Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The secular homeschool booklist 2015

I am going througH a major declutter in my house. It has taken about a year. I think I finally have our books down to two tall book shelves.

We use the library a lot. I took that into account when I pared down our own school library. I thought I would share a list of the books I have decided to keep on hand.

They are the books that have stood the test of time over the past 15 years.

***I will add to this list as I have time :)****

History:
Kingfisher encyclopedia of history----this book is a great reference book.
The story of mankind by VanLoon
The Last 500 years an Usborne book
George Washington's world
Abraham Lincolns world

These don't get read every year but we have used these with each child and as reference. I kept George Washingtons World and Abraham Lincoln's world mostly because our library does not have them and my youngest has not used them yet. I like them because at the beginnning of the chapters there are drawings of several historical figures-we copy them and cut them out to use as timeline figures. The type is large and my boys have all enjoyed them.

Science
We own several Usborne science titles that are great reference books-science books need good, accurate pictures
Usborne complete book of the microscope
Usborne astronomy and space
Usborne Natural world
eyewitness books-we own several of these. My youngest is 8 and still enjoys the large photos throughout these books.
How Things Work

Language Arts
There is a series of great language arts books we have several.
A Mink a Skink a Skating rink, What is a Noun
Hairy,Scary,Ordinary-What is an Adjective?
Dearly Nearly, Insincerely-What is an Adjective?


Math
Family math
How much is a Million?
Grocery cart Math
The I Hate Math book
Highlights Mathmania magazine--these are a favorite among the math books.

Curriculum
Konos volume 1---sometimes I pull this out and use ideas from it when we are covering a topic that I know is in this volume. I have had it for years and while we have never used it as our only curriculum it provides a fun hands on break when we all need something more active.

Oak meadow guides--I have several grades of Oak Meadow. I use it mainly for grades 4-8. The high school level uses regular textbooks and a syllabus. We have not really used those yet. My high school level kids usually move to online classes or library books on various topics.

Sonlight I can read it--I used this reader to teach my youngest two children to read along with a great phonics game by http://www.lovetolearn.net called  "Happy phonics"

Friday, April 3, 2015

Using the science museum as your science curriculum

This year my Teenage son is volunteering at the Adventure Science Center in Nashville,Tn.  Since we live about 40 minutes outside of town I stay there with his younger brother while he works.

My youngest is in 3rd grade this year and I realized I could use the science museum as the springboard for his science learning this year.

Our first learning adventure is the human body

I am keeping a record here of which science topics we cover using the museum and books that we use at home to prepare ahead of time.

The Adventure Science Center has the following exhibits on the human body-I am listing the books we used at home before visiting each week.

We used a lot of magic school bus books-there are videos on netflix that accompany these books.

February:

Exhibit 1:
The digestive system:

Books:
Why Do People eat? A Starting Point Science book.
Magic School Bus-Inside the Human Body. This covers a lot of different aspects of the human body.

The start of the exhibit is a mouth that "chews" balls that the kids throw into it

next a model of how the teeth chew food

then a model of the esophagus and how the food moves down to the stomach

there is a stomach churning model-do't go to fast or the food comes back up :)

There is a marble maze of the intestines that reinforces these vocabulary words:
carbohydrates
water
fats

A large intestine slide

There is also a whack a mole style game that reinforces the food groups and healthy food choices. It is located in the center tower-not in the digestive system area.

** I am updating this post as we work through the museum the last update so far 3/23/2015***

March: 

Exhibit 2:
muscles and bones

books:
the search for the missing bones (magic school bus chapter book)

R.E.A.L. science for kids life science. (this book is a great complete science curriculum for kids through 4th grade)

Exhibits-

1.There is large exhibit where you use levers to operate a giant hand to grab a ball.
2. Another exhibit that is similar where you use various muscles to make a cyclist operate their legs to ride a bike.
3. See the inside of a bone-including the marrow and blood supply to bones.
4. Watch a video about the skeleton.
5. Test your muscles in the batting cage (or set it to kick soccer goals)

We also performed a few experiments at home:

place a chicken bone in a jar of vinegar for 2 weeks to create a rubber bone. research why this happens.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

organizing a homeschool co-op part two

The first post about organizing a co-op had a ton of information in it.

This post will be a little less detailed but include a few things I have learned the past few years.

1. A central group of board members is really important. The larger the co-op the more important it is to have a small group of people who handle the schedule, new members, any financail matters. It also gives the other memebers someone to go to with questions.

2. End of year surveys are a good idea. Allowing the families to put into writing the good and bad things from the previous year gives the board a chance to see where changes might need to be made.

3. you need a written set plan for problems-families that don't show up, behavior issues, etc. this way everyone knows how problems will be handled and are not surprised.

4. The more prep work you do before each school year starts-the easier the year will be. Of course things will change throughout the year. One year a few families left early in the year once they realized the co-op was not a good fit for their schedules. This left gaps in our teaching schedule for the year. So early planning didn't prevent every issue-but having an overview of the year does help.

5. Be flexible. One of the other members pointed out to me that this group was more than just a homeschool enrichment group-it was a community. Sometimes one family may need a little more slack in certain areas while another familiy may be in a position to take on a little more. Needs change. Be ready to identify situations and reach out as much as you can.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Organizing a homeschool co-op (part one)

For the past few years our family has been part of a homeschool co-op. After many years of homeschooling I feel so blessed to have found this group of great families that work together to create this weekly adventure for our kids.

I want to encourage any of you out there reading this to just jump in and give this type of homeschool enrichment a try.

What is a co-op?

Co-op is short for co-operative. Every person in the group cooperates (works together) to make the group work. Everyone has a voice including the kids.

