Changes Already?

Changes Already?As I’m sure many of us have experienced, the beginning of the school year is barely behind us and we’re already making changes to our routine and curriculum. One would think with all the planning and organizing which goes into putting the year together we would have this down by now. Especially after this many years of learning. I wish I knew why this happens, but here we go again.

In my head I run through the multitude of possibilities which brought us here. Perhaps we had grand visions which now need to be tailored down. Maybe a new area of study came highly recommended but upon use was found to be a poor fit for our family. Areas of focus might have been overlooked and added last-minute. The list could go on.

We’re two sessions into our learning year and thus far several changes have already made an appearance:

Exchanging Textbooks for Living Books – Our science course this year is chemistry. Apologia came highly recommended and a friend was kind enough to lend us their textbook. Unfortunately, while the curriculum seems well laid out, it wasn’t a good fit for us. It did have experiments, quite a few of them in fact, but they were low on the interest scale and long on text. After a little research, we opted to try something new. Living books. Several came highly recommended. We checked as many as we could from the library and narrowed down our choices. We’ve settled on two and are really enjoying the change.

More Nature Study – In the past we were randomly choosing areas of focus. Most of our selections were prompted by a hike or outing. There was no consistency or overall plan. Being inspired by the multitude of other families also studying nature, we now have a definite system. No more scrambling for last-minute ideas or wondering what to study next.

Logic – I’ll be honest, I fought this. I had no opposition to teaching logic, mind you, and definitely wished for my kids to learn it. I was afraid. I had never formally taken a course in logic and wasn’t sure I could teach it. After my husband calmed my fears and walked me through his choice of book, we began. I’m so glad my guy persisted. It’s slow going but worth the effort.

These might not seem like major changes, but they are making a huge difference in our day. I’m not sure what the rest of the year holds, but it’s sure to be an adventure.

I still wish we could avoid making changes during the midst of our learning year. It would bring peace of mind and mean less scrambling. But I trust the Lord has a plan at work. I might not see the bigger picture, but He does. All He asks is that I be faithful.

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” ~Proverbs 18:15

Your Turn!: What changes have you already made in this learning year?

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How Are We Measuring Success?

How_Are_We_Measuring_Success?In this vast world, filled with goals and achievements, how do we measure ultimate success? Is it measured by how much money we make, how much of an education we received, or by the amount of toys that surround us? Are we successful because we get what we want or perhaps because we are happy? Is it something other people can see in us or is it something only we can know? As my children grow and continue increasing in wisdom, I hope they come to a full understanding of what success truly means.

Success is the accomplishment of a purpose. As Christians, the ultimate purpose for our lives is to reflect Christ and to share Him with the world.

“But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,…”
~ Acts 26:16

It will not matter if my children make tons of money, that they attained a college degree – not that I am against college, mind you – nor that they have all that they want. True success as a Christian isn’t about any of those things. Ultimately, the most successful life they can live is one sold out completely to God. A life in which all things are done, first and foremost, for Him.

For some, this might include making quite a bit of money. That would be a blessing. For others it might be obtaining that higher degree. Excellent! These are each small measures of accomplishment or success, but they are not the final goal.

The measure of my children’s success will be seen in the lives they lead. Are they achieving all they can for the kingdom of Christ or are they seeking their own purpose? Are they good husbands and wives; good parents; and good friends?

I pray as we move through the fullness of this homeschooling year I will help them to further understand the purpose for their lives and help them to achieve success. Our desire is for each area of focus to be solely founded upon God. May this help me remember that our children’s education needs to be founded on Christ and Him alone. Anything else is simply foolishness…

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”
~ Psalm 1:1-3

Your Turn!: What is your measure of ultimate success?

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Series Review: 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 time launching discussions on all things curriculum.

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

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

Our desire is to spend time in open conversation with you 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 adventure. Consider this an open invitation to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you readers on each topic; letting us know your thoughts, tips, and links to related articles.

Reading
Writing
Arts/Crafts
Bible
Grammar & Composition
Arithmetic
History & Geography
Science
PreK Helps
Music
Computer Sciences
Coding
P.E.
Foreign Language

May this series enrich each of us. And, may the Lord use this time to encourage us all in our homeschooling adventures. ~Cristina

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Who Has Time For a Sick Day?

Who_Has_Time_for_a_Sick_Day?It got me. I’ve been skillfully avoiding it for the last few weeks, and lacking all subtlety the dreaded virus finally caught up with me. I am now under the weather. Strictly speaking, sick. Doesn’t this ill-timed disease understand I don’t have time for this? I’m a mom. I’m a homeschooling mom. I’m a mom with way too much on my plate to become even the slightest bit tired much less down for the count. I can’t take a sick day. Who has time for a sick day?

