Halloween Over the Years

Halloween will be here soon. When AJ was little I didn’t ever have to worry about a costume for her. She would wear one of her princess dresses or put together a simple costume with one of her leotards. Last year was the first time I bought her a regular costume. She was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Since the costume still fits, I thought she would just wear it again. I guess as you get older that isn’t a fun thing to do. I don’t know what she will be this year. But, it got me thinking about how much she has really changed over the last few years.

Before 2007 I didn’t have a very good camera. I know she was Snow White one year, and I think she was Bell a few years in a row.

Here are a few pictures from her Halloween costumes from 2007 through 2015.

2007 – Princess Bell

Halloween 2007 - BellI believe that this was one of the years that we went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Back in those days we went to Disneyland every Thursday after she finished Gymnastics.

2008 – Minnie Mouse

Halloween 2008 - Minnie

She loved this dress, and wore it all of the time. In fact we purchased the same one twice until they no longer made it in her size.

2009 – Princess Aurora

This was one of her favorite dresses.

2010 – Pocahontas

2010 Halloween

AJ is actually a quarter Indian. She really liked that she could wear a costume that represented that.

2011 – Gymnast or Cheerleader

Cheerleader 2011

I don’t remember if she was a gymnast or cheerleader this year. I know that I was in a cast and couldn’t take her trick or treating so she just went to a few homes of people we knew. This picture wasn’t from Halloween, but from a cheerleading competition earlier in the year.

2012 – Butterfly

halloween-2013

This was a quick and easy costume that only cost about $4. She loved it!

2013 – Cat

Halloween 2013

She planned to save the mask and tail for the next year, but they didn’t end up lasting.

2014 – Chaeta

halloween-2014

This time she picked a chaeta. Again this was only about $6. It was nice when she had leotards lying around.

2015 – Dorothy

Halloween 2015

She didn’t have a leotard that fit anymore, so we had to pick something different. I think she looked adorable in this costume.

My baby has grown up. Now so many of the costumes that are available are too sexy. I am sure we will find her something that works, but I do miss the days when she was younger. I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. What will your child be this year for Halloween?

 

 

KidsEmail ~ Review

AJ just turned 13 a few months ago. Even though a lot of websites allow young teens to have accounts, AJ isn’t ready. We have also decided that she isn’t quite ready for an email account. She might be ready in a few months and she might not. The issue is that AJ uses a lot of online resources for school, and most of them ask for her email address. We were recently given the chance to review an Annual Subscription from KidsEmail.org, and it looked like a good fit.

About KidsEmail

With KidsEmail your child gets the benefits of an email address and you have the peace of mind knowing that it is safe. One of the reasons that I didn’t want AJ to have a regular email account was that I was afraid she would click on a link that would take her to an inappropriate website or that would give my computer a virus. I don’t have to worry about that with KidsEmail. They have many different features that let you decide what your child can do.

KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription
Some of my favorite features are:

  • Mail Monitoring – This feature allows parents to see all incoming and outgoing emails. I love this setting because I receive an email every time she sends an email. It lets me make sure she is being safe online. Right now this setting isn’t really necessary because she is only emailing with her mom and a few other people, but I like that I can monitor her if needed. This feature can be turned off if you don’t need of want to monitor each email.
  • Mail Queue – If your child is sent an email that goes against the settings that you select, then the email goes into a queue before being sent to your child. Then you have the chance to let it go through or to delete it.
  • Block Senders – You can block specific email addresses that you don’t want your child to receive emails from. We haven’t used this feature yet, but I like that it is available if I ever need it.
  • Time Restrictions – You can set limits on when your child can log in to their account.

There aren’t any adds with KidsEmail, and there is even an app that lets you use it on mobile devices. Your child has the ability to customize their email with fun backgrounds, and teens have their own special place to log on.

How we used KidsEmail

When I first logged into KidsEmail I was able to set up an account for her. There are different options depending on the age of the child, but I created AJ an email address that ended with @kmail.com. I went through the settings and decided which features would work the best for our family and then it was all set up. Since the computer in AJ’s room doesn’t have internet unless we connect it, we decided to download the app onto her Kindle Fire.

Since she downloaded the app, AJ has used it almost daily. She has been sending numerous emails to her mom and a few friends. There is even a way for her to draw a picture and add it to the email.

