Fundanoodle: Review

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When beginning homeschooling for kindergarten one of the first things everyone looks for is a handwriting curriculum. There are so many to choose from! With so many choices it can be hard to know what is best. There are many, really good ones, but I’m really excited to share something brand new to me and what I think I’ll continue to use with Grace through Kindergarten. 
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Fundanoodle is a really neat company I was not familiar with before this review. Their learning activities are very hands-on and all about experiencing while learning. When you have time, take a minute to read about their company and philosophy. You’ll see why I’m really behind this company. We reviewed the I Can Build Upper Case Letter! activity kit ($29.99) for ages 4-5 (Pre-K-Kindergarten). What a blessing it has been for Grace!
This is such an amazing value! The kit includes a magnetic dry-erase board, a set of magnetic curves and lines for buildling letters, a dry-erase marker, activity cards for gross motor skills, and a wooden dice. There are other handwriting systems which incorporate building the letters with a set of basic curves and lines, but not for this price with everything included. The magnets are very high quality and sturdy. Directions for building the letters are also included. 
Upon opening the box I hadn’t even taken everything out before Grace was trying it out! She knew it was for making letters and without any guidance she built D and was so very proud of herself. I know it wasn’t exactly how it was intended to be built, but she was discovering on her own and loving it. I knew she was hooked and this was going to be fun!
Although many schools are doing away with recess researchers agree physical activity throughout the day is vital to stimulating the brain and provide more focus. Fundanoodle provides a very easy way to incorporate gross motor skills with this program with the gross motor cards. These were soooo fun. I honestly didn’t know how they would go over. They seemed so simple, but this was one of her favorite things! She simply rolled the dice to choose which card we would do, flip it over, then follow the directions, which was always moving the same way as a specific animal. 
Don’t these shots just say it all? Grace loved roaring like  lion and hopping like a kangaroo. Just as expected, her focus and attention was increased when we got down to the core of the program. 
First Grace built the letter we were working on. I chose to have her do the same letter every day for a week because of her age. I’ll explain why below. I would hand her the pieces needed for the letter and let her do the best she could…which was pretty good as you can see! For some letters I had to help her align them a bit, but she got the idea from the start and this was something I really liked. Having her tangibly form letters with these basic shapes seemed to cement them in her mind. 
I really like that the straight-lined letters are taught first. Some handwriting programs teach the curved letters first. Some teach them in ABC order. Others teach consonants and then vowels. To me, this makes the most sense. 
You can see there are several rows for the students to practice on. Because of her age (not quite 4) I felt it would be best for Grace to work on one line each day. The first three rows are in boxes which really helped her form her letters better. Again, I’ve seen other curriculum use this method, but not with as much clarity as is used in this book. I also like that the last two lines are traditional practice paper for her to use. This was much harder for her, but she gave it her best and really did quite well. This is the first time she’s really used handwriting paper even though she’s been writing letters for a while. 
Another really fun aspect is each letter has its own special sticker for her to place on each page when she is done. She loved these I like the reward. It was something to work towards which was very simple. 
This program is good…so, so good. I hadn’t disliked any of the other handwriting curricula I’ve used with my girls, but I hadn’t yet found one I loved. Now I have! 
Read about this and the many other wonderful products from Fundanoodle from my Crewmates!

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Week in Review: April 1-5

Rose and I had a week off from our homeschool classes for spring break. I teach junior high literature and writing and Rose takes a science/humanities class. We both enjoy them, but also thoroughly enjoyed the week off! We had a more relaxed schedule even though we kept on with our regular at-home school schedule. Don’t worry, I’m not refusing my girls a break! My in-laws are coming up for a visit in another week and we chose to take our at-home break then. Many of my piano students are also out of town this week so it sill feels like break!
Thankfully the south decided to finally thaw a bit from the cold and dry out from the rain! The girls have enjoyed a lot of time outside. Unfortunately a fever/cold also made it’s round and we haven’t enjoyed as much time with our neighborhood friends as we would have liked! Now that they’re all better, it’s sleeting outside. What a crazy spring!
Grace-Filled Homeschooling is also now on Twitter and Tumbler! I was so intimidated by these two, but now enjoying the benefits of both! I don’t have many followers yet, so look forward to these new options for giveaway entries. 

