Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WOW! of a Deal

Are you looking for resources, encouragement, and learning ideas for the 2009-10 school year?
Well, The Old Schoolhouse magazine has a WOW...and I do mean WOW!....deal for you!
The summer subscription promotion is launching soon. It includes
19 free gifts
with a 2 year TOS print subscription or subscription renewal.
Your 19 FREE GIFTS are real, hold-in-your-hand, awesome gifts
including a really nice gift from Sears®and an opportunity for fifty random subscribers to win a one-week freepass to participating Curves® locations. It’s going to be very exciting,and will probably sell out very quickly. You can see the blast here: http://www.thehomeschoolmagazine.com/TOSSummer19Gifts/
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer School Update

We're well into our second week of our new school year around here and so far all is good. We're getting a lot accomplished and its really nice to know that we won't fall behind when the baby is born.

I considered and reconsidered what curriculum we would use this year. I enjoy hand-picking each subject for each child and planning it all myself including lots of unit studies, but finally decided that I really just needed to keep things as simple as possible with one main curriculum. We chose My Father's World and went with their Adventures program for 2nd-3rd grades. E5 (1st grade) and H4 (preK/K) also participate in this along with G8 (3rd grade) and A7 (2nd grade).

MFW includes lessons for Bible, History, Science, Reading, Art, and Music. Language Arts/Spelling and Math are done separately according to the kids' grade levels. We're still using Math Mammoth for the two oldest and Critical Thinking for E5.

I'm also using the MFW Kindergarten program with H4 and 1st grade program with E5.

H5 has been learning about the 7 Days of Creation and creating some really cute artwork for her Bible binder...

E5 has been reviewing his letters and creating a "scroll" of his neatest handwriting...

We just finished reading about Columbus as the Adventures program focuses on American History. Today we made the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria (plus a couple more boats...what can I say? I have more kids than that) out of aluminum foil and paper towels...

We also studied about air today and held a paper race using only the wind from fanning books...

E2 got in on the fun too...
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner

As a 2nd year member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out more products and giving you my honest opinion.

It's back! It's bigger! It's better!

The 2009 Schoolhouse Planner is now 375 pages full of calendars, planners, forms, articles, recipes, and more. Seriously, it can't get much bigger than that!

I could give you long lists of everything that is included in this wonderful resource for planning your homeschool, your home, and your year. But I'd rather just give you a glimpse of what is inside and show you how we are using it for our family. Don't worry though...you can still find the lists at the The Old Schoolhouse Store which is where you will surely want to head after reading this review.

I know that some people using the Schoolhouse Planner are printing out all 375 pages and organizing them in a 3-inch binder. However, I decided to use a simple 1-inch binder as my homeschool planner, putting only specific pages in it. I can use and print most of the forms and articles in the Schoolhouse Planner on "as need" basis. The picture above shows my simple cover page I created myself with our school logo on it.

The bulk of my homeschool planner uses the "Weekly Schedule for Five Children" form which is my personal favorite. (Also included are Daily/Weekly Schedules for Two, Three, and Four children.) I like to use this format as a daily log to keep a record of the all the work we are doing. Since, I'm not actually using these pages as a "planning tool" the only information I typed in before I printed them were the kid's names at the top....YES! You read that right...you can type directly into these pages before printing them out!

Other forms I included in my homeschool planner were

School Attendance Charts
Co-op Information forms

A Section for each Child that includes:
Beginning/Ending of the school year info
Yearly Goals Form
Course of Study Form
and Reading Logs

A Section for our family that includes:
Field Trip Log
Community Service Record
Family Read-Aloud Log

All of these forms (plus many more) are included in the Schoolhouse Planner!

The Schoolhouse Planner is divided into four basic sections. First (pictured above), is the Calendar Section. From July 2009 to June 2010, each month features the calendar pages, a themed article and resource list, and recipes. (Even one of my own family recipes made it into the Planner!)

The "Homeschool Forms" sections include many of the forms that I included in my homeschool planner and oh-so-many more! Whether you're teaching elementary students or highschool students... whether you textbook, unit study, or unschool...there are homeschool forms for you! You'll also find Nature Journal, Handwriting Practice, and Science Lab pages and more.

I promised you I wouldn't make extensive lists...but you really do need to check out the Schoolhouse Store to read all that is included! One of the Household Forms that I immediately printed out to use were "The Important Phone Numbers and Contacts" form. I typed all the information right into the form before I printed it and hung it on the inside of my pantry door. Not only is it a great resource for me, but also an important resource for the kids or a babysitter if there were ever an emergency situation. I also loved the "Weekly Menu Planning" form and printed several of those.

Lists, lists, and more lists in the "Miscellaneous Educational Information" section....famous composers, US presidents, states and capitals, and a kitchen conversion chart...lots of helpful resources for homeschool moms and students!

