Author Archives: Sallie

5 Reasons Why We Love Our Homeschool Coop

5 Reasons Why We Love Our Homeschool Co-op

5 Reasons Why We Love Our Homeschool Coop

I confess I had heard so many negative stories about homeschool co-ops that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join one. But I also knew that co-ops can vary widely based on the make-up of the group so we should probably give it a try. Most importantly we wanted Caroline to have lots of experiences with other children because she is an only child. Overall, giving co-op a try made sense.

I am very thankful to say that our co-op has been a huge blessing!

We moved to our present home just before Caroline started kindergarten and were fortunate to discover that there was a large, well-established Christian co-op in our new town with a variety of classes from preschool through twelfth grade.  It is a drop-off co-op meaning that we are not required to teach to be a part of the co-op. It is also more expensive because of that, but the cost is worth it compared to everything that all three of us get out of it.

Here are 5 reasons why we love our homeschool co-op.

Experienced and Knowledgeable Instructors

The classes are taught by very well-qualified tutors. (They call them tutors, not teachers, as a recognition that the parents are the teachers. The tutors are there to assist the parents.) All of the tutors have degrees in the subjects they teach and many of them have advanced degrees.

The younger students have enrichment classes, but as they move into later elementary school and into junior high and high school, the classes are academic. I’m very thankful to know that Caroline can take classes in areas that aren’t necessarily my strength as she gets older and that she will be able to take them with well-qualified instructors just a few miles from our home!

Positive Mix of Families

The co-op is Christian and has a basic doctrinal statement. Beyond that, there is a lot of diversity in the families. For the most part it’s just a very regular group of people committed to home educating their children with a Christian world-view.

The co-op atmosphere feels like a safe place. By that I mean that it’s a safe place for Caroline to interact with lots of families from different denominations without feeling pressure to conform to certain extra-biblical requirements. I’ve never felt from any of the parents that there are unwritten rules to be a good parent or a good homeschooler. It’s pretty much live and let live as far as I can tell. I truly appreciate that.

Classroom and School-ish Experience

Because Caroline is an only child and has never been to school, we like that co-op gives her a taste of the classroom and school-ish experience. She has the opportunity to interact in a group with other children, learn how to negotiate peer relationships, and have experience in group learning. Because she’s only there for a couple of hours a week, the classroom time doesn’t become boring as it probably would for her in a traditional classroom.

It has been good for Caroline to learn to wait her turn in a group setting and understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her. It’s tricky being the parent of an only child. There are some life and relationship lessons that are just more challenging to teach when you only have one child. Co-op has given her situations that push her to grow in ways she might not get otherwise.

Break for Mom and Dad

We appreciate our drop-off co-op because it gives David and me a break! As a homeschooling, work-at-home family we spend a LOT of time together at home. A few hours each week when we get a break from parenting is really nice! And, in all honesty, it is a good break for Caroline from us as well.

Less Planning

Caroline has enrolled in two classes each year. It’s nice that I don’t have to plan for those subjects. This year Caroline is taking art and gym. I don’t have to think about those subjects all year if I don’t want to. It is nice to outsource some of our learning, freeing me up to do other things.

Overall, our homeschool co-op experience has been fantastic. If you don’t have a co-op like this where you live, it would truly be worth your time to try to get a group of parents together with a similar vision and see if you could accomplish something similar.

 

This post is part of iHN’s Dueling Blog Posts series. La ToyaTo read the opposite opinion, please visit the lovely LaToya and read her take in Why Co-ops Don’t Work for Us. Then click on the graphic below to discover more dueling blog posts!

 

 

dueling

Reader Survey – September 2014

I am very interested in knowing more about my readers. Who reads here? Why do you read here? How can I better serve you?

Would you please take a few minutes and complete this short 10 question survey? No identifying information will be collected. And it will greatly help me make the most of my time so I provide content and products that help you the most.

Thank you!

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Apple-Bundle-Covers-082314

Apples Unit BUNDLE with Literacy and Math Activities, Fun Fact Cards and KWL

Apple-Bundle-Covers-082314

This bundled packet includes three of my most popular products! When bundled together, you save money over buying them separately.

