Category Archives: Homeschool Resources

Planning with Purpose

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 16

WholeHeartedI love structure.  You might not be able to tell from looking at my house, but I get great satisfaction from bringing order and organization to most part of my life, including homeschooling.  So this chapter (“Structure:Keeping the Homeschooling Together”) was right up my alley.

One thing that stood out for me was the section on “Know Your Priorities” (p.287).  For the past few years I’ve pretty much eliminated our outside commitments, but now that the children are getting a little older, I’ve started stepping back into the world.

There’s an opportunity coming up in a couple weeks that I’m praying about for Ian.  My initial reaction was “Now way–we’re too busy).  But then I actually looked at my calendar and realized some of our other activities would be ending and that really didn’t need to be a hindrance.  So said I’d pray about it.

This section on priorities gave me a lot to think about.  In fact, I had to get out a notepad and start jotting down all that thoughts that started flying through my head with regards to this decision.  Am I just thinking about what’s convenient for me or am I considering how God would use this opportunity to develop the unique gifts He’s given Ian?  Would this really be a God-honoring activity for Ian or would it be a distraction?

I’m not ready to make a decision yet, but the Lord was definitely speaking to me through this chapter, helping me to consider the matter from multiple angles, and I trust the He will guide my husband and I to the right decision and give us peace.  I know as all our children get older, many more opportunities will arise.  This is only the first of many times we’ll need to consider our priorities and pray before letting them jump into something just because it sounds fun.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Preschoolers and Peace e-book (Crew Review)

I first stumbled upon Kendra Fletcher’s blog, Preschoolers and Peace, back when my oldest was just entering the preschool years.  As our family has grown, I have found myself returning to the blog over and over to find advice on how to homeschool with lots of little ones in the house.  So when I was given a chance to review Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet, I knew that I would find wisdom to benefit our family.

Preschoolers Collage

What is it?

Preschoolers and Peace: Homeschooling older kids with success while loving the little ones at your feet is an e-book that gleans from some of the most popular posts on the Preschoolers and Peace blog.  The book sells for $2.99 and contains a wealth of information in thirteen short, easy-to-read chapters.  In it you’ll find wisdom about how to run a household and homeschool when you have young children.  If you want to go a little deeper, the “Resources” section at the end of the book contains links to articles related to each chapter for further reading.

Here’s a peek at the Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Ch. 1 What a Homeschooling Mom Needs
  • Ch. 2 Preparing Yourself to Homeschool Older Kids With Little Ones Underfoot
  • Ch. 3 Planning Around Preschoolers
  • Ch. 4 How Do I Keep Them Busy?
  • Ch. 5 What Does a 2-Year-Old’s Day Look Like?
  • Ch. 6 How Do I Get Any Preschooling Done?
  • Ch. 7 How Not to Just Kill Time
  • Ch. 8 Circle Time, Or How We Pull the Little Ones In
  • Ch. 9 Preschool Boys
  • Ch. 10 When All of Your Kiddos Are Preschoolers
  • Ch. 11 Preschool Chores
  • Ch. 12 Planning for Preschool
  • Ch. 13 When Mama is Worn Out (or Pregnant)
  • Meal Planning 101
  • A Final Word of Encouragement
  • Resources

Many of the chapters are about establishing a routine with little ones and offer lots of ideas for ways to get the most out of their early years, making it helpful for any mom of young children, regardless of whether or not she has older ones as well.

My Thoughts on Preschoolers and Peace

Preschoolers and Peace ReviewI wish I had had this book a few years ago!  As I said before, I’ve found a lot of helpful advice from the Preschoolers and Peace blog, but having all of this in one place is fabulous.  I initially printed out a copy so I could highlight and make notes, but that meant I missed out on all the links, which add so much to the value of this little book, so I think reading it on my computer would be my preferred way to go through it, even though I usually try to avoid that with e-books.  (I was given a pdf copy for this review, but the book actually comes formatted for Kindle.)

