How I Piece Together History & Science Studies

I have a very relaxed approach to studying history and science with our boys. We do a lot of reading together. In the fall, as part of our Native American History study, we began reading Turtle Island, The Story of North America’s First People. The book shares what life was like for indigenous people of our continent before Europeans came.

The boys (and I) have really enjoyed it. L has loved pretty much every bit of it, and A has really enjoyed the “Imagine You Are” sections.  IMG_2141Due to life being pretty hectic for us, we are actually just finishing it up now. We had to return it awhile back, so I made a note of the page we were on, so that we could finish it when we were able to check it out again.

In Turtle Island, the authors explain why historians now believe that the Bering Straight theory (as I was taught in school) was not the only, or the first way that indigenous people came to inhabit this continent.

I was having a hard time understanding the time-table and how they came to this conclusion, so we started a visual time-line of the world. All three of us are visual learner so it  has been tremendously helpful.IMG_2138

Our timeline is on a massive roll of paper starting with the Big Bang (which we learned was not actually a loud banging explosion) and goes all the way to present day.

I’m sure it will take years to complete, and likely some cutting and adding of more paper to make room for everything. But seeing the dates visually on a timeline really helped us to understand the research. I won’t go into detail here, but it has to do with when the Ice Age ended. (see above photo).

On a trip to the library a few weeks ago,  I found What Was the Ice Age? I realized I really don’t remember much from school about this topic and figured the book would be a great resource for our timeline of the world work.IMG_2137 We started reading it this week, and the illustrations make it even more clear how historians came to their conclusion that people somehow arrived in North America pre-Bering Straight.

Yesterday morning we needed some educational screen-time during L’s morning breathing treatment. I remembered an episode the boys watched previously about glaciers on The Magic School Bus. I hadn’t paid much attention to it, but figured it would go well with the Ice Age book.

The boys informed me it was actually a Magic School Bus Rides Again. So we popped on Netflix, and I paid attention this time. The episode title was The Tales Glaciers Tell and so much information was packed in about glaciers, the earth’s climate throughout history and the warming trend over the last 200 years.

 

Along with our non-fiction resources, we have been reading The Birchbark House, which I think would be classified as historical fiction. Written by Louise Erdrich, the book is based on research the author’s mother and sister did into their own family history. The book tells the story of a young native girl, and her family, that live on an island in Lake Superior during the mid-1800s.

As someone who was an A-student that HATED history, I am so happy to have discovered this relaxed approach to learning history. I have loved filling in my own educational gaps and have an on-going list of books I plan to read for myself. Not only that, the boys are enjoying and learning so much.

This Is Homeschool…

Wow!!! I cannot believe it is already October!!! We loosely started back to school when our public school friends did in August. Up until now it’s been pretty hectic. Somehow two months have passed, and thinking back it’s hard to say how!

We’ve been busy with speech sessions, a couple days of coop, weekly art class, field trips, library events and excursions, and of course Tae Kwondo. Also, A LOT of Mystery Science for L, and A LOT of trampoline jumping and independent reading for A. Somehow math and reading for L have found their way in there too.

Michael and I also celebrated our 15th anniversary with a few days away while his parents graciously stayed with the boys.

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Photo actually from our 11th anniversary, I think…during the last month we also had a bit of an accident where my phone caught on fire and burned a hole in the kitchen floor. I lost some photos in the process.

Plus, we had more visits with both sets of grandparents, and M’s daughter was here a couple of days while she transitioned from college to a job. Since everyone lives a good distance away, that means overnight visitors and multiple day stays.

Although we are always learning, and we still attend our weekly appointments, we generally put any book schooling on hold when we have visitors.  So we had more than a couple of random days off.

Writing it all out, I now realize why the two month went so fast! We were busy living life! At times I worried that we weren’t doing enough book work. But now I am reminded this is what homeschooling means for us.

It means family first, and planning “school” around our lives, rather than planning our lives around school. What a blessing!!!

 

Our Monthly Homeschool Narrative- #1

We just got back from vacation during which I started reading The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart. Our homeschool has always been at its best when I follow the boys’ lead and let them learn naturally from whatever they are interested in. I’ve heard this type of learning called interest-led learning and natural learning.

I’ve also been interested in the Brave Writer approach of Julie Bogart. Although I’ve not bought any of the curriculum, I listen to Julie’s podcast and have adopted some of her practices in our homeschool. I also love her seasonal books of encouragement for homeschoolers, A Gracious Space.

So when I got a ways into her new book, I was excited to see that “Brave Learning” is her name for natural learning. No wonder I like her books and what I’ve learned about her approach so much!!!

