Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Items for Sale! July 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:38 am

I have a few items I’m trying to sell that have been languishing on my shelves — Things we are done with and things we decided not to use and things I wish I could have used but it just never worked out that way.  😉  I’ll be linking up today with the Curriculum Sale @ the Happy Housewife, so check that link out if you are in the market to shop for other items!

  • A Reason for Handwriting Book D (Cursive, for 3rd or 4th grade, with Bible verse copywork) — Brand new, $12 SOLD
  •  The Making of America: The History of the United States from 1492 to the Present by Robert D. Johnston (National Geographic-published elementary textbook, good condition) — $5
  •  “Mudpies to Magnets” and “More Mudpies to Magnets”  (preschool science books – Ex-Lib copies) — $5 each
  •  Kindermath Teacher’s Manual (Preschool or K level math program — buy workbook separately from Hearts at Home Store or other source) — $3
  •  PHM First Grade Music (includes CD — more info here) — $5
  •  Science Play by Jill Frankel Hauser (science experiments for ages 2 to 6) — $3
  •  Harcourt Health and Fitness (2nd grade health textbook) — $4

 The “Fine Print”: Please plan on paying via PayPal. Prices do not include shipping.  If you are only interested in one item, plan on adding about $4 for media mail shipping or $6 for priority mail.   Kindermath is light enough to go 1st class for slightly less.  Email me at kirsten at tonyandkirsten dot org with the item(s) you are interested in purchasing and I will weigh the items and get you a more specific quote on shipping.   I am located in Minneapolis, MN and would be glad to discuss meeting locally for pickup/cash payment. I will update this post as any items are sold by deleting sold items.

Thanks for looking!


Ten (sort of) Totally Random Things as I Plan for a New Year July 16, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum,Getting Organized — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:45 pm
Tags: ,

This week’s “10 in 10 Blog Hop” topic from the iHomeschoolNetwork is “10 Totally Random Things on My Mind.”   So for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday list, while I couldn’t bring myself to be totally random, here is a (sort of) totally random list of ten things that are on my mind as I get ready for a new school year.

1.  I searched all over the internet for “Free American History Timeline Figures” and really didn’t find anything I liked.  Miss M really wants a timeline with pictures, but I really didn’t want to buy an expensive package of timeline pieces.  Then when I was searching for science clip art, what did I come across but…Clip Art Etc: A great source of free, educational clip art for history, science and more!  This is a totally legit site from a university with a generous usage license – no ads or inappropriate content to worry about here!  They have a very well organized set of American History clip art I’m excited to use for timelines and notebooking pages this year.

2. I’ll use those free clip art figures in the Timeline Template at Guest Hollow, and follow these directions to mark my timeline book pages…

3….and wall-ah…a nearly-free timeline! I bought a timeline book last summer after being frustrated by the printer jamming when printing lots of cardstock pages, so not completely free.  Now we have a new printer that probably wouldn’t jam, so I could print pages if wanted to.  And I still have a blank timeline book we never used last year.  But Miss M insists we do a timeline so I am motivated to make it work for us this year.

4. Moving on to science, I came up with a brilliant idea.  We use Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) for science.  It is a curriculum with a lot of strengths, but one of its strengths is not easy access to supplementary materials like printables, notebooking pages, example photos, videos, etc.  Users are on their own to find such things.  So I am thinking of putting the power of Pinterest to work and creating collaborative pin boards for BFSU users to make pins related to and labeled for each lesson.  I just need to find the time to create them, add a few pins, and then hope that other BFSU users join in the work/fun to make it a good resource!

5. We don’t have a lot of geography plans yet for this year, other than looking at maps of the US at it relates to US History…Hmmm…I am thinking I might add in a few other geography plans.

6.  After viewing historic planes last Saturday, my kids are totally fascinated with WWII-era aviation.  We’ve watched two documentaries on netflix in the last two days.  The kids keep asking me why we have to study American History “in order”.  They want to skip right to WWII!  We’ll do a little bit of side study of WWII to feed this interest while still keeping on track with the chronological plans I’ve laid out.

7. Will someone please remind me to put labels on our Ikea Trofast drawers we are using for all our school supplies/books? Thanks!

8.  I just realized that the Half-Price books tent sale is this week…Yippee! I love buying books…I am going to try really hard to focus on books that will be useful for history and science studies.  We need more random picture and chapter books like we need more holes in our heads… 😉  But I always make exceptions for the classics!

