Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Math Resources That Rock!

     Math is an essential skill for all children to have. Some pick up on the concepts rather easily while others struggle. In learning math, like learning any other subject, it's important to first understand how your child learns. Some children are very capable of abstract thinking but others are much more concrete learners. For those learners, hands on learning can be a valuable resource.  Our four children have very different learning styles and preferences. This lead to lots of searches for resources that worked for each of them.

Here are some of the math resources that have worked well four our family and I hope some of them will be useful to you:
  • Free Online Games and Activities:
    • Radar's Numbernut: Covers topics from shapes through algebra. Online learning through reading and quizzes. Printable workbooks also available.
    • XtraMath: Looking for a fun way for your child to work on math drills? This is the perfect resource for that. Provides drill of basic math facts for addition through multiplication. Detailed learning reports are emailed to you so that you can stay on top of your child's progress.
    •  Khan Academy: Do you sometimes feel like you need someone else to teach a concept to your child? Does your child like videos? If so, Khan Academy is full of quality educational videos that are concept specific. Simply search for the topic of your choice when needed or register your child so that they can access the topics and complete online exercises. Reports are generated and you, as the parent can be aware of your child's progress as they work through the topics. 
    • HippoCampus: Another great site with instructional videos and courses for elementary through high school. 
    • Cool Math 4 Kids: Great resource for reinforcing topics. Provides interactive online learning as children read over the topics. 
    • Mr. Nussbaum:  Another great resource that covers a large variety of concepts. Provides for interactive online learning that is free. Free printable resources also available.
    • Create A Graph: Interactive learning tool for graphing practice.
  •  Free Printable Resources:
    • Looking for the perfect resource for math practice worksheets? This one has proven to be one of our all time favorite resources. Great go to when you find your child needing a little extra practice on a particular math concept.
    • Worksheets Works: This site offers the ability to create customized worksheets for your child for free!
    • Another great resource for free worksheets as well as free, printable flashcards!

  • Free Montessori Resources:

(My daughters, a few years ago, working independently on math using money manipulatives.)
  • Tangible Resources:
    • Rulers: Keep rulers, meter sticks, yard sticks, and measuring tape available. These items can be found at dollar stores and other local stores such as Walmart or Target.
    • Calculator: Calculators are always useful. Older children will need a scientific calculator so prepare in advance. I do not recommend allowing your child to use calculators in place of math facts that should be learned by memory. 
    • Measuring spoons and cups: You can find these anywhere. Use them to drive home measurement conversions and measurement practice.
    • Flash cards: Print free online or purchase. Target always has them available in their dollar bins. You will  need numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and word problems. My favorite math, flashcard set has been Learning Advantage Math Vocabulary Flash Cards. This is an awesome set to teach math vocabulary. Often, children are able to compute math problems but become hung up on the terminology used during testing. It is imperative to reinforce math terms along with teaching them how to work through the various concepts. Also, use number flash cards to teach various concepts. Instead of having young children identify the number seen, have them figure out one more, one less, ten more, and ten less. This form of oral drilling really improves mental math skills. Cards can be used in a variety of ways so get creative!
    • Fraction bars: Print these free online or if your learner prefers a sturdier set, Learning Resources has a fantastic fraction bar set that our family has enjoyed for many, many years. Use them to visually show relationship between sizes of fractions as well as teaching equivalent fractions, adding fractions, and subtracting fractions.  
    • Play money:  Print play money for free, or you can easily find a set at your local dollar store. We use the Melissa and Doug set. I was able to find our set rather inexpensively at Ross. Use play money to teach value of money, conversion of money, fractions of money, and decimals. Teach them to make purchases and count change. Play store using items found in the home, this is a fun way to get younger ones to enjoy the topic.
    • Compass: Find these rather inexpensively during the school supply sales that occur each year. They are needed for geometry.
    • Protractor: Have these handy for geometry studies. Children will use these to measure angles of shapes.
    • Geometric solids: Print free geometric solid nets or purchase a set. Use the set to teach basic concepts such as the name of the shapes, as well as more complex concepts like surface area and volume. The set that we have used in our home is Learning Resources Power Solids. This set is perfect and it has a phenomenal teaching guide that I highly recommend. I actually purchased the set and found the workbook at our local Goodwill for only $1! Children learn to create and utilize geometric formulas while engaging in hands on activities. 
    • Plane shapes: Scroll to the bottom and print free shape cards here. You can also find sets available at the dollar stores. 
    • Pentominoes set: These are great math puzzles and you can have the child create their own set with these instructions.
     Bring excitement to the math class by encouraging learning through play. Jump ropes, hula hoops, and even beach balls make fabulous additions to math time. Encourage children to practice skip counting while jumping rope. My middle daughter could not grasp how to count quarters until we turned it into a song that she would sing while hula hooping. She would sing 25, 50, 75 a dollar as she spun the hoop around repeatedly. All of a sudden it clicked and she was able to count quarters with no hesitation. We also have used beach balls to practice addition and multiplication. Simply write numbers on the ball and have the children throw the ball to one another. As they catch the ball, they add or multiply the numbers their hands land on. It's then their turn to throw the ball to someone else.

