Category Archives: homeschooling

Exploring Our Solar System with Rachel and the Treeschoolers (a review)

We love everything Two Little Hands around here, so when I got a chance to get a sneak peek at the new episode of Rachel and the Treeschoolers, Our Solar System, I was super excited! I knew my kids would be too. For sure.

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With a new baby in the house, I figured it was the perfect time to pull out our new DVD. Learning, fun, and a few minutes of entertainment while mommy tends to the baby? Yes, please! And unlike most shows for children now, this series is highly educational, based on Ph.D researched curriculum. and actively engages the kids in learning with fun songs and ASL (American Sign Language). My 5 year old often talks of wanting to be an astronaut, so I was especially excited to watch the DVD with him. Once again, Rachel Coleman and her Treeschooler friends did not disappoint!

Episode 9, Our Solar System, revolves around “The Mystery of the Missing Moon.” Simon is very concerned when he sees the moon slowly disappearing! Is someone stealing the moon?  Rachel and the Treeschoolers work together to solve their mystery, and in the process they also learn about the sun, moon, stars, planets, and some scientists whose questions led to discoveries about our universe.

The first time we watched it, I was very impressed by all the vocabulary included. I was so excited about all the things it introduced to my little ones that I hadn’t even thought of teaching them right now. We’ve had some great discussions about gravity, phases of the moon, Milky Way and other galaxies and more. My favorite song in this episode, ABCs of Astronomy, is amazing. It is fun and an easy way of remembering some great foundational vocabulary of astronomy. We have a set of outer space flash cards my boys have been asking to get out. As we went through them one day last week, I was impressed with how much my five year old knew. Every time I asked how he knew something, he said he learned it from, “The Signing Time movie!” Also included in this episode, are more than 50 ASL signs. We’ve had a lot of fun practicing those! Anytime learning can be hands-on is a good thing! It really helps to sink things into the memory around here.

It was definitely another win for Rachel and the Treeschoolers with my bunch. A tv show that was called “just too educational for children’s television,” yet my children, and many others, love it. I think that speaks volumes about the quality of this series!

If you would like your own copy of this and/or any of the other fun episodes of Rachel and the Treeschoolers,head on over to their web site. While you’re there, be sure to request a fun activity guide to go along with whichever DVDs you purchase. These include crafts, games, printables, activity ideas, and more to bring the topics and discussions from the DVD right into your classroom (or to your dining room table for many of us homeschoolers:-) ).

 

 

*I was provided a copy of this product for review purposes. Of course, all opinions are strictly my own. 🙂

 

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Tuesday 10: Carschooling!

How about something new and fun for Tuesday? Tuesday kind of gets lost in the shuffle of the week, but it deserves its own spotlight every once in a while. To give it that bit of attention, how about a random list of 10 things this week?

Today I’m sharing 10 of our favorites for carschooling – learning on the go!


 

This Fall will be a bit busier than last year with the addition of homeschool co-op to our schedule. This summer we enrolled in a (somewhat) local homeschool group. Each Fall and Spring semester our homeschool group has a cooperative learning day on Mondays where parents teach different classes, and the kids get to join their friends to learn new things. This will be our first time being involved in a co-op, so I’ve been a little stressed about how to make sure it is good and fun and not a huge headache for our family. The first hurdle was just how to fit it into our schedule. We live 45 minutes away from where it is held (with no closer options!), so that means we won’t have much time for structured lessons on Monday mornings.

It also means we will be spending lots of time in the car. To ward off some of the whining and “Are we there yet?”, and to save my own sanity from 300,000 games of I Spy With my Little Eye and 4700 “I gotta potty!!” stops for the toddler who is really just bored (and thinks I can be talked into buying snacks like Daddy 😉 ), I started looking for ways to make that car time more fun and useful and less annoying. That has lead to our collection of fun CDs!

