Friday, May 14, 2010

Ideal Curriculum

As a 2nd year member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.

You all know that we have lots of little ones running around this house. And I am a firm believer that preschool lessons should begin very early. Why is that? Because I am a firm believer that anything that makes my life easier should be implemented immediately and preschool makes my life easier.

You see, my preschool age children have always wanted to learn. There is just something about that age. They not only want to learn, but they want to know when it will be there turn to learn and they ask me that question over and over and over again. If I appease my young student and give them a coloring sheet to color, or playdough to play with, or blocks to build with instructions on what to build, they will usually work happily for some time which means I can actually get something else done. Yes, preschool makes my life easier.

But I have to admit, preschool happens pretty naturally here. I generally spend a little time planning at the beginning of the school year but for the most part my little ones learn with the bigger ones absorbing what they can. I always take time to spend some sit-down, one-on-one learning with my preschoolers, but it rarely goes over 30 minutes and never takes very much prep time.

Nevertheless, I am occasionally asked by a very nervous and unsure first-time homeschool mom what preschool curriculum I use. I try to explain that I do preschool but that I don't use a curriculum. This only confuses her and she always asks , "Well, how do you know what to teach them?" I try to explain that I teach them whatever I think they should know and what I think they are ready for...whether that is writing their ABCs, tying their shoes, recognizing colors and shapes, or coloring in the lines. At this point, she usually becomes overwhelmed.

Ideal Curriculum is a preschool program that is helping preschool teachers know what to teach. As a matter of fact, Ideal Curriculum offers nine monthly kits giving you a full-year preschool curriculum. Each kit offers a themed literature unit, math unit, and science/social studies unit.

Each monthly kit is available as a download for $30 or in a print version for $55. I received a free download of their first month kit for review. It included a teacher's manual for each subject, files to print for each subject, ebooks to read on the computer for each subject, and mp3 music files to go along with the lessons. The lessons are definitely written to the classroom teacher with sections in each lesson called "Why this lesson is important", "Preparation", "Direct Teaching Lesson", and "Practice throughout the day". It's all laid out very nicely which makes it very easy to follow. However, there is a lot of planning involved in this curriculum including printing all needed lessons for the day and gathering specific craft materials. Some of the lessons also seem a little like filler lessons to me...dancing around the room singing about the letter A is maybe a useful way to occupy 15 3-year olds at daycare, but not necessary for me at home. (And I'm not just saying that because I'm a really bad dancer.)

I think Ideal Curriculum would probably work well for the first time homeschool mom who wants everything planned out and has a lot of time to spend on her pre-school firstborn. I also think Ideal Curriculum could work well for a homeschool co-op class.

Check out the Ideal Curriculum website for more information and the TOS Crew blog for more reviews. Pin It Now!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

As a 2nd year member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.

So I've recently had the opportunity to review a truly unique website called Lobster Network.

Lobster Network is in fact, an acronym. It is as follows...

It looks a little confusing, but actually it really isn't.

Imagine having an online catalog of all of your books, curriculum, dvds... anything you want to categorize with the capability of loaning (even selling) these items to your friends or neighbors. You could view your friends' items and borrow from them as well. Need an item back? Send your friend a nice email reminder to return the item. This is what Lobster Network is all about.

By far, the best part about this website is that membership is free. There is absolutely no fees attached to creating your account and sharing your stuff!

I do actually think this concept is quite intriguing and can think of several situations where this might come in handy. Perhaps your homeschool co-op would like to start a lending library and needs a way to track it? Even just sharing your books among a small group of homeschool friends could really help during trying financial times. Lobster Network allows you to create separate groups and choose which items you share with each group.

For more information, head on over to and make sure to watch the intro video on the homepage. You can find out what other TOS Crewmates are saying here.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Virtual Homeschool Vendor Hall!

If you're researching or buying homeschool curriculum, you have to check out the Vendor Hall at the Schoolhouse Expo! It's open to everyone. Browse through companies such as Rainbow Resource, WriteShop, Apologia, Latin Road/Phonics Road, Multiplication Shake, Go Phonics, and MANY MORE!

Latin Road/Phonics Road has freebies in their booth. Rainbow Resource has a free shipping offer. Spears Art Studio has a free CD. Real Science by Gravitas has a 25% discount coupon.

There is just so much to see. Stop by and meet the virtual hostess from each company, browse their selection, and look for "conference specials". Pin It Now!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A bunch of sickos having fun.

Last week we were sick....again. Half of us (yes, me included) came down with strep throat. Because we knew we had at least one untreated case and were unsure of who else might have it, we decided to stay home on Sunday. We wanted to make the most of our all-day-at-home day before Daddy went back to work on Monday, so we came up with a plan.

We lined all the kids up in the living room and declared we would have special day. Even though some of the kids were sick, none of them were down. We couldn't play outside at all because it was raining. So we declared it a no-screen day (no tv or computer or video games), but assured the kids that it would be a day full of family fun.

We figured we would have 12 hours from 9am to 9pm. One hour each would take up meal prep, eating, and clean-up for three meals which would leave a total of nine hours. We have nine members of the family (7 kids plus Chad and I). So each family member would get to decide what we would do for an entire hour. The rules were that it had to be activities that the entire family could participate in and you had to participate!

We started with the youngest, so we all just rolled around on the floor and played with Baby L for the first hour.

Next was L1's turn. She wanted to paint fingernails...

And play with babies...

Each hour we would have a changing ceremony. The blurry picture below was the only one I got of this part. Whomever's turn it was to choose activities for the hour would where a toy medal necklace we had. Here L1 is giving the medal to E3 since it was his turn...

He was proud to have his medal...

E3 decided to spend the entire hour coloring...

Next was H4's turn, who wanted to play hide and seek. I didn't get pictures of this because we were having too much fun to stop and take pictures!

Next, E6 decided he wanted to paint. I couldn't say no today regardless of how messy it was, so everyone got aprons out and they painted away...

Next, Aubrey continued our arts and crafts fun with some paper-doll making...

G9 went for another hour of hide and seek. And then Chad decided to wrestle with the kids for his hour...thankfully, there were minimal injuries.

Last of all, was my hour! First we made some yummy root beer floats...

And then all the kids laid down in the living room with their blankets to listen to Daddy read a couple of chapters of Treasure Island before bedtime.

It turned out to be such a fun day that the kids were asking to do it every week. I figured the kids would have fun, but I didn't expect Chad and I to have such a fun time. I can assure you I didn't think about checking my emails even once!

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