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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Circle Time by: Preschoolers and Peace TOS Review

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I was sent the "Circle Time" ebook 
by: Preschoolers and Peace 
with Kendra Fletcher for review.  

PDF format $4.99

Recommended for children of all ages.

What Is This? -

This is an ebook that instructs you how to put together your own 'circle time' with your family.  It consist of 33 pages.  This is a great way to bring your family together to do things that you need to get accomplished.  You can use it in your homeschooling day to  incorporate prayer, scriptures, stories, conversations, school work, etc.  Circle time is a time where you would implement things that you want your family to do together or to do the things you run out of time for in your typical homeschool day and/or life.  It isn't just for homeschoolers.  Families can benefit from this ebook as well.

You may have children of all ages, toddler to teens, and that is ok.  Kendra Fletcher teaches how to bring them all together for some family / learning time. To learn more about Kendra Fletcher, click HERE.

The e-book includes some great strategies for time together that is peaceful and productive, how to get your children interested and creating circle time that works for your family and you!  She also included some helpful printable planner sheets.  Don't you just get all gitty when it comes to free printables?  I love them!

The printouts that are included give you a type of wish list, or check list as I call it, that will help you decide how your circle time should be used for your needs.  Here is an example of one of the printables.

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Kendra suggests that you name your circle time anything you want.  You can have the name 'family time' or 'catch up hour', whatever fits your family or need.  You can also choose how long your circle time is.  If you have several little ones, your time may not be very long due to their attention span.  If you have teens, you may want to incorporate some schooling in that time that you could do together.  A subject like Bible would be great for a group/ family of all ages, then after the Bible time, you can have something for the little ones to do, like give the little ones 'special things' while the older ones continue with the circle time.  Those special things can be new coloring books (only used at circle time), play dough, puzzles, etc.. Or if you have some children close to the same age, you may want to have Spelling or Science time. If you have several ages in there,

How I Used the product -

We kept the name 'circle time' and we used this at dinner time when we could.  I know, it doesn't really sound like the ideal time to implement things, but for our family this was the only real time we had together.  Through the homeschool year, we eat dinner together every night, but throughout the summertime, it gets pretty scarce.  One of my boys was gone for a week long youth camp, off to see relatives for two weeks, then off to a different camp upon his return.  My oldest son has a part time job over the summer so he was gone most nights.  My youngest goes to a one week day camp as well which means he doesn't eat dinner with us as a family during that week.  Of course the children are gone during some of the review time, but we were still able to sneak it in when we could and there were few nights where they were all three gone.  So we implemented our circle time only twice a week on the weeks the boys were here.  Honestly, that is all we could do at this time of the year.

What we did with our circle time is prayer requests, who we admired in our lives and why, a few things that we were thankful for, etc.  We also used this time to discuss anything exciting or important going on in each of our lives and what our schedule is coming up over the next couple of days.  We also discussed our agenda for the week so everyone was aware of what was going on and we were all on the same page. ;)

Because of the age difference in my two homeschooled sons, there really wasn't any subjects we can do together.  Even our Bible is different now a days.  I do plan to use this circle time though when we start our next homeschool year this fall to start our day.  I plan to have us pray together, maybe read a few daily scriptures, go over the daily chore lists, discuss our daily homeschool expectations and agendas for that day and week. 

I would also like to mention that this would be a great GIFT for a homeschooling mother to start out her homeschool year, a preschool teacher, or a stay-at-home mom with little ones!

Overall I found this to be a great idea.  Honestly, we have done this before and it seemed to keep us all on track. But as the children grow, their interests grow so they have different subjects in their homeschooling, different daily schedules, etc.  But we really need to get back into the groove of this.  It is a great way for our family to stay close.  So even if we have to do our 'circle time' two nights at week at the dinner's worth it.


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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Do you have your homeschool planner yet?

Are you planning the upcoming homeschool year yet?

Do you have your curriculum in order? 

Do you have your schedule planned out? 


Then you better hurry! 

 Today only - FREE shipping on any U.S. order from HEDUA! 

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I am an HEDUA Affiliate so I get a percentage of orders placed through my blog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being Thankful

Being thankful isn't just about saying 'Thank You'.  It has to do with our attitude and how we treat others.  When we are thankful for our family, we treat our family well.  We look after one another, we give advice when we feel necessary, we do things for each other without complaining (yes, without complaining),  and we love them unconditionally like Christ loves us. 

Being thankful for our church is doing the same.  Being there and doing things for each other unconditional.  Loving one another like Christ loves us.

