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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Letting Art Just Happen in Homeschooling

This is the last week of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair.  I've had fun, have you?I can't thank Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds enough for all her hard work!  Her co-host this week is Lisa @ Golden Grasses.  This week's theme is Seeking Beauty: The Arts and Everything That Brings Beauty to Our World.

As a curriculum reviewer, I've been blessed to review many wonderful art curriculums.  But the truth of the matter is, when push comes to shove, art in our house just tends to flow as a regular extension of life and school far more often than it does as a result of some formal lesson.  

I already shared last week about how our history curriculum, Mystery of History, is a often the spring board for many of our art projects, especially this year as we are studying the Renaissance.  Why separate art out, when it can be studied within the context of its development?  And younger kids can do more craft type activities that focus around the seasons or holidays or books you are reading, or counting, or any other lesson you might be doing.  In fact, one year, many, many moons ago, we studied Eric Carle because an exhibit of his work came to our local museum.  So we copied his methods of painting on tissue paper, and then used that paper to cut out illustrations for our "Yellow is the Sun" math poem for Right Start math.  We made a book out of it that we still have to this day.  It was art and math all rolled into one.

You can do lots of fun science and art projects too, especially in the winter.  Pinterest is full of ideas.  Here is a picture of some colorful frozen water balloons we made.

St. Patrick's Day is coming up...playing with borax and pipe cleaners-cool crystals in fun shapes!

And any day is good for making colorful swirls in milk with soap and food coloring.

Legos and blocks are wonderful tools to let your budding architects bring their dreams to 3-d reality. In the picture at the top of the page, my son turned his lego figures in to a Star Wars band.  Here, my kids built a ziggurat out of blocks:

And this one made an entire Sumerian city out of paper and a cardboard box:

I guess my point is...this is all art.  I mean, have you SEEN some of the stuff that passes as "art" these days?  People splash paint on canvases willy-nilly, slap a thousand dollar price tag on it, and someone thinks it must be genius because of that.  Seriously.  Let your kids be kids.  They'll create all by themselves.  And as they do, you can talk to them.  Talk about perspective.  Or not.  Talk about vanishing points and horizons and rule of thirds and all that stuff.  Or don't.  If your kids show an inclination toward the arts, as at least one of mine does, then either a) their interest will guide them further because they will want to get better or b) you will be able to easily find them materials to teach them more because it matter to them to learn it.  Otherwise, it's probably going to come up at some later point in time anyway, and they will learn it then when it's applicable. 

My son designs amazing things on Minecraft, and it's boosted his real life artistic ability.  My daughter, who has always been good with "real life" art has recently transitioned to digital design with great success.  Don't dismiss online forms of art as just that-art.  That's the world they will be living in much more so that we do even now, 

There are wonderful art programs out there...but there's also just life....and Pinterest...and if I had to recommend a resource, I'd throw in these books that we love and use:

and all the others in the same series for your younger kiddos and then these:
and the others in the series for your slightly older kids. They teach how to draw historical things step by step, and we love both series.

So that's it-just let art happen, and be prepared to be amazed!

To see what other blogger had to say about Seeking Beauty: The Arts and Everything That Brings Beauty to Our World, check out the blogs listed below.  If you have a link you'd like to contribute, you can sign the link at the bottom.

The Art of Organization…or How Clutter Almost Ruined My Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

The Shadow of Divine Perfection by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Relaxed Homeschooling: Fine Arts in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Fine Arts {Art Appreciation, Art, Composer Study Hymn Study} for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Adding Sparkle to Home Education by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

And All the Extras by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Teaching Art Using the Bible by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Art In Every Subject by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Letting Art Just Happen in Homeschool by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Missing Art? by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Do YOU Have Time for Extracurriculars? by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays

Fine Arts in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

The Science of Beauty for a Delight-Directed Daughter by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Seeking Beauty: How we Tackle the Arts in our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Learning To Appreciate Beauty With Fine Arts Resources@ As We Walk Along the Road by Leah@ As We Walk Along the Road

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Taking the Mystery Out of History, and Other Subjects Too, With Our Favorite History Curriculum

Today brings another subject on the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair.  This week, we are looking at Exploring Our World:Social Studies and More Science (history, geography, world cultures, worldview, biology, botany, geology, etc.).  Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds is the founder of the Virtual Curriculum Fair, and this week Stacy at Super Mommy to the Rescue is her co-host.

