Sunday, October 25, 2020

Math U See Alpha Review

 In my post about what had and hadn't worked last year, I talked about how Saxon was the one bit of curriculum that simply didn't work with Little Man. I made the decision to switch to Math U See, and I am so glad I did! I chose the Alpha to begin, and Little Man has been flying through it. Today I am sharing my thoughts, pros and cons with you. This isn't sponsored or gifted, I am just wanting to share with you my experience. And that is what it experience. Just like with Saxon, you may have a different experience. Every child and situation is different, and so curriculum needs will be different as well!

Math U See is math...that you see! It comes with not only the Workbook, teacher book, test book, and DVD, but also with manipulative blocks to help the child see the different numbers units-tens-hundreds. Math U See uses the blocks to build numbers, and the workbooks to write, and the child also says the numbers as well. Each lesson concentrates on a certain topic and repeats the topic until the student fully understands what is being taught. This has helped my son so much! By the time the week is over, he has a full grasp on what is being taught. 

I actually have a 'hack' for that-when doing a lesson, if your child understands the material first try, you can skip to the review, and if your child is able to do that with no problems then you can go straight to the enrichment and then test. Going through the 'easy' lessons quickly allows extra time for a student to spend in the lessons that might be harder for them to grasp. 

Something that my son has really enjoyed about the curriculum are the Enrichment lessons. These are often dot-to-dots, 'coloring by number', drawing word problems, or doing silly word problems. My son refers to these as the 'fun' lessons. I love when fun is mixed with learning! 

One con I see with this curriculum is that it doesn't focus on things like days of the week, months of the year, etc. It does teach telling time at the end, but the other things I have to go over with him myself. This is a small thing though, and we go over dates and things often. 

Overall, I highly recommend Math U See Alpha! My son doesn't dread (actually he quite looks forward to it!) math any more, and it is something he can do almost independently. Having a couple of subjects that don't take all of my attention, really help as I navigate the whole 2 under 2 thing! Do you have any questions? Let me know!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

All About Spelling 1: A Timberdoodle Review


This past summer we did very little school work. With preparations being made for Itty Bitty's arrival, and trying to enjoy both the summer and the projects we worked on, it just always seemed to get put on the back burner. I was worried that Little Man would forget all the reading progress we made last year. I was eager to to try All About Spelling and see if it would help Little Man. I was very blessed to be gifted this curriculum from Timberdoodle Co. While it may have been given to me, my opinion is entirely my own! 

When our package arrived from Timberdoodle it was almost like getting a Christmas gift with all the pieces, boxes and books that came with the curriculum set. A teacher book, card box for words the child will master, 2 sticker charts, stickers, magnets with the tiles to go with it, and a big bag to put it all in. While the set may seem pricey at first, it comes with so much!

I was a bit overwhelmed with all the punching out and prep work needed to start. Even though the prep work was a bit extensive, once you have the prep work done, doing spelling each day is a snap! Little Man brings me the bag and everything we need is in one place. Not only that, but the teacher book is AMAZING! It tells you every little thing you need to know or do. 

Inside the teacher book there are hints and tips for not only ways to teach, but methods to teach. All About Spelling is a multi-sensory spelling curriculum, that doesn't bombard a student with writing spelling words a hundred times, but in helping them master sounds that will in turn help them spell. This has helped my son so much with review and helped him get right back into school when we started back. He very quickly went to where he was before in reading, even though I was worried that level 1 would be too easy (turns out it was greatly helpful for the transition we needed). 

Something else that I love about this curriculum is that each lesson is called a 'Step'- not lesson or weeks. This helps a student go through it at their own pace. I'm not worried at what 'week' we are on, I just worry about mastery instead. 

After my son gets done with each step, he gets to put a sticker on that step. This is extra encouragement as he accomplishes each level, and also helps him see where he is in mastering the curriculum. He looks forward to spelling each day, and has done really well through it. I've seen it help him in other aspects of learning, as well. 

