Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Weigh In: Color Run

So, this week we decided to add a little fun into our workout. ...Okay A LOT of fun!!!

The Color Run came to town and we joined with thousands of other runners for the happiest 5K on earth.

At every kilometer color spray specialist were spraying us with a colored dust.

Here, Chad insists on me showing how I got sprayed directly in the armpit.  No worries, though.  Still having fun!

Next year, we will totally register early and take the kids.  This was too much fun to not include the entire family!

Here I am in a blue cloud.

And the grand finale is a huge multi-colored cloud covering everyone.

Are you adding fun to your workout?  Comment or link up below with your Tuesday Weigh In post!

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Curriculum Picks

So here we are on week 3 and attempting to ease our way into this year's curriculum picks.  There are some that we absolutely LOVE....some that I'm questioning.  If you are a new homeschool mom and find a month or so in that something just isn't working, don't be afraid to tweak your curriculum picks.  Believe me, there is nothing worse than trudging through a curriculum all year long just because it's the one you started with.  The beauty of homeschooling is that you are the teacher and you get to choose what you teach.
Here is G11 with his individual studies.  Language Arts 6 and Reading 6 from Christian Light Publications (CLP).  Teaching Textbooks 6.

A10: Language Arts 5 and Reading 5 (CLP).  Teaching Textbooks 5.  A Reason For Handwriting.

E8: Language Arts 4 and Reading 4 (CLP). Teaching Textbooks 4.  A Reason For Handwriting.

H7:  A10: Language Arts 2 and Reading 2 and Math 2 (CLP).  I Can Write Cursive.

E5: Mathematical Reasoning and Building Thinking Skills (Critical Thinking Co.)  Learning to Read (CLP).

L4: ABC Readiness Series (CLP).

As a family we are working through Who Am I (Apologia Worldview Series), Mystery of History Vol. 1, and God's Design for the Physical World (AIG Science).  We are very much enjoying each of these series!

We are using YWAM's Christian Heroes Series for our family read alouds this year.  In honor of the Olympic season we have started with the Eric Liddell book.  SO good!

In addition to all this, our students our required to read other books (some that we choose and some that they choose), complete writing projects, and are working on lots of fun review products.

Check out what other curriculum Back to Homeschool Blog Hop bloggers are using and join me tomorrow to discuss Homeschool Planning! Pin It Now!

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Always Thought Eclectic Meant Weird

ECLEC'TIC, a. [Gr. to choose.] Selecting; choosing; an epithet given to certain philosophers of antiquity, who did not attach themselves to any particular sect, but selected from the opinions and principles of each, what they thought solid and good. Hence we say, an eclectic philosopher; the eclectic sect.                           
                                                       ~Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary

     I always thought eclectic meant weird.  Turns out I was wrong.

     I mean, it's not that I thought there was anything wrong with weird.  Personally, I can't think of any season of life when I didn't have at least a dozen or so people who would ascribe that word to my personality and/or life choices.  Let's face it, homeschooling is pretty weird.  So my wrong assumption about the word eclectic did not at all translate into a deterrent to the method.

     By no means do I have an exhaustive knowledge on the subject of homeschooling methods.  But I have done some research on the topic and after eight years of homeschooling I have come to discover what I like about each one.  So very briefly, I will attempt to explain the homeschool methods that have influenced us and how we use them in our own very eclectic style.

Charlotte Mason Method: When I think of Charlotte Mason homeschooling, I think of living books, nature study, copywork, and narration.  Actually, this is really my dream method of homeschooling.  I can just imagine us all spending hours outdoors, sketching wildflowers and reading classic literature under a weeping willow tree.   Unfortunately, that isn't always practical with our large family and all the responsibility that comes along with that.  But we do pull heavily from this method, searching for curricula that is literature rich and incorporating read alouds in our every day lessons.  We have included much nature study in our homeschool over the years centering many of our field trips around outdoor education.

To learn more about the Charlotte Mason Method check out this website.

Classical Education Method:  In her article, What is Classical Education?, Susan Wise Bauer says the following...

"Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium."

This three-part process has always made sense to me.  We started out as a strictly classical homeschool while we attended a classical cottage school.  We pay homage to our classical roots with the name of our school, Integritas Academy.  The trivium is a part of our overall guideline when choosing curriculum each year.

Traditional Education Method:  Think textbook, paper, and pencil.  Think workbook.  Think public school.  Probably my least favorite method of education, as it seems most uninspiring, yet in a pinch it can get the job done.  And with eight children, sometimes I just need to get the job done.  Actually, two of my children operate very well with the textbooks and workbooks, no-frills approach.

