Monday, November 14, 2011

The Easy, Fun way to Teach Handwriting

 

notebooking2

Handwriting is important to me.  I know, a lot of public schools are skipping it completely, and many homeschoolers have traded early typing skills for handwriting practice.  But for me, it is just…. needed.  There are actually several reasons that handwriting is a useful drill.  Handwriting helps develop reading skills.  Handwriting is very helpful for developing small motor skills and . 

 

But do we really need worksheets and practice pages to learn to write?  I mean, we all know how to write the letters, so it can’t be that hard to teach them to someone else, right?  Right!  At least, that’s what I decided.

 

There are two basic tools that I use to help my kids practice writing and enjoy it at the same time.  First, we learn the letters very well using an amazing set of DVDs.  You can read all about them here and here.  I am somewhat passionate about these DVDs, and so are my kids.  We love them!  It is fun to practice the letter shapes with the movie, and it really helps develop writing skills because we are laying a strong foundation (individual letters) before we go on to work on works and sentences.  One new thing at a time, right?

 

So after we learn all of our letters really well (we used the Print DVD for about six months before I felt like the kids were really strong enough in their individual letters to move on.) we need to move on to the next step- letters and words.  I feel that if this happens too soon the letters will get pretty sloppy because there is so much more to think about.  They really need to be automatic before you move on. 

 

When Bop was ready to move on to writing more complex words, I found out really quickly that handwriting is BORING.  Of course, I knew this from my own elementary years, but that was just a vague memory now.  This was the real deal for Bop.  We were using a cheap 1st grade writing notebook that I found at Wal-Mart and she was copying words that I wrote on every other line.  I had to ask myself why handwriting pages are all so blah.  Why do they all have these lined pages with maybe a bit of clipart if you are lucky?  Why do we expect our children to want to do their best work on our ugliest pages? 

 

I decided that if I was going to expect her prettiest writing, the least I could do would be give her a pretty page to write it on.  So I went to NotebookingPages, where I have a complete membership (I have never regretted buying that, by the way!) and started digging around.  I found out that there are hundreds of beautiful pages with primary-lined pages just waiting to be turned into handwriting sheets! 

 

Some of these have lovely coloring pages of birds, historical figures, animals, Bible stories, transportation themes, and so much more.  Some of them feature lovely borders or small pictures with a large blank space for drawings.  Either way, they are gorgeous and Bop loves them.  She actually ASKS to do handwriting now!  She gets to color pictures or draw when she is done, and she really takes pride in making them lovely. 

 

Lately our handwriting has just been our dictation words from All About Spelling, but any simple words or phrases will do.  Start by writing the words on every other line so they can see them and remember how to make the letters.  We also want them spelled correctly, because lovely work requires nice spelling.  After that is coming easily we can move on to writing the words lightly above the lines so that they can erase them later and the page will only have their work on it.  Finally, when they are really doing well we can have them move on to true copywork- looking at a source in a book or something that you have typed up, and carefully copying it into their page.

 

notebooking

 

We start with simple words- maybe something from their phonics or spelling, or something from what they are learning that day.  But remember, we want them starting small so that the sheer complexity of the word doesn’t overwhelm their memories of how to form the letters.  We start with CVC words and sight words.  They start out doing maybe 3-5 words a day.  Later they will move on to more, but don’t overwhelm them and they will be able to really do their best. 

 

Free Notebooking Pages:

I really love NotebookingPages, and highly recommend them.  However, you can find some notebook pages free online.  I have never really found much that compares to the quality of NotebookingPages, but if you want to try this out here are a few sources: 

NotebookingPages free printables

Homeschool Helper Notebooking Pages (most of these seem to have single-lined pages instead of primary-lines pages.)

Homeschool Share Notebooking Pages

Homeschool Notebooking

The Notebooking Fairy blog

Geography-based notebooking pages

Freebies at Currclick:

ABC Notebooking Pages

Ancient Egyptians Pages

Autumn Notebooking Pages

Down on the Farm Pages (These are excellent!)

Bird Notebooking Pages (I don’t know if these have any primary-lines pages.)

Thanksgiving Pages

 

Kids school web

 

Our Favorite NotebookingPages:

These are our favorite handwriting pages on NotebookingPages.com.  Most of these can be purchased as individual packages, or you can do what I did and buy the whole membership. 

 

image

 

  A-Z Animals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  A-Z Sports

 

 

 

 

 

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  A-Z Transportation

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Nature Study- Wildflowers, Weeds and Garden Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Basic Lined Pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Nature Study Birds

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up

OK.  I have to start doing these again.  I was reading back through last year’s blog posts and these are my absolute favorite things to read.  What a treasure to have a record of each week!  There was so much that I had forgotten and it has only been a year. 