One of the practices she recommends is a monthly narrative of your homeschool day as a way to keep track of and look back at progress and struggles in your homeschool. So this is Day 1 of my monthly narrative.

We are officially on summer break, and the boys were up pretty early this morning, but played in their rooms for awhile before A came out to eat some cereal. I was working on booking a boarding appointment for our dog for an upcoming trip. A little while later, L came and asked me a question about our dog. I can’t remember the exact question, it was something about her being part Lab and where Labs came from.

My husband had actually looked this info up when we first got her because at the time we were also fostering her sister who had a strange habit of pulling up on her hind-legs and then pouncing on her front paws while also biting out a chunk of our grass. From his research, he found out that Labs originated in Newfoundland, and that her behavior was left over from pouncing on the ice to catch food…crazy dog LOL

When L asked me the question, I couldn’t remember the country, but I could remember it was somewhere cold. So we googled the origin of Labs and found that it was Newfoundland. I asked L if he wanted to know where that was, and he did so we headed to the hall where our maps are displayed. I pointed out Newfoundland and he identified that it was off the coast of Canada. Discussion about Iceland and Greenland followed based on something the boys remembered me telling them at some point about something I had learned in school.

I showed them that Iceland was actually just below the Arctic Circle and Greenland above it. Then A commented about the Antarctic Circle and Lucas noticed how Russia and Alaska were on both sides of the map. I showed them how our map was marked with a dotted line showing the overlap if it were round which was why both Russia & Alaska were shown on each side of the map.

Out of my own curiosity I asked them to find Alabama on the map and if they knew where Georgia was since we had just drove home from Florida through GA. Then they started talking about New Zealand and trying to find Codfish Island, tiny island where kakapos are that they learned about from a book we read.

Codfish wasn’t shown so I talked about size of the map and that we needed a bigger map of New Zealand. I asked them if they wanted to look at our atlas and explained that an atlas is a book of maps. They did and we checked the Contents for New Zealand. L found the page # (153) and we found New Zealand. But Codfish it so small it wasn’t labeled there either. L asked to look for another map and I said we would later, that I need to eat breakfast.

L and I ate some granola while A kept looking at the atlas. After awhile he told me the book was wrong because it said there were 9 planets. So I explained about publishing dates and that I knew it was an old atlas so all of the information might not be accurate. I got it for a dollar from a library sale a few years back. I showed him where the Copywrite date was and he read 1998. The boys figured out that the book was 21 years old.

Then they told me things they have learned from Tumble podcast (that there is possibly a new 9th planet called planet X and why scientist think it exists; that there is an asteroid belt at the edge of our solar system too. This was all news to me. L explained several reasons why Pluto is a dwarf planet one being that it shares its orbit with other matter, also new to me.

During the discussion I talked to the boys about listening to each other and not talking over each other. I also worked on looking A in the eye while he was talking to me since eye contact is something that doesn’t come naturally to him.

Then Michael got up to finish the yard work from yesterday, and I told the boys to get ready to help him. They picked up the clippings from the shrubs M shaped yesterday. I finished vacuuming and cleaning the camper while they were working. After the boys finished helping M, he gave them the new Lego Movie set he’s been keeping for them for awhile.

When I came in from the camper the boys were building the set together at the kitchen table. I got some water and started making phone calls. Scheduling A with an ortho since his arm is still bothering him from his fall at Legoland. Calling Flordia Urgent Care about releasing x-ray to ortho & calling our pharmacy about a prescription refill. At some point I asked the boys to move to the living room or their rooms because they were no longer building but playing and getting really loud.

They are back there now and A just came out to ask me to look at a Lego creation they made so I’ll do that when I finish writing. He also asked early today if I would work on rebuilding some Lego sets with him. Other than that, I have a physical therapy appointment later today and need to buy some groceries since we are running low on food from returning from vacation. Also need to remember and return some library books.

Not sure if I will write more later today about the rest of our day, but for 10:20 am that’s a lot already. A nap sometime sounds like a good plan 😉

345 pm- no nap, but made the grocery run, and had pt. Also read from Oak Meadow  Just So Stories How the Leopard got his Spots to the boys. They are loving the stories in this book that we started last night. The boys have been playing Wii Batman 2 for most of the afternoon.

A Lesson in Altruism

A year or so ago, I discovered Be A Blessing Birmingham, a volunteer organization in our area that provides support to the local homeless and needy on a monthly basis. At first, our family supported the organization with donations. All those small hotel shampoos and conditioners we had collected, donated. Two pairs of my husband’s work boots that were not being worn, donated. Multiple winter coats, donated.