The main thing I wish I had read back when Ian was Chapter 7: “How Not to Just Kill Time.”  Kendra gives suggestions for moms about filling their days when they only have little ones, things like “organize my recipes into a system that works long term” (because as they get older that would be SO helpful!) or “read the classics I haven’t read” (since it’s hard to find ANY time to read once you have a few more little ones running around).

I also loved the ideas she gives in Chapter 4: “How Do I Keep Them Busy?”  Whether you’re trying to find something for little ones to do while you homeschool older siblings or just want some ways to entertain your preschoolers, you’ll definitely find something new to try in this chapter.

We’ve already started moving toward including the little ones in our morning school routine, so I was really encouraged by what Kendra wrote in Chapter 8: “Circle Time, Or How We Pull the Little Ones In.”  I was freshly inspired to keep up my efforts in this area and excited to put into practice some of Kendra’s suggestions to help our family’s “Couch Time” (as we call it) go a little more smoothly.  (I’m thinking I may need to get her Circle Time e-book next!)

Through it all, I appreciate Kendra’s godly encouragement for other moms and the reminder to keep Christ first in all we do.  For example, when she talks about “Preparing Yourself to Homeschool Older Kids With Little Ones Underfoot” (Chapter 2), her focus is on prayer.

I realized at some point that I needed to get into a habit of praying, because all too often my first thought was, ‘What do I need to do to fix this situation?’ rather than running to prayer.  I needed to remind myself that God has the answers for me and that He wants me to put all my hope in Him, even with the seemingly minor details, such as how I was going to manage nursing the baby while trying to keep the toddler from getting into the trash can and helping that third grader with her math.  Even that” (page 6).

Reading this brought me such a sense of relief.  I’m not alone.  Other moms have the same struggles.  Even better, here’s a mom who has been there and can remind me to look to God when I’m in the throes of parenting lots of little people.

I found this book to be incredibly encouraging, and I highly recommend it to any mother staying home with young children.

Connect with Preschoolers and Peace on Social Media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PreschoolersandPeace
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KendraEFletcher
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kenj/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+KendraFletcher/posts
You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/user/preschoolersandpeace

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My #1 Job: Love

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 15

WholeHeartedChildren are an expression of the heart of God.  He loves them and created mothers so they would love them too… As you understand that perfect design and accept it as God’s blessing for you and your children, you strengthen your heart for them and reflect the heart of God to them” (page 280).

When Ian was a baby, I was giddy with the excitement of being a mother at last.  As I prayed about how to be the best mother I could be, I very clearly heard the Lord tell me I only had one job with Ian: to LOVE him.

So simple, but that little word encompasses SO much.  Security.  Acceptance.  Affection.  Grace.

Not only is loving those around us the second greatest commandment after loving God, it is the essential element of our mission as mothers.  Our children learn about the love of God through us.

It seemed like an easy job when he was a baby, but as the years have passed, I’ve realized it is deceptively simple.  The older my children get, the less I feel like I am loving them the way God called me.

I find myself losing sight of my number one job and getting caught up in other tasks, like training and teaching them.  Child-training important, but it’s not supposed to be my focus.  P1040017xI am especially prone to getting distracted by the academic side of homeschooling, simply because I love learning and I delight in sharing the journey with my children.  But educating them is not my number one job.  I am called to LOVE them.

I want to remind myself to set everything else aside when it seems that I’m losing my focus.  I put on this temporary “love tattoo” to help me to keep this in the forefront of my mind this week.  We are taking a break from all schoolwork, and I hope that I can use the time to be intentional about pouring love into my children’s hearts, that when we go back to our routine, their “love tanks” will be filled, and they will have tasted the sweetness of the Father’s love for them.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  When I got sick a couple weeks ago, these posts were one of the first things to get pushed aside.  I actually did keep up with my reading, however, and I wanted to try to get back into the habit of writing reflections even though I didn’t write about the last few weeks’ worth of reading, just because it helps me stay focused and accountable.