I have noticed a few benefits since AJ has started to use KidsEmail. Her grammar, spelling, and overall writing has improved. I see her using commas and quotations correctly because she wants the email to look right. She is also writing willingly without me telling her to. Having her write a letter to her mom is always a battle because she hates writing, but now she can easily send her a quick email.

AJ loves that she has an email address, and I love that I can monitor her as needed. Overall it has been a great fit with our family. If you are looking for an email for your child or young teen, KidsEmail might be a good fit for you. See what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought by clicking the graphic below.

KidsEmail.org Annual Subscription
 

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CHSH Download Club ~ Review

AJ is a kid that enjoys doing worksheets, so I am often on the look out for things to supplement the topics we are learning about.  The problem is that since she is in 8th grade, a lot of  worksheets and unit studies that I find are too easy for her. Sometimes I make up my own worksheets for her to complete, but most of the time I just don’t have the time. We were recently given the opportunity to review the CHSH Download Club  from CHSH-Teach.com. When I first looked at the Christian HomeSchool Hub, I knew that it would be a resource that I would use frequently over the next year.

What is the CHSH Download Club?

I  had never heard of the CHSH Download Club before this review, but I wish I had. The CHSH Download Club is an online resource that gives you access to thousands of pages of educational materials. It includes worksheets, literature studies, full curriculum, supplemental materials, flash cards, puzzles, coloring pages, and more. For one small price of just $25 a year (or $99 for a lifetime membership) you have access to everything on the site. There are materials for grades preschool through high school.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
The site makes it easy to find exactly what you need. The materials are organized by; subject, grade, and month. I have to say that I was amazed at all of the different things available, and I was thrilled to see that there is an entire section for high school. It includes:

  • Literature Studies – Including Shakespeare
  • English Composition and Language Arts – 4 Years of High School English
  • Social Studies – Including a full World History and American History course
  • Math – Including a Collage Level Algebra Book and Answer Key
  • Science – Including Biology and Physics

AJ won’t be in high school until next year, but I looked over a lot of the high school resources and think we will probably use the World History and Biology courses next year.

How We Used the CHSH Download Club

We are studying modern history this year. We have been learning about different important people throughout history. I looked through our history curriculum and saw that AJ would soon be learning about Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers. So I looked to see if there was any information on either of the two topics. There was!

I quickly found three resources for Amelia Earhart under the Social Studies topic of “People throughout History.” There is a unit geared for 3rd through 6th grade and a unit geared for 4th through 8th grade. There is also an Amelia Earhart shape book. I decided to use both of the units about Amelia Earhart. The first one she did was the one geared for kids in 3rd through 6th grade. That one basically had her read about Amelia Earhart and then fill in charts and answer questions about the reading. I felt that study would have been perfect for the 3rd through 6th grade age range. After she finished with that unit she was going to start on the 4th through 8th grade unit. Unfortunately, when I clicked on that unit it said that the file was not found. I was a little disappointed about that.

This is just one of the many products from the CHSH Download Club!

 

The next unit study I had AJ work on was Wright Brothers: Bicycles to Airplane. It is an 85 page unit study that has 17 different tasks for the student to complete while learning about the Wright Brothers. It begins with pages of information about the Wright Brothers. There are a variety of different tasks including; creating a magazine cover about the Wright Brothers’ flight, making an anemometer, researching aviation, locating important places on a map, art projects, poems, giving a speech and more. AJ didn’t complete all of the tasks (we still have another week left) but, this unit study is great. It includes so many hands on activities to help students learn about flight. I was excited to see a study that was geared towards older students, and look forward to other studies in the future.

These graphic organizers make learning new concepts fun!

We also used various worksheets throughout the review period. AJ enjoyed the blank periodic table that she could fill in. She also liked the different charts and venn diagrams that were available in the Graphic Organizer download. There are 80 different ones to choose from.

We planned on using one of the literature studies for the novels that AJ is reading. There is a study for almost all of the books she is reading this year.  Even though the literature studies are for grades 4 through 8, I found them to be too simple and easy for AJ. They were mainly simple questions about the plot of the novel and didn’t ask any thought provoking questions. I think it may have been perfect for younger students, but not for the 8th grade level.

What We Thought About the CHSH Download Club

After trying out various products from the CHSH Download Club I think it is well worth the cost. There really is something for everyone. Almost all of the resources I looked at were well made and well thought out. I enjoyed how easy it was to use the site and how quickly the downloads came up. Other than the one file about Amelia Earhart, there were no glitches on the site.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
If you are looking for a way to supplement your child’s learning then the CHSH Download Club may be exactly what you are looking for. This would be perfect for those who enjoy unit studies or those who want to dig deeper into a concept. We have tried a few different sites over the years that have downloadable resources, and I think so far that this one is the best, especially if you have older students.