In conclusion, if you've been on the fence about this curriculum, I want to say that I recommend this 100%! Don't let the prep-work overwhelm you, or the price deter you, I promise it's worth it! In just a few weeks, I saw my son start being able to pick apart words by sounds, which in turn helped him not only spell but read. I plan to re-approach this curriculum at the end of the year to give you an update, but right now it gets two thumbs up!

Note: links are affiliated. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Learning With Littles: My Homeschool Journey


When Little Man was born, I quickly learned I never wanted to miss any of his 'firsts', which made homeschool an easy decision for me when it came time. What was not easy, was how I would homeschool and what curriculum I would use. Choosing how to homeschool can be such an overwhelming thing, I thought I would share my journey through the years. 

There were a few things I knew I wanted in a homeschool curriculum:

I didn't want a stuffy workbook.
I wanted lots of books.
I wanted things to be hands-on.

After researching (and doing a lot of Pinterest searching) I found Simply Learning. It was everything I had looked for! Great books, hands on learning, and most importantly-Fun!! I decided to use the books I had or could get at the library, and I filled in the rest of Little Man's 3rd year with my own unit studies using the same outline as Simply Learning's. You can see more about what I did for that year, in my older post How I am Homeschooling my Preschooler for *almost* Free.

During that amazing year of preschool, the lady at Simply Learning, started using a company called The Peaceful Press, and recommended it for those who enjoyed her material. After researching, I fell in love with The Peaceful Press curriculum. We used The Peaceful Preschool literature based learning, with emphasis on building motor skills for little ones. I talk all about how our preschool went here. When it came time for Kindergarten, I knew exactly where I wanted to go next. 

Do you know that scene in the 1994 Little Women where Jo lovingly strokes a volume of Shakespeare and notes that 'some books are like going home'? That's how I feel about The Little House books. When they are read, I am transported back to my childhood with my mom reading while we ate lunch, and us begging her not to stop. I longed for that same experience with Little Man, so I jumped at the chance to use this amazing curriculum. 

The Playful Pioneers is also literature based, with the curriculum being all including-Bible, Art, Language Arts, Science and History are all included, with the need to only purchase your core subjects (Math and Phonics). I go into more detail about our year with the Playful Pioneers here.

Here I am in our 4th year of homeschooling-teaching Little Man 1st grade. I knew I wanted to wait a while to do another Peaceful Press curriculum, so I was quite sad to see our amazing year end. Thankfully I have found some wonderful things through Timberdoodle! Many of you know I have been working with Timberdoodle on their Blog Team, and I have absolutely loved the products from them. My favorite thing-almost everything is hands on and fun! I can add the literature elements of curriculum, and use Timberdoodle as our hands on learning. Here is my most popular post on this blog, showing one of our favorite thinking skills game

In a few years I'll go back and do The Playful Pioneers again when Baby Girl and Itty Bitty are ready for it. I love how we will be able to learn as a whole family. They also have a Chronicles of Narnia themed curriculum (one of my favorite series!) that I am excited to do when Little Man is a bit older. 

I hope you enjoyed this look back into my homeschool journey. If you've been here a while, you may know all this, but I wanted to share for those who are new, or new to homeschooling. If you are feeling overwhelmed with boxed curriculum, know that there are beautiful hands on curriculum out there that help foster a love for learning. I would love to hear about your favorite literature based curriculum! 

Monday, October 5, 2020

How to stay Sane as a Homeschool Mom

I am 7 weeks into the adventure of being a mom to a 6 year old, 21 month old, and a, well, 7 week old. As I type this, I am sipping my afternoon cup of coffee, and sighing at the messy living room, but also loving the view of my sleeping baby in the swing. The house is relatively quiet, due to it being our 'quiet time' but outside of that time, the house seems rather wild and chaotic. 

I am struggling with sibling rivalry with Little Man and Baby Girl, Itty Bitty is still needing frequent feeds, and the laundry and chores seem to pile up a mile high with every passing day. This doesn't even include fitting school between feeds, diaper changes, and tending to my older Baby Girl. Even with all that being said, I have found joy in the chaotic, and peace in the my role right now. How does a mom stay sane in this crazy role of both mom and teacher? Hopefully I can help someone today, or at the very least help you not feel alone!