Discovery Studies: Foreign Language

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 13 (part 2)

WholeHeartedI think most of us have heard about the benefits of learning a foreign language when you’re young, and the Clarksons addressed that a bit in this chapter on “Discovery Studies.”

“Scientists believe that the first ten years of a child’s life are the peak time for learning language.  A child’s brain in those years is wired by the sounds of language–neural pathways are constructed from what is heard and used, and other factors contribute to make learning a foreign language easier and more natural than at any other time in life” (page 253).

I was fascinated by the German language as a child.  One of the teachers at my elementary school spoke German, and even though I was in the other fifth grade class, I was allowed to go over to his room when he did German lessons because he knew of my interest.  He also gave me a set of audio cassettes with a lesson book and dictionary.  I used to listen to them over and over again, repeating the phrases after the speaker.

I ended up taking four years of German in high school as well, but you know what?  The sound of those simple phrases on the cassettes stand out more in my memory.  There really is something about hearing and learning to speak a language when you are young that sticks in the brain differently than when you are older.

I’ve never fully learned a second language.  In spite of those four years of German class, my abilities were always more in reading the language than being able to participate in a conversation.  I lived in Kenya for a while and learned quite a bit of Swahili and a little Maasai, but while I could understand fairly well, I would never have considered myself fluent.  I also have a fair amount of Spanish floating around in my head, mostly just as a result of living in Southern California.  One time I even had a dream in Spanish, but I’ve never really spent time learning it intentionally.

Until this last year, that is.  I am determined to help my children have more success when it comes to learning languages.  I’ve read controversial articles among homeschoolers about why Spanish isn’t the best language to study, but I think where we live it is an essential skill.  By the time my children grow up, it may be a real hindrance in getting a job if they don’t know Spanish.  I’ve driven through neighborhoods where there are more signs in Spanish than English, and there have been multiple occasions when I’ve been unable to help someone because I don’t speak the language.

“If you want your children to learn a foreign language, you should create a reason for them to want to learn it” (page 253).

While I do hope to inspire my children with mission trips to Spanish-speaking countries, I think just living in Southern California might be reason enough for them to want to learn it.  Our neighbors speak Spanish (though the children are bi-lingual) and while Ian is shy about using what he’s learned with them, he’s also quite proud to tell them, “My mom is teaching me Spanish.”  (If only they knew how incompetent I am!)

I may not know enough to help them become fluent, but I try to make it as fun and appealing as I can, and I hope than by exposing them to the language they will naturally be drawn to learning more on their own.  Actually, I hope that I am just lighting a spark that will ignite a love for foreign language in general, and that all my children will choose to go beyond learning Spanish and dive into German, French and/or other languages as well.  And I think that’s what Discovery Studies are all about!

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Discovery Studies: The Arts in Homeschooling

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 13

WholeHeartedThere are many different parts to what the Clarksons call “Discovery Studies,” and I enjoy helping expose my children to all of them, but my favorite is probably the arts, just because music, dance, visual arts, and theater have all been important parts of my own life.

Ian took a couple years of Yamaha music lessons, but for the last year I’ve been teaching both boys piano on my own, which is rather isolating.  I want them to know the joy of making music with others, however, so I’m so thankful that this week my boys have a chance to spend their mornings at music camp.  Both camp and their Friday music classes this fall that will give them a chance to sing in a choir and play hand chimes as well.  I hope they will love being a part of creating something beautiful with their friends.

In the last year, Ian has also starting enjoying artistic expression.  He loves to draw, and we’ve gotten several books that show him step by step how to draw specific things.  This afternoon he created a game board, and all three older kids had a great time rolling a die and moving their game pieces around the board, landing on monsters that sent them back to the beginning.  Then he told me he want to make his own book, “Because lots of other people have made their own books.”  I cut some paper and stapled them into a book, which he then spent the next hour or so filling in with pictures on every page.