Find out what other members of the Review Crew had to say by clicking the graphic below.

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}
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Cleaning is a Part of Life

One of our jobs as parents is to teach our children how to be responsible adults. That includes teaching them how to cook decent meals, do laundry without turning everything pink, showing them how to take care of their vehicles, teaching them about money, how to keep a clean home, and so much more.

Children are watching us all of the time and teaching them to clean up after themselves should just be part of our everyday life.

Cleaning is just a part of life!

 

I didn’t get an allowance growing up because our family couldn’t afford it. We were expected to pitch in, clean up, and be part of a family. We couldn’t have a messy room. Everything had a place and was expected to be kept in its place. If something wasn’t put away, it might end up thrown away; and if you dared to stuff something in a drawer where it didn’t belong, you might come home from school with all of your dresser drawers dumped out in the middle of your floor. In fact, on Christmas morning after opening our presents the first thing we did was find a place for all of our new toys.

As long as my room was clean and all of my stuff was put away, I didn’t have to do a lot of housework at home because my mom made sure everything was done. She was a housewife, mom, and daycare provider and took the way her home looked very seriously. She was very particular about the way that things were, and often re-cleaned the things that we cleaned. I didn’t even wash dishes until I was in highschool, and that was because I wanted to. My mom use to tell me that she didn’t want help with the dishes because doing them relaxed her. I never understood that, until now. There is something about washing dishes with no one bothering me that really is, in an odd way, relaxing.

While I didn’t have a lot of housework to do at home, I did a lot for others. My mom used to clean my great grandpa’s house a few times a month and helped others as needed. I was expected to help. I learned so much from cleaning with my mom. Not only did I learn the correct way to clean, but I learned a good work ethic and family values. I learned to have a positive attitude and to do my best, and those are things I am passing on to my little girl. We stay with my grandma and take care of her because she has Alzheimer’s. Part of taking care of her is cleaning her home. Unfortunately, because of my injury, I can’t do a lot of things that I used to, so AJ is learning how to do so many things. We are still working on her positive attitude, but I hope when she grows up she will be thankful that she was made to clean. She will be thankful that she already knows how to do laundry, and that she knows how to keep a house clean.

cleaning-1

There are so many different programs and ideas available to help parents get their kids to clean up after themselves. Some people say to do reward charts, others say to take things away. Some people give their kids allowance and base it on chores, some give an allowance and don’t base it on chores, and some don’t believe kids should get an allowance. There are so many systems for getting kids to do their chores that it can be overwhelming. No matter what you decide, do your child a favor and make sure they are learning the basic skills to become a successful adult.

FlipStir ~ Review

AJ loves to do puzzles. She likes to find how the pieces go together and see the kind of picture they can make. Unfortunately, she is much better at putting puzzles together than putting them away. It drives me nuts to get a puzzle part of the way finished and then realize that pieces are missing and that I can’t finish putting it together.

When I learned about these fun FlipStir Puzzles from Enlivenze LLC I was interested to try them out. There are two different levels of puzzles. The first level has pieces with straight edges, while level two has pieces with wavy edges. We received the level 1 puzzle called Rainbow Pencils. The other puzzles that are available are; T-Rex (level 1), Statue of Liberty ( level 2), Solar System (level 2), and a limited addition Periodic Table of Elements. The puzzles are recommended for kids ages 7 and up.

These FlipStir Puzzles are fun but challenging!

The FlipStir puzzles are different from any other puzzle because they are 3D puzzles that are in a container. The container doesn’t open. There is enough room inside of the container for the puzzle pieces to move around and turn, but there isn’t a lot of room. It  also has a stick with a piece on one side sticking out. There are no rules or instructions. The goal is simple, put the puzzle together.

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
It sounds easy to do, but it is harder than you might think. You can shake it, use the little stick, and do just about anything to get the puzzle pieces in the right place. It requires patience, problem solving skills, and coordination to get the pieces to line up. Sometimes you end up messing up the puzzle when you are trying to get a piece to flip over or change directions.