Dramatics aside, how does being sick affect our learning routine? It’s one thing for one of my children to be sick. Mom can attend to their needs while keeping the remainder of our household intact. But when I get sick almost everything stops. As we can’t afford to keep this up for too long, I need a plan of attack:

Just How Sick Am I? I might not be feeling at top shape, however this doesn’t mean I’m necessarily bedridden for the day either. The minute I start feeling sick, I try to take an assessment of how bad this might get and act accordingly. The worst thing I can do is push myself too hard when I really need rest. Neither do I wish to take a day off when all I really needed was a little peppermint oil and a cup of tea.

Prayer First The Lord knows what I need and how to tackle this issue. Before I allow my mind to wander into unhealthy thinking or worry, I ask the Lord to comfort my heart and give me peace about how this day is going to go. Of course, asking for the Lord to heal me instantly isn’t unfathomable. It doesn’t usually happen, but why not ask?

Slow & Steady Because I have issues with not going through with my day as planned, I generally try to get as much done as I can while avoiding the fact that I am truly sick. (Ridiculous, I know.) My brilliant strategy? Do things slowly and with care, then I won’t over-tire myself and I will still feel accomplished. This usually works until my body rebels and I’m flat on my back resting.

Eating Myself to Wellness When I’m sick the last thing I want to do is eat. However, to maintain strength and fight off illness, I make an attempt at eating that which will bolster my system. My husband’s cure for just about everything is chicken noodle soup. Before you laugh, that stuff rocks. (The homemade kind. Avoid the cans if at all possible.) I also make sure to increase the amount of dark greens I’m eating, avoid caffeine, and intake as many liquids as possible.

Rest & Relaxation The hardest thing of all to do, yet the most needed. Everywhere I look I see things which need to get done. Things I had planned to do. But if I plan to get up and do those things tomorrow – without falling on my face – I need to get some rest. It’s time to make this a fun “sick day” event by pulling out the couch, letting the kids pick their favorite flicks, and allowing the teenagers to play doctor. Hard, right? Yeah, I know.

I don’t often get sick. When I do I usually am back to normal within twenty-four hours. I seem to have a remarkably strong immune system. I am truly blessed. Perhaps this is why it always surprises me on those odd occasions when I manage to contract something or other. By the time you read this post, I’m sure I’ll be back to full speed and laughing over my silliness. Until then… I really dislike being sick.

While I overstate my case for the sake of humor, I truly feel for those moms who are dealing with illnesses infinitely more difficult than mine. Feeling sluggish and slightly light-headed is nothing in comparison to parents who are truly ill. My heart goes out to you. May the Lord be your strength, comfort, and Healer.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases”
~ Psalm 103:2-3

Your Turn!: What is your plan of attack for sick days?

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Teens and Bible Basics

Teens_&_BibleBasicsSometimes it seems as though in our rush to advance our children’s learning we’ve lost sight of the simple things. We put aside the basics and move forward without periodically checking in to ensure our kids have a firm grasp on their foundation. Recently, the Lord has prompted our family to take a moment to review Bible basics with our kids. Key concepts we don’t want to take for granted are understood.

Setting logic and apologetics aside for a brief moment, we want to take this opportunity to review a few Biblical topics we might not have discussed in a while. We’ll brush up on these areas of focus and then resume our scheduled studies with better clarity.

What are Bible basics? When we think of Bible basics, a few things come to mind. Do our children remember the days of creation. From memory. How about the ten commandments? This is a great time to review the books of the Bible and have them memorized as well. We’ll review the “greatest” commandment; a few key passages in Psalms; The Great Commission; The Lord’s Prayer; John 3:16 and more!

This isn’t a step backward! It’s important our children understand that reviewing these basics is not a step backward. While they might think they “Know this stuff already!” these concepts are not just for children. Even we adults need to remind ourselves of these truths and ensure they are committed to memory. Then, we build upon the basics and dig deeper.

A firm foundation is key. Logic and apologetics are important. So are these basic foundational studies. All contribute to a strong Biblical foundation upon which our children’s lives should be established. From time to time it’s beneficial to take a look back, checking for areas which need a little strengthening. This ensures we’re moving forward in confidence and fully understanding what God is teaching.

Our kids aren’t as little as they used to be. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t periodically take a moment to check in with our not so little children and review these Bible basics. It’s good for them and us. Through prayer and fun family challenges, we’re brushing up and asking the Lord to grow us through these simple truths. We know God is going to do something wonderful!

“He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.”
~ Luke 6:48

Your Turn!: How often do you review Bible basics with your kids?

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Our August Reads

Our_August_Reads_2017

It never ceases to amaze us how many books we finish in a month. The lists we share here are merely books we’ve used in a homeschooling/parenting capacity; there are many more which we read on our own! August’s list has several finds from our local library. Everything on this month’s list was completely new to us, which is always fun.