(This article contains affiliate links. They won’t change your pricing, but purchasing through them will benefit my little (big) family and this blog. 🙂 )

1. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? (audio book)
This classic by Bill Martin Jr. is a favorite in our home and our van. My kids love listening to the story over and over and making all the sounds themselves.

2. Signing Time CDs
Signing Time has been a favorite at our house for years, but just recently did I purchase some of the CDs of songs that go along with the DVD episodes. I absolutely love this program – it’s a fun and exciting way for my kids to be introduced to a second language. And the songs don’t drive me crazy either. 🙂

3. Skippyjon Jones (audio books)
When Skippyjon Jones (by Judy Schachner) entered our world 4 or 5 years ago, I knew immediately he would be around for a very long time. A few years and kids later, everyone still loves this mischievous Siamese kitten who wants to be a chihuahua and all his crazy antics. We all crowd around at bedtime when these stories are read, and in the car we all chime in with “Salchichas! Salchichas! Sausages and peaches!” when we listen to Skippyjon Jones Snow What.

4. Song School Latin – This CD of songs is actually part of our Latin curriculum. Since my boys are only 5 & 4, I’ve stashed away the workbooks for later down the road. For now, they pull out the DVDs at home just for fun, and we sing along to the CD in the car. I’ve been so impressed with not only how much they enjoy it, but also how much and how quickly they are learning. It cracks me up to hear them greet people in Latin!

5. Sounds Like Learning (Discovery Toys) – This fun CD has everything from familiar nursery rhyme songs to songs teaching counting by tens and the months of the year. I can’t honestly say I love every song, the ones we do love, we listen to a LOT. It was very helpful when my oldest son learned to count by tens!

6. Giraffes Can’t Dance (audio book) – This book and accompanying CD by Giles Andreae was a gift to my kiddos from my mother-in-law. (Having a former preschool teacher as a mother-in-law definitely has perks – like her entire classroom collection of books!) It’s a cute story about Gerald the giraffe who believes he is too clumsy to dance with all the other animals at the Jungle Dance, until he realizes that he just dances to a different tune.

7. Songs Kids Really Love to Sing: Bible Songs – This collection of fun bible songs brings back so many memories from my childhood! I love teaching them to my kids! And it’s currently only $1.99 on Amazon with free shipping for Prime members! (Pretty sure I paid more than that for my copy when I bought it!)

8. Rachel & the Treeschoolers – As you may have figured out by now, our family loves everything about Little Hands Productions, and the Treeschoolers series is no different. Each DVD is accompanied by a CD of the songs from that episode, and these have proven to be a big hit with my crew of littles. Fun music, sign language, and science all rolled into one! This nerdy mom definitely approves!

9. Hide ’em in Your Heart – This collection of songs by Steve Green are some of my favorites. The songs are a great way to help my kids (and myself!) learn scripture!

10. The Hollow Trees – FUN music for kids of all ages inspired by traditional bluegrass, country, and folk music. The whole family loves this one, really. How often can you say that you actually love a CD of music made for kids?

So there you have it. The first Tuesday 10 – our family favorites for making car time into learning time without losing my mind.

What about you? Do you have some favorites for learning on the go? Or another list of 10 you’d like to share? If so, be sure to leave a comment or a link and link up on IG with #Tuesday10

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“I wish I could homeschool, but…”

“I wish I could homeschool, but…” Over the last few months, I seem to have heard this phrase more and more often. Mothers, wishing to have the opportunity to teach their children themselves instead of handing a job, that God has placed on their hearts as their own, over to someone else. Fathers, wishing to be more involved in their children’s education and the opportunity to teach life skills and work ethic.

The thing that strikes me though, is that what follows the “but” is rarely related to finances, time, work schedules, etc. More often than not, it is followed by statements such as, “I just don’t have the patience for it, ” “I just couldn’t do it,” or “My kids would make me crazy.”

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Let me tell you something: homeschooling parents all over the world, have those same thoughts. Often. I do not feel as if I have exceptional spiritual gifts that make me a good fit for homeschooling. Rather, homeschooling reminds me of my weaknesses by bringing them front and center, refines me, and points me to the Creator on a daily basis. I have learned the importance of not only asking my Heavenly Father for forgiveness, but also my children. I have learned, and am still learning, to grant them the same complete forgiveness and clean slate that He offers me. God did not grant me with an uncommon ability to be patient at birth. (However, He has used homeschooling to grow me in that area!) I have 4 kids, ages 5 years old and younger, and am expecting our 5th this Winter. I assure you, there are plenty of days my kids make me crazy, and there are plenty more days when I make them crazy. Daily, God uses our time together to teach us all about what it means to live in unity.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! {Psalm 133:1}
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. {Ephesians 4:3}

image2I also am taught almost daily about turning to the Father for my strength. If I do not go to Him, homeschooling is too much for me. It is hard. There has been, and will be again, frustration, doubt, exhaustion, and tears.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. {Psalm 55:22}

But when I hand it over to Him, I am reminded that this isn’t just a task I woke up one day deciding I wanted to try for the fun of it. God laid it on my heart several years ago to educate my children at home, and after the rain comes a rainbow. A reminder of his promise to see my family through the journey we have been called to. It is not unusual for me to struggle, have hard days, and be utterly exhausted emotionally, and then have a day of rest – a day when a concept finally clicks for one of my kids, a day when we enjoy each others’ company and spend time learning as we run errands or reading lots of stories, on the grass under a tree.

Now, I must say, I do not believe God calls every single parent in the world to homeschool. Some He does. Some He doesn’t. Some, He calls to homeschool only for a season. It breaks my heart though, to see families that have the desire and God’s blessing, but still allow their doubt of their own abilities, or their spouse’s abilities, (and in turn God’s abilities) to keep them from seeking out a way to educate their children at home.

If God has laid the task on your heart, be encouraged, He will also give you the strength and everything else you need to follow his directions.

If that is you, struggling with the calling, but lacking the confidence, or even desire, know that I am praying for you this morning. Praying that you would put your trust in Him, be encouraged, and that you would search out Godly advice and fellowship on this important decision.

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Introducing the Letter P with Penguins, Pirates, and Polar Bears {homeschool preschool}

This week, my middle two kiddos are learning about the letter P. I’m working on recognizing the letter with my 2 year old and phonics and writing with my 4 year old.

I’m not using any specific curriculum with the 2 year old. The 4 year old will begin Handwriting Without Tears in a couple of weeks, but for now I’m just doing lots of different activities and reading.

We started off with some simple activities and discussing the letter P.
I showed them our letter of the week poster, and we took turns listing off a few words that begin with P.

What begins with P? Penguins and pirates of course!

I had my oldest son read us The Penguin Who Wanted to Fly, and  I read How I became a Pirate. Both are cute books that my kids love. (This also earned them 2 more stickers for their 100 Books in August challenge.)

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And polar bears! Several months ago we studied polar bears as part of our science curriculum, and they quickly became a favorite animal around here. We reviewed a few things we had previously learned about them, and I pulled out our globe to show the kids the areas where they live. (One thing I love about teaching my kids is seeing and showing them how all the subjects can tie in together.)

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I bought this movie, To the Arctic, a few days ago, and the kids have begged to watch it every day, so today was finally the day!
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They also colored pictures of polar bears I printed from coloringpedia.com to work on fine motor skills, and the boys did this cute maze from makinglearningfun.com.

What else begins with P?

Pizza of course! While the kids were watching their new movie, I got to work on cooking lunch. It had been a long time since I made these mini tortilla pizzas for the kids, so they were pretty excited to see them on their plates today. They’re fun, yummy, and super easy to throw together in just a few minutes – a great school day lunch. 🙂

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Overall, we had a fun morning with the letter P, hopefully to be continued tomorrow.  🙂

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100 Books in August {2015}

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Last August I used the 100 Books in August challenge to get us back into the swing of things for school. It was a big hit with the kids, and at the end we celebrated our accomplishment with a family night out to eat pizza and play putt putt. A few weeks ago, my oldest son mentioned it, so I decided we would try it again! The boys got excited as I printed out our sticker chart this morning, so I have no doubt they will once again be reminding me each day how many books we need to read that day to meet our goal.

