Wednesday, September 20, 2017

World Traveling (Digitally!)

Geography is one of those things that's important to include in an elementary curriculum, but definitely doesn't work well as a "workbook" activity.  Let’s Go Geography has fun homeschool geography course that includes many hands-on activities, and I was happy to get the chance to review it!

Let's Go Geography

We've tried a few geography programs with varying degrees of success (great, but expensive; perfect style, but not "enough", etc) as well as a mom/library directed study where we get books and DVDs and try to work our way through with projects I find online. But the girls love hands on programs with plenty of things to do, and not being a super-Pinterest mom, I burned out on that pretty quickly. 

Let’s Go Geography is an online subscription for  K-4th graders that will introduce students to the tastes, sounds, and sights of different countries around our globe each week. The author, Carol Henderson, has been teaching geography in her co-op, and now the program is available in digital format.

Let's Go Geography

What I like is that it works well for both girls together, and I don't need to worry about not receiving enough materials. This subscription style curriculum will send you an email each week with a hands-on study for a new location to explore, or you can download the entire year and pick and choose countries you want to visit.  Each year is 36 weeks and will cover 26 countries, and 2 regions of the the USA, and the full curriculum is designed to take three years.

Let's Go Geography
Each week’s lesson is designed to take about an hour.  The downloadable PDF lessons include 5 chapters with with a variety of activities, so you can spread it out over five days, or combine chapters into fewer days. I like to do two days, usually covering chapter 1 and 2 on the first day, and 3-5 on the second. (We school four days a week with the fifth day available for projects, field trips, and catch up, so we have used that fifth day to do some of the creating). All of the printables for the flags, notebooking, and coloring are included in the 6th "chapter", which felt more like an appendix.

In Chapter 1 the students locate the country on the map and learn some basic facts. We use our globe as well. I'm helping my second grader to jot down a few notes.

In Chapter 2 the focus is on the flag. Print, color, cut and paste the flag into your Travel Journal (three-ring binder) to keep all the geography mementos organized.  Free printable covers come with your subscription.

Chapters 3-5 have the students delve into the culture. In Chapter 3 they will listen and watch the music of the country with online videos – all videos are in a safe viewing mode – no YouTube ads or comments. Chapter 4 has them sightseeing, focusing on landmarks, food, and the people. Finally, in Chapter 5, you're doing a real hands on activity with step by step instructions and a detailed list of supplies.

Your membership gives you access for a year for all of your students - and even your co-op if you want to make it a class! This is definitely a plus when you're teaching multiple kids. Since it's all digital, you don't need to worry about sharing supplies. Although you get an email each week reminding you which country is up next to cover, there is some flexibility to skip around. This is good for us, because it lets us align with other things we may be doing, or with my husband's travel. We haven't gotten to go with him yet, but it's nice to be able to jump over to China the week that Daddy is in Shanghai for work, and then have a real conversation with him when he gets home. My husband and I are traveling to Hawaii in November, so I held on to that lesson, and they'll do it while we're gone.

We also chose to do interactive journals instead of binders (we have journals for different things - field trips, pleasure reading, documentaries we watch, history units, etc). The journals travel much more easily for us, and it lets us really discuss what's important as we cut and paste and copy. I do love how neat the binders are for organizing, and we may switch later on, but so far, we've been successful with a smaller format.

Overall, the girls are loving it. They love learning the National Anthems, the flags, and marking the countries we've "visited" on our map! I'm excited to keep going!

Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

If You Were Me

When we delve into history and geography, I really like the girls to get a sense of what life is or was REALLY like for the people who live or lived there. Carole P. Roman does this wonderfully in her books, and I was so happy we got to review four of them!

This post contains affiliate links.

Carole P Roman Blog

Last year, without knowing anything about the author, I purchased a few of the geography themed books to use with Madison. Madison absolutely loves the idea of being immersed in a different culture and wondering how other lives differ from her own. It takes abstract concepts and attaches faces to them. It's one thing to see a picture and read facts, but it's quite another to see what those facts meant for a child in the culture.