Remember why you are here

What caused you to want to homeschool in the first place? You may be questioning things if your reason was 'to be with your children more' haha (it's a normal thought. You can be so thankful to be with your children all the time, and yet yearn for some alone time now and then!). Sometimes it's for Biblical teaching, better academics, time with your children, or all of the above. Reflecting on that can help ground you and help remind you of the calling to homeschool. I will actually be talking about my journey to homeschool next week, but I want to encourage you to remember why you started your journey in the first place, on those days when you are having a hard time. 

Set a time to be with the Lord

I almost said 'set a quiet time to be with the Lord', but I realize that having quiet cant always happen. However, starting my day in God's Word helps set my day in the right direction. Reading the Bible isn't something to just check off a list, but should be something habitual. Hebrews 4:12 says 'For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' 

If you need some grounding for your life, parenthood, and your homeschool, God's Word is the way to go! More than any self help book or blog post, it will both convict and encourage you on your journey. A good place to start for someone needing help in the parenting department, is Proverbs. There is a chapter for every day of the month, and it offers so much wisdom and guidance for a homeschool mom! (And anyone, of course).

Establish a quiet time

I was really sad when Little Man no longer took naps. He still will go to sleep on an occasion, but for the most part, naps are a thing of the past. My mom suggested letting him look at books in his room for a set time, and it has really helped! I do it at the same time as Baby Girl's nap, and it gives me a breather. I don't really like the idea of calling it 'me time', but it does help recharge batteries! This is the time, Itty Bitty allowing it, I am able to do a bit of housework, and drink a little coffee (I feel like coffee is also a sanity saver! haha)

Have a community

Having a homeschool community is not just for my kids' socialization, but mine too! Having people around you that share your passion for teaching children at home can be a great way to keep a reminder of your purpose in homeschooling, but it can also help knowing there are others on the journey with you. My homeschool group is a Christian one, so the wonderful people there, often help me in my Christian walk as well. 

Homeschool is this wonderful journey, but it can also be overwhelming at times. I heard someone say that we aren't just the teacher, but the parent as well during school. Being with my children 24/7 can often bring out anger and frustration. Remembering why I'm homeschooling, staying in God's Word, having a quiet moment in the day, and having an encouraging community help in not only staying sane, but also in me having the desire to have joy and peace.  It's one of my big goals-for my home to be one of peace. Part of it is having an orderly home, obedient children, and a Godly environment, but also a mom who is at peace herself!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

My DIY Early American History Curriculum

 If you have been following me long, you know we recently went through The Playful Pioneers and loved it! While trying to figure out what direction I wanted to go in for History this year, I really wanted to go back and delve into American history again. Maybe it was the Abeka history book my mom gave me, perhaps it was just the sheer nonsense that's trying to be promoted as true American history right now, I decided to do another year learning the history of our great nation. 

As I said, my mom gave me Abeka's Our America book. I had always shied away from 'textbooks' as I've tried to make things has hands on and learning as rich as possible. It's why I love the Charlotte Mason method! Still, I liked the format of the textbook, and decided to use it almost like I'm using the Nature Anatomy book for science (you can check that out here). I looked through it and divided it up to fit certain holidays and events. For instance:  We are studying Native Americans, then Pilgrims over October and November to get ready for Thanksgiving (which is actually mid-end of the book) and then studying the rest of the time periods after that. 

Here is what that looked like for us:

September: The Flag-Pledge of Allegiance 
October: Native Americans
November: Pilgrims
January: Revolutionary War 
February: Read books on Founding Fathers (I have several books for this time period, so we will spend some time here)
May: Finish any projects or parts of the Our America book we didn't cover 

The book has the history of certain holidays and American songs, so I will be adding those to the time period they belong. 