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I want to make sure I make it a priority to allow him the time for things like this.  He may never be a professional artist of musician, but I hope the arts will always be a part of his life.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

UberSmart Math Facts (Crew Review)

UberSmart Collage
There are few things that can hinder a child from moving forward in math more than not knowing their basic facts.  It’s the one area I’ve felt like Ian really needs some extra practice, so I was thrilled to be given the chance to review UberSmart Math Facts (from UberSmart Software).

What is it?

UberSmart Math Facts is a Windows based software program that helps students learn their math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) through what is essentially a virtual flash card system.  Because it is software and not Internet-based, there is no need to be online once the user has downloaded and installed the program.

Main Menu

The menu bar offers several different activities to help students work toward mastering their math facts:

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Learn

This mode allows the user to work through a set of facts using dot cards (more on this in a minute) and/or numerals without being scored.  The student just tries to figure it out and then clicks “Show” to reveal the correct answer.

Practice

This mode is similar to the “Learn” mode except that now users select an answer and the program keeps track of how many they get correct.

There is also an option for practicing Keyboard Entry, excellent for students who may not type as quickly as their minds come up with the answers.  Since the tests are timed, it is a helpful skill to develop.

Test

There are two options on the Test menu:

  • The assessment test is for students who are new to UberSmart Math Facts or want to check their progress.  It tests more than just math facts.  The first section is not timed and covers counting, number sequencing, greater than/less than, and odd/even numbers. Then the timed section covers keyboard entry and math facts.  If the student starts to struggle, the test ends without moving on to the next section.
  • The mastery test shows how well students have learned a set of facts.
Compete

Students can compete against others from across the globe in a race to see who can answer fastest.  (An Internet connection is required to use this feature.)

Report

Parents (and students) can view and print progress reports showing what facts students have mastered.

Maintain

This is where parents can add students, adjust settings, change the Administrative password (required for any student adjustments), and check for program updates.

For Beginners

There are several options that allow you to customize what is shown.  For beginners you can use “dot cards” rather than numerals, which provide a visual representation to help develop number sense.  These problems are in a multiple choice format.

UberSmart Math Facts Review
Students who are already comfortable with the concept of addition can use traditional flashcards.

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How We Used It

I only used UberSmart Math Facts with my oldest son Ian, who is 6, so we didn’t really plunge into the depths of what the program has to offer.  Elijah (4) asked to do it once, so I added an account for him, but then he never asked again.  Ian used it several times a week to supplement his regular math curriculum.  He didn’t ever request to do it on his own, but neither did he complain when I asked him to use it.

We had a little trouble getting started.  The first thing I had him do was take the Assessment Test.  He missed a few question about odd/even numbers and didn’t type in the answers very quickly, so the program recommended having him just start with Keyboard Entry.

UberSmart Math Facts ReviewI took the suggestion, but within a matter of minutes he was complaining about how boring it was, and I agreed.  It would show a number and he was supposed to type that as quickly as he could.  It might be a useful skill, but it wasn’t what we were there to learn, so I decided to let him move on.

We tried to use the “learn” feature first, but we both found it frustrating that he couldn’t select the right answer.  I suppose the purpose is to allow the students to guess the answer and see if they’re right without having wrong answers marked against them, but Ian was already reluctant to spend time on the program so I just moved on to “Practice.”

This was definitely the right place for Ian, but it took some adjustments to make it work well for him.  He’s a “beginner,” so I started him with dot cards, but then he was spending so much time counting the dots, I felt like it was defeating the purpose of trying to learn facts automatically. Since he already understands the concept of addition well, I decided to switch to using the numbers.  He did okay on that for a few days, while he was mastering the 0’s and 1’s. (My laptop’s touch pad must be really sensitive because occasionally answers would be selected without Ian intending to click anything, and it took a while to get through an entire set with no mistakes.)