9. We have a table in our school room but it is like pulling teeth to get the boys to use it.  Miss M has a desk in the school room that she uses most of the time.  Sometimes she uses the table for crafts that take up too much space.  But the boys always (or at least 90% of the time) chose to sit or lay on the floor to do crafts and color or draw.  I’m tempted to get rid of the table.  Except for the fact that Mr. E will need a place to do real school work pretty soon.  Should I get him a desk? Make the table a lot lower so they don’t need chairs?  Any advice?

10. We’re thinking about guitar lessons as a music option for our family this fall.  A nearby park has a family guitar program where Tony can take lessons together with Miss M and Mr. E.  I am really hoping this works out for us.  It seems like a more realistic option right now than bringing a piano or keyboard into the house.

Hop on over to Top Ten Tuesday @ Many Little Blessings to see 10 Random Things that other bloggers have on their minds, and lots of other interesting top ten lists!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings


Why Do Pop Cans Explode in the Freezer? (And Other Science Fun) July 15, 2012

Filed under: Science — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:55 pm

We ended up having a science-y sort of week this past week.  That wasn’t really planned!  I had intended to ease back into the school routine by just adding in history and spelling.  Of course, our science learning this week was mostly just a lot of fun!

Mr. E found the gigantic green caterpillar in our yard on Thursday night.  We had never seen anything like it!  After I very helpfully searched Google Images for  “Giant Green Caterpillar”, I was able to determine that it was most likely a Polyphemus Moth caterpillar. (This blog post was helpful — theirs looked just like ours!).   If it completes its metamorphosis it will become a very large brown moth.  We spent quite a while that evening watching it and letting it crawl on our hands.   We then let it go back on its merry way.  We haven’t seen it since then, but I am hoping it decides to make its chrysalis somewhere nearby so we can continue to observe!

Last Monday the kids planted seedlings while we were at the MN Children’s museum.  They sprouted on Friday and are now even bigger than they were in this picture.  We did a little bit of study of plants last spring, but we ran out of steam before the kids did any activities or demonstrations involving planting seeds.   They have been thrilled to check on the progress of their seedlings each day, and we aren’t even sure what kind of plants they are.  😉

And finally, I am so proud of myself for turning a random question into a real learning opportunity.  Miss M asked me while we were driving in the car on Friday, “Mom, why do pop cans explode when you put them in the freezer too long?”  She was remembering a time a number of weeks ago when Tony put a can of Dr. Pepper in the freezer and it made a giant mess.  It would have been really easy to just google the answer for her (since I didn’t know exactly off the top of my head, other than it probably had to do with the water expanding too much).

But instead, I asked her why she thought it might happen, and how she could teat her ideas.  At first, Miss M thought that maybe it was because soda pop might have baking soda in it, and that maybe things with baking soda are more likely to explode (like a baking soda/vinegar “volcano”!).  She figured out she could investigate that by reading the label on the can.  No baking soda there!  Next she suggested it was perhaps because it was too fizzy.  We couldn’t think of a good way to test that, so I hinted at other ideas.

Finally, she came up with the idea that maybe the pop might take up a different amount of space when frozen.  This is something we could test!

Our Hypothesis: A liquid expands in the freezer and has a greater volume when frozen.

Materials: Water, pop, clear glasses, baking soda (to also test Miss M’s baking soda idea with water), and a marker for the glasses

Procedure: We filled one glass with water, one with Dr. Pepper, one with water and baking soda, and one with “water and baking soda and salt and pepper” (at Mr. E’s suggestion!) 😉 We marked how full each glass was with a marker.  It was hard to see on the glass with the Dr. Pepper, so we added a mark with tape too.  We checked the glasses after two hours and also the next day!

Results: In the glass with the pop, the liquid seemed to expand the most, and not evenly.  The water and water plus additives expanded slightly.

Conclusion: The pop expanding might be enough to cause the can to pop open.  We didn’t know why the water didn’t seem to expand very much.  We didn’t know why it might or might not spray or “explode” out of the can.

Luckily when our resident scientist came home from work, he was able to point out a bit more information.  For one thing, we should have put lids on the glasses so no water could evaporate into gas.  Also, the carbonation of the pop might in fact have something to do with it.

Further internet searching after our experiment was over revealed that if the freezing water takes up more space, not all the pop in the can may be frozen yet, causing some to spray out of the can when it is suddenly popped open.  An “ask a scientist” feature at the DOE website points to the carbonation being a factor as well: “Soda pop is a super saturated solution of carbon dioxide (plus other ingredients). When it is frozen the CO2 and other dissolved substances are excluded from the ice that forms. So one is confining the CO2 to a smaller and smaller volume of “head space” in the bottle or can. If the bottle or can is not strong enough, the CO2 pressure will rupture the container.

