Monday, August 11, 2014

Our New School Room & A Freebie!

Welcome to week 2 of iHomeschool Network's Not Back to School Blog Hop. It's School Room Week. 

After three moves in 2 years - yes you read that right - we are finally settling into our 'forever' home out in the country. We have 3 1/2 acres of our own, but we live right next door to a 100 acre farm. As I type, I'm watching the pretty little soybean plants billowing in the breeze along the hill out my window. After all the insanity we've endured, we are so blessed to call this place home. The best part.... our finished, walk-out basement has a large bedroom that has become our new school room. It even has a nice, big window and a walk-in closet. You bet I was drooling when we walked through this house!

So let's start the tour.

The view as you walk in.

My 6th Grader on the left; My 3rd Grader on the right.
My 8th Grader chose to work upstairs in her room to help her concentrate.  
Each of my children have their own computers. They are completely antiquated boat anchors, but still run most software and websites. But, at $20 a pop, they were a steal and we won't complain. Unfortunately, this year has some challenges as we have limited internet data usage out here in the sticks. That means any streaming is out of the question :(  So now we've become the phycho people at the library watching videos and downloading like mad instead of just casually perusing all the books. Honestly, it's a little embarassing.
Our center wall with all the great helps as we cover World Geography this year.
Our crates of books for My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures
Ok, the rocking chair may be a bit much, but I've had it since I was pregnant with my oldest and  I've rocked all my babies here. So I just CANNOT part with it. Since it didn't have anywhere else  to go in the house, a yellow pillow from Target was my attempt at making it fit, hahaha!  
click here to get this freebie!
The sign on the wall above the chair says "Our Book Explorations" to go along with our geography theme and I've included this a freebie for all of you! I found little book-shaped cut-outs from the dollar store as well. When the kids finish a book throughout the year, we will write it on the 'book' and stick them up on the wall so they can see all they've read. I just find the 'Date/Title/Pages Read'  reading logs a bit tedious. This is my attempt to keep it more visually motivating. 

 Also hanging from the shelves are some tools we use to expand on our reading skills. Story Elements Question Fans from Runde's Room have some great questions about Character, Plot, Setting, etc. And for my 3rd grader, we use Bloom's Buttons from Colleen Alaniz. She also has Bloom's Buttons for non-fiction now as well! I LOVE the look of these! I have my son choose two or three buttons from the jar (without looking) and we choose a question with the corresponding colors. It works kinda like a game, so my little guy is actually excited about answering questions about our reading.

Daily Schedule on the left and we have our white board up - FINALLY!
My desk with my Teacher's Manuals separated by child on the shelf above.
I am so thankful to be out of cardboard boxes and finally in our home. We are loving it out here and enjoyed our first week back to school. I can't wait to make some awesome memories learning together in our fun new room.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Curriculum Week Link-Up

It's that time again, can you believe it? Back to school is upon us and here at our home, we began our school year this week. We decided that we wanted more breaks throughout the year to avoid the crazy burn-out we often face, so we're off and running. This year, I have an 8th, 6th and 3rd grader. I can't believe my babies are growing so fast! 

I'm happy to be joining again with the iHomeschool Network's Not Back-To-School Blog Hop. So in honor of Curriculum Week, here's what we're all studying this year:

3rd Grade 6th Grade 8th Grade
Math MUS Gamma MUS Zeta MUS Pre-Algebra
Science MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures MFW Exploring Countries and Cultures BJU Earth Science
Geography BJU Cultural Geography
Reading BJU Reading 3 BJU Reading 6 BJU Literature 8
Writing All Things Fun & Fascinating Institute for Excellence in Writing IEW Elegant Essay
Spelling (Using with How To Teach Spelling) How To Spell,  Book 2 How To Spell,  Book 3 How To Spell,  Book 4
Vocab --part of rdg-- --part of rdg-- Marie's Words
Grammar First Language Lessons, Level 3 Glencoe Grammar and Language 6 Glencoe Grammar and Language 8
Logic Hands-On Thinking Activities
Hands-On Thinking Activities
The Art of Argument

For math, we are still sticking with Math-U-See. This has served us well all 4 years of our homeschool journey, so we are sticking with it for year 5.

I decided to try something new for Geography/Science this year by choosing something already planned out for me. Wow, what a difference that has been. I'm loving it! I use this for my younger two while my eighth grader has opted to begin her high school credits by using a 9th grade geography course from BJU.

