Friday, February 28, 2014

Our Curriculum: Gym Class!

Back to our curriculum  overview....I know you were waiting on pins and needles so I will have mercy on you. Here we go.....

Today's curriculum......gym class!

We are very blessed that we live in a very good location for homeschooling. Our current base has over 100 homeschooling families attached to it...that is a lot of kids! One of the advantages is that there are several homeschool classes that are offered by our base. We signed our oldest two daughters up for their gym class and it has been a blessing for getting all that energy out. Plus it is a great way for the girls to meet other kids their age. Doesn't hurt that mama gets to sit back kid free for 2 hours and chat with other like minding moms!

My hyperactive daughter comes out more wound up and hyper then ever. I swear she could do 2 classes in a row no problem. While my 9yr old comes home worn out and very happy that the class is only once a week. Poor thing isn't overly in love with running.

I am looking forward to the spring thaw when we can get out on a daily basis for some activity. Until then our weekly gym class will have to do!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Today's news: 60 pounds lost!

I know I have been doing a lot of talking about our homeschooling these days but I do have other news going on over here as well! Today I hit my 60lb weight loss goal! I still have another 40lbs to go to get to my goal weight but we are getting there!

How have I been doing it? That seems to be the question I get the most often so I thought I would take a second to share. Really there is nothing earth shattering here. I know we all want the quick fix. The "cut out all green beans and you will lose 100lbs in 2 months" diet. I mean wouldn't that be AMAZING?!  Yeah. No that isn't how it works. It takes HARD work, self control, and dedication. It gets boring and dull and you just want to eat that half a pan of brownies in one sitting. One day after the next you have to show up and fight for it. Period. End of story.

The logistics of how I have been losing weight is pretty simple. I use myfitnesspal to track my calories in through my diet. I have a fitbit to track my calories out through exercise. I just take the two numbers and "solve for x" I try to keep a 500-1000 calorie deficit per day. That equals a 1-2 pound loss per week.  It is just simple math.

As for my diet I am a Trim Healthy Mama follower but I am not legalistic when it comes to my meals. I will have, for example, 8g of fat in my E meals and still lose weight. I take more of a broad stroke when it comes to the diet advice. I keep my carbs to a minimum and keep my fat separate.  I also have a Fat Stripping Frappa (FP) for breakfast every morning. It is easy, tastes good, and it is a Fuel Pull so that is a bonus. I have found that I can find lots of yummy recipes that are easy to tweak for THM style eating through Cooking Light.

Speaking of fuel pulls I am contemplating doing a fuel pull week next week. I have pulled some recipes together and am seriously considering it. If I do so I will post my results here for you all.

I hope you all are having as wonderful a day as I am today!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our Curriculum: Preschool

I think it is about time we talk about what curriculum we are using with our two preschoolers. The twins are brand new 4yr olds and so stinking smart! Seriously sharp as little tacks. We already do a lot of reading and hands on "home learning" with them but we  decided to go ahead and start a loose pre-k curriculum with them as well.

The already know all their shapes and colors so we jumped right in to the ABC's and numbers. My 7yr old has been DYING to try but when I looked at it I realized it would be way to easy for her. It was perfect for the twins however. So I signed them up and they were more than willing to give it a try. Actually they are little addicts. Know how I got them to go down for a nap today? I told them they couldn't play ABCmouse unless they had a nap first. Kids went down like rocks!

I noticed the first time we tried using the site that the mouse was a bit too big for them and having the mulitple buttons and the wheel in the center was making it hard for them to use. So I ordered this adorable little one button mouse for them (click the picture to be taken to the information about it):


As you can see from the photos it fits much better into their hands and makes it much easier for them to use the website.

Also on our pre-k curriculum list is lots of free ABC and phonics apps for our kindles. Here are just a few of the ones we loaded for our girls:


**As always the prices on amazon change frequently make sure to double check before you buy!

 Our 2 yr old son was not about to be left out of the fun and wanted to learn about his ABC's as well. I am sorry but he is just too cute!