This year will be a bit different though, with my 5 year old reading now. Here are a few of our guidelines:

  • If he reads a book, he has to read it aloud to his siblings (because this is 100 books for everyone!), bring it to us, answer a few questions, and then read a bit of it aloud to us, for it to count.
  • Our read aloud chapter books will count as 1 book per chapter. (We’re currently enjoying On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder.)
  • Books such as our science or history textbooks for school do not count.
  • While I want to include as many different books as possible, my kids will be choosing the books most of the time, so I know I’ll be reading some books multiple times.

For this year’s reward, we have chosen a family date at Chuck E. Cheese’s. It was a suggestion from our oldest. 🙂 I prefer the reward each year to be something fun the whole family can do together, instead of just purchasing something. We read together, and we celebrate together!

I will definitely be sharing some of our reading here, but I’ll also be sharing throughout the challenge on Instagram! If you would like to join in, link back to here on your blog posts and/or follow me on Instagram and include the hashtags #mommythezookeeper and #100booksinAugust. It’s fun seeing what everyone else is reading and getting ideas for new books to look for!

And leave a comment telling me what your reward will be at the end of the month!

Be sure to click HERE to print out your own sticker chart too!

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Homeschool Art with Home Art Studio

With my oldest entering first grade, I have been looking for a good way to introduce art beyond cutting and pasting. A few weeks ago I was reading another blog that mentioned Home Art Studio, a DVD art curriculum for grades K-5. I started looking into it and was pleasantly surprised that the site even offers a free art lesson for each grade as a preview! I love when I can try things, especially curriculum, before I buy it.
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The first grade program focuses on visual art from around the world, and the preview lesson teaches about Aboriginal dot painting from Australia. I decided to do that with my boys this week to see if they would enjoy it. I love that this curriculum introduces them to art from another culture and gives some information about its history.

First we watched the short video. We actually watched the video twice because when we first watched it last week, we unexpectedly ran out of time and didn’t get to try the painting ourselves. They watched it a second time this week. Then they went to work on making their own paintings in the Aboriginal style.

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They definitely enjoyed this lesson! My only involvement with their paints was getting out the supplies. They took right to it and were careful to include the elements discussed in the video. I was definitely impressed by their enthusiasm.


I have a few other art programs I am looking at, and we will be trying the Kindergarten preview lesson next week, but this program is a good possibility for this Fall.

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Summer School Science – videos, experiments, and sign language

A few days ago I posted about my love of the Signing Time program (and the free video they have available).  As if that wasn’t enough reasons to love it, today I’m going to tell you about another reason! Rachel and the Treeschoolers series – This is a science DVD series for grades PreK-3, though my 2 year old enjoys it just as much as the 4 & 5 year old. (The song about thunder and lightning has helped calm a few storm fears in our house too!) The DVDs are educational and fun AND incorporate ASL!

This summer they have upped their game even more. For those that subscribe to their promotional e-mails, they have created an email series called Summer of Science. Each week, I receive an email with a short video clip from one of the Treeschoolers videos and an activity or experiment idea to go along with the topic of the video.

For week one, we watched the video about lightning and discussed the experiment but didn’t get a chance to try it out due to a week of rainy weather. (How appropriate!) Week two was a success though! The song in the video was about how clouds form, and we reviewed some of the ASL signs that go along with weather. Then we all had fun with the experiment – making a cloud in a jar!

Here are a few pictures. Note I did NOT clean off the table. Homeschooling is not neat and tidy around here. I can’t even pretend it is.

