For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Homeschool 101- Home Management {5 Days of ...}

Today on day 3 of the Homeschool 101 hosted by The Schoolhouse Review Crew, we are tackling Home Management.

Again, this is a topic that has a lot to do with your personality. Some of us are type A moms and some of us not so much. That said, a house has to be maintained. Noone likes to live in a place that is messy and dirty.


When it comes to managing the homeschool home I have six pieces of advice:

Be realistic (unless you can't help it): As homeschoolers, your home is where your kids learn. If you want your kids to be free to learn and explore you cannot be an overchiever when it comes to tidiness. There will be messes, there will be days when the house will be in the shape that you cannot stand. JUST EXPECT IT!

A Place for everything. If you want to keep a house tidy, this is my #1 advice: Make sure everything has a home place and stick to it! It is easier to put things away if they have a home. It is easier to teach your kids to clean after themselves if they know where things go.

Involve the kids: with my first point assumed it does not mean that the house has to stay a mess, when it happens. One thing I found valuable to cleaning and keeping the house in decent order is to involve the kids, as early as you can possibly do it. From a young age, teach them to pick up after themselves. When they become able to wash dishes, have them do it. Have them help with the laundry, and the setting and clearing of the table, taking out the trash, cleaning counters, and any task that you think they can handle. This teaches them responsibility and minimizes stress on you. in our home some of these talk earns them a few cents, some are part of their contribution to the household. If you are the type that loves schedules, set up a routine and schedule for chores. Recently my oldest has ventured into cooking breakfast once a week and this has been a blessing! so teach them how to cook too!

Learn to menu plan: Meal planning saves you time, money and stress. You can do it per week or per month. Set a day aside, make an inventory of what you have in your freezer (I usually do it according to the meat I have in my freezer, since I buy my meat in bulk), and schedule out your meals.

Lean how to use a crockpot (or get one if you do not have one): This has been my life and time saver. I do not use it as much as I could, but the crockpot is still one of my favorite item in the kitchen. It also helps to save money. When we know we will be out for the whole day, I always set something in the crockpot.

Set a date for your paperwork and bill management. I have found easier to to all my banking, budgeting and paper work all in one day so that I do not have to worry about forgetting something and/or finding time to do it over several days.

I do not by no means excel in home management, but using these few tips has helped me keep a livable home with home cooked meals on the table twice a day everyday, a clear sink most days, floors mostly clear and clean.


5 Days of Homeschool 101 />

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Homeschool 101 - Planning {5 Days of...}

On day 2 of the 5 Days of Homeschool 101 hosted by the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we are talking about planning. There is a lot written on the topic of planning but I will try to give you a quick overview of the essentials of planning, not that I am a expert or anything, but I have nearly 9  years of battling the planning battleground in my own homeschool under my belt.


When it comes to planning, a lot of it has to do with your personality and the curriculum that you decide to use.

Some personalities cannot function without a well laid out plan in front of them. These types of homeschoolers usually (not always) favor curriculum that come with a planning schedule already set out. In those cases your task is simply to make sure that that plan is followed through, and the task of planning is reduced to daily, weekly and yearly scheduling of your different subjects.

If you are more like me, and are not the kind who like to be told what to do and are more free spirited, your curriculum line up end up being a mix of stuff that you need to organize.

I have to say from the start that I do not like routine as a general rule, but as I have mentioned numerous times on this blog, I have learned the blessings that result from good planning and routine. A few of these are:
  • Routine helps your school day to run smoothly. When you are prepared you won't believe how things just flow. No kidding, this is a real life and sanity saver!
  • Planning ahead allows you to have peace of mind because you then have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished.
  • Planning ahead allows for more flexibility as you end not having to scramble around when things don't go as planned, you just need re-arrange things around.
  • Planning allows you to see where you are heading.
So what is involved in planning? Basically, once you know what curriculum you will be using, it is just a matter of figuring and planning out how you are going to use these curriculum throughout your school year. This entails:
  • Figuring out your school year calendar, plotting out your days and weeks off, and arranging your school days around it.
  • Deciding what subjects will be covered on what day.
  • Figuring out how you want to split your curriculum between your school days throughout your year. Some like doing block scheduling when they focus on some subjects for a period of 6 weeks to 3 months and then switch to something else for another block of time. Some prefer to spread their subjects over the course of the year.
  • Figuring out a weekly and daily schedule or routine, for me this is the hardest one, as I am not very disciplined, and yet this is the one that is very vital. Between a strict schedule (detailed your plan by time) and a routine (a general plan of what needs to be done), I still prefer the routine though.
  • Preparing what you need for your different subjects. There is nothing more unsettling and disruptive than not having what you need for a particular subject on hand when you need it. Trust me, I have been there too many time I care to admit, and it has really held us back.
For me, my planning involves:
  • Printing a yearly calendar so I can have an idea of our tentative times off.
  • Preparing for our core curriculum, Tapestry of Grace, which runs a full 36 weeks and for which my kids are part of a weekly online co-op. This involves preparing their weekly assignments, which I do a unit at a time (9 weeks worth), printing maps, and getting the books ordered from the library.
  • Setting a weekly schedule. I let the boys parse out their work throughout the week as well as their daily routine. I just give them the guidelines. We run a 4 days school week. I tell them how many times a subject has to be covered in a particular week, and how much work needs to be accomplished, and they decide how they want to get it done and spread it. 