When it got really cold and sleeping bags were being requested, I found a great deal online and two low-temperature sleeping bags, donated.  But, I wanted to do more than just donate items. I wanted to help as much as possible and teach my boys about helping the less fortunate.

One of the great benefits of homeschooling is flexibility. All of our learning is not done at the kitchen table. We have time for the things important to our family. We can take a day off from “school work” to volunteer in the community.

So we started attending work days for the organization. The job doesn’t end with collecting donations. The donations need to be sorted and organized. The items need to be packed for the monthly Blessings Days. Hands are needed to do this. We have hands available, and as I found out recently, we also have tender hearts that WANT to help.

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The boys unpacking and organizing new wash clothes.

In the work days we have attended, the boys have packed bags with toilet paper, water bottles and socks. We have stocked donated items, and helped inventory. We have sorted and folded new wash clothes to help with ease of distributing. We have sorted clothing donations.

While working during our last volunteer day, my oldest sang a song he made up about helping. My youngest finishes whatever task he is working on and promptly asks “What else can I do?”

A couple of weeks ago, when I told my oldest that we were starting Spring Break the next day by going to a work day and afterward the zoo, he said something to the effect of Woohoo. I asked if he was “woohoo-ing” the work day or the zoo, and he said “Both! I like helping.”

We participate in a homeschool coop, and I shared a lesson on altruism with the kids. I read  The Can Man by Laura E. Williams to our group. It touched my heart to see how intent the kids were on the story. There was discussion about helping others and about how it would feel to not have a home. 

Afterward, the kids (and grown-ups) decorated cards to donate for the Blessing Bags.

We used Blessings tags from Thirty Handmade Days, and the love and attention the kids put into their art made my heart smile.

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This lesson in altruism reminded me  again of all that homeschooling has done for our family; the time it has given me with my kids, the flexibility and opportunities it has allowed, and I am thankful that the circumstances of our life led us on this path.

Is volunteering a part of your homeschool or family life? What ways have you found to give back? Feel free to share in the comments.

Thank you for reading & sharing!!! Amy

Interest-led Learning with Space

When my oldest was Kindergarten age, he was terrified of space. Aliens, black holes, it was too much for his little mind to think about. I don’t remember the exact activity, but we read something about the life cycle of a star, and he looked at me with huge eyes and said “You mean the Sun can die?!?!?”

He was horrified. What if it happens when we are on Earth? I could not get him to understand that the Sun, although it is around the middle of its life cycle, has a VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY long life, and he did not need to worry. I promptly put away all things space and tried to change the subject.

Fast forward four years, and this same kid is now ALL ABOUT space. Last summer, we discovered some science podcasts that the boys listen to in their free time (aka my free time). They usually listen to a podcast while doing something with Lego, while I hide out in the family room using our rower 😉

I remember seeing an episode title about Black Holes a few weeks ago as I was pulling up their podcast shows and thinking to myself they are probably going to skip that one!

Needless to say I was quite surprised when I returned upstairs to hear discussion of IMG_6345black holes and possible wormholes in space. Later while I was making dinner, he had a question for me about black holes, so I handed him an index card and asked him to write it down for later exploration.

Since then he has been super excited about space.  I pulled out this placemat spaceplacementthat was a gift from Granddaddy a couple of years ago and put it at his spot at the table.

When he had questions about Mars’ atmosphere, I pulled all the Space things back off the bookshelf. I reminded him how to use the index, and he spent several evenings reading the sections about Mars.

 

One evening last week after a family outing to a nearby park, we stopped in the library to pick up a movie for the weekend. Walking into the library, he discovered the “Planets A Lego Adventure In The Real World” space book.

He immediately lost all interest in picking out a movie. He startedPaperback Planets : A LEGO? Adventure in the Real World Book reading the book right in the spot where he picked it off the shelf and had read the entire book by the next morning.

I can’t even remember all the things he was telling me from the book. I just kept thinking, THIS is interest-led learning. It is so easy. I don’t have to do anything; just help him find some resources and stay out of the way.

Last week I spent some time decluttering, and came across some Space flash cards I had picked up at the Target Dollar Spot awhile back. I called him over and asked him if he wanted me to put them on the bookshelf or if he wanted them in his room. He wanted them in his room of course.