Capture5As the numbers started getting bigger, however, it seemed like he needed something more visual, so I went back to the dot cards.  Of course then he went back to counting, which was why we had stopped using those originally.  Finally I checked “show numbers” so he had both the dots and the numerals, and that was when things really seemed to click for him and he was able to work consistently without the frustration he had been experiencing.

Once he settled in, Ian did pretty well with the program.  He tends to be a bit of a perfectionist, so once he missed one problem he would want to start over (or quit).  With encouragement he pushed through, and he did find it very satisfying when he was successful.  He was so proud the day he could come to me and tell me he had learned his 2’s.

Ian is very competitive, but he gets discouraged very easily when he’s not doing as well as he’d like, so I decided he wasn’t ready for the competition part of the program.

What We Liked

There were many ways to customize the program to work for Ian.  In addition to the options for using the dots and/or the numbers, I was able to increase the amount of time he was given for each problem.  In addition to being slower at typing than the program wanted, his mind tends to process things more slowly than many kids, and he would have been frustrated to the point of giving up had he been expected to get everything quickly.  Once he’s feeling more confident I’ll go back to the shorter settings, but for now I’m thankful that I have the option to give him a little extra time so we could just work on the facts.

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The window for the game doesn’t take up the entire screen.  At first I worried that Ian would be distracted by everything else he could see on my desktop.  Then I discovered the “full screen” option, which blocks out everything but UberSmart Math Facts.  That was very helpful for keeping him on task.

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This program is a great value for larger families like ours.  Everyone’s going to need to learn their math facts at some point, and I appreciate being able to just add new students as needed.

What Could Have Been Better for Our Family

UberSmart Math Facts is designed to be a flexible tool.  With so many ways to customize it, you can really tailor the program to fit your students’ needs.  However, I could have used a little more guidance as to the best way to use it with Ian.  As I said before, the assessment test said he should work on keyboard entry before starting on math facts, but since the whole reason we were using it was to learn facts, that was rather discouraging.  So then I just felt like it was up to me to figure out what to do next.

Another frustration I had was that the program only drilled one set of facts at a time.  I was hoping once it marked that Ian had “learned” a specific set that it would occasionally quiz him on those as he continued working toward the next level.  That way he would not only keep those facts in the forefront of his mind but would also be able to feel successful in the midst of the frustration of learning new facts.  Unfortunately I was never able to figure out how to do more than just the current set.

Although I didn’t have Ian do any mastery tests, I did one myself just to see how that feature worked.  I found it really distracting to have three problems at a time on the screen.  It took a lot of mental discipline to keep my focus only on the problem in the middle when my peripheral vision was seeing the previous and upcoming problems as well.  I wish there was an option to show only the problem being tested, because I know Ian wouldn’t be able to block all the extra numbers out given how intentional I had to be about it.

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My Overall Impression

If you’re looking for a no-frills way of practicing math facts then I think UberSmart Math Facts is very helpful.  I know some kids do best without distracting graphics, but Ian is not one of those kids.  Without a “fun” element, he had a hard time staying on task and finding the motivation to spend time on the program.  I did see definite progress over the period we were using this program, but as he continues to work on learning addition facts, I think we’ll try to find something that incorporates more games and entertainment.

Just the Facts

  • Requires Windows 7, 8, XP or Vista
  • For grades K-6, but any age that needs math facts reinforcement can utilize this.
  • 30-Day Free Trial available
  • Download for home use – $24.95
  • Use discount code “v4 Early Bird” for a 30% discount until September 30th.

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Happy Kids Songs (Crew Review)

Looking for a fun way of teaching character education?  You might be interested in the children’s music we recently received from Happy Kids Songs.  We were given three albums to review: Friends & Sharing, Manners & Character, and Happiness & Attitude, as well as the Happy Kids Songs Workbook: Hands-on Activities to Build Character, Social & Emotional Skills.