I am also peppering in wonderful read-alouds to go with what we are learning. We have several Jean Fritz books to go with the American Revolution, Squanto and the First Thanksgiving to go with Thanksgiving, I have a vintage book with stories of the pioneers, and so on. I will read these and have Little Man Narrate back to me. 

Once I had the all the 'ingredients' for our history, it was easy to plan out a week. If you missed my Morning Basket Post you can read how I added history to it, since it includes our read-alouds. Here is how the month of October will look (starting September 28, so 5 weeks total. We will go ahead and start learning about Pilgrims, since November is a shorter month for school). Also note that I only do history 2 days a week, and do geography the other 2 days.

Week 1: Read Native Americans chapter in Our History for day 1, day 2 ask the questions from the unit
Week 2: Read Squanto and the first Thanksgiving make a corn dish from this website
Week 3: Find a video and make a craft this week
Week 4: Read Sailing to America (a book we have that talks about both Jamestown and the early Pilgrims)
Week 5: Read Pilgrims in Our America and answer questions (day 2)

As you can see it's a mix of read-alouds, traditional textbook and questions, and hands on learning. As we continue into the Thanksgiving season, I have more books about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. 

I am sharing this with you today, to show you that you can create your own curriculum easily with very little money or time. If you are a busy mom like me, creating unit studies can seem daunting, but it thankfully only takes the initial work of knowing what direction you want to go. Once you know the direction, filling in the weeks with learning is the easy part! If you don't have the collection of books that I have, a library will be your best friend! In my Amazon recommendations, I'll add some of my favorites (links are affiliated). 

Are you a unit study-literature enthusiast, or do you prefer the more traditional route? There is no wrong answer! Each has their place for both parent and child! You have to do what fits your family and your season of homeschool.  

Sunday, September 20, 2020

How I Created my own Nature Study Curriculum for Free!


If you've been in the homeschool circles long enough, you've heard of the Nature Anatomy books. We have used them with the Peaceful Preschool, as well as the Playful Pioneers. These books are beautifully illustrated and informative. As a Christian, I will note that the phrase 'millions of years' shows up a few times, but I can easily skip over or explain things from a Biblical worldview. 

I loved this set of books so much, that I wanted to use Nature Anatomy as a jumping off point to creating my own science Curriculum. When I decided that I wanted to use this book, I started out figuring out how I wanted the year to go. These would by my goals. I wanted the year to be: fun, interactive/hands on, informative, and where my 1st grader would understand. 

Where I began...

I searched Pinterest for others who had used this book as a curriculum and came across this blog post:

A Forgotten Joy, Nature Study with Nature Anatomy

I loved how she planned out her year and chose chapters based on season. Since we wouldn't be learning year 'round and I wanted to put a zoo and health unit in our year, I edited it to fit my schedule. Here is what the year looked like:

September: Chapter 1 Common Ground
October: Zoo Unit and Chapter 4 Take a Hike
November: Finish Chapter 4 Take a Hike
December: Health Unit using My First Body Book (find review here)
January: Chapter 2-Snowflakes and Moon Phases
February: Chapter 5 Creature Feature
March: Chapter 6 A little Bird told me+finish Chapter 2 Rainbows and storms
April: Chapter 3 Come Close (Bugs and flowers)
May: Do a month long unit study using the Ocean Anatomy book

Now to find books, videos and activities

Next I searched Pinterest for unit studies and activities based on each chapter. I wanted child friendly books and videos, hands on crafts and activities to help Little Man remember the things he had learned in the chapter. 

While searching, I came upon this free nature journal that went along with the chapters in Nature Anatomy! I chose just the pages that would be on Little Man's level, but still downloaded the entire thing, since we can use it again and again. 

I also found this Youtube channel with some great science videos for kids.

Check out my Pinterest board for more ideas!