Before I got on with our week-in-review…
There is still a chance to enter two giveaways from two fabulous companies! 
Click the images above to see my reviews and enter the giveaway!
Little Hands to Heaven: Unit 17
Grace was very insistent this Monday that she do her lessons first. After her week off I can understand! She loves lessons. Her sisters do as well, but Grace nearly cries when they are over each day! Our letter for the week was N and her finger-play rhyme for this was N-N-Naughty. She thought this was incredibly funny. We also studied about the kings of Israel who were often n-n-naughty! 
One of her favorite things to do now is handwriting. I have used the pages from The Learning Page with all three of my girls and I adore them. They have sets of traditional handwriting pages with just a few examples, but they also have full sheets of dotted letters for tracing for both print and cursive. It is free to sign up and there are lots of other freebies as well.  Although they do link to sites where you have to pay for resources, all of the handwriting sheets can be downloaded free.
Our printer decided to be finicky right when I was ready to print Grace’s N to glue on, so we went old-school with a sharpie and piece of blank paper! I could have just used the glue, but her favorite color is blue, so I thought this would be more fun. My girl could do this for hours. I’m not sure what it is she loves about it, but gluing things onto paper makes her day! 
We’re just about finished with the B Book in the About Three series by Rod and Staff. She has progressed so much as a result of these simple black-line workbooks. She loves coloring the pages after she is finished so I’m glad they are black and white! I highly recommend this series and you can read my full review of them by clicking on the picture. 

Grace enjoyed playing a new game this week. Back when Rose was about two, I made a bunch of file-folder type games for her for matching colors, shapes, etc. I didn’t know of all the resources to be found online at the time and I had several made and laminated. I also made a few games like this which I never ended up printing. I came across them a few weeks ago and I printed and laminated them. The point is to match the numbers on the fish with the correct number of bubbles in the fish bowl. It isn’t fancy, but she had a lot of fun with it!
Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 25
Our cat can’t get enough of sitting with Beth during lessons. You’ll often see her little ears peaking out of Beth’s lap in our pictures! One reason is because she loves the girls, but it also helps that our schoolroom is the warmest spot in the house on cold mornings! This is partly because of the large window facing west, but in no small part due to the space-heater I keep at my cold-natured feet!

Beth’s word-wall letter was P. Her words included panda (her favorite animal), pig, pogo-stick, pumpkin, pen, pin, and Penny (the name). She has fun coming up with words and it has been a great starter for journal writing now. I really like the e-book journal I purchased at the dollar days sale for her which lets her draw pictures and fill in just a small portion of the entries. It has been an excellent tool for her and we’ll continue this on into 1st grade.

I’m hoping to do a write-up of our reading/language arts program soon because I’ve been asked a lot about it. I will go into more detail at a later date, but for now here is what we do in the order they are added:

Heart of Dakota’s Dictation

I start teaching my girls to read when they ask which has been 4 and 3 and a half so far! This is also the route Rose took via private school (k) and homeschool (1st). It left her with a very solid reading foundation which we’re building on continually with All About Spelling. It seems a bit eclectic for my style, but our choices came from what we owned and what I saw working. I plan to stick to this path with Grace.

Our study of George Washington was a lot of fun this week! We learned about the cherry tree story including that it may or may not be true as well as another story of his disobedience to his mother concerning a colt! I had never heard this one before and Beth really enjoyed it. One of the activities was pretending to be a colt and George Washington riding it. Grace filled in for GW since the purpose was to follow directions (right, left, etc.) Beth did a fabulous job and I even through in some north, south, east, west directions. The only trouble she had was being able to follow the directions through the giggling!

We are almost through with the the Inside Outside book from the ABC Rod and Staff series. We’ll be starting this series again with Grace next year and I will be a little sad to see them pass. My girls have all loved them and they have taught so very much. This last book focuses on wildlife in North America.

Bigger Hearts for His Glory: Unit 27
I have been informed this is my portrait! I’m glad she drew me happy and waving. She also asked me to take her picture with it, so I suppose she is very proud of how nice it looks. Nothing like a portrait of you to make the say just a little sweeter!

Arithmetic has become just a little sweeter for both girls thanks to this wonderful program we are reviewing for the TOS Review Crew! I’ll be posting on this in another couple of weeks, but I an tell you now that we use it daily and the girls beg to practice math facts now! Rose particularly likes that she is beginning to learn multiplication now. Her regular math curriculum starts that in 3rd grade and she’s been regularly asking to go ahead and learn multiplication. Now she can!

