Curriculum 101: Arts & Crafts

Curriculum101In conjunction with our “Curriculum 101” series, let’s review the fine art of crafting. What’s a parent to do when the thought of glue sticks, pinking shears, and mounds of glitter do not send the heart into palpitations of ecstasy, but rather into fits of anxiety?

Let’s face it. Not all of us are craft lovers. Some of us don’t have a creative bone in our body. Others are neat freaks who sincerely dislike the idea of any table being covered with layers of glue. And yet more of us believe we could find better uses for our time.

When our children come to us, begging to create something, anything, it’s time to look past our own desires and start indulging our children’s imaginations. But, where do we begin?

Create a Crafting Space – If messes all over your house cause you anxiety, set up a particular area for crafting to take place. This will keep the remainder of your home clean, yet allow the children to have fun.

Create Crafting Rules – If you are concerned about constantly cleaning up after the kids, set ground rules. Perhaps you might like them to work on only one craft at a time. You might want them to clean up materials when projects are complete, or before dinner each day. Figure out where you stand, then post rules for the kids to follow.

Gather Resources – If the kids are going to craft, they are going to need supplies. Start small, see what the kids use most, and go from there. It doesn’t have to be expensive (the local dollar store is a great place to start), nor do you need to buy out the entire store. Start small and work your way up to a bigger supply. It might also help to talk to the kids and see what they are interested in. Here are a few basics you might want to start off with:

  • scissors
  • glue
  • rulers
  • coloring tools (crayons, markers, colored pencils)
  • construction paper
  • white paper
  • glitter (or glitter glue)
  • washable paints (finger/standard/watercolor)
  • stickers

More advanced crafting tools might include:

  • modeling clay
  • pastels
  • oil paints
  • chalks
  • decorative papers
  • pinking sheers
  • glue dots/glue runners
  • stamps & inks
  • embossing materials
  • fabric
  • sewing machine
  • and more!

Perhaps you have a decent crafting supply cupboard, but lack any ideas on what to create. May I direct your attention to Pinterest? Be forewarned. Not only will you find ideas, you won’t be able to stop! There is a wealth of fun, creative activities to complete with the kids. Don’t discount your children’s own imaginations, either. Often, we don’t need to come up with any crafting ideas; they simply need the freedom to create!

If you’re a neat freak like myself. The only advice I have for you, besides setting up a dedicated work space to keep the madness contained, is to GET OVER IT. For the short amount of time our houses are messy, our children are creating lifelong memories and learning immeasurably. Don’t allow a momentary situation prevent a lifetime of creativity.

While I’m sure we could be spending our time doing many other things besides crafts (there is always something to do, isn’t there), I would argue that being creative is an important use of time. When our children are crafting, they are using their imaginations to create what they envision. How many famous artists, designers, and illustrators began at home with a pair of scissors and a stick of glue? Why rob our children of being the next Alma-Tadema?

Craft-Table_Logo

We cannot begin to stress how important it is for children to be creative and use their imaginations. Art is wonderful! Our children need to not only be encouraged to create, but be taught about famous artists who have influenced the world around them. Through these lessons, our children will better appreciate the world around them and the hard work which goes into design.

You might not think you’re a crafty person, but give it a try. You might just find you like it!

“SEE, THE LORD HAS CALLED BY NAME BEZALEL THE SON OF URI, SON OF HUR, OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH; AND HE HAS FILLED HIM WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD, WITH SKILL, WITH INTELLIGENCE, WITH KNOWLEDGE, AND WITH ALL CRAFTSMANSHIP, TO DEVISE ARTISTIC DESIGNS, TO WORK IN GOLD AND SILVER AND BRONZE, IN CUTTING STONES FOR SETTING, AND IN CARVING WOOD, FOR WORK IN EVERY SKILLED CRAFT.”
EXODUS 35:30-33

🔔Time to Chime In: For those who like to craft, what is one crafting supply you couldn’t live without?

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Curriculum 101: Writing

Curriculum101One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend the month of September launching discussions on all things curriculum.

…..

The written word is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, many children do not see it in that light. To them, writing is a form of punishment hoisted upon them by teachers and parents who wish to see them languish for hours writing pointless sentences.

Being both teacher and parent, how we do ensure our children not only complete a thorough course in writing, but learn to appreciate the art?