     There are so many resources available for us to utilize in helping our children learn math. I'm sure many of you have additional resources and ideas to share. If so, please leave us a comment and share your favorite resources and ideas!

Peace and blessings,


Educational Resources That Rock!

     Education is something that I feel strongly about. Although I am a homeschooling mother, homeschooling is not my primary emphasis, education is. With that being said, there was a time when my eldest children attended school and I was always searching for the best educational resources to help them learn. Thankfully, I have been able to uncover some really cool resources along the way and I wanted to share them with you. I hope that parents of homeschool, private school, and public school students alike, will be able to use these resources.

     To make it easier, I will be giving each subject a separate post. I will share online resources as well as physical resources for each.



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Homeschool Scheduling: Taming the Beast!

     Making and sticking to a homeschooling schedule can be a challenge. For us, it seemed that things were always coming up or that life changes always seemed to complicate things. Assignments were not being completed and I found myself ill-prepared on some days. What I came to realize is that although these changes did have a significant impact, the real problem was the schedule itself.

     In reviewing schedules from the past 8 years, I've realized that I've often over scheduled. Over scheduling has truly been the main cause of my grief. I also noticed that I never really scheduled in time to perform my own homeschooling tasks and that led to me missing out on quality family time. I remember my husband always taking the kids off on his own because I was "too busy" with homeschooling tasks. For that, I felt resentment. I loved homeschooling, but always felt left out of the fun. A few years ago, that led me to really begin to think about scheduling and planning. Homeschool schedules are going to be different for each family so I'll share our schedule and give a few tips to consider when scheduling yours.

Our Schedule:
  • Year Round: This model gives us the ability to take more breaks and to spread out learning units. Education, in our home, is a continuous process.
  • Block Scheduling: We homeschool 5 weeks on and 1 week off. That gives the kids a break and also gives time for those who may not have completed assignments from the previous block. During the break, I work on plans and preperation for the next block. Block scheduling also helps to minimize scheduling conflicts because you are not scheduling too far in advance. In addition, this model allows me to spend quality time with my husband and to keep up with responsibilities of our urban homestead.
  • Weekly Schedule: A new change I implemented this year was to homeschool Monday through Thursday and have "Friday fun-day"! Fridays will be used for fun learning and also the day that any scheduled activities will take place. All orthodontist or doctor's appointments will be scheduled on this day to alleviate any distractions to instructional days. The free Friday's also allows a buffer during the week should there be a field trip that we decide to go on. Assignments can be easily shifted back a day and no one is stressed about it.
  • Daily Schedule: No more scheduled school days. My kids are free to tackle their lessons whenever they choose, however, I have imposed one limitation. I have realized how valuable it is to have my own personal time, therefore the only limitation is that I will not be available to assist with lessons after 8pm.
 Scheduling Tips and Tricks:

  • Take into consideration your homeschooling style: Unschoolers, classical homeschoolers, Waldorf homeschoolers, Charlotte-Mason homeschoolers, and eclectic homeschoolers all have different guiding principles. It is imperative that you consider these principles when preparing your schedules.
  • Family finance: Every homeschooling family has to consider financing into their homeschool schedule. Some are single parents who also work. Some are families where both parents are working and homeschooling. Some are work for home parents who also homeschool. Some are SAH parents who are homeschooling.  Whatever the case may be, our financial obligations, shape our needs and these will tremendously impact our schedule. I have personally homeschooled through each of these situations and am fully aware of how they affected our homeschooling.
  • Consider each child's learning style: Our children do not fit into little boxes and they learn differently. Some will pick up on topics in one sitting and others will require evening time to reinforce a concept. Some children are capable of working almost independently and others will need more one on one guidance each day. Knowing your child's individual learning styles and needs is important and will help you to make a more balanced schedule.
  • Remember family traditions: Does your family take summer vacations? Do you celebrate birthdays for a week? Does your family always get together during holidays? Remember that homeschooling allows for flexibility so do not overlook your family traditions when scheduling or they will become a source of stress. This is also very important for those who use virtual schooling where there is an obligation to complete a set number of assignments each week. Consider your traditions and communicate them with virtual teachers in advance.
  • Co-ops and extra-curricular activities: Joining a co-op is an excellent way to give your child the opportunity to engage in fun learning activities with other children. However, co-ops are a commitment and require time out of your schedule. Extra-curricular activities such as 4H, scouts, music lessons, and sports are the same. These activities can easily be incorporated into your homeschooling schedule.
  • Virtual homeschooling: Deciding to enroll your child into a virtual homeschool can impose significantly upon your homeschooling schedule. Virtual homeschools come in a variety of methods and requirements. Some follow a traditional school year and others allow for more flexibility. Also be mindful that placing your child into a virtual school may be more convenient but does not eliminate the need for parental involvement or oversight.  Be sure to incorporate your child's virtual school scheduling requirements into your homeschool schedule and allow time to review your child's progress and communicate with instructors.
  • Everything you do does not have to be a class: Being a homeschooler allows our children to engage in many learning  activities. The children are free to learn things that they choose. Does that mean that everything is going to be a class? No! Does that mean that time cannot be set aside for your child to learn the things that they want to learn, absolutely not. Not every learning opportunity needs to be a part of your homeschooling schedule. Allow free learning to happen, as it should. Be sure to not over schedule and give your children the freedom to explore on their own.  If you feel the need to document these learning activities, you can do so by adding them to a journal rather than feeling the need to create a scheduled/structured class.
  • Consider state laws and requirements: Some states grant a lot more flexibility and freedom to homeschoolers than others. Some have strict assessment timelines and guidelines. These can impact your homeschooling schedule. Be mindful of your states deadlines to submit yearly assessments and allow ample time to complete needed tasks.
  •  You don't have to do every class every day: Be mindful of how you approach certain topics. There are some things that may need daily reinforcement. On the other hand, some classes, such as science and history, can be very hands on and time consuming. There's nothing like ruining a good science lab  because you feel the need to move on to the next subject.  It's also equally frustrating when you chose to complete the lab but you don't complete the other scheduled activities. Instead, consider alternating days for science and history and making each one a little longer. That allows time to complete labs and doesn't impose upon other scheduled activities. 
  • Build flexibility into your schedule: You have the freedom to make your homeschooling schedule work for you. That being said, there is no way to foresee every problem that may arise. There will be days that you are sick or too tired to teach. Your child may become ill. Family emergencies may arise. Instead of being stressed when these things inevitably occur, build free/unscheduled days into your schedule. These days will become a buffer for your own sanity. 
 Planning and Scheduling resources:
  • Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus offers free homeschool planners and student planners that are customizable and suitable for parents of one or multiple children. 
  • Donna Young offers a variety of homeschool plannning resources.  These can be used to create customized planners that fit your family's needs.
  • I've created planners a few years back and if interested, feel free to use the homeschool planner and/or student planner
Peace and blessings,