It includes:

Apples Galore! Literacy and Math Pack

Apples Fun Fact Cards

Apples KWL

I also have a Fall and Pumpkins Bundle!

Apples Unit BUNDLE with Literacy and Math Activities, Fun Fact Cards and KWL
Apples Unit BUNDLE with Literacy and Math Activities, Fun Fact Cards and KWL
Apples Unit BUNDLE with Literacy and Math Activities, Fun Fact Cards and KWL
Price: $6.50

Preparing Your Homeschool Substitute Teacher Plans and Bin

Preparing Your Homeschool Substitute Teacher Plans and Bin

Preparing Your Homeschool Substitute Teacher Plans and Bin

At the beginning of the school year, every classroom teacher prepares for a sub. Since she often doesn’t know in advance she will need a sub, the teacher has a folder ready to go from the first day. It usually includes a wide variety of easy-to-implement and ready-to-go activities.

Have you ever thought about preparing your own substitute homeschool teacher plans?

Of course as homeschooling parents we don’t have an actual sub come in and work with our children if we’re sick and can’t teach for a particular day. But we can put together a plan ahead of time so when the eventual illness does catch up to us, we have something to save the day.

Self-directed, Highly Engaging Activities

I think the key to making a successful bin is to avoid meaningless busywork that can be completed in a couple of minutes (like coloring pictures – unless your child really loves them). The bin needs to be filled with engaging, self-directed activities or else it really defeats the purpose. If your kids have to come ask for your assistance every five minutes, you might as well be doing schoolwork with them and counting it as a day!

It’s also wise to not give the kids the entire bin at one time or they will go through everything in an hour and come back saying they are bored with the rest of the day before you. Let them choose one activity and require them to use it for a decent amount of time before they can trade it in for something else.

Preparing a Homeschool Substitute Teacher Bin

A medium storage bin works really well for this. The bin should be full of new-to-them, self-directed activities that will keep your children engaged. Naturally the contents will vary a lot based on the ages of your children. Things to include could be:

DVDs for kids

New board games

New card games

New puzzles

Puzzle books

Craft kits

New LEGO sets

New children’s books

Amazon Gift Card w/balance to download new apps, books, etc.

Links to learning websites that are new to your children

Again, select items that work for your particular children and your particular needs. You can decide if you want them to keep the items out at the end of the day or if everything gets packed away to be brought out again when another substitute teacher day arrives.

What other things would you add to your bin?

Pearson Homeschool Science Curriculum

Pearson Homeschool Science Curriculum Review

Pearson Homeschool Science CurriculumI received this product for free. I am being compensated for my time to use the product and write this review. All opinions are my own and I was not required to provide a positive review.

Science is one of those subjects that we’ve been pretty relaxed with so far. I haven’t done any formal science curriculum with Caroline to this point. She’s very interested in science (as long as it’s not gross or messy!), but we’ve been pretty laid back. We’ve read a lot of books and watched a lot of science DVDs and programming on the Kindle. When I had the opportunity to review the Pearson Homeschool Science Curriculum, I was curious as to how Caroline would respond to a science workbook type approach. Although Caroline is a third grader age-wise, we agreed to review the first grade curriculum.

(And, yes, I am aware of the connection between Pearson and Common Core.)

Consumable and Colorful Science Homeschool Textbook

The first thing I noticed when I flipped open the First Grade Interactive Science Book is that it is colorful! It is full of nice layouts such as the following:

Pearson life cycleand

Pearson night skyand

Pearson soil typesChildren who like something colorful and full of pictures will like this book. Caroline was very interested in flipping through the book when she saw it and stopped several times to check out the pictures and information.

Becoming a Scientist

The first two chapters introduce children to the topic of becoming a scientist. The first chapter includes topics about how scientists work, their tools, and how they find and share data. The second chapter focuses on design and problem solving. So from the very beginning of the book, children are learning how to be scientists and think like scientists.

The book also introduces scientific language, using terms such as record, predict, investigate, observe, conclude, procedure, infer, etc. So for moms wanting something that includes more “formal” science language in their science program, there is that feature as well.