Unit Study Approach: This is another one of my very favorite methods.  It seems that all of my children flourish using unit studies.  The basic concept is large-family friendly in that the idea is to teach subjects using one main theme and teaching all of your children at their own level at once.  So, if we are learning about Ancient Egypt, we will incorporate all of our lessons including history, science, art, language arts, even math when possible around the theme of Ancient Egypt.  HomeschoolShare is a great website that offers free unit studies for all ages.  The biggest problem with this method is the amount of prep time it takes for the teacher.  We usually incorporate unit studies a few times a year.

Unschooling: Also described as "natural learning" or "independent learning"...I've also thought of "child-directed learning" to be in this field.  Basically learning happens as life happens and when the child shows an interest in a particular field of education, take advantage of that and explore it.  This method is really not structured enough for me, but on the days that I fall short and manage to complete little or none of our planned lessons, I like to think of us as having an "unschooling" day.  I mean surely we learned something that day, right?

Wait.  Maybe I shouldn't have admitted that out loud.  Scratch that last thought.  What I really meant to say is that our children always have highly intellectual, well thought out and implemented, educational plans.  Every day their learning is fruitful and they retain every part of their lessons indefinitely.


Montessori Method:  Really when researched, the Montessori method just seems a lot like the unschooling method with a more sophisticated title.  And that kind of bothers me, because I find 'unschooling' much easier to pronounce than 'montessori'.  As a matter of fact, I cannot say that word without forming it like a question to the person I'm speaking to...

"I was reading an article recently explaining the Montessori method....MonTESSori?...MontesSORi?"


I will say that the one distinguishing factor that I think of when it comes to the Montessori method is fun, hands-on learning.  We like to use this a lot especially in the early years.  We use file folder games, lapbooks, sensory and activity bags. 

     Thankfully for homeschoolers like me, the term eclectic was dubbed as an actual method.  We don't ascribe to any one method, but instead take a little bit from all.  You can call us weird.  You can call us undecided.  But I like how Noah Webster defined us...the eclectic sect.

     Hey, did you know that I'm not the only one talking about Homeschooling Methods today?  Check out all the other homeschool bloggers participating and be sure to come back each day for the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop! Pin It Now!

Friday, July 27, 2012


The Old Schoolhouse magazine has been a part of our homeschool since the very beginning. It was among the very first resources I turned to for information and inspiration as we began our homeschool journey. So it comes as no surprise to me that the creators of TOS Magazine have now unveiled another absolutely incredible resource of information and inspiration for homeschool parents.
SchoolhouseTeachers.com was released earlier this year and is an awesome website offering curricula and resources galore all "for the price of a fancy coffee". ($5.95 a month...only $1 for your first month!)

In all honesty, the amount of content on SchoolhouseTeachers.com is overwhelming.  There is simply so. much. there.  Thankfully, the 'Site Tour' tab offers two tutorial videos.  After much searching and playing for the past month, I can start to tell you what we've found.

Currently there are four main sections to the site.

First up is the Schoolhouse Teacher section.  And these aren't just any teachers....they are some of the most recognized homeschool authors and speakers including Terri Johnson, Diana Waring, Kim Kautzer, and my friend, Malia Russell.  The Schoolhouse Teachers offer monthly and weekly unit study lessons on their specific area of expertise. 

Subjects covered there include:
Career Exploration       Chemistry      College Choice Guidance      Economics    
 Figures in History      Filmmaking      Geography       High School Math
History        Home Economics       Lapbooking       Literature       Music-Voice
Reading Lessons      Special Needs        Technology      Writing

Just so you really understand, I'll say it again.  Each month, Schoolhouse Teachers offer a full unit study curriculum for each of these sections.  And SchoolhouseTeacher.com will be adding more subjects.  You get them all.  For $5.95 a month.    

Oh and did I mention that they archive the lessons so that you can go back and use the previous month's lessons too?  I've particularly enjoyed Malia Russell's (from Homemaking 911) Home Economic lessons as inspiration for myself.  But I can only imagine what a great resource it would be for a middle-high school age child needing lessons in cleaning, organizing, and managing a home.  My kids have been enamored with Andy Harris' Technology lessons.  They especially enjoyed discovering Google Earth features with the March lessons.

Next, we find the Schoolhouse Dailies section.  Can you guess what that means?  Oh yeah!  Daily lessons!!!  Among SO many subjects, this month members have access to daily lessons focused on the Summer Olympics! 