Happy Kids Songs Collage

What is it?

Happy Kids Songs is a series of children’s albums created by Don MacMannis (aka “Dr. Mac”), a child psychologist and award-winning songwriter.  The songs are intended to teach character as well as social and emotional skills that will help kids make choices that will lead to happiness and success. The website has links to download the music through either iTunes or amazon.com.  Each mp3 album contains 5 songs (downloadable separately or as a set).  Here are the songs on the three albums we got a chance to review: Happy Kids Songs ReviewFriends & Sharing (#1)

  • Sailing on the Seven C’s
  • Everybody Wants to Find a Friend
  • Sharing Friends
  • Happy as Happy Can Be
  • Together

Happy Kids Songs ReviewManners & Character (#6)

  • H-o-n-e-s-t-y
  • Quirks
  • Six Little Kids
  • The Golden Rule
  • The Magic Word

Happy Kids Songs ReviewHappiness & Attitude (#7)

  • Be Good to Yourself
  • Better Together
  • I Don’t Understand
  • Shake It Out and Dance
  • Who Knows What’s a Kudo?

Other albums in the series cover Social Skills & Bullying (#2), Feelings and Fears (#3), Practice and Success (#4), Talking and Listening (#5), and Respect and Responsibility (#8). Happy Kids Songs ReviewThe companion workbook goes along with the songs from all the albums and has two main sections.  The first includes lyrics to the songs as well as activity pages (e.g. word searches, dot-to-dots, and coloring pages). The second part of the book contains suggestions of other learning activities related to each song, mostly designed for larger groups of children. The copyright allows you to reproduce the workbook pages for a co-op or in a classroom. Everything in the softcover workbook is actually available for FREE on the Happy Kids Songs website, but purchasing the workbook saves the trouble of downloading and printing the 80 files individually.

Our Experience with Happy Kids Songs

At first, we just listened all the way through the 15 songs we were given.  Dr. Mac talks about “seeding” the songs with kids, just getting them familiar with them before discussing the meaning.  After this initial exposure, we focused on just one or two songs at a time to addressing specific things that came up with our kids.

It was really helpful to have the lyrics so we could follow along and break down the songs during our discussion.  Once we talked through the words, my kids (well, the 4- and 6-year olds, at least) were able to listen more carefully and sing along.

I think Happy Kids Songs are a wonderful resource for parents (or teachers).  Each song teaches a valuable lesson, and the albums are a great addition to any character education program.  Here are a few of my favorite songs:

  • “6 Little Kids” tells the story of 6 children who close their eyes and try to describe an elephant based on what they can feel in front of them.  Each one describes something very different.  Sometimes it is tempting to think someone is wrong for seeing a situation differently, but it’s important to remember that we each have a unique perspective.
  • “The Golden Rule” relays Jesus’ classic advice to “Just do to others what you would like them to do to you.”  How many times a day do I remind my children of this?  Having a song to sing helps me keep the message fresh so they don’t just tune me out.
  • “Shake it Out and Dance” addresses the issue of “I can’t.”  I have one child who says this constantly, and I’m working really hard to break the habit.  The song is a fun reminder that it’s better to try than to just hold back by saying, “I can’t.”

I also really like the workbook.  My kids love the activity pages in the first section, but I found the second half of the book to be most valuable part of the whole program.  There are so many great suggestions for helping teach the lesson of each song.  For example, here are some of the ideas to go along with “Who Knows What’s a Kudo?” First you see the main point of the lesson:

Focus: Giving and receiving compliments

Social and Emotional concepts:

  • Seeing the best in others
  • Focusing on the positive
  • Thanking people for their efforts

Then there are several suggestions for activities (which I’ve just summarized here):

    • Pair the children up and have them each say three positive things about each other.  Then write those things on a cards and have the larger group try to figure out who each card is describing.
    • Make acrostics of each child’s name having them think of positive words to go with each letter, like these that the boys and I did together.  (They really enjoyed this and wanted to do one for Arianna, but I wasn’t sure I could come up with three positive “A” words for a 2-year old so I said we’d hold off on that!)

