Sunday, January 31, 2016

My 10 Favorite Things About Our Week

I follow this blog My Reflection of Something and I love that each week she posts (or tries to post) "10 Things That Made Me Happy This Week..." they can be little or big, exciting or heart warming, but I always find them inspiring.

Most weeks we're just going day by day plugging away and while I enjoy our life and our homeschooling journey I rarely take the time to sit and reflect on each week.  I had tried starting a memory jar at the beginning of the year to write down our memories and reminisce when New Year's Eve rolled around... our jar has one slip of paper in it!

Yep, one!

Not that we haven't had any good memories but I'm not usually good at taking a snapshot of an ordinary moment and seeing it for the wonder that it is.

This week I decided to challenge myself and list 10 things that made me happy about our week:



  1. That Evan asked to have a sleepover with Alec EVERY SINGLE night.  They didn't get to have one until Friday but I love that they WANTED to have sleepovers and spend time together.
  2. Visiting my grandmother.  She's elderly, home- bound, forgetful, and utterly sweet.  I know my time with her is pretty limited and I was so happy to finally get there and see her.
  3. Going out to breakfast with my husband and two younger sons.  It's fun to relax and enjoy a meal together that I do not have to cook.
  4. We got snow!  Our first "real" snowstorm of the winter found us with just about 6 inches of snow.  I do not enjoy the cold or the snow but there is something so magical about watching the snow pile up and coat everything (trees included) in a beautiful white blanket.  So yeah, that first snow does make me happy. 
  5. When Evan interrupted my reading of a story book to read the words over and ahead of me!  He has grown so much as a reader and his willingness to try and take over the reading showed me how confident he's becoming.
  6. When Ian told me he read three chapters in his book yesterday because they were getting so good he just could not put them down... big steps for a guy who claims to hate reading.
  7. Listening to Alec and Evan singing Stressed Out after watching a wonderful video my nephew put together.  The boys had such a great time helping and starring in said video and it makes me smile to think of how well these boys get along.
  8. Watching Evan discover the wonder of learning how to draw and deciding to work on two extra pages in his Draw Write Now book just because he was having fun!
  9. Watching Alec figure out how to put his new Block Fun sets together; it was difficult and looking at him I could just see the wheels turning in his head trying to figure out the best way to go about building.  He was so determined!
  10. I cooked balsamic chicken for dinner one night and, not only did no one complain, the boys all LIKED  it.  It's so rare to find a meal that everyone enjoys and I was so happy that they all willingly tried it and told me it was good.  
Linking up with:
”apinchofjoy.com” 
Mommy A to Z Manic Mondays Blog Hop

Saturday, January 30, 2016

No Book Day

I was debating about taking a day off from school with the boys this past Friday.  We've been spending lots of time at home and doing a lot of book work; which is great but not real inspiring.  I have been feeling pretty blah and thought perhaps we needed a break; or more accurately, I needed a break.  But I knew we were going to have time off next week and wasn't sure I wanted two short weeks in a row.


Then I had an idea: we were going to have a NO BOOK day.  


Of course they could read stories and we did end up reading two chapters in The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw but we weren't going to use any other school books.  No journals, no workbooks, no math books, nothing that we did not find FUN!

I pulled out tons of art and crafts kits-- Aquarelle, Paint a Pet Rock, Paint Sea Life figures, Qixels, Loom bands, Model car kits.

I pulled out games-- Silly Sentences, Gravity Maze, Sudoku Board, Story Cubes, Scategories, 10,000 Yahtzee, American Trivia, History Memory, Brain Box, etc.

I pulled out science kits and equipment-- Our microscope & slides, Snap Circuits, Build your own Wind Powered Car Kit, Remote Control Vehicle kit...

I pulled out blocks and building supplies-- Our Pattern blocks, Keva blocks, Manga Tiles, etc.  

I told the boys we weren't having a day off from school but we were going to have a no book day and they would learn by exploring and playing and getting their hands on as many things as we could possibly have time for.  

They could use some of the ideas I had pulled out or they could look for their own activities but they could not use screens during school hours (since we had a fun screen- day yesterday of doing almost ALL our schoolwork on the computer) and they had to be having fun.  

That was a must! WE MUST HAVE FUN!  

And we did!

As evidenced by the train wreck of a house we had by lunch.  There were messes everywhere, on our table, on the floor, on the couches, it was a mess.