She is also using BJU's Earth Science. She is a visual learner, so she prefers texts that organize information in a clear and colorful fashion. While I don't LOVE anything about these books, they are rigorous, thorough and well-organized.

Grammar has been a challenge for us. I am a bit of a Grammar nerd, so this is an important subject to me. Some of the popular curricula offer review, but no good reference if you need a refresher. Some are so tediously repetative, that we all feel we are wasting our time. The Glencoe choices seem to get to the point without rambling or confusing my students. This is our first time using them, so I'll keep you posted as the year progresses.

And spelling. Aaaaaahhhh, spelling. This has been the bane of my existence year after year. I just can never seem to find the right balance of actually TEACHING HOW to spell without bogging myself down teaching 3 kids at 3 different levels. We have used HTTS in the past, but struggled with how to implement it. 

This year, after learning a lot from using All About Spelling, I am formatting it very much the same way (Rule, Words, Sentence Dictation, Test on all of the above). We are also utilizing the workbooks this year as well. This book even includes a sound sheet and marries phonics with spelling and its rules. 

An exciting find for me this year is a vocabulary tool called Marie's Words. Again, perfect for my lovely visual learner. These cards come pre-punched with a large ring in the box. Each vocabulary word comes with a visual picture that portrays the definition on the front and the definition, part of speech, antonyms and synonyms on the back.

Well, we are off to a great on day 3. Hehehe! I hope now in our 5th year, we have worked some of the bugs out of our curriculum choices and we can have at least somewhat of a smooth year. Hope you enjoy your learning choices as well!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cure the Cabin-Fever Blues!

Yesterday I went for a lovely evening walk with my family as we enjoyed the warmest day we've had in 2014. We broke the 50 degree mark here in the Midwest, and after being pummeled with blizzard after blizzard, it was a much-needed change!

Now I sit looking out my window at the newly fallen 8 (YES 8 MORE!) inches of snow whipping across one neighbors yard to the other as the winds howl as if to whine about it as much as I am!

So what to do, but check out some fun activities the kids and I can do to pass the time till spring can finally wedge its way into our reality!  I stumbled on a website I just had to share, as I know many of your little cabin-fever-infected munchkins are as desperate for new, interesting activities as mine.

Tammy over at Housing A Forest has an unbelievable website that is so well organized and chock full of amazing art projects and fun experiments for kids, I just had to tell you about it! Ideas from
Exploding Peep Geysers

to Elastic Band Launchers

to Starburst Candy Sculptures

Amazing, right? I haven't even shown the kids yet, but I'm so excited about this website that even I might forget what's going on outside my windows!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How-To Writing

I'm sure many of you have seen the "How to Blow a Bubble" pins on Pinterest. Well, I just had to do this with my little guy who is obsessed with gum!

We started our week by using this FREE How-To Writing kit from the Down Under Teacher

Our first practice story was about how to make a bowl of cereal.
Then how to make a PB & J

Then came the fun... how to blow a bubble. Here we are in front of the mirror, trying to see exactly what our mouths were doing so we could put our process in to words.

Insert hysterically laughing mom here!

...still trying...

Final result: no bubble, but a really cute paper and fun memory!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Geography: Mapping Out Our Week

Are you like me and just can't keep yourself from changing, tweaking and adjusting the way you tackle your schooling? I'm convinced it must be some virus that is automatically transmitted when you open your first box of curriculum, because it seems to infect even the strongest of us!

We are working through the states for Geography this year and I am trying to do this as a group activity. You know, 3 kids at once... make it easier on mom.... right! My children range from a completely  "Ooh! A squirrel!" type 2nd grade boy, to an over-achieving 5th grader who needs about 3 seconds to learn ANYTHING, to a "do-I-have-to-be-here-for-this?" 7th grade daughter. So, adjustments as we go have simply become a given.

As always, I started off the year with all these grandiose plans: field trips, food from each state, etc, etc... Then, as if it's still a startling phenomenon, life happens. Sickness or scheduling issues prevent a field trip. That great state recipe sounds yummy, but I forgot a major ingredient at the store! Why do I keep setting myself up for these inevitable failures?