Being thankful for our bodies is treating our body with respect.  We should eat right, drink lots of water, fill it with the good natural things that God intended it to be filled with.  Respect it.  Take care of it.

Being thankful for my husband means being there for him after work.  It means having dinner on the table when he comes home from a hard days work in the hot sun.  It means having the house clean so he can sit and relax.  It means listening to how his day went, if he wants to share.

Being thankful is so much more than just saying the words 'Thank You'.   

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Creating your own Homeschool Lesson Plan

I love creating my own lesson plans.  I will be starting my 10'th of homeschooling this fall and I have probably made over 100 different lesson plans over the years.  Sometimes I change it during the school year to fit our curriculum and needs.  It takes a few weeks to see whether a certain lesson plan with work for us.  Sometimes I tweak them, or create a entirely different lesson plan.  I am homeschooling two boys and they don't have the same lesson plan format either.  They have different needs so why should they have the same type of lesson plans? 

Here is a sample of my soon to be 5'th graders lesson plans:

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For his lesson plans I chose to do a 'subject style' plan.  I figured out how many lessons for each subject I need to accomplish that week and then put it to paper.  This is really different than the daily lesson plan and we may have to get used to it.  But I think it will better serve us than others in the past.

When I look at this page, it tells me everything that needs to be done within the week.  If appointments come up or we get interrupted, I can see what exactly I need to make up and get to before the end of the week comes.

I won't get behind in his textbooks.
It keeps us on track throughout the year.
He has a goal.

If he achieves this goal and finishes early, then he can take a Friday afternoon off or better yet, a day!  He is still getting his work done, why not reward him?  Incentive people, incentive!  Some kids need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Now, for my high schooler, his lesson plans are a bit different.  He needs daily lesson plans drawn out for him.  He needs to know exactly what is required of him daily, otherwise he will become a slacker.  Yes, the life of a teenager is exhausting and full of drama at times.  ;)  So this keeps him on track.  Also, with more requirements & credit calculations, he needs to stay on track to earn these credits in a timely manner.

Here is a sample of my high school son's lesson plan:

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As you can see, it is fairly simple.  Almost too simple.  Thurs & Fri are on the back of this sheet identical to the first three days with the exception of no Spanish II on Friday.  If you look on the line under the daily 'Notgrass' line, the assignments for that curricula is listed.  He just makes a 'check mark' after the bold type assignments.  

I also, place the weekly schedule on a clipboard for him.  When he gets up, he reviews the clipboard and takes what books he needs up to his room to do his work.  He listens to Contemporary Christian music while doing his work and I don't mind this at all.  He seems to do a good job.  The music keeps him 'in the zone' and the privacy of his room gives him a 'distraction free' area to work.  

On the first day of our homeschool year, we take a little bit of time and spend it going over what is expected this school year.  I even have my boys sign a paper.  Yes, I do.  It is a contract.  It states all the homeschool rules and expectation.  When a rule is broken, or an expectation isn't met, I take our the contract and show it to them and explain that they knew about the expectations and rules.  I don't think I am very strict in my homeschooling, we are pretty relaxed.  But, that doesn't mean we can't have some kind of structure.  If we don't nip this in the bud, we get off track and spend too much time dealing with discipline issues.  Yes, my boys still act up.  All children do.  I think most children that are unattended, will slack in their work and daydream.  If the phone rings, my youngest sons pencil hits the table and he is gone!  So most of the time, I set the ring tone on low and record a message on my answering machine that lets people know that we are homeschooling, and we will have to call them back after our day is finished.

I do several little things to try and make our day run smoothly, but the right lesson plan for each child is the big one!

Feel free to copy the plans above if you'd like and HAPPY LESSON PLANNING!

Monday, July 8, 2013

35% off only!

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 This sale is today, July 8'th only!  
So hurry and click the link or pic to get your homeschool planner now!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer Canning like my momma

I remember my mother canning when I was a kid.  I remember her up at the crack of dawn and working in the hot kitchen all day.  Jar after jar lined up on the kitchen countertops.  I would hear the whistling of the canner, and the clinging of glass jars being washed in the kitchen sink.  I remember her sitting at the kitchen table trimming veggies and drinking sweetened sun tea with lots of ice.  She sent us three kids outside to play so we wouldn't be in her way or get hurt.  

We lived on a farm with cows, pigs, turkeys and some chickens.  We would go outside all day and play in the grass, on the swingset and then when it got hot, later in the day, we'd play with the water hose.