We’re on unit 8 of All About Spelling book 3. This is one of the best phonics follow-ups I’ve ever heard of or seen. Rose continues to easily recall all the spelling and phonics rules she has learned with ease. This rule we focused on this week was doubling letters to protect the short vowel and using y as a vowel at the end of words. Oh yeah…and my portrait is now saying, “I am a robot!” Hmmm….

For history we studied about the naturalist, John Muir, and touched lightly on the Spanish-American War. I appreciate that Rose is being introduced to the wars now lightly. She is young, but hears about them all the time. She also learned about some of the animals in North America that have gone extinct just in the last century. She drew a Florida Black Wolf as part of her notebooking page.

For literature Rose is reading a biography about Sacajawea from Knowledge Quest. It’s also a review we’re doing from the TOS Review Crew. I like that it is written from her perspective and Rose is thoroughly enjoying it. Since my background is teaching literature I make up my own literature units using a variety of pages and ideas. She just finished up her mystery unit and after the biography we’ll move on to historical fiction.

I’m excited to announce I’ll be hosting a giveaway from Safari, Ltd! If you’ve never seen their amazing animal and historical figures you’ll really need to check them out. It starts Monday, so don’t forget to stop by next week to enter!

Week in Review: March 25-29

I remember being told when we first started homeschooling that one of the downsides would be that my kids wouldn’t be exposed to enough germs. I can’t remember who said that, but boy were they wrong! Another cold decided to visit our home although it only took down 3 of the gang. Thankfully it seems to be passing and it wasn’t very severe so we continued with school as usual for Rose and Beth.

Little Hands to Heaven: Week Off
Grace got a much lighter week which didn’t bother her for the days she told me, “I don’t feel good, Mommy.” By Thursday she was ready to be back at it, but was still a bit crabby, so we just did a few lighter things. The girls all love playing on my Kindle Fire and I don’t blame them!

She also enjoyed using her pattern blocks with some printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I’ve had these printed for a while, but I finally got around to laminating them so Grace could use them easily.

Grace also enjoyed using our newly acquired Nature Blocks (a set of building blocks from Lake Shore Learning). She was enthralled with these! You can click on the picture to see my full review of these really nice building toys.

Grace is feeling much better and will be back to our normal schedule next week!

Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 24
Beth had a great start to the week, but ended up catching her baby sister’s cold! We continued with school as usual because she didn’t have as much discomfort as Grace, but she didn’t mind one bit.

In math Beth moved forward to subtraction! I once again didn’t really have to teach it to her. She just understood after having sat in on lessons with her older sister last year. I did do a few manipulative explanations, but I don’t know that there was really a need.
She also started word problems for the first time this week! She has made so much progress and I just love that we can set her own pace because of homeschooling.

For handwriting we continued with Draw Write Now. I can’t say enough good things about this curriculum! Click the picture to take a look at my review. It has gently moved Beth to thinking more about shaping her letters with appropriate size and spacing. I love it!

Our history lessons focused on the early settlement of America. Her poem introduced the concepts of North, South, East, and West. She kept asking which way was north wherever we went and then would tell me the other directions based on that. She also learned the location of the first 13 colonies. She is learning so much this year!

We took our All About Spelling curriculum and tried something new this week! Beth spelled the words, then stamped them. I found a printable online for this, but I’m not thrilled with it so I’ll probably create my own. She had a lot of fun with this and it was a nice, time-filling activity which kept her focused while I taught history to her older sister.

Bigger Hearts for His Glory: Unit 26

Our field trip last Saturday to the Bennett Place to see a reenactment of camp life for Civil War soldiers was a great kickoff for our history this week. An added bonus was that my dad was part of the reenactment! This was the first one he has participated in and it’s great that the girls were able to see him and even wear their old fashioned dresses made by their great-great-grandmother for me when I was a little girl. Click the picture to see more of our trip!

I wasn’t certain how this introduction to war would go over. Rose is very factually oriented, but can also be very sensitive to the evils of the world like slavery. She didn’t ask many questions, but did ask if a lot of peopled died. I’m glad she feels free to ask about these things. I love being able to be completely in tune with Rose’s education so I am able to address any questions or worries she may feel when studying various aspects of history. It would be easy for me to avoid some of the more difficult aspects of our history. I’m very grateful for Heart of Dakota once again which gently introduces even the harsh aspects of history in a way which is age appropriate, engaging, and leaving her wanting to learn more.