Another project I'll be doing soon is making mini classrooms for the kids, and I've found many resources in the Schoolhouse Planner to use including a multiplication table and alphabet charts.

Wow! Well what can I say? A big Planner deserves a big review!!! Enough of my rambling...check it out yourself at the TOS Crew blog and purchase it at the Schoolhouse Store as an instant download for $39.95. PLUS, if you purchase it between now and July 12th, you'll receive the 2008 Planner Excerpts for FREE!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Toy Storage System

I mentioned last time that I would tell you about our new "Toy Storage System", so here goes...

How anyone could ever assume that my children could be deprived of all the "fun of childhood" because it would "be impossible to buy toys for all those kids" is beyond me. Let me just tell you... in... all... honesty, this past Christmas we had to drive two vehicles to our family Christmas events. One for the kids. One for the toys.

So, our toy situation was getting way out of control. We had been using our bonus room as a play room and school room. We had about 10 or 12 large bins of toys, plus the walls were lined with toys as well. Toys were constantly getting lost and broken within days of receiving them, plus they were littered all throughout the house.

Along with our new learning centers came a declaration...TOYS WERE BEING REMOVED FROM THE BONUS ROOM. Where were they going? TO TOY STORAGE! Toy storage is actually just a room in our basement that is not being used. We haven't had the time to organize it yet, so my husband and the kids have literally just stuffed the toys in there for now.

So what exactly does this mean?

Here are my rules for Toy Storage:

1. Toys that are in Toy Storage can NOT be played with.

2. Once a week, all children will travel to Toy Storage and will be allowed to pick 3 toys to keep upstairs in the bonus room to play with FOR ONE WEEK. (Not including L1 -we keep a small tote of baby toys upstairs at all times for her- that is 5 children picking 3 toys each. 15 toys fit nicely in two large totes and is surely enough to keep the kids occupied for a week.)

3. Once the toys have been picked, there is absolutely no "trading" of toys that are in Toy Storage. The children simply have to wait a week to retrieve a different toy.

4. Toys must be shared with siblings regardless of who picked it.

5. If an argument breaks out over a toy, or if I find it lying on the floor unused (out of place) the toy will get its name written on the board/a check by its name. If the toy gets two checks by its name, it goes back to toy storage for the rest of the week.

6. If a child is "caught being good", there is a possibility that we will allow that child to "rescue" a toy from toy storage, but this will happen no more than one time per week per child.

Believe it or not, there was actually no wailing or gnashing of teeth when we announced these new rules. For over a week now we have been using this system and both kids and mom are very pleased with it! My schoolroom (and the rest of the house) are staying very clean without the toy clutter. Plus, I honestly feel like the kids are taking better care of their toys now that they only have a limited time to play with them. It's success all around!

On another note, I mentioned in the last post that I want to freshen up our school room with paint. Here's the room:

I'd like to use black chalkboard paint for the two long low walls. I plan to paint the tall walls and ceiling with a pale yellow to brighten things up. My husband laughed and said that it would look like the inside of a school bus. What do you think? Should I nix the yellow paint and go with a different color?? Pin It Now!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our New Learning Centers

Oh, have we been busy around here!

We just started our first week of school on Monday...I know what you're thinking - "It's June, Shanna!"

Well, here's the thing. Baby #7 is due to arrive in early September. So, we could take a Summer break now...when it's hot and humid and yucky outside. (My current almost third trimester state has no bearing on the "yucky" status of summer days...I have always thought 95 degrees and humid is yucky.) And then we could break again in September, because we all know I won't be up to homeschooling then. This would put us way behind and totally stress me out...

Or we can get a headstart on the school year now and wait to break until September and October. I'll have a full 2 months to adjust to a household of 9 without the worry of school and my kids can actually enjoy full 75 degree fall days! I pick that one!

So, with the new school year also came the need to tweak our schoolroom a little...actually a lot. We spend about half of our school day in this room. I like to have a space that all the kids can be in at once to do individual studies in the morning. After lunch our school is spent doing art and science experiments around the kitchen table and reading books curled up on the couch.

So this is our updated school room. It's a bonus room/playroom over our garage. Truly it has been greatly improved (I should have taken before pictures), but you have to see my vision because its not quite finished. It's biggest need right now is a fresh coat of paint. Chad has agreed to let me paint the two long low walls with black chalkboard paint...I mean seriously why not just embrace drawing on walls if you can't stop it? The tall walls and ceiling will be pale yellow.

This is the play area for E2 and L1 while we are schooling. Just last week the walls in this room were lined with tubs and tubs of toys. We have now implemented a "toy storage" system that truly deserves a post all its own so I won't go into detail now. But our toys have been reduced to this small area. I simply rotated the tubs in away to give the littles a blocked off place to play without distracting the big kids while they were working.

