Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why the first year of homeschooling is so difficult

If you're new at homeschooling and having rough time of it, don't worry - you're not alone! Whether your kids have attended school somewhere else, or you’re starting to homeschool in the preschool or kindergarten years, adjusting to a homeschooling lifestyle does take some time.   Many people say that the first year of homeschooling is the most difficult.

Finding a curriculum that works for your family may take some time. Quite often, what a family starts homeschooling with has changed by the end of that first year. The process of trial and error means that what you thought would work well for your kids somehow didn’t live up to your expectations.  Luckily, there are so many different forms of curricula out there, with a little patience you’re sure to find the right fit.

Sometimes new homeschooling parents give their kids a period of "de-schooling" to adjust to the very different lifestyle of homeschoolers. Give yourself plenty of time to adjust and keep reminding yourself that the hard part is in the beginning and it will certainly get easier.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fourth grade: So much to learn, so little time!

Fourth grade: So much to learn, so little time!

Over time, we have touched on a few of the topics that your fourth grader will experience during the year. Truth be told, these topics were only the tip of the iceberg. In social studies she will study states and capitals, world maps, and civics. In language arts your fourth grader will become more fluent in reading, writing, and speaking. Some of those changes are because she has reached physical milestones that make speaking easier, and fine motor control of the pencil better. Some of those changes are because your child is gaining vocabulary and social skills that are a result of increasing maturity and the quest for independence. Friends become more important as your child expands her reach outside of the family. Fourth grade is an exciting and scary time when she is changing both mentally and physically. Remind your child about issues of safety regarding strangers and internet usage. Be willing to discuss topics that might make you uncomfortable. If they make you uncomfortable imagine how they make your child feel. Enjoy and feed her natural curiosity, and experience the world in a new way through the knowledge that your fourth grader absorbs on a daily basis. It is an exciting time, for her and for you. Make the most of it!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Should you ask your local school for help with homeschooling?

It seems everyone has a different opinion on the value of their local public school to their family’s homeschooling efforts. Folks who’ve had bad experiences with public schools are far less likely to look into extracurricular activities there for their kids, for example. Parents who’ve never dealt with the public schools may not have a knowledge base of how these schools function. But in either case, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your local public school system.
Some school districts will allow homeschoolers to receive services like speech therapy or occupational therapy at their schools, for example, and others will only provide evaluations for these services, but not the services themselves. Some districts allow homeschoolers to participate in after school sports or clubs, and others won’t. It can’t hurt to ask, and to know their policies.
In some parts of the country, homeschoolers can attend public school part time, or enroll in just certain classes. Maybe you’d like to cover the core curricula at home but have your child take an art or foreign language course at the school. Private schools will also sometimes offer these types of things to homeschoolers, so don’t overlook their resources.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The First Thanksgiving

What do you think the pilgrims ate at that first Thanksgiving Dinner way back in the 1600”s? Do you think they had turkey like we do today. We know that lobster, goose, duck, seal, eel, and cod were plentiful during this time. It is entirely possible that these items were on that first Thanksgiving table. Historians don’t really know for sure. They do know that wild fowl and deer meat were on the menu.

According to one story, the Queen of England was celebrating a harvest festival with roast goose when she was told that the Spanish had sunk their boat while on their way to attack England. The story says that the Queen was so happy she ordered a second goose to be cooked to continue the celebration. This began the tradition for serving goose at the fall harvest festival. When the pilgrims arrived in America they discovered that wild turkeys were much more readily available than geese were. So the tradition quickly became to serve a turkey on this holiday.

Another story says that they ate turkey because it was available. One turkey could feed more people that several chickens. Besides that they needed to keep the chickens for their eggs. They didn’t want to eat the cows because they needed the milk. And how many quail do you think it would take to feed a large crowd. Turkeys were big, they would feed a lot of people, and they had no other use than to be eaten. Also, the turkey was easier to hunt than geese.

Today we celebrate what has come to be know as Turkey Day because the turkey is such an important part of this holiday meal. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole have all become so common that we think the meal can not be complete without them. Oh and let’s not forget the cranberry sauce.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Where Did The Halloween Pumpkin Come From?

Where did the Halloween Pumpkin come from?

Pumpkin carving, it is perhaps the biggest tradition of Halloween. But it's not the first vegetable to be carved.

Long before pumpkin carving became popular, Celtic people in Ireland were carving turnips and lighting them with embers, to ward off evil spirits. This Celtic custom was the historical root of pumpkin carving. The Irish immigrants brought their tradition with them. Pumpkins are native to America. In those days, they were not found in Ireland. As Irish immigrants came to America, they discovered pumpkins. They quickly discovered that hollow, softer pumpkins, were much easier to carve.