People who don't know me from my pre-mommy days usually don't know that my degree is in Social Science Education with a minor in History.  So I'm a little bit passionate about today's subject. Unfortunately, having come from a public school background myself, and having only taught in the public school system, what I didn't have any sort of good grasp on was where the Biblical timeline of all the stories I had heard growing up in church fit into the world history timeline (and I obviously wasn't the Bible scholar then that I am now thanks to nearly a decade of doing Precept Bible studies.)  So I knew what I was looking for when it came to teaching my own kids was a Christian history curriculum that blends the Christian timeline right into the timeline of the world, after all, it's all HIS story.  And it was that desire, that led us to chose Mystery of History (MOH) as our curriculum.
Cuneiform on "clay"

Mystery of History was, when my kids were young, everything I was looking for in and of itself.  Each book is organized around a 3 lesson week.  For each lesson, there are some additional activities that you can do, or not do-it's up to you.  We do some and not others.  Those activities are broken out by age (younger, middle, older students) so it's easy to figure out what might be "do-able" for your children.  All ages do the same lesson though, which is nice in a multi-child family.  Each week, days 4 and 5 can be used on the suggested map activities (called SomeWHERE in Time, and again broken out by age level), timeline figures, reading supplemental books suggested in each MOH volume to go with the lessons you did, and doing some sort of weekly wrap-up activity which is provided in the curriculum.  Or all those things can be done in the 3 days, and you can do something else entirely for 2 days.  I've just never found the split schedule to work for us.  

A few years back, a couple of things happened that tweaked our use of MOH a little bit.  First, we reviewed Illuminations, which is a comprehensive curriculum covering everything but math that uses MOH as it's "spine".  Similar to Tapestry of Grace or Heart of Dakota or Winter's Promise or Sonlight, it is a history driven curriculum from which many of the other core subjects "spur" off.  Then, not long after that, we were involved with a co-op that used Sonlight.  Having then tried both of those I decided I like the idea of  having history be our main thing.  After all, if the kids are going to be reading anyway (for English/Language Arts), why not have the book be something pertaining to what they are studying about in History?  I mean, isn't that why we are homeschooling?  Why double the work?  We've read some amazing historical fiction that makes the time period come alive far better than any history book could, even a wonderful one like MOH because in historical fiction, you get involved in one person's story for an extended period of time.  And why learn geography in a bubble when you can learn it as it pertains to the places you are studying in history?  Why write about some random subject when you can write about what you think really happened to the colonists at Roanoke?  Why do random art when you can paint in the style of Titian while studying the Renaissance?

The ultimate question with any curriculum not only does it work for YOU, but does it work for your kids.  To that, I'll say this.  I started this year with a different plan for my now teen-aged daughter.  Years ago, I bought a comprehensive 4 year curriculum for her to use for high school, and it involved using something completely different for history.  It was a book that was not nearly so narrative or engaging, but one that I thought did a nice job of presenting the material in a fresh way, so I thought it would be fine.  But she begged me, "Can I please come back to doing Mystery of History with you guys?"  So I think it's fair to say that the kids like it too.  She had the chance to be on her own,and chose to come back to working with us because she likes MOH.  And MOH of flexible enough to work for kindergarten through 12th grade with you tweaking the additional work you give them, so she's welcome to do that!  

In our house, Mystery of History is, or is the springboard for, history, geography, world religions, church history, the reading and writing components of language arts, weekly vocabulary/spelling lists taken from those readers/real alouds, most of our art, note taking, sequencing (timeline, keeping track of what happened when)...and the list goes on.  Pretty impressive for one book, eh?

