Friday, June 23, 2017

You Homeschool? You Must Be So Organized!

I call myself a paper planner dinosaur. However, I still haven't found the "perfect" homeschool planner, so when I got a chance to review an online planner, I was very willing to take it on and give it a chance. Yes, I love how pretty my paper planner is, but I will admit that there are moments that it's not ideal. I'm always willing to try something new to get organized. With Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-op I can do so much more than just creating assignments!

Homechool Planet

Set up is easy and can take either no time at all, or plenty, depending on how much you like to play with design. The first thing I did is make everyone an account. It is VERY user friendly and easy to set up "My Family." This allows you to add everyone on that you want to be able to access this planner. That way everyone can always see exactly what's going on. It even allows you to have separate log ins (which I didn't think my kids were ready for yet). But when they are older, the kids can check their assignments easily. You can customize the look, and honestly, I could have spent hours tweaking it. You have the option to keep it on month view, week (always my choice) or daily. If you are looking for an online all in one planner, this is definitely for you. They have literally thought of everything to make all aspects of planning in your life simple. Realize mid-planning that you're out of glue? Add it to the shopping list. Realize that reading a certain book would help your history lesson pop? Add it to your reading list. It is available on laptop or mobile, so you can have easy access to your planner no matter where you are. And if you want to print anything out, you can. Truly, you have every option you would have with pencil and paper.

Now so far, I'm just discussing, and showing you, an online planner. It's a nice one. But it's a planner that you could use for anything, not just homeschool. I liked it - a lot - but I wasn't ready to toss my beautiful paper planner.

Adding classes is when I realized that I actually do need this in my life. You create a class - as general (math) or specific (Math Mammoth grade 2) as you like. Add the students you want - I have both girls doing history, science, and things like that together, but separate for reading, writing, and math. Pick how many days a week you want to work. Choose how long you want the class to last (math might take all year, a unit study for history might have a six week time span.) Enter assignments. You can track days in school. You can generate reports. You can add notes about issues. You can take days off, you can adjust on the fly, but it truly does organize you and keep you moving toward a very organized homeschool life. I've been so worried about how I'm going to balance having both girls home full time with me, and this truly could take that worry and make it moot.

Full disclosure - as much as I'm gushing - and I am - I haven't been using this as thoroughly as I could for classes since we're heading into summer.  I am actually looking forward to sitting down and planning out next year!

If the planner itself wasn't enough, there is a  Lesson Plan Marketplace. They have professionally designed lesson plans that coordinate with your curriculum. You can purchase what you need (note: you are not purchasing the curriculum, just the plan) and they will fit right into your planner. It takes the guess work out of trying to do it yourself. If you sign up this month in June for a FREE one month trial, they are offering you a FREE lesson plan that is worth $5 to $15. There is no reason not to try it! I added Math Mammoth for grade 2 since we loved this curriculum so much when we switched to it back in the winter. I haven't gotten to truly use it yet, because we are finishing up our last bit of grade 1, but I was so excited to have it available.

I have to say this is one of those things that I loved much more than I thought I would. The lesson planner, lesson plan marketplace, and ability to keep all of my homeschool organization in one place is definitely a win!

Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Homeschool Planet {Homeschool Buyers Co-op Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Riding Through American History

 When your husband is a history buff, your homeschooled kids are on their way to following in his footsteps, you have an avid Rush listener in your household (which is actually not me - the current climate of tension gives me a stomachache), and you get a chance to review Rush's series of kid's books - you take it! Ideally, I had these books in mind for Adam and the girls to read together, but since he's been traveling, Madison and I have been enjoying the Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series from Adventures of Rush Revere #1 New York Times Bestselling Book Series by Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh. She is excited to fill him in on all that she experienced along with the characters.

Although I read the books in order myself, I let Madison choose which snapshot in history appealed to her the most, and she wanted to start with Rush Revere and the First Patriots. This book worked as a stand alone read just as well as it did as part of the series. Honestly, because the first book gives you some insight into the recurring characters, it does make sense to start there. However, I don't think we lost anything by going out of order.

The premise is that the character of Rush Revere is a substitute history teacher. After a few set-ups he bravely decides to enlighten two students, Tommy and Freedom, into a time travel field trip while on the back of a horse, "rush rush rushing" into the past. This time portal only opens to the words "rush rush rushing into", and Liberty the talking horse starts running towards adventure.