But a good mess:




The boys used our Snap Circuits-- both sets for a good hour building, dismantling and rebuilding.

Evan loved talking into the
speaker and making the lights blink
on and off

Alec and Evan worked together 

Evan read a book about baboons to me (without making a single mistake!)

The boys painted; Ian used his Aquaelle kit while Alec painted his pet rock.


Ian made loom band bracelets.

Alec used his imagination and made a hot dog with mustard out of his Qixel kits.

Ian played with pattern blocks making pictures on the floor.


Alec put together another Block Fun Pokemon character.


Ian and Evan played Battleship helping Evan hone his coordinate grid skills.

"C-4? It's going to blow up!"

Alec and I played Scrambled States of America learning more about the 50 States (I still can not beat him at this game!)

Ian and I played Life; Ian offered to be the banker making change and working on all sorts of math skills.

Evan and I played with his Silly Sentences game.


Ian played with his Legos in his room for a good hour.  He ended up making a  flat bed truck.

It was a great day filled with learning and lots of play and it was just what we needed. 


Linking up with: Social Butterfly Sunday and 
Mom's Small Victories

Friday, January 29, 2016

Weekly Wrap Up-- Year #4 Week 22

It was another fun week in our house.  We stayed home most days just venturing out for errands, to go to karate, and to visit with my grandmother.  We ran our No Technology for a day experiment on Tuesday (you can read about what prompted our experiment here and our results here) and had a lot of fun talking about what we'd do differently next time.  Mostly the boys just played, watched TV, and did a bit of schoolwork each day.




Reading-- Alec finished up Diary of a Wimpy Kid Roderick Rules, finished up Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom,  read Diary of a Wimpy Kid  Dog Days, Tales of the Beedle the Bard, Poseidon and the Sea of Fury, Dragonbreath #11 The Frozen Menace, and North; The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration.  He also spent a lot of time pouring over his two new Pokemon guidebooks.  Writing it all out like this I'm floored over all the reading he's been doing!  Evan read Polar Bear Cub, Drop it Rocket, Tae Kwon Do!,  Buzz Said the Bee, Shhh! David's Reading (a short story by the author of No, David!), and discovered our Learn to Read with Planet Earth series which led him to read three books simply called: Polar Bears, Lions, and Grizzly Bears.  Ian read a few more chapers in Treasure Hunters.  Together we read a few more chapters in Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw and we've listened to several chapters in The Magician's Nephew.

Language Arts/ Sight Words- The bolder boys played with Evan and his Silly Sentences game.  They had fun making up silly sentences together and Evan got in a lot of reading practice.  We talked about verbs, adjectives, nouns, etc. when we were sorting the pieces before playing the game.  Evan completed two pages in his Star Wars book dealing with opposites.  The older two boys completed the next page in both of their Thinking Tree Spelling books-- We use both the Fun Schooling Spelling Journal and the Spelling Time Journal.

They have fun coloring in the words and memorizing the poems (even
Evan started memorizing it this week)

We had fun with Mad Libs making up silly stories and the boys played a bunch of language arts game on ABCya.com one day learning about antonyms and synonyms as well as playing word search games, Turtle Dash spelling game, and Must Pop Words.   Evan practiced with his sight word stackers again this week; trying to stack the cups up in a pyramid and then take them down quickly without knocking them over like they do in Minute to Win it.


History-- We finished up You Wouldn't Want to Be an Aristocrat in the French Revolution, Who Was Marie Antoinette?, Moi & Marie Antoinette, and started reading A Tale of Two Cities.  We watched a documentary on Amazon Prime called Global Treasures; Versailles.

Science-- We watched Snow Babies, Mythbusters, and read North The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration.  We talked a lot about the arctic and the adaptations of animals that live there.

Art-- Alec has been hard at work on various crafts.  He put together another Stained Glass Made easy kit.

His finished work

He worked with his Qixels to make a dolphin, orca, turtle and crab.


Isn't it cute?


Ian did some coloring in our extreme color by number books coloring in a page about London.  Alec worked on a page about Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
We just love these coloring books and I love that they're getting
in a bit of geography too.