Creating the Curriculum

Finally it was time to put it all together! I tried to have each section of the chapter include reading about it, a corresponding book or video, and an art project or other activity. Here is what the first chapter (month of September) looked like:

Week 1: Layers of the Earth
M:Read Layers of the Earth, and color worksheet from the free nature journal
T: Foam ball activity (see picture below: We colored with a marker and labeled the layers of the Earth)
W: Read Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth
Th: Layers of the earth pudding cup (we wound up not doing this. New mom brain forgot to put pudding on the list. We did some video watching instead, I believe)

Week 2:
M: Read Minerals and do Stalagmite mason jar experiment from Mason Jar Science book
T: Read the rock cycle and Take a nature hunt and search for rocks. Discuss what type of rock they are
W:Read Fossils and do fossil salt dough
Th:Watch rock videos mentioned in this blog post

Week 3:
M: Read Landforms
T: Playdoh Landforms
W: Watch video about landforms and look at pictures of the Grand Canyon
Th: Take a break (we went to my moms one day this week and were unable to complete our science. We moved things to the next week to finish up the chapter)

Week 4:
M: Read Landscapes
T: Watercolor Landscapes
W:Review-Look at Geology book 
Th: Nature walk-talk about what we've learned this month

This is what Chapter 1 looks like for us, and I'm hoping to continue the trend of watercolors, nature walks, Magic School Bus books, and kitchen science creations. I am also including the books I'm linking in my Amazon recommendations (links are affiliated) to supplement and use just to help reinforce what we are learning. I don't think my curriculum quite fits into any method, but I like the blend of hands on, and worksheets.  This past month only took me about 30 min or so to put together, once I had started the search and pinned my favorite activities. It was just a matter of blending each of the things I found into the week. 

I hope this inspires you, if you would like to put together your own science curriculum! I think you could easily do this to fit any science or nature book, and just make unit studies to fit what you would like to learn for a certain time frame. 

Next week, I'll be talking about how I created my own unit study history curriculum from a text book. Let me know if you have any questions!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Indestructibles: A Timberdoodle Review

As many of you know, I recently started the adventure of having 2 under 2 in my house, as well as a beginning first grader. The house is always a bit chaotic right now, and Baby Girl's newest hobby is taking every kid book off the shelf and looking through each. I've had to set apart some of the oldest and most fragile books, as she tends to be a bit rough with them at times. 

I am excited to share about a set of books that may actually survive my crazy toddler and new baby! These social study baby/toddler books are called Indestructibles that are made out of material that can be chewed on without tearing, and can be wiped off if there are any spills. These books were given to me in exchange for my review, but I am giving my honest opinion of these wonderful books!

These books are not only indestructible, but come in bright, vibrant colors in 3 fun themes. I can see this fitting perfectly in our Tot School activities, that will help with building Baby Girl's vocabulary. The words are also simple enough that Little Man can read them to his baby sister. Actually, I've seen him pick them up as much as Baby Girl. I think it's the fun, bright colors that cause him to enjoy looking as well as the simplicity of the words. 

I thought it would be fun to give a few activity ideas to correspond with each book, to help inspire even more fun together!

Hello Farm!
Ooblek mud (which can be turned into a wash sensory play afterwards!), A 'fill the silo' sensory play (this post has several ideas)

My Neighborhood (community helpers)
occupations dress up play, fire truck and fire craft

Busy City
Use blocks/Lego's to build 'skyscrapers', I love these 'invitation to create' posts (this one is about a city)! I keep random construction paper shapes around for just such crafts!

If you want more ideas, check out my Tot School Activity post!

Here are some Amazon recommendations for other activities you can do (links are affiliated)

When these books came in the mail, Baby Girl immediately wanted to snuggle up and look through each one of the colorful books. She has also already decided to test the 'indestructible' part, and so far, they've stood up to her little toddler self! Timberdoodle has added these books to their complete tot school curriculum, which I think is a perfect addition. They are great vocabulary building, sturdy books. I highly recommend them! I haven't found a single 'con' to add. The Indestructibles book set would make perfect gifts, or as stated before, an addition to early learning. 


Math U See Alpha Review

 In my post about what had and hadn't worked last year , I talked about how Saxon was the one bit of curriculum that simply didn't w...