When the puzzle came in the mail I expected AJ to be excited to try it out, but she wasn’t. She said it looked too hard to do and she thought it would be boring. In an era where we simply need to swipe or click to be entertained I guess a puzzle that required her to work at it didn’t seem like something she would like. There wasn’t a hint or cheat available for her to make it easier.

I started to attempt the puzzle and my mom asked to try it. She had it all put together in less than five minutes. Then I shook it up and mixed up the pieces before I tried it. It took me a little while longer to solve, but I eventually finished it. I got a little frustrated with it a few times because when I would try to move one piece a different one would move at the same time. It was a challenge, but a fun one.

Eventually AJ decided to try to put it together. She attempted it a few times and was proud of herself when she finally put it together. She decided that it wasn’t boring, it was actually a lot of fun!

These FlipStir Puzzles are fun but challenging!

I liked that all of the pieces were self contained and couldn’t be lost. I also liked that it was a screen free alternative to fun. It was challenging yet doable. Once AJ gave it a chance she really enjoyed putting it together.

One thing I noticed is that the inside of the container is getting scratched up from the puzzle pieces. It hasn’t been used too much, so I worry how long it will last before the inside is too scratched up and we are unable to use it.

I hope it lasts a while, because I plan to bring the FlipStir puzzle out on family occasions. I can already see a few people seeing if they can be the first person to put the puzzle together. It is the perfect family brain teaser, and I hope to get a few of the other puzzles in the future. The Periodic Table Puzzle looks like a great way to learn the elements.

See what other members of the Crew thought by clicking the graphic below.

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews
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Spanish For Kids By Kids ~ Review

We all know it is easier to learn a second language when you are younger. So I have been introducing AJ to Spanish since she was in Kindergarten. We have used a few different programs over the years to help her learn more vocabulary, but I have never stuck with one for a long time. She is in middle school now so I was looking for an easy way to help her learn and remember the basics before we start on a formal curriculum next year. We were given a chance to review a neat Spanish program, Starter Set 1 from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids, and I thought it would be exactly what I needed to help AJ get back into Spanish mode.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
With this program your child learns through watching cute little shows in Spanish. As your child watches the DVD they are able to figure out and really understand the meanings on Spanish words. The DVDs are completely in Spanish, but there are a lot of visual cues to help your child learn what the vocabulary words mean. I really liked the idea of letting the child learn though watching the video instead of simply memorizing lists of words.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
We received quite a few things from Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.

  • The Complete Spanish DVD Set – This has all three DVDs, Basketballs Aren’t for Breakfast, The Little Magic House (Part 1), and The Little Magic House (Part 2) – These are the main part of the program.
  • Curriculum Guide # 1 – This explained how to use the curriculum and gave extra activity ideas. There is also a certificate of achievement to give to your child once they finish the first video.
  • Workbook #1 – This is used with the videos to help your child practice what they know. It isn’t a required component, but it is a lot of fun. The activities are simple. It is full of colorful images and even gives information about the country of Peru.
  • Curriculum Guide # 2 – This is for the second level. It is set up the same way as the first guide, but I found it helpful because it listed all of the vocabulary that the child is learning. It made it simple to check if she had figured out the correct meaning of a word.
  • Workbook # 2 – This book still has simple activities, but they are a little more advanced. It includes more grammar and has geography information about Colombia.
  • Curriculum Guide # 3 – This guide is for the third level. The games and activities are a little more advanced. One activity it has you do is take your child to the store and have them find all of the fruits and vegetables that they have been learning about.
  • Workbook # 3 – While the activities are still fun, they are a lot more in-depth in this workbook. The child learns how to conjugate some verbs and they continue to learn grammar. This level has your child act out a skit in Spanish, write a postcard in Spanish, and make a Spanish menu using words that they have learned. There is a big difference between level 1 and level 3.
  • Sticker Set for Level 1 – This is a set of colorful stickers with vocabulary words on them. Your child is encouraged to put the stickers on items that match the vocabulary. It is a fun idea to help younger kids practice vocabulary.
  • Flashcards and Go Squish Game – These are used together to practice vocabulary with a fun game.

Your child is suppose to watch a small section of the video each day until they are able to understand the vocabulary in that section of the video. Then as they understand the vocabulary they watch the original section of the video plus another section until they eventually finish the entire video. You are not suppose to tell the child what the words mean, they should learn them on their own. They learn the word libro (book) by showing a boy with a bunch of books around him. The book has the word libro on it and the word is said a few different times while showing a picture of a book. The flashcards and workbooks are additional parts of the program that help your child learn additional Spanish and practice what they have learned.

