April 16, 2014

{Curricula Update} Here's Why Science Is Fun!

While we do use a hodge podge of science curricula, Nancy Larson Science is our "main" curricula.  We may not always get to the extras, but we get our Nancy Larson lessons done.  

When we first began homeschooling, I saw several science curricula options and I thought for sure that we would use those in our homeschool.  We tried some of them and they weren't hugely successful for several reasons - they took too long, they were too complicated, they had too many supplies to purchase, they weren't developmentally appropriate and much information was quickly forgotten, or they just simply did not get done at our house.

I've finally been successful at science.  It's all thanks to this program.  I can fit science into our schedule and we actually complete and lessons on a regular basis.  The best curriculum for your family is simply the one that gets done.  And this is it for us!

We aim to do science 2-3 days per week but my kids ask to do a lesson daily, so I often comply.  This means that we might finish a level before our school year is over.  I try to take some weeks off and simply do extra reading on our topic, using the reading list provided by Nancy Larson Science.

I'll give you a little glimpse into a lesson with Level 2 (for Curly) and Level K (for Bee and Tiger):

Level 2  - Lesson 47 - Identifying the fulcrum, load, and effort of levers/Identifying how 2nd and 3rd class levers function 

We began the lesson by reviewing the levers we learned about in the previous lesson - hand truck (or dolly as I call them) and scissors - and discussed how levers make work easier.

Then we talked about how a wheelbarrow is lever while looking at a picture.  I had Curly identify the load from looking at the picture.  We talked about how you move a wheelbarrow and the type of effort needed.  Then we talked about how a wheelbarrow is different from the hand truck in the previous lesson.  She noticed that the fulcrum is in the front while the load is behind the wheel.

Next we looked at a picture of a nutcracker and discussed the place for the load, fulcrum, and effort.  Then we examined tweezers, a stapler, a hammer, and a baseball bat, discussing the different locations of the load, fulcrum, and effort. (I never thought about a baseball bat being a lever!  New info to me!)

After our discussion, Curly got out her small physics booklet and we worked on the page for the day.  We looked at the diagrams of the various objects and Curly labelled the load and effort and highlighted the fulcrum on each object.  Then we discussed which were 2nd class levers and which were 3rd class, examining the differences of each.  After she understood the differences, we looked back at the previous lesson of 1st class levers and compared and contrasted the 3 types of levers.
She completed the lesson review about the types of levers the next day.  

Curly's favorite lesson so far was the lesson where she chose someone to interview about the different types of simple machines that they used.  She chose to interview her Pops (my dad).  She called him and asked him the questions on her interview form.  She asked about the types of electric or battery-operated machines he used in his daily life.  Then she asked about times when he used an inclined plane, a wedge, a screw, a lever, a wheel and axle, and a pulley.  She wrote down the examples he provided and they had a cute little discussion of about the various machines she had studied.  She was very excited to show me her results!  Hearing her tell me about the interview allowed me to see how well she understood the concepts and the various types of machines. 

Level 2 Breakdown
So far in level 2 we've studied
  • properties of liquids, solids, and gases, 
  • transparency
  • magnetic attraction
  • physical properties of minerals
  • gravity, mass, and friction
  • simple machines 
  • properties of sound
  • properties of light

Level K - Lesson 39 - Observing and describing mixtures of liquids
This lesson began with a review of the previous lessons.  We discussed how we had frozen various liquids until they became solids.  Then we talked about how we had let them melt and become liquids again.

Then we mixed sand with water in a bottle and made observations about the buoyancy of sand - not at all buoyant!  Then we shook the bottle and saw the sand mix with the water and then settle back to the bottom.

Next we mixed oil and water and made observations about the buoyancy of oil - which was very buoyant as it floated on the water.  We then shook the bottle to create a mixture and then watched it separate.

We shook a bottle of salad dressing to observe it as a mixture.  Then we added food coloring to a bottle of water and watched our new mixture.  We also mixed powdered drink powder in a bottle to create another mixture.

Some of Tiger and Bee's favorite lessons were the lessons about using our senses when we tasted sweet, salty, sour, and bitter foods in a fun taste test.  They also loved the lessons when they learned different ways to describe matter through making observations of the foam blocks included in the kit.