Carving turnips dates back many hundreds of years, to ancient Celtic customs and traditions. This was commonly done on All Hollow's Eve, of which Halloween takes much of it's origin. Carving turnips never quite caught on in America.....thanks to pumpkins. But, you can try your hand at carving turnips for Halloween.

Did you Know? Rutabagas were also carved and lit to keep evil spirits away.

This was taken from The pumpkin Nook is full of history and tradition surrounding Halloween. Want to learn about the largest pumpkin ever grown? Or do you want to learn about the largest pumpkin pie? There is so much fun information on this website. You can find recipes, jokes and riddles, fun facts. I have to warn you that they do sell somethings on this page as well. But I just skip over that part and enjoy all the fun stuff.

Happy Halloween everyone.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Pumpkin Patch

We went to the pumpkin patch today. What a great time it was. We got to meet a new homeschool family. We got to go on a hay ride. We got to spend the afternoon with friends.

It was a really long drive to get to the pumpkin patch. It took us nearly an hour to get there. We were the first family from our group to arrive. Pretty soon a mom walked by with two kids who looked like they should be in school. She saw my son and I sitting there and decided to see if we were homeschoolers. We had a great time getting to know each other. We found out that our new friend was an accidental homeschooler. She didn't plan on homeschooling but some things happened that made homeschooling the best option for her family. A few minutes later another family from our group arrived. Soon everyone was there and we went off to investigate the place.

The first place we stopped at was the duck races. I don’t know what I was expecting. But it wasn’t what we found. There were a series of tubes that had hand pumps at each end. The kids had to pump the hand pumps to send the little rubber ducks across the tube. I think the kids could have spent the whole day right there. Until they saw the corn box that is. Imagine a sandbox only it was filled with dried corn. They had little dump trucks and graders in the corn box. Our kids had a great time playing in it.

Next we went on a hayride through the spooky forest. We saw graves and tombstones and haunted houses. Even a toxic waste dump.

After the hayride we went to the corn maze. Before we knew it we had spent five hours at the pumpkin patch. It was time to pick out a pumpkin and go home. My son slept most of the ride home. He was totally exhausted.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall The Most Beautiful Time of the Year

I love fall. It’s a great time of year. I love all the beautiful colors of the leaves. I love the smells of a fire in the fireplace, pumpkin pie fresh from the oven, hot chocolate on the stove. The air is so crisp in the morning. I love the sound of the leaves as they rustle in the wind. And the sounds of children laughing as the jump in piles of freshly raked leaves. Or the sound of that crackling fire. I think fall is my favorite time of year.

The days are getting shorter and shorter. We spend a lot more time with the lights on. It’s time to put the garden to rest for the year. It’s time to finish up all those projects you’ve been working on outside. Now you can get out the knitting and start working on warm hats and mittens. Now we can start spending more time with the books improving reading fluency.

There’s really only one thing that I don’t like about fall. It means that winter is right around the corner. I can totally do without the snow and ice and bitter cold. What’s your favorite thing about the fall?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chemistry Fun

Today we are learning about chemistry. We started out by baking bread. As we watched the yeast bubble and grow we talked about the chemical reaction that causes this. While the bread was rising we decided to see what happens when you mix baking soda with a bit of vinegar. We put the baking soda into a film canister and added a bit of vinegar. Then we ran back to a safe distance and watched. The cap shot off the film canister.

Then we decided to see if diet coke and Mentos really works. What we found is that yes, if you drop a handful of Mentos candy into a full two liter bottle of diet coke you’d better get away fast. It shot almost 10 feet in to the air. We tried adding more Mentos to the remaining coke in the bottle but it did nothing at all.

Next we thought we would make slime. What fun we had playing with slime for the afternoon. Here's an easy slime recipe.
2 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Cornstarch
Food coloring
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add cornstarch, then food colouring while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. This makes a messy slime that goes from liquid to solid, and is great fun to play with.

Finally our bread had risen to the point that it was ready to bake. When it came out of the oven we quickly spread it with butter and had a delicious snack. Who knew chemistry could taste so good. We love learning science the unschooling way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What Are Your Favorite Educational TV Shows?

What are your favorite educational TV shows? My son loves to watch "Mythbusters" and "How It's Made". I can’t believe how much he has learned from these two shows. He has watched shows about beekeeping and shows about making a drum. There are so many topics that they cover. I love that both of these shows are well researched and educationally sound. You can’t say that about a lot of the TV that’s out there.