Apparently this may be wrong information: This page at ehow and this site don’t agree with what the “Ask a Scientist” website suggested…I guess we still have more reading to do to learn exactly what is going on with these pop cans! 🙂

Fascinating stuff!  I’m linking up with Science Sunday @ Adventures in Mommydom!

Science Sunday


Collage Saturday: Summer Fun + Summer School July 14, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:40 pm

This week marked a bit of a transition in our summer.  It was still a week full of summer fun, but we added in some “summer school” as well.  The kids and I aren’t ready to say we are “back to school” yet.   But everyone was okay with the idea of adding a bit of more formal learning back into our routine.

Here are a few highlights of our week:

1. We started our week with a trip to the Minnesota Children’s Museum on Monday. One of my friends from high school had the day off work and joined us at the museum!   The kids had a blast (pun intended!), and they were happy to see the Curious George exhibit they had been eagerly anticipating.

2. We kicked off “summer school” on Tuesday by beginning our American History journey for the year.   We also dusted off our Logic of English materials and reviewed the lesson we stopped on (and didn’t quite finish) back in May.  For the month of July, History and Spelling will be our two formally planned subjects (besides Mr. E continuing 10-15 minutes a day of reading practice).  We’ll most likely add in Math in August, and then have our “official” back-to-school either the last week in August or the 1st week in September.

3. One of my goals for the summer is to teach the kids new skills around the house.  This week Mr. E (age 5) folded and put away all his own laundry for the first time, while Miss M taught Mr. K how to sort the towel/napkin laundry and then fold the washcloths.

4. We fit in two pool trips this week.  Mr. E spent about 48 hours at Grandma’s house (each kid gets 2 or 3 days of 1 on 1 time with my mom each summer).  While he was gone, we went swimming.  Mr. K tells me he is pretending to be a mummy as he drys off after swimming.  😉

5. Always lots of arts and crafts and messes around here.  You would never know we had desks and tables in our school room for the volume of work the boys do on the floor!

6. And there’s always plenty of time for play, as my firefighter-super hero-pirate shows.

7. and 8.  We had some unplanned/spontaneous science this week.   Among other things, we investigated a really large caterpillar in our back yard, and we tried to figure out why pop cans explode/burst in the freezer.  I’ll post more about our science endeavors sometime in the next day or two!

9. I went to a local homeschool mom’s book sale.  It was at least her second effort to get rid of books and they were priced to sell — 25 cents each!  Here are a few finds I was particularly excited about   I came out with 28 books, including lots of history, science and living math titles.

Then today, we had a big family outing:

We did an interest-led unit study on the History of Aviation and Early Aviators back in May.  I did a little research and found out that an air show/expo of historic planes would be in the metro area over the summer.   Today was the day!  We spent a couple hours at a small airport in the suburbs seeing authentic WWII era planes and replicas of even older planes.  Some of the planes did flights while we were there.  No stunts at this air show, but some of the fighter planes did fly in formation.  It was hot and tiring but fun for all — but as you can see in the last picture, Baby J was really ready to call it a day by the time we were done.

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap Up @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

Homegrown Learners


Book Discoveries this Week: Little Runner of the Longhouse July 13, 2012

Filed under: Books,Themes — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

We got started this week with our first unit in our US History studies — Native Americans and Explorers.  Our “book basket” (it’s really one of those stacking cubes) is overflowing with titles.  Once I got started requesting books, I really went a little bit overboard!

I can’t remember if I found Little Runner of the Longhouse on one of the book lists that I looked at, or if I just requested it after one of those “one thing leads to the next”  late night library catalog browsing binges.  😉

I feel like most of the books we’ve brought home from the library about Native Americans are fairly culturally sensitive.  This one, maybe not so much (especially if the two “one star” reviews on amazon are to be believed).  I want to generally make sure I’m presenting honoring, accurate views of Native Americans to my kids.  But this book is cute, regardless.  I’m hoping that the kids understand the difference between a fictional book like this and the books from the non-fiction section of the library.