What other daily subjects are there, you ask?  Well, currently...

Daily Grammar (I'm not kidding.  I'm seriously considering ditching our current grammar curricula and just using these lessons instead.)
Daily Math        Daily Writing     Ditch the Desk-Hands On K-5      Everyday Easels
Everyday Explorers-Canada      Everyday Explores-USA       PreK Activities-Read and Play
Summer Shakespeare     This Day in History 
This Month's Menu (Recipes for EVERY DAY OF THE MONTH!!!)

Remember...all of this for just $5.95 a month.

Now enter the Schoolhouse Extras section.   So here you'll find digital access to current and back issues of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  You'll also receive a free ebook each month. 

Plus the longer you are a SchoolhouseTeacher member, the more free ebooks you receive.  That's because about every 30 days or so you will have access to about a dozen or more TOS exclusive ebooks...everything from their WannaBe series, WeE-Book series, Thematic Units, and more!

Coming soon Schoolhouse members will even have access to the MP3 files of all the Schoolhouse Expo recordings.

Finally, members have access the five FANTASTIC 2012-13 Schoolhouse Planners: the Schoolhouse Planner, Schoolhouse Special Learners Planner, Schoolhouse Primary Planner, Schoolhouse Intermediate Planner, and Schoolhouse High School Planner.  This is a $125 value!!!  I use pages from the Schoolhouse Planner each year in my own planner and in a planner I create for each of my older kids.

And yes...you get all these extras for just $5.95 a month.

But we're not finished yet.  The Schoolhouse Library offers a bookcase full of articles and resources on the following subjects:
Copybooks (Actual printable copywork books)     Homeschool Life      Monthly Theme
Monthly Reading Lists!!!      Teacher Lesson Archives      Art Shelf      Craft Shelf
Homemaking and Housekeeping Shelf      Nature Shelf     Spelling Shelf

Once again, you get everything I've mentioned here for only $5.95 a month (and only $1 for the first month).  You may cancel your membership at any time with no additional fees.   If you'd like to get a 10% discount, you can purchase a full year membership of SchoolhouseTeachers.com for $64.26.

Still unsure?  PLEASE take the time to visit the SchoolhouseTeacher's Samples page where you can download several sample lessons and more.  You can also visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read other reviews of this product.

I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up - Week 3

Week 3 is officially coming to a close and it feels as though we've hardly started at all.  We are tumbling through these first few weeks of the school year at lightening speed.  In all honesty, I am feeling a little overwhelmed.  Is there any other job in the world where one jumps back and forth more between "Am I doing enough?" and "Am I doing too much?"  I think not.  The homeschool moms win the prize for that one. 

Our week started with a birthday celebration.  Four birthday celebrations actually.  This month we were celebrating my grandma, stepfather, sister, and niece's birthdays.  J1 and my niece, S1, were born 3 months a part and even though we had already celebrated J1's birthday in May, we just couldn't pass up the opportunity to give them each their own personal cake and let them go at it.  They looked like twins...absolutely adorable twins of course.  Notice L4 being a little Mama to that little bittie...yeah she's my newest niece.  We do cute well in my family. :)

We've continued to do our "co-op" with our friends.  It's been amazing having the opportunity to do school with these two families twice a week.  We start each of our co-op days gathered around in the living room.  Our kids share prayer requests, we pray, and then say the pledge.  What a sweet time! 

My big boys have rediscovered a fun toy that had been buried (unopened) deep in their closet.  Snap Circuits can be put together several different ways to perform different operations.  They spent hours meticulously following the directions to make the Snap Circuits make sounds, lights, and more.  We will definitely be buying more of these kits in the future!

I'm so proud of my E5 (grade K) and L4 (grade preK).  They have been working diligently each day on their new lessons.  It's always fun to teach these ages.  They are just so excited and ready to learn. 

Next week I'll be participating in the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop.  Looking forward to a fun week of inspiration from several homeschool blogging mamas!  Hope you'll join me!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Math Essentials

So I'm thinking you won't be surprised that I have once again teamed up with the TOS Homeschool Crew to review homeschool  related products.  I'm not going to lie.  I really like receiving packages in the mail.  It's a huge event at our house as we all gather around the box to see what's inside.  It's a lot like Christmas morning ... all year long.

The first package we received this year as part of the Crew review team was from Math Essentials.  This program was developed by Rick Fisher, a 5th and 6th grade math instructor.  Interesting fact about Rick Fisher from the Math Essentials website:

  Each year approximately one-half of his students bypass the seventh grade math program and move directly to a high-powered eighth grade algebra program.