Later that day he had a question about Neptune, does it have gravity? “I’m not sure, why don’t you look at your Space cards?” He informed me later at dinner, that the card on Neptune didn’t say if it had gravity, but it must, because it has 14 moons. He read that on the card and remembered that gravity is what keeps moons in orbit around planets so he had the answer to his question. Wow, that is learning in action!!!

We made another trip to the library a few days later, yeah we pretty much live in the library, and picked out a few more books on Mars and Space.

 

I have no idea how long his interest in space will last, but my role, as I see it, is to nurture it for as long as it does.

What has sparked interest in your child? Have you found a way to foster their natural love of learning? Feel free to share in the comments!

Thanks for reading and sharing, Amy

A Consistent Go-To Resource in Our Homeschool

 

A couple of weeks ago, a new friend who happens to be fairly new to homeschooling told me she was enjoying reading my blog. Basically being new to homeschooling, she likes reading about homeschool from those of who have been doing it awhile.

While I don’t yet consider myself a “veteran homeschooler,” I guess being on our fifth year does qualify as awhile 🙂 Over those five years, we’ve tried many different resources and approaches. There was the year, I bought two complete curricula, one for each kid. They ended up collecting A LOT of dust, the curricula, not the kids LOL.

The year before, we participated in a Charlotte Mason coop. We’ve done online

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Lots & lots of library books

reading instruction and hands-on phonics. Five years in, I think it’s safe to say that we are definitely eclectic homeschoolers. I pull resources from everywhere and anywhere for my kiddos. While we use mainly library books for science and social, I do like some direct instruction for language arts.

One consistent go-to for me has been Education.com  One year, we used all of their writing letter worksheets. They have upper and lower case pages. The year my youngest was Kindergarten age,  I bought the  premium membership and downloaded A LOT of workbooks. The membership gives you unlimited downloads, so we still have some that we are using two years later.

Last spring we focused on figurative language for a little while. My oldest is very literal, and we used some education.com worksheets to help him with conversational and reading comprehension. We still discuss figures of speech just in conversation and my husband and I are constantly forgetting the difference between a simile, a metaphor, etc. 

I found this Figurative Language Practice | Worksheet | Education.com worksheet on education.com  It’s on the school schedule for this week, and we will probably hang it on the fridge as a reminder for the hubs and I 🙂 Considering our history with Education.com, when someone reached out to me a few weeks ago about sharing one of their worksheets on my blog, I said sure.

Coincidentally, the first worksheet I was offered was on figurative language, so I was super excited to share with you. You can make a splash while learning about figurative language with this sailing themed worksheet. 

Click the following links for your copy of this freebie. figurativelanguage_crossword_boat (2)figurativelanguage_crossword_boat_answers (2) 

Plus, find more fun language arts games here!

Do you have a favorite Education.com resource??? Feel free to share in the comments. 

Thanks for reading!!! Amy

On Being “Unexpected Homeschoolers”

Homeschooling is something we kind of fell into. It was not something I ever planned on or really even thought of as an option. I went to public school, and as I was growing up the future I envisioned involved some type of daytime job while my kiddos were at school. Then life happened, and here we are in our fifth year of homeschooling.

Somewhere along this journey I came across the label, unexpected home-schooler, and as much as I dislike labels, this one is pretty much spot on for our family. One thing that comes along with being an unexpected home-schooler is the reaction of friends, family and even complete strangers when they learn about your life changing decision and endeavor.

Some reactions have been easier to handle than others. There was my sweet sister, a long time teacher/coach/STEAM leader in a charter school who responded, “You don’t really want to do that, do you?” Another well meaning family member stated something along the lines of you went to public school and you turned out fine.

I think I handled these comments fairly well.  I am happy to say that a year or two ago when my sister was frustrated about something at work, she emphatically said, “I am so glad you are homeschooling the boys.”

Then a couple of years ago, there was the shocked and very loud “WHY!?!?!!!” from a new hair stylist.  She was washing my hair, and asked where the boys went to school. When I told her we home-school, you would have thought I had said we were packing it up and moving to Antarctica. Needless to say that was the first and last time she cut my hair.

As I went back and forth between feeling the need to justify our decision to this stranger, and my thought that I was fairly certain we had put more thought into our decision to home-school than she had in her decision to send her kids to school, I was also grateful that we were already a few years into our journey. Anyone who has made the decision to home-school, to go against the norm, knows that along with this decision comes a lot of self-doubt, of wondering if you are doing the right thing.

Five years in, and though I don’t always know what I am doing, I am confident that the decision to home-school is definitely the right path for our family. Doubt, from self and from others, is why I choose to share our homeschooling experiences, and offer encouragement and support for others on this same journey