Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Learning Game Sites: FREE!

Here is a list of our family's Top Ten FREE online learning game websites:

1. Starfall: awesome phonics reading program

2. United States Map Puzzle from Owl & Mouse: Fantastic map puzzle game

3. Sheppard Software: Games for every subject- math, geography, language arts, science, health, history, etc.

4. Owl and Mouse Educational Software: Maps, learn to read and more

5. Game Classroom: Practice skills in core subjects with these great games and resources

6. Kaboose Funschool: A variety of educational games- environment, sports, spelling, history, etc.

7. Learning Games for Kids: Every subject under the sun- health, music, art, language, math, history, social studies, you name it.

8. ABCya!: awesome teacher-approved games for every elementary grade level

9. Knowledge Adventure: Tons of educational games, very video-game/arcade orientated

10. Arcademic Skill Builders: "arcade + academics = fun learning!"

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Kabobs

Enjoy a small backyard barbecue with some friends this Memorial Day and grill up tasty kabobs! Pick up some organic white mushrooms, grape or cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, red skinned potatoes (partially cook before skewing) and chicken (or meat of choice) and some skewers. Kabob it up and soak them overnight or at least 4 hours in Italian dressing. Jumbo 2-1/2 gallon ziplock bags work great for this. Soaking the skewers with the meat and veggies not only marinates the food but wetting the skewers if they are wooden keeps them from burning too much.

Happy Memorial Day!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Highlights from our Homeschool Week

A glimpse in the life of our normal homeschool week.

Monday: We started out the week learning about natural disasters, specifically studying Joplin, Missouri and the tornadoes that devastated the area. We put together Animal Relief Kits to send to the animal shelter down there. You can read more about those activities in my Lessons from Natural Disasters post. That afternoon we headed out to the playground for our designated Monday playdate with my kids' friend Gabbie and her baby sister. We arrived early and as my son cat-napped in the car, my daughter and I enjoyed some books we keep on hand for "car-schooling" moments like these. My car-tote includes dry erase learning books, library books, flashcards, BrainQuest cards, etc.
Making a Tornado, see my Disaster Post for instructions.

Reading time in the car with my daughter while my son zzzzzzzzzz....

The Historical Society in front of the park, like many small local museums, has an enormous antique farmer's stump remover. We got a closer look before our friends arrived at the playground.

After our afternoon playdate, we headed to the library for an hour before my daughter's soccer practice. My daughter played computer games independently while my son did puzzles and searched I-Spy books.

We finished up the evening with soccer practice and my daughter's friend Chloe did this hilariously awesome super goalie kick. :)

Tuesday: Regular school work like math and reading, outdoor chores including gardening and chickens, followed by another afternoon playdate up north at our friend's house.

Wednesday: It was a rainy day, so we postponed our afternoon playdate and stuck with our school work. Currclick gave away an awesome free copywork notebook of the Winnie the Pooh story, "Piglet Meets a Heffalump," so my daughter worked diligently on that. She's working on penmanship and spacing, learning to stay in the lines with her letters and doing a terrific job. We read a great book about Amelia Earhart, one of my daughter's favorite historical heroines. It was about her night flight across the Atlantic Ocean, so of course we did further study on the Atlantic. She is also doing wonderfully on reading short Scholastic readers independently.

Thursday: We did a really fun unit study on Manatees, inspired by my daughter's latest issue of Your Big Backyard magazine. See my Manatee Moments post. We had fun trying to decide what to make the Manatee out of for our diorama, finally settling on a potato.

Friday: The Last Day Party of our weekly Homeschool Learning Cooperative before summer break. Classes start up again in the fall. We had an awesome first year and celebrated with games and treats with our friends. I ordered an adorable "Smart Owl" graduation cake for the occasion and we played carnival games before enjoying playground time. Afterward we kicked off the weekend by going as a family to see Kung Fu Panda 2 at the movie theater. Great times!

Manatee Moments

We were gifted a subscription to Your Big Backyard magazine, and my kids adore it every month. Not only is it something fun to look forward to in the mail, but it spurs spontaneous adventure when we turn any topic of their choice into a unit study for the day. The feature in our recent issue was the Manatee. We read up what the magazine had to say, drew a picture of a Manatee with YBB's step-by-step instructions, and found amazing free education resources online at the Save the Manatee Club website. They have free printables, games, videos and sound clips you can hear a lot of the different sounds a Manatee makes! My kids loved it, very cool! We also made a diorama: the Manatee's Habitat in the ocean, complete with real rocks, since manatees love to scratch their backs by rolling around on the ocean floor. We had all the materials on hand already, and used a potato as our new pet manatee! It was a really fun study for the day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lessons from Natural Disasters

Current events, geography, weather phenomenons, community outreach, compassion, writing and spelling... we worked it all in today as we surrounded our lessons around the devastating tornado that ripped through Missouri last night, killing 90 and destroying a town. Weather websites had the recent natural disaster in photos. The American Red Cross issued this statement on their Disaster Alert Page, "Jasper County Animal Control is now on site at the Joplin MO Shelter to help accommodate the pets of those who are in need of shelter due to the storms that stuck the Joplin area tonight."
In addition to our donation to the Red Cross, we decided on a unique way to give back during this tragedy. I always feel helpless during times like this, wishing I could do something to help, not knowing what. The statement about the Animal Shelter inspired an idea for me. The kids and I put together an animal relief kit, with blankets, dog and cat food, pet shampoo, toys and various helpful items and shipped them off this afternoon to the Joplin Humane Society to help with any homeless animals they may be sheltering after this storm.

My daughter wrote the card herself, giving her the daily penmanship, grammar and spelling practice she needed. (And she drew pictures for the animals, too--bonus art!) In addition, we studied where Missouri was in comparison to Michigan.

We visited some kids weather websites, including this great one: Weather Wiz Kids. We made a tornado in a jar for science and read a variety of books about tornadoes and weather at the library later in the afternoon.

Making the tornado was super easy with stuff we had on hand and the kids enjoyed it.

All you need:
clear canning jar
liquid soap

Fill the jar about three-quarters full of water. Add a teaspoon of the liquid soap and a teaspoon of vinegar into the jar. Tighten the lid and swirl the jar in a circular motion. The liquid will form a small tornado.

To see other weather related lessons we've done this year, check out my post about our Weather Wheel, which has great links included.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fun Homeschool Accessories

In addition to sporting some fun homeschool bumper stickers over the last year, I also have a hot pink Homeschool Mom t-shirt, and this terrific travel mug about socialization. I fill it with coffee at least three times a week or more, as we head out the door for any number of social activities, including homeschool co-op, area sports, playdates, picnics, field trips, classes, etc. Once you get into the world of homeschooling, (and find a great support group!) you realize there's absolutely no shortage of social opportunities with lasting friendships, and the myth that it is an issue truly is an old-fashion wives tale! :)

Kindergarten Round-up

Tis the season for fall planning. In the world of education, that is. Yes, we are busy planting vegetables and flowers, retrieving outdoor toys from the garage attic and prepping for backyard barbecues... however, spring is also a time of curriculum planning and in the public and private schools, the push for kindergarten round-up.
My daughter would start kindergarten by public school standards this fall. Two years ago when we were exploring our options and touring the schools, we also were able to visit the classrooms in action aside from the designated “open houses.” One charter school, in particular, we loved, even if the drive (half hour one way) would have added up considerably.
Regardless, we took this plunge into home education nearly a year and a half ago, with the knowledge that we would reevaluate our decision each year as our needs evolve or change. We have had a wonderful, adventurous year in the world of homeschooling, and we will continue next year.
That being said, I’d be lying if there weren’t times, especially in the last three months, when I have felt considerably overwhelmed, useless or downright defiant about our journey. Kindergarten Round-up schedules were penned into my planner with determination as I would, on some days, try to convince myself that we would attend. Kindergarten Round-up. It's tempting beyond belief! It sounds wonderful at times. My life would be ten times easier if I sent her to kindergarten next year. And I don’t mean that to imply public school is a cop out, at all. Just that, homeschooling is hard: day in and day out, on top of chores and activities and appointments. Kindergarten? Indeed, round-them-up! Send them off! Let someone else handle circle time, phonics and messy art projects. That big yellow school bus would be a welcome relief on more days than one. “After all,” I tell myself, “they wouldn't be damaged if I put them in public school. We all made it out all right! They’d love it there! I don't need to be doing all this!”
I sit with these festering forethoughts on occasion, and they are almost always spurred from a place of aggravation.
Then, when my rebellious feelings quiet down, I hear the still, small reassuring voice inside me. "Sarah. Now, Sarah. You know what I am calling you to do. It is still your choice whether to answer that call or disregard it, but you can no longer deny what I have placed on your heart to do."


It is true. As much as this is not a road I ever imagined for myself, it is one I feel called to walk. And, while no path is perfect, for our family it seems the one that is ultimately in the best interest of our children. Everyone has a life’s calling. By the grace of God, even on days when I want to subsist off the hook, I am answering as many in this lifetime as I hear ring.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path.” -Proverbs 3:5-6

C.S. Lewis: “To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way.”

A new way, a less worried way. Can I worry less and trust more? As I round-up and plan for our next homeschool year, Lord knows, I am trying.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homeschool Skating Party!!

We had a Homeschool Skating Party today and it was so much fun!!! We had an awesome turn out, can't wait to have more this year! Two hours of skating with friends and family fun music. Good times! It was a big success!

Wildlife Rescue

A licensed DNR wildlife rehabilitation specialist attended our homeschool co-op last week as a guest speaker and the kids all had a wonderful time. They learned about rescuing animals in the wild, what to do and what not to do, and they even got to see and pet a live opossum. "Nubby" didn't have a tail, so she can't be released back into the wild, which taught the kids (and a lot of us adults) about how vital a opossum's tail truly is--aside from hanging by it, the opossum's tail gives it balance and is a fat store for the animal in the winter. It's a marsupial, of course, and the kids delighted in seeing and feeling her pouch.

Here's the website for the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council. And for kids, check out the Wildlife Rescue League Kids Page, it's great!!