Thursday, July 28, 2011

Story of the World Student Pages

For those of you who would like to download the Student Pages for Story of the World Volume 3 (as opposed to the full Activity Book mentioned in this post), which has all the maps your child will need and is less than half the cost, click here.

Blank US Outline Maps

Here is a link to some free printable outline maps of the United States. You may wish to print it in a larger size and have your child(ren) add the states each week.

Also, here is a link to online game for the states you might wish to use as well. I let me 2nd grader use her atlas to help in the beginning.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Babies & Homeschooling

I realize many of our readers are qualified to write such a post.  The following is from a friend of mine - with three kids and pregnant with #4.  I asked her advice for trying to homeschool with a baby, since my sweet cherub will be 15 months old when we start back next week! - Julie


Ah, yes...homeschool and babies mixed together.  Fun times!  It definitely makes things a bit more challenging, and, for us, it draws out the school day.  Sometimes we don’t finish up until 5:30pm or so.  That is one of the beauties of home schooling though – you get to determine what, when, where, how much, and even “if”.  I don’t know how easily you adapt to new circumstances, but you might want to prepare yourself for some changes in your school routine and possibly in your ideas of what home schooling should look like.  Personally, I’m not a very good adapter (Hubby has helped me SO much in this area), so it helps me to know about the possibility of changes to come so that I can consider them and prepare myself to handle them well.  You might be one of those (wonderful) people who can go with the flow, handle come what may, etc.  If so, it’s me who needs the tips from you! are some of the things that we do, things that we don’t do, and some of the things that I’ve learned (am still learning):

1. Have some subjects that John Isaac can work on independently.  Keep them in reserve for the time of day that you know Caroline is needy/clingy/fussy/etc.  Examples of this are: assigned reading (2 chapters or so in whatever book you have him reading through), certain Math skills (add./sub./mult./div. tables on charts, or review worksheets), art project, copywork (we do Bible passages), work on Scripture memory – basically anything that he can work on alone.)  Sometimes I can do this with the whole Math lesson.  If the lesson isn’t introducing anything new or complex that needs my instruction, I will simply write out a 1-2-3 list on a white board of what things need to be done in Math that day: 1. Times tables 3-8; 2. Speed Drill #92; 3. Worksheet #92.  I have their workbooks set out so that there is no need for “where’s my such-and-such” questions.)

2. Do some of your subjects/lessons on baby’s level.  Read your History lessons/books on the couch so that she can climb up next to you.  Or on the floor so that she can have her toys strews about and be part of what you are doing.  You can interact with her here and there as you read.  Have John Isaac read certain passages of books aloud and take that time to give a little extra attention to Caroline.  I let my baby sit on my lap or lay on my legs as I read.  She is just happy to be where I am.

3. Be flexible and willing to postpone certain things if it just isn’t working.  There have been times when we’ve been halfway through a chapter in a read-aloud, in the middle of a lesson, or doing Math flashcards and I’ve had to say, “Okay, guys, we’re just going to take a break here and I’ll call you when it’s time to start up again”.  (Big cheers when this happens during Math J).  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to read or teach over a baby’s fussing, calling, etc.

4. Having said that though...  my baby is having to learn to “be quiet” when Mommy is reading or talking to the big kids.  She is learning the words “wait” and “patient”, and she is learning to sometimes do her own activity while we are working on something.  She is learning (slowly) that the world doesn’t revolve around her.  There is a balance (between tips #3 and 4), and you have to determine what is best for you guys.

5. I don’t try to squeeze school between 9:00 and 12:00 (or whatever time frame).  If I try to go from subject to subject without stopping to play with Caroline or snuggle with her, it just doesn’t work.  Like I mentioned above, sometimes we don’t finish school until 5:30 or so.  And we generally start around 9:00 or 9:30.  There are some huge breaks in there.  It has turned out to be really healthy for all of us.  Of course, we live in a very different culture here in Africa.  The US is very time-oriented and having a loose schedule like that might not work.  But just keep in mind that it’s “okay” to have a spelling test at 4:30pm.  Against such things there is no law :)

6. Something that I’m learning:  Baby’s naptime isn’t necessarily the best time to “cram” with school.  “Quick!  She’s sleeping!  Everybody to their desk!  Get your pencil out!!!”  Sometimes I need that quiet time to just relax, take a little nap myself, read, write an e-mail to my mom (therapy :), talk with Hubby (if he’s around).  And really, the big kids sometimes need some play/craft time when Baby isn’t poking her nose in.  She is so interested in everything and she wants to get involved in whatever they are doing.  Very sweet, and yes, the kids need to learn to include her.  But my son also needs some time to create with his Legos without having to worry about Baby sneaking off with his latest masterpiece.  Or my daughter needs to be able to spread her paints on the floor and relax and be creative (not have to keep her paints up on the table!).  So, sometimes naptime is also “break-time” for the rest of us.

