Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Our African Unit

We just completed our unit study on Africa. This is usually part where I tell you all of the fun stuff we did, the books we read, and the yummy food we ate.

That isn't happening this time.

You know why? Cause I am tired and needed a break.

In this age of pinterest and fancy homeschool blogs it is so easy to feel like a terrible mother for admitting that you just didn't feel like going all out on something.

There are always people out there having a better day than you.

People who can make dinner, keep the laundry caught up, the house clean, the kids not only alive but in matching perfectly tailored outfits, all while doing 5 hour long special projects for each new subject matter.

That is so not the norm however.

No one can do that 100% of the time.

We all need to take a break and admit to ourselves that we can not do it all.

This week I decided to focus my attention elsewhere.

We completed our school work as outlined in the teachers manual and just left it there. No fancy art projects or peanut soup.


Just the facts Ma'am, just the facts.

You know what? We are all still alive and learned just as much as if we had taken the time to drag out the art supplies.

Don't get me wrong I love doing the special projects and fun themed meals. I fully intend to do more projects as we go through the rest of our unit studies. My point is simply that the projects should be FUN not FORCED.

So there you go! Our African unit in a nutshell.

Did you go full out on your study of Africa? Hit me up and let me know!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Our Review of Home School in the Woods: Election Lap-Pak

Our oldest daughter has been asking a lot of questions about the current Presidential Election. We decided to strike while the iron was hot and jumped at the chance to try out Home School in the Woods election themed lapbook: HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

This history Lap-Pak came as a digital download. We were able to download the product to our desktop and run it easily on our windows based laptop.

I printed out all of the pdf files and organized the printouts into an accordion style folder. With 21 different components it would have been very easy to get confused if the pages became mixed up. The designers of this product thought of that however and put the component names on the bottom right of each pdf page. That made it much easier to stay organized. I separated each section out into it's own section of the accordion folder with one section left for completed components that needed to be added to the lapbook.  After reading through the instructions  I found an empty box and added all of our needed items these included scissors, glue sticks, spray glue, paper fasteners, etc. so that we had everything we needed at our finger tips.

We sat down as a group to assemble the interactive components. While the instructions were clearly written the lapbook components were a bit too advanced for our 11 and 9 yr old daughters to put together on their own. I stepped in to help them assemble the components but the girls quickly lost interest in watching me assemble the items. I decided to put the components together on my own and then have the girls complete the activities as we read through the material provided. It took me approximately 3 hours to assemble all of the components. The instructions were easy to understand and the components were very clearly labeled. I would say, from my experience, that the components would be easy for a middle or high schooler to complete on their own.

When writing out my lesson plan for the month I chose to have the girls complete one activity per day.  I read through the material provided and the girls completed any interactive material needed on each component. I loved that the components had the option of adjusting the difficulty level for the child participating. You could chose from pre-printed options or options that had the child fill in all the information on their own. 

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review
This lap-pak proved to be a comprehensive overview of the election process. The reading material provided started with explaining what an election is and then moved though the history of the election process, the three branches of government, campaigning, caucuses, inauguration, and much much more! There are 21 indepth election based activities provided in this lap-pak!

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review
Our girls found this to be a straight forward and easy to understand approach to the understanding the election process. I loved having all the of the information and activities laid out for me. While my husband may be up on all of the history surrounding the election process I am not. Before starting this lap-pak I had no clue what the caucuses were or why Super Tuesday was so super. Using this lap-pak made everything very easy to teach and understand. The material was advanced enough for older children but still presented in a way that was easy for younger children to understand. I think we all learned a great deal from this lap-pak.

We all enjoyed working on this lap-pak and I love that it is a resource that we can continue to use through the years. All of our children can learn from this resource down the line! As a mother of six homeschooled children you know I adore any resource that can be used for multiple children!

I would love to try out more of Home School in the Woods lap-paks in the future! Want to know what the other reviewers thought of HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections? Click HERE or on the banner below to find out!

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review
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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Math centers

I am not a fan of math.

Our children are not fans of math.

No one I know is fond of math.

It however is one of those things you just have to suck it up and complete. Why not attempt to make it suck a bit less? That is the though running through my head as I attempted to set up math centers for our 9 yr old daughter.

Curious what I managed to put together? Well wait no longer! Here you go!

I saw a "Clock Flower" post on pinterest and decided we could do that! We set up this "clock flower" in our school room. The little leaf reminds the kids that the little hand represents the hour. The large leaf the large hand. The petals have the minutes for each number. I laminated everything and then our daughter helped to put everything together. This is the only clock in the house that our kids can actually read. I am hoping that after some time has passed we will be able to progress to reading any clock.

Multiplication war is always a hit in our house. Very simple rules. Each player gets the same amount of cards face down in front of them. The players then flip one card over at a time. The player with the higher card total wins the hand and takes the card pile. The person with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

Pop and add was a big hit in our house. This game came pre-assembled from an educational store. You however could just as easily make it with two dice and some manipulatives. You add the total on the dice together, using manipulatives if needed. This could also be done with subtraction or multiplication depending on what concept you are working on at the time.

Mulitplication Jenga. Super simple game again. Each stick has a multiplication problem written on it. You pull a stick out and have to answer the problem before you can move on. You could easily make this game from a standard Jenga game. Again this could be changed to addition, subtraction, division, fractions, decimals, sight words, ABC's, anything you can think of would work!

