Monday, March 4, 2013

Unit Studies and Lapbooks general information

I've been using unit studies and lapbooks for 4 years now.  This post is also to record some of the useful sites I use that for some reason I can't pin to my boards on Pinterest.

In doing a country lapbook I use:
     enter in their search bar the country you are doing or animals in that area or physical attributes (such as coral reefs with Australia) (then click on World book in the right hand column and enter your country)    MAPS
     the kids love to set it on satellite and then get in as close as possible... ok so its a little creeper-ish but it is fun.

I also use that countries official website.      has crafts for all ages

I use a lot of Magic Tree House books and The Magic School Bus books...and videos too :)
     quite often you can find accompanying curriculum at
     (I have a link to them at the bottom of my page  - if you enter through that link I can get discounts on my purchases)

I will also use many movies and cartoons that are kids friendly that are set in the country we're studying.

If you have a AAA membership, they are awesome about getting me the maps and country books I need :)  is great for calculating distances and finding out what time it is in the country you are studying.

I also use to "book" pretend flights to find out how long it will take to fly there.

Good Luck and Happy Exploring

Friday, August 3, 2012

Khan Academy - Math help

Sal Khan has created a site that plays on kids desire / addiction to play video games :) and a parents desire to see their child actually learn and understand Math.

As they say on their site...
          "With a library of over 2,600 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 218 practice exercises, we're on a mission to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your  own pace."

 First thing I did was to set the kids up with student accounts which will track their progress and give levels of proficiency in each category of math.  Then I made myself a coach account which allows me to keep track of both kids and how they were doing.

The exercises begin with very simple concepts.  The kids would start at the first level solving equations.  It took about ten problems for the site to determine if they were "proficient" at that concept or not and then the site would advance them to the next concept.  The kids went through several levels very quickly as the site was basically assessing what their needs were. (Remind you we're talking about a 7th and 9th grader here)   Happy kids:  lots of levels, points gained, and trophies earned.  Then that leveled off... slightly disappointed kids...and the real work and learning began.

What I like about the site:    the kids learned what they needed to learn.   Unlike a text book where you start at chapter 1 and work your way through... this site focuses on concepts, starting at basic levels and then progressing on only as the kids master the basics.  My two older kids came out of the public system and their math education had holes everywhere.  Khan has helped to fill in the holes, reinforced what needed shoring up, and refreshed what they already did know.

What I didn't like about the site:  the "positive reinforcement bar" at the top of the page which would fill up as they successfully solved equations would empty at a disproportionate rate when they answered a question wrong.  This led to very frustrated  math students.

All in all though, Khan Academy really helped us this past year.  We had no access to the next level of math text books that we would have needed and Khan Academy kept us going in Math.   For that I am extremely grateful!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wow! Has it been 10 months already?

     It's hard to believe that 10 months has gone by already!  Needless to say, after the wedding we hit the ground running, stopping short for the holidays, running again after our January break... then in February my only child in public school ASKed to come home and be home-schooled too!!??  To be honest, it was harder to get him unenrolled in public school mid-year than to actually home-school him.  But I am sooo glad to be completely free of "the system".  Our family seemed to sigh a collective breath of relief.

     Well the year didn't go as I had planned, but learning did happen, some "hard spots" were overcome, others were made more clear.  That helps for planning for the new year.

     More happy news for us, Anna got engaged and will be getting married in December!  We will be welcoming David into our family officially now :)

     In February we also added Axel to our family - our loveable yellow lab puppy - he has added a new dimension to our "crazy"!  He also prompted the immediate need to fence in the backyard (home-school construction project #1)

     We also "love" to garden... Daddy loves to garden, we love Daddy, so we garden :)   Seriously though, I do love those fresh veggies and herbs to cook with - the cucumbers that I apparently have such a green thumb with - I'm growing to not "love"...we're still eating the pickles from 2 years ago... I lost count at 300 cucumbers.    In our garden we have a blueberry bush... we have been constantly battling the birds on who owns the bush.  We've tried netting, but hate when one gets caught and strangles itself.  We've tried wire "fencing"...they can squeeze through the smallest holes and cracks - I swear they must dig under too!   So we built a Blueberry bush cage (home-school construction project #2) - it seems to work, time will tell :)

     So this summer was declared "the last chance to build a tree house before they're too old to enjoy it" summer... enter home-school construction project #3!   Every one helped hammer, saw and paint!  It was wonderful!  It's basically a glorified tree "porch" - I didn't want to lose the ability to lie down and look up through the leaves - so I refused to roof it (I think I also hit the end of my ability - but don't tell)  Sarah and Isaac's first thought was "Mom! Can we read "Mystery of History" up here!! Please?!?"   Gotta love home-schooling!!