Talking about weekly schedule, last year for my eldest I came up with a schedule that allowed him to focus on certain subjects on certain specific days and then cover the other subjects on the other days. That seemed to work out well for him. The reason behind it was his difficulty to focus, which minimized the amount of work he could do within a certain time frame, so that he was always late in finishing his work, or some was not getting done. So it looked something like this:
Monday: History, French, Bible, Math
Tuesday: Grammar, Writing, Math, French, Bible, Logic
Wednesday: French, Bible, Math, Continue Writing - his co-op class and his violin lesson were on that day
Friday: Logic, French, Bible, Finish Writing, finish History, Math
I will try something similar this year, but have not yet decided what it is going to be. I need to discuss it with him.

My youngest on the other hand loves to spread his work throughout the week, so he will assign a little bit of everything everyday. He is very scheduled and routine driven, so this works better for his brain and way of functioning.

Last year, everyday I would write on a notebook the subjects they had that day. This year I am hoping that I won't need to. I will give them a planner each, and expect them to write out their own weekly schedule, based on my guideline, and hold them to following that.

I have created a few planning worksheets that I have used over the past few years. You are welcome to use them.

5 Days of Homeschool 101


Monday, August 8, 2016

Homeschooling 101 {5 Days of...} - Curriculum

Today is the first day of the second bi-annual 5 Days of .... on the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. Over 36 of us will be sharing on the basic components of homeschooling over the next five days.


Today we start naturally with the curriculum. Nowadays, the choices for curriculum are limitless. Someone just starting homeschooling can get quite overwhelmed looking at the amount of choices placed in front of him. Even as veteran homeschoolers, sometimes we still find ourselves quite overwhelmed as there are so many different options that can accomplish the same goal. So how is one supposed to navigate this field? I have a few tips I would like to share with you today, which I hope will help you narrow down your choices and ease the task for you.

Know what you want to accomplish:  One way that has helped me to make choices in my curriculum is knowing where I am heading with the boys. When you have a goal in mind it is easier to plot a path, than wondering aimlessly along that same path. When we started homeschooling over 9 years ago we had two main goals:
                1) I intend for the boys to be well rounded in their education and prepared to go to college or university if that is what they wanted to do. Whether they end up not doing it or not, is irrelevant, they can still benefit from a rounded education.
                2) We want our boys to be critical thinkers and able to evaluate and assess everything around them with the proper lens and through a good thinking process.

These two goals have guided our choices of curriculum and led us to point #2

Pick a homeschool style or method: Another tool that has guided our curriculum choices, and kept us from being always on the fence when it came to the wide choices out there, has been keeping in step with our chosen homeschooling method, which we picked based on our end goal. From the beginning, we associated and related with the classical method of homeschooling or classical education. So my choices have always been guided by how the curriculum fitted into that mold and met what we were looking for in view of what classical education's tenets were. These were things like, memorization, heavy in great books, no busy work, emphasis on developing thinking skills and such.

There are quite a few homeschooling styles out there, but a lot of them are similar, so you can always move between a few, which gives you some flexibility. Also, there is always the eclectic method which is using whatever you think might meet the need, keeping in mind what you want to accomplish. Most people tend to end up with a bent, but do not tie themselves to one particular style or method.

