Carnival of Homeschooling: Keeping it Light

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November 12, 2012

With just a few great online homeschool ideas, this edition of the Carnival is a “light” one.

The light of gratitude and Thanksgiving:

At Why Homeschool, Henry shares a few thoughts about Gratitude and homeschooling.

I have to agree with him that finding and recognizing the good in our lives makes for a happier daily life.

With a crazy week at our house: getting a new rental going, a daughter’s final play week, church leadership duties, cub scout pack meeting, my parents flying in to town tomorrow, etc., I decided to be grateful for each of them . . . and especially for the small number of carnival submissions this week.  🙂

I’m also excited to try some of Barbara’s ideas for our upcoming Thanksgiving week, since I’m usually the one scrambling like mad on Thursday morning:

At Barbara Frank Online, she writes about some planning ideas for homeschool families hosting Thanksgiving dinner in her post: A Simple Homeschool Thanksgiving.

Lightening your homeschool difficulties

At Homeschool Atheist Momma, Karen writes about some of the things you learn when you have homeschooled for awhile… in her post: Five Battles I No Longer Fight.

Her post made me starting thinking about my own list of battles I decided weren’t worth fighting.

At  Corn and Oil, Susan writes about Susan Wise Bauer taking a break from homeschool conferences to set up a bed and breakfast for would-be farmers in her post: Homeschool Leader Moving On to Greener Pastures.

Homeschool Online says, “So often I feel like I’m the only homeschooling mom that has struggles… everyone else appears to be doing fine and having a great time homeschooling… but I’m not alone am I?”  The post: Struggles, Disappointments, and Concerns… You are NOT alone!

At 7SistersHomeschool, Sabrina says, “A healthy homeschool mom is a more effective teacher…and a lot less grumpy!” and explains in her post: The Why and How of Self-Care for Homeschool Moms

The Light of Example

At DenSchool, Victoria writes a great post about Veteran’s Day with free worksheet downloads to go along with the holiday: Veteran’s Day.

She encouraged my to make an effort to reach out more to thank those who are serving and have served our country.

At Proclaiming God’s Faithfulness, Phyllis shares her post election thoughts: Victory!

At 3 Partners in Shopping Nana, Mommy, & Sissy Too!, they post An Important Day of Learning Tomorrow about “the importance of voting, how each vote really does count, and how we are teaching our children to vote.”

This concludes the “Light” Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.  With the ‘busy’ness of the holidays approaching, remember to enjoy them and keep it light.  icon smile Homeschool Blog Carnival   Creativity Edition

Feel free to post a link to the carnival, tweet, or link via Facebook. I appreciate it!

Make sure to submit your post to next week’s carnival. For information: Carnival of Homeschooling.

And help spread the word by copying and sharing the carnival button:
Carnival of Homeschooling


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Posted under Blog Carnivals

Free kids tickets to Six Flags for reading books

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November 6, 2012

We just registered for a great program offered by Six Flags to children in grades K through 6:  A free amusement park ticket for reading!

How to get your free tickets:

  • Head over and register for free on the Six Flags Read to Succeed website.
  • Print out a reading log for each child.
  • Read, read, and read some more until each child has finished 6 hours of reading.
  • Fill out reading log and mail it in.
  • Record reading times online.
  • Receive the free tickets via email.
  • Deadline to register is Mar. 1st, 2013.

And even better, they have a specific sign-up page for homeschoolers, so you don’t have to figure out how to fit into the traditional school sign-up page.


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Posted under Field Trips

Teaching ASL Sign Language to Children: Homeschool Resources

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September 27, 2012

What is this little cutie pie saying with sign language?

He’s making the sign for “full”.  He’s too full to finish his oatmeal.

In his other hand?  Oh, that’s a piece of toast drenched in sugar and cinnamon he just got from one of his brothers.


I’m glad the sign language we taught him as a baby is paying off:

If you haven’t played around with young children and sign language, they pick it up very easily and it comes in handy when they can’t speak yet and get frustrated trying to communicate with you.

And if you have a child reluctant to learn a foreign language, they’ll often get excited about “speaking with their hands.”

Here are some of our favorite ASL resources:

  • Pick up a Baby Signs book full of easy to learn, simple signs, to help the youngest in the family make their wishes known.
  • A.S.L.U – a website with full online ASL courses complete with outlines, video, and self-testing.
  • Signing Time video series – We first saw this excellent series on PBS and it’s now available on DVD.  The kids will come in from other rooms and join in watching and signing.