We received two products from Math Essentials.  The first was Mastering Math Essentials: Book One for Grades 4-5.  This program boasts...

*Easy to follow math program requiring only 20 minutes a day.
*Short, concise, and self-contained lessons.
*Daily exercises help students master, maintain, and reinforce math skills through consistent review.
*Easy-to-use correction key and teacher's manual.

I used this math program with two of my students.

What we liked:
~Mastering Math Essential Math Skills also includes a DVD to be used each day as part of your math program.  Each DVD session is just a few minutes long and is meant to be the teaching portion of the day's lesson.

~Each lesson is designed to take only 20 minutes a day and the workbook definitely reflects this.  As a matter of fact, each lesson fits on only one workbook page! 
Each page has 4 review problems, 2 speed drills, a small "Helpful Hints" section, 2 Sample problems to be done with the teacher, 10 problems, and 1 word problem.
Check out sample pages here.

~Math Essentials have based their program on the idea that distractions should be eliminated from the texts and math programs must be streamlined "focusing on a well-determined set of the most critical math topics".

~The price.  The Mastering Math Essential Math Skills Book 1 (with included dvd) is only $33.95.  That is a seriously reasonable price.  The website even offers this guarantee:

The Math Essentials no risk guarantee. At the end of 30 days, if you do not see a dramatic improvement in math skills among your students, simply return the materials and for a full refund. There is absolutely NO obligation.

But, seriously?  $33.95 isn't that much of a risk when we are talking math programs!

What we didn't like (my least favorite part of writing a review, by the way):

~On the back of the Mastering Essential Math Skills text, it clearly states that the program includes an easy-to-use correction key and teacher's manual.  The website actually says, Lessons are easy to correct and the Parent/Teacher's Guide provides illustrated step-by-step solutions for each exercise and problem.

There is an answer key in the back of the book, but try as I might, I simply could not find illustrated step-by-step solutions for each exercise and problem.  There is no teacher's manual...at least not what I would call a teacher's manual.  There are 3 pages in the front of the workbook devoted to "Notes to the Teacher or Parent" and "How to Use this Book" that includes 8 steps with simple black and white drawings describing how a teacher in a classroom setting would move through a lesson.  There is a "How to Use this Book" section on the dvd, covering the same topics as in the book.

~The dvd lessons are definitely short and concise.  Only a few problems are reviewed, and the children are expected to work these problems in a separate notebook along with Mr. Fisher (the instructor).  There are absolutely no frills to these dvd sessions.  You don't even see Mr. Fisher.  You see only a whitescreen and his problems as he writes them.  Often, however, there is no problem at all on the board as he is lecturing in the background.  For up to 30-45 seconds the students see only a white screen.  I realize that the idea is to eliminate distraction, but I could see my kids' eyes glazing over.  They were getting distracted...because there was nothing engaging about the lesson. 

~Our math sessions generally took at least 30-40 minutes.  I think I was expecting to have less teaching involvement since this program has the dvd portion in each lesson.  But that simply wasn't the case.  Since there was no teacher's manual, I needed to watch the dvd lesson with my students to even know what the lesson was about that day.  Then I had to re-explain the lessons covered in the dvd and work through many of the worksheet problems with them.  Even the speed drills are designed for the teacher (me) to choose one number for them to drill addition facts by and one number to drill multiplication facts by.  Which meant when they were done, I had to take the time to figure them out myself since I had no teacher key for these answers.

Now you might be thinking I sound lazy at this point.  And I'll go ahead and admit it.  I am a little lazy.  However, I'm not teaching a class full of students who are all on the same grade level. I have eight children, six of whom are school age...all on different math levels.  I have to teach a lot of math in one day.  I want my math programs to be thorough, but I also want them to be super teacher-friendly and with little to no prep.  A thorough teacher's manual is key for that.

We also reviewed Mastering Essential Math Skills Geometry.  This 80 page workbook is set up exactly like the Book 1 except is does not include the teaching dvd.  There is an answer key and Glossary of math terms in the back of the book, but even less teacher instruction.  My sixth grader worked through lessons in this book and while he loved how short they were, we were often frustrated by the lack of instruction.  The only instruction came in the form of the "Helpful Hints" section in the middle of the page.  But often even I had a hard time deciphering these "Helpful Hints" without the aid of a teacher's manual.   