     The other fun thing I discovered this year was Pinterest.   I keep a mostly homeschool board, so if you want to follow I can be found here: or try clicking here:  Pinterest link    I have links for all the subjects I cover and all my favorite sites.  I even made a board for "Free Stuff".  I hope it helps you :) 

     To get back to my original purpose for this blog I am working on a review of Khan Academy.   They have wonderful free math lessons!  I hope to post it soon.

     Take care and enjoy your summer!   Join me in a glass of cold iced tea with mint from the garden in shade of our tree house and take a moment to breathe...



Monday, September 12, 2011

wedding frenzy

We are at the 12 day mark until Josh and Amy's wedding.  I am in the midst of sewing dresses this week.  Last week I finished my part in getting their apartment renovated, although I am sure a few plumbing items are going to pop up before its all said and done....

So, what about homeschool?  It's been going on at a slower pace.  Essie has helped me out by guiding the little ones through their lessons.  Caleb has had a few "instructional" lessons at Home Depot with me.   I'm sorry but I love Home Depot, I love the smell of lumber and WD-40!!  :)   (Thanks Dad!)

Next week will be exciting and crazy and everything else that goes into a wedding....SO, if any of you happen to think of us, say a prayer!   I'll get back to homeschooling in full swing and blogging in October.

Til then, enjoy and breathe...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

what I hope to use this year...

My "curriculum" list for this school year is going to look something like this... I hope : ) 

For Everyone-
     Mystery of History, volume 3
     Truth and Grace - scripture memory work

For Esther, Isaac & Sarah-
     Apologia's "Exploring Creation with Astronomy"

For Caleb (9th grade specifically)-
     Saxon's Algebra 1/2 and 1 (he's determined to get "caught up")
     Apologia's Biology

For Esther -
    Saxon's 7/6 math

For Caleb & Esther-
     Lively Latin
     Phys. Ed.  (various team sports and work-outs at the YMCA)
          Spelling Power
          Roots on the Vine
          Daily Grammar
          "Elements of Literature" lapbook
          "A Peek at Poetry"  lapbook
          Shakespeare's "A MidSummer's Night Dream"
          Research paper process
            probably have them each pick a Biome to research - want to deal with
            facts not opinions at this point
          4 book reports on books of their choosing.
     "Reformation" unit lapbook - correlates with Mystery of History
     "Mary, Queen of Scots" lapbook - correlates with Mystery of History

For Isaac & Sarah
     The Arithmetic Primer then Saxon's Math 2 when ready
     Dinosaur unit study
     various animal lapbooks  - hedgehogs, penquins, polarbears
     Copywork from Scripture, AAMilne, Aesop, RLStevenson, Mother Goose etc.
     Reading skills
          using resources such as "Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons",
          Scholastics phonics readers,  
          the "Bob" books and Step 1-2 and Level 1-2 books  
     Reading (by me to them)
          "Redwall", "The Hobbit",  "Arabian Nights", stories from C.S. Lewis,
          Hans Christian Andersen and
          other classic fairy tales (not Disney - nothing against Disney, just want
          them to know about the
          originals that Disney "modifies")
     Literature lapbooks - Flat Stanly, The Horse and His Boy, A Fish Out of Water, etc...
     Journal writing (and coloring /dictating)
     Spelling Power - in January for Isaac

I'll have to check back at the end of the year and see how we did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

beginning the new school year

First days back to school were always exciting ones to me as a child growing up.  I was pleased to notice that my kids were happy to start back to school too- even if school was just downstairs!  A few things that worked for me, maybe they will help you too...

Start back easy for the entire first week.  If you are chomping at the bit to dive into all that great curriculum you spent a fortune on, don't worry, be patient, it will still be there next week.  Likewise, if you spent all spring and summer downloading free unitstudies and lapbooks, and have everything sorted and cut out, glue sticks and colored pencils ready, relax, take a deep breath and start easy.   You will all burn out by Friday if you go at it like a race horse out of the starting gate!