This time, we received four historical books. I had my eye on If You Were Me and Lived in . . .The American West and If You Were Me and Lived in . . .Ancient Greece. I also received If You Were Me and Lived in. . .The Ancient Mali Empire and If You Were Me and Lived in . . .Renaissance Italy.

If You Were Me and Lived in . . .The American West was a great book to start with. Madison and I have read several historical fiction books together about families during this time period and how the United States expanded from east to west.

I like that there was plenty of opportunity for discussion. The author puts both phonetic pronunciations as well as definitions and alternate names for unfamiliar vocabulary. I didn't know that a covered wagon was really called a "conestoga"! The author discusses what might make up a particular wagon train, and what hardships you might face. We re-read one of our historical fiction books and talked about this life, and what ultimately awaited the settlers in the West. At the end, there is a glossary, along with famous people from this time.

Books by Carole P Roman

To be honest, I couldn't have imaged myself picking this book of the shelf, but I'm so glad we got the chance to explore If You Were Me and Lived in . . .Renaissance Italy. I honestly didn't know a lot about that time - only what I'd done in school and didn't retain all that well. It was fascinating to all of us. Reagan loved this book because it made her think of the time of Sleeping Beauty, with the clothing and parties and homes. Madison has begun learning about famous artists, and she loved hearing about how the Medici financed so much culture we still know today.

Books by Carole P Roman

Ancient Mali is another civilization where I definitely can't call myself an expert, and it wasn't on my homeschool radar right now, but If You Were Me and Lived in. . .The Ancient Mali Empire was another fascinating read. I didn't know at all about the Ghanaian roots or that the culture flourished under the Muslim religion. The girls were fascinated about how different this was from how they live now - everything from homes to the roles different people had to how the region came to house such a great empire. I learned more than they did, and I'm interested to learn more!

Books by Carole P Roman

Ancient Greece was an area that Madison and I briefly studied over the summer, so If You Were Me and Lived in . . .Ancient Greece was a nice wrap up to our reading. Madison already had some very strong opinions on the treatment of women in this particular culture from some reading we'd done before, and I think she was hoping to read that it wasn't always the case and was disappointed to find that this particular historical fact holds fast. However, it provided a good jumping point for discussions about how and why cultures change, and how that change comes about. She did love the mythology that was discussed.

Books by Carole P Roman

All the books, just like the first, make sure to define and assist with unfamiliar words (although I did wish the phonetics had been as footnotes, rather than in the text). These books are a great supplement to history and geography study for elementary aged kids. I know that I'll be looking for them every time we study a new time or a new place!

I was astounded by how many books Carole P. Roman has authored, and how wide her net reaches into cultures and places. I loved reading about what others received and how they liked them!

Oh Susannah, Bedtime Stories, Captain No Beard, If you were Me ... {Carole P. Roman Reviews}

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Running Out of Gas

These days I feel like I'm running out of gas.

It's like the first weeks of school when I had four hundred kids. I was prepared, I was planned, I was organized, and I was ready, but man, it is tiring. After the first day you're feeling tired, but good. By mid week, you're dragging. By the weekend, you're exhausted. And by Monday number two, you can't believe that you have to start the week feeling this run down.

Except I'm not with four hundred kids. I'm with two. I should NOT feel this exhausted. is an adjustment.

I'm trying to adjust to teaching two kids two completely different things. I'm trying to give them each enough attention. I'm trying to keep their work organized. I'm trying to keep the supplies organized. I'm trying to make sure they're each giving their own work focused attention. And I'm trying to make sure they don't totally hate school.

And keep the house reasonably clean. And keep everyone fed. And the laundry done. And the errands done. And the extra curricular schedule maintained. And MY writing done. And my husband given at least a LITTLE attention. And. And. And.

I am running out of gas.

If your car runs out of gas, it's a hassle. It's a problem. Now, because you let that tank drain to the absolute bottom, you have a much bigger job to get things moving again.