Level K Breakdown
So far in Level K we've studied
  • the different parts of the body
  • the five senses
  • the different food groups
  • good hygiene
  • characteristics of pets
  • describing characteristics of objects
  • characteristics of sea shells
  • how to compare the mass of objects
  • identifying objects that are bouyant
  • making and separating mixtures with solids and liquids
  • forces that move objects such as wind, magnets, and gravity

Here's why science is fun (and it's fun for me too!):

Everything is included - No shopping trips for me.  I don't have to hunt down strange and random supplies.  Nope, the main things are all in the box and I just grab a few household items and we are ready for our lesson!

Very little prep is needed - I don't have to spend time looking over lessons and making lesson plans.  Everything is very clearly laid out in the teacher guide - to what supplies we need and what papers from our notebook to tips for planning ahead for later lessons.

Instructions and lessons are clear - Yes, this program is scripted.  No, I never, ever thought I would use or enjoy a scripted program.  But I very much do!  Have you ever tried to explain physics concepts to a 2nd grade in words they understand?  I have, and I do a very terrible job.  With this program I just read from the guide where the language is geared for your student and the concepts are put in terms they can understand.  I never have to worry about how to present a lesson or a topic.

The program is developmentally appropriate - The program does not contain very detailed experiments or complicated demonstrations.  The lessons are presented and with each lesson there is an activity or demonstration.  All of them can be performed by your child.  This means that I'm not the one setting up for the demonstration, doing it, and then cleaning it up while my children watch and quickly become bored because there are too many steps.  No, the child can complete the activities and they are the ones who get the hands-on learning.

The lessons are short - The lessons do not take us more than 20 or 30 minutes (which does not count any additional reading we do on a topic).  This means that science can easily fit into my schedule.  This science gets done at my house!

The lessons are incremental - Each lesson builds upon itself within the program.  You learn one concept on Monday and then the next lesson takes that concept one step further.  However, we never experience information overload!

My kids remember everything - I am amazed at the concepts that they retain and I love seeing them apply those concepts in other situations.  Just this month, Curly launched into an entire explanation of sound waves and decibels after complaining that her brother's iPod was too loud.

We really enjoy the hands-on activities with Nancy Larson Science.  They clearly illustrate the lessons while the lessons seamlessly build upon each other.  The program uses scientific vocabulary pared with developmentally appropriate explanations.  It is easy to teach and simply gets done!  We look forward to our science lessons!

Hip Homeschool Moms

April 14, 2014

{Review Crew} Curiosity Quest

My kids love watching educational DVD's while they walk on the treadmill - true story!!!  I like that they can exercise while they learn.  It's a win-win for us!  
We were excited to review some new educational DVD's from Curiosity Quest.  We reviewed the DVD Combo Pack - Produce and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers of the Sea

Curiosity Quest Review

What is it?
Curiosity Quest is a family friendly educational program that bases its content on the letters sent from viewers who are curious about something - such as "Where do oranges grow?"  The producers then create a show that is shot on location to answer the question and provide educational facts about that topic.
Curiosity Quest Review

Each show is hosted by Joel Greene who is on location to give a tour of each farm, factory, or place of business.  He asks questions and presents facts to the viewer.  There are also interviews with children interspersed throughout the show.  Kids are asked questions about the topic and they give their best guess as to the answer.  Then the host answers the questions in the next portion of the show.
Curiosity Quest Review

These DVD combo packs take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of a mushroom farm, an orange orchard, and a cranberry grower.  The second set of DVD's contains a tour of a sea turtle hospital, an aquarium that houses penguins, and Alaskan rivers teaming with salmon. 

Each episode lasts for about 30 minutes and the program is geared for ages 7-14.

Curiosity Quest Review

How did we use it?
We watched the DVD's while the kids "exercised" on the treadmill.  We watched them while we folded laundry.  We watched them while we snuggled on the couch with snacks.  We watched them while I cooked dinner.  We watched them for family night.  And we enjoyed every minute!