To see what others in the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair had to say, check out the blogs below:

Exploring World History Through the Eyes of Scientists by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Exploring Our World With Social Studies by Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue

Relaxed Homeschooling: Science and Social Studies in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Living History by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Classically Influenced, Project Strong, Adaptable Middle School History by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Primary Sources for Delight-Directed History by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Watching History, or Using Video Courses for Social Studies by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Exploring our World: High School Studies of Ancient History, American Government and Economics by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

History, Geography, and Worldview Lessons in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

Our Curriculum Choices 2015 ~ Science, History & Geography by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

Our Favorites for History, Geography, and Science by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Globe Trotting by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Around The World by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Bible-Based History Curriculum and Resources by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

13 Living Book History Series for a Charlotte Mason Based Homeschool by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

Social Studies and Science in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

The Science Life by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

History, Geography Science for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

History Social Studies and Science...VCF Week 3 by Denise @ Fullnest

Learning About our World and History by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Taking the Mystery Out of History and Other Subjects Too With Our Favorite History Curriculum by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

You can add your own link or see what others might have contributed by clicking on the linky below:
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Monday, January 12, 2015

The Identical DVD Review and Giveaway

The Identical, starring Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, and Blake Rayne is a redemptive movie about a young man, the son of a preacher, who rejects his father’s desire for him to join the ministry and instead embarks on a career as a rock singer. As he struggles to pursue his dream and rise to stardom, he finds love, pain, success, failure and ultimately uncovers a hidden family secret that reveals who he really us. The Identical is a captivating story about a family restored and a life discovered that lifts your soul and warms your heart.

Here's all the social media information for the film:
Click here for the official website!

Click here to view and share the trailer!

Check out this special offer from Family Christian —> 
Purchasing the DVD from this link comes with The Identity Series DVD (more info on THE IDENTICAL website)

Official Facebook

Official Twitter

OBM says:  I was really, truly, pleasantly surprised with this movie.  See, I "grew up" in Memphis, and so Elvis is kind of "been there, done that, got the t-shirt" for me.  And I was confused about this movie when I first saw information about it because it's not Elvis, but clearly he looks like Elvis, and sounds like Elvis, and his story (except for the whole twin thing) is similar to Elvis.  So I was afraid I wouldn't really care for it.  I was wrong.  I really, really liked The Identical.  I'll admit here and now that I still don't get why they went with making the main character so similar to Elvis (even living in TN-but Nashville-and with a home called Dreamland, not Graceland) when he could have had his own unique look and sound and it wouldn't have detracted at all from the film.  But other than that, it was excellent.  Ray Liotta was excellent as a preacher man, and Ashley Judd did a nice job as "The Identical's" mama.  But Blake Rayne as Ryan Wade/Drexel Hemsley-he is a remarkable talent.  The Identical did an excellent job of capturing the era as well, and the original score was authentic to the time period but refreshingly new.  It was a sweet, tender, entertaining, plausible movie that found me shedding a tear or two, and I'm so glad I had the chance to review it.

Now you have the opportunity to see it too.  It will be released to video on January 13, 2015.  And one lucky reader can win a copy for themselves by entering below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Giving Your Kids The Right Start With Math

This week's topic on for the Virtual Curriculum Fair is Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science. Your co-hosts for this week are Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds and Laura at Day by Day in Our World. For this week, I thought I'd share what works for us for math. When it came time to choose a "real" math curriculum, I went to our state's homeschool convention with that purpose specifically in mind.  In a vendor hall as large as 3 football fields, there were choices galore, but if you've been homeschooling for any amount of time, I'm sure you are familiar with most of the main ones.  Saxon, Math-U-See, and Horizons are "pillars" in the math world to be sure.  And comprehensive curriculums like BJU, Alpha Omega, and Rod and Staff all have a math component available as well.  The problem was that most of what was on the market just wasn't going to work for us.

While I didn't know my oldest child's full diagnosis at that point, I knew enough about his learning style to know most of the typical math curriculums were not going to work for him.  He had no "active memory" which plagued him in learning to read, and also prevented him from making progress in math.  He needed a math curriculum that didn't rely on memorization.  One that had manipulatives, but not confusing, complicated systems that would bog him down.  One that made math as easy for me to teach as "Reading Made Easy" made reading.  And that's how we found RightStart.

I'm a huge believer in RightStart's methods, and I've even spent a few years working for them in their booth at FPEA, but I'm not an affililate, so everything you read here is a completely unsolicited testimonial.  I am writing about it because it really, truly works for us, and has worked for us, and I believe in it.  And RightStart is a bit of an underdog in the big world of math curriculums, so I thought I'd tell you a little about it.