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  • Make “friendship soup” by having the children brainstorm different friendship traits and write them on separate cards.  Then put all the cards in a bowl and stir them up with a big spoon.  Have the children each draw a card, read the trait, and name another person in the group who demonstrates that trait.

There are ideas like this for each song.  While most of them are designed for a classroom setting, many are easily adaptable for families to use as well.

Just the Facts

  • This is geared for ages 4-8, but my younger children also enjoyed the music.
  • Songs – $.99 each (available to download individually)
  • Albums (5 songs on each) – $4.95
  • Happy Kids Songs Workbook – $12.56

Final Thoughts

I don’t plan to continue using Happy Kids Songs on a regular basis, though I might pull some of them out again at some point.  For one thing, I’m rather fussy about musical styles, and these songs weren’t to my particular taste.  (I never heard any complaints from my kids though, so I think they enjoyed them.)

However, the main reason I don’t see them as something our family will use is because I prefer to keep our character education rooted in the Bible so my kids will be able to connect decisions about their attitudes and behavior with God’s truth.  Many of the lessons taught in Happy Kids Songs stem from biblical concepts, but I would be more inclined to use them if I had an quick reference that listed Bible verses to go along with each song.  If I ever end up back in a public school classroom, however, these would be a great resource!

Connect With Happy Kids Songs on Social Media:

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The Heart of Homeschooling: Discussion Studies

Educating the WholeHearted Child: 12

WholeHearted“If Discussion Studies are not the constantly beating heart at the center of WholeHearted Learning, pulsing the life-blood of new thoughts and ideas to every part of the model, then the life will soon go out of your homeschool” (page 211).

I have always loved to discuss ideas.  One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that I get to engage my children in discussions about things I love: the Bible, literature, history, theology, art, music…

There are things to enjoy in each stage of homeschooling, but I am really looking forward to a few years from now, when I can start discussing some of the favorite novels of my childhood with my children.  There are so many “friends” I’ve been eagerly waiting to introduce them to: Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox and Dickon, Johnny Tremain, Heidi, … There are times and places I long to take them as we snuggle up on the couch and spend the afternoon reliving history in our imaginations.

I don’t think we’ll have any problems keeping Discussion Studies at the heart of our homeschool.  There are so many wonderful things to look forward to in the years to come!

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

Wizzy Gizmo (Crew Review)

Wizzy Gizmo CollageWe are always on the lookout for new audio entertainment, so we jumped at the chance to review Wizzy Gizmo‘s Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?, which takes the listener on a creative, sensory journey through the first chapter of the Bible.

What is Wizzy Gizmo?

Wizzy Gizmo offers several products that are designed to help engage children in learning about the Bible.  In addition to Audio Drama One: Who Created Everything?, they have two books based on Old Testament stories (the first tells the same story as the audio drama from Genesis 1, and the second moves on to Genesis 2), and a set of cards that teach about the books of the New Testament.  (Other members of the Crew received these products to review, so you can visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to see what they had to say about them!)

Wizzy Gizmo Review

The audio drama is much more than a retelling of Genesis 1.  The story features “Gizmovision,” an invention that “takes any book you have and creates a life-like world inside a bubble.  You not only see the story, but you can touch, taste, feel, and smell the story.”  Wizzy Gizmo, the inventor, and a group of children (along with a couple of silly sidekicks) embark on a journey into the biblical account of Creation.  Day by day, they hear the words of the biblical text (read from the New American Standard Bible) and then use all their senses to observe what it would have been like to be there.

There are several catchy songs interwoven through the story, some just silly and fun, but others very worshipful.