Curiosity Quest Review

And after we watched them, the kids insisted that they must eat oranges and dried cranberries - right then.  They also created their own animal hospital upstairs and doctored sea creatures for several hours.

We also talked about the DVD's, read more about the foods and animals in the videos, and did some internet research to learn more.  These videos started some fun interest in the topics, and we followed several rabbit trails about foods and sea animals.

Curiosity Quest Review

And we learned so many wonderful things!  

  • Did you know that sea turtles can live to be over 100 years old?  They are also very fast swimmers and can move through the water at over 30 miles per hour!
  • Did you know that cranberries don't grow in water but the cranberry fields are flooded during harvest time to make harvesting easier?  Cranberries float so they are easy to harvest on the surface of the water.
  • Did you know that oranges were not native to America and that Columbus brought the first orange seeds to our country in 1493?

Well, now you do and we do too!  We learned these facts and many more after watching (and re-watching) the DVD's. 

What did we think?
My kids loved watching these DVD's and I enjoyed watching with them.  We found the information to be interesting and the tours of the different places like an orange grove or a sea turtle hospital to be fascinating.  It was like having our own private field trip!

Throughout the video there are several interviews with children.  The host asks them a question and films multiple children giving their answer.  My kids thought some of their responses were hilarious and hilariously wrong!  The interviews sent them into giggles as they listened to some pretty strange speculations from other kids.

We enjoyed the host and his silly antics.  He does a great job explaining the process and the facts in each video and my kids were able to understand the information well.  They found him funny and his presentation to be entertaining.

My wrap up!
I thought these DVD's were a very fun and informative look into topics that my kids (and I) found interesting.  There was a lot of info packed into each show and we loved all the facts we learned.  But the behind-the-scenes tours were so wonderful that was our favorite aspect of the DVD's.  These were perfect educational entertainment for family movie nights!

So, what are you curious about?  Check out the episodes of Curiosity Quest and you might find the answers to satisfy that curiosity!

Curiosity Quest Review

More info.....
The DVD Combo Packs each retail for $24.95.
You can find more about Curiosity Quest on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

{Day in the Life} My No Good, Horrible, Really Bad Homeschool Day

I'm sitting here in jammies on my bed at 7 PM eating some cheesecake ice cream behind a locked door.  My hubby is out there somewhere on the other side of that door.  He's courageously trying to bathe all the kids, clean up the kitchen, do a load of laundry, and put all the kids to bed (after reading them bedtime stories of course!).  I am hiding.  I refuse to come out!  (Actually, he graciously gave me the night off and told me to get some rest).  So, I'm in here with my ice cream thinking back on my really rotten homeschool day.  I thought I'd share it with you.  You might want to grab your own pint of ice cream.

My morning started off with me over-sleeping.  I got up about 5:45 AM.  I usually aim for closer to 5:15...  I threw on a hoodie over my jammies, grabbed a protein shake and a water, and rushed upstairs.  I plugged in my essential oil diffuser and added a few drops of a bright, citrus-y scent called "Joy."  Ohhh that is so ironic!  The scent would later mock me!  Then I woke up Curly and we started right in.

As I tried to teach I quickly discovered that I was in the process of losing my voice.  I sounded like a bullfrog being drug through gravel with the lovely occasional squeaking and cracking of a pre-teen boy.  It was wonderfully fun!

Ladybug thought she would wake up at 6:15 because she's a little early bird.  I usually give her the iPad to watch a show while we finish school.  The iPad would not work.  I then plugged in a small TV with DVD player for her to watch.  The remote wouldn't work.  I ran downstairs to get batteries.  We were out.  She's on the floor shrieking and waking the whole house.  I handed her my computer and all the "plug ins" crash and videos will not play.  Tiger and Bee came out to investigate the noise.  I finally got the computer to play a movie and sent them to another room so I could finish school with Curly.

Curly was having a terrible time concentrating and was not doing well in math or in spelling.  We moved on to grammar and I realized that I've forgotten to print out the next few lessons for her.  I tried to print and realized that the printer was out of paper.