In any case, this easy-reader book appealed to all the kids.   Little Runner is a young boy who wants to participate in his (not-identified-in-the-story) tribe’s New Year traditions, but his mother tells him he is not old enough. The “big boys” dress up and “steal” things from other members of the tribe.    Little Runner wants to “steal” something he can use to trade for all the maple sugar he can eat.  I’m sure all the kids can relate!  He cleverly thinks he can “steal”  Little Brother and hold him for ransom, suggesting to his mother all kinds of things she might give Little Runner to buy back his younger brother.

Miss M chose this book to read from the book basket, and of course it only took her a few minutes to finish it.  Mr K asked me to read the book to him (Mr. E was at Grandma’s house during this first reading).  Then today Mr E tried reading some of it aloud to me.  He made it through about four pages before handing the book over to me to finish it — it was just a bit over his patience and reading level at this point.

After listening to the book today, the boys, completely on their own, decided to make masks that were loosely inspired by the masks they saw in the book.  All I had to do was cut the small mouth holes and tie on the elastic strings.  And not to be outdone, Miss M had to make one too once she saw the boys’ masks (she’s holding a basket because she is the “basket lady” in the book):

After checking into it just a bit (and this was before I read the amazon reviews), I discovered that Little Runner of the Longhouse is loosely based on Iroquois traditions.  I wasn’t clued in though while reading the book that the masks are sacred objects.  I had been hoping not to fall into the trap of too many stereotype-promoting activities in our studies of Native Americans, but it appears we were both stereotypical and a bit sacrilegious today.  Whoops!  The kids had fun reenacting the story though, and this just goes to prove that I never need to bother with spending money on a curriculum that plans out activities for my kids — they are going to find them to do whether I am involved or not.  😉

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!


U is for United States History July 11, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:21 am

I am so excited for our coming year of history studies.  There are many, many options to select from in looking for an American History curriculum for early elementary.  But even with so many options to choose from, I still didn’t find just one program that I liked completely!  I liked books from many of the curricula, and each had some books I didn’t care for as much.  Some were more or less expensive.  Some didn’t have the types of written work I was looking for (I wanted some lapbooking, notebooking and other papercrafts/activities!).

But, since I am a planner at heart and I love, love, love looking at book lists…I decided I could plan my own United States History curriculum for this year!  We’ll study American History from the beginnings to about 1850 this year (2012-2013), and study 1850 to the present next year (2013-2014).

I didn’t plan out a week-by-week schedule.  Instead I divided the first part of American History into five units or time periods.  For each unit I planned out various key non-fiction texts, literature read-alouds, literature for my 3rd grader to read alone, materials for use in making a notebook and timeline of what we are studying (and crafty projects too if Miss M would like to do them), as well as a big list of books for a “book basket” of optional reading.

We’ll make sure to work on history in some way each day, working through books from the book list and taking time at least a couple days a week to do something for the notebook (a notebooking page, a lapbook piece, etc).  I’ll be trying my best to keep a record of what we do with weekly or bi-weekly posts, as well as reviews/recaps of many of the books we read.

Want more details on what we are doing? Be sure to visit my “United States History Year 1” page, which has more info and a link to my spreadsheet of books.   And be sure to stop back often this year (or subscribe via email or RSS) if you want to see how this great experiment in D.I.Y history curriculum works out for us!

I’m linking up with Blogging through the Alphabet at Ben and Me (this week’s link-up coming on Thursday).

Blogging Through the Alphabet


10 Pieces of Advice for Homeschoolers Starting Out in the Preschool Years July 10, 2012

Filed under: Babies and Tots,Preschool — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:56 am

I’m joining in once again with the iHomeschool Network’s “10 in 10” Blog Hop topic for Top Ten Tuesday @ Many Little BlessingsThis week’s Last week’s topic is “10 pieces of advice you would give to a new homeschooler.” (I started this one last week and ended up with a different post instead!).

People come into homeschooling at a variety of points in their kids’ educational journey, but I feel most “qualified” to offer advice to those who find themselves in the same boat I was in — families who decide to homeschool while their oldest child is a preschooler (or even younger).

As I mentioned in my “Top 10” post two weeks ago, we discussed homeschooling as an educational path we wanted to pursue before we were even married.  Needless to say, I was a super-excited-future-homeschooler by the time Miss M was about two years old!  Friends gave me some good advice, and I learned a few things along the way that I wish I could go back and tell my six-years-ago-self or friends who are in the same spot:

1.  Relax and enjoy. This sounds like something that should be the culmination of a list like this, but I wanted to start with it because it’s so important.  Keep the preschool/kindergarten years fun! You aren’t going to “mess up” your child if you don’t use the perfect preschool program.  You will have plenty of time for serious academic pursuits as they get older, so don’t get too stressed out about it now!