We learned more about fractions and Rose is very anxious to move on to multiplication! She asks nearly every day how soon she can move onto third grade math. I’ve told her she can move forward once she finishes and she can’t wait!

This is a diorama Rose made in her homeschool class of a cave. We don’t follow the science plan in our curriculum since she takes this outside class. I do intend to cover the science we’re skipping this summer because she loves science so much!

Even though we don’t do a lot of science during the school-year outside of her class, we did take time to review a neat unit study for the Review Crew! Click the picture to learn about this fun Astronomy Unit from A Journey Through Learning that my girl couldn’t get enough of!

To end on a really fun note, I have a question: How many of you have pets who enjoy joining in on the learning? Meet Zoe, our sweet kitty who loves Beth and can typically be found sitting right by her during lesson time!

Week in Review: March 18-22

Spring has bloomed which usually means bad allergies for me, but I have a new medication this season and so far I’ve had a good start! We’ve even had the windows open some which has’t happened in a while. The girls have had fun playing outside. We are blessed to have neighbors on either side of us and across the street our kids’ age. They also all go to different schools and with our homeschooling the kids love opportunities to get together. Since our yard is the center they seem to often congregate within our fence. I love this. I love seeing what sometimes feels like half the neighborhood hanging out in our backyard!

We had a great week and lots of things to look forward to! Tomorrow we are going to see my dad in a Civil War reenactment which coincides perfectly well with our history lessons next week on the Civil War! No, my dad isn’t doing this just for our benefit and I didn’t plan it that way, but it is a certainly a lovely addition to our lessons. There will also be a really exciting giveaway coming Monday, so don’t forget to check back about that! Do you like this bird’s eye view of our schoolroom?

Little Hands to Heaven: Unit 16

Grace learned about Elijah and Elisha this week with our Bible readings. She wasn’t as excited about these stories and kept wanting to skip ahead to the New Testament! I understand how she feels sometimes, but I also know there is much to learn from the Old Testament. One of her activities was sorting out small pieces of food. She asked to eat the cheerios while she was sorting. This girl loves cheerios. 
Our letter of the week, M, received a lot of attention! I started letting her trace letters as part of her letter-of-the-week work. She has become quite proficient at letter writing for those she already knows. She does extremely well with tracing and enjoyed these pages. 
Something I’ve learned from having kids who are advanced in various abilities is that often their abilities will surpass their maturity. It means I have to have greater patience when she scribbles all over the M page rather than tracing nicely like she did the day before. Grace has amazing pencil control and dexterity for her age, but she still has to develop the maturity to exhibit it consistently. 
We also had a failed soap making activity to go along with our story about Naaman washing in the Jordan River for healing, so we did something a little different. To learn about our awesome replacement activity click on the picture! 
In her spare time, Grace has been  learning piano! We have been reviewing an excellent computer-based piano teaching program for the Review Crew. Click the picture to take a look. Even though she is only 3 1/2, Grace has been learning and is thrilled to be having piano lessons alongside her sisters!
Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 23
Beth learned about the Pilgrims, their relationship with the Native Americans, and the religious persecution which pushed them here. She is really enjoying the readings from History Stories for Children. She did tell me that it was really sad that so many of the pilgrims died. We learned that there were only 4 women still alive for the first Thanksgiving feast! 
This week our word wall words started with N. My favorite word she chose was Neverland. I was surprised she thought of it! It was a little long for the space we had available, but she made it work. 
Here Beth is chatting with her Daddy on the phone while she works on her handwriting. The girls enjoy taking a break and and chatting with him when they have a chance. All of a sudden Beth’s handwriting has gone from being random sizes to looking more uniform! She has always been one to want to do things her own way and it has taken some convincing that she should form her letters without smiley faces inside of them except on special occasions! 
This week also brought three-digit addition. She jumped right into working on this while I was cleaning up from breakfast without any how-to instruction needed! I wish I had her mind for math. She definitely takes after her daddy. On the sixth problem she looked up at me and said giggling, “Oh! I almost missed that one!” 
This week Beth learned that c says /s/ if it comes before an e, i, or y. Before any other letter c says /k/. I am amazed over and over again that there are so many wonderful rules for spelling! I am incredibly thankful to be learning them myself since spelling was always difficult for me. All About Spelling is hands-down the easiest and most thorough curriculum I have seen for spelling.