Okay, hopefully that will give you some ideas.  Baby just brought me a hymnal and dropped it in my lap and said, “Songs”, so I think that it’s time to sing!

PS – Oh, I almost forgot the thing that I don’t do:  I’ve read about (and it’s been suggested to me) putting your baby in their playpen/pack & play for alone time (in their room).  They say, start at 10 minutes or so, then slowly work up to an hour, or whatever.  Some might find this an ideal time to get home schooling done.  I just have never felt comfortable with doing that.  It seems more like a punishment to me and it doesn’t seem natural.  Members of a family are meant to interact and be together, in all of life.  School and learning are a natural part of life (and of home schooling families) and it seems almost cruel to exclude little ones from being part of it.  Okay, enough said!

What other tips have worked for your family?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Helpful games for this year's math facts

If you're hoping to get a little prepwork done early for this year, you might be like me, cutting out pieces for learning centers and file folder games. I've mentioned a handful of times before, and their Third Grade File Folder Games link has a number of games to help children memorize their multiplication facts. The graphics include volcanoes and comets! I assume they'll be memorizing these for our math memory work again this year (at least it's happened for the past two years in a row).

I'd also recommend the free computer game Timez Attack--which takes awhile to download, but has wonderful graphics and has been effective for teaching even my kindergartener multiplication facts: He saw his brother played the game, and both he and his pre-K sister have given it a go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Intent to homeschool: Helpful information for Little Rock School District

Okay, folks--I offer this information as a help and cannot be held accountable, but as far as I have researched...the current superintendent of LRSD through July 2011, an interim, is Dr. Morris L. Holmes. The Little Rock School District Administrative Office address--and as far as I understand, the superintendent's office, is located at 810 W. Markham, Little Rock, AR, 72201.

If anyone finds information that differs from this for Intent to Homeschool form purposes, please post a comment to enlighten the rest of us!

Friendly reminder: File your intent to homeschool!

Don't forget to file your intent to homeschool for the school year of 2011-2012! It must be filed by August 15. I would have forgotten without my friendly Outlook reminder...

Monday, July 18, 2011

What I Use and Why - Amy Loften

I blogged about our curriculum choices here at Loften Academy not that long ago. Janel and I must be on the same wavelength. I love it! We also use the work box system and I have posts on that, too. Rather than attempt a copy and paste which could get ugly, I'll just put links here. Know that you are welcome to call or contact me at any time to pick my brain or share some of yours.
Our Curriculum
We Choose Virtues (new for us this year)
Work Boxes

Tax-free holiday for school supplies and clothes!

Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7 are "tax-free holidays" in the state of Arkansas for school-related purchases, including school supplies and clothes. Check out the link for full information.

Helpful "refresher" posts for new homeschoolers--or a new year

As a help to the new moms in town--or the rest of us to whom last year is a bit of a blur--here is the first post of some links to some practical, perennial posts from last year.

1) A solution for memorizing Greek and Latin roots: Roots Memory

2) DIY Handwriting

3)  DIY Reading

4) How to explode your library card

5) An amazing Worksheet Maker, including crossword puzzles, word finds, etc.

6) Word Slides and Word Wheels for phonics practice--great for new readers

7) Free typing practice website

8) Picture books that teach values

9) Tutoring in the Little Rock area

10) You've got mail: E-mailing your child's assignments

11) A few DIY resources: Mystery cards; Excel-created games; picture-word journal

Can you help the new moms (and can't-remember moms)? What "perennial" posts were helpful for your homeschooling last year?

Link to download Story of the World Activity Book 3

Rather than ferret out and purchase the Story of the World Activity Book 3, you might consider downloading a PDF for $26.50 here from You are allowed five downloads for this purchase. Last year, we only needed select pages from the book, so you might wait to print until we receive the list of page numbers from Tanya, Kristi, or your child's teacher.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Curriculum and resources: What would you recommend?

If you aren't already mopping your brow in relief for having purchased your curriculum, you're in the mad dash to collect the best resources. You're likely aiming to match texts with your child's aptitudes and learning styles--and help teach all the fascinating things you'd like them to learn this year.

With that in mind, I'll get the ball rolling for recommendations with a few ideas that have helped us. Some have already been mentioned on the blog. And would you please chime in with the curriculum you love so we can all benefit?

1. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons: I must admit: Because I am a visual person who loves four-color interiors to hold my kids' attention, I was initially turned off by the black and white interiors and only occasional pictures. But it builds solid readers, and my kids don't seem to mind it--especially when they get going. The lessons take less than 20 minutes, are done well sitting beside each other or sitting on your lap, have been teaching kids to read for decades, and have your child reading at a second-grade level when it's all said and done.

