November 25, 2015

{Review and Giveaway} Kwik Stix Solid Tempera Paint

I had the chance to review the Kwik Stix Solid Tempera Paint Sticks with my kids and I think we found a new favorite way to do art! Keep reading for our review and be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this page. These would be the perfect stocking stuffer for Christmas!

Kwik Stix Solid Tempera Paint Sticks from The Pencil Grip Inc. are tempera paint in a solid form - think painting with something like oil pastels. There is no mess and no clean up!

My kids described their painting experience as "painting with chapstick." And if you have a toddler I can bet that they've tried to paint with chapstick once or twice. This means that these paint sticks are perfect for the little people in your life.

All of my kids ages 9, 7, 6, 4, and 3 used these sticks and they all loved them. In fact, my kids exclaimed that these were their "favorite" and my oldest daughter said they were the "best way to paint so that no one is messy." Yes, I have to agree!

The paint goes on smooth and dries in just 90 seconds.

The colors are bright and don't fade.

I love that I don't have to pour more paint for my kids or clean any brushes. They just twist up the paint sticks and continue painting. So very easy!

These are my new favorite art supplies and my kids have been using them just about daily since we received them.

Now I just need them in new colors like pastel, neon, or even glitter.

They come in 3 sizes:
6 count
12 count
96 count class pack (with 8 of each color included)

Check out my giveaway below to enter your very own set of Kwik Stix!

Giveaway open to US residents only.  Winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter and will have 48 hours to respond to email.  I will verify the winning entry.  If the winner does not respond within that timeframe, a new winner will be selected.  The product offered is free of charge, no purchase necessary.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are not affiliated with this giveaway.  By providing your information on this form, you are providing your information to me and me alone.  I do not share any information and will only use your information in order to contact the winner.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 23, 2015

4th Year Homeschool Burnout

Sometimes in the late evening I read through the Well-Trained Mind Forums while my hubby is doing some work. I love all the curriculum discussions and the wonderful wisdom shared by some of the veteran homeschool moms there.

The other day I saw a post about burnout. This poor mom had just finished a very challenging homeschool year and asked for ideas to help her rediscover the joy in homeschooling again. She was planning to have a little summer homeschool revival. Lots of great ideas were given to her as well as encouragement. But I did notice a theme among some of the other moms who chimed in to commiserate about their difficult homeschool years.

What was that theme?

This mom had just completed her 4th official year of homeschooling and that's when the burnout surfaced. Of the several other moms who also complained of a lack of desire to continue, all professed to just completing their 4th homeschool year.

Confession: I had major homeschool burnout last year. I lost my homeschool "pizzazz" as one mom put it. I was right there in then same boat, bailing out water and wondering if I'm going to sink.

Fact: Last year was my 4th "official" homeschool year as well.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

There has to be something about the 4th homeschool year that makes many moms want to give up.

Here seems to be the homeschool progression for the first 4 years:

1st year homeschool mom
This is the year that a homeschool mom is thrilled to start her homeschool journey. She has made the decision, looked at curriculum, purchased books, and planned for her year. A new adventure is on the horizon and she is about to take the first step.
The excitement is tempered by nervousness and fear. She wonders if she'll do the right thing and if she's chosen the right curriculum. She will doubt her choices routinely.

Basically, the first year homeschool mom is completely bipolar - torn between the crazy excitement to begin the homeschool journey and the overwhelming fear of doing something wrong.

2nd year homeschool mom
This homeschool mom has 1 year under her belt and she's feeling less timid in her choices. She has found things that worked well in her first year and things that did not work well at all. This year she is a more wise consumer and is able to make more informed choices about curriculum and schedules. She steps into her second year with more confidence and enthusiasm to try again and improve on any mistakes made in her first year.

3rd year homeschool mom
This mom is finding her groove with homeschooling. She has found curriculum that she enjoys and has experimented with a schedule that works. She has learned some important lessons through trial and error. Some of those are that there is no "right" way to homeschool and that her homeschool is unique. This gives her the confidence to choose what works best for her family. She is empowered and more comfortable with her homeschool decision.

4th year homeschool mom
For some, this is the year that the homeschool mom begins to face burnout. This mom has found curriculum that works and she has purchased the next level of the programs that she enjoys. She has a routine and she is taking the next steps in her homeschool journey. There may not be as many changes and new curriculum choices in this year. Homeschool is no longer a new and exciting adventure; homeschool has simply become what she does every single day despite the complaints and bad attitudes of her children.

At least, this is how the progression was for me in my homeschool journey.

Once I hit the fourth year I was in a predictable routine. I moved through each day and saw significant progress but I had lost the joy and excitement of homeschooling. The newness of our homeschool journey wore off and I hit the phase where everything felt like hard work.

I officially experienced 4th year homeschool burnout.

I have no idea what year 5 will bring but I was getting a little worried. I wondered what the next phase would be like in our homeschool....So far things are going more smoothly.

I had made a plan to better equip myself over the summer, knowing that homeschooling now feels more like a chore than a privilege. I planned a little homeschool summer revival (podcasts, webinars, encouraging books, homeschool conventions) to help find my pizzazz for another homeschool year. And I do think it has helped me!

November 18, 2015

{Book List} Anatomy Picture Books

May contain affiliate links. 

One of the topics that we're covering this school year in science is anatomy. So here are a few picture books for studying the human body.