For moms who are looking for simple science experiments and don’t want to look all over Pinterest to cobble together their own curriculum, this book offers quite a few. They are basic and in keeping in line with the first grade level.

Minimal Writing

With a right-brained child who doesn’t enjoy writing, minimal writing is always a plus in our home. Students do record answers, but the writing is not extensive. They also learn to record data with some of the experiments so they will be completing charts and such. Oftentimes students are asked to underline or circle something which is a great option for reluctant writers. I think students who are not enthusiastic writers would be able to do well with this book.

Low Prep Homeschool Curriculum

Many homeschool parents desire a low-prep option for their homeschool curriculum choices and I think this fits that description for science. The materials are pretty basic for a science program. It is not a no prep curriculum. The experiments will require rounding up some items, but overall the workbook is pretty inclusive. For a mom who was really pressed for time, you could probably do only the written work and still get a lot out of it. But obviously doing the experiments and observations is what brings it to life for the child.

Secular versus Christ-centered Curriculum

Pearson is a secular publisher so it is a secular workbook. I personally prefer science and history texts in particular that approach the topic from a Christian point of view. There are topics in science especially that leave me in awe of the Creator and it’s impossible for me to think about them or discuss them without also bringing my faith into the discussion!

That said, I didn’t find anything in this book that was blatantly anti-Christian. The topics covered in this particular book don’t delve into the more controversial topics so that was not a concern. When discussing relevant topics, I simply add additional information to what is presented on the page or asked a question that would lead to additional discussion based on other learning we’ve done.

Advanced Reading Level

One thing I wondered about was the actual reading level of the book. I didn’t run it through a check online, but I can’t imagine the average first grader could read this independently at the beginning of the year. Moms should expect to do a fair amount of reading, if not all of it. If you have a child who reads well above grade level, you’ll probably be fine. If you have a struggling reader, you’ll be doing all the reading for your child.

Inclusion of Spanish Translations

If there was one thing I disliked about the book it was the inclusion of Spanish translations in certain parts of the book. There are flashcards the students can cut out for each chapter that help them learn important terminology. The front label and the back definition of each card is in both English and Spanish. For someone like Caroline, it’s distracting. There is also a Glossary in the back of the book that includes all the definitions in both English and Spanish. I’m not sure what purpose it serves to include both when the rest of the book is entirely in English. It just clutters up the page and I really don’t think it adds value to the book.

Overall Recommendation

My overall recommendation is that Pearson’s First Grade Interactive Science Book could be a very good choice for homeschool families. I think for moms who want something that is all organized and laid out, it will fit the bill. It offers enough hands-on ideas to keep it interesting, but not so much you are going to feel like you are constantly prepping.

For moms who lack confidence in pulling together a complicated, hands-on intensive science curriculum, this would be a good choice. it gives your child a real science curriculum and mom the peace of mind that you are doing something structured together.

For visual learners and children who don’t like to write, I think this would be a good fit. If you add in the hands-on experiments, they will probably get a great deal out of it.

Special Discounts Through September 15, 2014

Pearson is offering a number of specials and discounts through September 15, 2014. You can 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

The first grade science curriculum pictured on my review is also a part of that discount.

Pearson science cover

Why perfect and homeschool shouldn't be used in the same sentence

Why “perfect” and “homeschool” shouldn’t be used in the same sentence

Why perfect and homeschool shouldn't be used in the same sentence

I was recently looking for something online and I saw a link for a post about creating the perfect homeschool schedule. May I quote Miss Alice from the television show Christy?

Perfection belongs to God.

The last thing a homeschool mom needs is anyone telling her she can create the perfect ANYTHING related to homeschooling.

Can we just strike the idea of perfect from our collective homeschool mindset?

There is no perfect curriculum.

There is no perfect schedule.

There is no perfect planner.

There is no perfect anything.

There are quality products. There are effective planners. There are workable schedules. But none of these things can ever be perfect.

Perfection belongs to God.

Even if we have a really good day, can we please not say it was the perfect day?

Or the perfect weather?

Or that we’ve found the perfect anything?