RightStart is an abacus based math program.  The emphasis is on understanding, NOT memorization.  The abacus has 10 beads on a line, and changes color after 5 beads.   It has 100 beads total, and the color patterns swap at 50, so it's every easy to see quantities visually, which discourages counting.  They are 2 sided, so you can do math dealing with sums up to 100 on the first side, and on the other side there are columns for ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands.

Beyond the abacus, there are other manipulatives-centimeter cubes, 1" flat tiles, abacus tiles (to allow tangible working with large numbers), a geared clock, and best of all LOTS of games.  I'd say the games are the best part of this curriculum and something that really sets it apart.  There are games for every concept that students learn, and they are having too much fun playing and trying to beat you to realize how much they are learning.  Keeping score becomes part of the math lesson itself as the winner is the first to reach 100 or to reach 0 counting down from 500.  A large emphasis is placed on fives and tens, and that's visually reinforced as they use the abacus (where 3+4 = 7, but is visually discriminated as 5 and 2, as you can see in the picture above).  Because students play so many games, worksheets and written drills are kept to a minimum, which is a blessing to students who are reluctant writers.  The curriculum is based on levels NOT GRADES, and you move through them at the correct pace for your child and your life.
Math is bitter-sweet for me, as I am on my final child moving through the RightStart program.  I can honestly say my children run the full gamut of natural mathematical ability, so we have really put RightStart through its paces.  My low IQ Aspergers child moved straight from this into Teaching Textbooks 7, and then into Pearson Algebra.  While he lacks the intelligence to break down a large problem into the steps required to solve it, once I help him break each problem down, his math skills are solid enough to solve them.  My next child is artsy, and not mathematical at all, but she's currently doing VideoText Algebra, which is no slouch of a program, and managing it well, much to her chagrin (she was hoping I'd let her opt out of higher level math).  TJ is my first to use RightStart's Level G, which is a Geometry based middle school math.  This level is self taught, and not taught by the teacher as all the other levels are.   He's very mathematical, and only isn't doing algebra this year to provide some separation between him and his sister.  Finally, there is my small girl.  She's a little behind academically, so RightStart works perfectly for her-allowing us to take things at the pace that is right for her, not right for other kids her age.  She loves the games especially.
RightStart's scope and sequence is vastly different from a "traditional" curriculum, and you must understand that going into it.  In the end, I can assure you it all balances out.   Your child might not learn multiplication at the same time their public school peers would be doing it, but they will learn it, and they will understand it forward and backward.  They will play with numbers, and they will like it-I promise.  In fact, I have to shoo my other kids away every time my youngest and I start playing one of her math games...or sometimes I let them play with her while I get something else done.  On the plus side, it's made MY mental math stronger too.
Corners, one of our favorite math games

Right Start is currently updating their whole curriculum, but that will take years to complete.  Part of the rewrite will split book C into two books, as C has always been quite lengthy, and it has been hard for people who think in the "one book a year" mind frame to adapt to the idea that book C might take longer than a year to complete.  While "updated research" has been applied to the new rewrite, the original ones are still perfectly fine to use, and will serve you well.  I know I could now sell my Level B since we are done with it, but doing so almost makes me sad, as it was the first Right Start book I ever bought, and it's sad (although good) to think I don't need it anymore.
So if you are looking for a math curriculum that helps you really know and understand math rather than just memorize basic facts, I can't suggest Right Start highly enough.

If you want to see what other members of the Virtual Curriculum Fair had to say about Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science, check out the blogs below.

Learning about Patterns in Our World Through Math and Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Relaxed Homeschooling: Mathematics in the Early Elementary Years by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Using a Bible-Based Math Curriculum by Tauna M @ Proverbial Homemaker

Math, Science and Logic for 2015 by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Playing with Numbers by Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Unschooling Science by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade  by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Numbers and Molecules! by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Math and Science in Our Homeschool by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life

5 Math & Logic Resources We Love by Becky @ Milo & Oats

Giving Your Kids The Right Start With Math by Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Math in Our Classical / Charlotte Mason Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Classical STEM by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Math, Science and Logic - How do we Tackle Them? by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

The Physics of Delight-Directed Learning by Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Tackling High School Science by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Choosing Math Curriculum for Special Learners by Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity

Math for all ages by Denise @ Fullnest

Middle School Monday - Math With Fred by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Learning With Math and Science Resources  by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Want to see what others use for Discovering Patterns? Click the linky button below:
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Crock Pot Applesauce