AJ already knew most of the words in level 1, so we watched the entire video and made sure she knew the vocabulary. She liked the videos and thought they were funny. I felt they were a little odd, but that they would keep kids entertained.

By the second level she was learning a few new words, but it turned out that she knew a lot more vocabulary than either of us realized. I am sure watching the videos helped her remember words she had previously learned, but she was more advanced than the vocabulary and grammar taught by this program. I think it would have been perfect to use when she was younger and just starting to learn Spanish. We went through the videos and workbooks at a faster pace, but I know the process helped her to cement the vocabulary into memory. We watched all of the videos at least once a week to make sure she really knew the vocabulary. I hope they come out with additional videos in the future at a higher level, because I know AJ will like them.

What We Liked

  • The idea of learning through watching is wonderful.
  • The videos were short and sweet, making it easy to fit a lesson into our day.
  • The workbooks and flashcards are bright and colorful.
  • The Curriculum Guides gave additional ideas for practicing vocabulary.
  • There are multiple activities that will keep your child engaged.
  •  You can move at your own pace.
  • It is more than just vocabulary practice.
  • The child is able to hear how the language is spoken and understand the pronunciations much better than any other program we have tried.

What We Didn’t Care For

We really enjoyed this program, but there were two things that I didn’t like.

  1. The workbooks don’t line up with the lessons. The Curriculum Guide tells you which pages to do, but I think it would have been helpful if the workbooks lined up better.
  2. The videos don’t tell you when to stop. I would like it if the videos could be watched a segment at a time. That way I could have her watch it on her own without having to be there to stop it. She got too into the videos and didn’t like to stop them.

Overall I think it is a great way to learn Spanish, and I wish that it was around when AJ was starting to learn Spanish. If you are looking for an easy way to introduce your child to Spanish, this is the perfect program. You can go at your own pace and let your child really learn the Spanish language.

Find out what other members of the Review Crew thought of the program by clicking on the image below.

Beginner Spanish Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids Review
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Planning Your Homeschool Year

Post Contains Affiliate LinksThere isn’t a right or wrong way to make a plan for your homeschool. Everyone is different and as long as you follow any laws your state requires, there are quite a few ways to make your homeschool schedule. Every year I look at our schedule and tweak it based on how our life is and how AJ is doing with the topics she is working on. This year we are  trying a more structured schedule, but we have had several different types of plans in the past.

How to plan your homeschool year

Planning Your Homeschool Year

The first step you need to take when planning your homeschool year is to decide what you want or need to cover. Depending on your state laws you may need to cover certain subjects. If your state laws are lenient then you have a few more options. To figure out what to study you can use books like What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know as a guide. You can also look up standards for students in public school to use as a guideline. If you are using a set curriculum then you should have a good idea of what your child will be learning.

A lot of times you can simply move on to the next concept once your child master’s their current one. After your child masters multiplication the next logical step would be to start division. Once your child can write a paragraph then you can work on writing a story with more than one paragraph. Those type of skills are harder to schedule, because you don’t know when your child will be ready to move to the next concept. For subjects like Math and English I like to have a list of goals and make plans up a month or week at a time based on my child’s progress.

Homeschool Planning- Goals

Once you have a basic idea about what your child will be learning it is time to plan your year. Some people like to schedule out the entire year. Others make a list of goals and once their child has mastered a goal they move to the next item on the list. One thing that I liked to do when AJ was younger was to roughly plan out what we would be learning each month and then each month make more detailed schedules.

Here is an example of how I planned out our year of Earth Science.

  • August – Basics of Earth Science
  • September – Earth Structure, Age of Earth, Fossils
  • October –  Rocks, Gems
  • November – Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Mountains
  • December – Water Cycle, Fresh Water
  • January – Oceans
  • February – Earth’s Atmosphere
  • March – Weather
  • April –  Astronomy

Then each month I would make a more detailed list for the topics we would learn about the following month. Here is an example for what we would learn about in November.

  • Week 1 – Plate Tectonics & Continental Drift, Mountains
  • Week 2 – Earthquakes – locations, causes, earthquake preparedness
  • Week 3 – Volcanoes – Ring of Fire, Hawaii
  • Week 4 – Volcanoes – Destruction, lava, Model of Volcano

Then for each week I would find resources I wanted to use. I pulled together lessons form online, books, and activity kits.