I now find myself sending the boys out to play or to their room to play with legos so my hubby and I can can.  He did most of it at first.  I was terrified of the canner.  My mother had some jars of tomatoes explode once.  There were tomatoes everywhere in the kitchen.  Luckily no one was hurt. ;)

I got over my fear as I watched my hubby last summer do the canning.  That was our first year so we didn't get much done.  We froze most of our tomatoes and beans.  

This year we have loads of yellow wax beans coming......and coming......and coming.  We just finished our 42 quart jars of them today. 

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When I say finished, I mean finished for the day.  We have tons more to do.  When those are all picked, we'll till the garden and there will be time left this summer to plant another load.  We mainly harvest beans, cucumbers (for pickling), tomatoes, corn and sugar snap peas.

I never thought I'd be doing this.  As a teenager, I couldn't wait to get out on my own and move to the city.  Well, I've lived in the city ....... I wanted out!  So I found myself back in the country, canning....just like my momma did.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Make a list of things to accomplish this homeschool year!

There is so many things as a homeschool mother that I want to teach my children & tweak our homeschool.  There just isn't enough time in the day to add too much 'new' stuff.  I have an idea in my head about things I want them to learn about this year and things I want to 'tweak'.  I don't believe that over loading the kids with nonsense or 'busy work' is fair,  so make these additions worth the time.  So make sure you ask yourself what benefit will the children be gaining with this 'add on'.  Is this leaving you free time but not gaining the children anything beneficial?  Being a homeschool mother, you know that time is more valuable than gold these days.   There also is only a certain amount of 'attention time span' that one contains - child and adult.  When one sits too long, their bottom gets tired and they start loosing focus.  Funny, our pastor just mentioned that in church this past Sunday and it is so true!

So I figured out how to pick and choose what I want to accomplish this homeschool year.  And if I don't get to that particular subject or topic, then we'll get to it the next homeschool year. :) There are several things that we are doing, that I want to focus a bit more on as well.

So here is a list that I want my high schooler to accomplish this year.  I guess you could say that these are MY goals for him this year.

*  more practice with balancing his saving account statement

*  more volunteer work in the community

*  more productive in time management

*  setting a 'wake up' time and sticking to it

*  eating breakfast (seems like it wouldn't be a challenge, but it is)

*  create a resume

*  practice an interview

*  start calling around to colleges for information needed and how to obtain scholarships

For my higher elementary age child, this is my list for him to accomplish this year.

*  more independent reading of school lessons / directions

*  more writing & reading practice

*  write more letters to Grandma

*  more productive in time management (yes, this could be on my list as well)

*  take more responsibility around the house with chores

*  more of a concrete schedule for the homeschool day in general

Now for MOM's list to accomplish:

*  make better use in time management ;)

*  remove distractions from our homeschool day (like not answering phone)

*  schedule a set time to break for lunch 

*  schedule a set time to return calls and take care of duties

*  delegate more things to the children

*  set one afternoon for errands, appointments and grocery store runs

*  get up and start my day earlier (so I get my part time job finished or at least started before the kids get up)

*  have a dinner plan the night before

This is just a start.  Good news is that I can add to this all summer as I plan my next homeschool year.

So think about what YOU would like to implement into your homeschool year.  What would you like to add?  Is there anything you don't like or you think might not be working?  What about taking something out?  

Your homeschool planning is totally up to you.  If there isn't time for spelling, spanish or music, then take a year off!  Yes, I did just say to take a year off of these.  It's ok.  Your child will not forget to spell, speak spanish or even play their instrument.  Remember, your homeschool MUST work for your family.  

We all at one point or another see other homeschool families and think 'Wow, I wish we could do that' or 'We aren't doing any of that, should we be?'.  We compare our homeschools to others.  Don't.  Every homeschool family is different.  Every homeschool family's needs are different.  What will work for your family, may not work for another and vice versa.  So try not to compare.  Sharing homeschool schedules and plans are good though.  Getting new homeschool ideas and strategies  are always good.  Just keep in mind ..... share..... don't compare.  

I hope your upcoming homeschooling year is awesome!  

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IEW TOS Review

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I received two products from
 Institute For Excellence in Writing to review:


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Price:   TWSS  $169.00  ISBN: 978-1-62341-099-5

                 SWI $109.00     ISBN: 978-0-9840990-1-6
Level A - Recommended for grades 3-5.

What Is This? -

The SWI (Student Writing Intensive) is a writing curriculum for all students.  

There are three levels:  
Level A (Grades 3-5)
Level B (Grades 6-8) 
Level C (Grades 9-12).  

