Sunday, December 4, 2011

Jesse Tree

This Christmas Season, my family and I are doing a Jesse tree, where we daily put on ornaments concerning the line of Jesus, reading Scripture each day about prophesies of Jesus up to through the birth of Jesus.

I won't add a lot of detail here, but point you to resources that my friends have sent me to.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Making up Games/Being Creative

After several times of playing our Family Trivia Game, the kids began making up their own game....

With a regular deck of cards, my four year old explained this new game to me.  You draw a card.  If the card is a heart, then you have to make your arms into the shape of a heart.  If you draw a diamond, you have to say rhyming words.  If you draw a club you have to stand on one foot. I don't remember the rule they came up with for spades... because my five year old took over my place and played the games as instructed by her sister, as if it was the most natural game in the world.  Maybe some day my girls will be good at playing that card game Mau, where you are never told all the rules, you just figure them out as you go and you add new rules as you go.

Another game my four year old made up is "Splatch, Splatch!"  I guess its kind of a combination of match and splash.  You play a regular type match game, but if you get a match, then the other players get to wrestle you.  Not really my favorite game, but she sure loves it.

Our babysitter (and homeschool mom of 8) commented about my four year old, she doesn't just think outside the box, she doesn't even know there is a box.  It's exciting and sometimes overwhelming to encourage creativity in our children.  What will they think of next?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our Trivia Game

I come from a family of game players and have been anxiously awaiting playing games with my children.  But I hadn't found one that works for all the members of my family - something that would be fun for my husband and I but not too hard for the kids.

So, I made up on our Family Trivia Game.  I took the CandyLand board and cards, with only a slight modification: I taped two small pieces of card stock to the board over some of the character pictures.  These cards read:

             Yellow - Spelling                         Blue - Reading
             Red - Math                                  Orange - Bible
             Green - Extra                              Purple - Extra

We use different coins for our playing pieces.  On your turn, you draw a CandyLand color card.  Before you can move, you have to answer a question in the designated category.  The questions are made up by the other players.  For the green and purple, you draw a card from the Extra pile to determine the category.  These Extra cards include categories such as Opposites, Vocabulary, Music, Drama, Art, Science, Geography, Family, Friends, TV, Library Book, Clock, Calendar, Measuring, etc.

Since we make up the questions as we go along, it keeps the game truly dynamic.  We can taylor the questions to range in difficulty for our two year old on up to the adult players.  We can work on reviewing anything recently learned with the kids.  My husband and I try to stump each other or its fun to let the kids come up with the questions in each category.  One Sunday afternoon, the kids kept asking questions that had to do with our church lesson and we got to review it in game form.

When we play, we discard the specialty cards (like the Peppermint and Peanut Brittle, etc).  We also make regular cards equal a double and the double color cards equal triple so that we move the game along faster.  I also keep handy some paper and pencils for any writing/drawing etc necessary for questions as well as a few other tools - our spelling word list page to be used for spelling and reading, our practice clock, a US map for geography, etc.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Science Journal

Inspired by a friend who has her daughters keep a science/nature journal, we began our own journal last spring.  It began naturally as we began planning and planting our first vegetable garden.  It was a learning experience for mommy as well as the kids.

Some items that we included in our science journal/notebook:
* hand drawn pictures of our garden
* a list written by my daughter of vegetables we should plant
* coloring sheets relating to gardens (rain, seeds, etc)
* a color sheet from the children's museum about seed growth
* a graph showing the number of different insects/pests we found outside while digging
* a Bible verse - Zech 10:1 "Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime. For it is the Lord who sends the thunder clouds."
* drawings of insects and other things found in our yard
* an iron pressed leaf
* leaf tracings and observations of how leaves shrivel over time

We haven't added much as of late, but as the weather cools down, we will get outside some more to make more observations.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Talk with a Kindergarten Teacher

After making it through my first official week of homeschooling, I had a great discussion with a friend of mine who has been a kindergarten teacher for seven or eight years.  Am I doing this right? I wondered aloud to him. 

He went over a list of things that they work on throughout the school year:
* being able to write and recognize all the letters and numbers
* knowing the sounds for each letters
* learning the 3 H combinations (th, sh, ch)
* learning about 40 sight words
* "reading" books, but only after lots of repetition

He reminded me that children learn through lots of repetition.  It's a good reminder to me because I sometimes think my children should already know it by now.  I get bored with the repetition, but they need it and actually thrive on it.  I am learning that if I will slow down a little bit and allow my daughters to actually master what we are learning that it builds their confidence instead of frustrating them.

Now, the advantage of homeschooling though is that I can start with where my children are already.  So I don't need to spend a week on each letter of the alphabet at this point, but I should slow down my expectations on how many sight words and spelling words that they can learn a week.  I need to think of ways to make repetition of words or concepts happen without boring either of us.

For now I'm doing sight word flashcards and I try to think of ways to make it fun, like making a game out of it.  We had flashcards of pronoun words (he, she, it, they, we, them, her, etc) and names of people in our family.  One day we just read them.  Another day we sorted them into male, female and neutral piles.  Another day we matched the flashcards up with pictures.  This week we are doing some number flashcards and I want the kids to put stickers on the flashcards - 1 star on the number one card, 3 hearts on the number three card and so on.   We have flashcards of words from our Bible study and we can play a match game with those as well.

