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

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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

 

Math Games Created for Kids by a Kid

In this post: Math Games My Kiddo Created Himself

Math tends to be the one subject a lot of home-schoolers dread. Whether it’s because of difficulty in the home-school teacher’s own math instruction, or resistance from the home-school student, or something entirely different, math can lead to a lot of grumbling and headaches.

Fortunately in our home-school, I have one kiddo, a self-directed learner, that LOVES math. He is constantly using math in his daily life, whether it’s subtracting as he takes a milk container out of the garage fridge to tell me how many we have left, or dumping his piggy bank to count his money.

Over the past year, I’ve thrown the planned math lesson out the window more than once because my kiddo came up with something way better. Having found much support and many ideas from other home-school bloggers, I want to share some of his best ideas here.

Scare Crow Chase- A Measurement & Addition Game

The idea of “Scare Crow Chase,” his name for it, is that each player solves a math fact and then moves their Batman or Robin that number of inches forward. Batman & Robin are in a race to see who catches Scarecrow first.

Surprise, surprise, my son wanted to choose his own math facts to solve. The first one he chose was 30 + 3, so he ended up catching Scarecrow pretty quickly 😉 What’s great about this game is there is so much addition. Not only is he solving the math fact, then he is adding the number of inches he is suppose to go to the total he has already gone.

For example, on his first move he went to 33 inches. Then when he solved his next math fact (say it was 10 + 15), he needed to add 33 + 15 to find Batman’s destination on the tape measure. We played a few times, and he said he also wants to play again with the goal of catching the Penguin 😉

His game could easily be modified for any homeschool. Choose characters of interest to your kiddos, and if you want more focused practice use flash cards, or take turns coming up with math facts for each other to solve.

Another Favorite- Not Sure if He Named This One, but You Can Call it Airplane Measurement & Addition                                                                      

IMG_3823One day last spring, we had been using little plastic jumping frogs for a reading game, and my son decided he wanted to see how far the frogs could jump. So I pulled out the tape measure, and we started seeing whose frog could jump farther.

The frogs did not go very far on the carpet, so he asked to make paper airplanes to throw. Go for it, I said. After making the paper airplanes, he gathered paper and pencil and started drawing charts.

I had no clue what he was doing, but he was writing, and he obviously had a plan. So, I watched and waited. He wrote his name on one side and told me to write mine on the other. Then we took turns throwing our airplanes.

For each turn, per his instruction, we measured how far our airplane had flown and recorded it on his chart. This was perfect for what we have been working on in math. He got practice reading and writing three-digit numbers, AND it was all his idea!

After ten turns, we were done and he wanted to add his score. I pulled out our math counters (100s plates, 10s rods, and 1s cubes), and he counted out each of his measurements with the counters. At one point, we ran out of 1s, and I asked him what he could use instead.

He immediately started regrouping his 1s and trading them in for 10s. He also ended up trading in groups of ten 10s for 100s, and when he counted up that he had ten 100s, he shouted out “I have 1000!” I couldn’t have planned a better lesson for him. It went so well, that I wanted to share it with other homeschooling mommas.

IMG_3828Math doesn’t have to be all worksheets and headaches. With a little imagination it can be a game that you play with your kiddos.

What fun ways or games have you or your kiddos come up with the enjoy math? Please feel free to share in the comment.

Thanks for reading!!! Amy

A Math Resource My Kid Actually LIKES

It’s no secret. My 10 year old hates math. He didn’t always though. In Kindergarten he made a math corner in our living room with all of his favorite math items.

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Kindergarten Math Corner

Somewhere along the way we lost that joy culminating in a day last spring when he shut down and refused to do math. Then I yelled. It was not one of our finer days to say the least.

Luckily, taking the rest of the day off and a good night sleep put everyone in a better place. I remember the next day having a calm conversation with him about math before we even started any school work. We talked about attitude (his AND mine), about him being honest when he is confused or if he is just not wanting to do math at the moment. He admitted that yes he was a bit confused, but also he really just wanted to go play Lego. Surprise, Surprise 🙂

We agreed to work together to figure out why the specific math concept was a bit tricky, and we powered through. But I agreed, I would work on finding a better way for him to learn math.

Then I decided that we did NOT have to complete everything the curriculum we were using classified as “third grade math” by the end of the school year. I could take some time to regroup and make a new plan.

Enter Usborne Books & More  https://w7741.myubam.com/

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Usborne Lift-the-flap Times Tables

I ordered this Times Tables book as part of a homeschool friend’s adoption fundraiser. My son really enjoyed it when we dabbled in multiplication last spring. He loved all of the little flaps and fun questions throughout the book. It did not feel like school to him.

So when fall rolled around and I still didn’t have a definite plan for math, I decided to focus on regaining joy in math.

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Adding & Subtracting Activity Book

 

 

 

 

I had ordered this Adding and Subtracting book from the same fundraiser. My initial plan was to have my youngest work on it, but as most of us know, things don’t always goes as planned.