My daughter can't get enough applesauce.  It's a great snack, and not at all difficult to make yourself.  I love to make it in the crock pot because I can cook it overnight on low and have a fresh batch in the morning.  Or I can cook it by day and the house smells amazing.  Below is a basic recipe to start out with.  Each type of apple varies in sweetness, so you will need to adjust the sugar to taste.  And obviously the cinnamon is optional, but is SO yummy.  For my most recent batch, I added a bag of frozen strawberries to the crock pot as well to make strawberry applesauce.  That was good, but I had to use the blender to break down the berries, and not just the potato masher, so it was a finer consistency-more like store bought applesauce.  No one complained though, and I think I'll try raspberry next.

Crock Pot Applesauce
Take ten large apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks.  Put them in a crock pot along with
½ cup water, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and ¾ cup sugar.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours
or low for 8-10 hours.  Take a potato masher and mash.  This can be eaten warm or cold. 
 Refrigerate the remaining sauce.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Homeschool Planet Review

I have a love/hate relationship with planners, and planning in general. Planning is a necessary evil in homeschooling as your kids get older. And a good planner is worth it's weight, or price, in gold. However, I have a very wacky way of thinking and consequently a very wacky way of organizing my thoughts and planning them out.  So I'm constantly on the lookout for a planner up to the challenge.

Enter Homeschool Planet by Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  I love the Co-op.  I think the idea is brilliant, and have used their purchasing power to get great deals on several homeschool products we use.  I also have used their templates for making homeschool ID cards that are remarkably effective with the rest of the world that seems to view them as some sort of magic credibility pass, instantly making us "real" schoolers.  Whatever.  It works, and I'm thankful for them.

Homeschool Planet is a planner designed by the the team at HBC. Here's a video that will show you a little bit about what the planner has to offer.

Homeschool planet is an online planner that allows you to manage not just your school schedule, but also all your other activities as well.  From work, to sports practices, to music lessons, to dentist appointments, and everything in between, Homeschool Planet allows you to enter it all onto one calendar.
Above is a screenshot of the full month calendar for must my schedule.  You can easily click on the "show calendars for" tab to choose whose calendar(s) you want to see displayed.  You can see myself and my students down the left side of the screen.  I chose to upload pictures of each of them.  I like to look at the month view, but if you'd rather view things by the day or week, you just click on the day or week buttons at the top.  Entering new things on the calendar is as easy as clicking on the day, and then following the prompts.  You can also choose your background from about a dozen options and customize your right hand sidebar to include shopping lists that you can text to yourself or your spouse, etc.  You could use that same area for lists of books to request from the library, or anything else you need to keep track of.

Below is a screenshot of all of our calendars meshed together.  It gets a bit crazier ;-).

Homeschool Planet can be used across you devices if you are a tech savvy sort of family.

The Pros:  Keeping track of everything in one place is quite nice.  And I loved that it did exactly what I wanted in terms of being able to block out our Sabbath week schedule (6 weeks on/1 week off) and still figure out when I needed to start each subject, or how many lessons we needed to do a day in order to finish "on time" at the end of the year.  For me, for getting the "big picture" for our homeschooling schedule, it did exactly what I wanted it to do.  It also has a handy feature that allows students to log in individually and view only their schedules and check off work when completed.  Their schedules can be emailed to them daily or weekly as well.  I haven't fully made use of this, but I do have my kids schedule sent weekly so they know what it coming up.  I foresee us using the online, they-use-it-themselves, part of the schedule  maybe next year.  I can also easily move lessons forward a day if we didn't get to it that day (like I or the kiddos work up ill, or to a blanket of white covering everything), and I can move things backward if we were a little aggressive and got more work done than I thought we would.  And the customer service?  It's the BOMB.  Really.  The best customer service around.  Prompt.  Responsive.  Constantly evolving their product to make it better.  That I really, really like.