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Posted under Foreign Languages

20 Tips and Ideas for Teaching Reading at Home

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September 20, 2012

Whether it’s simple phonics books, trying to discover a love of reading, or wading through a classic tome as a teen, reading is an integral part of life and homeschooling.

Here are some ideas to encourage reading and make it fun:

  1. Have older kids read to the younger – keep two or three kids busy with one stone . . .er, book.  🙂
  2. Read to them, read, read, and then read some more.  It’s quality time with a parent and school at the same time.
  3. Ok, so if you’re sick of reading “Goodnight Moon” for the 30th time, try making of a recording of you reading aloud and let them listen to it 30 times themselves while flipping through the book.  On the computer, try a great open-source free recording software called Audacity.  On an Apple device, just use the pre-installed app called “Voice Memo” to make great recordings.
  4. Try my favorite ‘old school’ phonics series – the one I learned to read with in the ’70s:  I See Sam
  5. Check out – one of the best (and free) phonics-based websites out there.
  6. If your kids play Minecraft or other computer games with friends, encourage the in-game chatting they do back and forth = reading, typing, and spelling all-in-one.
  7. Peruse the ‘Series‘ section of your library with your child and pick out book #1 from a few series.  If you can find one they like, they’ll have lots of enjoyable reading as they work through the series.  Some of our favorites:  Henry and Mudge (early reader), The Animorphs (fantasy tween age), The Magic Treehouse (tween age), many Rick Riordan books (tween – teen age).  What are your favorites?
  8. Pick a reference book about a subject your child enjoys – a child who reluctantly reads storybooks, may spend hours watching birds and looking up their identifications:
  9. Look for a how-to book on a favorite subject.  Watercolor art lessons might be the perfect motivation to encourage your artist to do a little reading:
  10. Don’t forget magazines.  The short articles, lots of pictures and wide variety of topics may be just the thing for shorter attention spans.
  11. Reading and understanding written instructions is a valuable skill.  Help your child decipher the next set of instructions that come with a toy, gift, or new electronics.
  12. Don’t answer their questions.  I joke to my kids that, “I am NOT Google.”  When they ask a question, I help them search for an age appropriate article on the topic online and let them read about it for themselves.  Try the Simple Wikipedia for answers that are written in a more basic language with shorter sentences:
  13. Comic Books and Graphic Novels can be a great starting point for a reluctant reader.  My oldest particularly enjoyed the old style Superhero comic collections at the library, while my daughter liked the graphic novel, Rapunzel’s Revenge:
  14. Audio books can be a great babysitter enrichment tool.  One of my reluctant readers was interested in stories beyond her reading capabilities.  I checked out both the audio CDs and the print book and had her follow along as she listened.  Her reading speed improved immensely.  This is also very helpful for some of the unfamiliar vocabulary found in classics.  It’s much easier to understand if you hear someone speaking the words.
  15. Appeal to their sweet tooth.  Tell them they can pick anything they want to make out of the cookbook dessert section.  Take it a step further and have them make the shopping list and go to the store with you to buy the ingredients. (writing and math done, too)
  16. Be the example.  Read in front of them . . . tell them to leave you along because you’re busy reading . . . hide in the bathroom to finish just one more chapter of your book before the kids find you 🙂
  17. Next trip you have planned, get them involved reading about where you’re going, looking up activities, science museums, etc., to do while you’re there.
  18. If they like movies, have them peruse the descriptions on Netflix and pick out something to watch that evening.
  19. We all like recognition, don’t we?  A sticker chart for every book read, an outing after reaching a reading goal, your child could draw a picture about each book he/she has read and bind them into a notebook once a year, snap pictures of front covers, print them out and make a collage, etc.  Get creative with lots of fun ways to acknowledge the progress your child is making in reading.
  20. Pay attention to what you’re reading.  Basically, anytime you find yourself reading something, like this blog, for instance, see if it’s something your child might enjoy, like reading a blog, for example. 🙂

Hopefully this list sparked some fun ideas to use with your family.  If you have other good ones, I’d love to add to the list.  Thanks!

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Posted under Reading Curriculum

Scouting: a Fun Addition to Homeschooling Life

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September 13, 2012

Built his own birdhouse – part of learning about tools, carpentry, and birds.