Even if you aren’t detailed I feel it is best to have a set of goals for the year so you can stay on track.

A Month at a Time

Another thing we have tried over the years is having a monthly schedule. At the beginning of each month I would look at what we had left to cover for the year and I would make a list of lessons that AJ would need to do. Then we would go down the line and when she was done with the work for that month I would make a new list.

The only real difference between scheduling out the year more at the beginning of the year or throughout the year was time. I spent more time when I made a rough scheduled of my year at the beginning of the year, but I had less to do each month. The downside was that sometimes we would stay longer on a topic than I originally scheduled so then I would need to take time and rework the schedule.

Daily Schedules

We have had a few different daily schedules as well. We have tried block scheduling, a list schedule, and a normal schedule where she completes subject daily.

Block Scheduling

This is our favorite method. We complete a large amount of work in one or two subjects a day. This is how we catch up if we get behind, and how we work if we need to finish the school week quickly. It has some downsides because your child isn’t studying the topic as often. It doesn’t always work well with subjects like reading and math. But we have seen a lot of positive things from block scheduling. It lets is dive deep into learning and lets AJ spend a long time in one subject without worrying about the other subjects that she needs to get finished.

Here is a sample of what block scheduling looked like for us.

  • Monday- 5 Math lessons, spelling grammar
  • Tuesday – 3 Literature lessons, spelling
  • Wednesday – 5 History lessons, spelling, writing
  • Thursday – 5 Science lessons, spelling, writing (This was always her favorite day)
  • Friday – 2 Literature lesson, Art, grammar

Math has always been an easy subject for her, so doing 5 lessons in one day wasn’t hard for her. We did have to split up spelling, grammar, and writing because it was too much for her to do at one time. I think block scheduling can be very beneficial.

List Schedule

We have done a list schedule quite a few times. It is simple for me. I just write a list of all the work she needs to complete during the week and she completes the work in any order. Scheduling with a list helps her to learn time management. It also lets her feel like she has a say in her school day. We did have a few weeks where she did the “fun” subjects first and left the harder subjects for the last day. It was a learning experience and now when she has a list to work with she usually makes smart decisions.

We have also used a list when we have been very busy. At times we have had to do a little bit of school 7 days a week because of doctor appointments or other family situations. When that happens we just work on the list of assignments until all of her work is done then we go to the next week. It may take a little longer, but all of her work gets done.

Regular Schedule

Now that AJ is in middle school block schedules are not as easy. Now I schedule out 1 math, 1 literature, 5 history, 5 science, 5 Spanish, 3 grammar, 3 writing, and 3 Bible and 5 spelling lessons throughout the week. She doesn’t always finish her work on the correct day, but it is a work in progress.

There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. Find a schedule that works for your family and have fun learning together. This post is part of the Back to School Blog Hop. Check out what other members of the Review Crew have to say about planning!

5 Days of Homeschool 101


Picking Homeschool Curriculum

There are so many different curriculum options available that it can easily become overwhelming. Picking curriculum is one of the most important parts of homeschooling, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming! It is easy to feel like you need to use the most expensive or the most popular product, but you don’t need to. Finding the curriculum that works the best for your family will make your days a lot smoother.

How to Pick Homeschool Curriculum

Most people will tell you to first look at your child’s learning style when you are picking curriculum. I completely disagree with that. Yes, your child’s learning style is important, but your teaching style is more important.

Find Your Teaching Style

The first thing you need to decide is what you want your school day to look like.

Do you see yourself reading lots of books and keeping worksheets and tests to a minimum? Do you picture a lot of workbooks and writing? How much technology do you want to include? Would an online program work for your family? Do you picture weekly or monthly themes where all of your child’s subjects will relate to one  topic? Are you comfortable with teaching all of the subjects that need to be covered? Does the thought of teaching of 7th grade math make you sweat? Are you religious, and if so, do you want curriculum based upon your beliefs, or would you prefer a secular curriculum? Are you crafty? Do you want to do time consuming projects like; building salt dough maps, making castles out of sugar cubes, or building a wigwam? Maybe you want to mix a variety of  different options.

You don’t need to know all of the answers right away, because most curriculum can be tweaked to fit your preferences. But you should be honest with yourself.  If you hate messes and don’t like projects sitting all over your house, then picking a history program with a lot of projects isn’t going to be a good fit for you.

If you are unsure about what you like, take this quiz and see which type of homeschooler you are most like.