The cons:  I've probably given them quite a workout with my questions.  How do I...?  Can I just...?  Usually the answer is that there is no easy way to do what I want it to do.  I told you, I just think strange.  We take a Sabbath week off, but our co-op doesn't.  So I need all our "regular" classes to automatically skip, but I also need to be able to schedule SOME work to be done because the co-op work still has to get done.  Homeschool Planet isn't that flexible.  And I'm not a sit-in-front-of-my-computer sort of gal, so I never, ever checked things off as "done" until a week later.  It does prompt you to do it, so I got it done, but it just wasn't the routine of my life like it probably is for others.  Another problem I encountered was with our Mystery of History schedule, which has lessons 3 days a week and supplemental work the rest.  I need the 3 lesson days to be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but ran into some problems as I moved lessons forward and backward to accommodate holidays like Thanksgiving, since I had already scheduled out the whole year before I took out the days for Thanksgiving.  But customer service was prompt to help me figure it out.

The bottom line:  Ultimately, I went back to my old excel spreadsheets for my kids daily schedules,  because they are comfortable and familiar and what we grew accustomed to when we used Sonlight, but I use Homeschool Planet for my big picture planning, and that works exceeding well for me.  Even now, I am planning the second half of our school year using Homeschool Planet to schedule out our days off and our end of school aim, and them building each subjects' daily schedule based on that.  I do think with my kids getting older that the online, device friendly attribute of Homeschool Planet will become more and more important to me, and will be something we continue to use more and more down the road.

I was able to access Homeschool Planet for free to write this review, but so can you!  They offer a free, no hassle one month trial of Homeschool Planet to anyone who is interested in checking it out.

Visit our website to see what other members of Home and School Mosaics thought.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Sentence a Day Teaches Grammar the Fun Way

Welcome to everyone joining me as part of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair hosted by my friend Susan at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds. This week, Chareen from Every Bed of Roses is co-hosting. Each week of the Virtual Curriculum Fair will have a different subject area as a theme, and the bloggers are free to interpret that as widely as they like. This week's theme is "Playing with Words: The Language Arts." In this week, bloggers will cover topics like spelling, grammar, speech, writing, reading, phonics, etc., but also could include foreign language too, so you are encouraged to hop along to all the participants and see what each of us have chosen to write about. As for me, I wanted to share our favorite way to do grammar.
Through the years, we've tried several different curriculums for teaching grammar.  Each had their merits, but what I kept finding was that while my kids knew the information within the isolated moment of the grammar lesson, their ability to apply it across the board every time the pen hit the page was severely lacking.  So one day, as I was trolling the internet for yet another miracle curriculum that would finally cement all the laws of English grammar, I hit upon grammatical gold.

The Sentence a Day.

It was a teacher's blog that I gleaned the idea from, I believe.  If I had known how life changing it would be, I definitely would have bookmarked it to give her credit even now.  But the idea is simple, and works whether you teach in a classroom of 30 or one.  You write a sentence on the board that has mistakes in it, and challenge your student(s) to correct it.  Here's an example:

Concerned about the fate of birds while the dragon was still lose.  The Queen had all the birds in the Kingdom except magpies locked up in cages she didn't like magpies.

In my house, this is how we begin our day.  It's a great encouragement to the kids to get up in a timely way, because the sentence is waiting, and the winner gets a prize (usually a mini candy bar). Tarry, and someone might beat you to the punch.  "Also rans" get a smaller reward- a roll of smarties or tootsie roll, etc.- since I have a struggling learner who is 4 or more years younger than her teenaged siblings and needs some encouragement to participate despite the fact that she rarely wins (although she won once when she got downstairs eons before they roused themselves).

Since stumbling onto the sentence a day idea, my kids have learned a ton about grammar, spelling, and punctuation without even realizing it.  And because they do it in a competitive atmosphere, they are eager participants, because they want to WIN.  If you aren't big into the "candy as a reward" idea, I've also done charts with stickers to track the winner each day, and the person who wins the most in "x" amount of time gets something special.  We've done dollar store items like glow sticks or dollar sundaes from McDonalds.  But if you have a child who wins several times in a row right off the bat, it can discourage the others from trying, which is why I went to a daily reward.

If you are worried that you aren't grammatically strong yourself, you can use a book for your sentences.  It will not only give you the incorrect sentence and the correct version, but tell you why each thing was wrong.  We use this one.

I'm pretty strong grammatically, but I knew if it was left up to me to just randomly generate "bad" sentences every day, it either a) wouldn't happen or b) wouldn't contain the varied mistakes that the book has accounted for-slang, common misspellings, punctuation, capitalization, run-ons, phrases, when to spell out numbers, and even the proper use of etc.  And if I feel like a sentence is a little "light" challenge-wise, I can always add a few problems to it, which I have been known to do for some of the shorter sentences.