My husband suggested maybe every third or fourth week, not planning new words or concepts but just reviewing.  I think that's probably a good idea with my style of teaching.  It will make me slow down enough for them to really master what we are learning and keep me from jumping around too much on too many topics.

One other thing I learned from my teacher friend was this handwriting website.  You can print off handwriting sheets with whatever words you input and it will give dotted line practice as well as dots for starting points.  I printed off a page with our last name to try for this week.
Check it out at

*Image by Maggie Smith, used with permission.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Discipling Kids in the Bible

We are loving this Truth and Grace Memory book for discipling our children.  This particular book is for ages 2 - 4th grade, but there are sequels that covers 5th - 8th and 9th - 12th.  It breaks down what each age group should know: scripture memory verses, hymns, and catechism questions.

We have begun working on it diligently with our children and it has led to some great discussions and some great time of worship as we sing hymns together.

My husband and I had taught from this book at a Wednesday night kids program at our former church (back when our oldest child was a baby).  This book works great as both a curriculum in a church setting as well as just family discipleship.

I like the structure of it because it gives us a concrete goal of what to memorize in Scripture and forces us to talk about spiritual truths.  Some example of spiritual truths taught in the catechism:  Who made you?  They respond, "God made me."   What else did God make?  "all things."  It progresses into questions about man's fall, God's character and nature, etc.

Scripture memory includes (at differing age levels) John 3:16, the Lord's prayer, the Ten Commandments and Psalm 23.  Hymns include "Jesus Loves Me," "Holy, Holy, Holy" and the Doxology.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mad Libs

One great way to teach language arts skills is to use Mad Libs.  My daughter became interested in trying to write words and wanted to know how to spell them.  She did not want to practice reading but she loved practicing her writing skills.  That is how we began using Mad Libs.

 I found several websites that have printable stories with fill in the blank spots but I have also created my own.  I particularly like these mad libs at classroomjr: Printable Mad Libs

Mad Libs is fun and silly but is so versatile and useful as a teaching tool.  We used it to practice handwriting, spelling, parts of speech, creativity, story telling and reading.  So it can be used for a varying range of ages and skills - nonreaders can still interject words and be a part of the story telling, and older children can independently write in words, understanding the parts of speech and can then read the stories themselves.  They can be challenged to make up their own stories for others to fill in.

These mad libs became a favorite part of our school time for two months.  From it, my daughter gained an interest in reading short stories and she learned to spell some simple words to interject into stories.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homeschool Journal

Well, I got out of the habit of blogging when the craziness of the holidays hit, but fortunately I began a new habit at the first of the year - a homeschool journal.

I have a notebook where I keep to do lists and planning ideas.  I added a spiral notebook where I have been journaling progress on all my girls.  I don't write in it everyday (I'm not that organized or structured), but I write in it about twice a month - writing goals I have for my children, activities we have accomplished, ideas for future activities or studies, etc.  I am only writing 1-2 pages a month so it is easy to look at our progress over a few months. 

It's a simple way to document what we are doing for school.  The state of Texas does not require much as far as homeschool records, but I think its important to document our accomplishments and goals.  A month overview works nicely for now because so much of what we do is repetitive - like taking a full week or two to learn a Bible verse and do theme activities that go along with it.

I am documenting character traits/habits that we are working on, as well as life skills we are learning - sewing, chores, piano, physical activity.  I might list out new games we have tried and liked or books we have read or social activities we have been a part of.

I used to do so much from memory, but I am now finding it helpful to write down my ideas, our progress, what the kids have really learned from and enjoyed.  It's great to be able to look back at all that.  I easily forget things I would have thought I would have remembered - like my child's first word and how old they were at certain milestones.  Now I can document when they have mastered a certain skill.  I can also look at activities that the kids thrived on - like our math blocks game or doing mad libs or certain websites that we had found helpful in the past.

And the added bonus from this homeschool journal is that I have five months of topics documented that I can blog about.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Math Learning Game

Have fun with this hands on math learning game!

Here are the items you need to begin for a two player game:
  1. 1 dice 
  2. 10 sticks of 10 blocks.  (I have two of the sticks broken apart into "ones" while the other 8 sticks are "tens.")

Players take turns rolling the dice and taking that number of blocks from their "ones" pile.  Since there are only ten "ones," players must trade in ten "ones" to receive a ten stick.  The first player to have five "tens" sticks (that is 50 blocks) wins.

So, for example, player one rolls six.  He takes six blocks.

On his next turn, he rolls a five.  He takes four ones - that equals ten.  So he trades in all ten "ones" for a ten stick of his color choice.  But he still needs one more block.

He now has one ten and one one, totaling eleven. 

In playing this game, kids learn about tens and ones, simple addition and they learn to relate facts such as 5 + 6 = 5 + 5 + 1 = 10 + 1.  This hands on approach to math teaches place value and mental addition that will aid in calculating higher numbers.

They can see that 9 + 2 = 11 and 19 + 2 = 21 and relate those facts mentally, in a fun way.  My children love to play this game and I have found they are learning math facts and concepts way faster than through quizzes, flashcards or worksheets.

The game can be modified to more players, especially if there are more blocks than 100.  Also, the game could go to a more challenging level with more dice involved.  However, we are enjoying our simple version for now.