I Have Been Blessed

All about how God has blessed me. In my marriage, with my six children, through homeschooling, and our faith with recipes, large family living, and updates on our life.

Teaching the Kids I Like

This is the article I wrote that will be on  The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Blog Feature,  “Meet the Crew”

Teaching the Kids I Like …

When I was about five years old, my Mom wrote a song for me:

I might be a Kindergarten Teacher

Or work in a bank like my Aunt Joan

Or work in an office like Mommy

Or have ten kids and stay at home.

I might be a doctor

Or maybe a baby’s nurse

But whatever I do, Wherever I go

I’ll always put my God first.

Probably from the first time I heard the song, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and throughout my formative years, and on into my teen years, I never really wavered from that thought. So, in high school, I focused my electives on Education, and when I entered college, first at the Community College level, and then at the University of South Florida (at the time, third in the nation for their Education program), I entered with my focus on an Elementary Education degree.

I did my time and my classes. And then I got to my internship. My first internships were great. I learned a lot and I loved being in charge of the class for a couple of hours at a time. Then came my final internship. I was assigned a fourth grade class in inner city Tampa, in the ghetto. And it was a neighborhood school. I cried on my first day when I saw the bullet holes in the library windows. I had kids arrested out of my class. I lost kids to “the system” because their parents got arrested for drugs or prostitution the night before.  I had kids sleep in my class because they listened to their parents fight or party or because someone else was sleeping in their bed. And my heart broke over and over again. I realized I didn’t have the capacity in me to not become too emotionally involved.

I took a job working in an office (like Mommy) …. Where I eventually met my husband. When it was time for my oldest baby to go to school, the thoughts of the sending my son to school mixed with all I knew about the government controlled beaurocracy, I wasn’t anxious to send my son there. Thanks to some friends that were also homeschooling, I felt like that was the best choice for me as well.

I am sure when my mom wrote that song, the line about having ten kids and staying at home was meant as the punch line. The “way out there” one that wouldn’t come true. Surely, I would pick one of the other fine choices  … but to my amazement, it’s the one that is most similar to the truth. Six kids later, and I am blessed to stay home. So four years of college and I still teach, I just get to teach the kids I like!!!!

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Primary Arts of Language

The Institute for Excellence in Writing very graciously allowed members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew to review their Primary Arts of Language Program (or PAL).  This program, for ages K-2 is a blended sound-sight method of learning to read and write.  This program has two parts, Primary Arts of Language: Reading, and Primary Arts of Language: Writing. Although they are available individually, the program is best suited as done together. In a talk entitled” The Four Language Arts”, by Andrew Pudewa (included in the DVD-Rom), Andrew describes the four arts of Language as reading and listening, writing and speaking,

The Reading Portion teaches phonics and whole words, using poetry. There are four stages: Foundations, Activities, Discovery, and the Library.  In the foundation part, phonetic rules and sight words are presented using games and manipulatives. Next, your student moves into Activities, where he plays to master the phonetic rules. At that point, she moves on to the Discovery where she can use what she has learned on words, and then into books, in the Library Stage.  Poetry is the centerpiece of each lesson and a poem is enjoyed for several days and used for many purposes. The Reading Package is available for $69 and includes: Primary Arts of Language  Reading Teacher’s Manual  The Phonetic Farm folder and stickers, The Phonetic Games, and a DVD-Rom which has the following – An Instructional DVD portion, and files that contain the student materials, Readers, and some audio files that introduce the program and give you more insight to this method of phonics instructions.

The Writing portion lays the foundation for your child yo respond to what she reads or hears in writing. It is separated into three parts. Part One is printing lessons and an introduction to responding to stories using a Story Sequence Chart. Part 2 consists of copy work, introduction of style, and continued story sequencing, and PArt 3 begins formal composition. The Writing Package is available for $89 and includes: Primary Arts of Language: Writing Teachers Manual, An interactive DVD-Rom which includes video instruction, student files, and 6 informational audio files. The Writing Package also includes All About Spelling Level One. (Teacher’s Manual, Student Materials, and Basic Interactive Packet).

