more regular schedule once we move. The cool thing about this (inspired by Brave Writer's Poetry Teatime) is that we can cover science, history, math, anything. Life of Fred is a math book we might read during this time. Story of the World for history. Science might range from a picture book about bees to a textbook about astronomy.

I love that it incorporates ALL my kids so they are all learning. Sometimes the older kids are hearing a picture book. Sometimes the younger kids are hearing complicated terms from a textbook. It all shakes out.

You can have tea or water or anything you like to drink. You can have a snack or not. Healthy or not. Themed to the book or not. (there are great ideas for book club parties when the book is done) Do it your own way!

We are together and learning.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Free Downloadable Multiplication Table PDF

When I was in third grade, I had no choice but to memorize the multiplication facts using flash cards. My parents would practice with me at home, we would also practice at school, then I would get tested by the teacher on how well I knew them. I had to know one set before moving to the next. I remember the 8s and 9s kicking my butt. I also remember my mom giving me a little prize, like a book, after I'd mastered the harder ones.

These days I notice that public and private school kids alike don't know their facts. I remember trying to do it with Joel and failing miserably. Kids in school have a handy dandy multiplication facts table like the one below (you can print one out bigger in PDF version here). I think the reasoning is that they will learn them this way if they have to look it up over and over.
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Some kids easily memorize the facts. Michael, for instance, my 9-year-old son (this was originally posted in 2012), can pop off that kind of thing from memory. I also still have them in my brain. Joel, who is 11 and struggles with it a little bit, can benefit from a table like this. It takes more thought than just using a calculator, and hopefully he will pick up the facts after looking them up for his IXL.com "test" questions daily.

How do you teach multiplication?

Updated 9/28/17 and my sons use this like crazy now for their Teaching Textbooks lessons. Now that they are 14 and 16, they are doing different things than IXL.com and Teaching Textbooks is an investment that I can spread over five kids and then sell to someone else later. It's a great and fun program. Check it out!

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Articles I've Had Published About Homeschooling

I've been writing articles for parenting articles almost as long as I've been homeschooling, so I figured I should pair my two loves and make some money for my family at the same time. Currently this money is paying for some "roadschooling" to Florida for two weeks in October 2017 :-) Most of these articles have been published in multiple magazines so I've just picked a few magazines to represent. Thanks for checking them out!

Back-to-Homeschool Tips and Traditions in Birmingham Parent

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Homeschool in ParentMap

Top 10 Homeschool Mistakes to Avoid in Montgomery Parents

Homeschooling 101 in San Diego Family

How to Find Your Homeschool Tribe in Calgary's Child

10 Unique Benefits of Homeschooling in Calgary's Child

Venturing Into Unschooling in North Texas Kids

Virtual School: Where Homeschooling Meets Traditional School in Orlando Family

Friday, August 11, 2017

#BraveWriter 2017-2018 Boomerang Book Selections

The following is taken from the Brave Writer website:

The Boomerang is the monthly digital product that features a classic work of fiction each month. These novels are used to teach the mechanics of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary elements). In addition to the weekly passages used for copywork and dictation, The Boomerang includes 9 discussion questions which are designed to enhance a student's comprehension of the novel's themes and construction through discussion and writing.
Each guide contains the following:
  • Copywork/dictation passages
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary device notes
  • 9 discussion questions
  • Book Club Party ideas
  • Access to the Private Facebook Group to discuss how you implement the Arrow
2017-2018 Book List 
AugustStation Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) (purchased paper book and audiobook on estories)
SeptemberWalking (Henry David Thoreau) (purchased paper book)
OctoberThe Thing About Jellyfish (Ali Benjamin) (purchased audiobook on estories)
NovemberGeorges (Alexandre Dumas)
DecemberThe Westing Game (Ellen Raskin)
JanuaryThe Call of the Wild and White Fang (Jack London)
FebruaryNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass)
MarchWhen You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead)
AprilThe Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Adam Gidwitz)
MayAnne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)
Always review the books yourself and be certain that you are okay with the contents before giving them to your children. Some of these titles do contain adult language and themes.





#BraveWriter 2017-2018 Arrow Book Selections

The following is taken from Brave Writer's website.