And not to be left out of a post about pre-k our youngest little girl was more than happy to try out some apps on the kindle as well.

 She happens to love this barnyard game:

We already have our kindergarten curriculum picked out and I have to say I am excited to get started with it in the fall! So many crafts and projects to do!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our Curriculum: Science

                                                                       Today I thought we would talk about the Science curriculum we have chosen for our girls.We decided to go with Apologia's Zoology 1: Flying Creatures for our first Science lessons. As I mentioned in a previous post we chose curriculum for our girls that had a lot of hands on material and experiments. This curriculum has not let us down on that front! 
The curriculum comes with a teachers textbook and a zoology journal for each of the girls. Our oldest daughter, 4th grade, received the standard journal and that has been a just right fit for her. While our second daughter, 2nd grade, received the junior journal. The junior journal has lots of coloring pages and much simpler writing assignments. Both however have lots of activities in the back for the girls to do during the lesson review time period.

There is a sample lesson plan included in the beginning of the children's journals but we decided to quirk it a bit for our schedule. We chose to do 1 lesson per week, breaking it into 5 parts. The first three days are just reading the text and doing the "try this" sections. The fourth day is our review day when we do all the review pages. These include crossword puzzles for the vocabulary work, and other fun activities found in the back of the journal. The fifth day of the week we dedicate to doing the experiments or research projects assigned for each lesson. Our first lesson had the children do a research project about the endangered species where we live. I can honestly say the girls REALLY got into this project!

I think my favorite part of this curriculum is that it involves a lot of outside time. One of the first things the book had us do was make our own field journals with a scavenger hunt list. The girls have loved getting out of the house and going on nature hikes looking for the items on their lists.

 I am not going to lie....I don't particularly like birds. I have a bit of PTSD from being attacked by geese when I was younger. However even I am liking these lessons. It is a lot of fun to see how excited the girls are getting about their adventures.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Our Curriculum: History

As I promised in a previous post I am going to break down our current curriculum and share with you all what we are doing with our girls. I thought it might be the easiest for everyone involved (you know *ME*) if we did this one subject at a time.

As I have mentioned before my girls are very hands on learners. Books and workbooks are okay but they don't really get it till they have held it in their hands and touched the information.

 I have to say I agree 100% with good old Benjamin Franklin. Involve children and they will learn every time. We kept this quote in mind when choosing all of our curriculum.

So here we go with our current History curriculum. We chose to do go with the Story of the World curriculum by Peace Hill Press. Specifically with the Volume 1: Ancient Times books. Why Volume 1? Well lets see it starts at the beginning of history which lets face it my OCD wouldn't let me start in the middle.  These books are also done in a stair step manner. The Volume 1 books are for the youngest set of learners (grades 1-4th I believe but don't quote me on that) then Volume 2 is a bit more advanced (2nd grade to 5th grade), Volume 3 a bit more advanced, etc.

But why this particular curriculum at all? As I said my girls are hands on learners. These books are amazing for that! The lessons are short and easy to understand. Actually my 7yr old is usually the first one to yell out an answer when we get to the review questions. Plus at the end of each lesson (which only takes about 15min for me to read to them) there are several activities. One activity in each lesson is a coloring page about the lesson material. I usually give this to my girls as I start reading and let them color while they listen to the story. Then at the end of the lesson we go through the review questions together (they always get them all correct). There is usually always a map involved for the lesson as well with certain coloring directions attached, such as color Egypt red. 

Once all the maps and other paper work is done the activity book also has several activities to do at the end.  Today we learned about the Sumerian people and their ways of writing on clay tablets. So of course we had to give that a try. The material came with a complete cuneiform alphabet included and instructions for making our own clay tablets. So we were happy to jump right in and give it a know out of play dough cause that is how this mom rolls. There are SO many different activities per lesson! My children are very much looking forward to mummifying a chicken this week. I mean you really can't beat THAT!