The correction for the above sentence is as follows:
Concerned about the fate of birds while the dragon was still lose, the queen had all the birds in the kingdom except magpies locked up in cages.  She didn't like magpies.

I make my kids underline the things they correct in the sentences so they are easy for me to spot.  Then I will tell them "yes" or "no" to each underlined thing, and they keep working at it until they get it correct.  Sometimes that happens on the first try, but on more complicated sentences, frequently one thing will elude them over and over again.  Once 3 of the 4 have figured it out, or a reasonable amount of time has passed, I will go over the sentence out loud with them all to explain what the corrections were and WHY, so that I make sure they hear the rules behind each correction.  Again, the reasons for each correction are laid out in the book if you are unsure.

The Sentence a Day has been one of the best things we have ever done in our homeschool, and my kids clamor to do it everyday.  It teaches grammar the fun way, and I see the dividends pay out each time a new sentence brings up a problem that an older sentence addressed, and they are quick to fix it.  It also teaches them to proofread their own writing to make them strong communicators.  It's applications go far beyond daily grammar lessons and well into skills that will serve them for life.
See what other bloggers who are part of this year's Virtual Curriculum Fair had to say about Playing with Words: Language Arts by following the links below beginning on noon on Monday, January 5th.

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2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair

I think as homeschoolers we are always acutely interested in "what works" for everyone else, particularly in any subject that doesn't seem to be working as planned for us at the moment. I know this year as I began homeschooling high school with my daughter, I tried to pick the brain of everyone I could to see what they were doing...what high school looked like for them. And I have a bunch of friends who have already ventured down the homeschooling high school path, so it's not like I was doing this alone. Not to to mention that I already have a high school senior in my own home right now. But still I wanted to know what so-and-so was using for English, and what that person was doing for science. Which is why I think the Virtual Curriculum Fair is such genius. Over the course of this month, you will have the chance to visit about 2 dozen bloggers and find out what works for them in all the major subject areas. We begin with language arts, and move on to math, logic, social studies, science, and art. Some of these bloggers are people I've known for years, and some are new to me, but all will offer a unique perspective on what works for them and why each week for each theme. Here are the participants:

Co-Hosted by:

Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Stacie @ Super Mommy to the Rescue

Lisa @ Golden Grasses

We are being joined by these lovely bloggers:

Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays

Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Becky @ Milo & Oats

Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Amy @ One Blessed Mamma

Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Sarah @ Delivering Grace

Kristi @ The Potter's Hand Academy

Hillary @ Walking Fruitfully

Heather @ Only Passionate Curiosity

Susan @ The Every Day of Education

Debra @Footprints in the Butter

Jennifer @ a Glimpse of our life

Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning

Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Chelli @ The Planted Trees

Denise @ Fullnest

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break

Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Best Part of My Day-December 31

New Year's Eve.  We are at my in-laws' house now.  My father in law bought me Talenti Peppermint Bark Gelato.  Yum!  So the best part of my day technically happened after midnight, but hey, it's New Year's Eve, so it's all still the same day, right?  Anyway, part of the best part is getting to watch the ball drop.  I know it sounds silly, but for my whole life that has been my ritual.  Watch the ball drop to signify the beginning of the new year.  However, when we got rid of cable, we lost the ability to see the ball drop.  That and the Macy's Thanksgiving parade are the two things I most miss about not having "live" TV.  But because we are at my in-laws' house, and they have xfinity, we watched the ball drop tonight.

But the best part of my night wasn't the ball, or the bonfire, or the smores, or even the fact that we were doing all of that in and out of the rain.  No, the best part of New Year's Eve was my m-i-l's wacky New Year's Eve ritual.  She took down her biggest pot and a big wooden spoon and as soon as it was midnight, she went out into her front yard and started banging her pot to beat the band.  This went on for about a minute.  It was a RIOT.  You'd have to know my m-i-l, but this is someone who has cloth napkins at every meal.  She's not the "bang on a pot in your front yard in full view of the neighbors" kind of gal.  THAT was the best part of my day.  Her calling us party-poopers for not joining her was priceless too.  Next year, I'll have to get video.

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