Note: This review will consist only of information on Level A (Recommend for grades 3-5) because that is what I received for review.  

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The SWI Level A set includes a binder with the materials needed for the course such as paragraph samples and teaching lesson plans / guide to follow.  

The set also contains 5 DVD's-

Disc One - Outlines, Summary, Dress-Up

Disc Two - Story Summary, Dress-Up

Disc Three - Reference Summary, Paragraph Structure

Disc Four - Creative Writing

Disc Five - Structure and Style Overview

Here is a sample of what the lesson plan looks like.

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There are step by step instructions to follow.

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The TWSS (Teaching Writing Structure Style) is a seminar type curriculum for the teacher / parent.  This teaches you everything you need to know to teach your student / children how to be a successful writer. 

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The TWSS contains a binder & 10 DVD's with step by step instructions.  It even has writing exercised for you to do so you can get a feel of what will be required of your student(s).  There are several examples on what to expect from your student(s) as well.

The DVD's in this set are:

Disc One - Overview of Structure and Style

Disc Two - Stylistic Techniques: "Dress-Up"

Disc Three - Stylistic Techniques: Sentence Openers

Disc Four - Stylistic Techniques: Advanced 
Dress-Ups, Decorations, and Triples

Disc Five - Writing Reports / Creative Writing

Disc Six - Essays / Critiques, Conclusion

Disc Seven - Tips & Tricks for teaching

Disc Eight - Student Writing Workshop Elementary Level 

Disc Nine -  Student Writing Workshop Intermediate Level 

Disc Ten - Student Writing Workshop High School Level

Things you will need for this course:

A good white board, markers & eraser are really important for this program.  I purchased mine at Lowe's for about $10.00.  The markers (4 different colors) and eraser I purchased at Walmart for about $6.  You can substitute the white board with a chalk board if necessary.  Of course you'll also need notebook paper, pen and pencils.  

Details & How We Used The SWI Level A -

I used this with my 10 year old son. We used this four days per week.  

First we watched the lesson on the DVD.  We watched the section we were assigned in the lesson plan and then began the writing assignment.  

First my son had to underline three words in each sentence that he thought were important. 

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Below, he is working so hard thinking and choosing his words carefully.  If the child chooses words that will make it difficult for him, you can suggest better ones.  Such as a few nouns and one verb, etc.  The instructor explains this in the TWSS course.  There are several teaching tips like this that will become useful to you while teaching the SWI levels.

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Then, after all of the underlining was completed, he had to write those three words out on notebook paper in his binder.  In the picture below, I wrote out on the white board what my son was writing on paper.

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The reason for doing this (writing on the white board what the child is writing) is to help them without 'hovering' over them.  You can also use this stragegy to suggest better words for them to use.  For example, if the sentence says "The sowbug is a close relative" and the child writes the three words - close, relative, and is, then you can help him/her to see that the better choice would be sowbug, close, relative.  The instructor also recommends that you teach the student to try to list their three words in the order they are in the sentence.  This gives them a better understanding on what they need to write later on in their paragraph.  Also, you may have a very short sentence.  You may have only two important words in that sentence, like the one I gave in the example in the picture above - line #3.  In that case, the student(s) can always just list two important words instead of the three.  The same goes for a large sentence.  The student may use four words.  In this Level A, there won't be too many really long sentences that you would need four or more words.

After the three words were written on the notebook paper, I had him remove the original paragraph and place it in his binder so he could only have access to his writing on his notebook paper.  This is a good lesson on teaching the children how to write so they can read it and use it for reference later on.

The next step he was assigned was to take those three words (written on his notebook paper) and form one sentence.  

For example, the first three words in line one were:
pillbug, world, backyard.
Out of those three words, he came up with his own sentence that read:

A pillbugs world is our backyard.

He did this with each line of three words to create several sentences.  He also had the challenge of combining two of those sentences with the word 'which'.  Again, as he wrote, I wrote what he was coming up with onto the white board.  I let him put together the sentences with some help now and then.

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After all the sentences were complete, he had to place in paragraph form with indentation.  The paper is still double spaced all the way down the page.  This is now his rough draft.

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After I corrected his rough draft, I returned it to him to make the corrections.  The final draft should be like the picture to the right, single spaced, correct punctuation and spelling.  This picture is his final paper on the tarantula paragraph. 