This is one of the most complete phonics instructions I have seen. It is very integrated with the reading and writing portion which is nice. And it has a simplicity that is missing in “other” phonics programs we have tried. I especially appreciated the manipulatives which are uncommon in the Arts of Language. For the REading Portion we really enjoyed the game play aspect and using the poetry. Some of the poetry was familiar to me (including my favorite: The Little Turtle), and some of it was new to me. It was all pleasant little poems. I also liked the way the letters were introduced (The Letter Stories) …. for example, c is a happy letter. It is a happy cookie because somebody took a big bite! c is for cookie. The story not only reinforces the letter sound, but also the letter formation. Overall  I think this is a great program. I enjoyed it, which makes it an easier program to teach. And I appreciate the durability and non-consumable elements, especially considering that once Maddy gets this down, Adreya and Wyatt, and eventually Cassidy will all cycle through.

We feel blessed to have reviewed this program. We received this free in exchange for our honest review. Click the banner below to see what others thought of this program.

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Music Together

Our family loves music. We are one of *those* families that like to have music going during chore time and during our seat-work time of school. We always have music going on in the car (usually a collection of all our favorite songs burned to the MP3 player). It seems someone is always singing, or humming. We sing together in the car, and often during our school day I am trying to find a song to go along with what we are learning! So, we felt blessed to be chosen for the  Music Together CD and Teacher’s Songbook review. Music Together started in 1987 as an Early Childhood music program for babies to second grade, using a research-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum that emphasizes and facilitates adult involvement. There are classes offered all over the United States (and in lots of countries), although the closest one to us personally is about 40 miles away.

Music Together has offered their Family Favorites CD with 19 of the best-loved songs for $14.95 for the CD, $9.95 for the download, or $0.99 for individual tracks. You can see a list of titles and preview the songs here. The only song on the CD that we knew prior to receiving this CD was “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. All the other songs were new to us. The CD starts with a Hello Song and ends with a Goodbye Song, which for some odd reason, my children think is really fun. We have another CD with a “Hello Song” so upon first hearing this NEW Song, their first reaction was “That is not how the Hello Song goes.” But this CD (and the Hello Song) grew on them. A lot of the songs have  sounds, instead of words, as a main portion of the tunes, which makes it easier (in my opinion) for little kids to feel like they can sing along. It seemed like with using sounds (la, dee, bo, dum) that the kids could focus on the rhythm and tune without feeling they needed to memorize the “words”. One of our favorite songs was “John the Rabbit”. This song has a call and response type of tune, where something is sung, and the response is “Yes Ma’am!” A good song for us, not only because it is about a garden (something we are working on), but is also emphasizes manners (something Mommy likes), but it allowed the kids to sing along right away!

The Teacher’s Songbook, which is offered individually for $29.95 has 112 pages of the music and teaching suggestions. Using the John the Rabbit song, the teaching book tells you what activities are used (Large Movement, Fingerplay, Call-and-Response, and Songbook illustrations); the music of the piece (E Major, Starting Pitch B, and Swing Meter); and also what instruments are used in the Recording (Guitar, Bass, Shaker, Body Percussion . Then the teacher’s guide goes on to give you the sheet music, a simple two color illustration and ways to act out the songs, dances or movements for the songs, and alterations for children with speech/social or sensory/physical special needs. We found fun ways to move and play with our instruments. These songs provoke action. You want to move while you are listening to them. You want the simple shaker and drum instruments for your little ones to play along.

The CD and Songbook are offered at a $5 savings when bought together ($39.95) and if you use the coupon code “Schoolhouse”, you can save an additional $2. We did receive both the CD and the Songbook free in exchange for this review. We feel very blessed.

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Early Settlers in America

Last year was our first year using a Unit Study curriculum. The idea of all of us studying the same curriculum on one topic but each kid at their own level really appeals to us. At the opportunity to review a Once-a-Week Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy, we were anxious to see another angle into the Unit Study option. These units last around six weeks and are designed to be used, as their name suggests, once a week. They are designed to bring the family together, instilling both a love for learning, and a love for the Lord. The Once-a-Week aspect is designed for you to take a break from regular studies. The only thing added during the week is the reading (individually, and as a family).