Make Writing Fun – Especially while they’re little, choose topics of interest to your children. Have them write about My Little Pony, Transformers, or their favorite pet. The subject matter isn’t important at this point, but developing a habit of writing and the learning of good sentence structure. Here are a few ways to keep writing fun:

  • Games
  • Story Stones
  • Creative Writing Exercises

Make It Part of Another Subject – Instead of making writing its own subject, include writing in other areas of study. Write about what you learned in history or science. Write about your field trip fun.

Allow Your Child to Choose – Give your children the freedom to pick their own writing assignments. After giving guidelines as to how many papers need to be done per week, allow the kids to choose their own projects.

Join the Fun – Don’t let the kids have all the fun! Purchase a writing journal for yourself and encourage them by setting an example. You might even consider allowing your children to assign you a project just for the fun of it!

Cursive vs. Printing – The great debate. Honestly, there is no right or wrong choice. However, I will say, we prefer cursive and practice this in our home; it encourages patience, neatness, and hand-eye coordination. Once our children had a thorough knowledge of cursive, we allowed them the freedom of choice and the ability to be creative with their cursive. My oldest daughter has quite a flair for it. (It’s like creating your own font!)

What about Computers? – For those who just can’t stand writing… why not try a computer. Generally speaking, it isn’t sentence formation children despise, but the actually writing. By removing this obstacle, the writing process becomes less of a burden.

Three Positives & A Negative – This is a great principle when grading your children’s work. For every negative remark made, make three positive. Sure they missed a few punctuation marks, but their penmanship is beautiful, their sentences are well thought out, and they did a great job sticking to the main point. Correct their work, by all means, but do so in a way which encourages them to continue.

Reading is tons of fun. But without writers, what would we read? Writing can be tons of fun if only we put a little effort and a lot of encouragement into the lesson. Let’s inspire the next generation of poets, novelists, and speakers! Write on!

🔔Now, it’s your turn!! Share your tips for developing a love of writing. What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?

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Curriculum 101: Reading

Curriculum101One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend the month of September launching discussions on all things curriculum.

…..

Reading. This one subject sends shivers down many a parent’s spine. The thought of being responsible for one of the most important areas of learning can be intimidating, not to mention scary.

How does a parent teach reading? Are there tips for making the reading process a little easier? How often should our children be reading? And, do we push our children to read even when they show no interest?

While each family needs to find a curriculum, and a method, which works best for them, there are a few, general tips which we believe benefit everyone.

Start Young – Don’t wait! Encourage a love of reading at the earliest age possible. Read to them from the moment they are born until they leave your home. Even when they are too young to understand what you are reading, the act of reading will still be imprinted upon them.
What if your children are older and you didn’t start young? Don’t let that stop you! Start right now! Read during learning time; read at bedtime; start making the library one of your regular visits; discover what your child likes, and get the ball rolling. Encourage them by offering rewards for reading.

Read Often – Read as often as possible. Read when you get up – Bible time! – and read all throughout the day. Make this a daily habit.

Read for Yourself – One of the most common observances I’ve made in children who don’t enjoy reading, is their parents do not read. If we want our children to love reading, they need to see we enjoy reading! If reading a physical book is a concern, consider picking up audio books. Read slowly, but with dedication and purpose. When our children see this is important to us, it more likely to become important to them.

Encourage, but Don’t Push Too Hard – While we’d all love our children to be super readers, the worst thing we can do is push our children too hard. We need to be encouraging a love of reading, and giving them plenty of opportunity to read, but when our children fight us in this area, we need to give them space. Encourage, lead by example, and make a point of discovering books your children would prefer. Then, allow the Lord to do the work.

While I hesitate to suggest any specific curriculum for reading – the purpose of September’s series is to launch discussion, not push a particular company – I would like to point out a few things we’ve learned along the way.

  • Children can learn to read at a young age. Some start as young as three and a half.
  • Not all of my children are going to learn at the same pace, or read at the same level.
  • Children will pick up reading skills faster when being read to; it lays the groundwork for their own reading skills and helps develop sight words.
  • Learning to read phonetically was easiest and made most sense to our children.
  • Reading aloud to our children was key, but so was having our children read aloud to us! We needed to hear if they were mispronouncing words or needed help.
  • Children who read often will develop better vocabulary.
  • Reading is the first step, reading comprehension needs to follow!

🔔Now, it’s your turn!! Share your tips for developing strong readers. What’s worked for you and what hasn’t?

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Welcome to September’s Series: Curriculum 101

Curriculum101One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend the month of September launching discussions on all things curriculum.

What you’ll find this month: Encouragement, help, tips, hints, and open discussion on what’s worked for our families and what hasn’t.