Once again though, the price of this book is a big bonus.  It's only $11.95 to order the Geometry workbook.  Math Essentials offers others just like it for Fractions, Decimals and Percentages, Pre-Algebra Concepts and more.  It really is not a big investment to find out if this program will be right for you.  I also must admit, that many on the TOS Crew are finding much success with Math Essentials.  You can read their posts here.  Just because it's not a great fit for us, doesn't mean it won't be just what you are looking for!

Also, Math Essentials will be offering a special promotion for the months of July, August, and September.  The promotion applies to any order placed through the Math Essentials website.  Any order that includes Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 1, OR, Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2, OR, No-Nonsense Algebra, will include a free copy of Geometry (A $14.95 value) plus a free Homework Kit (A $4.99 value).

I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the last few years. The only compensation that I receive for my review is the free product. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in review groups and I have enjoyed trying out these products and giving you my honest opinion.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Weigh In- Workout DVDs

     Workout videos are an inexpensive and great way to ease into working out while still in the comfort of your own home.  They are also a great way to get your kids involved.  Last school year, we would often pop in a workout dvd after lunch to get P.E. in for the day.  The kids loved the break from bookwork and so did I!

Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds videos were perfect for me as I first started working out and the kids enjoyed doing these right along with me.  She uses just 4 or so basic steps: walk in place, side to side, kick backs, etc.  The above video has 4 different walks from ranging in distance from 1 to 4 miles.  That's right, you can walk 4 miles without leaving your living room! 

The Biggest Loser Power Walk dvd is another workout that ticks away the time in miles.  Yes, we are Biggest Loser junkies around here.  We've caught up with every season thanks to Instant Netflix.  I also like Jillian Michaels dvds to work up a good sweat and feel good about my workout...that being said, I usually do these by myself.  The sports bras and occasional coarse language on Jillian's dvds are not something I want my children privy to.

GyMathics is a cool dvd that combines education (grade 1-4 or so math facts) with exercise.  This is really fun to do with the kids and I even used it in a co-op class with 2nd-4th graders.

Another thing you should consider is that Netflix has many workout dvds.  There are a limited number (and they are pretty generic) of workouts available on their instant program, but lots of the big name workouts are available to get through their mail program, including the Biggest Loser workouts and Leslie Sansone videos.  You can rent a dvd, keep it until you are bored with it, return it, and get a new one!

TUESDAY WEIGH IN:  So, I didn't get a workout with hubby every night last week, but we did do a couple.  Plus I did some running and even weaseled a friend into joining me in my Wednesday spin class (which I  L.O.V.E!!!)  It's also a good week for me on the scales because I'm weighing in on low side of my 5 lb range that I tend to stick in.  Still hoping to bust through it soon!

How about you?  Join me for a Tuesday Weigh In by posting on your blog and linking up below.  Share your updates and/or healthy lifestyle tips and I would love it if you would link back to my blog.  You can even grab the Tuesday Weigh In button from my sidebar.  Have a blessed week!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Word Mural How-To

As mentioned in my last post, I have been attempting to freshen up and add color to our school room.  As I was standing in the room last week, just looking at the walls...you do that too, right?...I got a wild hair to paint some large words on the wall.

This is not that unusual for me.  I co-owned a business painting wall murals for five years, so they are sort of my go-to decorating idea.  So, while murals might be out-of-the-box for most people, it's really not at all for me.  As a matter of fact, I should probably be thinking more out of the box myself when it comes to decorating...

Here are a couple murals I've painted in our home elsewhere...

J1's nursery

Girls' room

So generally, we would start with a sketch, transfer that to an overhead projector, and project the image on the wall as we began a mural.  But for something so simple as a word, I used a much simpler method.

First, I used a level to measure out and draw guidelines on the wall.  It's hard to see them in this picture, but that is EXACTLY what you want!  Draw your lines lightly, because you will be erasing them once you've painted over your word.  I like to draw 3 lines...think like you're back in Kindergarten and you are writing on a writing tablet.  Then I just used my own handwriting (but I took my time and was careful to be pretty and consistent), using my guidelines.  The last thing you will want is a crooked word on your wall!

Next, I thickened up the letters using pencil.

I used this paint straight from the bottle, which made it easy since I didn't have to keep stopping to mix paint.  I use acrylic paint, but when you purchase acrylic paint you will want to take note that it is sold in gloss as well.  If you are not painting on glossy walls, you will probably not want the gloss paint.

This is our new art display center.  I bought these clipboards for $1 each and drilled one screw through the top center into the wall.   Now the kids have a place to hang their artwork in the school room.

This was painted above the doorway, so the kids can read this as they leave the room. :o)
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