Adventures of Rush Revere

Book one, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, starts with a seasick Rush trying to manage the journey and arrive in one piece. The crew is wholly detached from the actual Pilgrims, and there is no sympathy for those who haven't yet found their sea legs on the rough voyage. Rush Revere, Liberty the horse, and two students meet important figures and learn why this group was willing to risk so much to settle in a new place, and how the foundations they laid were instrumental to the forming of the country later.

We read the second book, Rush Revere and the First Patriots, together, and finding Ben Franklin and Patrick Henry was like meeting old friends for Madison. She drew comparisons between what she already knew from the history we've done and the historical programming we've watched, and what we were reading here. This book, like the time period, is full of tension. You feel it as you read and you experience what went into the decisions to make a drastic change. I liked that the students that Rush and Liberty brought with them were different - including one who wasn't invited!

Book three takes us into war. Rush Revere and the American Revolution allows us to meet George Washington and John Hancock. This book does a great job of explaining why our soldiers do what they do, even when it's hard on them.

Book four, Rush Revere and the Star Spangled Banner is about so much more than the song. This book takes students through the Articles of Confederation and the writing and ratifying of the Constitution. Because Madison's namesake, James Madison, features prominently, she has requested this be our next book to read together, although I will probably take us through the rest of the series in order. This book includes Maddie, a homeschooler! I was so happy to see her featured - my Madison has complained that there are no homeschoolers in the books she reads about kids her age.

Book five, Rush Revere and the Presidency, is a very timely read. Cam, a student who joins in on many of these time traveling adventures, has decided to run for class president. This book would have been an excellent read aloud last fall, when Madison, only in first grade, was trying to understand all the intricacies of electing a president. In this book the prominent figures are the first three presidents AND their first ladies, but it also lays out the timelines, requirements, calculations, and the WHY of how this republic elects their leaders. I can't wait to read this one with my kids.

These books are absolutely beautiful. The quality is high and the artwork is gorgeous. Adam, as I mentioned, is a history buff. He didn't get a chance to read through the full books, but just with his skimming and what I told him, he was impressed at how accurate the history was. No creative editing - this is sound history wrapped up in a narrative story (well, with the addition of time travel and a talking horse. But we'd far prefer that to creative license with historical facts.)

Adventures of Rush Revere

These books are definitely above the level of my independent reader - I'd say fourth grade or above could comfortably read them. We chose to do them as a read aloud, and because we stopped to chat periodically, it took us about two weeks to get through the first in the series. Each book is about 200 pages.
Adventures of Rush Revere

Madison loves any sort of history that invites her to travel back in time and experience that history, so these books were right up her alley. Although I read only one with her, we looked through all of them, and she made connections of things that she's read and watched. I know she'll be into them all when we keep reading.

If the books inspire you to dig deeper, there is The Adventures of Rush Revere Website.  You’ll find an abundance of lesson plans, games, quizzes, and more to add to your study.

These books are a wonderful addition to the library of any child fascinated by history. I was so happy to get opinions from all sorts of readers - students and teachers!

Adventures of Rush Revere Book Series {Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, June 15, 2017

WHAT Am I Doing Here?

Sometimes I get a chance to review a product, and it may seem like the timing is off. I'm three years into this homeschooling thing, and I'm getting the point where people are asking me for advice. But three years in, and I swear, there are still days when I want a very specific instruction book to tell me what "good" homeschooling should look like and wondering if I'm there yet. I'm getting more confident now, but in the beginning, I would have loved to have had How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook) from Apologia Educational Ministries to help me. Three years in, and I'm still glad I was able to check it out. It was a good refresher for me, and it's nice to have something I can actually point someone toward when they (whoa...) ask me for advice.

Apologia Educational Ministries 
Video is a big friend of mine when it comes to homeschool. I loved that the video clips were only about fifteen minutes long. It felt like it was one of those more experienced moms, checking in and sitting down for coffee with you for a few minutes.

"How did you make out trying what we talked about last time?"

"Let's talk about where you'll focus next."

"Take some time to think and plan on how this will look in your life, and we'll chat again soon."