What you won’t find this month: A push toward any curriculum in particular.

Our desire is to spend September in open conversation with our readers! We would love to share how we’ve taught each subject; what’s worked for us; and ways we’re still attempting to improve in each subject. What we don’t want to do is fit your child into our homeschooling box.

We’re praying you’ll join us in this new adventure. Consider this an open invitation to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you readers on each day’s topic; letting us know your thoughts, tips, and links to related articles.

May September enrich each of us. And, may the Lord use this month to encourage us all in our homeschooling adventures.

~Cristina

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Planning The Homeschool Year: Reality, Religion, and Socialization

School-PlanningWith the close of this month, we put to rest our series, ‘Planning the Homeschool Year’! It’s been fun exploring incredible ways to organize our learning routines and better meet our family’s needs.

For those who have been following the series, thank you for stopping in and joining the fun. We appreciated hearing your feedback and learning from your life experiences. It has been wonderful sharing thoughts with you and getting to know you better.

Before we sign off for the week, and end this series, we’d like to leave you with a few posts which help in keeping our homeschooling in perspective. All were written from a homeschooling father’s perspective, my man!

Reality, Religion, and Socialization

Forcing Religion on Your Children
And They Will Not Depart From It
Homeschooled Kids Are Not Socialized and Other Stupid Myths
The Village School System
Reality: A Multiple-Choice Quiz

As the school year is just getting under way, we pray the Lord blesses each and every one of you. We pray He graces you with patience, wisdom, and an enthusiasm to continue with the adventure called homeschooling. May your year be blessed!

If you, or someone you know, is in need of a little more encouragement or help in their homeschooling adventure, please check out our various series we feature which include Homeschooling 101; Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail; and A Simplified Life.

🔔Time to Chime In: What are you most looking forward to during the coming learning year?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: Finding Sanity

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

Amidst all the homeschooling fun, a busy parent could use the occasional quite moment; an opportunity to breathe, relax, and be at peace. While we touched on this topic briefly during our ‘I Can’t Homeschool‘ series, we felt the need to once again encourage fellow homeschooling parents to include this important step in their homeschool routine.

With a little thought and a smidgen of planning, finding free time is not only obtainable, but completely within reach!

Pray About Your Time – May all things start in prayer. We need to ask the Lord to show us how our time ought to be structured and allow Him to show us ways in which we could be using our time more wisely, making space for much-needed down time.

Restructure Your Thinking – During our prayer and devotion time, we need to ask the Lord to help us focus on the greater good. We might like having several hours to ourselves each day, but the Lord knows best. We should ask the Lord to help us focus on what’s most important, removing any selfishness on our part.

Focus on Your Goals – While we all need moments of downtime, what are our overall goals? When we focus on the end goal, the day-to-day struggles become less important.

Find Practical Ways to Have ‘Me’ Time – 

  • Wake up a little earlier.
  • Stay up a little later.
  • Schedule in downtime. (Who days quiet time can’t be planned into each day?)
  • Teach the kids to play/work independently.
  • Schedule playdates with a friend. (One day we get free time, the next day they do. Each of us get a little time to yourselves, and our kids get to have fun.)

Still Too Busy? Consider Reorganizing Your Day – Hard as it might be, if we just can’t seem to find time to enjoy a quiet cup of tea, much less enjoy an hour of free time, it might be time to start looking at our weekly routine. Everyone’s life goes through busy seasons, but constant busyness might be a sign that we’re overdoing it. It all goes back to praying about how we use our time and allowing the Lord to lead our days.

Let’s face it, even machines need a break now and again. Being a homeschool parent does not mean we have to work from the minute we get up ’til the minute we go to bed. If having a little time to yourself is desired, start by praying about your concerns and then moving toward organizing your day with free time in mind.

May I leave you with this thought: We only have our children for a very short time, too short a time. Take a few moments each day to allow the Lord to fill you, refreshing your heart and spirit. But, remember, you’ll have plenty of free time when your kiddos are adults. You can always catch up on your reading then.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.”
Psalm 62:1

🔔Time to Chime In: How do you find time to relax amidst all of life’s challenges and learning fun?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: Finding Friends

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

If you’ve ever come across the numerous blog posts written by ex-homeschooled kids, you will notice a trend. Generally speaking, the complaint lies in socialization. It seems they did not have enough friends, go on enough outings, or have the privilege of attending prom. To their way of thinking, they might as well have been locked in a closet.