 

My sweeties.  Ages three, five and six.

Kids picture web

 

Bop was on Ambleside Online week 11 this week, and we finished up The House at Pooh Corner.  This has to be my kids’ all time favorite book to listen to, along with Winnie the Pooh.  They all pretended to cry when it was over.  It is also my favorite book to read aloud, so we will be doing it again soon! 

For science we worked on a lapbook from In the Hands of a Child on the water cycle.  I have a lot of resources for learning about weather, and I thought this would be a good one to kick us off.  It was a little slow going at first but we all enjoyed it.  We watched The Magic School Bus Water Cycle on Wednesday and that was fun, of course. 

 

Watching the Magic School Bus and eating clouds.  (Or marshmallows for the uninformed. )

Kids school movie

 

 

Math Time…

kids school 2 web

 

It takes a lot of concentration.

kids school 3 web

 

 kids school stck

 

 

Mountains of Food

The kids also helped me organize the cupboards.  After they made a castle with the food, they climbed to the top of the cupboards, and later onto the fridge.  They were disappointed when I started putting the food back in. 

 

 

 

 

 

We also had to celebrate the first true snowstorm of the season a couple of weeks ago. 

 

Baby Girl

Snowstorm2

 

It was really wet but they had fun…

snowstorm3

 

We had a Merlin visit us. 

Of course, we had to take pictures, look him up in a field guide, and read all about him. 

Snowstorm

Friday, September 2, 2011

Read Aloud Challenge- Pioneers and sailboats

We have done quite a bit of read aloud this week.  I am so proud!  We have family visiting this weekend, so we ended up doing more then I thought we would.

Bop is doing Ambleside Online this year (I know, I need to update my curriculum plans for you all, and I will!  I promise!) so that means that we do several read alouds a day for her school.  This covers history, geography, literature and natural science.  I am not going to list all of the books that we use for this, since we only read one chapter a week from each one.  I will mention one of our favorites, though.  :)


Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)
Paddle to the Sea
Bop loves this book already!  However she is disappointed that we are only reading one chapter at a time.  It is great, though, because she is really remembering each chapter well.  For those of you who don't know, Paddle to the Sea is a book about a little wooden boat who sails from a snowbank high in the Canadian mountains, all the way to the Atlantic ocean.  This is our first geography book for the year, and it shows through literature how water runs downhill; from small trickling streams, to lakes and great rushing rivers, and finally to the ocean.



Little House in the Big Woods Book and Charm (Charming Classics)Little House in the Big Woods
This is another one of our Ambleside Online books, only this one is a free read book, so it is a TRUE read aloud.  We read as much as we want whenever we want.  This series of books holds the most memories for me.  I can remember my mom reading these books to us over and over again, and I still remember when we first got the set as a gift.  I am absolutely loving reading them again, and so far Bop and CJ are enjoying them just as much as we did.





Time of Wonder (Picture Puffins)

Time of Wonder
This is CJ's unit study for now.  We are taking this one casually.  No time limits, no schedules, some days we do it and some we don't.  It is a charming book by the well-known author of Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings.  So far we have read it a few times, but not really done much more.  If we don't ever get around to it, oh well.  This is kindergarten take two, and this time we are just enjoying it.  :)





The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This one needs no introduction.  :)  We got this for Baby Girl's birthday because we (Shock!) didn't have this classic in our home library!  She loves this book, so I thought I would share a little video clip of her reading it to her baby doll.  She likes all of the book except the very end....

video



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Using Computers with Early Learners

 

Like most families, homeschoolers are not immune from the media problem. What is good, what is bad? How much is too much? What about 'educational' programs? While the American Academy of Pediatrics has decided on an amount that they think is appropriate for specific ages, I find their recommendations to be a little annoying. What is 'screen time'? Is all screen time equal? And what about online school programs, isn't that screen time too?

With young children it is easier to keep control over the screen time. Since most preschoolers and early elementary aged children are not likely to be turning on and using computers on their own, it is really up to mom to GIVE them screen time. Of course, some technologically minded kids can find their way around a computer pretty well at 4 and 5, but since this is really not safe for the child (or the computer!) most of the time it is up to the parents.