Research your curriculum:  This is in my view the most important aspect of the whole curriculum conundrum issue. I will not stress enough the need to research curriculum thoroughly, before deciding on any curriculum. There a few websites I love to check out before deciding. These are:
Curriculum Choice
HomeSchool Reviews
Cathy Duffy Reviews
Our own Schoolhouse Review Crew

Also a lot of companies offer you samples, make sure you don't miss those. If you can't find them on the website of the company google for them and check Christianbook.com and Rainbow Resources, they often have samples as well.

Be practical: 
  • Take your budget and family needs into consideration when choosing curriculum. There is no point in getting into debts for your curriculum, there sure are options for your financial needs. 
  • Consider your child's learning style: does he learn best independently, or with you at his side? Does he learn best though reading, or listening? Does he love workbooks and thrive on them, as opposed to devouring books and learning that way? Is he more hands-on? These are a few things that should factor into your decision.
  • Consider how often you are home and your own teaching style.
These are my top tips on Curriculum 101. I hope they help you navigate the waters of curriculum picking.

If you want to know what we are using this coming school year,  and what we have used in the past check my Curriculum Line Up tab .

Canadian Sale 1000x500 with Products
If you are looking for Canadian content to add to your studies this year, The Canadian Homeschooler has an All-Canadian Learning Sale ending today at midnight, so make sure you check it out today!

Also, you can read more about some of the curriculum we have used in the past in these two series:
Virtual Curriculum Fair
5 Days of Curriculum Evaluation



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

CTCMath - TOS Review


Math is one of those school subjects, that we want to make sure our children master. Some of us homeschooler, are either comfortable teaching it, some others not so much. There are lots of Math curricula out there, but CTCMath has been, for the last 3 years or so, a favorite at our house.

CTCMath offers you a complete online Math curriculum geared towards kids K-12. We received a full year subscription to their CTCMath Homeschool Membership.


As an online program, you need a computer, an internet connection and a log in to use CTCMath. The program works on tablets as well.

It is very easy to set up and very easy to navigate and use. The program consists of video lessons, followed by sets of exercices or practice questions. The video are a good reasonable length. They are lectures, by an Australian teacher, whom you do not see but only hear. The practices consists of a set of practice problems. You have instant feedback as to whether or not you got the answer right, along with the right answer if you got it wrong. Once the whole set of questions is completed a grade is awarded to you.




When we first reviewed this program, the boys were elementary age, now as middle schoolers, we have started using the pre-algebra section of the program. One of the main difference is that the practice sheets work differently. There usually a sheet that contain the questions, and then another spot for you to answer. What my son usually does is print the question page.

In the last year or so CTCMath has also worked hard in changing the look, layout and functionality of the program. I personally find it more appealing, just by its simplicity and fresh look.


One of the great addition and change that CTCMath has done is adding a task section. There you (the teacher/parent) can assign tasks to your students. This allows for you to tell your child what you want him to accomplish within a certain period of time. On the student account, these task will show on the day that they are supposed to start, so the child can know he has tasks/lessons assigned to him/her. This is pretty convenient, as it allows for the parent to be more directive, without being by the child, in what you want him/her to accomplish. That said, I wish the tasks could be seen by the child ahead of time. Some kids like to know in advance what needs to be done in the near future.



CTCMath is quite comprehensive, each level is divided in sections, which are in turn divided in topics, which themselves are divided into more subtopics.



Other features of the programs are as follows:


  • Reward system. You get awarded medals (platinum, Gold, silver and bronze according to how well you did on your questions)
  • Printable summary of the lessons available in PDF
  • Option to print the practice questions
  • The exercises are graded
  • In the teacher's account you can set the passing grade, and view details of how your child did
  • You can redo the exercises as many times as you want, in order to achieve your passing grade. Everytime you redo the questions, you have a new set to work with.
  • You can re watch the videos at any time, and any number of times


CTCMath is a great option for a homeschool Math curriculum. It is exhaustive, self-paced and easy to use. I highly recommend it! My boys still enjoy using CTCMath, and I will most likely be using this for the next few years to come.

CTCMath Review


Friday, July 29, 2016

Star Toaster: Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree {app} - TOS Review

How is reading at your house? Are you looking for a way to get your kids more excited about reading?  I have an exciting review product to share with you: Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree  from Star Toaster.

Star Toaster is an online Reading Adventure program that is sure to get your kids reading and enjoying it. Last year, we were blessed to review their Orphs of the Woodland book, and now we got to try the prequel to it on an app.