Bigger Hearts for His Glory: Unit 25

Rose learned a great deal about the gold-rush, Kit Carson, and much more! She enjoys the history readings as well and in preparation for more independent studies next year I have begun having her read her assignments on her own. Her narrations have improved so much from where they were at the beginning of the year. Ever since Christmas she has caught on to how to narrate. This was new to both of us this year so it has been a joy to watch her skill improve so much.

Her vocabulary page has also improved! After I took the picture went back and edited her mistakes, but then I forgot to snap another one! I don’t believe in ignoring kids’ mistakes in writing. After teaching junior high students who came through programs which felt it would stifle their creativity I can say it only seems to cripple them. By the time I got these kids I had to teach such basics as capitalizing I consistently that there wasn’t room to help them learn to craft their writing. With this experience in my background I make certain my girls correct their mistakes in writing. They don’t seem to mind and frequently Rose even thanks me for helping her!

Cursive continues to go well, but I’m trying to stress to her the need to be careful when she copies her words. She tends to forget letters in what I think it a rush to get finished. I am very pleased with how pretty her handwriting has become!

She particularly enjoyed one of her grammar lessons this week. It focused on making sure all the sentences in a paragraph pertain to the topic of the paragraph. The examples in the grammar book had random thoughts placed in the paragraphs and she got quite a giggle out of them!

We also started studying homophones for practice this week. We have talked about them before in the context of her writing, but haven’t formally practiced them. She enjoyed this activity a lot!

She typed up her writing assignment for the week about being healthy. She has moved on to two-paragraph expository writing. She sometimes still has trouble thinking through what to write, but the outline sheets (part of the curriculum) help her so much!

Finally she worked on memorizing more state locations and their abbreviations. She learned the 13 colonies plus a couple more the last time. This week she learned the rest of the states which were around when the Civil War began. If she couldn’t find the state I’d give her N-S-E-W directions. She did a great job!

We had another wonderful week! How was yours?

Week in Review: March 11-15

Since the adults in the house started off with the week with a horrible cold, we didn’t start off with our usual gusto. Thankfully none of the girls caught it, although we can’t figure out how! I did score some more bargains on books to go with next year’s curriculum. Click here or on the picture to read about how we found Heart of Dakota as our home curriculum.

We also have had a great time reviewing more products for the Review Crew! This week I posted my review for Touch Math. If you are looking for a multi-sensory math program this is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Click here or on the picture to read my review.

Even with taking Monday and Tuesday off from lessons, we still managed to squeeze in the entire unit for each of my girls and I didn’t even feel like I was rushed to do so!

Little Hands to Heaven: Unit 15

This week we focused on Solomon. Grace built Solomon’s Temple out of building blocks and insisted she needed to Bible story book to make sure she built it correctly. She even placed two half- circles together for the bowl shown in the picture! I was surprised at her attention to detail for this activity.

She also insisted on including water-slides (the blue blocks) at the temple as well as bringing a bus-load of people to it. I wasn’t certain if she understood the point. So I asked her what the people were doing. She looked at me very indignantly and said, “They are worshiping God!” I’m so glad she understood the meaning behind the story even if she wanted to add the water slides. Anyway, who wouldn’t want a water slide at church?

I really like how the Heart of Dakota Guides build math concepts for preschool into their week. This week Grace enjoyed matching socks. I had this activity already made up and pull them out to play with every once in a while. These are some wild socks I saved of her baby socks. She has a fun time putting them together.

Grace realized this week she couldn’t read. She never seemed bothered by this before, but she suddenly feels frustrated that she can’t read books. I started teaching her sisters around this age with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but when I asked she said she didn’t want to learn yet. I don’t like to push my girls faster than they are ready, so I’m just going to wait until she asks about it. My other two daughters did great even at this young age, but they both begged me to learn. We’ll see how this plays out with Grace!

Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 22

When Mommy isn’t feeling well school often moves to the living room. It’s nice we aren’t tied to the table all the time. Beth curled up with me on Wednesday and we caught up on her reading and history. This week she learned about Martin Luther. It dawned on me at some point during one of our readings that I was in college before I had even heard of Martin Luther, or at least retained the information I had heard. I thankful to be able teach my children history which includes church history. It is a blessing I do not want to take for granted.