When my tank runs dry, it's not pleasant. I'm cranky and sarcastic and short tempered with my family (I'm still perfectly pleasant to strangers, but we'll figure that out another day). I start dropping balls. I start forgetting things. I look at what needs to be done, and with no energy to do it, I make it so much worse.

Homeschooling moms (and all moms, obviously) need to keep themselves topped up.

We need quiet time at some point during the day. Not quiet time to clean or organize or plan, but quiet time to read. Or write. Or think.

We need time away from the family that we love so much that we opted to have them home all the time (not why we chose to homeschool, but it's a perk). Not time away to grocery shop, but time to get a coffee or tea or our nails done or to meet up with friends.

We need our husbands and our kids to fill our tanks with words and deeds. Helping without being asked. Telling us we did a great job.

Once we're full, we can go like no one's business. And once we're settled into our groove, we can run for a while before the tank starts to bottom out.

And really, if a cookie, a clean sink, and a cup of tea is all you need, isn't the stop to refill much easier than the hassle of running on empty?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Make the Appointment

Here's an issue with homeschooling.

How the heck do I make appointments for things?

I mean, at the risk of giving out too much information, I need to get in to see my gynecologist and get everything up to date. For obvious reasons, I can't bring the girls. I just can't.

I also don't like bringing them to the dentist with me.

Or to get a haircut.

Or an eyebrow wax.

Yes, they have tablets, and books, and they know how to amuse themselves. But it's just hard. Reagan, especially, is just still too young to not be needy. She needs to use the bathroom. She needs me to log her into her game. She needs me to figure out why she's not on wifi anymore. She needs me to help her draw a dog, read this word, open her snack. It's incredibly distracting. And while Madison isn't quite as needy, she has keen ears and is very interested. What's wrong with that tooth? Why do you have to sit like that? Why can't I watch? What do they mean by that? Why are you doing that?

I mean, the dentist and gynecologist aren't exactly a spa visit, but adding two kids makes it stressful.

I'm luckier than most. With advance notice, if his travel permits it, Adam can have the girls stay home. They're old enough now to understand what it means when he's on the phone, or when his door is closed. But there have been plenty of times when I've made an appointment six months out, crossing my fingers, and it doesn't work. Then I call, reschedule, get it pushed back, inevitably call and reschedule again...and soon I just give up.

Which is probably not smart.

I mean, delaying appointments NEVER leads to good stuff. Little problems become big problems. Even delaying simple oil changes can be a big deal, so delaying the doctor is definitely not a good idea.

It's like basic maintenance on pretty much everything. You need to take care of yourself, to keep things running, and to make sure the one steering the ship is in tip top shape.

But man, sometimes it's hard to make the appointment.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Does it Matter?

I can be a total enigma, even to myself.

There are times where I will get the cheapest possible options. I look at a shirt in Target, see that it's $19.99, and determine it's too expensive for me and to wait for clearance. I can't fathom spending triple digits on a haircut and so I'll go to the walk in place with a coupon.

But then, the best shoes I own right now are my Tieks ballet flats, and I just switched from using $2 Suave to an $84 hair system from Monat. There's no mistaking that there's quality in both.

I'm a brand snob when it comes to certain things at the grocery or big box store. Detergent. Crayons. Ketchup. But there are also times when there's no way I'm paying double the price for the logo.

Basically, I don't have a hard line in the sand. I'll go cheap until I'm convinced otherwise, but once I'm convinced, I have a hard time going back.

Then, recently, something got me thinking about these choices.

I went to get an oil change. When I first got my car, I faithfully got all my service done at the dealership. Then, as the car got older and I had kids, I started having a hard time making the appointments in advance and driving a half hour away. My father-in-law sold me the car, and while he worked there, he helped me out by making the appointments. Then he retired, the car was out of warranty, and it just didn't seem worth it. So I started going to a place in town, and then, when I realized I wasn't great at making appointments there either, to quick change places where I could drive in and out.