The Arrow is the monthly digital product (like a magazine) that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (novels listed below, not included with purchase). The Arrow is designed for children ages 8-11 (3rd - 6th grades) and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.
This year's Arrow Guides are brought to you by Melissa Wiley, well-loved children's novelist and Brave Writer instructor! Mary Wilson, popular blogger, is adding a page of Book Club Party ideas for each book this year as well.
Each guide contains the following:
  • Copywork/dictation passages
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary device notes
  • Writing activity
  • 9 discussion questions
  • Book Club Party ideas
  • Access to the Private Facebook Group to discuss how you implement the Arrow
2017-2018 Book List 
AugustThe Bad Beginning, (Lemony Snicket)
SeptemberEsperanza Rising (Pam Muñoz Ryan)
OctoberThe Girl Who Drank the Moon (Kelly Barnhill)
NovemberJohnny Tremain (Esther Forbes)
DecemberWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon (Grace Lin)
JanuaryFinn Family Moomintroll (Tove Jansson)
FebruaryElijah of Buxton (Christopher Paul Curtis)
MarchFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E. L. Konigsberg)
AprilThe Red Pencil (Andrea Davis Pinkney)
MayThe Thing About Luck (Cynthia Kadohata)
Always review the books yourself and be certain that you are okay with the contents before giving them to your children.



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Coffee and Co-op Planning 2017 Semester 1

This will be our third year participating in a Catholic co-op as a family. The first year I was a classroom helper and cafeteria cleaner. Last year I taught PE, Creative Writing and Drama. This year I feel like I'm getting the hang of things finally and will be teaching 5th/6th PE, 9-12 PE, and 5-8 Creative Writing one semester/Drama the next.

June was funky with my kids off at different camps and activities. July was funky with my husband working double hours. Have you ever tried to do homeschool planning with five of your own kids running around plus neighbors and friends? My brain was short-circuiting from all the stops and starts so I focused on organizing physical stuff like backpacks and bookshelves.



Anyway, last year I did a little too much seat-of-my-pants teaching and I don't want to do that again. If I have it all planned out for one entire semester of 16 meetings then I won't be freaking out the night before/morning of trying to figure out what to do. I don't feel this benefits my state of mine OR the kids and their learning. I know when I have things planned in advance that I'm excited to teach, I am a much more fun teacher. This goes for at home as well.

My husband's work hours went back to normal, it's Saturday, so I checked the calendar and it looks like a great (rainy) day to head to somewhere with Wi-Fi and coffee and knock out some planning. Parents and kids like a good syllabus, and I'm gonna give one (well, three) to them.

I have the basic layout of the syllabus so I know how many days/slots to fill in so I can get my topics and activities organized. I'm finding I have a lot of fun to be had with poetry, something I personally didn't think I enjoyed but am finding I really dig. And if I dig it, I know I can get the kids to dig it!

Heading out to fill in those slots, which will hopefully turn into an hour a week of homeschool co-op enchantment and discovery and enjoyment. My biggest problem is that I'll be in Florida for a couple of weeks and don't know what I can give up for my helper to teach. I just want to do it all! If only I could be in two places at once :-)

Check back for my Homeschool Co-op Creative Writing Syllabus for grades 5 through 8 (yes, quite a spread but we'll make it work).

I'd love to hear about your planning processes, successes and challenges!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Using Reward Charts in Your Home and Homeschool

I love Target's cheap aisle that's right in the front when you walk in the door. Starting in the summertime they always have fun teacher things and they run out fast! I picked up these reward charts that came with cute apple stickers to try to motivate my kids to get into some good habits for a reward.


I'm getting tired of hounding the kid, but a Pokemon booster pack speaks for itself loud and clear.

The booster pack Sam wants is about $4 so I am doing the same type of reward for Callie. She will fill up 2-3 of these charts doing her math, so she can save up and get a $12 piece of jewelry instead. She is way behind in math and I'm trying to get her caught up. We only have one PC and 5 kids running around the house, so getting her math done can be a feat sometimes.

Supercute reward stickers.
I'm the kind of mom who believes in doing things that make mothering more fun and easier and fosters the relationship I have with my kids. I don't want to JUST be the dictator homeschool teacher; I want to have fun with the learning process. That can't happen all the time, obviously, but I give it a shot. So, yes, I believe in bribes and I believe in rewards. And we don't do that all the time. When I get compliments on my older kids I know I have done something right and I just need to keep up the character-building work with my two youngest kids even though I am getting exhausted during this parenting journey (wink).