Friday, May 25, 2012

Last Day!

Wow!  Another school year has come and gone.  I feel so accomplished this year.  The year had its ups and downs but overall, it was a good one.  We will continue with math and some language arts over the summer, which is actually fine with the kids.  They are just happy to be done with history.

I'm looking forward to our next school year, learning about the exploritory years and studying the book of James.  But for now, I'm going to enjoy the summer with my family.  We will spend some time camping, hiking, swimming, visiting the zoo, and maybe gonig to a few museums.  I may even create a scavenger hunt for the kids to do with their friends.  It should be a fun summer. :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Animated Hero Classics

Years ago, I borrowed a video about Benjamin Franklin from a friend.  The kids and I watched it together and I was impressed with how engaging it was, and not at all... corny.  Let's face it, many educational cartoon videos are not the best!  Well, I'm here to say that this series totally rocks!

Animated Hero Classics is what they are called.  Many libraries have them to borrow, but our library doesn't have many of them.  So, it became my mission to find these gems and purchase them.  They were not easy to find at the price I was willing to pay!  Then, walking through the homeschool convention last month, it was as if bright lights were shining on this booth and drawing me near.  There they were, laid out atop a table with a small TV next to them that played one of the DVDs.  Yes!  DVDs replaced the video cassettes AND when you buy them, you also get a hefty activity pack for each video, which also totally rocks!

I didn't buy any that night.  I wanted to, but I didn't want to impulsively make a large purchase like that.  Because, of course, I want ALL of them!!!  I think that's something like 56 DVDs!  So I went home that night and told my husband about the greatness of these videos and he wondered why I didn't get them.  When I told him the price for the entire package, he understood.  :)  We decided to pair it down and get a portion of them.  But which ones?  Oooh, decisions like this do not come easy for me!

In the end, I chose the Hero Classics over the Bible stories.  Partially because that is originally what I was interested in and didn't even know that these were available in Bible stories.  And partially because if I had chosen the Bible stories, I would have had to decide which set to get: the Old Testament or the New.  If you don't understand my decision-making challenges, please join my husband! 

So, I went back the convention the next day and placed my order.  For a short time after, I felt a tiny bit guilty over spending more than planned.  (Note: I got a great deal by buying them at the convention! - half off!!!)  But once the DVDs arrived and we watched the one on Galileo, any feelings of guilt were quickly erased by the high quality DVD, interactive on-screen quiz, and awesome activity pack.  I'm hooked!  And, I suppose most importantly, the kids like it, too!  When the DVDs first arrived in the mail, Emily was less than enthused.  After all, it is educational!  But after we read about Galileo in our history lesson, I popped in the DVD during lunch, and she became a more interested.  What really grabbed her attention was the interactive on-screen quiz.  What a creative way to engage kids and encourage them to pay close attention!  She hasn't seen the activity pack yet, but I believe that she will enjoy most of it.

Using these DVDs in conjunction with the multi-level activity packs would make for a fun co-op class, too.  The videos are about 30 minutes long, plus time to take the quiz.  In a co-op setting, I would probably view the video during the first class, work on activity sheets for a few weeks, and then go back to the video to take the quiz at the end of the unit.  Or, assign some sheets for homework which would shorten the span of each unit.  Activity packs also include quizzes so the teacher will know what each child is learning and retaining.  The creators say that "when we see, hear and do, we retain 90% of the information."  Reading alone produces 10% retention; hearing, 20%; and seeing and hearing, 50%.  I think the creators were smart to develop something that works with many learning styles. 

Of course, now I want the Bible Stories too!  [...sigh]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wrapping Up this Year and Planning for Next

Wrapping up...

Wow!  Where did the year go?  Seems like we just started.  We'll wrap up our school year in the next couple of weeks.  Then, we're going to do a light, casual load of math and language arts over the summer.  Just enough to keep moving without having to spend a lot of time reviewing in the fall.

Studying Rome to the Reformation this year has mostly been fun.  We practically drowned in all the Greek mythology, but once we hoisted ourselves up out of the water and sailed to the Renaissance & Reformation, history came alive to us again.  Those Greeks just didn't grab our attention!  But, whether we liked it or not, it's a part of history and led to the Renaissance & Reformation, which is where we are now.

As for the three Rs, we've slacked off just a bit so that we can enjoy the nice Spring weather and complete our Bible and history lessons without feeling overwhelmed at the end of the school year.   Besides, my kids' energy level is through the roof right now and for the sake of my sanity, they need to be outside!

Next Year...

Contrary to what we've done in the past, we may start school up the first week of August this year.   Last summer, when it was too hot to enjoy the outdoors, I remember thinking that it would be a great time for education.  Then, we could take time off in the fall when the weather is more pleasant.  In addition, there would be more freedom for field trips, camping, or taking a day off just because.


The kids were delighted to receive a package from their aunt, filled with lots of goodies!  There was even something for me - a bracelet made from coconut shells that she got in Nicaragua.  So cool!


Linked up to Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, May 3, 2012


We have had some major attitude going on over the last couple of weeks.  Do you see it in the paper above?  I don't know if it's the weather or if we just need a break from school.  We didn't take a Spring break.  And we haven't been out on any field trips in a while.  Thankfully, we are taking next week off.  After that, we only have a few more weeks before summer.  Can't wait!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Best Way to Cook Bacon

Bacon makes everything better, right?  But who wants to deal with the greasy mess of cooking it on the stove?  Contrary to how I was taught, not me!!!  And while cooking bacon in the microwave is simple enough, the bacon tray eventually becomes hard to clean and the bacon sometimes sticks to the paper towels.

So... I've been cooking bacon in the oven - 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes - on a stoneware bar pan (jelly roll pan).  It comes out nice and crisp, just the way we like it!  What about the grease?  Well, as soon as I pull it out of the oven, I lift each piece onto paper towels and press a clean paper towel on top to absorb excess grease.  Clean up is easy, and I'm able to do other things while the bacon is cooking.  Once the pan cools a little, I pour the grease into a glass container and store it in the fridge for future use.

It Doesn't Happen Overnight!

Homeschooling two children often leaves me feeling frazzled and makes me wonder how on earth larger families do it.  After reading a post on another blog (Lighting the Fire), I was reminded that learning doesn't happen overnight and perfection is impossible to achieve.  As it is said, "Rome wasn't built in a day." 

It took me a long time to realize that my kids don't need to master historical knowledge at their age.  To realize that many concepts in reading, writing, science, and even math are learned over time, not in one lesson.  That it's ok to skip over some things, and to stretch others out.  I was reminded to evaluate what is important.

So, how do we homeschoolers do that?  How do we know what is important?  What to skip?  What to camp on for a bit?  Well, I rely heavily on our curriculum for guidance.  But I also think instinct has a lot of influence.  There are many fantastic books out there that contain so much knowledge.  Knowledge of things that I'm learning for the first time!  Knowledge of things that had been suppressed in my brain and were a bit foggy.  Some of this knowledge is just too much for my kids, particularly my oldest.  She is sensitive to fighting and death and has had nightmares as a result of what we read about in history.  For this reason, I now try to review our history readings ahead of time and decide what to cover.  It's just not worth my daughter having nightmares just to put a checkmark on the agenda. 

As we learn with our children, we also learn about our children.  We learn about their interests, their sensitivities, their strengths, and their weaknesses.  The more we learn about them, the more effectively we are able to teach them, to foster their strengths and to strengthen their weaknesses.  It doesn't happen overnight and it requires a lot of patience and a lot of grace.  It is my prayer that God gives me the instinct to know how to help my children succeed and that I seek Him first, above all else, in the choices that I make.