Do you know why?

Because it reinforces in our mind that perfection is attainable.

That we should be on the lookout for perfect days and perfect weather and the perfect homeschool schedule that is going to solve all of our problems.

And it makes anything less than perfect seem, well, less than perfect. And that is super bad, don’t you know?

Homeschooling is challenging enough without adding a layer of expected perfection.

Today can we all just rejoice in the great? Or even the really good? Honestly, some days I’m really happy with just the adequate.

And let’s make a point of no longer using the words “perfect” and “homeschool” in the same sentence.

Measure-with-Rulers-Pack-080714-PREVIEW

Measure with a Ruler Math Center Activity with Task Cards

Measure-with-Rulers-Pack-080714-PREVIEW

Your children will enjoy practicing their measuring skills with this hands-on math center activity. They will cut out the ruler and measure ten different back to school themed items on the various task cards. They will then record their answers on their sheet.

The student sheet is provided in both color and black/white.

This item ties in with my Back to School Literacy and Math Pack. It features 10 fun centers and activities that students will find engaging.

I also have a Measure with Apples Math Center Activity with Task Cards.

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Measure-with-Apples-Pack-072214-PREVIEW

Measure with Apples Math Center Activity with Task Cards

Measure-with-Apples-Pack-072214-PREVIEW

Your children will enjoy practicing their measuring skills with this hands-on math center activity. They will cut out the apple ruler and measure ten different back to school themed items on the various task cards. They will then record their answers on their sheet.

The student sheet is provided in both color and black/white.

This item ties in with my Back to School Literacy and Math Pack. It features 10 fun centers and activities that students will find engaging.

I also have a Measure with a Ruler Math Center Activity with Task Cards.

 

Measure with Apples Math Center Activity with Task Cards
Measure with Apples Math Center Activity with Task Cards
Measure various task card items with apple ruler
Price: $1.00

Our Homeschool Learning Room 2014

Our Homeschool Learning Room 2014-2015

Our Homeschool Learning Room 2014Our homeschool room hasn’t changed a lot since the previous years (2012, 2013), but for the sake of keeping a record I thought I would go ahead and share some photos. I won’t mention some of the areas I’ve discussed in the past. I’ll just hit the newer highlights in this post. :-)

The biggest change is that we moved the piano against the wall which opened up the room quite a bit. I never liked it in front of the windows, but never took the time to get someone to help David move it. When my parents came to visit one day this summer, my dad helped David move it and I felt like I had a whole new room! Woo hoo!

I added the cords for hanging Caroline’s artwork at the end of last year. It really adds a lot of personality to the room and it makes it seem more her room as well.

Caroline's artwork

Under the artwork you can see a wire basket hanging thingy I added that also has hooks. I’m using that for our Fun Fact Cards. I’m putting them on rings so I can hang them there and then the overflow this year will go in the basket up above. If they are easy to grab, they get used more often. Caroline has a to do list of topics she wants me to do that is a mile long. She’s really good at coming up with ideas. :-)

Fun Fact Cards

On top of the craft cabinet (you can read more about the craft cabinet here) is my little teacher corner. Every item here has some special meaning to me from when I was teaching or else it was a gift from someone special.

Teacher Corner 2This year we are going to start doing some more notebooking, especially since we are doing The Mystery of History. I turned this set of drawers into our notebooking station. I picked up a bunch of fun embellishments Caroline can use for notebooking. She knows that these supplies are only for notebooking and not for general crafting. :-)

Notebooking Supplies in DrawersWe are heavy library users. The basket on the floor is where we keep our library books. The cozy glider is where Caroline enjoys reading. I love all the natural light. :-)

The Library Books and Reading Corner

This is Caroline’s Duck Tape drawer. We hit the gold mine recently when someone was selling a bunch of partially used rolls on FB. LOL! I also keep her supplied as does my mom. I need to do a post with all her Duck Tape creations. :-)

Duck Tape Drawer of Endless PossibilitiesLastly, here is my corner. It’s actually kind of deceptive because I rarely sit at the desk. The height of the desk doesn’t work well for me. But it holds my stuff as does the bookcase. I’d like to get a computer desk and computer in here eventually when it is in the budget. :-)