The other kids kept appearing with my computer to tell me that "it's black but still making noise."  My computer goes to sleep every 10 minutes even if I'm watching a movie on it.  And because I try to be one step ahead of my little people, it has a password they can not crack.  So every 10 minutes I unlocked the computer so they could see their movie.  I would totally change this "going to sleep" habit of my computer.  If only I knew how!

We made it to breakfast time and little Punkin refused to eat.  She threw all her food on the floor which had just been mopped the night before.  It's rare that my house is mopped.  Now I'm reminded why I don't usually bother.  I finally coaxed her to eat cereal while the other kids ran upstairs to brush teeth and fight over the toothpaste.

By the time I get upstairs Ladybug is at the art table ready for our "school" time.  However, she jumped the gun a little bit and has opened all the various colors of finger paint and squirted them onto a paper plate and she's painting away all over some cardstock (that is for a different project), the table, and herself.  What a huge mess!

During Tiger's school time he argued with me about every. single. thing.  I tried to be patient and I even gave him options but he refused to choose which subject to complete first.  Then when I made the choice he threw himself on the floor screaming, "But that's not what I wanted to choose!!!"  Oh my goodness.  We barely survive school time.

In the background the girls were fighting with each other and Punkin and Ladybug were both screaming.  They couldn't hear my whisper of a voice over their racket so I think of a plan.  I ran downstairs for the little bejeweled bell that my mom gave me and I pounded away on it.  It got their attention so I could calm everyone.  I walked around with my green sparkly bell for the rest of the day, just dinging away every time the noise was out of control.  My kids thought I was truly crazy as I'd thrust a bell into the midst of their arguments and ding it until they quieted down.  At least it worked!

Bee spent her school time interrupting me by asking random questions.  "Why do we hide eggs on Easter?"  "What does a pirate flag look like?"  "Where do detectives live?"  "Are there any mysteries in this house?"  Please make it stop!

By lunch time I was feeling the affects of whatever sickness had robbed me of my voice.  I made lunch after dropping parts of it on the floor because I was suddenly lethargic and exhausted.  The kids tromped downstairs in a loud chorus of coughing.  Awesome!  Everyone was sick!  I fed them and then gave out cough medicine and some extra vitamin C.  I put Punkin to bed and Curly supervised Ladybug as she walked on the treadmill (at a snail's pace, but whatever, it will eventually wear her out!).

I went upstairs to do history with Bee and Tiger and noticed that Bee was having an allergic reaction.  Her face and neck were broken out in hives and her lips were swollen.  Now I was in total panic mode.  I washed her face, gave her meds, and used her inhaler.  I grabbed our stethoscope (yes - this allergy mom keeps that handy to listen for wheezing).  Thankfully she was breathing well but she was very red.  I spent the next hour monitoring her, tearfully calling my husband, and trying to keep everyone else calm.

Finally Bee was doing better and I tried to move on with Plan B.  I tossed out history, Bible, and Spanish and put Bee on the couch with Curly who read to her.  I gave Tiger the job of picking up his room because, WOW!, I noticed the disaster area it had become as I walked by.  I then put a very, very fussy Ladybug down for her nap after reading some books.  Bee fell asleep so we put her to bed to rest after her scary reaction.  Curly then read to Tiger and I grabbed some blankets and curled up in my bed to pretend like the day was almost over.

By the time Daddy came home, everyone was awake.  Punkin was definitely sick with a cold and a bad cough.  I had diagnosed Ladybug with a bad cold and a cough.  I'd pegged Bee with an ear infection and something else very icky that was making her run a fever - on top of how rotten she felt after her reaction.  Curly was coughing and sneezing her head off.  I guessed allergies to be the cause.  And Tiger was bouncing off the walls.  At that point my sweet hubby made some dinner for the crazy crew and after I helped him get things a little more under control, he sent me off to bed to try to recover from our very long, terrible, no good, rotten, really awful, bad, bad day.  

And it's back to school tomorrow!  Isn't this fun????

Hip Homeschool Moms

April 13, 2014

{Featured Post} Hopping Along to Easter

This week I'm being featured on an Easter blog hop.  You can see our fun Easter crafts at the links below.  Be sure to visit the blogs that host the hop and link your fun Easter ideas!

Thanks for featuring me ladies!

Tots and Me
Welcome to the third week of the Hopping Along to Easter Blog Hop hosted by Tots and MeWalking in Faith and Angels of Heart

We would love for you to come back each week and check out the current topic.  We ask that you compose a related post answering the question, or share an old post that fits the theme. Please include the Hopping Along to Easter Blog Hop Button or a text link back to the hop, and head on over to any of the co-hosts' blogs to link up. Your post may be as long or short as you want it to be.  We will be choosing a co-host from those who link up a relevant post during the week.  The co-host will have the linky on their blog for the following week.

Featured Co-Host

Lexi from Lextin Academy shared some beautiful Easter Decorations and Art, including Marbled Egg Art, Spaghetti "Easter Grass" Art, Woven Easter Egg Art and Bunny Silhouette Art. Don't forget to stop by and check out all the wonderful ideas.

Please take the time to visit the blogs of those who have linked up.  Leave a comment.  Follow them.  Wish them a Happy Easter.
Don't forget to follow the hostesses.  We will gladly stop by your blog and follow you back.

Here is this week's question:

What are your favorite Easter recipes? Breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, snacks?  

We are looking forward to reading your posts, visiting your blogs and following you.

(Please be aware that irrelevant posts, links to your main blog instead of a specific post and giveaways will be deleted. Please only link up posts relevant to the weekly theme. Thank you for your understanding.)

April 11, 2014

{Homeschool Dad CEO} Day 5 - Promotion

This post is part of a 5 part series about homeschooling from a dad's perspective and my husband's role in our homeschool.  You can read each day in the series here:

We've been homeschooling for a few years and my hubby is not the CEO in name only - he's the real deal now.  He's a seasoned homeschool dad who now considers himself a homeschool advocate.  Once he was a skeptic and now he's an enthusiastic supporter. 

What does he think about homeschooling now?

Homeschooling has surpassed all of my husband's expectations.  We didn't turn into a stereotype that he dreaded - we're still uniquely us.  We have well-rounded, socialized, articulate kids who are comfortable around people and able to express themselves in individualistic ways.  We have been able to mold our school around our family identity and our core values.  My husband has learned that this homeschool thing is a family effort and it takes everyone pitching in to keep our home running and our homeschool flourishing.  We've learned to work alongside each other to accomplish a mutual goal and it's brought our family closer than ever. 

Through this experience my husband has developed a passion for home education.  He loves to share our journey with others to encourage them in their homeschool adventures.  The whole family is happy and loving our homeschool journey - so we must be doing something right!

What has my hubby learned through homeschooling?

My hubby has a full-time job in the financial industry but he works part time as an adjunct faculty online for 3 different Christian Universities (teaching classes for them at different times of the year).  He has seen a wide variety of students through his several years of teaching.  One thing he has noticed is that we often take our knowledge for granted and he is astounded at how many students don't understand the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Seeing the huge gaps in the educational foundation of his students has made him even more excited about the opportunities we have in our homeschool.  He has learned that we should never take our own knowledge for granted and assume that our kids will just naturally "pick up on" a concept.  Nope, sometimes it takes some teaching, demonstration, and repetition.

He has discovered that our discussions with our kids provide the best possible assessments.  He loves to have conversations about what they've learned in homeschool that day.  Sometimes he even learns something new.  At the end of the discussion, he has a great idea of what they've learned and how much they remember.  It gives us both the confidence to keep going because we are seeing results.

My husband has learned that teaching is very difficult at times.  Kids ask continual questions and we don't always know how to answer.  Concepts that we learned years ago can be difficult to break down into smaller pieces to explain to a young child.  You have to understand something extremely well in order to teach it to someone else.  This job is not for the faint of heart!

He has also gained new insight into the learning process.  Learning is not a simple process of learning information, applying information, and then retaining that information.  No, learning is two steps forward and one step back.  Kids forget things, they get ideas confused, and they have trouble applying one concept to the next.  Learning is a rather messy process that involves all the senses.  It's not the straightforward process that my husband envisioned. 

What does my husband feel are the biggest cons to homeschooling?