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Enduring Visions Resources

     Resources, resources, resources! One of the requirements for our chosen history text, was that there would be lots of resources available for the curriculum.  Well, this one certainly fit the need. The fact that many of the resources were free, didn't hurt either. I was able to find a collection of audiovisual, interactive, and printable resources so I figured I'd share to save others some time. Here are the major resources that we will be using throughout the course. I will share more chapter specific resources over the course of the school year.

Well, these resources certainly helped us to get our year started. So far, so good.

Peace and Blessings,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

U.S. History

     My son decided to tackle U.S. History this year. History honestly isn't one of his "favorite" subjects, yet he is considering the possibility of earning college credits while he is working on his high school  courses. So I found myself facing a dilemma; what available resources would be interesting enough to keep my child interested and strong enough to prepare him for the CLEP or AP exam?

     Well, this all lead to several weeks of research. We needed a curriculum that was thorough and also engaging. My son loves to read but not really into typical textbooks. He does well with audiovisual resources and hands-on activities. First stop, the college board for resources for the U.S. history CLEP or AP exam. After noting a few of the recommended textbooks, I took some time to research homeschool curriculum for U.S. History. There were so many choices. After considering the options and reviewing the available resources for all, I finally decided upon The Enduring Vison: A History of the American People.

     The text was one of the recommended text on the college board. There were also tons of resources online, including audiovisual resources! Jackpot!

     After deciding on the text, it was time to make the course as enjoyable and interactive as possible. We also decided to use this year's reading material to focus on U.S. History.  He enjoys notebooking so we incorporated that into the course as well.  His notebook has been divided into sections. Section one is for his notes. Section two is for a timeline. Since he will need to be proficient in outlining and writing essays, he will practice by outlining and writing essays pertaining to each chapter. Another section has been set aside for geographical studies and the final section of his notebook is for his tests and quizzes.

     As we go through this year, I will be sharing resources as we go through this year. I am hoping the curriculum will keep my son engaged over this year and provide him with the knowledge he needs. He completed chapter 1, a few days ago and enjoyed the resources. He also feels the reading was better than previous history options. I'll take that as our first win!

Peace and blessings,

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

2014-2015 Courses and Curriculum

    Curriculum, curriculum, curriculum!  Over the past few months, I have been swimming in curriculum. Each year, I wish I there was a magical box of curriculum that I could order for each of my children, but it's never that simple. Each of my children is unique and it is important to acknowledge their individual learning styles, strengths and weaknesses. With that being said, we've finished our course and curriculum selections and wanted to share them with you. I plan to post more detailed explanations of each choice, as well as resources in later posts.

DS, 9th grade (My very bright, ADHD, strong willed, visual, easily distracted, and argumentative child):
DD, 8th grade (Miss laid back, never in a hurry, learns any way as long as it's on her schedule):
My last two children both work through the same curriculum. The eldest of the two has always been a struggling learner. She takes a while to grasp concepts but once the light bulb goes off, she's got it. The baby girl is advanced and has always kept herself about 1 grade level ahead. In the beginning, it bothered me to see the younger child moving ahead of her sibling, but that soon changed. The two are close in age and have a very tight bond. In fact, the baby is often the one to teach her older sister a concept she couldn't grasp. It's a wonderful sight to see and the lessons are well received, coming from her little sister.

The last two:
Well, that covers all of them. Seriously, I think that's enough!

Peace and Blessings,



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