Another benefit to this curriculum is that it is truly set up to co-teach multiple aged children. That is a big deal to me. I purposely searched out materials that would allow me to teach both my older girls at once. I think it is much more fun for both of them to #1 be together and #2 experience experiments together.  With this in mind the company Peace Hill Press has an option to buy the student sheets as a PDF for $8. So instead of having to buy multiple workbooks you can just buy the one activity workbook that has the teachers review questions and instructions and the PDF resources and then print as many copies for your children as you need. This also allows me to keep my paper copy of the activity book intact which would help with resale value down the road if we chose to go that route.  Wonderful!

Last but not least I love that each chapter has additional resource options listed. So if your child becomes obsessed with a certain concept in a certain chapter you can go off into your own side road of exploration easily with the research options clearly outlined. Love it!

I was a little worried that my choice in History materials would meet with disdain from my husband, who holds a BA in History.  He takes his history very seriously and is quite picky about what we use for our girls. He however has reviewed these books and has given them a gold star. Yay!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My top homeschooling tips

*DISCLAIMER* I do NOT claim to be an expert in this area! I am only a few weeks into the process of homeschooling our girls and still learning on a daily basis right along with my girls. I did however want to share what I have learned with you all.

I have been very blessed that I have a massive community of homeschooling families, both in real life and online, that I can tap into for ideas and tips. When I announced that we were going to homeschool our girls I got a ton of great advice and I thought I would share it with you all as well.

Picking a curriculum

Tip: Don't rush out and buy a curriculum right off the bat. You need time to figure out your teaching style and your children's learning style.

This one was HARD for me. I am a "it needs to be done do it" person. I didn't see the point in waiting and just doing workbooks and library books for the first two weeks. I mean I was already a veteran mother and *knew* what my teaching style was and how my kids learned already!

Yeah. No. I didn't.

The first week of workbooks went well enough but the second was another matter. We were bored to tears. I quickly realized we are not a "sit down and do workbooks for 3 hours a day" type of family. Not even the computer games and programs were working. Part of it was that the work was dull and part of it was just that we wanted something different from this experience. We didn't want "school at home" we wanted to homeschool which is a total different animal.

We decided to do a more hands on experience. With that in mind I chose a curriculum that had lots of experiments, projects, games, and activities.  We still use our books and workbooks as the "spine" of our program but it just for support not the entire "body". More about our curriculum choices in an upcoming post!

Add in one new thing at a time

Tip: Instead of jumping into the whole curriculum all at once add one thing at a time each week and build up to it.

I think this is the essential to keeping yourself and your kids from getting overwhelmed! We started week 1 with just math, reading, and writing. Just those three things had me totally overwhelmed. We were  learning so much all at one time; scheduling, what to expect from school lessons, what to expect from each other, how  to balance our normal lives (we all still needed to eat and have clean clothes!)  etc. It was overwhelming. So we stuck with just the 3 essentials for the first week.

 Then the second week we added in a language arts program. My kids HATE language arts. They could care less about diagramming a sentence or grammar. By having this be our only new thing that week I was able to really think about the program and how to tailor it for my girls. The solution was to add in games. We would sit down and learn the new material through our workbooks then I would create a game for the kids to do using the new material. The biggest hit was designing our own board game to use with flash cards. My 7yr old actually begs to play "common and proper nouns" now! Towards the end of our second week we added in our zoology program. I purposely chose a science program they would be excited about and it has been such a blessing! When I say it is time for zoology my girls actually CHEER! It helps that it is something they are interested in and that there are several experiments per chapter.  This weekend I need to stock up on bird seed because we have several bird feeding experiments coming up!

Our third week we added our history curriculum. Again we chose a program that has tons of projects and experiments included. Nice short readings and lots of hands on work is a perfect fit for our family. The levels of the readings are perfect for the ages of our children and my 7yr old actually answers 99% of the review questions the second I ask them leaving her 9yr old sister scowling because she knew the answer and didn't get a chance to respond.