I made a guess that having my son work on skills he had already mastered in a fun way might bring the joy back, and IT DID!!! He loved the colorful illustrations, fun activities & stickers.

He finished it up a few weeks before Christmas, and we took a break from Math until after the holidays. In January we started up with the Usborne Fractions & Decimals Activity Book 

& the Lift-the-flap Fractions and Decimals book .

 

Not only is he learning about fractions, he is ENJOYING Math again!!! That’s a win, win in my book.

The books I’ve mentioned in this post are only those we have used. Usborne Books and More has so much more to offer. I actually have several waiting on the school shelf 😉 , for when we finish Fractions and Decimals. I plan to share about our experience with those as we use them.

Picture of Fractions and Decimals Activity BookIf you would like  recommendations of other Usborne resources, feel free to comment below or send me a message on the Contact page.  Thanks for reading !!!Picture of Lift-the-Flap Fractions and Decimals (IR)

An Uncomplicated Chore System

If you’ve been parenting for any amount of time, you’ve seen the Pinterest pins and blog posts about chore charts. I’ve seen them. I’ve used them. I’ve even created one that was personalized for my unique kiddos 😉

Researching for this post, I googled “kids chore charts” and wow . There are so many options, so many. I could even pay (uhh, waste) $79 for one.  And you know where that chart would likely end up? In a pile of stuff for me to declutter when I don’t have the energy or follow-through to keep up with it.

But no more complicated systems for me!!! I recently discovered my own 2 part system that works for my kiddos. 

Back in December I realized I don’t need a complicated system. About a week before Christmas, we returned from a short vacation. We travel with a 5th wheel RV, so there’s a bit more to unpacking than just doing laundry. The boys and I had unloaded most everything from our camper, and even done some laundry.

But I still needed to do one last run through to make sure nothing important was left in our camper before we returned it to storage. I also needed to put some other things like clean sheets & blankets back in it and help the hubs winterize it.

Part 1- An incentive

It was literally 8 day till Christmas and I had not made one cookie or wrapped any presents. The boys had asked to play Batman on the Wii after lunch. We are fairly strict with screen time in our house due to the sensory needs of our oldest and our parenting style in general, so the boys have to get permission before jumping on the Wii.

I let them know they could play some AFTER they did their conditioning exercises for Tae Kwondo & AFTER they picked up random Legos and toys that had not made it back to their rooms from our trip. After lunch they started picking up some, but then got distracted by the toys they were suppose to be putting away.

My youngest was playing with our Lego Christmas train and the oldest was rebuilding a marble run with the Gravitrax system they had just received for Christmas from my in-laws. I was drinking my second cup of coffee and talking to the hubs who was still eating lunch.

Part 2- The List

As I started to remind the boys for the second or third time that they couldn’t play on the Wii until they completed the tasks I gave them, I stopped. I really didn’t want to discourage their creative play to get them on the Wii faster. So, I instead I started a list. A “To Do List” works for me, so why not for the boys I thought?

I listed the few responsibilities they had. A little while later, M finished his lunch and I finished my coffee. Before we headed out to the camper, I called the boys over and gave them the list. I told them they could continue playing as long as they wanted, but they needed to see me with the finished list before turning on the Wii.

The hubs and I headed out to the camper and left the boys happily playing. A while later, my oldest came out to the camper to tell me he needed me to hold his feet for his sit-ups. They had been working on the list. I finished what I had been helping M with and went inside to help with sit-ups. I saw that, for the most part, the legos had been put away and the gravitrax were in their box.

Our youngest informed me that he had done his mountain climbers and push ups. Our oldest had added to the end of the list “Play Wii Batman.”img_5647 (3) I was pretty  excited and, to be completely honest, surprised at how well the simple list worked.

Why it worked for us….

  1. It’s visual. I am a visual learner and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I could tell my kids ten times what they need to do, but for it to really sink it, they need to see it.
  2. It shifted the responsibility into their hands. I didn’t need to stay and nag about chores, and I could go about my own tasks without feeling like I was wasting my time hovering. The work got done and everyone moved on.
  3.  They were motivated.

Since then, I have started a notebook with a list of school work for my oldest on our homeschool days. It has worked just as well!!! What I love about this “system” is its simplicity. There is no weekly list of jobs or assignments.

There are no stickers to give out for completed jobs. Stickers that I either can’t find or forget to use. There is just what needs to be done now before we can do something else. Just yesterday, I used my incentive and list system again.

In the morning, my oldest had asked to check out a new Batman ap (incentive) he had seen in an instruction booklet of a Lego set. He also knew that it was the day he was suppose to clean his room and do some other chores. So, I started a list for each boy and let them know they could check out the new ap when they were finished.

Some chores that made the list this time like cleaning floors and vacuuming the stairs, still require my supervision so I stayed available while the boys were working.  But having the list in front of them, they plowed through their jobs without me reminding them what they still needed to do. When they were finished, they checked out the Batman game and I finished up some chores of my own.

I’m so happy about this simple system that is working for our family that I want to share. Do you have any simple systems that help manage your home? Feel free to share in the comments.