My son also like to watch the shows on Animal Planet. You can go online to to explore the same animals you watch on Animal Planet. They have pictures of all kinds of animals from sharks to pets. You can also play games and test your knowledge of these animals and their habits. They even have a print magazine that you can subscribe to.

The History Channel is just what you need if you want to learn about the Civil War or The first Space Flight. Ancient History to modern history, it’s all there for you.

I love the fact that all you have to do is turn the TV dial and you can go from mindless nothingness to real history. Yes, this is a great homeschool curriculum to me.

Monday, April 30, 2012


We are learning about the slave days. One of the things we did was go to an historical site and learn what it was like for one family to own slaves in the 1800’s. It was interesting to hear about life for this family. But that did not teach my son about the life of a slave in the south. I found a wonderful series of comic books called Chester Comix. They have one that is about the Underground Railroad. My son has devoured this book. He loves the comic book format. I think he has learned more about the Underground Railroad from this one comic book than he has from any other source. This book is about Harriet Tubman and other famous women in history.

We will definitely be buying more of them for other areas of history. We also love to use the Chester Comix as a basis for lapbooking. Lapbooking is another great way to make history come alive for your children. As they research the material, they can then develop their very own book on the subject.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


My son loves to build rockets. He woke up late one night when he was about two years old. Daddy was watching the movie, Apollo 13. He stayed up and watched the entire movie. Ever since then he has said he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. When he was about three years old, Daddy took him to his first rocket launch. That was the beginning of his love for rockets. Soon, Daddy brought home a rocket kit. They spent hours at the kitchen table working on this rocket. You can’t imagine the pride in his eyes when it was completed. They went to a local rocket club the next month and launched the rocket that they had built. My son’s face just lit up when his rocket lifted off. As soon as it hit the ground he was running out to get it. “Again, again,” he cried. Over and over again they launched their rocket that day.

Since that time my son has built many many rockets. He brought home a pile of scraps from rocket club one day and put them together to build a rocket. Now he designs and builds all of his own rockets. This is such and exciting way to learn homeschool math and science.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Physical Education

What do you do for physical education? I mean nine year old boys, they run all the time. They don’t really have a slow speed. Everything they do is fast and faster. So do they really need a time that is set aside for physical education? I don’t think they do. My son plays soccer three times a week. He plays on a city league that has a game and a practice every week. He also plays on a homeschool soccer league. In the city league he gets to learn the rules of soccer. He learns what it means to play competitively. But in the homeschool league he learns to play as a team. He learns what it means to help the other kids that you are playing with. He learns sportsmanship. To me that is so much more important than learning the rules of soccer. For us, soccer is what we write down as our health games and physical education class. But I think he also gets physical education during the afternoon after soccer when he is hanging out with his friends in the park.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How Do You Handle Handwriting?

How do you handle handwriting? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I get asked a lot of questions about handwriting. But to be honest, I try not to think a lot about it. I bought a book called Handwriting Without Tears for my son. But to be honest, it should be called Handwriting With Lots and Lots of Tears. It is pure torture to get him to sit down and do anything in it. We have had it for three years now and he is still not even halfway through the book. Handwriting is just not something he is in to. Fortunately his main homeschool curriculum is on the computer so he doesn’t have to write much. We live in a world where more and more of our work is done on the computer. So there just isn’t the emphasis on handwriting that there used to be. I remember the hours of handwriting worksheets that I had to do as a child. If each letter wasn’t formed perfectly we had to do it all over again. It just isn’t that way any more.

My son can write all the letters if he has to. Well, actually he can print all the letters. Is it really necessary for him to learn to write them in cursive? I’ve been trying to figure that out. I guess he does need to sign his name. I mean, as an adult, I have to sign my name all the time. I have to sign checks. I have to sign credit card receipts. I have to sign for packages from the UPS man. I to sign for prescriptions at the pharmacy. I know as my son grows up he will need to sign these things as well. So maybe he does need to write in cursive. At least he needs to learn to write his name. Oh man, I can just see the struggle starting. It’s too bad he can’t just carry around a handstamp with his signature on it. He would love something like that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Geography Post Cards