Supplies needed:
Hairspray (aerosol can)
Large jar with a lid*
Hot/Boiling water
Ice cubes

experiment supplies

Instructions:
Fill the jar 1/3 full of very hot/boiling water
Spray the hairspray into the jar and replace the lid quickly
Put several ice cubes on top
Watch your cloud form!
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One question from the activity printout was, “What do you think would happen if the lid was removed?” (Or something like that. I’m too lazy to go look. :-p ) So, we removed the lid to see!
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This experiment was definitely a win. It was easy and hassle free, but also very interesting!

For the accompanying videos and more activities, head over to SigningTime.com or CLICK HERE to sign up for their emails!

*This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing through the link will not affect your pricing, but it will bless and benefit our family.*

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Our Summer so Far and A Look at our Summer Homeschool Plan

This summer I started out with a plan to do very little actual school lessons until the end of July or beginning of August. I was NOT interested in year-round schooling. However, we finished up our last school year in April, and after a few weeks of total freedom for my boys, I realized it was going to be a looooong summer with too many discipline issues if I didn’t come up with at least a little bit of structure. By mid-May we were back to doing school lessons about 3 days per week. (We also got the exciting news that baby number FIVE will be arriving late this year, so I figured I should at least attempt to get us a little ahead of schedule.) Then I busted out my planner, the library schedule, and every other local summer activity schedule i could find and put everything on the calendar with the intention of just picking a few here and there to do. We pretty much pushed formal lessons aside and filled our days with storytime and library craft days, fun presentations, museum trips with Nana & Pawpaw,swimming lessons, watermelon and sprinklers, and lots of other fun stuff that kept us pretty busy through June!
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July started with a bang – VBS, almost two weeks of friends and family visiting and LOTS of fun!

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We celebrated the 4th of July with a big cookout at our house, and a few days later said sad goodbyes to our friends.

Since then, we’ve eased back into somewhat of a school schedule, though I have not made the leap of actually declaring our school year as beginning. I’m still enjoying the go-with-the-flow time. However, I am spending more and more time organizing our schedule and lesson plans for the coming season.

Currently we are doing some sort of formal lessons 2-3 days per week, usually a short handwriting lesson, some math, P.E., and a science experiment once per week. In the next few posts I’ll go over some of the fun activities and lessons I’ve included.

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FREE Signing Time Video

This morning I came across a GREAT deal in my inbox. If you are not familiar with Signing Time, I strongly encourage you to check them out right now. I was first introduced to Signing Time 5 years ago when my oldest was just a wee little guy. I had briefly heard about it from another mom, but I was made a fan when I came across their board books and DVDs at our local library. They provide a fun, hands on way for kids to learn while also teaching them ASL (American Sign Language)! He and I both quickly fell in love with the series, and since then all my other kids have enjoyed it just as much. We also use their Rachel and the Treeschoolers videos (for ages PK-3) in our homeschool curriculum. 🙂

And today you can get a FREE video download of Signing Time Welcome to School! This fun video teaches signs and songs about going to school and all the fun things that go along with a school day. It introduces 30+ signs!
All you have to do is CLICK HERE. That will take you to the Signing Time web site where you can enter your email address to have the download link e-mailed to you. It’s really that simple.

Even better, is that if this video is shared with 500,00 new families by October 1, a second free video will be released!

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Printable Lesson Plans Page {free}

Toward the end of last year I realized I have way too many notebooks in use at one time. I have one for everything in my life: one for budgeting and bills, one for lesson plans, one for recipes and meal planning, one for each Bible study I’m currently doing, one for to-do lists, one for being creative (ok, maybe two or three for that). Along with all of those, I also have a daily/weekly planner. Something had to give, so I decided to design my own planner/home management binder to at least cut down on the number of times in one week I go hunting for one notebook or another.

Last night I was playing around with my lesson plans pages and decided to share one here. Subjects can be written in the first column, and my copy has my boys’ names in the two top rectangles. The subject lines that are divided are for the subjects they work separately on -math, reading, and handwriting in our case.

Click HERE to download your FREE lesson plans page

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