Decide on a Budget

You can easily spend over $1000 per child on curriculum. Or you can use the library and internet and school for almost nothing. Either way will work, but most people fall somewhere in the middle. We have a tight budget so I can’t spend very much.  The most I have spent is about $175 and the least was under $50 for one child. When piking curriculum set a budget and stick to it. Drooling over an expensive program that you can’t afford is  just wasting your time.

When you are deciding on your budget there are a few things to think about.

  • Will it be better to buy materials or get them from the library? Think about possible late fees and the possibility that you might not get the books when you need them if someone else has checked them out.
  • Are e-books a better value? They may be, but think about the cost of ink and paper, and the time that you will need to spend printing things off.
  • Is there a subject that you don’t want to or can’t teach? It may be worth spending a larger amount on a good writing, math or science program if your child needs it. It might be worth it to spend a large portion of your budget on one subject and then find free or low cost items for others.
  • Don’t forget to include funds for things other than curriculum. You may want to join a co-op or have your child take a class some where. You should also think about field trips, extra curricular activities, and any online subscriptions. (Like Always Ice Cream, HelpTeaching.comSchoolhouseteachers.com,  SuperTeacherWorksheets.com, IXL.com or record keeping programs.)
  • How much free time will you have? There are thousands of free worksheets, unit studies, and curriculum ideas, videos, and lessons available online. It can take s a lot of time to find what you need.  Is your time and effort worth the savings?

These answers may change, but it is good to keep them in mind while picking curriculum.

Figure Out Your Child’s Learning Style

The next step in picking curriculum is to figure out your child’s learning style. Are they a visual learner who needs to see things? Do they learn best when they hear things? If so they are an auditory learner. Maybe they are a kinesthetic learner who learns by doing things. You can take a quiz to see which style fits your kids the best.

Check Your State Laws

Now that you have figured out your teaching style, set a budget, and learned your child’s learning style it is time to see what you need to teach. Each state is different. Some make you get curriculum approved or require you to teach specific subjects. You may need to teach a certain number of days or hours. Once you know what is required it is time to start looking at curriculum.

Pick an Area of Study

Now you need to decide if you want to go with an all inclusive curriculum, or if you will piece together the topics your child will study. If you decide to go with a program like Heart of Dakota or a program that is leveled by grade, then you simply  pick the level that matches your child’s age and ability level. If not, then you should pick a time period in history and a discipline of science that you want to teach.

Read Reviews

Once you know what you want to study and you have a basic idea of the type of curriculum that will work for you, it is time to look around. Use your searching tools and check online sites like Rainbow Resources  and Christian Book to see the type of products available. Narrow down the number of curriculum options that meet your needs to three or four items per subject. Write them down along with the prices from each site. Then comes the fun part of picking curriculum, reading reviews.

Just type in the name of the product followed by review into Google and you will find dozens of  reviews from homeschool bloggers. Read a few reviews for each item you are thinking about. Look for balanced reviews that tell the good and bad of each product and then decide if the pros and cons of the product will work well for your family. Remember just because it works or doesn’t work for one family doesn’t mean you will have the same result. But something that didn’t work for my child because she doesn’t enjoy programs with a lot of reading, may be the perfect fit for your child who loves to devour books.

The last step of picking curriculum is to order, download, print off, or pick up you products and get ready for a year of fun.  Remember if the curriculum that you buy doesn’t seem to work out perfectly, it is ok to make adjustments, tweak it, or change to something different. The longer you homeschool the easier it will be to find the best option for your family.

Our Curriculum Choices

If you need a little inspiration, here are our curriculum choices over the years.

This post is part of the Back to School Blog Hop! Stop by other blogs to see their advice on picking curriculum.

5 Days of Homeschool 101
 



CTCMath Algebra ~ Review

I have never stuck to a single math program in the past. I enjoy finding fun ways to teach and normally use a variety of sources. It has worked well up to this point, but now that AJ is taking Algebra I need to find one good program and stick with it for the year. We had the opportunity to review CTCMath last year and AJ enjoyed it, so I was excited to have another chance to review the CTCMath Homeschool Membership.

CTCMath Review
When you purchase the year long subscription to CTCMath you have access to all levels of math from Kindergarten to Calculus. CTCMath is considered a full math program for grades K through 8 and a supplemental course for higher grades. I don’t really agree with that though, because I feel their Algebra course covers all of the necessary topics. It covers things from basic algebra through quadratic equations and graphs.