2. Don’t compare.  One child may be ready to read at four, while another isn’t ready to read until age six or later.  Your neighbor’s kid or some blogger’s kid may be adding and subtracting at age three while your kid can’t even count to ten.  Maybe you’re the one doing the happy dance that your kindergartener just figured out multiplication, yet you are puzzled as to why his handwriting is barely legible. It’s okay.  Every child develops differently, even within the same family.  Kids may be ready to excel in one area while developing typically in another. Follow your child’s cues.  Give your child the “work” they are ready for.  Are you trying to teach your child the letter sounds but he runs off to play with his cars instead? Don’t sweat it, he might not be interested right now.  But if she is constantly asking you to “do math” or he is asking about learning to read, go for it.  Don’t worry about the age you are “supposed” to do those things.

3. Don’t fall for “parlor tricks”.  Maybe this isn’t so popular any more, but when Miss M was a toddler/preschooler I felt like every mom was trying to “show off” what their kid could do.  One could recite the alphabet at 18 months.  Another kid could count to 100 at age three.  Some kids had gobs of poems and Bible verses memorized in Kindergarten.  It’s not those little “tricks” at a young age that matter when it comes to being a good student and a lifelong learner as your kids get older!  I don’t think knowing the alphabet at 18 months is any indicator as to whether or not a kid is going to be an early reader.  It’s fine to teach kids those skills and have them memorize/learn to recite various things (especially if they love to do it)…but it’s not the end-all-be-all of preschool.  Reading books and doing fun, hands on activities together is probably a better use of time.

4. Read and Research.  Channel your passion for homeschooling into learning as much as you can right now, so you are knowledgeable to make decisions as your kids get older and you really do need to chose curricula for the 3 R’s and more.  There are tons of great books, informational websites and blogs out there to help you learn in your homeschooling journey.  While your kids are young is a great time to explore different styles and methods of homeschooling as well as the many curricula available.

5.  Try out curricula/methods you find interesting.  You don’t really need a curriculum in the preschool years.  You even only need a few basic things for Kindergarten.  But, it can also be a good time to try out some curriculum products to find out what you might like or dislike.  If it wouldn’t have been for trying out the Bright Beginnings preschool curriculum when Miss M was four, I might not have realized until she was older than an all-in-one curriculum is not my style.  I didn’t want to have to stay “on the same page” in all subjects.  If I wouldn’t have tried Saxon Math K in the few months before Miss M was in Kindergarten, I might not have known that a spiral math program would drive me crazy.  It’s much easier to switch things up and make changes during preschool/K than it is as your child gets older and you may have more concerns about sticking to a certain sequence in a curriculum.   One nice thing about most homeschool products is you can find resale opportunities pretty easily, whether locally through swap meets and buy/sell email lists, or on the internet through or various message boards.

6. Be sure to check out the many free printables for the preschool and Kindergarten years available on the internet.  Not all these activites may be your child’s cup of tea, but I know I wish more of these would have been available when my oldest was a preschooler.  A few sites to check out include:

7.  Enjoy the flexibility you have with your time.  Once you hit the elementary years, the reality is you’ll have to spend more time regularly doing school.  While some families are sucessful at homeschooling even if they are on the go every day, most families find they need to have consistent time at home most days for getting school done.  Preschool, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be that way!  You can much more easily drop everything for spontaneous field trips and playdates.  If you want to read all day, go for it.  It won’t be quite so easy to do that once you are in the world of spelling lists and 4 digit subtraction problems.  🙂

8.  Build your network of homeschooling friends.  Homeschooling is so much easier when you have friends to share the journey with you.  If you don’t already have a network of homeschooling friends, now is the time to check out play groups, co-ops, support groups and more.  If you aren’t finding something in your area that is open to younger kids, why not start your own informal group?  It doesn’t have to be fancy — try making an announcement on local homeschooling email lists (if you don’t know of any, check yahoo groups as a place to begin your search), and you’ll probably find other parents of preschoolers who are planning to homeschool and want to make connections.

9. Read, read, read to your child! It can’t be said often enough — your child will learn so much as you read to him or her!

10.  Have fun with all the topics and activities that are most enjoyed in the tot, preschool and kindergarten years!  The library is brimming with fun books and the internet bursting with ideas to have fun with topics from Astronauts to Zebras and everything in between.  Find out what your child is interested and have fun learning about those topics!

What do you wish you could “go back and tell yourself” in the early years?
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings