Tag Archives: homeschooling

Homeschooling is messy.

Homeschooling is messy. Very messy.

It’s perpetual snacktime (and sweeping crumbs), spelling lessons, paint and markers, and unending pencil shavings all mixed together.

It’s also grouchy moods from lack of sleep, annoying siblings, complaining about chores, curious toddlers, 3-5 sinks of dishes every day, and an exhausted mama.

All that stuff sounds pretty ugly right? Well, in the moment, viewing it from the midst of it, it is.

messy table with art supplies and snacks

 

But when you step back and view it from a different angle….

it’s not.

school table from above with paint books and snacks

 

It looks like little growing bodies and minds and time spent being creative. It looks like being able to rest when rest is needed (sometimes in a blanket fort), learning patience, love, kindness, work ethic, and how to be a friend. It looks like having fun, having full tummies and hearts, a family reading together after lunch, and a mama learning daily (and teaching her children by example) to lean on God.

Homeschooling is beautiful when we take the time to see it from His view.

 

kids coloring together

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A Reason for Homeschooling

We’re going into our third year of homeschooling at our house! Wow. That’s so crazy to think about. I read once that most people give up on homeschooling in the first three years, so that has been my goal – 3 years. Do it three years, and if then it isn’t a fit for our family, we can try something different. Well here we are, entering year 3, and I’m not thinking about quitting anytime soon.

I don’t think I was ever asked my reasoning for choosing to homeschool until this year. Then out of nowhere I was being asked over and over, “Why do you homeschool?”

There are several reasons our family homeschools, but I’d like to share just a few of them with you today. Hopefully I can provide a little encouragement to someone that is on the fence about it or is having a rough day. If you’re 6 weeks in (or 6 days or 6 years), and wondering, “What on earth have I gotten myself into?” take heart. Breathe deep, and remember that His mercies are new each morning. Is it all roses and fingerpainting? Nope. Some days there are tears all around. Some days are exhausting and overflowing with to dos, as there just aren’t enough hours in each day. Some days my husband comes home and I go hide in my room to cry because I’m certain I’ve failed terribly and I need to repent to God and my children.

If you’re on the verge of submitting that intent to homeschool form, but are scared to death, say a prayer, take a deep breath, and go with the Lord’s leading. I always tell new homeschool moms, “Find your why and write it down. Go back and read it as a reminder on the hard days.”

So why do it?

Some days ARE all roses and finger painting – on the front porch, with school books and cups of lemonade scattered around. In winter, some days are books read aloud, all of us curled in a pile in front of our fireplace with little ones on top of me and bigger ones next to me, sketch pads and Lego blocks strewn about. They also get to explore their own interests. Today we’ve had lessons in sewing, and my crew is currently working to plant their own winter garden.

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Family time. My husband’s job is demanding. It’s not uncommon for him to walk in the door, just to turn around and leave again 3 minutes later, or 30 minutes later just as I’m setting plates of food on the table, only for him to return long after the kids are in bed. When he’s off work, we soak it up. When he has a Friday off, we have a family day. There’s no rush to get everyone up and out the door. We can run errands as a family or just hang out at the house. When my husband works on Saturdays, we take that time to work ahead in preparation for the days he is off.

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Relationships. Watching my 6 year old son teach his 3 year old sister how to fold laundry. Or all four big kids having piggy back races through the house. Just this morning Ihad a conversation with my older boys about my number one job being to teach them to love God and love others. If they can recite the entire Declaration of Independence or multiply 5 digit numbers in their heads, it means nothing if they don’t love God or each other.

Because I was called. My number one reason. This is what keeps me going on those hard days. Even when I start to daydream about handing the teaching over to the local school district, I know in my heart I would be disobeying God. That is not His Will for our family. Does that mean we will homeschool forever? I have no idea. God’s plan for our family may look different in several years, or it may look much the same. But for now, this is my calling, my family’s calling, and we are thankful for the opportunity toย  make it happen and the blessings it brings with it.

 

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5 Thrifty Tips for Building Your Home Library (Homeschooling on a Budget)

We have 5 kids, and live on one income. For many, that in itself seems like a major feat. Add in homeschooling, and it can quickly appear overwhelming for almost any budget. That doesn’t have to be the case though! There are lots of ways to give your children a quality education at home without spending more than you have. Homeschooling on a budget is very doable.

One of those ways is by offering them lots and lots of opportunities to read about a wide variety of subjects. (Like with our 100 Books in August challenge!) We love reading in our house! I believe that helping them gain the ability to read well and instilling a love for reading in my children is a very important part of their education. In order to encourage a love for books of all kinds from an early age, I love having shelves filled with books of all kinds of topics that may interest the children – fiction, biographies, how-to books, travel books, books of famous artwork, storybooks, etc. At first glance, our shelves of books would seem like a huge investment, but I’m going to share a few tips for building a home library on a budget.

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This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing through them will not alter your pricing, but it will benefit my family and this blog.

1. Thrift stores and second hand bookstores – This is probably the most obvious place to start. We are not lucky enough to have a second hand bookstore nearby, but I love searching through the stacks of books when I do come across one. Many thrift stores also have a sale schedule that allows you to buy items at an even bigger discount.

2. Yard sales – This is a favorite of mine. I picked up a huge lot of Magic Treehouse books, a favorite series of my oldest son, for 10 cents each last summer.

3. Amazon used book dealers – This is another favorite of mine. Many books can be found for as low as 1 cent, plus $3.99 shipping. I check out the vendor’s ratings before ordering, but I have not had a single bad experience with buying books this way. The next time you click over on Amazon, don’t assume that Prime price is the lowest you can score. Look for the used prices too.