On our first "first day" of homeschooling I gathered the kids around me, we opened in prayer, sang familiar songs, started learning our first Bible verse and then we went on a "field trip".  We didn't go far or spend much but they were thrilled!  Afterall, for Caleb and Esther, their old school friends were sitting at desks in a hot stuffy room, and nobody ever went on a field trip the first day of school : )

Last year we had an end-of-summer "Pirate Party" with bandana's, eyepatches, and little sandwich boats with cheese slices for sails.  We read a pirate story, did some pirate crafts and happily entered into a new year of learning.

This year was more relaxed.  The girls had been asking me for a week to start school already... humm why do the boys never ask that?  I had individual "conferences" with Caleb and Esther.  As Caleb is starting high school this year we sat down to plan the next four years of his learning experience.  We looked at what the state requires students to accomplish.  We also looked at what the college he hopes to go to requires.   We talked about the SAT and GED exams and I reassured him that he will be ready for those tests and he will succeed.  I discussed with Esther the plans for her schooling this year and we discovered together her need to feel more organized, so we sat at the computer and created a planner to carry her through the year with all the little details she wanted.  Of course by the time I finished with individual conferences and planning, Isaac and Sarah went to night school : ) LOL   This morning everyone was up, showered, and dressed. They had their coffee and they were ready to begin again...

Yes, we started early.  I know what our year is going to hold and we will need more time off than usual at the start of it, so.... hold on, here we go, off like a herd of happy turtles!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

family-style curriculum

In my "Introduction" post I had mentioned something called "family-style curriculum".   This concept is very important to me as I am trying to teach 4 young minds and I am only 1 person.  The beauty of these pieces of curriculum that I purchased is simply this:  I read 1 lesson to all 4 kids together and then they have activities based on their ages.  This post will focus on the curriculum I chose for History.

The series is called "The Mystery of History" by Linda Lacour Hobar.   /  She writes from a Christian worldview.  She does it respectfully to all Christian faiths.  She also does a wonderful job presenting what the other faiths believe as she goes through the world history.  There are currently three volumes available in print and the author is working on the final fourth volume [hopefully due out before next year when I'll need it : )]

We started with her second volume, which covered the Early Church and the Middle Ages.  The text is broken up into 28 weeks of lessons in which she includes pretests, biweekly post tests that alternate with biweekly review exercises, a time to make Memory Cards for each lesson of the week, and finally the activities section.  She also includes a wonderful semester review and test and a final review and test.

Each lesson that you read is written as if Ms. Hobar was right there talking to you and your children.  She even includes warning notes if something might be too intense for younger or more sensitive children so you can skip over that section and continue reading without realizing too late.  On the average, I would read maybe two pages per lesson.  It took me about 15-20 minutes (including the usual kid interruptions) to read out loud.

I would use the pretest, post test and biweekly review with only Caleb and Esther.   Sometimes we would do it orally and other times I would run it off and have them do it on paper so I would have something to file.  Speaking of which, she recommends each child having a 3-ring binder with 8 tab page dividers, labeled by the 7 Continents and miscellaneous (that's where their tests and review sheets go).

Memory cards are very important in family style learning.  Memory cards are simply 3x5 index cards that the kids record what they remember from the lesson.  Caleb and Esther would record their own card.  Isaac would dictate what he remembered to me.  (Sarah just drew pictures, especially of princesses and castles.)  The older kids would use these later when filling in a review worksheet.  It also helps you to see what is getting through to them and maybe point out an important highlight they might have missed.

The activities section is usually broken into three sections:  younger, middle, and older students.  This allows you the flexibility to use one curriculum yet meet all the age levels you are teaching.  The younger kids may have a simple coloring activity while the older ones might have a detailed mapping activity or a fun web search.

The one thing I like the most about this series is that it is completed in 4 books.  We started with Volume 2 last year.   This year we will do Volume 3.  Hopefully, if it's completed, Volume 4 next year.  Then we will go back to the beginning of the series and start Volume 1.  The year after that we will repeat volume 2 with the understanding that Isaac and Sarah who were four years younger the first time they heard it, will now be at a higher level of understanding and will take in more information.

One more item that is a wonderful supplement to this series is putting together each child's own copy of a Time Line Notebook... but that is for another post! :)