Our Family’s Experience

Before we listened to Who Created Everything?, I had some hesitations about Wizzy Gizmo.  I was afraid it was trying to add modern elements to the biblical story of Creation in order to make it more entertaining to kids.  Once we listened to it, however, I was reassured that this was not the case.  Instead, “Wizmovision” is used to help the bring the story to life, allowing the kids to think about how all their senses would experience the wonder of Creation.  More than once I caught myself thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s what it would have been like!”  It made the Creation story real to me in ways I had never considered.

I was impressed by the quality of the album.  Although at times the acting seemed a bit forced, the overall production was excellent.  (Audio samples are available on the website.)  The music was beautifully orchestrated, and I especially enjoyed the last few tracks on the CD that were just the soundtrack with no voices.

P1030666As for my kids, all I can say is that they have never all been so into any audio entertainment right from the start!  I first put it on in the car as we returned home from a morning out, hoping it would capture their attention enough that no one would fall asleep before we could get home for naps.  It sure worked!  They were immediately drawn in and spent the entire ride listening and laughing, especially when it got to the “Mango” song.  The boys begged to take the CD into their room when we got home, and I think they listened to it four more times that first day.  Arianna, who’s only 2, enjoyed it every bit as much as Ian, who is 6 and usually likes to listen to things beyond the attention span of the younger kids.  (The recommended age is 4-12, but I think some kids on the older end of that span might find it rather juvenile.)

I appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into the production of the Wizzy Gizmo resources.  The “Who, What, Why and How?” page on the website shares a lot of the careful decisions made by the creators to ensure that the products are thoroughly biblical and wholesome.

[Note: The website itself seems to be still under construction.  In addition to several typos that made me cringe, we were unable to find any of the "games, puzzles, and other fun activities" the CD insert said were there.]

Just the Facts

Final Thoughts

We want more Wizzy Gizmo!  Since the CD is labeled “Episode One,” Ian’s been begging me to get “the rest of them,” but there aren’t any addition albums yet.  Our whole family enjoyed this one so much that we’ll be quick to purchase any new audio dramas that Wizzy Gizmo produces in the future.

Connect With Wizzy Gizmo on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wizzygizmo
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wizzygizmo
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/wizzygizmo/
Google+: http://www.plus.google.com/+wizzygizmo
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/wizzygizmo

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Disciplined Studies (Math)

Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 11 (part 2)

WholeHearted Back when I was in elementary through high school, if you had asked me what my least favorite subject was, I would have quickly answered, “Math!”  After my days of math class were behind me, however, I realized that it wasn’t really math itself I found distasteful; it was the way it was taught.  I thrived on the challenge of math, and because I grasped things quickly, I spent a lot of time waiting for the rest of my class to be ready to move on, which meant I rarely felt challenged.  I think if I had been homeschooled and could move at my own pace I would probably have found it one of my favorite subjects.

I actually really like most things about mathematics. I resonated with these reasons Clarksons give for considering a study of math worthwhile:

“Math is empowering–it strengthens logical thinking, which can contribute to real-life problem solving skills.

Math is rewarding–there is a certain feeling of pride and accomplishment in getting the right answers to challenging math problems.

Math is necessary–the bottom line of math study is acquiring abilities that enable us to function successfully and independently in society.

Math is affirming–the beauty, elegance, and exactness of math reflect the nature and faithfulness of God (unchanging) in contrast to the corruption and confusion of sin” (page 206).

I love the sense of order, knowing there’s a definitely right answer, and working my way through whatever I need to do to find that answer.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of solving math problems, and I see that same enjoyment in my children, particularly Elijah.  I could easily see him wanting to work his way all the way through calculus.

I’ve written a lot in the past about some of my struggles in teaching math to Ian.  I want to be sure that I don’t drive him towards a dislike for math simply because I’m not teaching it in a way that works for him.  Right now I feel like we’re in a really good place, but I want to stay sensitive to his learning style and needs.  I’m not saying he has to love math, but I hope he’ll be able to enjoy it more than I did as a child.

Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.”  I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!

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