You watch the video, and then you have some space in the workbook to reflect and plan.
How to HOMESCHOOL with Stunning Confidence, Contagious Joy, and Amazing Focus (DVD & Coursebook)

Here is how the coursebook is broken down:
  • Introduction: Join Us on the Journey
  • Chapter 1: How to Get the Most Out of This Course
Designing Your Road Map
  • Chapter 2: Setting Goals for the Journey
  • Chapter 3: Finding Support
  • Chapter 4: Choosing Curriculum
Finding Your Way
  • Chapter 5: Practical How-To’s (Nuts & Bolts)
  • Chapter 6: Organizing Your Homeschool Stuff
  • Chapter 7: Organizing Your Homeschool Day
  • Chapter 8: Tip from Veterans
Navigating the Detours
  • Chapter 9: Family Matters-Marriage
  • Chapter 10: Family Matters-The Rest
  • Chapter 11: Dealing with Opposition
Arriving at Your Destination
  • Chapter 12: High School Graduation and College
  • Chapter 13: If College Is Not the End Game
  • Chapter 14: You Can Make It!
Beginning Your Journey
  • Chapter 15: Continuing Education and Encouragement Opportunities
Obviously, we're not even close to college. Shhhh....all you moms who warn me that childhood will fly by much faster than I think and we'll be thinking about college before I'm done writing this review. Still, I was moved to work through these sections too. After all, your trip will be much harder if you don't know what your destination looks like.

Chapters 6 and 7 spoke to me strongly. I might be three years into this, but I'm still not totally comfortable with the way I have things organized. This course forced me to look at it again, and gave me some great tips to organize both the stuff and the day. For three years, I've only really been homeschooling one child while the other was either a toddler or in preschool. Next year, they'll both be home, and I'll have to readjust - juggling two grades worth of stuff and my time. It's daunting to think about, especially knowing how strong willed my little one can be, and how my older one needs encouragement over tough love. In addition, they both span several grade levels within their "official grade", so organization isn't optional. I have to re-figure this out. The DVD got me off to a good start.

I have one favorite homeschooling book that I read whenever I need a spark or a boost or a reason to remember why I do this, and now, I'll have this DVD to add to my "pick me up and put me back on track" stash. I know I'll be recommending this to families who are just beginning this journey!

Homeschool with Confidence & Internship for High School {Apologia Educational Ministries Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Multiuse Lets Me Multitask

I'm a big fan of Cutthroat Kitchen on Food Network. It's like Chopped, but with a reality show twist. Alton Brown is brilliant. Like, insane and crazy, but mindbogglingly brilliant. The man has a mind that just works in different ways, and because of this, he's created a really creative show: Can you outsmart a cooking show?

Because when push comes to shove, you can make a decent looking meal from pretty much anything. You can hack your way around any kitchen gadget or ingredient. In a pinch, coffeepots can cook a full breakfast. A Swiss army knife can make a Thanksgiving dinner. Foil can be fashioned into a pan, a spoon, or tongs. It is absolutely fascinating to watch.

After watching me fill the DVR and binge watch for a couple of years, my husband, who is awesome in pretty much every way, found out that Alton Brown's food/science tour was coming to a theater near us, and he bought us tickets for my birthday. And let me tell you, it's one thing to see a really smart show. It's another thing entirely to see it live.

One of Alton's big things is the multitool. He is very outspoken about his distaste for one function gadgets. Cull the kitchen clutter and make your tools work for you.

And I realized that, with the rising popularity of "hacks", that I really love this too. After all, I've used Pinterest to expand my uses of:
  • Coffee filters (great cleaners and totally chemical free)
  • Dryer sheets (cleaning PLUS air freshening)
  • Bread tabs (labels, tools to hold tape)
  • Shoe holders (perfect for pantry organization)
  • Ice cube trays (portion out frozen herbs, wine, even cookie dough!)
I love the idea of "hacking" - taking an overcluttered life, where a banana slicer is marketed as "life changing", and using tricks to make it easier.

I'm nowhere near ready for competition. But I'm definitely ready to hack my kitchen!

Friday, June 9, 2017

MarshMedia Review - Health Curriculum Comes Home

So much of our health education isn't formal. When I teach those "health" concepts, it's organic, often born from all those "why" questions. Why we wash our hands after the bathroom. Why we brush our teeth. Why we don't just snack on candy all day. They ask, I explain, we move on. We have a healthy lifestyle, they get a reason why, and it doesn't eat up our curriculum time.