In our family I only have a few simple rules about computer use, and none of them involve a mandatory 2 hour limit. The first rule is NO screen time before school. I firmly believe that too much time looking at a backlit screen can, as I tell my kids, fry your brain. It is bad on your eyes and your brain is constantly working with a myriad of conflicting images of ads in sidebars, bouncing characters, and animated backgrounds. Of course some sites and games are worse then others, but I just don't see the point in limiting creativity and productivity when the day has just began.

Our second rule is about attitude. I have seen over and over how quickly computer and movie time lead to discontent, fighting, and bad attitudes in the kids. I don't know why this happens, and maybe it is just my kids, but if they show a sign of the grumpies, it is no computer time at all the next day.

 caiden on computer

 

So now that we have our ground rules set, how do we use the computer to add to our education? I find that for the very little ones, there is just not much they can do on the computer. But once they have mastered basic mouse and keyboard use a whole world of educational skills can be enhanced with a computer.

TYPING: While I am a firm believer in the value of learning handwriting, I am also not stupid. I can see how this skill is becoming less and less valuable as a tool (though it is still vital for motor skills) and how typing is taking its place. This is actually good news for a lot of kids! Pushing buttons is a lot easier then learning to carefully form letters, so children with motor skill issues can still progress in school. A lot of children simply prefer typing over writing; it is faster, neat (No eraser marks or sloppy letters!) and easy to use. So here are my favorite programs for teaching beginners to type. These programs can be used as soon as the child has patience to figure it out and hands big enough to reach the keys.

A membership-based typing and phonics program
A free typing program that Bop loves

 

MATH: The computer is a logical choice for some math subjects. Drills can be made fun, or at least tolerable, using the computer. Parents are spared the task of holding flashcards and the child has some independence. Complicated subjects can also be explained visually for older students, and there are even websites with virtual manipulatives! I am not sure this would help a tactile learner, since the whole point is to be manipulating the manipulatives, but they are fun to play with!

A lot of different games for all ages
Our favorite timed or untimed drill site

 

READING: There are a lot of programs that are supposed to promote literacy skills, but it seems to me that a lot of them are a waste of time. However There are a few that my kids enjoy, and even a few that have actually taught them something. Here are our favorites:

Starfall, everyone's favorite prek website, free!
A free, sequential reading skill site from PBS Kids

 

BEGINNING CONCEPTS: For the preschooler still learning logical reasoning, patterning, order, and a ton of other basic concepts, there are a lot of entertaining games out there on the world wide web. I limit this kind of game, because these things are easily taught by real life if the child has a lot of activities and hands-on 'fun stuff' to do. But the kids like them, and I tell myself that at least they are learning something.

Peep and the Big Wide World- A fun website with games and videos
Go Go Kabongo- Free and membership options for reading readiness
Salsa- Free videos and resources for learning Spanish

 

While we do enjoy using these websites sometimes, I still try to limit the amount of time the kids spend on the computer. I don't have a set number of minutes, but it is typically less then an hour a day. Some days they never get on, some days it is used more. I can usually tell when they have had enough, just by talking to them or watching them. I try to use the computer as a reward for willing helpers and happy attitudes during bookwork and chore time, but I don't have a set system. I just remind them that grumpies don't get to play on the computer.

What are your favorite ways to use the computer in education?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Break is over….

Morning sickness, summer break, and a new house.  We have been busy this summer!  Early in the season I decided to take the kid’s school break as a blogging break, too, and just focus on being with them and having fun all summer.  Well, it ended up being a good thing!  We have been so busy that not much blogging would have happened anyway, and this way I didn’t even feel guilty about it.

]fm,

So what did we do all summer?  Well, to start the season off right, we found out that we will be having a new little blessing this winter, just in time for Valentines day.  Unfortunately, this wonderful event also came with a lot more sickness and fatigue then my other pregnancies.  I spent a lot of time during those first few weeks just sleeping on the couch while the kids watched movies. 

 

Then we got another wonderful surprise.  We found a house to move into, which actually had bedrooms with windows that would not let in the snow, central heat and are (what a luxury!) and room for another new baby and a school room!  Because it was the middle of the month and we didn’t really want to pay extra rent, we started packing right away.  This made for a very busy few weeks, with a very tired mamma and a very messy house.  We are finally settled in somewhat, and even though the house still has lots of boxes unpacked and unorganized cupboards, we feel so, so very blessed! 

 

Now that those two events are (mostly) over, we have started school again.  This is our first week, and even though my brain (i.e. planner) with all of our school plans for the 2011-2012 school year year is still missing, we have forged ahead undeterred.  We are loving the curriculum that we have for this year, but that should be saved for another post.  I just want to say that after this long, I am really glad to be back and really glad to still have you reading this.  Thanks!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amazing Deals for Download N Go studies!


I got this great sale notice in my e-mail today, and even though I am on 'summer blogging break', I thought that I still needed to share it with you.  

First of all, TODAY ONLY, you can buy Birthday Bonanza as a single study!  Some of you may not know, but Birthday Bonanza is normally only offered as part of a package deal, never individually.  This is the only time I have ever seen it available alone, it may never happen again!  



Birthday Bonanza


Next, Amanda and Team are offering some really neat Fun Packs, at really awesome prices, for two days.  There are ten of these sets altogether, with fun themes like Expedition, Animals, Historical, Seasons, Food, and more.  You will want to definitely take advantage of this!  If you aren't sure, just do it for me since I won't be able to get them and this is probably the best sale I have ever seen.  :)


Expeditions


Historical


Beach Fun



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Discovering Nemo’s World Unit Study and Printables

Welcome to Discovering Nemo’s World!  I have had a ton of fun creating these printables and looking up links.  Now we are having even more fun using them!  The kids are all three loving it, and I am pleased as punch!  Feel free to use any of these pages for yourself and your family, but please don’t copy them for others. Instead, direct them to my site where they can get their own copy! 

The introductory pages contain information to help you, and the actual unit study pages are mainly pages of links.  These are the resources I am using.  If you prefer to use your library instead of your internet, go right ahead!  I have been starting with the links for video clips, and just clicking through them.  The kids watch a few of the videos to get their interest really going, and then I start using the informational links, such as National Geographic.  I simply read these to the kids, but if you have readers they could do this themselves.  Then we visit the printable links to see if there is anything we want to do, and we head to the table.  We do all of the lapbook and notebook pages, along with any website printables, to finish up. 

Note: I never finished this. This is everything I have done. The second and third weeks don't have any links or study guides. However, information about these topics should be easy to find online. 
 image

Planning and introduction


Week One

Week One

Study and Links

Printables- Learning about Fiction

Printables- Ecosystems and Coral Reefs

Printables- Australia, Ocean zones, and the five oceans

Printables- Animal Study: Clownfish and Anemones



Week Two

Study and Links

Printables- Social Studies: Scientists

Printables- Animal Study: Sharks


Week Three

Week Four

Study and Links


 All files on this page are copyrighted and may not be used or copied for use outside of your immediate family. Please refer anyone interested to this site. 

Thank you for your understanding! 


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Learning about Nemo’s World

 COVER

We have been having a great time this week, using my new “Nemo’s World” unit study.  This is a four-week internet based study that I wrote for little ocean- obsessed CJ.  It covers a lot of topics, but not surprisingly it is science-heavy.  We are using it as a fun study for summertime, but there should be enough here to keep most kids ‘scienced’ for a month.  (CJ uses ‘science’ as a  verb, so I thought I might as well, too.)  I have planned it with four lessons a week since we are not schooling on Fridays right now, but I have ideas for a fifth day if you need that.  I will be offering this free on my blog, one week at a time, and the first week will go up tomorrow!

 

nemo

For now, I wanted to offer you a sneak preview of the fun we’ve been having!

 

Nemo pics

 

nemo2

 

nemo3

 

 nemo4

Friday, June 3, 2011

Download N Go Sunny Seashells Review

seashells 3

Wow!  can I just say that for the last Download N Go review of the school year, Sunny Seashells is amazing? We were absolutely enthralled with the beautiful seashells and the lovely animals that make them.  There was so much of this that I didn’t even know, it was simply fascinating!
Sunny Seashells is full of neat features, like a country of the day, seashell of the day, and more.  Here is a list of the chapters:


 

 

Day 1: Seashells--What Are They?

Day 2: Seashells and History

Day 3: Types of Seashells

Day 4: The Science of Seashells

Day 5: Seashell Party!

 


Each day has a variety of activities, including lovely drawing sheets, interesting worksheets about the animals and countries, lots of lapbook pieces, and beautiful videos embedded on Download N Go’s own website pages.  We just love the videos and the kids remember them exceptionally well.  This study was especially enhanced by the videos, since we are all used to seeing empty seashells.  It is so neat to be able to watch the live animals in action!
 Sunny Seashells
I highly recommend having some real seashells of your own for this study.  We had a dishful from mommy’s childhood trips to Florida, and they enhanced the study in many ways!  We sketched them, sorted them, compared them, and tried to figure out how a real live critter would live in them.  You can frequently get real seashells at Walmart or craft stores, and they are not expensive.  What a neat way to enhance this study for those of us who are landlocked!

seashells

One of the neat features of these studies is the poetry pages.  After each day’s readings, there is a gorgeous page with poetry or Bible verses on a photograph.  These are just beautiful, and I think they are perfect to go along with the study as copywork.  There are normally copywork pages included with the study with themed borders or photographs, so you can pick one of two of those, and use them with the lovely verse pages.  An older child might want to do one verse a day, while a younger child might need to work on the same page all week. 
    
seashells2Since this is my last review of the year, I wanted to add another things about Download N Go unit studies, that you might not notice fi you only did one or two.  A lot of these studies are somewhat interconnected, so not only are you learning through connections each week, but every so often your children will notice something that refers them back to an earlier study that they did.  For example, In Sunny Seashells, three of the five places visited are Australia, Africa and Ireland, and each will be re-visited in it’s own Download N Go- Expedition Australia, Expedition Africa, and Expedition Ireland!  In fact, when we got to Ireland, my kids said, “Oh, we remember that place, mom!” 

Another neat connection that I noticed was learning about using shells for money.  Bop was excited when she remembered learning about people using cocoa beans for money in Chocolate Challenge.  You will find more and more of these connection between the studies as you go along, I have just mentioned two that I noticed in the last few studies that we used.  It really cements the learning, because you are calling back into their memories those other places and things.

seashells4


Be sure to visit Amanda Bennett’s Unit Studies to take a look at the free sample pages for Sunny Seashells, and visit the Download N Go blog for more reviews.
 
I received this product free of charge for review purposes. I promise to be honest and fair in my reviews, and I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. You can visit the Download-N-Go blog to read more reviews on this product.




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Friday, May 27, 2011

Read for the Heart Review

Like most homeschool moms, I am a book fanatic.  At garage sales, the first place I always go is to the table with the books.  I love library sales, and normally come out with several boxes.   My new favorite store is the used bookstore.  (We have a very small town, and this is the first time we have had a used bookstore.)   I ask for bookshelves for Christmas.  Ok, maybe not that last one.  Yet.
 
But there is one thing I have had trouble with.  How do you know which books are the best?  When you pick up a book at a garage sale, how do you know if it is worth buying?  most of us eventual get a ‘feel’ for good books, just by looking at the cover and flipping through it.  But while I am good at not picking ‘twaddly’ books, I always feel like I may still be missing out on some real treasures because I wasn’t sure of the best ones.
 
PhotobucketSo I was delighted to get the chance to review Read for the Heart.  This beautiful thick paperback “book-about-books” was wrote by a homeschool graduate, Sarah Clarkson.  Sarah is the oldest daughter of one of my favorite authors of homeschool encouragement books, Sally Clarkson.  This book is published by Apologia, the well-known publisher of the science curriculum by the same name, and a variety of books, including Good Morning, God, which I reviewed earlier.
 
I was pretty sure that I would enjoy reading about good books, but I was surprised by all of the other information here.  Sarah has several chapters in the front of the books that do not contain book suggestions.  These chapters are about reading in general.  First, teh author includes a lot of her experiences with good books, which is very inspiring and motivating.  She also has a chapter on the loss of literacy in the United States, and ideas for how to begin incorporating more reading time in your family life, especially reading aloud together. 
 
The book suggestions are organized by type, and include chapters on picture books, classics, fairy tales, history, spiritual reading, and more.  I loved reading every chapter of this book, they were very helpful to me.  I heard of several books and series that I had not read before, including the Landmark series and several in the Fantasy and Fairy Tale chapter.  I also enjoyed reading the Picture Book chapter, because I quite simply love a good picture book.  I am one of those moms who not only enjoys reading to her children, but also can occasionally be found sitting on the floor beside the picture book shelves, reading.  To myself. 
 
Even if you think that you are such a bibliophile that there’s nothing new to learn, you should take a look through Read for the Heart.  Sure, there are old classics such as Madeline and Charlotte’s web, but there is a lot of hidden treasure, too.  For example, the discussion of the beginnings of Children's literature and the those first great classics, testimony of the power of learning history through good literature, and a very interesting discussion on why fantasy is important for Christian children. 
 
I highly recommend this book to all parents, homeschooling or not, who care about a quality education and magical childhood.  You can read more reviews for this book at The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog, and visit Apologia to learn more about all of there products. 

I received this product free of charge
as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew,
for review purposes. I promise to be honest
and fair in my reviews, and I received no
other compensation in exchange for my review.
You can visit The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog
to read more reviews on this product.


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