Star Toaster's goal is to get your children to enjoy reading while at the same time teaching them on all sort of other valuable subjects and topics. The way they do that is through a storybook packed with interactive activities and games. It is all online, so you will need a computer or a tablet. The set up is easy, each child gets a code name, sets their profile, and then  he is set on his journey.


What is Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree?

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree is a prequel to Star Toaster's first book Orphs of the Woodlands. It is an online Reading book available through itunes, so you will need an ipad, or iphone, or ipod touch to use it. Just like Orphs of the Woodlands, it is an interactive adventure.

What does it contain?
  •  A 122 page illustrated interactive chapter book 
  • Hundreds of links, popups, animations, and videos 
  •  75 lessons on math, science, grammar, vocabulary, thinking skills, life skills, and the arts. 
  • Over 130 "jobs" where children test their skills
  • Reports showing your child's progress
  • Access for an unlimited number of children
The story:
Orphs of the Woodlands in Tangletree tells the story of the tragedy that happened in the land of Hoggoh Hollows where the main character of the book, Abba, a flying squirrel, lived. As a survivor of the tragedy, we are told about how he tries to survive on his own, all the while trying to find out what happened to his dad. While he tries to survive, he ends up taking care of 6 Orphs in his tree fort, Tangletree. This is where your child comes in. He becomes a essential helpful in this task of caring for these orphs.

Here is a picture of where you can access the different jobs.


The way the app works is that you need to do jobs that earn you stars that you can in turn redeem for food, clothes, and other useful items.

The jobs are the heart of the game, beside the actual reading of the story. The jobs are basically questions on different topics.


The chapters of the book are rather short and manageable for elementary kids. Unfortunately the jobs only appear after chapter three. Certain jobs are unlocked only after a chapter has been read.

This program is geared towards kids 7 year old and older, and that's quite accurate. The description of the app goes as follow on Itunes:
"It's a reading adventure, academic treasure, and fun game! "
The academic treasure is hidden in its breadth of topics covered throughout the book:
  • Vocabulary
  • Language Arts (homonyms, simile, etc...)
  • Math
  • Science
  • Critical Thinking
  • Music and Art
  • Life skills
Throughout the text, there are highlighted words, which, when hovered on reveal the meaning of the word.




Lessons are scattered throughout the text, which you click on to access as you read. Those same lessons are available as well, when you do the jobs, as training sessions, before you actually get tested and earn your gold stars.

My oldest wanted the sequel to Orphs of the Woodlands, not the prequel, so I had my youngest use this app. He worked on it independently. At 10, he found it an easy read and most of the questions he found easy. 

The jobs were mainly in the form of multiple choice questions, at the end of which you earned gold stars for correct answers.

Somethings to note about this program:
  • Great and appealing graphics
  • The story emphasizes positive character traits and good values.
  • It can be done independently
  • Easy to navigate app
  • There is a spot within the app where you can see a summary of the jobs, and lessons completed (great tool for the parent).
The Orphs of the Woodland at Tangletree is a great homeschool elementary reading complement, as as well as a fun summer reading app.

You can check Star Toaster on their social media:

Facebook:

Twitter: 

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Curriculum Plans for the 2016/2017 Year - Grade 6 and 8

Middle School is in full swing here at our house. My oldest is in fact getting prepared to start High School next year (2017). I can't believe it! This summer, my heart was somewhat heavy realizing that this year was his last VBS as a participant. Sigh....

My youngest will be starting grade 6.

So what are our choices for the upcoming year?

Both boys

Tapestry of Grace Year 3  - The Nineteenth Century : History, Geography, Literature, Worldview.
They will both be doing dialectic level.

Classic Science: Advanced Chemistry

Writing & Rhetoric - Book 5: Refutation and Confirmation: Writing

CTC Math - Math

Kumon Books - Pre-Algebra book 2 and Algebra book 1

Phonetic Zoo (Finish) : Spelling

Max Scholar: Spelling and vocabulary

Bible Road Trip: Bible

FrenchSmart - Grade 5: French

The History of Western Music and Great Artists Fine Art Pages: Music & Art




Grade 8:

The Art of Argument (finish) and The Discovery of Deduction: Logic

The Magic Lens - finish book I and start book II: Grammar

The Art of Poetry: Poetry

Grade 6:

Analytical Grammar: Grammar

Fallacy Detective: Logic


There you have it. We just started school back this week (2 days a week) after a 7-week break. I am trying to finish up our Writing & Rhetoric book 4 and Science 4 kids biology textbook. They are also working on Life of Fred, Pre-Algebra with Physics. We will debut our full swing schedule in September, though we will start our History in August.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

NotebookingPages.com - TOS Review

Today, I have a great product to share with you. Some of you might have heard about it before and even used it, but let me reiterate what you may have heard already because this is a product worth checking out if you have not already.