I was talking to my son about going to visit his sister in Iowa. When I asked him where Iowa was, he said it was somewhere in the middle. I decided maybe we needed to work a bit on geography. I found some fun geography games online. But I thought we needed something more than that. One of the online groups that I am on had a discussion about postcard kids. I decided to check them out so I went to yahoo groups and did a search for them. Soon I found the post card kids group and signed up. I put my son on the list of people looking for post cards. We went out the next day looking for post cards from our state to send back out to the families who sent cards to us. The post card kids group suggested that we look at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or a local bookstore. Well, we went to Walgreens. We went to three local bookstore. I sent a friend to Wal-Mart. No postcards for our state could be found anywhere. I finally thought about a truck stop out on the highway. I remembered seeing lots of post cards there in the past so off we went. That’s where we finally found our post cards. We looked up interesting facts about our state and typed them up. We pasted the fun facts to the back of the post cards and waited.
We didn’t have to wait long. In a few days our mailbox began to fill up with post cards. As each post card arrived we looked at a big map to find out where the state was located. We read the interesting fun facts about each state on the post cards. Then we tucked the card into a notebook. We now have a notebook full of postcards from every state in the country. We also have some from China, Canada, Mexico, France, and Australia. I haven’t found a better way yet to learn about geography. You should try it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fourth Grade Fractions

Fractions can be really hard for some kids. My son likes math but he doesn’t like to work. If he has to think about something he really is not interested. This goes for fractions as well as anything else. My son also loves to eat. So I thought why not combine fractions with food. So that is just what we did. I decided we were having pizza for lunch. First we made the crust. I spread it out in that pan. Then my son poured sauce all over it. I don’t like mushrooms but my son loves them. So I asked him how much of the pizza he was going to eat. He decided he would eat half. So we put mushrooms on his half of the pizza. I decided that I wanted pepperoni on my part of the pizza. But I knew I wouldn’t eat half of a pizza. So we divided my half in half again. We now had four quarters of pizza. Two for my son, or half for him, one for me and one left over. Then my son sprinkled cheese all over the pizza. We popped it in the oven and in a few minutes we were taking our piping hot lunch out of the oven.. We cut each quarter of the pizza in half again. Now we had eight pieces of pizza. My son took his half of the pizza. He had four pieces or four eights. One half is the same as four eighths. I had two pieces of pizza. So we could see that two eights is the same as one quarter. And we had two pieces left for a snack later. It didn’t take long until we had no pizza left. Zero eighths is the same as nothing. Dakota loves his fraction lessons. Learning with food is fun.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Compound Words

My son is a very reluctant reader. He just has not had much interest in learning to read. He does his language arts curriculum and seems to understand it. But when you ask him to read out loud he refuses. “I can’t read” is his standard reply. Recently we have been working on larger words. Compound words are two words that have been put together to form another word. Often the word that is formed has nothing to do with the original two words. Butterfly has nothing to do with either butter or a fly. But we all like to watch the butterfly as it flits from flower to flower drinking the nectar from each plant. My son would look at the word butterfly and tell me that it is too hard to read. One day I figured out that if I cover half the word, he can read the other half. I covered the second half of the word and he read butter. Then I covered the first half and he read fly. I then showed him the whole word. He read butterfly. He could see and read the whole word. By breaking it down into smaller parts he could read it. Sometimes we play compound word games to help him understand how to break the words apart.

I doesn’t have to be a compound word to read this way. Any large word can be broken in to parts to make it easier to read. Try this and see if it helps your reluctant reader.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I love field trips. We try to go out as often as we can. Sometimes we go to a local environmental center. Sometimes we go to historical sites. This week we went to the art museum. When we first went to the art museum my son was about five years old. As we were leaving he looked at me and said, “That was soooooooooooooooooooooooo verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyy boooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring. I took that to mean that hw did not have a good time. For a while I considered not going back. Art was something that I had no experience with as a child. Sure we drew pictures in school but that was about the extent of my art appreciation. I really wanted my son to have a little more of a foundation in art than that. So we went back. And we continued to go back. Ms. Peggy is wonderful with the kids. She takes them on a short tour of the art museum. Then they all come back to the auditorium and create an art project based on the part of the museum that they toured that day. This week they started with a basic skull shape. Then they used paint, paper, ribbon, string, pipe cleaners, markers, feathers, and all kinds of other things to turn this plain paper skull into a work of art. It was awesome to see how the kids were able to create beautiful items from all the chaos. Several of the kids turned their papers into masks. They glued a stick to the back to hold the mask up in front of their faces. One little girl made a whole doll by putting a paper blouse on her mask and then attached ribbons to make a skirt. My son no longer considers the art museum a boring place. He looks forward to the class each month. This is the most important part of his art curriculum. Art has become an exciting subject for him.