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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Favorite Concept Counting Books.

I love concept books and constantly am on the hunt for new ones in my local library. My all time favorites are all written by Tana Hoban. I think she’s phenomenal and her books are well loved in my house. Let’s Count is a particular favorite. It’s 48 pages and covers the numbers 1-15, 20, 30, etc., to 100. She’s also written the book, Count and See. This book is 40 pages and follows the same format as Let’s Count but showcases the numbers as numerals, words, and dots. Along with the numbers, she presents the reader with visually stunning photographs (which is what she’s amazing at) in black and white of street scenes that represent the number.

As a parent, (and homeschooler) I look for counting books that are clear and themed. For example, in our house we have two great books that showcase both clarity and theme. 

The first is George Lyon’s Counting on the Woods. It’s 32 pages and uses colored photos of plants and animals (all identified in captions) to represent the numbers 1-10. This book has sparked countless lessons in science, geography, history, math, art, language arts, etc. 

The second is Arlene Alda’s 1 2 3: What Do You See? It’s also 32 pages and focuses attention on the shape of the number, captured in photos of natural and everyday objects. My personal favorite is the wisp of curly hair representing the number 6. This book has inspired a shift of thinking in my kids about the ordinary stuff that surrounds us. They’re constantly pointing out objects that represent numbers because of the influence of this wonderful book. 

One more book I’d like to share is Lois Ehlert’s Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On. It is 40 pages and not a photography book-- that’s one reason why I love it. It takes the premise of the author being a fish and explores counting by describing what she’d see if she swam far into the ocean. What sets this book apart is that it introduces the concept (and language) of addition. On each page the author states that the number of fish seen, “plus me” makes___ (the next number). We have used this book to inspire art, science, language arts, cooking, and even physical education lessons. 

I’m also fascinated by counting books that offer exotic themes like other languages or music. I LOVE the book by Muriel Feelings Moja Means One, Swahili Counting. It is 32 pages and full of amazing possibilities. This book has opened up conversations about African life, history, geography, art, and whole host of other activities. I also love the book Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss. It is also 32 pages and opens the door to music through counting. The style of this book is really what does it for me. It has this organic—almost breeze-like. Add in the stunning illustrations and the whole book jumps to life. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Free Trial for New Members!

I'm a fan of anything free (aren't we all) and sometimes a great educational website will open its virtual doors and allow the masses in for an all access pass at the goodies!!

Time4Learning is now offering a 30 day FREE TRIAL (for up to 4 kids) on their site. The catch?? Well, you'll need a blog... but doesn't everyone have one these days? So you're good with the blog and the next thing you need to do is post this on it:

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning can be used as an online homeschooling curriculum, a web based afterschool tutorial or an online summer program. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.

Hey, I did mention it was "free"--right?

I wonder when paid sites like the above will realize that they'd probably make a lot more $$$ by offering their content for free and charging for advertising? The better their content, the more traffic they drive, the higher they can charge for ad space. Lesson Pathways got that message and their site is AWESOME!!

Oh well, for now the Time4Learning site charges $19.95 a month for one student and $14.95 a month for each child after that. If I were to sign up I'd be spending close to a whopping $600.00 a year for my three kids... Considering what I spent on materials this year for the three of them--THAT'S A DEAL!!!

We'll see how good the trial is and I'll blog away about how it goes!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Last week I rediscovered a pack of ancient Jay Jay the Jet Plane alphabet flash cards while cleaning out my infamous kitchen junk drawer. They were sandwiched between a pair of silly pirate teeth and an old spray bottle of eyeglass cleaner. Ever since I bought the poor things they have lived in the back of that drawer, but now it is time to put them to good use! 

I have come up with a few good ideas for using them with my 3 year old. The first is a good old Alpha-Letter Scavenger Hunt. In order to start, have a deck of store bought (or homemade) flashcards and a separate sheet of paper listing all the letters of the alphabet. Then, secretly hide the flash card letters all around the house—and even outdoors if you can, next to things that begin with that particular letter. For instance, I might put letter A next to the apples! Once your child finds the letter, cross it off the list and continue. 

My next idea is a fun twist on scrapbooking. I call it AlphaScrapping. Take pictures of your child holding up a letter. Once you print it out, mount it on a sheet of paper using photo safe glue. Then decorate around the picture with things that begin with that letter, fun words your child likes that begin with that letter or any other thing you can think of that has to do with that letter. For instance, the page for the letter L could have pictures of lettuce from the weekly supermarket circular, the word lion, and some colored leaves that have fallen from the trees in your neighborhood. You could do this as a letter of the day, week, or month, lesson. 

Another great game is AlphaFishing! At the beginning of the year, I bought a package of round magnets from WalMart and I have been itching for a reason to use them. This is the PERFECT way to get them out of the package and have fun with them. Attach a paper clip (the metal type, not the colored coated type) to the top of each flash card. Get creative making a fishing rod out of a stick (or wooden dowel), some string and a magnet. Then spread the cards around and have your child fish for letters. Whatever letter they catch and can correctly identify, they keep—any fish they do not know, you identify for them and then it gets tossed back into the ocean.

AlphaFind is a great game to teach little ones beginning reading skills. Gather several household objects that start with the letters on your flashcards. Place the flashcards in front of your preschooler and ask him or her to place the correct letter in front of the object that begins with it. If they guess correctly, the card remains in front of the item. If not, the card goes back into the group of remaining flashcards. 

Making words can also be fun with flashcards. Find pictures of simple words using old magazines, newspapers or books. Write the word on a separate sheet of paper in big bold letters. Show your child the word and picture. Read the word while encouraging your child to read it with you. Once you have shown your child the picture and read the word, place the flashcard letters in front of you and scramble them up. For instance, if my word were CAT, I would arrange them so that they read, TCA. Encourage your child to unscramble the word so that it matches the one on the paper and then read it aloud.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taking Time to Give Back.

I think it's important to teach my kids that others are less fortunate in this world. Each month I try to highlight and bring to life children from around the world. We focus on how they live and grow within their communities. More often than not, my kids end up surprised by one thing or another and I hope it gives them a healthy appreciation for the things they take for granted everyday.

For our next project, I thought something a little more 'hands on' would be appropriate so we checked out ProjectLinus.org.

We decided to contact our local chapter and find out more about how to become "Blanketeers". It's all very exciting!! I'll keep everyone up to date with how it goes!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homeschool Stress

I have talked to many homeschoolers and "How do you stay sane?" has to be the #1 question I am asked. The honest answer is that it is not easy all the times.

A typical day for me includes:
  •  A baby who needs both a diaper change and a nap
  • A three year old screaming she needs help from in the bathroom
  • A seventh grader who does not understand the math lesson I have spent over an hour explaining
  • A second grader who does not get how she is supposed to write a complete sentence
  • A fifth grader asking if video games can be used to learn about pet care
  • And for funs-sake, let’s throw in an unexpected knock at the door, making the perfect day complete.

While I will admit that I have reached my breaking point MANY times over the course of our home school journey, I have had to learn what my limits are and accept that there is only so much that I can fit in a day.

I like to remember back to when we made that decision to pull our kids out of traditional school. I envisioned our perfect angelic children sitting patiently and quietly, hanging on my every word, understanding everything just because the lessons were gently floating out of my mouth down to their beautiful ears... If you've been homeschooling a while--I saw your smile as you read that last part!!!!

The reality is that life is messy--really messy. I have yet to get through an entire lesson without some sort of interruption.  Phones and doorbells ring, the household chores need to get done, errands need to be run, extra-curricular activities have to be taken care of, food needs to be prepared, younger children need to be tended too, and most importantly I need a break to recharge. There is also the golden rule to consider—KIDS DON'T SIT STILL...ever. That is why, if you home school--you need a solid and doable plan of attack!

Parents who send their kids off to school have it a little easier in the planning department. It is simpler to run up to the market when you do not have to worry about a math lesson hanging over your head. Therefore, I learned very quickly that a schedule (even a very loose one) is paramount to getting things done. Finding Donna Young's site a few years back saved my sanity.

About the only thing about our school day that stays the same is the morning routine. A typical day at my house starts around 9am. We wake up, have breakfast, shower, change, and begin with the chores. After that, the flow is very organic and changes depending on how the kids feel and how mommy feels.

One thing that may surprise many people is that our week is NOT confined to only weekdays or hours. We threw that thinking out of the window along with the—wake up at 5am to get everyone ready and then jump into the freezing car in order to make homeroom at 7:15 and not get a tardy—system of public school. You can find us doing Science assignments at 7pm right after dinner or Spanish on a Saturday.

We also are not committed to a particular spot in the house. Most homeschoolers I know spread out around their surroundings and allow their kids to pick the spot that is comfortable for them. Not surprisingly, when the kids are comfortable--they learn more!

The best thing about homeschooling your kids is that there is not one hard and fast rule as to how to do it. Organized chaos can create some wonderful things! Once you open yourself up to the possibilities, the sky is the limit!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First post...You gotta start somewhere!!

Well, blogging isn't something that I'd ever thought I'd do but like homeschooling, I feel compelled to do it.

I started out innocently enough through Facebook; Home School is the group you'll find me in most days. My goal was to create a place where other like-minded people could bounce around ideas and share in the struggles, challenges, and triumphs of living a home school lifestyle. I also wanted to keep the theme of homeschooling on a budget first and foremost. Using the internet is a wonderful way to get A TON of information for free or for a really low cost.

So far, a couple hundred people have come along for the ride and that's exciting!! I only hope that my blog is able to touch the lives of others who need advice or comfort or are looking to find a bargain or just a break from the craziness that homeschooling can create sometimes.

With that said, welcome to the ride and let the games begin!!