What is CTCMath

CTCMath is an online program that uses video lessons, online questions, and printable worksheets to teach a variety of math concepts. For each grade level or topic there are multiple lessons for the student to complete. At the beginning of each new section there is an optional placement test. The placement test helps you see which lessons your child needs to work on, and which ones they could skip. One issue I have with this is that in order for your student to earn an award for each section, they need to complete all of the lessons.

CTC MathHow We Use CTCMath

AJ has been working her way through the first two sections of Algebra. Like most programs the first few lessons are review. She watches a video for each lesson. The concept is explained and a few problems are worked out. Once she understands the concept she completes a worksheet and enters the answers into the computer. Each worksheet is a little different, but usually there are 10 to 20 questions that she needs to answer. Then she matches her answer to a list of answers, usually listed A to Z.  The worksheets are multiple choice, but there are incorrect options that the student could chose if they didn’t follow the correct steps.

There are also questions for the student to complete online. I had AJ skip those after the first few lessons because a lot of the questions were on both the online questions and the worksheets.

One problem that we normally have with online math programs is that there are times when we can’t be on the computer. CTC Math makes schooling on the go possible. I had two options when we were going to be away from the computer.  I could have AJ watch the lesson before we left and complete the printed out worksheet while we were out and about. Then she could enter her answers on the computer when we got home. Or I could print off the lesson summary (which is the same information that is explained in the video) and have her go over it on her own time.

The program has let us have a large amount of flexibility. There are times when we don’t print off the worksheets and she simply looks at them while she is online and works them out on paper.

What We Thought of CTCMath

The video lessons are well made, but AJ feels they are a little dull. We both like that they explain math topics in an easy to understand matter. I like that there are plenty of problems to make sure she understands the topics, and that she can watch and re-watch the videos if she has any doubts about how to use the program.

This time around we found a few additional gems in CTC math. There is now a task section where I can assign certain lessons that I want AJ to complete. AJ is working her way through the entire Algebra course, so  I didn’t see the need to use the section.  I know I would have used the task section it when AJ was younger.

I also found games to help your child work on math facts. AJ has enjoyed playing the games.

Overall we both like CTC Math and we plan to stick with it until she finishes the Algebra course.

Find out what other members of the crew thought about CTC Math by clicking on the graphic below.

CTCMath Review
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8th Grade History and Geography

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I have already shared our 8th grade reading list and choices for English and Math and Science. Today I am sharing our 8th grade history and geography choices. One of our goals is to help AJ become more independent with some of her work. I want to be involved, but I also want her to improve on her note taking skills and time management. Our choices for history and geography should provide her with opportunities to build on those skills.

History and Geography choices for 8th grade.

History

We have had an odd journey with history. Before third grade she didn’t have any history in school. Since then we have covered the Renaissance, the Reformation, Early American History, Creation to Christ, and the Middle Ages. She has learned a lot about history in those last few years, but she hasn’t learned very much about anything that happened after the Civil War. Most of the programs that I looked into just didn’t seem to fit what I was looking for. This year I wanted something that would keep her interest, but I didn’t want something that would require her to do too many in-depth projects.

This year we will be using –

I have a lot of lapbooks from Hands of a Child. They are well made and really cover specific topics. The plan is to use the History from Easy Peasy as our base and then add in lapbooks and videos when needed. I think Modern History will be interesting to study with AJ. I know that I will tweak a few things, but I think it will be a year full of learning for both of us.

Current Events

Free Current Event Packet for Subscribers

One thing  I like about the history from Easy Peasy is that the student is instructed to read an article and write a current event about it almost every week. I wanted to make the current events more exciting for AJ so I created some fun pages for her to use.  If you subscribe to my newsletter you will be able to download a Current Event Pack at the beginning of August. If you haven’t subscribed yet, use the form in the side bar or the one at the end of this post.

Geography

Easy Peasy has both History and Geography courses, but I wanted something different.  When I was at the Good Will I found a high school geography book for $1. It was almost brand new and looked like a great book so I picked it up.

AJ will be using:

I scheduled out her entire year for the World Geography course. She has reading to do, videos to watch, maps to fill out, quizzes about her reading, tests on country locations, and a few country reports. I think it will require her to do a lot of work. The plan is to award her high school credit once she is finished with the course.

What will you be using for History and Geography this year? Enter your email below for access to the Current Event Printables and others.