4. Bulk book sellers – Yes, you can buy books in bulk! One book seller I’ve used is Books by the Foot. You can purchase books about a specific topic, art or golf maybe, by the foot (usually 6-12 books per foot, their site gives numbers for each subject). They also offer boxes of children’s books! Some new, some used, and some boxes can be a mix of new and used. You don’t get to pick the titles, so it was a fun surprise to sift through the big box and see what treasures had arrived! I purchased a box a year or so ago. Some of the books we already owned, and some I just didn’t care for. Those few, I separated out and sold in a yard sale of my own. ๐Ÿ™‚

5. Local library sales – Most people think of the library as a great economical way to read. Endless shelves of books you can read and return for free! But most libraries also sell their discarded books. Our small town library has a shelf tucked under a window where they keep piles of books that can be purchased for a quarter or two. The larger library about an hour away has two rooms full of books available to be purchased! A few months ago I happened to be able to stop by while they were having their monthly bag sale. That means you can fill one of their blue bags with as many books as you can cram in it, and they will all be yours for $2. Needless to say, I didn’t stop at 1 bag. ๐Ÿ™‚ I purchased 2 bags for a total of 29 books at $4! That’s less than $.14 per book. Of course not every book was for the kids – 2 or 3 were for me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Go check out your local library, even if it’s a tiny one!

We still use and love our libraries borrowing great books, but I also love having all our own books. Some books might not have looked exciting enough in the moment to be chosen at the library, but on a shelf at home, will be later discovered at the perfect time, as a treasure by one of my kids when a new interest is sparked!

 

 

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100 Books in August (2016)

It’s that time of year again! Boxes are arriving on our porch daily, filled with colorful new books, art supplies, and even several DVDs that I will be using to educate my children this year. (I’ll be sharing all about our curriculum choices in another post.)
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Once again, this year we are kicking off our school year with 100 books in August! This will be our third year for the challenge, and we’re all excited to get started. We have a stack of overdue library books to speed through, (Thank goodness for small town libraries that don’t charge late fees!) and are also enjoying The Long Winter, our current read aloud.

The goal of this challenge is for us to read 100 books in the month of August which will help us get back in the swing of reading together, and if we reach our goal (we always do), we earn a fun family activity! Once again, my kiddos have chosen Chuck E. Cheese as their prize. I may try to convince them to take another option.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a fun way to get us excited about getting back into our school lessons, and it gives the kids motivation to spend those super hot afternoons reading together instead of begging for screentime or whining about being bored. You’re kids do that too, right?

(This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing through them will not change your pricing, but will benefit our family and this blog.)

My 6 year old loves to read, but doesn’t usually want to read aloud, so this challenge is also good motivation for him to practice his reading skills to his siblings. This year we will follow the same rules as last year for my 6 year old’s reading to count toward our goal. 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. If it is listed, he will also be taking a book quiz on BookAdventure.com
  • Our read aloud chapter books will count as 1 book per chapter.
  • Books such as our science textbook 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.

Join in! PRINT YOUR OWN STICKER CHART, decide on a prize for your family, and share your progress andย  book choices on Instagram, Twitter, or Instagram with #100BooksinAugust! I love to see what everyone else is reading!

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Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo at ASU

Our local homeschool group was recently invited to attend the Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo at the ASU Farm. It had been a few years since I and my oldest two sons had visited the petting zoo, so I was excited to take them back and take their sisters for the first time. We were not disappointed. ๐Ÿ™‚
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The Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo has been located in the old beef barn on the Arkansas State University Campus in Jonesboro, Arkansas since 2006. It is free and open twice each year – once in the Spring and once in the Fall. Group tours are done during the week, and Saturday it is open to the public. (That’s also a good time to check out the ASU Regional Farmers’ Market.)

We love field trips! (What homeschool family doesn’t?) This field trip was extra fun because it fell on a day my husband was already scheduled to be off work, so Daddy got to tag along for the fun.

First we headed into the barn to visit with the animals. Some of the animals are contained in gated barn stalls, and others, like the funny pot-bellied pig, wander around freely, plopping down here and there for a head scratch.

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The petting zoo is home to an array of farm animals – sheep, goats, pigs, cows, and even an alpaca! Students from Arkansas State were stationed throughout the barn to assist with holding some of the animals, answer questions, and help ease the fears of some of the younger children. (Obviously there were no fears from my crew though. lol)

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The kids also got the chance to hold chicks and visit up close with a lamb and a rabbit. The fluffy bunny and the little chirping chicks were the favorites of my girls. My boys were more fond of the big steer.

After everyone had a chance to hold a chick and pet all the other animals, our group loaded up into a trailer for a hay ride around the farm. We were accompanied on the hay ride by a few of the university students to tell us about the ASU Farm. While it is a teaching facility, it is also a working farm, raising livestock for meats, wool, and growing hay. They explained what went on in each building we passed and told us some facts about the other livestock we saw on the farm. They did a great job of involving the kids and asking and answering questions.

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After the hayride, several families walked across the street to play and visit in the ASU Display Garden of the Craighead County Master Gardeners. I wish now I had taken photos there. It is a beautiful garden with plenty of open space for the kids to run and play and a picnic area too.

If you would like more information about the farm, upcoming petting zoo dates, or to schedule a time for your group to attend the Bill & Alice Nix Petting Zoo:

Arkansas State College of Agriculture & Technology Website

PettingZoo@astate.edu
870.972.2087

 

 

 

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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?ย  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 โ€œjust too educational for childrenโ€™s television,โ€ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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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!


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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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Godโ€™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, andย  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Overall, we had a fun morning with the letter P, hopefully to be continued tomorrow.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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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