The Skeleton Inside You by Balestrino

The Circulatory Story by Corcoran

The Quest to Digest by Corcoran

Hear Your Heart by Showers

A Drop of Blood by Showers

Outside In by Smallman

The Way We Work by Macaulay

Bones by Steve Jenkins

Lungs by Simon

Muscles by Simon

The Heart by Simon

The Brain by Simon

Guts by Simon

Bones by Simon

The Circulatory System by Taylor-Butler

The Respiratory System by Taylor-Butler

The Digestive System by Taylor-Butler

November 16, 2015

{Organize and Plan} My Homeschool Planning Nights

I don't do much planning during my school year. I try to have most of my planning done over the summer.

If you want more information about how I plan you can read these two planning posts found here and here.

However, even though I've chosen curriculum for the year that is fairly open-and-go, I still need to do some planning for the year. I get all of my planning done in a couple of hours on Sunday nights. On those evenings my husband takes all of the children to AWANA at church. I stay home, turn on some music, and get busy.

  • First I make a menu plan for the week.
  • I go ahead and put together a simple breakfast for Monday morning such as muffins or baked oatmeal. 
  • I then go down to the basement and pick up our school area. I function best when our school space is not a disaster area on Monday morning. 
  • I look back over the previous week and check off our school days on my calendar. My new state requires me to track the number of days that we school. I have a simple calendar and put a star on each school day. At the end of each month I tally up the number of school days that we have completed so far in the year. Easy!
  • I grade any papers that need my attention (which usually isn't too many since I try to correct papers as I go). 
  • Then I glance through the various curriculum guides and skim over the upcoming lessons to make sure I have all the needed supplies and know what we are going to cover for the week. 
  • I go through all the books we are reading and update our reading basket, trading out old books for new ones. 
  • And once I feel ready for the new week, I enjoy some blogging time in which I can sort out my thoughts. 

My planning time is very simple and doesn't require much time since I spent the summer going through all of our curriculum and preparing for the year. But my one planning evening helps me feel organized and ready for each upcoming week.

As the kids get older and are doing more independent work, I know I'll need to spend more time reading ahead in the teacher guides or grading papers. However, for now, I get to have a quiet evening with some blogging time.

Having the one evening a week that is dedicated to homeschool planning is a huge sanity-saver for me. It is an absolute must in order for our homeschool to function smoothly. 

November 11, 2015

How I Use Song School Latin with an Older Child

I decided that 4th grade would be the perfect time to begin learning Latin with Curly. She's had several years of Spanish and is making great progress learning vocabulary and basic grammar. So I felt that now was an appropriate time to introduce a study of Latin. However, I wanted to take it slowly since Spanish has been more of our focus. I looked at various options and finally settled on Song School Latin.

Yes, Curly is older than the recommended age of early elementary for this curriculum. Yes, some of the aspects of the curriculum will be too easy for her. However, I felt like it was more important to have a fun and simple introduction to Latin for this year since our schedule is already fairly full.

I chose Song School Latin because I liked the way that songs were incorporated to help remember the vocabulary words. I also liked that the lessons were short and simple with only a few vocabulary words or grammar concepts introduced in each lesson. I was also drawn to the idea that we would have videos that we could watch together (so I could learn too!). And lastly, I knew that the younger kids would enjoy the videos and songs and would probably pick up on quite a bit of Latin without even trying (and I was very right about that!).

In using Song School Latin we complete two lessons per week. This means that Curly will complete the first book in the fall and then move into Song School Latin 2 for the spring. After that I plan to continue on with the books from Classical Academic Press and use Latin for Children.

Here's how our week looks with this program:

  • Every day we begin by watching the video for the lesson. We have a 4 day school week so on Monday and Tuesday we watch the same video and on Wednesday and Thursday we watch the video for the next lesson. Every video is watched twice which has really helped Curly's retention.
  • Then we do an exercise or two in the small workbook. 
  • And at the end of our lesson we go through a large section of the vocabulary cards and I drill her to make sure she doesn't forget words from previous lessons. 
  • She then listens to the songs on her iPod while I work with another sibling. 

Our Latin lessons have been quick and easy. I'm very impressed with Curly's retention of the Latin words. I've found this program to be a zero stress way to begin our Latin studies.

Some pros and cons about this program:

  • The quality of the videos and even of the song CD is not exactly perfect. There are mistakes (that drive me a little crazy) but my kids don't notice most of them. 
  • The workbook is not very indepth and is better for a younger student as the exercises are short and some don't require writing - only drawing. This would be perfect for my smaller ones but Curly does find it easy (which is ok with me for this year). 
  • The younger kids enjoy watching the videos and listening to the songs, so they are effortlessly learning Latin words and phrases. 
  • The videos are nice because someone else is presenting the lesson. And my favorite part of the video is the derivative river which lists English, Spanish, and French words that are derived from Latin. Curly has learned so much vocabulary from this one small section!
  • The flashcards are invaluable as they make it easy to have a daily review time of previously learned words. 

Overall, this program is easy to use which is why I chose it initially. I wanted to keep our first exposure to Latin very fun and simple and this program fit the bill. Even though Curly is moving very quickly through the program she is finding her study to be fun because she is not overwhelmed with the introduction to Latin while she also continues to study Spanish. I'll be using this program over and over again as I use it later with the younger kids.

So yes, I waited until Curly was older to begin our Latin studies. And yes, we are getting a very slow and gentle start. However, I have no regrets. Our Latin experience is fun and simple and we both want to continue our studies together.

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