My boys have been enjoying scouting throughout their childhoods and if you can find a nice troop to join, it can be a great addition to your homeschool life.

Reasons to join Cub and Boy scouts:

  1. Make friends in a new social group that meets on a regular basis.
  2. Quality adult mentors for your boys.
  3. Learning and developing skills on a variety of topics.
  4. Recognition of achievement with fun award system of patches, belt loops, etc.
  5. Network with other parents helping out their kids.
  6. Fun, fun, fun!!

    Homemade puddle jumpers – remember these?

Where to find a troop:

  1. Check with your local school district
  2. Check with local your churches – our local LDS (Mormon) church has great families involved in their troops and though not advertised, they welcome everyone regardless of religion.
  3. Type your zipcode on the Scouting Website and see who has a troop near you.
  4. Ask friends!!  The best recommendation for a good troop is from someone who loves theirs.

Caught his first fish 🙂

We’ve been exploring what the community has to offer and have really enjoyed our experiences with both 4H and Boy Scouts.  Do you community groups you participate in that you enjoy?

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Posted under Homeschool Activities

Pounding Fun on the Front Sidewalk

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September 6, 2012

So a friend of mine mentioned how he was kept busy as a kid before computer games and much TV.  His dad would give him a chunk of wood, a handful of nails & screws, a hammer and a screwdriver and send him outside with instructions to hammer and screw everything into the wood before coming back in.

What an awesome idea for young boys!

The next nice day, I scrounged up a chunk of wood and the appropriate supplies from the garage and sent my youngest two buddies on a tool adventure.

I love how the tongue helps with all complex tasks, like hammering, writing, coloring, etc.

They found using the screwdriver to be much more difficult that they thought and with a little teamwork and turn-taking, they could get the job done.

I love the intense focus it takes for a 4-year-old to hit the nail on the head without making it bend off to the side.

So, next time you need an inexpensive idea to keep a few active kids busy and teach them some teamwork and a few handyman skills, dig through the scraps in your garage and let them have at it.

If you have any other ideas for ways to get the kids outside, engaged in learning new skills, I’d love suggestions.  With four growing boys, there is lots of energy around our house and I’m always looking for things that can interest them as much as the current computer games do.  Thanks!

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Posted under Homeschool Activities

Homeschool Lessons from the Garden

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August 30, 2012

My husband grew up working on the farm and in my large family, we always had a garden that needed tending.  In the era of computers, our kids are sometimes missing out on the lessons of hard work that were so valuable in our childhoods.

So, instead of doing most of the garden work myself this year, I tried even harder (than previous years) to enlist the kids.

My 4-year-old was excited at the beginning of the year to plant the “potatoes”.

He planted two in the buckets on the back deck and has since been very excited to pick and eat HIS own ripe tomatoes.

After the buckets, he was happy to help plant the others around the house and garden, but his favorite was wielding the big water “sword”.

When a friend invited us to come pick the rest of his green bean patch, we loaded up the buckets and the kids.

My husband and I had to laugh when 6 minutes in to the picking the first kid asked how long this was going to take, and were we almost done.

Instead we:

  • spent over an hour picking
  • sat and watched some TV while we snapped them for another hour or two
  • dumped them in boiling water for a few minutes followed by ice water (blanching to stop the ripening)
  • then all the kids helped spread them on dehydrator trays and a few went into the freezer.

The result:

Dehydrated green beans that came out light and crispy and made a great dry snack.  We’ll make sure to add a little salt next time before dehydrating.

Even better, since the kids were involved in all the work from start to finish, everyone was happy to munch on the veggie snack instead of turning their noses up at the idea.

We’ve also picked, washed, and stripped elderberries from our bushes and dehydrated them for future anti-viral winter teas:

Any uneaten tomatoes are being dehydrated to go in future chili, spaghetti sauce, and sun-dried tomato recipes.

Just a few weeks ago, we spent three hours on a Saturday weeding, pulling up all the old peas and greens that had gone to seed, and planting new ones for a nice fall crop.

Just a few of the results of our ‘hard work’ lessons this year:

  • There’s plenty of time to have great discussions while weeding – everything from biomes, plant cycles, to someone’s latest Minecraft creation.  Fellow workers are a captive audience.
  • There’s some satisfaction in eating something you grew right from the beginning.
  • Kids are more likely to eat veggies they grew and less likely to waste them.
  • You feel a bit closer to your siblings after working together on a tough job.
  • You have a greater sense of appreciation for how much work Mom does on a regular basis. 🙂

Overall, we’ve had a great gardening unit study so far this year, and it’s not even over.