But at some point, it's useful to take that learning beyond the off the cuff question and answer. I'm a huge fan of using video in our homeschooling, and sometimes, when it's personal, it's more effective for my girls. So today I would like to introduce MarshMedia, a company that produces health education products mainly for use in schools, but just branched out to the homeschool community.

I love when this happens - when homeschooling is "normal" and "accepted" enough for educational companies to adjust their offerings to meet that need. Currently, MarshMedia is giving us the opportunity as homeschoolers to take advantage of a special offer being made exclusively for us, which is a Homeschool Special. The current offer, only available to homeschool families, unlimited viewing of 59 programs for $50.00 until 12-31-17 with no time constraints or limits on the number of times a program can be viewed, can ONLY be accessed by using this link.

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }
There are 59 programs available to watch, covering everything from hygiene to nutrition to social skills to puberty. They have done an excellent job of communicating the intended ages to make sure the kids don't feel bored or babied. Depending on your kids, some will obviously be more relevant than others. I chose to focus on a few that really spoke to my kindergarten/second grade girls - the importance of a healthy diet, the importance of handwashing, and the importance of dental hygiene.

The videos we chose to use were definitely age appropriate, and captured the girls' attention. Annie Funelli and the Funsters (who show up in many of the videos intended for early elementary viewers) had the girls giggling as good habits for taking care of their teeth were enforced. The girls were able to explain what they learned, which is always a plus. For a five year old who is always trying to negotiate her way out of washing her hands and brushing her teeth, it was a good reinforcement, rather than just a repeated explanation from me that she has probably tuned out by now. Madison is very interested in permanent teeth, now that she has a few of her own, and especially since braces may be in her future.

Overall, these videos were a nice, non-sugary, treat to finish up a morning of school work. The girls enjoyed them, and I enjoyed that they were absorbing the messages! I was so pleased to have access to these educational videos that weren't scratched up copies from the library, or definitely priced for a school district to use with hundreds of kids. When it's time for Madison to get a little more information about puberty, this will definitely be a place we revisit!

Health Education Products for K-8 {MarshMedia }

Check out what some other reviewers had to say!

MarshMedia Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

Thursday, June 8, 2017

There's Nowhere They Can't Come

One side effect of homeschooling is that your kids are generally...home. There are no school hours.

I know, you're probably looking at me thinking, "um, yeah, crazy lady. You knew that when you signed on, right? And if you didn't...are you sure you're capable of instruction?"

Yeah, I knew. I was a little hesitant at first, because one of the things I need to remain a quality human being is time alone. I like my me time. I might not even do anything with it, but I like it. Fortunately I have an amazing husband who gets this. Totally supports the hiring of a sitter a few hours a week - in addition to any date night time and makes the effort to give me a few "family free" hours on weekends too. For a homeschooling mom, I can't complain.

Anyway, I have this sitter. And I know I have a few hours a week to work with. But here's the thing. I don't want to "waste" those precious hours with boring things like dentist appointments and car services and errands. That's my time. 

So I had to figure out what's sitter worthy, and what my daily companions can learn to deal with.

So far, it hasn't been too bad, because we have twelve hours a week that Reagan is in preschool, and as every parent of multiple kids knows, once you're down one, it's a cakewalk. Madison has pretty much been everywhere. The dentist, gynecologist, doctor, lab, car appointments, DMV, and every store known to man. So far my only hard no is a spa (where she's not allowed) and waxing (because anything beyond the

Don't get me wrong. I know there are places and times when you need to have some adult only guidelines. I'm not one of those moms who sanctimoniously states that if her kids aren't welcome, then she isn't welcome, because she can't imagine leaving them for a single moment. I'm the opposite. I've fallen in love with Smaland at IKEA, I love the gym only for their KidsZone, and I found a grocery store that has childcare. I make great use of the time that the girls are being taken care of by anyone else and I'm happy to hand them over to anyone that will have them. But for the regular stuff, when your kids are home, and your husband travels, you need to figure this stuff out.

And if they're coming with you, you need to make it easier on yourself.

So we snack before we go somewhere tedious. We use the bathroom before it will become an issue. We bring a bag with books and tablets and drawing stuff.

And I've taught them how to behave. I mean, they're kids, so they aren't perfect, and they are definitely still learning. But I've taught them about interrupting, and about when to sit quietly, and how to stay out of the way of people who aren't used to seeing kids in their office midday.

Because once it's your normal, there is nowhere they can't come.

Except the waxing place. Still a hard no.

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