Our school area is still pretty similar to what is has been. A bookshelf to hold all the curriculum we currently use, white boards, 2 desks in the front for kids that are working with mom, and two desks...one to the left and one to the right (you can only see the black chairs) for students who are working on independent studies.

To explain the rest of the room you should know that things were becoming very chaotic in our morning school. Lots of toys meant lots of mess. The little kids were being very distracting to the older ones (and to me as I was trying to work one on one with the older ones). And then the older kids were finishing their independent studies before I was ready to work with them one on one and were left with nothing constructive to do, so they were becoming distracting as well.

My answer? Learning Centers! I've created 5 small spaces that the kids can go to when they are not working on "school work". Funny thing is, they are being quiet, working diligently at each center (though they think they're playing), and are definitely still learning!

The front right corner of the room has been transformed into our reading nook...

Okay, I know its not very pretty...yet. BUT it's very cozy! G8 curled up here for at least a half an hour today to read in peace. All you really need is a bookshelf with books (turned sideways) and a couple of pillows.

Our art center is just a really small table. (I think revamping this kid's chair needs to be a future art project!) I put a plastic mat underneath the table. And then I just put a few pieces of construction paper, scrapbook paper, and a pencil holder with a pen, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. Like the rest of the centers, I will change the materials out periodically to keep things interesting.

Learning Center #1 is pretty simple right now, but the kids haven't seemed to notice. I put out a basket of pattern blocks (their favorite math manipulative!) and a scale. I added a few file folder games as well.

So eventually, I'd like the centers to be a little more colorful like this one. I printed off all of these fun activities about plants FREE from Sparklebox ... which is full of ideas for workboxes and learning centers. I also like the idea of having at least one "themed" Learning Center at all times...sort of like a unit study on a table.

Here's a close up of the activities...plant words, dandelion life cycle cards, organize plants by height, coloring and craft sheets, a letter match game, and a wildflower field guide.

Learning Center 3 fits in a box! The rule about this center is the child must sit on the floor in one spot while playing with the box's contents and use the lid as a tray or "table top". I did not fill the box, but instead put only a few things inside...a baggie of magnet letters, a box of magnetic marbles that link together, and a baggie with noodles, yarn, and a timer. Each of these activities have instruction cards with them. For example the baggie with noodles has a card that says, "Can you string the noodles before the time runs out?"

These learning centers have really made our school a more peaceful place the past couple of days. I can finally work one on one with each of the kids while the other ones are occupied and within eyesight! Praise God for small miracles!

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

How to ruin a perfectly good Saturday morning...

...Spend the whole morning cleaning.

Woe to the child who makes a mess today. Pin It Now!

Friday, June 5, 2009

I think we got his good side.

Isn't this photo amazing?! It's our little one...taken today at 25 weeks!

We've had an "area" on the placenta that has the ultrasound technician and OB slightly confused. It's just a little bump actually that doesn't seem to be effecting Baby's growth at all, but is still there. The benefit of the "bump" is that I got to watch nearly 30 minutes of live video of our little one today at an ultrasound specialist. The results were its just a placental cyst which is nothing at all to be concerned about. Big praise!

We got some really neat pictures...close up of his little chin and mouth shaped like an "o"...I got to count his toes (five on one foot...good sign!)...but the best part was when she switched to the 4d ultrasound and took the above picture. It was so clear. I think he looks like Baby L (soon to be L1, by the way, in just a few days). Pin It Now!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Alphabet Alley

Hey! I wanted to remind you about a great company that I was introduced to as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew. Alphabet Alley sent me this adorable "New Baby Magnet Play Set" that H4 just couldn't get enough of. The "new baby" theme was perfect for our family and I loved that this little set was so portable. We have taken it for play in the car as well as at home.

Unfortunately, soon after I received this set Alphabet Alley had to pull their line of magnet sets from production due to the new CPSIA laws. I'm sad to see these sets go as I would've liked to purchase more for H4, but no worries...Alphabet Alley has plenty more quality and affordable toys to offer on their site.

If you don't remember, check out my review of their Two by Two Matching game and Noah's Ark Go Fish to see how the quality of Alphabet Alley products compare to similar toys we had. Pretty amazing!

This quote from their website really sums up what Alphabet Alley is all about:

"Alphabet Alley is a faith-based company that produces high quality toys for the early childhood market. We use all original graphics to illustrate solid values in a fun and entertaining way. Children choose Alphabet Alley products because they are fun! Parents, teachers and schools choose Alphabet Alley products for their educational, motivational and spiritual values."

You'll find more reviews of Alphabet Alley products from homeschool moms like you and me at the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog!

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