While we’ve discussed the silly myth of socialization among homeschooled children, it does seem there is a certain percentage of children who are not enjoying enough interaction with other people.

As a parent who truly does want my children to enjoy meaningful friendships and have lifelong relationships, how then do I go about the act of socialization? I think there are numerous ways in which this can be accomplished:

  • Church
  • Sports
  • Co-ops
  • Family
  • Fellowship with Friends
  • Ministry Opportunities
  • Volunteer Work

I am sure the list could go on; however, I doubt it is necessary. To be honest, I believe opportunity is not the issue. There are more than enough venues to offer socialization if one simply makes an effort. Perhaps the problem lies somewhere else… a lack of relationship with our children.

As parents, it is our responsibility to pay attention to our children; to understand their needs and provide for them. If my children are expressing a desire for interaction and fellowship, it would behoove me to listen and help them in this area of development.

Is this going to mean a little more work for me? Possibly. Will this mean I might taxi people around a little bit? Perhaps. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely!

Through careful study of my children, I can begin to encourage and help forge those relationships which would be of benefit. With an observant eye, I want to offer plenty of opportunities for my littles to meet new people and build lasting friendships.

It doesn’t take a public school to socialize a child. It does take an involved parent with a heart to meet their children’s needs and guide them into meaningful fellowship.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 🔔Time to Chime In:  How do you teach your children the fine art of socialization? Which venue has best met that need?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: Field Trip Field Guides

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

On our field trip check list is a new item for the coming school year: Field Trip Field Guides!

It all started with my oldest daughter wanting to create a scrapbook. To be truthful, I’m horrible at scrapbooking. Let’s just be honest, I am not a crafty person. But, when my child desires to do something creative and educational, I tend to be a softie and indulge them. Thus, the idea of field trip field guides was born.

I wanted to create an organized, self-contained, easily accessible system of scrapbooking our yearly field trips and events. Something I could grab on the fly, which didn’t require a lot of searching and hunting, but could go with us anywhere and serve our purposes.

After a lot of thought and a bit of research, I’ve finally created the perfect system for our family!

Field Trip Field Guide Kit

One plastic container with fitted lid
Five sketch books
Five rulers
Five boxes of colored pencils (your basic 10 pk)
Two pair of scissors
Two glue runners
Pencil Box (pencils, erasers, and sharpener included)
Five basic shape stencils
Package of small ziplock baggies (jewelry size)
Two mini microscopes (loupe)

The plastic container is approximately 14″ x 10.”5 x 3″, making it small enough to fit in any Field-Trip_Guides backpack and easy to grab. The sketch books are about 50 pages, making them thin and light to carry. The idea is to scrapbook field trips and nature walks, thus 50 pages should be more than sufficient for the year. All other items are likewise thin and light, making for an easy fit in our kit and less burdensome to carry. Surprisingly, the entire kit only cost about $20 to put together as most of the items were purchased at the local dollar store.

Me being me, I created covers for each of our field guides (sketch books) and an image for the top of our kit. This makes each guide more personal and fun!

You’ll also note there are five field guides in our kit, but we have only four children. We wanted this to be a family exercise, thus there is an extra field guide for us parents which we share. Sometimes mom is doing the sketching and, because Pop is the better artist, other times it is my husband.

The entire kit being packed in our helpful container, our field guides are constantly at the ready and able to be grabbed on a moment’s notice. If we have a last-minute field trip, I merely grab the box on our way out the door and we are set.

Now, it makes no sense to have these awesome guides and not have a plan to put them into action!

On event days, I add the field trip kit to our backpack and we are ready to go. Simple and easy. Sometime during our trip, whether it be at lunch or we purposefully take a moment to work on our guides, we find a quiet spot and get to work. Glue runners enable our children to adhere event tickets to their guide or perhaps brochures; mini ziplock bags allow our children to add small keepsakes such as sand from the beach or flower petals; stencils, colored pencils, and drawing materials encourage them to embellish their guides with images reminding them of the event; and the microscopes (small loupe) enable us to better see details in nature while exploring.

Field Guides In Use

Putting our guides to the test. They’re awesome!

Thus far, our field guides are a hit! The kids love working in them. Mommy is loving the kids’ enthusiasm for the kit. Pop, being an artist, loves having a sketch book on hand. And, everyone is learning tons. Our children excitedly plan for what will be included in their personal field guides, and rejoice over the individuality of the experience. No two guides are the same, and each is uniquely beautiful.