I just finished our lesson plan for next week (our 4th week) and we are adding in our last element....biblical copywork. Manuscript work for our 7yr old and cursive for our 9yr old. We shall see how it goes. They both need some serious help with their handwriting and hey they get an extra dose of religion......can't beat that!

Lesson planning

Tip: Use a lesson planner designed for homeschooling families.

Seriously. I tried to be cheap and just write it on a notebook page. When that didn't work I tried printing out a free online lesson plan but that wasn't the right fit either. I did a lot of searching and decided to just spend the extra $13 and buy a lesson planner for homeschooling. I was able to get it at a discounted price since this year is almost over. I however have fallen in love with this planner and plan to buy the new one for 2014-2015 for sure!

I love that it can be used for up to 4 children at once! Right now I am just using it for my oldest 2 children but come fall I will be adding the twins pre-k/k work to it as well. I have gone from spending 2 hours a week working on my lesson plan to just 30min! I would say that is a HUGE improvement!

I work up my lesson plan on Friday and then do one massive print job over the weekend where I print out their history activities,  maps, and copywork. I have a binder set aside to hold these pages during the week so they don't get lost. I also go through and figure out what experiments we will be doing and add those to my shopping list for the week so that we are all set when we get to them during the week.

What tips do you have to share? I can always use some more ideas!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Field trip day!

I don't know about you all but I think I look forward to field trips more than my children!  Bright and early this morning I packed up our 4 oldest kiddos and headed into the city for some big time fun.
We decided to go to the Please Touch Museum in Philly and it was a massive hit!

My older girls learned how to send telegraphs, make electricity and even got to inspect real bugs preserved in each stage of development (tied in nicely to our flying creatures zoology work!)

The twins were not to be left out of the action. They were very happy to act as doctors complete with MRI machines and xrays. 

A life of a busy doctor is never dull and of course they needed to go shopping for dinner supplies once they were done saving lives. Luckily big sister was there to act as cashier and practice her math skills.

After a very busy day at the museum it was nice to be able to sit down for a bit and watch a puppet show. The play was about Gram Adele and the puppets were all antiques. The bubbles truly made the show of course. I was pretty proud of my 7yr old who halfway through the play gasped at one of the characters. She quickly whispered to me that she was shocked that the character actually LIED. Nice to know I am getting some morals through to them!
Overall it was a wonderful adventure and the girls had a blast. Lots of learning and lots of playing! We are already planning our next field trip!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Thursday it just me?

It is Thursday. I don't know about you but I find Thursday to be the least motivated day of the week for school work. Especially when Friday is a field trip as is the case today. I needed to come up with some fun ideas for today and I needed to do it quickly! I did a quick search of my "just in case of emergency" pinterest homeschooling board and found these gems. I printed the *FREE* Buggy Math Mats  and games from The Crafty Classroom.  I think they are adorable! They have mats for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division! Something for each of my girls! I printed one set of mats out and 2 sets of numbers, got them laminated and we were ready to go.


First up was the "roll the dice and make 10" game. My 7yr old had a bit of trouble with it but the 9yr old found it WAY to easy.
 Next up we used the mats. My 7yr old stuck with the addition and subtraction mats while my 9yr old gave the division mat a try. We are still working on this one and she tends to fret about having to do something new so this was a fun way to introduce it.

While I had the printer and lamination machine out I decided to go ahead and print out these handy little clocks from Excuse me Mrs. C.

I printed the clocks out, wrote the minutes under the appropriate number then laminated them. Once that was done I cut out the hands and attached them with a brad.

I meant to color the minute hand blue and the hour hand red before I laminated them but my 4yr old twins were "helping" me with the lamination machine and I got a bit distracted. If I was doing it again I would color them first just to help the children distinguish between the minute and hour hands.

My 7yr old is just starting to learn this skill so this clock will be very helpful for her. My 9yr old could use some more practice as well so I made her her own clock as well.