  1. My Side of the Mountain – Trilogy (Jean Craighead George) – This coming-of-age story about a boy and his falcon went on to win a Newbery Honor, and for the past forty years has enthralled and entertained generations of would-be Sam Gribleys. The two books that followed–On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain–were equally extraordinary.
    This was an assigned read for my son. He fought me at first, but quickly began to enjoy the story. I’m sure many of you have already read this charming story. It’s a classic for a reason.
  2. 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names (Diana Wells) – Learn the mythical stories of the gods and goddess associated with bird names. Explore the avian emblems used by our greatest writers–from Coleridge’s albatross in “The Ancient Mariner” to Poe’s raven.
    Part of our nature study focus for the month of August, this book took us by surprise. Where we expected to find dry facts, we discovered lovely detail and fun facts.
  3. The Periodic Kingdom (PW Atkins) – Just how does the periodic table help us make sense of the world around us? Using vivid imagery, ingenious analogies, and liberal doses of humor P. W. Atkins answers this question. He shows us that the Periodic Kingdom is a systematic place. Detailing the geography, history and governing institutions of this imaginary landscape, he demonstrates how physical similarities can point to deeper affinities, and how the location of an element can be used to predict its properties. Here’s an opportunity to discover a rich kingdom of the imagination kingdom of which our own world is a manifestation.
    In my attempt to make chemistry more appealing – as exploding experiments are not as easy to come by as my children would like – we were led to this book. The author does a fine job of fully explaining the periodic table, making it a land of possibility and a joy to discover.
  4. Bees: A Honeyed History (Piotr Socha) – How does bees communicate?… What does a beekeeper actually do? Who survived being stung by 2,443 bees? This encyclopedic book answers all those questions and many more with a light, humorous touch.
    Well-illustrated books are a draw for us. Even if that was the only pull, this book would be worth a second look. However, we’re blessed to announce the educational pages within are just as wonderful as the illustrations. (It should be noted the author is not writing from a young-earth perspective. Expect to see the phrase “millions of years ago” and the like. Just to you know.)
  5. Atlas of Adventures (Rachel Williams) – Set your spirit of adventure free with this lavishly illustrated trip around the world. Whether you’re visiting the penguins of Antarctica, joining the Carnival in Brazil, or a canoe safari down the Zambezi River, this book brings together more than 100 activities and challenges to inspire armchair adventurers of any age.
    I think I might have developed a thing for maps. And globes. Which I suppose is technically about the same thing. Atlas books are high on my list right now and I appreciate each and every one. This one is especially charming; filled with unexpected, fun details about each region of the planet.
  6. Atlas of Animal Adventures (Rachel Williams) – From the team behind the best-selling Atlas of Adventures. Head off on a journey of discovery, with this book that collects together nature’s most unmissable events from between the two poles, including epic migrations, extraordinary behaviours, and Herculean habits. Find hundreds of things to spot and learn new facts about every animal.Yet another spectacular atlas from Ms. Williams. I’ll be holding onto this read until the library demands it be returned. Or I’ve bought my own. Whichever comes first. 

We generally gather our reading materials from the library, and several of these have been added to our personal book wish list. Great reads are worth revisiting!  We were so excited to find another incredible selection this month! A few of them were excellent aids in nature study. Join us again next month as we explore a world of literature and the adventure of reading.

Your Turn!: Do you have a favorite focus for nature study? We’d love to hear all about it.

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Series Review: Planning the Homeschool Year!

School-PlanningWhether you’re still in the stages of planning your school year, just starting, or you’ve been at it for weeks but still need to make some adjustments… Enjoy this fun series designed to help take the stress out of homeschooling planning!

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 year of homeschooling. Just where do we start? When do we start?! How many school days am I required to complete? Should I stick to a routine or plan out a detailed schedule? All these questions and more fill the head when planning out our homeschooling year. Let’s take a look at each mind-boggling area of planning and break it down!

Planning Your Year
Planning Your Day
Building a Family Plan
What Do I Need?
Counting the Cost
Portfolios
Field Trip Fun, Part I
Field Trip Fun, Part II
Finding Friends
Finding Sanity

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
I Cor. 14:40

Your Turn!: Which part of homeschooling is your least favorite to plan and/or organize?

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Would You Rather Be a Mule?

“A mule is an animal with long, funny ears
He kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny and his brain is weak
He’s just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And, by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule”

~ Swinging On a Star, by Frank Sinatra

Rather_be_a_Mule?Most days, our kids do just fine with their learning. We eagerly race to the table and settle in for a few hours of focused lessons. I wish could say that everyday was like this. However, on occasion, my babies can be quite stubborn. What’s a parent to do?