It can sometimes be hard to spend time with other kids and other families.  Families whose children attend the local schools have a different schedule than we do and their days are packed.  It can be hard to find time to do things with them.  It is just as challenging to schedule time with other homeschoolers because they have packed schedules as well - and because their schedules are flexible they often travel at various times.  It is just hard to connect with others because of the busyness that seems to permeate our society.

My husband sometimes worries about me as I try to balance my time.  I don't have much time for myself right now since our children are so young and are very dependent on me.  He knows that it can be challenging to be surrounded by little people 100% of my day.  He understands that I sometimes miss the adult conversations and the time to myself.  And homeschooling means that he is needed around the house so his time is very limited as well.  In short, homeschooling is a sacrifice on both our parts and some days we are too exhausted to feel very blessed by our family.  

What does he believe are the biggest pros to homeschooling?

My husband is thrilled that we can give our kids a varied education with experiences in many different areas.  We have the ability to focus on their interests and tailor their education to their learning styles.  He believes we are able to cover more "extras" than what could be studied in a traditional school setting in one day.

He enjoys the benefits of controlling the pace of our kids' learning, the curriculum we use, the subjects we teach, and what assignments they will complete.  He was instrumental in helping me when our oldest struggled with math last year and he was the one who kept encouraging me to slow down the pace to allow her to better understand concepts.  This year she has excelled in math so we've both seen the benefits of our flexible schedule.  My husband is so glad that we can choose curricula that I enjoy teaching and keep the workload to a reasonable amount so that we still have plenty of play time and family time.

The biggest pro of homeschooling for my husband is definitely the ability to do what's best for our family.  If we need to take a week off, we do.  If we need to change curricula or change the pace of a certain subject, we can.  If we want to take an impromptu field trip, we do.  If we develop a certain interest in a topic for further study, we can take our time to explore.  The benefit of homeschooling is that we can fit it to our family life.  We can also focus on mentoring and discipling our children in more than just school work.  We teach them morals, values, and life skills that are beyond the scope of what they would learn in a classroom.  For now, homeschooling is the best fit for our family and we're thankful we have the choice to continue our journey.

How has my husband taken ownership of leading our homeschool?
  • Homeschooling has become a passion of my husband's and he now does quite a bit of research about homeschooling.  In fact, his PhD dissertation is about homeschool families!
  • He sees the success of our little homeschool and it motivates him to keep the forward progress.  Therefore, he finds lots of ways to encourage me from sending me texts throughout the day to leaving me notes on my bathroom mirror.  
  • He listens to my thoughts on curricula and the scope of our learning and gives me his feedback on what topics we're covering.  Then he helps me find resources to use in our homeschool and he very sweetly gives me a generous budget so I can purchase what we need.  He's also been known to make late night Target runs for supplies when I realize I've forgotten something.
How does he lead our homeschool?
  • He gives me time to blog, plan, and organize my thoughts.  
  • He gives me some time away from the kids - either by myself or with other mom friends.
  • He works tirelessly behind the scenes doing dishes and laundry without complaint.
  • He checks with the kids to see what they've learned.
  • He provides "back-up" with discipline issues or to encourage the kids to complete their work.
  • He is willing to fill in the gaps if we didn't quite complete some work for the day.  
  • He makes positive comments about homeschooling to the kids to encourage and excite them.
  • He prays for me daily and sends me reminders of what he's specifically praying for our day.
So, my husband has enthusiastically stepped into his role as homeschool CEO.  

Ohh, and who am I here at Lextin?  I'm the President and COO - though I prefer to think of myself as Supreme Dictator (of a somewhat benevolent, chocolate-loving sort).

Check out these wonderful bloggers who are participating in the blog hop with me!
Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool ~ Homeschooling with Excessive Energy
Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles ~  Organizing Your Home and School
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm ~ Homeschooling Thankfulness
Melissa @ Mom's Plans ~ Historical Field Trips
Karen @ Tots and Me ~ Making Geography Fun
Adena @ AdenaF ~ Mnemonics
Amy @ Homeschool Encouragement ~ Lego Learning
Erin @ For Him and My Family ~ Record Keeping

To visit all the bloggers participating in this blog hop click on the banner below!

April Blog Hop

Hip Homeschool Moms

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