Activities are meant to be inclusive. Kids can participate at their own level.
Parents work together to solve problems, decide on community standards of behavior, participation, and what it will cost-if there needs to be any type of fee.

co-ops are not drop off tutorials or classes. Over time they tend to become communities where the families can come and find not only enrichment for their children but support from other parents who are homeschooling.

What do you need to begin a co-op?

first you need families :)  start small
Maybe you know a few families who are looking for a group or activity. join up with some friends.
Our co-op began a few years before we started. They were a group of five families who started by meeting at each others homes for planned activities.

As the group grew they found a place where they could meet each week. One of the needs they had was the ability to have a few spaces where they could divide the group into age ranges.

right now we have:
a nursery space for preschoolers and nursing moms
a space for children age 4-6
a space for the 7-11
a space for 12 and up

still pretty broad age ranges-but at this point the group is large and while we wanted to maintain an age mix in each group we found that to broad of an age range with varying abilities was difficult to manage.

Your group may need one large space or a space with a few rooms-one for older kids one for younger kids.

Is the space going to expect a fee? If so how do you divide this up among famlies?
Our space ends up costing each family $20 a month. One person is responsible for collecting the money and turning it in to the office of the building where we meet.

So now you have families and a space (or maybe you are going to meet at each others homes for a while)


What do you teach?

there are a few models for arranging classes in a co-op.

Since ours is divided by age we have lesson blocks that cover one topic over a six week timeframe.
Some co-ops offer different classes throughout the day similar to a day at school where the children change classes.

I am going to give details on the block schedule since this is what our current co-op uses.

At the beginning of the year we planned our start date, winter break, spring break, and end date.

We held a parent meeting about a month before co-op began and planned the topic for our blocks. This was our first year using this method. The whole group covers the same topic each week for 6 weeks. One week is a field trip based on that topic. Since the whole groupcovers the same topic planning field trips is much easier.

Block one was a nature study and we took a group field trip to a local nature station.
Block two was a science block and on our last day before winter break we held a science fair.
Our current block is a Native American block and we will be taking a field trip to the state museum.
Our next block will be an engineering block.

Preplanning the topics for the blocks allow time to organize field trips and for parents to plan which topics they would like to lead. We also had time to search out resources.

Who teaches?

Our co-op is a parent led group. Parents volunteer to teach the blocks.
We do have a five member board. There is a board member assigned to each age group and a board member who handles things like sending information to new and potential members and keeping the waiting list.

The board member over each age group helps make sure the parent who is leading each age group in each block is able to prepare and has materials available to carry out the topic.

This year we were able to get outside resources from places like the state museum and library.Often these need reserved ahead of time and the board members make sure these reservations are made.

Board members are just there for support-it is up to each parent to jump in and help lead activities.

When a new family comes to the co-op we give the man info packet that includes the requirements for leading blocks. Every family must participate fully for the co-op to work.




Friday, January 30, 2015

Decluttering

I found a great book on decluttering and tidying:



http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+magical+art+of+tidying+up&sprefix=the+magical%2Caps%2C437

(not an affiliate link) just sharing

I have spent quite a bit of time using this book to take control over the stuff in my house.
Some of the advice was a repeat of things I had read before-but her perspective is great.

You start by envisioning what it is you want your life and space to look like.

My vision is to have a space where I can create art, meditate, find the kitchen tools I need with ease and have an organized place for the kids to do their school work. All in about 1200 feet of space.

I already know I cannot make myself do many of those things if I have piles of stuff everywhere.
I have tried decluttering by room-this book declutters by type of item-starting with clothing. I started with books though-because that is my issue. I only buy clothes when I absolutely have to and I have always been careful about the clothes I buy.

Books on the other hand....

anyway~~

Like many people who advise on decluttering you should only keep what you love-but she also addresses things we keep because they were given to us by people we love. Guess what! I DON"T have to keep all of those business clothes my mom gave me :)

I am still working my way through this book-but I can already walk through my house and feel SPACE!! My bookshelves look so much nicer and all of the discarded books are making their way to new loving homes.

I'm working on the kitchen right now-which is quite a challenge because I do not have a lot of cabinet or counter space. Still trying to figure out how to manage this issue.

Friday, July 4, 2014

the garden-July 4th

The garden is crazy-who knew all of those plants would actually grow food!!
This morning was amazing-crisp cool weather. In the South. In July!!

I dug through the massive jungle of plants--see the previous post to see them as wee baby plants--they are now giant crazy masses of tomatoes and cucumbers,squash and zucchini. none of them even came close to staying within the confines of the raised beds. The pathways are nonexistant.

but I grew food-lots of it.

here is this mornings bounty:


all of those tomatoes went into the canner and yeilded 4 quarts of canned tomatoes! I already had several tomatoes in the window sill for slicing and salads. Actually I have veggies everywhere. My current table center piece is made up of a platter of garden vegetables.

I'm not complaining-but I am amazed at how well this gardening thing works. Plant it,feed it, water it and then eat it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

gardening adventure

For the past few years I have sort of planted a garden. Which means I purchased seeds and let my youngest randomly plant them in the pile of topsoil that we still had not gotten around to spreading out.
It would be cool until June when the weeds would finally win the fight and take over.

This year the man decided it was time to do some proper gardening. In one weekend he managed to whip the whole garden into shape and give me a fresh start at a proper garden. a month later and I am still winning the war on the weeds.

of course its not quite June yet.

seriously though-I think I may win this year. I have nice beds and straw down on the paths. I feel like a real gardener. I have even harvested a few yellow squash and a zucchini that promptly became a stir fry breakfast. who knew that one day I might have a garden worth taking a picture of :)

so heres a photo of my own personal produce department:



garden 2014