Rather than bore you with the list of trial and error methods that failed us, I'll share what actually IS working for us now. First, I had to decide what exactly I wanted them to come away with. If you're the mom who dreams of your kids being able to name, locate and label every river, mountain and major city in the US, I tip my hat to you! With an upcoming move on the horizon, I however, dream of surviving this year - just being honest!

I wanted them to learn a little about each state's history and resources, it's capital, abbreviation, and major landmarks - to be able to hold an intelligent conversation with others about the country they call home. So, here's the routine we've settled into:

We cover 2 states per week.


  1. We watch the current state's segment from The States from The History Channel. This has worked out much better than reading the material. My kids tend to be very visual learners, so this has removed some of the bored out of their minds less than attentive attitudes.
  2. Quickly practice the capital and abbreviation for the state.
  3. Then:

  • My older girls use Trail Guide to US Geography to complete each state's mapping assignment. (We found that the questions in this book began jumping around and weren't about the state we were studying, so we omit that part. Maybe because we have an older version of the book?)

  • My 2nd Grader and I go through a fabulous book called The Little Man in the Map. If you haven't seen this, you should definitely check it out. It uses a little "man in the map" called MIM for short, to help kids place the states. Here is a video to show you a bit more about it. All my kids have loved this book and learned a tremendous amount from it!
  • Using Scholastic's 50 Great States Read & Solve Crossword Puzzles, my girls read a summary of information about each state and then complete a crossword puzzle to really lock in those facts. Right now, this is on sale as an eBook for $1 on the Scholastic site.

Wednesday & Thursday, we repeat this process for State 2.


This is our review day. We review all the states covered so far in any fun way we'd like to. If it's been a crazy week, we may also use the Stack the States app or Sheppard Software's game to review states & capitals.

There are always so many fabulous resources to choose from, I can make myself crazy trying to use them all! This schedule gets the information into their brains without stressing us all out! I'd call that a win!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It's Back! Scholastic's $1 E-Books

Scholastic's Teacher Express store is having their $1 e-book sale from now through November 8th!

These are the same content as the paper copy books, but you can use them to print off multiple copies for all your students, or you can simply use some of the book's pages for specific studies, after all, they're only a dollar, right?

Next week, I will be posting some tips on what resources we have finally settled on for this year's state studies for multiple grades. But since one is included in this sale: I'll give a little sneak peak on one of them. For my 5th and 7th grade girls, we added Scholastic's 50 Great States Read & Solve Crossword Puzzles. Each state has a summary page that covers the highlights: capital, major cities, exports, famous people, etc.  The girls read the summary and then answer questions on the following page to complete the crossword puzzle. It has really helped lock those facts in their memories. I don't know about you, but just reading the information TO them, results in glazed over looks on thier barely awake faces very little memory retention.

I hope you snatch up some great finds on this sale! Just be careful! That "It's only more dollar!" voice can get you in some trouble, I speak from experience here! This will not be the last time they'll do this, I promise! It'll be okay to pace yourself! Shop on, my friends!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up 10/18/13

This weekend, we took a little trip to our friends' farm for a Fall Harvest Festival. It was such a beautiful day and everyone had such a great time. They had a bounce house, face-painting, pumpkin-painting, sack races, yummy food, a pumpkin slingshot, tractor rides and my absolute favorite - tricolor Rice Krispie treats made to look like candy corn. What can I say, I love Rice Krispie treats!  Hats off to my dear friend who always  throws a great party! 

Monday was my sweet hubby's birthday so the kids and I made this little message out of their bodies! The best part of this gift was how hysterically we laughed while trying to pose them. All the "Her bottom's in my face" and "Hurry, I'm falling over!" had me in stitches. We had to redo a couple of shots because I was giggling so hard, I shook the camera. Dad LOVED his surprise so it was definitely a winner!

As for our schooling, we learned about cold-blooded animals and camouflage in our Magic School Bus science. We made some invisible ink out of equal parts of water and baking soda. I was a little skeptical that this simple solution would do the trick, but it totally worked! I have a feeling there will soon be lots of little secret messages around our house.

For his writing assignment, he wrote about what he would do if he were invisible for a day. Get it, camouflage and being invisible??? Here's what he wrote:

How adorable is this!
In art, the kids made a color wheel and then practiced designing circles using primary, secondary, warm and cool colors. Miss 7th grade loves art, but I think she enjoyed the company more!

 Well, that's it for us on a pretty slow week! I hope you had a great one!