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Posted under Homeschool Life

Amazing Homeschool Adventures with 4H

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August 23, 2012

If you haven’t checked out your local 4H groups, you’re missing a great homeschooling resource.  We love it and there are so many more activities available than many people expect.  There is only a $10/year charge per child to participate and many of the activities are run by volunteers.

Here’s my 9-year-old with his amazing mentor, a teenager who volunteered her time and horse to coach him in horseback riding all spring and summer.  This great 4H Protégé program culminated in him riding in the 4H Fair in July.  Isn’t he a cute cowboy?

Check out how excited he is about the ribbons he won:

We also spent a while wandering around all the art, cooking, animal, etc. exhibits at the 4H Youth Fair.

During the spring and summer, the kids join the 4H Archery Club every week where they get to shoot for 2 hours, paying only $1 per week to help maintain the equipment, because of generous volunteers who love teaching the kids:

So, if you’re looking for fun, education, and new friends, check out your local 4H office and find out what great programs they have in your area.

Do any of you participate in 4H?  I’d love to get ideas and hear what groups and activities you’ve enjoyed, if you would post in the comment section.

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Posted under Homeschool Activities

Patterns and Beads: Preschool Fun

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August 17, 2012

Guess what my 4-year-old is doing that kept  him completely focused for over an hour this morning.

We borrowed some pony beads from his sister and a dug a few pipe cleaners out of the craft cupboard.

And since I suggested he try to make some patterns with the beads, we’re calling it ‘pre-school math’.

Don’t you love cute chubby fingers?  (Especially when he’s been painting nails with his older sister, who is the only girl in the family. :-))

The final result?  A proud boy with his necklace.

Supply ideas:

  • Pipe cleaners.
  • Pony beads or any other larger beads that little fingers can handle.
  • Round cereal like Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or Apple Jacks so you can eat your creation when you’re done.
  • One or more bored children.

Activity ideas

  • Start by sorting the different colored pony beads into their own containers at the beginning = more math!
  • Cut the pipe cleaners shorter to make bracelets and rings, or twist two together to make a necklace.  Bend a hook on one end to keep the beads from sliding off the edge.  To finish the piece, bend a small hook in each end and then tuck the sharp point under a bead.
  • Start with simple patterns and move to more complex ones.
  • Demonstrate new patterns and play the “What comes next?” game by starting a pattern and asking the other person what the next beads are.  Take turns so your child can try to stump you too.
  • Write a blog post about the activity so your little one can grin at his pictures on the computer.  🙂

Do you have any fun preschool activities that keep the kiddoes busy?  I can always use good ideas!


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Posted under Homeschool Crafts, Math Curriculum

More Fun Bird Ideas

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July 18, 2012

(Here is an article with some more fun bird ideas submitted by one of our readers)

While I was ‘surfing’ the net, I ran across this site, and was fascinated with the bird watching article for children. What a wonderful idea to get children interested in something besides television or screen games!

A good homemade bird feeder is an empty water jug, or you can use 2 Liter soda bottle. In the example to the left, they have cut small holes in the bottle, and then pushed wooden spoons thru the holes, providing both a perch and a seed cup. Paint your new feeder with flowers or birds – let your imagination run wild! You can also use stickers for decoration if you like.

After the paint is dry put feed in the container, then hang from a tree branch with wire or twine. You will have scores of birds coming for ‘dinner’!

TIP: From the beautiful pictures taken of the birds you saw, you seem to have a lot of the smaller variety of birds; sunflower seeds are too big for them to eat. Buy wild birdseed that is the size of parakeet or finch seed-then you will see a LOT of birds

Another way to help children learn the fascination of birds is to let them have a bird of their own. Mature children will do very well with a parakeet. Parakeets have beautiful plumage, the males talk non-stop, and they can be very loving little birds.

Since they are rather small birds, the bird cages required for them can be in the small to medium range. There is a huge selection of bird cages available, so you are sure to find one you like and will fit nicely in your home. Make sure he has plenty of toys in the cage, and food and water daily.

I think bird cages have a wonderful effect in the home; with the singing and bright colorful toys they seem to make the house more friendly and inviting.

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Posted under Science Curriculum