 Writing- The boys each picked a Draw Write Now page to work on and Evan surprised me by drawing the Orca!  He usually hates to draw and he did such a great job on his drawing and writing (he only has to copy two of the sentences while his brothers copy all 4).  Tuesday he pulled out his journal and the Draw Write Now book and drew two more animals; the penguin and the polar bear, copying all 12 sentences into his book!  I told him he didn't have to do any writing for the rest of the week.

His drawing and first two sentences 

Hard at work drawing the penguins 

We read Punctuation Takes a Vacation and the older boys wrote a story without using any punctuation.  Then they swapped stories and they had to try and figure out what the author was saying and where to put the punctuation.  They were thrilled to write without worrying about punctuation!  I noticed that their stories were filled with so much more information this way too.

The older two boys worked on a page in their cursive books doing some more copywork and learning cursive at the same time.

Math-- They each worked on a few more pages in their math workbooks.  The older boys completed the next set of pages in the Thinking Tree Math Genius book and colored in a Quilt math page reviewing division.  Evan had a Mystery Pictures Math coloring page reviewing two times tables and a dot to dot page counting by two's.  They also played math games while on ABCya.com working with adding to 10 and a bunch of other games that I was too busy to pay attention to.  (Some days homeschooling just goes that way!).

Their Thinking Tree books 

Other Learning Fun: We played Sorry!  Alec got this new set of blocks in; they're sort of like Lego's only 1/4 of the size.  He was so thrilled to find that they had Pokemon characters and spent one afternoon putting one of the 8 Pokemon together.

He was so intent on putting him together perfectly!     

Physical Education: We went on a walk/ bike ride one day to enjoy the nicer weather we've been having this week.  The boys also went to karate.  Ian and I have worked out on the treadmill/ elliptical twice this week. The boys have been playing hockey indoors working up a sweat.



Linking with:
Weekly Wrap-Up


Homeschooling6

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Choose Joy

Some days it can be hard to find the joy in homeschooling.

Our days feel so routine.

We start to just go through the motions.

The boys start to bicker with one another.

The boys start to complain about their schoolwork.

There is housework to get to and a seemingly endless number of tasks.

But I've found that when the drudgery is getting to me the most that's when we need to find our joy!


Here are some ways to find and choose joy in your homeschooling days:

  1. Pull out some new materials (or ones no one has touched in a while)--   I find shaking up our routine often helps us to remember the joy and excitement of learning.
  2. Get out of the house!  One surefire way to have fun with my boys is to take a field trip.  Hands on learning is best and there is nothing like the excitement of discovering a new place or rediscovering the love of an old one to get us smiling.  Even just going on a nature walk or taking a trip to the beach and getting out in nature seems to help us all reset and find our happy again. 
  3. Get messy-- painting together, doing a fun science experiment, pulling out toys and shaving cream, etc.; we're usually pretty happy when we're getting messy. 
  4. Change up WHERE we do school-- Taking our books to the library, building a fort and doing school in the fort, etc., I find that even moving to a new location can make everything seem new and fun. 
  5. Plan a game day-- sometimes when we really need to find our joy again we put all the books away and spend an entire day playing games.  We have so many great ones and this gives us a chance to remember how much fun learning can be. 
  6. Bake something together--  We love to bake and while that in itself is educational there is nothing like eating some warm yummy treats straight out of the oven while doing schoolwork. 
  7. Plan a movie marathon-- complete with popcorn and snacks, a movie marathon is always fun.  Usually we pick a movie series about some books we've been reading or a loosely based historical fiction series (like Harry Potter or Night at the Museum) so that they are at least somewhat educational but they don't have to be.  
  8. Turn to the computer-- We rarely think to take advantage of all the great on-line programs that are available.  On days where we need to shake things up a bit we turn to some of our favorite websites and the boys spend their school day playing computer games.  That's always fun. 
  9. Look for new ideas-- Often when we're drudging through our work it's because I am just putting out the same old books and we're just crossing subjects off our list without any real plan or direction.  Usually if I turn to Pinterest or some of my favorite homeschooling blogs I can come up with new lesson plans and ideas that take us off in a new, exciting direction.  
  10. Buy a few new supplies-- Sometimes even a simple little purchase like some new pens or markers get the boys excited again and when they're excited that joy spills over.  Sometimes we buy new books or try out a new game.  There's nothing quite like new supplies to breathe life into our days. 
  11. Plan a crafting day! When we need to find our joy we'll often turn to our crafting cabinet and spend some time coloring, making bracelets or trying out some new crafting kits that we always seem to have lying around.  
  12. Invite friends over-- It's always more fun with friends!  Having some company over is a great way to remember how blessed and lucky we are.  Try hosting an egg drop or a spy hunt day at your house; or just let the kids unplug and play with their toys together.  
  13. Snuggle up somewhere comfy and have a book reading marathon-- If we're going to have a book marathon we usually pick several books each and take turns reading aloud from our favorites.  
  14. Put the kids in charge-- Sometimes when it feels like we're just going through the motions of school it's because I have not followed the children's lead; they know what they enjoy learning about and letting them take charge of their schooling every so often reminds me of what they each find exciting.  
  15. Take a break-- sometimes the only way for us to find our joy again is to take a break (a day or two or even a week off from school) and then we're all refreshed and ready to dive back in again.  
Linking up with:

This Is How We Roll Thursday Party

Christian Montessori Network

I Choose Joy!


52 lists-- List #4; Current and Future Goals and Dreams

 I think I may have groaned aloud when I saw that this weeks theme was: your current and future goals & dreams 

I'm not so sure I have goals.  Isn't that awful to admit?  I mean I know you are supposed to set and declare and goals.  That you should write them down in order to achieve them and that your goals help you decide on a course of action for your life... 

But honestly I'm not super goal oriented and I'm not much of a dreamer either.  

I am pretty down to Earth and realistic.  

I'm pretty content to take life as it comes and enjoy each day as part of my journey.  

But this is a list challenge and so come up with a list I must!  

So in brainstorming here are some of my goals for this year:


Take a family vacation- anywhere  Loose those 10 pounds that I somehow gained over the past few months  Graduate the boys to the next grade in schooling Paint the pillars outside; after 11 years it's time!  Get outside everyday even if it's only for 15 minutes Make more time for ME!




Other's in this series:


Linking up with: 


52 lists with Chasing Slow

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Top 10 Non- Fiction Series About Animals

We have read many non- fiction books over the years.  There are so many wonderful books and authors out there that sometimes it can be hard to choose what to read next!

I have two boys that love to learn about animals and over the years we've found so many book series that we just love!

For my boys to want to read each and every book in a series it has to have lots of beautiful photographs and illustrations, there can not be so many words that it feels like we're reading a textbook, but there has to be enough facts that they're learning something new and interesting (not always an easy feat with my middle son!).


Here are our Top 10 favorite non- fiction books series about animals:


1.  Donald Silver's One Small Square series--  filled with facts, experiments and activities these books are a lot of fun for learning about animals and animal  habitats.


2.  Marianne Berkes Over in... Series-- Cute and simple rhyming stories that work on concepts like counting these series of books have added pages in the back for learning even more about the animals in the stories which made them enjoyable for my younger two sons.


3.  Sandra Markle's Animal Predator's Series-- My middle son devoured this series; chock full of interesting facts and beautiful illustrations we had so much fun learning about the various animals predators.  


4.  Sandra Markle's Animal Prey series--  Exactly like her animal predator series but with prey.


5. Sandra Markle's Animal Scavengers series--  (really we recommend ALL of her books!) but this was a continuation of her animal predators and animal prey series and we just loved them.   


6.  Sean Callery's Life Cycles series -- These books are FABULOUS!  We love the gorgeous pictures and each book takes you through three or four mini food chains within each habitat.  


7.  Madeleine Dunphy's Web of Life Series -- wonderful pictures and illustrations with a singsong verse these books are amazing.  They really bring home the importance of each animal in a food web/ chain.  


8.  Read and Wonder Series; by various authors this series is just great for kids.  The pictures are amazing and the stories are written in sort of a day in the life of an animal. 


9. The What If series by Suzanne Slade-- We stumbled upon these books by accident last fall when Alec was reporting on the sea otter.  These book take an animal from each ecosystem and show how if just that one animal were to go extinct how it would affect everything else in the system.  


10.  Penguin Young Readers has a series that we affectionately dub "Out"-- Written in short chapter form these books were easy to read with beautiful illustrations and lots of fun facts.  We learned that the Luna moth is the size of a cereal bowl and is only active at night.


Linking up with: Top 10 Tuesday, Literacy Musing Mondays, and

Hip Homeschool Moms


Awesome Life Friday