2. Story of the World Audio CD, Volume 3: This worth every penny last year for our family. My kids listen to them over and over while they play Legos, before they go to bed, and when they're running around their room. It even became a joke in our house when one of my sons would spout out some random history fact that I never knew: "Where'd you hear that?" "Story of the World!" Like, hello, Mom! Because homeschooling gives me a lot of quality time with my kids, I actually value having some solid activities in my back pocket that allow them to learn deeply while I, say, fold the three piles of laundry that have been waiting their turn, or sit down to eat breakfast.

3. Draw Write Now: Wonderful for kids working on handwriting, this resource combines a drawing lesson with copywork based on the resulting picture. Each volume is based on history (like American history) or science (like the Antarctic). I'm not extremely linear, so I don't mind allowing my son to pick out which lesson he's going to do next. He's learned to draw basic forts, people, airplanes, and animals so far!

4. Building Thinking Skills: I'll give a shout out to Tamara Sims for showing me this series and its company, The Critical Thinking Co. These books cover more than one year and progressively teach logic skills. (It's great paired with software like Zoombinis.) Though again only boasting black and white interiors, the books claim to improve vocabular, reading, writing, math, logic, and spatial skills as well as visual and auditory processing (think of the analogies used in the SAT).

5. Big Truths for Little Kids: We're going to use this for the devotional element of our schedule for our second grader this year. It uses fun little attention-grabbing stories to drive home simple catechism questions and Scripture.

6. My ABC Bible Verses: By the same author of Big Truths for Little Kids, this book has short stories that illuminate 26 Scriptures to memorize together.

7. Seeds Family Worship: We have purchased every one of these! Each one has at least 12 verses put to catchy music that you don't have to play in the back of your minivan to keep your sanity. If you've got a child in K4 or K5 this year, they'll be learning songs from Seeds of Courage and Seeds of Faith, I believe. These have increased my own meditation and memorization of Scripture, and I don't even mind the tunes running through my head. They're definitely sung around our house!

8. Hot Dots pen and make-your-own Hot Dots: I posted about these last year. Though there are available flashcards and interactive mats that are sold for the pen, we use it for test prep--and my son loves it. To use, I find or create a multiple-choice worksheet, and place a "hot" dot on the correct answers--and "cold" dots on the others. When my son puts the pen on the correct answer, the pen lights up and tells him, "Correct!" or "Good job!" or some sound of success--and of course the opposite for a wrong answer. They're great for reading comprehension cards like these.

9: Ten-drawer cart: This purchase literally saved my school year last year. This is essentially our homeschool day planner and regulator. Julie posted the concept of workboxes last year, and both of us used it the whole year with our sons. The main benefit: It removes me from being the driver of my son's day, and puts his schedule squarely in his hands, teaching responsibility, time management, and more independent learning. The night before, I spend 15-20 minutes filling each drawer, putting in all needed materials and a sticky note explaining the requirement for the box. I alter activities he likes with those he doesn't like, counter worksheets with hands-on activities and art projects, and include fun, active things like "Kung Fu for Kids for fifteen minutes". I request that he get started by 8:30 in the morning, and if he's got all his boxes finished by 2:30, he gets a reward--the kind that motivates him every day (you'll have to leave a comment if you want to know!). This means I am hands-on when teaching a new activity or offering help, and otherwise am considerably hands-off. No more driving.

10. Your buddy: Grab a friend at the Comm. Central meeting and see if they'd like to swap resources with you back and forth. Julie and I traded hands-on activities like floor puzzles and continent puzzles, file folder games, math manipulatives, sorting activities, games, etc. It kept our days (and our workboxes) more varied and fun.

Okay, help us all out! What resources would you recommend?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I called a friend today to ask her advice on getting better narrations from my soon-to-be second grade son.  She gave me some advice then said she'd email me the link to a helpful resource.

Here's the link to a bookmark you can print to help your student narrate better.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mark your calendars: Mardel sale

Mardel will be having their sale of 20% educational supplies on Thursday, July 21--just in time for Comm. Central!

Book recommendation: art

In the midst of my scavenging for great texts for next year, I came upon Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters. Categorized by experience level, art technique, planning and preparation, and artist style, this book has 110 unique art activities for kids aged 4-12 based on great masters from the Renaissance to the present. Studying Van Gogh, for example, kids can try his impasto technique, or make a "starry night" using concentric dotted circles as he did. (We did a little of this last year when we made a fresco for Michelangelo or painted lying on our backs.) Should have some great ideas for this year!