Desk cornerSo there is a little tour of our room. We love it. It’s small and cozy and works very well for us. :-)

secrets

Guest Blogging at Bright Ideas Press – Back to School Secrets for Homeschool Moms

Bright Ideas Press Back to School Secrets Homeschool Mom

This school year I have the pleasure of being one of the bloggers for Bright Ideas Press! David and I have known Bob, Maggie and Tyler Hogan for a number of years as we have done graphic design work for them. I’ve also discovered through Facebook that Maggie and Tyler are fun people with similar interests (books and off-the-wall humor, respectively).

I’ve had the products from Bright Ideas Press on my radar for a number of years, but Caroline wasn’t old enough to use them. This year we are starting with The Mystery of History Volume 1 and we’re both looking forward to it. I’m sure you’ll read lots more about our experiences with this in the months ahead!

Each month I’ll be posting on the Bright Ideas Press blog about some aspect of homeschooling. This month my post is 3 Back to School Secrets Every Homeschool Mom Should Know. I hope you’ll check it out and subscribe to the BIP blog for lots of good ideas and encouragement!

 

Touch Typing Course for Kids

TypeKids Touch Typing Course for Kids

TypeKids Touch Typing Course for Kids

I received this product for free and was compensated for my time. The opinions are my own and I was not required to provide a positive review.

My, how times have changed! When I learned to type it was on an actual typewriter in a high school classroom filled with loud machines. We used whiteout, manually counted our words per line, and turned in actual typewritten papers to our teacher.

We certainly didn’t get to play games, earn fun badges, and follow along with pirate stories from the comfort of our own home!

Such are the advantages Caroline has learning typing today!

TypeKids Online Typing Course

TypeKids is a fun way for kids to learn keyboarding skills. When the opportunity to review this program presented itself, I jumped on it because I know how important it is for Caroline to learn proper keyboarding skills. Whereas typing was once optional, it’s now absolutely critical for kids to learn. And the earlier she masters this skill, the better.

The physical act of writing is also not on Caroline’s list of favorite things to do. Knowing how to type well will open up other learning opportunities for her even now so this was a great learning opportunity for her from that aspect as well.

Engaging Material for Younger Learners

The TypeKids program is set up in thirty lessons. Each time Caroline completes a lesson, a new part of the pirate story is unlocked. The story drew Caroline right in and she was very interested in getting through each lesson to find out what happened next!

Students also unlock games to play throughout the course and earn badges for completing different tasks.

One aspect that we both liked is that while she is doing a practice lesson, a pirate ship moves across the screen. She likes being able to see that with each keystroke she is making progress toward the end.

Independent Learning for Right-Brained Learners

One of the aspects I like best about TypeKids is I can just turn Caroline loose on it and it is pretty much self-directed. I sat with her during the first few lessons until she felt confident navigating the different aspects of the program and website. Otherwise she’s pretty much able to work independently on this. I still sit near her while she’s doing it to keep an eye on what might give her problems (and she likes the company), but she really doesn’t need my help after just a few practice sessions.

For right-brained children who love to learn and don’t like to be taught, this is the perfect fit. I cannot imagine sitting down with Caroline and instructing her on how to type. I don’t think so! This is perfect for our learning styles and family!

Intelligent Course Adapts to Child’s Needs

One great feature with TypeKids is that the program tracks the letters that give your child the most difficulty and adapts the lessons to help meet that need. So if you have two learners in your family, they will each receive lessons tailored to their specific learning needs based on their performance.

Overall Positive Typing Program

Overall I think TypeKids is a great typing program. The only “negative” I would point out is that the pirate story is not a fully animated cartoon. The story is read by a narrator and each section has a few illustrations that stay on the screen while you listen to the story. It is fine that way, but I wanted to point out that it is not an animated cartoon in case that makes a difference to someone considering purchasing this program.

I haven’t used any other online typing programs so I can’t offer a comparison. I can say that Caroline is very particular about materials and programs we use in our homeschooling and she enjoys using this program so TypeKids is definitely doing something right!