THSC Homeschool Convention {Calling All Texas Bloggers}

When we moved back to Texas 3 years ago, our plan was to buy a home and stay a while. We were so excited to finally be settled after years of being moved around in the Air Force. Little did we know that this would be the most unsettled time in our lives. Jobs have come and gone. Buying the house has fallen through. We cried out, “Lord, show us what we need to do, where we need to go, how do we get there!”

Silence.

We waited when we felt we couldn’t wait another day. We listened even though we couldn’t hear. When doors opened we walked through them even when we couldn’t see.

Jamie moved to Ohio to take a job with an airline company. We planned to follow behind after a few months, but he knew right away that is not where we needed to be. After months of waiting he was offered a job at Randolph AFB in San Antonio. In a matter of a few weeks, little pieces of the puzzle begin to appear and the picture became clearer. God working good for those who love Him and are called to His purpose.

One of those puzzle pieces was something very unexpected. As we were looking at all our options, I came across a job opening at the Texas Home School Coalition. Surprisingly I had never heard of them before. As I dug deeper, I found that not only are they a Christian homeschool organization that supports and defends homeschooling rights in Texas, they also work to protect family and parental rights as well.

When I read the job description for a website administrator, I knew it would be a great fit for me. Ten hours a week, I get paid to do something that is so much fun for me! And I can do it in the comfort of my rocking chair surrounded by legos and toy dinosaurs!

Image Credit: sprittibee.com

Image Credit: sprittibee.com

THSC Convention in Arlington

Next week, I will be headed to Arlington to attend my first ever THSC Convention. It has been a while since I have attended a convention. The last convention I attended was four years ago. It was during that convention that I found out my mom’s cancer had returned. I drove home crying.

The Lord knows I need some new inspiration in my homeschool. Years of being unsettled have caused me to lose some of the joy and excitement of homechooling. I have hunkered down to get through life and I am so ready to spread my wings out and really enjoy this work I am called to do.

One of the great little treats at the convention is an evening session called “Encouragement by Chocolate”.

yes, two please

While the word chocolate definitely gets me in the door, I truly am more excited about the topic of this session “Warrior Mother: Fight FOR the Kids and Not WITH Them”. I can’t say that I fight with my kids very often, but I have really been pressed to fight for them this year. As your children get older and move out of the house, so many times there is nothing you can do to protect and lead them other than just pray, pray, pray! I am really looking forward to the encouragement to be the warrior mother God created me to be.

The convention should be an exciting time for everyone in the family! Besides the children’s and teen’s programs, we plan on taking the kids to the “Amazing Chemistry Show”. I know that my boys are going to LOVE the “fire, explosions, foam, and fun” that is promised in the 150 hands-on science experiments! My 7 years old watches the King of Random on YouTube and is fascinated by these types of projects.

Image Credit: sprittibee.com

Image Credit: sprittibee.com

Fellowship

While I am looking forward to all the activities at the convention, it will be such a blessing to just be with other like-minded families. As a Christian homeschooling family, this world can really start to feel like a long bumper car ride. There is nothing so sweet as the fellowship between like-minded believers.

I have briefly met a couple of my co-workers from THSC, but it will really be nice to sit and chat with them and get to know them better. I can’t say enough about the warm welcome I have received while working with this organization.

I am also looking forward to meeting several other bloggers while I am there. {Heather from Sprittibee, Lana of ILoveMy5Kids, Esther of Laugh With Us, and Betsy of Family Style Homeschooling} I am part of a VIP Blogging Team and have been asked to speak on a blogger panel Saturday afternoon and host a blogger meet-up! THSC would like to develop a relationship with bloggers all across Texas. They realize the connection we have to our homeschooling communities and they are reaching out to us so that we can better reach out to those around us.

2016-THSC Arlington Home School Convention

So if any of you would like to join me at the meet-up, I would love to see you there! I can even give you a coupon code for 20% off your registration. This coupon code is good not only for the convention registration, but for all the extras as well. So bring your kiddos and hubby, because there really is something for everyone. They even have a toddler play area, where you will probably find my 2 year old–and me–much of the day! The meet-up is Saturday from 2:30-3:30 and there will be snacks and goodies on hand for you all to enjoy. Hope you can make it!

Here is the scoop on joining the THSC blogger meet-up…

Every blogger that attends will receive:

1. 20% off their tickets and ALL EXTRAs & Children’s programs – that’s 20% across the board at checkout on the registration page!