Have I mentioned how much I *LOVE* having my own lamination machine? Seriously the best $30 I ever spent! Now these clocks will still be useable in a few years when my twins are ready to learn how to tell time!

 Outside of math we worked on our history textbook this morning. We are doing the Story of our World Ancient times and really enjoying it.

It surprises me that my 7yr old is the one yelling out the answers to all the review questions at the end. She seems to take after her father and really enjoy history.

Today we are learning about the nomads as well as finishing up our own personal history books all about family. The girls have enjoyed interviewing family members and designing their own books. 

I think the girls are trying to rush me though the early chapters so that we can get to the chapter about mummies. There happens to be an experiment where you mummify your own chicken. I have never seen two little girls so excited about a chicken carcass in my life!

Tomorrow is a big day over here. Our first field trip!! I am taking the 4 oldest girls and they are practically pinging off the walls with excitement. They have been counting down for days to get here. I am sure we will have a blast tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Workbook Organization

As I have mentioned I am trying to get away from doing mainly workbooks during the day. However we still have lots of workbooks that we use during the week. I find them wonderful for introducing the new material then we go on to "play with" the knowledge to further cement it into our heads. 

We were getting a bit overwhelmed with workbooks and notebooks recently and I was losing my mind. My OCD kicked in big time!

I needed something to keep all this mess contained and the crafty side of me wanted it to be pretty as well. I did quite a bit of searching on pinterest and came up with the idea for covering a box with fabric. I went rooting around in my fabric stash and found the old crib bumper fabric from when my twins were babies. I had stripped the fabric off the bunting before throwing the bunting away and then stuffed it in a drawer not knowing how I was going to use it. Fast forward 3yrs and boom perfect project!

I gathered up two boxes and my fabric and got started. First I cut the flaps off the boxes and then laid out my fabric on the boxes to see exactly how I wanted it to lay. These bumpers have a small ribbon line running through the middle of them and I thought that would be perfect for a decorative touch at the top of the boxes. Once I had the fabric cut to the appropriate length I rolled it up to make it easier to attach.

I broke out my trusty can of spray adhesive (you can find it at the dollar store!) and sprayed the back outer side of the first box. I centered the fabric in the middle of the side and made sure to smooth it down straight and without bubbles. Once the side was attached I sprayed the bottom section and folded the fabric under. Once that was done I repeated the process around the box. Doing one side at a time then attaching it to the bottom of the box. At the end I turned the fabric down so that there was a smooth edge that covered the rough edge from where I started. Once I had the sides and bottom attached I simply folded the fabric over so it covered the inside sides of the box. Then repeated the process till all the inner sides of the box were covered. Once that was done I cut a piece of fabric to cover the bottom of the box and cover the rough sides of the cut fabric.

*I would have gotten pictures of the process but my hands were covered in spray adhesive and I didn't want to get my camera all sticky*

Once it was all done I decided to make a divider for the big box so that I could separate the workbooks by child and make things even more organized.  I just found a larger box and cut it down to size so that it wedged in firmly and and about 4 inches bent back on the bottom for stability. Then I covered it too with fabric.

A few quick signs printed off of Word and laminated finished off the project and we were good to go.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thinking outside the workbook.....

I have been REALLY trying to come up with more projects and ideas for my girls that get the same results as workbooks but are more fun for everyone....I mean really who LIKES grammar? Sorry not me or apparently my girls.

First up our own board game. You have to get the flash card correct in order to get a turn. Sara won 3 times Hailey 0. In Hailey's defense she got all the answers correct she just had rotten luck and kept hitting the "traps" on the board.

*learning measurements while making the board, art for designing the board, counting and adding with the dice and moving the pieces, and today's flash cards were proper and common nouns. Good thing is the board can be used for any flash cards. I just made simple flash cards on Word with different nouns on them today for this game.

Learning geometry and units of measurement. Also known as making origami animals.

Sara and her current obsession...learning science, history and reading. She kept stopping every few sentences to yell "Hey mom did you know ______" so cute!

What are your favorite "out of the workbook" ideas?

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