The clumsy thief was another pre-assembled game from an educational store. The goal is to make 100 from the cards in your hand. Each pile of 100 is then placed in front of you. If the other player has a thief card they can "steal" your pile for their own. You can steal your pile back by placing a jail card over the thief. That pile can then never be stolen again. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Shopping Spree has to be the kids favorite game. They beg to play this game, even taking it with us to swim team practice! The game rules change based on the age of the player. Each player is given a certain amount of money at the beginning of the game. The goal is to correctly budget their money while shopping for a certain amount of items. Don't forget to save enough to pay to get your car out of the parking garage!

Last but not least is the addition of simple manipulatives. Our daughter is obsessed with all amphibians so we went with a frog and turtle set. She uses them to "see" her math problems. Here she is figuring out 3x12. The cute little frogs keep her focused and help her to understand the concept by seeing it in action.

Those are our current math centers for our 9 yr old daughter. Math may not be our favorite subject but anytime we can complete an objective without tears I feel like we have won a giant battle.

I would love to hear about your math activities! Hit me up!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

When life progresses....

We have reached a major milestone. At least I *think* it is a major milestone. I will admit that I am not too sure now that it has happened.

Let me explain.

For eleven years I have had at least one baby in diapers, at one point we had four small children in diapers at once!

 Eleven continuous years of changing diapers. While going through this very long season of my life I assumed that when the time came to potty train our youngest child there would be a major life shift. The skies would open up with great bands of pink light and cherubs would float down strumming harps.   Okay....maybe I am over dramatizing a bit.

I oscillated between excitement and sadness as I thought about the day our family would no longer need to purchase diapers.

What would life look like with no babies in the house?

How would I deal with the knowledge that that part of my life was over?

Would I always long for what was now in the past?

Well the time has come and gone. Our youngest daughter decided to potty train herself one month before she turned 3 years old. It wasn't a great time for me to go through potty training another little one. Our older 5 children had full schedules, my husband was gone yet again, and we were constantly on the go. I didn't have the three or four days to spend at home taking a child to the potty every 10min like I did with our oldest. I also refused to buy pull-ups after potty training our first two children.

Even though this wasn't the "right time" for me, it was for her.  I bit the bullet and we went cold turkey on the diapers.

I packed a big tote bag with her extra potty seat (exactly the same as the one we used at home) lots of extra pants, undies, and socks. I then proceeded to drag our newly potty training 2 yr old to every activity, outing, grocery shopping, and sports lesson for 6 weeks. I assumed we would go through a lot of clothes and I would be washing her car seat daily.

Just the opposite happened however. She has never (6 weeks later) had an accident in public. She is able to use public bathrooms just as easily as our home bathroom. I find this to be a huge victory. All of our older kiddos were terrified of the public bathrooms for a very long time. Our 6yr old twins are still scared of them.

So what does our life look like now that we have no babies in the house? Well, exactly the same really. I am still picking up dirty laundry off the floor, stepping on bread crusts that were thrown under the table, wiping up peanut butter off the stair handrail, wondering who broke the microwave door, and trying desperately to stay on top of the dirty laundry pile. I still have to take Little Bit to the bathroom and inevitably fight with her over the fact that "no, we can not throw your panties away because you have already worn them once".

I expected the movement away from diapers would leave me feeling some how bereft. That could not be farther from the truth. My life is still just as full as it was before...perhaps a bit busier since I now have to stop what I am doing multiple times a day to take someone to the bathroom again. I do not find that I miss having a baby as part of our lives. I sometimes have a brief moment of longing when I see a friend with a new baby. I however then look at our family and I am content.

Our lives are complete just as they are.

We will continue to grow together. To experience new and exciting moments together as a family. There will be milestones. There will be disappointments. We will weather them all together, happy in our lives.

If the Lord feels moved to bring another little person into our unique level of chaos I would welcome them with open arms. Until that time I am content to watch our six little blessings grow and mature into the amazing people I know they will be.

Diapers? Who needs them!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Our Exploration into Germany

We have spent the last two weeks exploring Germany. We began our unit by choosing our read aloud. We chose The Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell. This is an amazing true story of an American pilot who brought joy to countless children in post war Berlin. I had a difficult time reading this story out loud to our children. I was moved to tears repeatedly throughout the book. It is amazing how such a simple act as dropping candy parachutes can affect so many people.

One of our biggest projects for this unit would definitely have to be our castle project. These castles were no walk in the park to build. Thank goodness for friends donating cereal boxes and paper towel tubes. These castles took about 4 hours to complete. Hot glue was a necessity!  

One of our Christmas projects this year was to make paper snowflakes. The instructions for this complex lace snowflake were passed along by a friend. We didn't realize until after we had completed the snowflake that it is actually a German snowflake. We absolutely love these snowflakes! We still have ours hanging over our dining room table. I figure a snowflake can be used as a decoration all winter long.

Lastly we have our German feast. We chose bratwurst and sauerkraut then added some spaetzli and waffeletten to round the meal out. Don't give me too hard a time about the lack of vegetables. We were in a rush to get to scouts on time.

We enjoyed our study of Germany and are looking forward to delving into Africa next week! I would love to hear how your family completed your unit on Germany.

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