I wish we had created this kit years ago, but, alas, here we are. Now, to put them to good use and plan tons of amazing field trips for the year. This should be fun!

🔔Time to Chime In: Our goal is to attend one field trip a month, minimum, with a nature walk once a month as well. What is your field trip goal for the year?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: Field Trip Fun, Part II

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to spend countless hours planning awesome field trips only to arrive at our destination missing particular necessities, like shoes on my kids’ feet. (Yes, it’s actually happened.) To prevent myself from stressing, walking out the door without essentials, and/or having to stop and grab something last-minute, it helps to have a field trip checklist!

While our field trip checklist changes depending on each particular location’s needs, we always have a basic list upon which to build:

Field Trip Checklist

The Night Before…
Fill the gas tank
Withdraw cash from bank (if needed)
Enter address into GPS (if needed)
Freeze several water bottles
Pack Backpack with…
Field Trip Field Guides*
Tickets for the Event (if needed)
Scavenger Hunt List or Activity Sheets for Event
Hand Sanitizer
Gum
Sunscreen
Light Sweater (I’m always cold.)
Peppermint Oil

Morning of…
Pack Snacks and/or Lunch Bag
Place frozen water bottles in backpack.
Place both backpack and lunch bag in-car.
Check to make sure kids have: sweaters and shoes
Have everyone take restroom breaks.
Double check locks on house.
Pray over our drive and field trip.
Have fun!

*Our Field Trip Field Guides are new this year, and something special I worked on over the summer. We’ll be sharing more on this later in the week!

You’ll note I didn’t place a camera on my checklist. Why? Because my camera and I are inseparable! If you don’t have said relationship with your camera, adding one to your field trip checklist is probably a good idea.

Field-Trips

To read more about getting the most out of field trips, please click on the picture above.

One final thought. While I am packing for the field trip specifically, I also like to prepare for the drive itself. I tend to have water bottles handy, snacks at the ready, and encourage my kids to pack a few items to keep themselves occupied, such as books. For longer drives, my kids are advised to bring pillows as well. They might not need them on the drive to, but the drive home from a field trip is always more pleasant with a pillow. A great field trip ‘play list’ for the iPod might also be fun!

With proper planning and organization, field trips days can be tons of fun and easy on the nerves. Having a checklist means there is less for me to forget, and less worry on my mind. Plus, with a checklist, other people can help out! No more asking me what is needed or waiting for my instructions. We work together, get the job done, and enjoy our day.

Have I mentioned I love checklists?

🔔Time to Chime In: What the funniest/craziest thing you’ve ever taken on a field trip?

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Planning the Homeschool Year: Field Trip Fun, Part I

School-PlanningIt’s back to school season! While we don’t have to be on the curb at the crack of dawn or make sure our children have their lunch money, we do need to plan out our coming year of homeschooling. Let’s get started!

…..

Who doesn’t like a good field trip? There’s nothing quite like fresh air, a change of scenery, and a little exercise to rejuvenate your learning routine. While field trips can be a lot of fun, they can quickly turn into a frustrating mess when not planned properly.

The first step to getting out the door, is knowing where you’re going so you can plan accordingly. How does one find great locations for those nature walks you’ve dreamed of? Which local museums offer free days or homeschool discounts? Might there be more to explore than meets the eye?

Our family is always on the go, looking for new places to discover and explore. Some we’ve found completely on our own, while others have been passed on to us from family and friends. Here are a few of our favorite field trip resources:

Field Trip Guides

Field Trip Factory
Crosswalk
Homeschool Buyers Co-op
Online College

Nature Walk Guides

Storm the Castle
Bringing up Learners
Hands On As We Grow

For California Residents (like us)

The California Geotour
SoCal Pocket Memories
SoCal Field Trips

If I had it my way we’d go on one field trip a week, at least. Unfortunately, life does get a little busy, preventing us from taking as many trips as I would like. However, my goal is at least one a month, with a nature walk once a month as well.

Field-Trips

With a little research and a dose of planning, field trips can be stress-free and tons of fun! We highly encourage changing up the routine on occasion and getting your family out the door for some ‘in the field’ training. You never know what you might discover and learn!

For additional field trip tips see ‘Getting the Most Out of Field Trips‘; a series we ran a few years ago to help with this aspect of our homeschooling routine. We humbly offer up our tips for stress-free planning, establishing a field trip routine, helps for getting out the door on time, and more!

🔔Time to Chime In: Is there one field trip (or location) that stands out as a family favorite? Share it with us; we’d love to hear all about it!

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