I actually liked the last place I'd been going. It was cheap. There was a loyalty program. I got the car washed and vacuumed, and I was in and out in less than thirty minutes. We'd chat, just the usual stuff. Yup, back again, my car was old, and the guy knew it leaked oil and I'm hoping to replace it. Totally worth it the cheap price.

Then, last time, I brought the car, the oil change was uneventful, I drove to Target, came back...and the car wouldn't idle. Every time I braked, it stalled. This was particularly fun when I was driving down busy down roads with lots of traffic lights. I'd come to a red light, I'd stall. I'd turn the car off, start when the light turned again, and drive, but it was unbelievably stressful. I started and restarted and panicked all the way back to the garage. I mean, the car ran fine, I had the oil changed, and now it was stalling? That could NOT be a coincidence.

And then I learned the downside of a cheap place. The guy sort of threw his hands up, said "probably time to get that new car", and then said "at least it starts again". The one thing he was certain of is that it had absolutely nothing to do with the oil change. Totally coincidental and not his fault. That part, he was sure of. As for why the car was stalling, he had no idea.

So, yeah. Not so much with the customer service. Not so much with a satisfaction guarantee.

I'll save the details for another day (including why friends you can count on are amazing), but it's safe to say I'll be forking over a few extra dollars to give my car a bit more TLC at the end of its life.

Sometimes, it matters. And when it matters, it's worth it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

An Ounce of Preparation...

So along with our math and reading and writing, this year, I made sure to make a note that I want to work on life skills. Some of those are things that any parent, no matter how they school, are teaching. But other things can be avoided. If you have kids who are worriers, talking to them about potential issues can be tricky. Fires. People who may want to hurt them in some way. Getting lost. Getting trapped. When are you scaring them, and when are you preparing them?

I was chatting with a few people in a mom group online about how to approach these topics, and some were adamant that not all of them were really necessary (to be fair, this particular contingent were parents of babies who are facing none of these actual issues). Why talk to them about getting lost if you can't imagine letting them out of your sight? Why talk to them about "tricky people" if you will always be close by? Why teach them how to unbuckle/get out of the car on their own if you can't fathom ever leaving them there?

I remember talking with my Dad once about insurance. I forget why. I think I was still in high school, which makes me think that it probably stemmed from the expenses of owning a car.

Basically, he told me that insurance is something you invest in with the hope of never "getting your money's worth". You have homeowner's insurance even if you lock your house. You have car insurance even if you're a safe driver. You have medical insurance even if you're healthy. You faithfully pay those premiums, all while praying that you never get any money in return - in fact, you take an active role in ensuring that you won't need to. You secure your house, you follow the rules of the road, and you take care of your body.

But when it all falls apart, you have a safety net.

Sometimes the best parenting is planning for when something falls apart, even while doing your very best to make sure it doesn't.

I've started talking to the girls about what happens if they lose me in a crowd or don't know where I am. At a store, in a crowd, wherever. I've taught them my phone number, and I've taught them who to approach (someone in a uniform or a mom with kids).

I've talked to them about what to do if I get hurt and they need to help me. I don't intend to fall down the stairs and knock myself out, or for anything else to happen, but I recently knew someone who was my age, healthy, and just had a mini stroke. That's scary. They know how to call 911 and where on my phone to find the other numbers to call.

They know how to avoid fires, but they also know to get out of the house if there's a fire and get help.

I certainly don't plan for them to be in the car without me, but we had a scare where Reagan misunderstood directions, got in Adam's car and buckled, and then couldn't unbuckle when she realized no one else was following her out. That taught us to teach the girls what to do if you're trapped in the car.

Schools do fire drills and lockdown drills. They aren't practicing, thinking that they'll use them and all that time will be "worth it". They teach it because of that teeny tiny chance that that information could save lives. It's pretty simple really.

Who do you look for to help? What do you do?

This doesn't mean you're planning to forget them, leave the stove on, or let go of them in a crowded situation. You're giving them tools to help themselves.

Because when you think about it, having a plan makes the scary stuff a lot less scary.
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