2. A chance to network IRL (in-real-life) with other local bloggers (and snacks) if you attend the Homeschool Blogger Special Fellowship hour from 2:30-3:30 PM Central on Saturday in Arlington (more info on The Woodlands later)

3. A chance to have your blog listed on the Texas (or friends of Texas) homeschool blogroll on their website just for showing up at the Saturday social and coming to the convention.

4. Promotion of your blog posts if you are listed on the blogroll and inclusion on a special THSC Homeschool Blogger facebook page where you can do some online networking with all the ladies you met in real life at THSC this year! That means you’ll have ongoing friendships and promotion of your material long after the conference is over!

Here’s all they ask you to do if you want to get involved:

1. Snag one of the buttons on this page (or go copy the code on their own site – once they have their blogger page up and running!) and place it in your blog’s sidebar until after the conferences are both over for 2016. You can link these buttons to the following website url:

Texas Home School Coalition Convention

Here are the buttons. To download, just right click and select download image. Then upload it to your own WordPress or blog image hosting service for you to place in your sidebar and blog posts along with the link above. If you have any questions or need to know how to resize them with a quick html cheat, feel free to email me!

2016-texas-team-blogger-button

2016-convention-team-blogger-button

2. Go register for the conference of your choice (either Arlington or The Woodlands) with the homeschool blogger 20% off code: BLOGGER16

(If you’ve already registered, just shoot them an email to lindsey.sears@thsc.org and they will refund you!)

3. Set the date on your calendar with a reminder to be at the Homeschool Blogger Special Fellowship at 2:30-3:30PM Saturday, May 7th (if you are coming to Arlington’s conference… and I’ll update this post later with the exact time for the one for The Woodlands).

4. Fill out this THSC Homeschool Blogger Google form AFTER you register so we can add you to the THSC Facebook blogger group and their Texas (or surrounding state) homeschool blogroll on the THSC website!

5. Use these hashtags (at least one or two per post, alternated) with your social media shares so we can follow you online and share your posts: #THSCConventions, #THSCKnowsTX, #THSC

That’s it. All you have to do after that is show up and bring your business cards (if you have them, I have yet to order any) and a smile to share with all of us homeschool mamas who want to meet you IRL!

Let me know if you are going to make it–I would love to chat in person!

Pearson Homeschool enVisionMATH

Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. I was compensated for my time. All opinions are my own.

Pearson's Homeschool enVisionMATH Review

With a new baby arriving at this spring, our school year was cut short while everyone adjusted to another family member and Mom recovered. However, I found that not do school was actually more difficult than doing school, so we started up our “new” school year in May. {I love how I can make up my own rules like that!}

By public school standards, I have a new student this year. My five year old will be starting kindergarten, although in actuality he is already halfway through 100 Easy Lessons (reading) and a complete math whiz. That is why I was so excited to try Pearson’s Homeschool enVisionMATH for 1st grade with him.

Pearson Homeschool enVisionMATH

I had looked at the Pearson’s website to see if I thought the math would be a good fit for him. The first grade level starts out pretty basic with number recognition, greater than/less than, and simple addition and subtraction. I felt like this is probably the level he should be working on.

The Pearson’s Homeschool enVisionMATH 1st grade math kit comes with a consumable tablet for the student, a teacher’s guide on CD, and an interactive game on CD.

Consumable Tablet

I immediately knew that I liked the format for the tablet. I had never seen one like it before. Each days lesson is torn out of the tablet and folded in half to make a “booklet” for the child to work on. I don’t know about your first graders, but my first graders usually bend the binding of their notebooks, take their pencils and draw in the creases, scribble on the page edges. By the end of the year their notebooks are barely holding together. I really like the idea of just giving them the days work (which lays flat and easy to work on) and keeping the rest of the tablet put away until needed.

I really liked the fact that the lessons are broken up into sections, especially for a 1st grade level. Even though my son loves math and does very good at it, long lessons would not keep his interest. With the Pearson’s enVisionMATH, he gets to work on a skill for a few minutes, then work on another, and another. Even though these skills are related and build on each other, he feels like he is doing different things so he doesn’t get bored.

The most exciting thing for my son was the “games” in the tablet. Each unit has a game that reinforces the concepts learned in the unit. They are very simple games that can be played by 2 players, but it great fun for Isaac to take a break from the “school work” and play a game.

Pearson's Homeschool enVisionMATH Review

Teacher’s Guide on CD/

I will be honest. I wasn’t thrilled when I saw that the teacher’s guide was on CD. It always seems cumbersome to try and figure out what to do on the computer then do the lesson away from the computer. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the structure of the teacher’s guide is laid out very well and makes it extremely user friendly.

For instance, each lesson has additional printables and a interactive math story that goes along with it. What I liked was that there is a picture of the printable that you need for that lesson and you can click on the picture to print it out right then. No hunting around trying to find what printable goes with what lesson!

The teacher’s guide also has lots of “extras” that can be used to reinforce the skills being taught. There are strategies for teaching students that are behind or need extra help in learning the concepts. There are also ideas for helping the gifted learner reach their full potential. This is wonderful because there are times when our students may fall into each of these categories (or we may be teaching children of different ages).

Pearson's Homeschool enVisionMATH Review

Interactive Game on CD

According to my son, the quiz show math game is the best thing about his new math curriculum! In fact, I often have to make him finish up his “math” so that he can move on to other schoolwork.

The interactive game on CD is set up similar to a quiz show, allowing students to play against each other or the computer. The quiz questions are math problems that the student has been learning in their lessons. The students are able to play at the level they are studying. For instance, when my son is studying unit 2, he clicks on the unit 2 quizzes.

The only problem we have had with the game is that my son doesn’t read proficient enough to play completely by himself. However, he has a sister that is more than willing to sit with him and read the quiz questions, especially if it means she can put off some of her own schoolwork!

I like the quiz show game because it reinforces the lessons being taught, but it is fun for my son so he doesn’t realize he is spending so much time learning. If we spent the same amount of time just sitting and doing problems on paper, he would quickly tire out and want to quit.

Discounts on Pearson’s Homeschool Kits

Get 25% off any K-6 enVisionMath bundle through August 15th using Promo Code BLG25

Follow the links for the math level you are interested in:
Kindergarten
1st grade
2nd grade
3rd grade
4th grade
5th grade
6th grade

Get 25% off with code BLG25 on
● enVisionMath Bundle Grades K6
● myWorld Social Studies Bundle Grades K6
● MCP Plaid Phonics Bundle Grades K6
● Interactive Science Bundle Grades K5
Valid through Aug. 15, 2014.

Make sure to checkout Pearson around the web on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+!

Cultivating a Love of Science

Science Experiment - Cultivating a Love of Science @brightideasteam @jasminejlucero

When I was a youngster, one of my least favorite subjects in school was science. There were always so many foreign terms to memorize and the lessons were all so…scientific. Everything we learned in the classroom stayed in the classroom. There was no relating the science to anything else in my daily life, and to me, this made science useless.

It wasn’t until I became a homeschooling mother years later that my attitude toward science began to change. I began to see science all around me and appreciate how well it really did integrate itself into my daily life. I also began to wish I had paid more attention to those boring science classes!

Join me at Bright Ideas Press where I am sharing how to cultivate a love of science in your children!

Learning a Foreign Language with italki

italki logo @jasminejlucero

What is italki?

There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way we learn, opening up doors of opportunity not previously available to most people. italki is an innovative language website that takes full advantage of these newfound opportunities.

italki provides foreign language lessons with native speakers/teachers to students located all over the world. Students are able to practice their language skills one-on-one with a “real” person who speaks and uses the language with great proficiency.

All this is done from the convenience of your home using Skype.

How italki Works

After signing up for an italki account, users are able to browse the profiles of hundreds of instructors. Searches can be narrowed by language, country the teacher is located in, other languages the teacher speaks, and the cost of lessons from that teacher (each teacher sets their own prices).

Once you decide on a teacher, you may purchase italki credit (ITC) to be used in scheduling lessons. Because there are so many currencies involved, having a common ITC makes it easier for everyone to keep track of the cost in their own currency. For those using the U.S. dollar as their currency, you can purchase 200 credits for $20 (not including a small processing fee of approximately 2-3%).

iTalki credit @jasminejlucero

The amount of credit required for each session varies greatly depending on the teacher (experience level, skill level), the language, length of lesson, and other factors. Several of the teachers do offer shorter classes for children (30 minutes instead of 60) and the price is adjusted accordingly.

iTalki sessions @jasminejlucero

After ITC has been purchased, the next step is scheduling a lesson. In order to schedule a lesson, you first click on the teacher of your choice and choose the desired lesson. Some instructors offer package deals with multiple lessons at a discounted rate. Next, check the calendar for available days and times. A note of caution here–times are given in what I call military time. Meaning 2:00 in the afternoon is really 14:00. Remember, the teachers may be on the other side of the world, so offering classes at 2:00 in the morning may be most convenient for them. Makes sure you pick a time most convenient for you!

iTalki calendar @jasminejlucero

Now that you have scheduled a class, the only thing left to do is show up for class. You do this by logging into Skype a few minutes before class time and wait for a call from or message from the instructor letting you know they are ready to begin.

Our italki Experience

I feel it is so important for each of our children to study a foreign language. Having lived in two “foreign” countries, I have seen the benefits of knowing more than one language first hand! Besides the obvious need to communicate with others, knowing a foreign language is beneficial on so many levels.

Why Learning a Foreign Language is Important

  • spreading the Gospel – there is no greater gift than being able to share the Gospel with the unsaved in their mother language
  • opening doors – there are so many opportunities given to those who speak more than one language. These opportunities may be education, employment, or simply the ability to help those in need.
  • brain development and learning – when you learn other languages, the brain makes connections that enhance learning in other areas. Overall language skills improve, critical thinking is increase, and much more!

We have given each our children the opportunity to choose a language that interest them. My oldest daughter is fluent in Spanish and my son, who is a Junior in high school, is studying Japanese. My third child, Maddie, just turned 11 and has decided to study French in hopes of one day visiting Haiti.

Getting Started

Maddie has only been studying French for a few months. She is still what I would consider at a basic level, working on learning new vocabulary. Previously, she did not use a set curriculum to study French. I just found resources at the library or online to let her get her feet wet.

She has been very anxious to learn more and was very excited to try italki. The first thing we did was choose a teacher for her based on the recommendations of italki. They have set up a homeschool friendly page with suggested teachers who have experience teaching younger children. Honestly, I was so thankful for the recommendation as I would have had no idea who to choose from among so many teachers. We read through each of the recommended teacher profiles and chose one that we felt would be a good match for Maddie.

iTalki conversation @jasminejlucero

The Lessons

The lessons began with Maddie’s teacher calling her by video on Skype. The first couple of lessons she took were a bit of a technical struggle. We had gotten on Skype before hand to make sure everything was working, but for some reason our video stream didn’t work right away. Both times, my son was able to get things worked out, but it was a disappointment to miss the first 5-10 minutes of the lesson trying to figure out the technicalities.

However, once we had the video up and running the lessons went very smoothly. Each time, Maddie’s instructor, Lea, would go over different vocabulary words. Most of the time she spoke solely in French. At first, it was a little difficult for Maddie because she was unsure of what was being asked and didn’t know what she was required to do. But as time went on, she started to understand a little more and was able to participate more fully.

iTalki lesson @jasminejlucero

Lea was a great instructor, full of energy and enthusiasm. She sent Maddie a few handouts for her to print out and work on during her own time. During the lessons she would make the learning fun and engaging by creating visuals or activities to help increase the student’s understanding of the the material.

Final Thoughts

Maddie has taken a total of 6 classes now. She has thoroughly enjoyed the classes and I am pleased with her progress and learning.

I would recommend italki for all levels of language learning. However, I would like to add that while I think it is great for beginners, I think it would be even better for those with a few years of language learning under their belts.

Once a student has a solid vocabulary base, they are then able to use their time with their teacher to vocalize their newfound language skills. This is a skill that is difficult to learn and practice with a curriculum or computer program.

Another thought I would like to add is that while 6 lessons was great to get started, in order for real progress to be made I would recommend a longer commitment to the program. Student would then be able to get comfortable with the teacher, practice getting the words out (much harder than it seems!), and learn to actually speak the language.

In the future, I am hoping to enroll my son with a native Japanese speaker. I know it will be the next best thing to actually going to Japan (which he would love to do…maybe someday)!

Goodbye in different languages @jasminejlucero

Just For You

Ponder the Path readers will receive an additional $10 credit when they register with italki and buy any amount of italki credit.

How to Homeschool When Life Throws You a Curveball

How to Homeschool When Life Throws You a Curveball @jasminejlucero

In the past 12 years of homeschooling, I have…

–homeschooled a second grader and kindergartener with a four month old baby while my husband was in Kuwait for 6 months

–homeschooled while moving at least 9 times including 2 moves overseas and back

–homeschooled 6 kids ages 17 – newborn (who was being treated weekly for club feet) while my husband went back to Spain for 8 months

–homeschooled 6 kids alone in Texas while caring for my terminally ill mother

–homeschooled through many of life’s curveballs including births, deaths, illnesses, miscarriage, financial hardships, and times of being alone

And what I have learned through all of this…

Hebrews 13:5
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

I have met many homeschoolers over the years that are what I like to call “fair-weather homeschoolers”. You know, the ones that will homeschool if they are financial able, and if their husband helps, and if everything is just perfect.

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble and sound pessimistic–but if you hold out waiting for life to be just right in order for you to choose homeschooling (or continue to homeschool), you’re going to be waiting a long time!

The Lord didn’t command us to teach our children in the garden. He commanded it of us in this sin-tainted, death and disease stricken, life-is-hard world. I know that sounds a little harsh, but the reality is that we are to train up our children and teach them diligently even when life is hard…especially when life is hard!

And just how does that happen?

How to Homeschool When Life Throws You a Curveball

1. Keep #1 number 1.

Everything we do in this life should bring glory and honor to our Lord and Savior. He should be our focus during the good times and the bad. There were (and still are) many times that doing any school work was just too much. It was during these times that I would at least try to read from the Bible with the kids, or sing hymns or recite verses or listen to BBN. If I wasn’t able, my oldest daughter would read the Bible to the kids.

You may be so weak or overwhelmed that even this small task seems too much. I would encourage you to find some way to bring Jesus into the picture. If someone asks how they can help, have them read to you and the kids. Turn on an audio version of the Bible (there are some phone apps that do this) and listen from your phone. Call out to the Lord and ask Him make Himself known during this time.

2. Know that the kids are learning.

Sometimes it is easy to focus on academics and forget that true learning happens everyday all around us. And what better thing to learn than the character traits acquired during hardships. How many times my children have had to put other’s needs before their own? How much compassion did they learn as they brought water and food to a dying grandmother? How they have matured as they have given and served those they love!

If they had been in school all day, they would have missed out on the blessings that can only be received when we have empties ourselves of all our wants and desires and became the hands and feet of Jesus.

My oldest daughter is studying to become a midwife. I truly believe that allowing her to experience hardships first hand during her schooling years has allowed to to develop the skills she will need to do the job God has called her to do.

3. Know that this too shall pass.

Right now is not forever. Life changes in an instant, and though we don’t know the road ahead, we do know the one who created the road. He will carry us through this difficult time, and each one that comes our way.

Psalm 30:5
…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Life is like the ebb and flow of the ocean. There will be times of hardship followed by times of joy. I lost my mom last year to cancer, but was able to welcome her namesake into the world this week. Tears of joy flowed as I held my precious niece and thanked God for His mercy and goodness!

joy-in-the-morning @jasminejlucero

Final Thought

I guess I really haven’t given you an outline on “how to homeschool” when life throws you a curveball. Because, well, sometimes life is just too hard to homeschool. And that is OK. Just pull your children close and know there will be time for academics. Just not now. There will be time for reading and writing and arithmetic. Just not now. There will be time for the school learning, but now is the time to be still.

I like to think of it as a race. If you were running a marathon and you fell down and hurt yourself, would you give up and quit the race? Or would you hobble through the next mile, get your groove back, and finish the race you were called to run?

We are all going to hobble around a bit now and then, it is finishing the race that really counts!

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This post and many more are part of the Teach Them Diligently Summer of Encouragement Link Up series! You can read More about How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling HERE

Homeschool Encouragement Basket Giveaway

35 homeschool bloggers have joined forces in a
HUGE homeschool basket giveaway! Each blogger below is conducting her own giveaway, so make sure to visit each one for a chance to win!!!

Win This from Ponder the Path

Homeschool Encouragement Gift Basket

Included in my Basket of Encouragement:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ihn-currclick-promo

CurrClick is a sponsor of my gift basket. Be sure to visit CurrClick to learn more about their upcoming Open House, where you can receive discounts and win free classes!

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iHN-Back-to-School

(1) Back to School Toolkit from Milk and Cookies
(2)†Back to School Toolkit from These Temporary Tents
(3)†Back to School Toolkit from Spell Outloud
(4)†Back to School Toolkit from Great Peace Academy
(5)†Back to School Toolkit from Gricefully Homeschooling

……

(6) Back to School Toolkit from Raising Lifelong Learners
(7) Back to School Toolkit from WriteShop
(8) Back to School Toolkit from Preschoolers and Peace
(9) Back to School Toolkit from Starts at Eight
(10) Back to School Toolkit from Joyful Mothering

……

(11) Back to School Toolkit from Harrington Harmonies
(12) Back to School Toolkit from Ponder the Path
(13) Back to School Toolkit from Forever, For Always, No Matter What
(14) Back to School Toolkit from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
(15) Back to School Toolkit from Habits for a Happy Home

……

(16) Back to School Toolkit from Curriculum Choice
(17) Back to School Toolkit from See Jamie Blog
(18) Back to School Toolkit from Beautiful Motherhood
(19) Back to School Toolkit from Sam’s Noggin
(20) Back to School Toolkit from This Reading Mama

……

(21) Back to School Toolkit from Teaching Mama
(22) Back to School Toolkit from Adorable Chaos
(23) Back to School Toolkit from The Pelsers
(24) Back to School Toolkit from Hodge Podge
(25) Back to School Toolkit from Sallie Borrink

……

(26) Back to School Toolkit from The Kennedy Adventures
(27) Back to School Toolkit from Flourish
(28) Back to School Toolkit from Our Journey Westward
(29) Back to School Toolkit from Meet Penny
(30) Back to School Toolkit from On Faith and Coffee

……

(31) Back to School Toolkit from Our Abundant Blessings
(32) Back to School Toolkit from Holistic Homeschooler
(33) Back to School Toolkit from The Encouraging Home
(34) Back to School Toolkit from Motherhood on a Dime
(35) Back to School Toolkit from The Homeschool Scientist

……

Preschool Fun: Stellaluna

Stellaluna @ponderthepath

{image credit: My daughter, Maddie, has been learning photography and helping take pictures for the blog. I think she did a great job with this one!}

Sometimes in the busyness of homeschooling older children, the younger ones miss out on fun projects and learning of their own. In our family, I have to be intentional about making sure I spend time doing hands on learning with the preschoolers. It doesn’t have to fancy or take up a lot of time. Something simple is usually best.

One of the best ways to incorporate learning and fun is to choose a simple children’s book. After reading the book with the children, choose an activity that relates to the story.

We recently checked out a long-time favorite…Stellaluna. Stellaluna is a young bat that is separated from her mother and ends up in a next of birds. She just doesn’t fit in and feels down about her failures, until she discovers she is really a bat. A wonderful book that teaches us to be the person God created us to be!

Stellaluna pages @ponderthepath

For our related craft, I did a quick search on YouTube and found some how-to videos teaching basic origami.

“Ori” is the Japanese word for folding and “Kami” is the word for paper.

We made origami bats and an origami wing flapping bird. Even the older kids joined in on the fun. The two year old was a bit young to make his own, but he did get some practice using the scissors to cut paper. I love it when everyone is learning, even if it wasn’t planned or structured.

Origami bat @ponderthepath

Origami bird @ponderthepath

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If you would like more great storybook and craft ideas, check out the other bloggers from iHomeschool Network!

We also read The Big Hungry Bear and made strawberry shortcakes and would love to share that with you as well.

A-Book-and-a-Big-Idea

Preschool Fun: The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

The Big Hungry Bear @ponderthepath

The Big Hungry Bear has been a loooong time favorite at our house. Little Mouse picks a red ripe strawberry. The narrator talks Little Mouse into sharing the strawberry in order to keep it safe from Big Hungry Bear.

The Big Hungry Bear @ponderthepath

My favorite aspect of the book is the beautifully drawn illustrations. When Little Mouse pulls the strawberry from the vine, you can feel the vine shaking. And when he cuts the strawberry in half, the sweet juiciness entices even the reader to want to share the strawberry.

Strawberry Shortcake @ponderthepath

A classic story such as The Big Hungry Bear deserves a classic recipe to highlight the strawberry goodness. I pulled out my 40 year old Betty Crocker cookbook and found a sweet recipe for Strawberry Shortcakes.

Shortcake Recipe @ponderthepath

It is simple enough even the boys could help me out.

Making Shortcake Dough @ponderthepath

After making the dough, roll it out and cut out personal size shortcakes using a cup.

Shortcake Dough @ponderthepath

Whipping up the cream is the best part, especially for little mechanically minded boys!

Making Whipped Cream @ponderthepath

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If you would like more great storybook and craft ideas, check out the other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network!

We also read Stellaluna and made origami bats and birds…would love to share that with you as well.

A-Book-and-a-Big-Idea

Curriculum Choices 2013-2014

curriculum choices @ponderthepath

This year is going to be a bit different for me. The last couple of years I have had to focus on high school kiddos, getting them graduated and where they need to be. But this year my 16 year old will be taking dual credit classes at the community college, which will free me up to do some fun things with the younger kids.

Our younger children will be in grades 6th, 3rd, and Pre K (along with a 2 1/2 year old…oh boy!), so it should be a good year for some hands on learning! I am actually very excited to get started with school this year, as the last couple of years we have been in survival mode. I am praying that this year will be a year of refreshment.

Homeschooling Methods

Generally, we are relaxed homeschoolers who somewhat follow a Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. In theory, I would like to incorporate the Charlotte Mason method more thoroughly. In practice, I just haven’t been able to do all that I would like to and our method has really been more about doing what we can when we can.

Some of my favorite resources for Charlotte Mason learning are:

Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

Ambleside Online

Simply Charlotte Mason

Bible

For years I searched for a Bible curriculum and never found one that worked for us. At the time, I started just teaching each day from the Bible. This has worked out so well for us, doesn’t require any planning, and allows me to let the Lord guide our learning each day.

What we do is start our Bible time with the singing of hymns (I usually let the kids pick them out, or I will choose something if there is a hymn on my heart.) My oldest daughter plays the piano while we sing. Then we have a time of prayer. After that, we recite our memory verses, then read from our Bibles.

Depending on how everyone is doing (remember, we have little ones in the bunch), we will read 1-2 chapters. I have the kids take turns reading, even the ones that are just learning to read. We use the KJV and I have found that having them read each day helps tremendously with their reading skills. As we read, we will pause and discuss what we are reading.

To keep track of our reading (where we are and what we have read), I use a Bible checklist that I found online. I love visuals to help me know where I am at and help keep me on track.

History/Language Arts

Early American INTSG

History has always been the core of our learning each year. I try to tie in our language arts and history so that we are getting more bang for our buck. (I don’t like doing more than I have to!)

For history this year, we will be learning about early American history. Beautiful Feet Books is one of my favorite sources for living history books. In fact, I started out using them 12 years ago and here I am reading the great again with my second round of kids! It is always neet to pull out old books and remember when the older kids were little. And then to experience the stories all over from the perspective of different children. What a blessing it is to teach our children at home!

What I usually do is start with a core read aloud and generally build around it. I will choose readers for the kids that complement the read aloud and are age appropriate. I have tried and tried to use different curriculums, but I always modify them so much they never really resemble the original curriculum.

This year I have a membership with Notebooking Pages, so I am excited to see how it fits in with our studies. I like the fact that I can custom create pages that work with whatever I decide to do *and* I have lifetime access to the pages, so I don’t feel like I have to cram them all in at once! I plan on using the Notebooking Pages to reinforce what we are reading, as well as teach handwriting and dictation skills.

I am still a little unsure about grammar/writing/spelling this year. Still pondering this one.

Science

earth and space

After living in Kansas for 1 1/2 years, I have a little boy who is fascinated by weather, especially tornados! We have checked out books at the library and read every book we have at home, but his fascination continues.

With that in mind, I am really thrilled to try something new for science this year. We will be using Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space, which covers such things as geology, atmosphere, and WEATHER! Science is one of the areas that sometimes gets pushed to the back burner when life gets busy. I wanted something that was super easy to implement and didn’t take much prep work from me.

I also got the student activity book to go along with the text. I plan on just printing out copies of the worksheets for all the kids to work on. I love this because I can make copies for the little guys too (makes them feel big) and not feel bad if all they do is scribble on them.

Math

Math is a pretty easy one this year. We will be using Math-U-See once again. It is a solid program, although I haven’t taken full advantage of the videos that accompany the curriculum. I usually just explain how to do things then let them take off.

I haven’t quite decided what to do for the 4 year old. Normally, I don’t start any formal schooling until around 1st grade. But he is a sharp cookie and really wants to “do some school”. So I may buy the Alpha book for him and just let him play with it and move at his own pace. If he is ready for it, fine. If not, we’ll put it up til next year. {edited: I just went to the Math-U-See website and lo-and-behold they have a “primer” math for the little guys!}

Math-U-See

Another thing I love about Math-U-See are the manipulative blocks. Like I said, I don’t always teach according to the videos. And some concepts I teach using a different approach all together. But I am always able to use the math blocks to help them visualize the concept they are learning. This is so important for the younger years when math concepts are so foreign to them. Whether you use blocks, or silverware, or buttons–having something tangible makes a huge difference! The blocks are also great for keeping toddlers busy building while the older ones do their lessons!

Music

composers

All of my older children play instruments and sing, so I always feel that we have music covered. We sing hymns in church or the girls learn new ones to play for different audiences. They learn blue grass tunes and old folk type songs, so I really think Charlotte would be proud.

One area that I do want to focus on this year, though, is learning about the classical composers. My oldest daughter learned more classical pieces on the piano, and the younger girls haven’t really done that. We will be using Bright Idea Press’ Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers. It consists of 32 weeks worth of lessons covering 26 composers. They will listen to the music (I think I have most of the composers in my VOX collection), learn about the lives of the composers, and about the different periods of music. Worksheets are included to help facilitate learning.

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This post and many more are part of the Teach Them Diligently Summer of Encouragement Link Up series! You can read More about How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling HERE

This post is also part of iHomeschool Network’s Not Back-to-School Blog Hop.

nbtsbloghopcalendar2013

Disclosure Policy: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Be Encouraged Homeschool Mom

How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling

Homeschooling is tough.

It is an absolute battle.

Homeschool Beginnings

For many of us, we entered into this homeschool thing with visions of children sitting quietly at their desk working on their schoolwork. We just knew they would sit and play lovingly and kindly with their siblings all day. And because we are at home all day, we can keep the house clean and wonderful meals ready at 12:00 and 5:00 everyday.

And then reality sets in. Kids rebel, siblings fight, the house looks like a tornado came through, and we struggle just to get the kids a sandwich at 1:30. It doesn’t take long for the honeymoon to end and we realize just how hard it is to be a homeschooling mother.

Our Homeschool Journey

I remember when I first started homeschooling 12 years ago. My oldest daughter had gone to public school for kindergarten and 1st grade. We began homeschooling her for 2nd grade and her brother was preschool age. I spent hours, days, weeks setting up our schedule and planning how things were going to be. I planned that we would say a prayer, then the pledge of allegiance in the morning. Then we would sing songs and sit at the table while each child worked on their projects and schoolwork.

Then we started school.

No one was ready on time. Everyone was grouchy (especially me). Attention spans were short. 2nd graders did not like preschoolers to mess with their things and preschoolers screamed because they couldn’t mess with 2nd graders things. By lunch time, Mama was exhausted and hadn’t even thought about what to eat for lunch.

Read-alouds were scheduled for after lunch and most days Mama fell asleep reading and missed doing all the afternoon lessons she had scheduled.

In short, I felt like a failure.

For many years.

Being Discouraged

I had the fierce desire to homeschool. I knew that it was exactly what the Lord wanted us to do. I just didn’t realize how hard is was really going to be. I didn’t understand that it encompassed your whole being. Physically, emotionally, spiritually–they are all impacted by homeschooling.

And to make matters worse, I had to keep all my frustrations, my fears, my failures locked up inside. I couldn’t let my husband know how hard it really was because then he wouldn’t believe in me. He had only reluctantly agreed to homeschool after my begging and pleading. It wouldn’t have taken much for him to change his mind and send them back to public school.

So I plodded on, day by day, hoping to make some progress. And the Lord filled in all the gaps I had missed. He gently taught me and I in turn taught them. My husband came around and realized the benefits of homeschooling. And we graduated our first student last May.

I wish I could say “and I never have hard times anymore”. As we enter our 13th year of homeschooling, the battle has become even more fierce. There are now more children of all different ages. The “newness” of homeschooling has worn off and the reality of a life of teaching your children has set in. There are new challenges and obstacles to be faced each and every day.

Encouragement from the Lord

I am in continual need of encouragement.

Definition of Encourage @ponderthepath

The first definition Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives for encourage is “to give courage to”. It takes courage to keep your children home and attempt to teach them. It takes courage to step out against the grain and say “we are going to dare to be different”. It takes courage to put aside your own desires and dreams and embrace the dream the Lord has for you.

Many times when I think of the word “encourage”, I envision a pat on the back and some nice words letting the person know that it will be alright. And yes, this can be encouraging. But I really think encouragement is so much bolder. When we give encouragement to someone, we should be giving them the COURAGE to get the job done!

Definition of Courage @ponderthepath

I love 3rd definition of courage here, where the Webster’s 1828 dictionary says that courage is “that quality of mind which enables men {and women} to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits! WOW! That is what I need. The ability to face the difficulties of homeschooling with firmness, without fear, and without depression of spirits!

How many times have I let fear overtake me and become depressed because homeschooling was so overwhelming? Too many! As a homeschooling mom, I need to be encouraged {given courage} to get the job done.

Did you know that in the book of Joshua, the Lord tells Joshua at least 9 times to “be strong and of a good courage”? Joshua was headed into battle. God didn’t tell him that there wouldn’t be difficulties. He didn’t downplay what Joshua was going through. He didn’t give him an easier route to take. Instead, he imparted courage to Joshua.

Joshua 1:9
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

This same commandment is given to us, homeschooling moms!

Be encouraged!

Don’t be afraid or disheartened!

The Lord is with you wherever you are!

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This post and many more are part of the Teach Them Diligently Summer of Encouragement Link Up series! You can read More about How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling HERE

Disclosure Policy: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”