This writing has several steps to it as you can see and of course this isn't done in one day.  It took us (on average) about one week (four days) to go through the process of writing one paragraph as described above.  As the lessons go on though, the assignments get a bit more challenging.  For example, not only does the student have to combine sentences with the words 'which', but later on they have to add a strong verb and/or an 'ly' word.  The teacher on the DVD instructs them on how to do this. Taking this writing process slow seems to give the child time to really think about what they are writing.  They are not overwhelmed by the amount they have to write, but they think about the quality of what they are writing.

Details & How I Used The TWSS -

I used this myself.  I watched the 10 DVD's in the set throughout the review period.  There are 6 teaching DVD's, then 4 others.  One of these 4 is a DVD called, 'Tips & Tricks' containing the obvious.  The other 3 of these 4 are workshop DVD's for 3 different grade levels: elementary, intermediate and high school.  They are called SWW (Student Writing Workshop).  The DVD's have several assignments for me (the homeschool teacher) to get the feel of what I will be requiring my child to do.  I found these to be very helpful for me to teach any of the levels offered by this company.  The instructor has tons of great points and teaching techniques to offer!  

A few of my favorite teaching tips were spelling, corrections & penmanship.  The instructor encouraged us to let the student(s) ask how to spell things.  When they ask, we just tell them how to spell the word correctly instead of handing them a dictionary and have them spend most of their writing time looking alphabetically for words they cannot spell.  This really made sense to me due to the fact that I, myself, am a terrible speller.  Why waste the child's time with spelling during the writing portion?  I can always have him/her 'touch up' on that word in our spelling / grammar lessons.  This was a writing program.... makes perfect sense to me.

Another great tip was the correction part.  When it comes time to correct the rough draft, who wants a paper back with lots of red marks all over the page?  That is so discouraging and disappointing to a student.  I totally get that.  So the instructor explained how to try and help them throughout the process.  Maybe verbally reminding them to watch their end marks, intention, etc. by walking close to them and pointing out that they want to add a period there, etc.  This course again, is a writing course.....not a grammar, spelling or penmanship course.  The goal is to get the student to write.  This instructor, in my opinion, is a genius!

The last one of my favorite teaching tip was on penmanship.  My son has terrible penmanship.  I didn't know how well he would do with this course but after a few times of him not being able to write his own writing, he seemed to slow down a bit.  I just kept in my mind that I wasn't going to dwell on the penmanship, spelling nor the corrections.  I was going to teach him how to write!

A Little Bit About The 'Instructor' -

I keep mentioning the 'instructor' of this course.  
His name is Andrew Pudewa.  

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He is the instructor on the DVD's.  He has been giving seminars for several years to teachers and classrooms to help students become better writers.  He used this curriculum with his own children as well.  The points and teaching techniques he gives are incredible!  I didn't realize how easy it was to write.  His advice has really helped me to become a better writer myself.  

To read more about the instructor and the history of IEW, click HERE.

What I Thought -

I must tell you that my son hated (note I used the past tense of hate) to write so I was a bit concerned but optimistic on using this.  He has dyslexia and would rather do chores than do any kind of writing assignment.  His writing and handwriting is really poor (which isn't unusual for children with dyslexia) and I've tried just about everything.  Then we tried this. Guess what? He loves it!  He was so excited that he could write such great paragraphs, not to mention mom was totally excited too!

 The SWI is great because it is giving my son the confidence he needs along with great ideas on how to write successfully. The instructor on the DVD's let the student be in control of their writing.  Meaning that they could add words to make their sentences longer or create short sentences.  He had a lot of great points on how children think about writing.  One of the points that stand out to me is that the fact most children (boys in general) write as little and to the point as possible, just to get the assignment over with.  That was ok!  As long as they had the required work in their final draft, it was ok.  Even thought this is probably common sense to most, this wasn't too me.  I had it in my mind that if the child gives short sentences that they were being lazy and not completing the assignment as directed, but that isn't the case at all.  The whole goal in this course is to get the child to write.  That goal is being accomplished and I have Institute For Excellence in Writing to thank for that!  

As for the TWSS, this is wonderful!  I wish I would have found this 9 years ago when I started homeschooling.  This has taught me so much.  The teaching methods that I had in my head, that I was taught, was so far off from Mr. Pudewa's techniques in teaching writing.  His DVD teaching made sense to me.  I feel confident now that I can teach this to my children and know that they will write to the best of their ability.  My personal writing has been effected by this as well.  I feel that I have become a better writer.  I am no longer looking at a blank page.  ;)

I am so pleased with what this has sparked in my 10 year old.  Writing was so difficult for him, he just dreaded the sight of a pencil.  But now, he is so excited and it is his first subject of choice to do daily!   

Thank you IEW!


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