There are many units available. We were allowed the opportunity to review Early Settlers in America. This six-week study covers The Lost Colony (Roanoke), Jamestown, Holland, the Pilgrims, Pennsylvania, and New York. This unit is suggested for grades 2-12, but is easy to accommodate younger siblings as well.

These unit studies are basically no-prep, although a trip to the library is necessary and a quick peek at what’s coming is useful so you can have all your supplies on hand. All of the units are faith-based and cover the full range of curriculum, including Bible, Literature, Language Arts, History, Science, Art, Music and Geography. The idea is that once you choose your Unit Study day, you drop your main curriculum and focus on your unit study assignments, starting with the family devotional. (Some people choose to do this on Friday, and some on Saturday, when Dad can become involved in Field Trips, etc.)

This unit includes a weekly family devotional, book and movie suggestions, a simple History timeline, some geography, a research project, American crafts, life skills, discovery of life in the 1800s, Creative Writing assignments, Field Trip Suggestions, Suggestions for Family Game and Movie Night, and “Stump Your Dad” Trivia. Additionally, these units are designed to incorporate Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls Merit Badge Requirements for each unit study.

The “Getting the Most out of Your Once-a-Week Study” was very helpful and (oddly) is located at the end of the study. (I recommend reading it first.) For our family, I found it best to split out the Unit Study into daily increments and do  a little each day to keep with the routine and flow of our homeschool day. Although, I have little ones, so that routine is important to us. Older children would surely appreciate the “day off” feel of the curriculum.

The Early Settlers in America Study is available for $17.95. We received this free, however, in exchange for an honest review. We have been blessed.

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Family Time Fitness

 

After seeing the booth for Family Time Fitness at the FPEA Convention, I knew I wanted to add them to my “must buy” curriculum list. When I saw their name on the possible list for review, I held my breath and prayed we’d get to review the Fitness 4 Home School Core 1 Curriculum. And we were blessed enough to be chosen! This is a physical education curriculum designed for kids K-8 that can be taught with the teacher having no prior phys ed knowledge. What really “drew me in” at the convention is the guy telling me he hands this to his oldest child, and that child taught P.E. for his other children. That is exactly how we used this program!

For a small amount of $57, you get 260 lessons. Each lesson takes about 30 – 45 minutes and are intended at 3 days per week. Although, I like to get my children outside every day, so we did four times a week, with Friday being “free play” day. All the lessons are PDF so there are lots of options, including reading it on the computer, a kindle, nook, i-pad, or printing it. There is the FULL lesson (which is two pages) or a Summary (which is one page per lesson). There are demonstration videos showing the proper way to do each exercise.

The equipment needed is minimal (things like a bean bag, hula hoop, balls). There are warm up Exercises (which is about three to five different things), and then Activity/ Game Play (a couple more exercises that help with skills), A Cool Down (about two to three stretching type exercises) and an outdoor activity. We reviewed this during our rainy season, so for most days the kids could not do their exercises out doors, but our living room worked just fine for most things!

We did this curriculum during our lunch break. For us, I printed the two page (full detail) instructions and handed them to my oldest (who is 11), Brendyn, and he led the others through the stretches and exercises while I got lunch ready. It was fun to peek around the corner and see them in their stretching moves and hearing Brendyn “coach” them through their repetitions. There were a couple of things that my kids are going to have to build up to (like 60 jumping jacks), but for the most part they Really enjoyed seeing what they would be doing and tried their best to attempt and finish everything. The variety helped keep it fun and interesting. My littlest kids loved trying everything out and doing the exercises.

This is something we will definitely keep as part of our ongoing curriculum, maybe even upgrading to the other options!! We feel blessed to have been able to review this curriculum. We did receive this free in exchange for a review.

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Uncover Exciting History

My darling eleven year old son would like a Kindle for Christmas. And I am as-of-yet undecided about it. What I love about it is that there are SO MANY educational applications and books available!  Recently, I have been able to review such an e-book on my personal Kindle. Golden Prarie Press has allowed us the chance to review Uncover Exciting History, by Amy Puetz.

