Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday's Top 10: Why I Blog

When we first began our homeschooling journey, my mom mentioned that I should blog about it.  At that time I wasn't a big blog reader (except when researching something), and I didn't really have the desire.  But the idea took root and not longer after that, I decided to begin a blog about our homeschooling life. 

Top 10 Reasons Why I Blog

1.  It is a form of scrapbooking.  It is a place to keep all of our pictures and memories.  I can go back and look at old pictures and remember our time together.

2.  I am able to share with family and friends what we do in our daily lives.  It also shows people that we do do something. ;)

3.  It is a way to organize my ideas and a form of record keeping.  It is like a virtual filing cabinet and lesson plan book for future years.  

4.  I can share activities, ideas, thoughts, and thematic unit ideas with other moms, homeschoolers, and teachers.

5.  My wish is that this blog inspires and encourages moms on their homeschool path.

6.  I can reflect on our activities.  As I blog about our learning, I can think about: what we accomplished, how it turned out, what could I add or delete, how I could make it better, and how I could extend it for another grade level in the future.

7.  I want to tell our story and document our journey.

8.  I want to honor God...to show how He is working in our lives.  I hope this is a place where He is glorified and all of the praise is given to Him.

9.  I enjoy doing it.  I don't have tons of followers, and I don't make any money. I just enjoy doing it.

10.  It's my ongoing project.  I am one of those people who always needs a project and a to-do list.  After one party is over I begin planning the next one.  After reorganizing one closet, I begin looking for the next cluttered room or closet.  So this gives me something to do that doesn't cost a dime. :)


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chores: Our Helper Chart

For a while now I have been working with the kiddos on responsibilities around the house.  We practice cleaning up after ourselves, helping with the pets, preparing for bedtime, and other daily skills.  But we have never had an organized chart to keep everyone on track.  We once tried a sticker/reward chart for Old Crow...that worked about 4 days and then was forgotten about.  So I read a little more and thought A LOT more (my brain has been in overdrive this past month, but that is a post for another day) and finally came up with something that I think works perfectly for our family.  

We call it our Helper Chart.

I wanted all the kids to be on one chart together and NO STICKERS.  I want them to just know this is a responsibility and find joy in their completed work...not in earning a prize.  So this layout works great!  The "chores" stay the same and the kids are rotated every 2 weeks (or until they master their skill).  Their faces with names are attached by Velcro and can easily be rotated.  Once everyone is doing great and has had a turn practicing all of the skills, a new chart can be made with added chores.

It is important to note that I have to schedule the time for chores.  That chart can hang their all week but unless I set aside a time for us all to do our chores they will not get done.  So Mom and Dad are key to it working.  I have to remind myself of this...I am training them and cannot just expect them (at this age) to complete their chart daily without any reminders.

If you are wondering about the "Getting Ready for Bed Checklist" mentioned on the Helper Chart:  this is a checklist I created for the kids to hang in their bathroom.  It goes step-by-step and helps them personally prepare for the day or for bedtime.

And as for the "Stations" mentioned in the Helper Chart:  I read a blog post (and for the life of me cannot remember where) about a mother who suggested using "stations" to help clean up every night.  I divided our house into 4 stations (the 4 most commonly used areas)...keeping room, living room, playroom, and kitchen.  Each night before bed we are all in charge of one area or station.  I will always do the kitchen and the kids will rotate stations as seen on the helper chart.  It was so fun explaining all of this to them.  We went room to room and discussed how to clean up and prepare it for company...toys picked up, pillows on the couch, chairs arranged properly.  Each night before bed, we want the room to look fresh, clean, and ready for a new day...like we have company coming over.  :)  We turn the praise music up high and for 10 minutes we clean up our area.  Then afterwards we go to the stations and clap and cheer for how well everything looks.  It is too funny to hear Memphis Belle talk about her "station".  :)

All in all, I think this system we have going will be a keeper.  Some things fade out or just don't work, but for us this is working and working well.  I'm fascinated by how much they can do and help if we just let them.  Tonight I just stood back and watched them for a minute...and then got out my camera of course.

Crazy Horse helping to feed and water the dog.

Crazy Horse helping with the trash.  He surprised me by doing this one day all on his own, and then I knew this was something he was capable of.

He also helps with the bird cage.

Little Miss Memphis Belle gets out the vacuum cleaner, plugs it in, and goes to town.

 She also loves to help with the dishwasher!

 Way to go, little helpers!

Hopefully, this will be of some help to someone...someone looking to bring a little order into the home, someone wanting to teach their kids responsibility, and someone who just needs a little help keeping things straight.  I know I sure did!  ;)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Tuesday's Top 10: Why We Love Heart of Dakota

As we near the middle of the school year, I like to reevaluate how our year how been proceeding to this point.  Is the curriculum working for us?  Have I seen growth?  Do I need to change anything?  There have been times (especially last year as we were in the beginning stage of our homeschool) when I needed to rework things.  But I am delighted that we are in love with our curriculum for this year.  Old Crow hasn't become bored with it and neither have I.  Each day he is excited to begin.  He is growing spiritually, academically, and developmentally.  We couldn't have asked for a better year...and I am so thankful that I found Heart of Dakota when I did.

So today's Top 10 focuses on why we think Heart of Dakota's Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory is perfect for our family.

1.  Biblical learning is the center of each day. Many Christian-based curricula can be found out there, and the Bible lesson is usually a separate subject....something done first to begin the day and then you move one to the academics.  But Carrie Austin, the creator of Heart of Dakota Curriculum, weaves and integrates the Bible story and scripture into every subject...history, geography, science, storytime, and character education.  Everything!!!!  

2.  Daily lesson plans are created for me.  Once you open the teacher's guide, each unit and each day is planned for you.  I don't have to plan one thing!  It has been such a relief not to have to stress over plans...spending hours at the computer until my husband drags me away.  Within the guide though, there is room for flexibility and tweaking so that it can be perfectly adjusted to each individual child.  I enjoy creating thematic units and activities to go along with my child's interest at a particular time,  but it is now optional and something I don't have to stress over.

3.  It is easy to order.  Carrie Austin has done the research for me and compiled the best of all curricula available (grammar, math, reading selections, etc).  I am preparing for Crazy Horse's Kindergarten year and Old Crow's 2nd grade year, and it is so easy to purchase what I need.  It is all in one spot and with one click the year can be bought.  :)

             4.  This curriculum has been "piloted" and tested.  Carrie and her family (a family of educators and homeschoolers) have tested and used this curriculum with their own families.  They are so helpful with giving honest answers about concerns, scheduling, organizing, etc.

5.  They have great customer service.  On the Heart of Dakota's website, a message board has been created.  I can write in with a question or concern and other's using the program will lend support and advice.  Even Carrie or her sister Julie will chime in with their advice.  Everyone is extremely helpful and passionate about homeschooling and promoting this product.

6.  Heart of Dakota uses the Charlotte Mason approach.  I don't want to bore you with talk of teaching philosophies. :)  If you are interested in this you can read about it here.  But basically as I watched how Old Crow learned and how I enjoyed teaching, I realized we were gravitating towards the Charlotte Mason approach to learning.    Heart of Dakota incorporates many of these methods for teaching and learning.

7.  It incorporates living books and not textbooks.  One aspect of the Charlotte Mason method is the belief that children learn from living books, nature, and environment...not dry text books.  A living book is usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject, and it makes the subject "come alive" for the reader.  Here is a little more information.

8.  It offers poetry.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how much Old Crow likes the poetry section each day.  He loves reciting, acting out, creating hand motions, and using art to depict the poem.  He also copies part of the poem each day for his handwriting practice...this is probably the least favorite portion of his day as his hand "gets tired."  We are working on increasing his time and strengthening his hand muscles. 

9.  It takes into account all learning styles.  Auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning styles are reinforced throughout the day.  We manipulate objects for math, listen to read alouds, narrate, use movement to memorize scripture, copy poetry, listen to scripture in song, create art to reinforce history lesson, experiment with science topics.  These are just a few of the ways each child can learn and be successful.

10.  "...For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  1 Samuel 16:7  
This scripture is found throughout the Heart of Dakota website.  Their motto is "Training children's hearts and minds, one child at a time."  This scripture and their motto fit perfectly with what I pray and wish for my own children.  Carrie Austin has a wonderful gift in her ability to create and develop a curriculum that puts this desire into action for parents.  It is genuine Christ-centered learning.

In His love,

P.S. You can check out the Tuesday's Top 10 link-up over at Many Little Blessings. :)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fun in the Cotton Field

Back in October, we had the chance to tag along with Crazy Horse's preschool class for a trip to the cotton fields.  What a blast we had!!  I wanted to include this with our crop studies and do a more in-depth study for Old Crow, but with the holidays and our crazy schedule we just didn't have time.  So I thought I'd share our trip and the fun the kids had.

The first leg of our trip was a hay ride through the cotton field.  As we rode through the middle of the "southern snow," the kids were able to see how the cotton grew.

Then the hay ride stopped and let everyone get off for a close-up examination of the cotton plants.  The kids were able to pull off some of the cotton and feel the texture.  They also looked for the seeds inside the cotton boll.  

We boarded the hay ride and it took us farther down the field to the cotton module builder.  They opened the doors and let all the kids play in the cotton.  They had such a good time!!  So did the adults! :)

Then we once again boarded the hay ride, and as we rode back through the field the cotton picker drove alongside us.  It picked the cotton, and we were able to look closely at this mighty machine.

Back at the barn we all had a picnic...a perfect way to end the morning.  :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tuesday's Top 10: Top Posts of 2012

Happy New Year!!  We have reached the 1 year milestone in both homeschooling and blogging.  When I have the time, I love to look back through some of my older posts--it is like a virtual scrapbook.  It helps me remember what we've done, how much we've accomplished...and of course how much the kids have grown. ;)

I thought it would be fun to take a look at our top posts for 2012.  Here they are!

Top 10 Posts of 2012

1.  Coming in with the most hits is our "Me on the Map" Unit.
This was one of our first major units once we brought Old Crow home from public Kindergarten.

Looking back, 2012 was an awesome year.  It was one of experimenting, tweaking, organizing, celebrating, and of course having lots of fun.  Along with all of this, there was tremendous growth for the kids, me (as the mom and teacher), and our family as a whole.  So this homeschooling thing is a good thing...a really good thing.  :)

Looking forward to see what 2013 has in store for us,