NotebookingPages.com is a company that offer a wide variety of notebooking pages (as the name suggest) for all of your homeschool needs. We were blessed to receive a Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership


Homeschooling and teaching your kids at home can take many, many forms, one of which being notebooking. Notebooking is a way of learning that allows your student to recall what they are learning and appropriating it by writing or drawing about it. That is why notebooking is mainly formed of what they called notebooking pages.

NotebookingPages.com is a great ressources for all your notebooking needs. It covers:
  • Bible and Character Study
  • History (Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, Reformation, Modern)
  • Science
  • Geography with pages that have maps. It covers continental maps (all 5 continents), Countries, USA and World maps
  • Fine Arts
  • Famous People
  • Holidays
  • A-Z for your preschoolers and kindergarten
  • Language Arts
The beauty of NotebookingPages is not only in its exhaustiveness of subjects, but in its abundance of options for notebooking pages per se. Not only you have a large array of different pages design options but you also have 3D pages options and mini-book options. NotebookingPages offer you lined pages, space for drawing, copywork and colouring pages options. I like that you can print the catalogue of design available to you, so that you can see at a glance your options.

This is an online subscription. Everything is online and ready for download and print. 

Though I have come across notebooking a lot in our 8 years of homechooling but I have not really implemented much in our homeschool so I had to do some researching and study on how best to include this. Fortunately NotebookingPages.com offers some tutorials to get you oriented on how to start the whole notebooking venture. They even have an Easy Start Guide to help you getting started notebooking step by step.

The idea is to get a notebook together with your notebooking pages, but the way I intended to use this is by printing the pages that I need and have the boys notebook a particular topic or subject and then we file it in our homeschool binder. 

We got the product at the end of our homeschool year, so I did not use it with our homeschool subjects, but we recently started a book called 40 Days 40 Bites that goes through different countries and their needs as well as some missionary needs, I thought ti would be cool for the kids to notebook what they are learning. So I got the kids to pick their design page and went ahead and printed it for them to use.

Make sure to take advantage of their free notebooking pages to try them out.

Free Notebooking Pages Sampler

Also find them on Facebook and Twitter @NotebookingPgs.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

VeritasBible.com - TOS Review


As a Christian family, it is very important to us that our children know their Bible and be quite literate of the content contained therein. Veritas Press has come up with a pretty cool online program that can help with that: VeritasBible.com.


VeritasBible.com is an online subscription program that teaches your students about what's in Bible. It takes you through the stories of the Bible starting from Genesis through to the New Testament. Once you get an account, you can create different profiles for your kids and each child can then go through it at their own pace. You get to choose which part of the Bible to focus on (Genesis to Joshua, Judges to Kings, or the Gospels). Being a firm believer in starting from the beginning, I had the boys start at Genesis. I had them use the program on a daily basis.



The program is set up like a road map. Each stop represents a lesson, and the lessons are grouped by themes or events such as:
  • Creation
  • The Fall
  • Cain and Abel
  • Enoch and Methusalah
  • The flood
  • Etc...
Every few lessons contain tests which in turn earn you stars (the number of which depending on how well you did).

The lessons themselves are very engaging. They contain narrations, animations, games, songs, and Scripture reading. The lessons are told by people who are acting as if they lived in the time of Joshua, retelling what happened.


The boys liked the program. They thought it was light-hearted and enjoyable. They like that it is interactive and not monotone. They were not that impressed about the talking animals, but overall thought it was a nice program. They also felt that a lot of it was topics that they already knew, so it might be repetitive for older kids that have been immersed in the Bible all their lives.

This program is a great option though for a Bible curriculum. I personally love the abundant presence of actual Bible passages. I also love the repetition and review built in the program.p through the games and the tests.

Veritas Press has wonderful graded curriculum, among which is a Bible curriculum ( which other crew members got to review as well), but VeritasBible.com's subscription program is definitely another good option worth checking out.

You can visit them on their social media network
Facebook
Pinterest
Instagram
Twitter

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review
Homeschool Copywork Membership Sign-Up
Write Through the Bible
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