Homeschool Discoveries

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

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
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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


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

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


Book Discoveries this Week: Joan of Arc February 9, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:25 pm
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I’m finding it hard to believe that we are almost done with our journey through the Middle Ages.  We only have three lessons left in Mystery of History Volume II (if last week and this week would have gone as planned, we would already be finished!), and MOH Volume III arrived yesterday.

I think we’ll still have a few read-alouds yet this year that take us back to the Middle Ages — I just keep finding more books I’d love to read related to this time period.

Our history read-aloud this past week was Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley.  Both Mr. E and Miss M enjoyed this in-depth story with beautiful illustrations.  (Mr K on the other hand had to be “bribed” with the iPad in order to keep him quiet enough for us to finish this book.  He tried very hard to convince me not to continue reading it!).

Having read a somewhat extensive lesson about Joan of Arc in our Mystery of History book, I wasn’t sure  if Miss M would want to devote even more time to learning about Joan.   I gave Miss M the choice as to whether or not we would read this book, and she was pretty eager to read it.  She was fascinated by the idea of a woman fighting for her country back then.  Stanley’s story of Joan of Arc provided additional details that were not in our history lesson and made this famous story seem even more amazing.  I would have to say, though, that the illustrations were my favorite part.  The are done in a style somewhat reminiscent of an illuminated manuscript and are very bright and colorful.

In recent weeks we also read Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Medieval Castle by Joanna Cole and The Chanticleer and The Fox by Barbara Cooney as quick history-related read alouds.  Ms. Frizzle’s castle adventure was about what you would expect — a fun, silly story with some real facts thrown in here and there.  The Chanticleer and the Fox was a bit of a disappointment to me.  When I requested this one from the library I was envisioning a picture book with poetic text, but Cooney’s book is more of a retelling of Chaucer’s story in non-poetic form.

Tangentially related to our history studies is a book the boys loved this past week: A Good Knight’s Rest by Shelley Moore Thomas.   In this story, the Good Knight (who is featured in several books by Thomas) needs to take a restful vacation, but his pals the little dragons make that a challenge.  I like the “Good Knight”/”Good Night” pun (and don’t quickly tire of it), so that makes these books bring a smile to my face.  🙂

And finally, not at all related to the Middle Ages, is the boys’ other favorite book this week: The Donut Chef by Bob Staake.  The Donut Chef is a story in rhyme about a chef who opens a donut shop, only to be challenged by a competing shop that opens next door.  The two shops try to out-do one another:

“We’ve donuts laced with kiwi jam and served inside an open clam! Donuts made with huckleberry (Don’t be scared, they’re kind of hairy).  And donuts made from spiced rum pears, so popular with millionaires!”

It’s hard not to smile at rhymes like that.  After trying many, many flavors and shapes, the donut chef finds out what the most popular kind of donut really is.

What books did you discover this week?

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


Curriculum Discoveries: Mystery of History January 25, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:24 am
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This will be the first in a series of posts on the curricula we’ve discovered that works for us!

We are currently in our second year of using Mystery of History as the spine for our history studies.  After spending the fall of Miss M’s Kindergarten year reading a fairly boring early elementary history text, I knew I wanted to look for something different.  While I have been intrigued by curricula that put the focus on literature, I really wanted a spine that was interesting enough and informative enough to stand alone if we didn’t get to other readings.  I also was looking for something that would allow for a study of ancient, medieval and potentially some of Renaissance world history at a 1st-2nd grade level.

I decided that Mystery of History (MOH) would be a good fit for us, because it fits those criteria, and has the added bonus of coming from a Bible-believing Christian perspective. MOH can give a very good introduction to world history just through reading the text.   This curriculum can really hit at any ability level (or time availability level!), with timeline suggestions, quizzes, suggested activities for each lesson for three different age groups, and suggestions of additional reading, videos or websites for nearly every lesson.

Miss M and I studied Volume 1 of MOH last year — Creation to Christ.  While we diligently kept up a timeline for most of the year, we gave it up about 3/4 of the way through, when our printer started having trouble with the thick paper I had chosen for the timeline.  I still have a bunch of colored in timeline figures floating around in my house somewhere that never got glued on to anything. Lame, I know.   We didn’t do very many extra readings or suggested activities, but Miss M seemed to enjoy most of the chapters of the text, often asking me to read “another chapter, please?!?!”.    The author, Linda Hobar, does a great job of making history interesting and relating it to a Christian perspective.

Having made a projected history/geography schedule for the upcoming years for our family, I decided I wanted to do American History when Miss M is in 3rd and 4th grade.  So, what to do with 2nd grade?  I decided we would go through all of MOH volume 2 (Early church through the Middle ages) and part of MOH volume 3 (The Renaissance), aiming to get up to the point in Vol. 3 where most American History curricula would pick up time-wise.

We started MOH 2 last July, reading 4 lessons per week through the 1st quarter of the book, then dropping down to 3 lessons per week to allow for more supplemental reading once we reached the Dark Ages/Middle Ages.   Why the different paces? Honestly, because I love the Middle Ages (my favorite time period in history!). I decided not to even try a timeline this year — Miss M doesn’t seem to miss it, and we’ll try a timeline again when we study these time periods when she is older.

We’re on track to finish Volume 2 in mid-February.  We’ll read 3 chapters per week of Volume 3 through May, and then most likely take a break from history for the summer.  I’m still undecided about what materials we’ll use in our study of American history next fall.

Mystery of History is a great curriculum choice for families looking for world history from a Christian perspective. It can fit with the classical model of a four year history cycle (though the 4th volume is still in development), or it can be used flexibly with longer or shorter history cycles.

If you decide to use Mystery of History for your history studies, here are some resources to check out:

Mystery of History Yahoo Groups for Vol 1, Vol. 2, and Vol 3. (Great discussion and lots of resources in the files to help with timelines and lesson planning)

I made a planning chart for our studies this year, including supplemental readings and listening (we didn’t quite do all of what I planned so far, in case you were wondering).  Get the file at Google Docs.   I’ll be adding planned readings for Volume 3 sometime in the next couple weeks.

I also made a list at World Cat of some of the supplemental books I planned for this year (again, we did end up skipping a few of these).  Again, I haven’t added books corresponding to Volume 3 yet.  If you aren’t familiar with WorldCat it is a resource well worth checking out — WorldCat searches for books in libraries around the nation.  Set a favorite library, and you will quickly be able see if your local library holds a particular item, or if you will be able to get it from a nearby library using InterLibrary Loan.