Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer School :: Computer Time

**  This post is part of a blog series.  Click here to start at the beginning.  **

Our Little Schoolhouse - Sumer School

Another fun way that I am incorporating school into our summer days is by allowing our older 3 children to use the computer more this summer.  This works out perfect during the warm part of the day when it is really just too darn hot to go out and play.

One of the resources that we have enjoyed over the past 2 years has been the Bubble Pop! Math Challenge software from Lakeshore Learning

Bubble Pop Math Challenge

I highly recommend this as a great supplement to your existing math program to reinforce and practice those basic math facts.  My children love to race as they try to solve the math problems by popping the correct bubbles before they splash into the pond.  There are 2 levels of this program:  Grades 1 – 2 and Grades 3-4

Here are a few screenshots of the Grades 1-2 level

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The Grade 1-2 level has 4 math categories:  addition, subtraction, money, and time skills.  These build in difficulty and they unlock the 8 levels as you progress through the game.

And here are a few screenshots from the Grades 3-4 level

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The Grade 3-4 level is the same basic game but it focuses on a different set of math skills.  It also has 4 math categories:  division, multiplication, rounding, and fractions. 

How Our Family Uses These Programs:  Even though these software programs have suggested grade levels, this is not the way we have chosen to use this program.  Last year, Caleb Davis (my then 3rd grader) was needing some reinforcement with his addition/subtraction facts.  That is when I went looking for a fun, safe way for him to practice his math facts and he started with the Grade 1-2 level of the software.  We still use flashcards a lot around here but this is another great way for the children to practice not only their math facts but also computer keyboard/mouse skills all at the same time.  There are 4 categories so this summer they are doing a category for each day of the week (We are doing school 4x a week, so this works out great).  Nathan James and Emma Lee are doing the Grade 1-2 level game so their week looks like this…  Monday – Addition, Tuesday, Subtraction, Wednesday – Time, and Thursday – Money. 


I love the ease of this program and that the game saves a profile for each child, allowing them to start and stop each day very easily.  During the regular school year, we have a Bubble Pop! card that appears in their workboxes randomly about twice a week.  This summer they are playing the game for 15 minutes (with the help of a timer) while I work independently with another child on more detailed schoolwork.  They love being able to play this fun computer game, and really do not see it as “math time” each day. 

This next resource was a splurge for Caleb Davis’ 10th birthday a few weeks ago.  This little guy LOVES history so when I saw the Veritas Press Self-Paced History Courses go on big deep discount this past spring, I knew that I had to grab one for my little history buff.  I saved it for his birthday and we surprised him with a “gift card” type insert in his birthday card.  Needless to say, he was THRILLED!!


I should probably back up a bit to say that we did one of these courses a few years ago when Caleb Davis was in 2nd grade.  He absolutely LOVED it then and has been begging to do them again ever since.

Veritas Press 1

We choose the Middle Ages, Renassiance, and Reformation series for him (due to the fact that he has had a slight obsession with knights and castles for a while now).  We are not doing the historical fiction reading portion of this course (although those might be some good Christmas presents in the future) but thanks to some friends who gave us a big box of homeschool hand me downs a few years ago, he is using the flashcards to go along with the computer lessons each week. 

Veritas Press Cards

How Our Family Uses This Program:  Caleb Davis is the only one using the program at the time, but I often find his brother + sister peeking over his shoulder encouraging him during one of the fun games or flipping through the cards while the memory song is playing, so I am sure they are learning too.  He loves this so much so it is not a chore at all for him to complete a lesson each day and I allow him to complete a total of 5 each week.  The online subscription is good for 1 year from the date we activated it and there are 32 weeks worth of lessons so this should be a fun enrichment activity for him to do even beyond the summer months. 

I will just be honest here and say that I LOVE these courses for history and bible but the part that I DO NOT love is the purchase options.  They are usually $199 for the year and while I believe that is a fair price for the excellent material that you get, the bummer is that it is only for ONE student for ONE school year (12 months from enrollment date).  We try to steer away from online subscriptions such as this simply becase they are an ongoing expense and they cannot be passed down to younger siblings.  We would definitely purchase the entire set of these excellent curriculum (including the Bible series and Omnibus series) if they  were actually “ours” to own and we could pass them down to future siblings. 

The final computer resource that we love is the Teaching Textbooks math series.  I am sure that you have heard of this math curriculum and if not, I suggest you check out the demo over on the publisher’s website

Teaching Textbooks 1

This is a great easy to use math program that teaches the child without much help from Mom.  They basically watch the lesson and do a series of fun, interactive math problems to reinforce that particular lesson.  The animations and lessons are engaging while at the same time, it truly feels like a math “game”, even though there are grades and quizzes given. 

Teaching Textbooks 2

This is a screen shot of the Math 3 set and as you can tell all 3 of our older children have or are currently using it.  That is such a HUGE selling point to me as a Mom of Many Blessings.

Teaching Textbooks 3

This series starts with Math 3 and I must give a disclaimer here that you might want to work a grade level up.  For example, both Nathan James and Emma Lee did not have any problem working the Math 3 level when they were both in 2nd grade.  It may not be like this for all the courses (especially at the high school level) but I would recommend taking the Placement Tests on the publisher’s website and working a grade level above where your child is currently.  (At least that has been our family’s experience.)

How Our Family Uses This Program:  This is one of those programs that again, you could use it as your entire math curriculum for the school year but we choose to use it as reinforcement during the summer months and about 2x a week for fun supplement during the school year.  Because we choose to use it this way, my children see it as another fun computer “game” and not as a dreaded math worksheet or seatwork.

I am a fan of the Teaching Texbooks math program because it allows me to very easily track each child’s progress and it gives us the freedom to purchase one particular level and use it for multiple children over the course of several different years.  It is also super easy to go in and have them rework a particular lesson if they are having difficulty mastering the material.  (We like to get a 90 or above before moving on the next lesson.)

Computer School

Well, that about wraps it up for today’s Summer School post.  These are just some of the resources that we have found to be helpful and safe for our family to use as our children grow and begin to explore the world of technology that is all around them. 

I hope you have found this to be helpful and I would love to hear what some of your family’s favorite apps and computer programs that you incorporate into your daily learning.
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Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer School :: Vacation Stations


**  This post is part of a blog series.  Click here to start at the beginning.  **

Our Little Schoolhouse - Sumer School

I am not sure about you but I am SUPER excited that summer is here.  I personally had a rough winter + spring with morning sickness (yuck!) and on those long, hard days I kept the beautiful thought of summer in my head and now that it is here, I find myself singing like Olaf.  Ha!!I

Olaf in Summer

With that being said, it is still hard to believe that July is almost here.  I thought it would be fun to do a little series this week on some of our family’s favorite resources that we like to use during the summer.

First up we have…


Awww…  Vacation Stations.  Our family just LOVES these books.  We have used them for 3 summers now and they are just the best for keeping learning fun while at the same time keeping those new skills (that the children just spent the whole school year learning) fresh in their mind. 

Since our family does not use BJU Press materials during our regular school year, I also like the fact that the children are being approached with the same skills in a different way.  What I mean by this…  Same math skills for their grade level but since it is a new publisher, they are not “used” to seeing their approaches or worksheet formats so it makes them think outside the box and that is fun and challenging all at the same time. 


The way the books work are that you pick the level for the grade that your child will be entering in the fall.  For example, Emma Lee here just finished 1st grade and will be going into 2nd grade, so she is working in the Wheels Westard book for 1st grade going into 2nd this summer.


After you have your grade level picked, you simply open up the book and start the fun.  There are 10 weeks worth of fun summer school activities, a completion certificate, and answer key in the back.  Each week begins with an overview page to mark your progress. 


Then daily, you have 2 pages (left + right) to complete along with a reading goal challenge for each day.  We use a timer throughout the day to complete this portion of the book.

These pages above are from Caleb Davis’ Polar Explorer book (4th going into 5th grade). 

Like I mentioned earlier, our children really LOVE these books and it is a fun activity for the older children each day.  They can complete the work themselves and then I simply check their work, go over any errors, and sign off as complete for the day. 


There is also the added bonus that my children know if all the work is done at the end of the 10 weeks (all daily worksheets + reading) that they get to go on a shopping trip with Mommy to pick out a prize.  This summer we have all decided on a fun trip to the bookstore for a few new books and ice cream afterwards.

And yes, this does work because they are scheduled to go visit grandparents for a few days later on this summer and Nathan James even asked me the other day if he could take his book with him so he could stay caught up on his Vacation Station work. 


Stay tuned for more summer school activities this week.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Choosing Curriculum

It is hard to believe that it is already time to start planning and preparing for next school year.   We finished up school at the end of April, took the entire month of May off, and now we are back to doing some fun summer school activities about 3 – 4 days a week.  (More on those later.)  This is also the month where I typically plan and prepare for the new school year coming up.  I thought I would share some of our planning process as we prepare for the new school year.  First up… 

School Books - Blank


This can be the most exciting part of the process, but it can also be the most overwhelming.  By this point, you may have attended a homeschool convention or perhaps like me, this spring your mailbox began to fill up with all the new catalogs.  I never have time to look at them in March or April when they arrive, but I do like to put them in a stack for this time of year when I can flip through and research all the new options for next year. 

We do not have a strict list of guidelines that we follow when choosing curriculum for our family but we do realize that our children will be spending many hours reading and studying the books + resources that we set before them, so we do not take this task lightly.  Here are some areas that we take into consideration…

  • Christian Beliefs + Family Values – This is one of those huge reasons why our family has decided to homeschool in the first place so while this criteria may seem obvious to many of you, I have found more and more over the years that some families are not concerned with aligning their curriculum choices with their beliefs and values.  Questions we ask…  Does it teach creation or evolution?  Is there an underlying belief throughout the materials that shows God has a hand in history or are the concepts portrayed as something man has “achieved” on his own?  We do explore other people groups + religions but we do our best to always bring everything back to the truth.  We also look at things like witchcraft, mystery, foul language, respect for authority, sibling relationships, etc...  All of these areas are on our radar and how we allow these types of influences into our home is important to consider. 

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  • Method + Style of Teaching – This is another big one for me because our school planning and curriculum choices depend greatly on what season/stage of life we are in at the time.  For example…  This upcoming school semester will bring a new baby to the family so Mommy will not be full of energy either at the beginning (30+ weeks pregnant) or towards the end (newborn crazy phase).  I also really like to find curriculum that does as much of the work for me as possible.  What I mean is…  I like to find pre-planned schedules, not a lot of prep work, and in some cases, even scripts are helpful. 

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  • Combined Learning – While we do not work on every subject together, we do try as a family to combine as much of our learning and our subjects as possible.  So for me to find curriculum that spans ages/levels, that is a big benefit.

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  • Learning Styles + Interests – I have to look at each of my children individually.  I am blessed to be their Mom + Teacher so I know their strengths and weaknesses, but I have to be careful and not make assumptions that just because a phonics or spelling program worked great for their big brother that it will work for them too.  I have to be willing to pick curriculum choices for each child that will both challenge their strengths and build up their weaknesses.  I did learn this the hard way but I also have to consider my teaching style.  This can make or break a curriculum purchase.  One other thing to note here…  I do my best to pick things that interest my children.  One of our main goals is to instill in them a love of learning.  I love seeing their faces light up and the excitement in their voice when learning is exciting. So when I find curriculum or book lists that will spark their interests, I schedule those things into our school year. 

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  • Cost + Ability To Reuse – This may seem like an obvious one too, but do not let this one trick you when planning out your school year.  There are so many excellent choices out in the homeschool market but some of them are just not budget friendly or they are not practical on the wallet.  What I mean by that is…  Consider how much of the materials you will be able to reuse with younger children?  Is the majority of the curriculum consumable workbooks or will these school materials you are investing in be a treasure in your family library for years to come?  Perhaps, you could even resell them to other families at the end of your school journey?  Like I said…  This is not an area to just ignore completely but we have found that if it takes a lot of printer ink to copy the downloads or if the materials involve an online fee for a subscription, that sometimes those are not the best choices for our family.  We would rather have the materials in our hands and have the ability to pass them down to younger students. 

So those are just a few of the criteria and guidelines that we consider when choosing curriculum for our family each year.  Of course, a lot of prayer and internet research goes into our choices too.  I love to dig into the books before we buy them.  Taking a peek into the curriculum via the “quick look” features on the publishers’s website, Christian Book, or Amazon, can be a deal breaker for me. 

I would love to hear from you.  What are some of the guidelines/criteria that you consider when purchasing curriculum for the new school year?

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