This book has 25 Chapters, with four Bonus Chapters, with each chapter offering short  stories (about 5-6 pages each) about Christian Heritage topics such as Christopher Columbus, The Story of the Constitution, The Mexican War, The Oregon Trail, The Pony Express, The Navajo Code Talkers, Marco Polo (and so many more). After each story is a Digging Deeper Section that offers questions, and activities to further investigate into the topics.

Cautiously, I allowed Brendyn to borrow my Kindle and read this book, as he has a genuine love and interest for ANYTHING History-related.

I am going to interject quickly to say, my son likes History, and I as a general rule do not …. Unfortunate, I know…. However, this only presents a problem when upon instances like this, where my son finds it necessary to tell me all the “exciting” facts he learns while reading “fascinating” history. For instance, Chapter Eight, “Crossing the Delaware” here is the conversation.

“Mom, you know the Battle of Trenton?”

Me: “No”

“You know, during the Revolutionary War?”

Me: Um, yeah, okay.

“George Washington didn’t lose any men and the other guys lost 21 guys, 90 were wounded, and 900 were taken captive. Can you believe that?”

Me: Yeah, wow!

He enjoyed the book, and the stories were short enough that I could “lend” him my Kindle for short periods of time to allow him to read the stories. This book sells for $11.96 as an E-book, available in Kindle, Nook, or PDF format. Or as an illustrated print book for $15.96.

We did receive this free in exchange for this review. We are so blessed.

 

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I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist

So far everything we have reviewed or bought from Apologia, we have loved. I was very interested in this book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, – their first Apologetics Curriculum for High School Students, even though I have no high school students. (Well, at least, no high school students, yet.) The title of this book drew me in and the idea that it defends the Christian faith, and prepares you to “always have an answer”, is a topic that I felt I could use a little studying on. I would dare say my faith in God is stronger than it has ever been, but my ability to portray that to others with boldness and effectiveness is something I need work on. I also feel like I know of several people (right off the top of my head) who could (and I pray, would) benefit from reading this book. 

The book, coupled with Apologia’s Workbook, provides a whole course of study that tackles the question of absolute truth. And although I am a fast reader, I am not nearly completed with this. This study is recommended for grades 9-12 (or an adult who feels like they might also benefit). The book sells for $16. The Table of Contents offers Chapter Titles such as: Can we Handle the Truth, Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All, Do We Have Testimony of Jesus, Who Is Jesus, If God – Why Evil, and MUCH more. This book is over 400 pages long and I actually look forward to studying all the way through it. The understanding I am getting and the way this forces me to really examine what I believe is at oftentimes, convicting.

The companion Workbook, which sells for $33, helps the student to understand what they are reading and remember critical points. The Workbook also presents supplemental material, study questions, and activities designed to encourage personal reflection and discussion.The answer key is downloadable on Apologia’s website.The book is great, but the Workbook draws even more out of it, and out of me, as I study it. It causes me to slow down and really focus and pay attention. It makes me seriously think!

My intention is to not only complete this on my own, but to also set it aside for when Brendyn can do this study as well. I think it will be a meaningful addition into our Curriculum, and into our Faith System that we can always stand ready to give an answer for the Faith which is in us. (I Peter 3:15) We did receive these two books free in exchange for an honest review. We Have Been Blessed!

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Spelling City {dot} com

We were given the opportunity to review SpellingCity.com. And while I normally veer away from online programs, I thought I would give this one a try because there are lots of “print” options that go along with it. We were offered the Premium Membership, which normally sells for $29.99 per year, which gives us more opportunities than the Basic (free) membership, such as, individual student log ins (you can have up to five children signed up), premium activities, and no advertisements.

The way that we were able to use this website was to import our own vocabulary words (although lots of list are available automatically, including Math vocabulary, States, Geography, Science, etc.). Once we put in our list, we could then print worksheets of games, matching, test, crosswords, etc. Flash cards and handwriting practice pages are available too!