On mornings when our children just won’t budge, dragging their feet to the table or perhaps making life miserable for themselves while trudging through their work, I have two options: I can get mad or I can figure out what is causing the trouble.

Not Enough Sleep – A frequent cause of stubbornness seems to stem from lack of sleep. They kids stayed up too late the night before and are, therefore, having a harder time focusing on today’s activities. The remedy: Give them a lighter load today, get them to bed on time, and then try again tomorrow. This usually does the trick!

They Have a Need – Rushing through their morning routine, especially when they sleep in later than they should, sometimes the kids choose to skip out on breakfast. (Um… sorry guys, you probably inherited this from me.) My kids are having a hard time because they have a physical need like food, a drink, or even exercise. The remedy: Figuring out what their body needs, giving it to them, and trying again!

They’re Irritated/Frustrated – Sometimes it takes just one thing to set our kids off. It could be harsh words spoken, a shirt that’s too itchy, or pencil being tapped on the table. The remedy: Identify the offending factor and remove it immediately.

They Need Help – Did the work I give them seem too much? Did they not truly understand it? Kids will often dig in their heels when they are really begging for help. The remedy: Sitting down with them and walking through their lessons. Ask them questions and help lead them to the answers.

They’re Intimidated – Similar to needing help, new lessons can often be intimidating. Instead of pushing forward with anticipation, our kids can drag their feet expecting to fail. The remedy: Encouragement. I need to help them see this is a challenge needing to be conquered, not the end of the world.

Too Much Work – I have grand visions for my children’s lessons. Once in a while, my visions are little too grand. My kids balk at the amount of work or time stretching out in front of them. It seems I have overwhelmed their minds and overburdened them. The remedy: Ease up! I need to restructure the lesson, reducing where I can.

Of course, there are times when my kids are just being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn; this is a character issue which needs to be worked out. However, with prayer and a quick evaluation of their needs, I can better help them move on from this obstacle.

“Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.”
~ Psalm 32:9

Your Turn!: I’m sure your children are never stubborn! But, for the sake of argument, if they were to exhibit such a trait… what is your plan of attack?

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A Homeschool Mom’s Favorite STEM Books

AHM_STEAM_ReadsFollowing our list of favorite nature books, we thought it would be fun to share the few books we check out on a regular basis which relate to a STEM or STEAM line of study. As we feel our general course of learning does a great job of covering these areas of education fairly well, the list is not terribly long. But, you know us, we’re constantly looking and continually adding.

We know a multitude of books cover this topic. The list you find below is by no means exhaustive. Give is a look and see what we might be missing:

A moment of truth here… I find the acronym STEM, or STEAM, a bit frustrating. After all, doesn’t STEAM cover pretty much everything our children are supposed to be learning? One or two subjects aside. I’m confused over how this term is at all special. I was under the impression we’d been teaching these things all along. I know our general course of curriculum covers science, basic engineering, mathematics, and art. Even technology is discussed and explored over the course of our learning. I would even argue that literature and history are taught using this model as well, as we read about the history each genre. They are in our household. I’m going on the assumption most other homeschoolers are as well. How is STEM different from what we’re already doing? Something to think upon further.

While our normal course of study does a wonderful job of covering STEAM to a good degree, it is fun gathering additional reading materials which bolster these topics for our children. The few books we check out on a regular basis are favorites, and ones we’ll continue to enjoy again and again.

“Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them.”
~ Psalm 111:2

Your Turn!: Share your favorite STEM/STEAM books! Which would you recommend we read?

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A Homeschool Mom’s Favorite Nature Books

AHM_Favorite_Nature_BooksNine times out of ten, my children would rather be learning in the field. There is something about being out-of-doors which opens the mind and heart to learning. Unfortunately, as this post is being written in the last days of summer and we’re generally a good hour and a half from any decent nature center, this isn’t much of an option. Thus, we turn to our second best option – and always a viable one – books! Today, we’re exploring our favorite nature books and asking you to help us add to our growing list.

We’re sure an abundance of nature books exist. An entire section at our library can quickly attest to this. But there are a few which rise above the rest, making them invaluable to our learning and inspiring to the soul. These few either currently grace our home shelves or are begging to be added:

Whew! Quite the list, isn’t it? We’re sure we haven’t even come close to being finished with adding to it. There are just so many lovely reads waiting for us to bring them home.

Learning in the field might currently be on hold, but plans are underway to get us back into the wild outdoors and explore God’s creation. For now, we will content ourselves with admiring the pages within these magnificent books and dreaming of all the outdoor adventures to be had once cool weather comes our way. Well, cooler, anyhow.

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.”
~ Job 12:7

Your Turn!: Share your favorite nature books! Which would you recommend we read?

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