In the Teaching Resources section, there are video lessons and classroom ideas for teaching lots of Language Arts lessons (Analogies, Antonyms, Contractions, Homonyms, Parts of Speech, Verb  Tenses, and lots more.) Especially for a home teacher having problems teaching this to their students (it has been a long time since college!), this section could be particularly useful.

I think the ability to turn their vocabulary words into nice games and tests with little effort on my part makes this worth the money! We received this one year membership for free in exchange for our review. We have been blessed!

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Addition Made Easy

Math Made Easy sent us their addition package: Addition Teaching and Learning Made Easy. It’s a long title but a simple little Math Program aimed at the memorization of Addition facts without finger – counting! This is a 64 page, spiral combed book full of everything you need to teach this program – the Lesson Plan, a Pre and Post Test, the worksheets, the Games, even the Double sided flashcards. This is a six-week program. You start by adding 0’s and 1’s, which are rapidly picked up the children. Then they eliminate all the duplicate facts (2+3 is the same as 3+2). This leaves only 36 facts for the children to memorize. So each week, the student learns six random facts! (They are not in family groups.) The facts are taught through worksheets (coloring, matching, puzzles, etc.), Games, and Flashcards. The flashcards are double-sided with, for example 8+6 on one side and 6+8 on the other side. The double facts (4+4) have some 0 and 1 facts thrown in (9+0).

All the worksheets are black and white to facilitate easy copying for at home use. The game pieces are on heavier colored card stock and need cut out. For what at first glance seems almost too simplified, it is a solid program. I am looking forward to what the other reviewers say about the multiplication set, since we need work memorizing those facts as well!

This sells for $24.95 here. This is a quick and easy way to replace drilling for fact memorization. This is recommended for 1st and 2nd grade or lower ages ready for addition. We received this package free in exchange for our honest review. We are so blessed!

 

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Schoolhouse Teachers

I don’t even know where to start to tell you about all the awesomeness at SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I guess I will start by telling you that somewhere along the line, I found out about The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, and on a subscription special, began receiving their magazine. For someone who knew very few homeschoolers, had never been to an Expo, getting that magazine was an introduction into all the vast array of curriculum that is available. Fast forward in time, and The Old Schoolhouse magazine is now available online, and they have created a website for homeschoolers. The amount of content on there is overwhelming! (The good kind of overwhelming).

Okay, first, let me say they have made a Site tour Video to show all the wonderful things available. You should watch it, because I can’t imagine being able to tell you everything available there. Second, you should definitely check out these Sample Pages. Third, I think you should just go try it out because it only costs $1 for the first month. After that the price rises to $5.95 or you can just do a year subscription for 10% off and pay only $64.26. It’s worth it. It’s so worth it.

The number one top-of-my-list thing I love, love, love is their planners. I am slightly OCD. I love a well planned day. I love to see it all written out. Their parent planner is over 800 pages of forms for you to customize and use. And although the temptation is there, no, I do not print out all 800 pages. I only print what I want/need/can’t live without. There is also Student planners for Primary, Intermediate, High School, and a Special Needs Planner. I currently have the parent one, the Primary one, and the Intermediate one, that I plan to have Brendyn use independently, saved on my computer and I have a long list of the pages I want to print off! There is a form for anything I can think of, and that includes household as well as homeschool forms. The planners – I seriously love the planners!

Okay, so also there are lessons, tons of lessons, from Pre-K to high school. From Chemistry and History and Literature to Home Ec, Math, and Music. Writing, Technology, Special Needs, Lapbooking …. These lessons are updated monthly but are complete lessons. Then there is the Daily Lessons – grammar, math, writing, pre-k activities, this day in history and more. There is even a monthly menu to give you new ideas for your meal time rotation. There are so many lessons that you can use to supplement, or you could almost do all of your teaching straight from that website!

You also get the digital copy of the Magazine, free, as well as access to all the back editions. You get a Free Monthly E-book. You get access to their Schoolhouse Expo Webinars. Okay, it’s $1 for the first month. Seriously, have you signed up yet?!?

I already had a paid membership, but I did get one year added to my term for providing this honest review. We are so blessed.

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