Beth finished up her K-5 handwriting book a little early. My mom found a great 1st grade level handwriting book which also incorporates phonics. She’s now practicing whole words and there are still pictures for her to color. She also finished up her first grade readers this week. We will be working on the emerging readers found in Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory soon, but for now I’m just having her read from the books on our bookshelf. I don’t want to push her too far ahead, but reading and handwriting are two areas I’m happy to let her take the lead to pace herself!

Beth loves math…and loves to sing during math! She sometimes sings songs she knows and sometimes sings the addition facts she is practicing. She also tried out a funny new pencil which helps teach grip. She’s using it here and seemed to really enjoy how different it is!

Bigger Hearts for His Glory: Unit 24

My Rose can be so thoughtful while she works! She often prefers to skip breaks just to keep on working. This picture is not posed and shows just how thoughtful she can be. She is very anxious to start learning multiplication. Knowing my girl she’ll want to start in her 3rd grade math as soon as it arrives!

She enjoys doing her vocabulary with World Wise each week. Heart of Dakota begins teaching vocabulary each week from the history books, but she wanted to learn more about words and I like the more traditional format of Wordly Wise. She is learning about context clues and how to use words with more than one meaning correctly.

Rose studied about inventions like the telegraph and tires this week. She very much enjoyed writing out the alphabet in Morse Code and also writing a message using it. I appreciate how the history and geography activities engage my girls and give them a love for history.

We can’t wait until next week!

Week in Review: March 4-8

We have had a full week. I had the week off from reviews, but my Crewmates were busy posting all about some great homeschool products!

I didn’t plan it this way, but it was a really good thing to have the week off from posting reviews because we were busy the first of the week with our Global Focus Week! Our denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, was not founded in order to be a new denomination. It was created in the 1880’s to be a movement of Christians from all denominations who were passionate about missions at home and abroad. Churches eventually emerged from this movement and the denomination was officially formed in the 1960’s.

We love when our international workers come and tell about their work overseas. Our girls are especially excited about our visitors. Grace was being shy in the picture of course! One of the great things for my girls about these times is it helps them understand what missionaries do as well as how and why we need to pray for them. It is a blessing for our family to personally know so many serving Christ overseas.

We did have our regular school days, which made everyone tired! In retrospect I will plan a lighter week during our next Global Focus Week. We managed, but Grace is the only one of my girls to still take naps and Beth and Rose had a harder time focusing because they were more worn out.

Little Hands to Heaven: Week Off

Grace is usually begging for more work, but I suppose being quiet at our meetings every night wore on her and she didn’t seem to even notice that we didn’t do her normal schoolwork! She enjoyed cutting paper. At first I drew lines for her to cut on, then she started drawing her own cutting lines.

She played some learning games online…a HUGE treat for Grace! We limit the girls’ time in front of a screen and she was given a little extra time to play this week than usual. Her two favorite websites to play games at are PBS Kids and Disney Junior. She is particularly fond of Mickey Mouse and Elmo.

She also  enjoyed drawing on the chalk board quite a bit. When she got done with this particular picture she said, “Mommy, do you know what kind of animal I just drew? I’m not sure!” She’s just so funny sometimes!

My favorite part of the week was when I caught Grace teaching the Incredible Vegetables a Bible story. I heard her ask Junior what he learned. He said, “I didn’t learn anything!” She gave an incredibly dramatic sigh and said, “Oh Junior. Now we have to learn all over again!” 

Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 21

Beth has begun to really enjoy her history readings. She had always listened well, but she now gets really excited about reading them. I love history so seeing my girls get excited about history! I credit my love of history to my dad who used to tell me stories about real people and interesting things about them when I was a child. He made history alive and interesting, so much more than mere dates and facts. The living books used in Heart of Dakota remind me so much of these stories and just like me, my girls are falling in love with the past as well!

An idea borrowed from traditional school that I’m implementing is a word wall. Each week Beth looks for words beginning with a specific letter in the alphabet. This week was the letter M. A retired teacher friend gave me several word wall pages and it’s something else she really looks forward to each week.

Our cat, Zoe, really loves Beth. She can typically be found in her lap, on her bed, or just sitting beside her at any given moment throughout the day. Beth read her a story out of her reading book one day and I was quick enough to get a quick picture of it!

Bigger Hearts for His Glory: Unit 23

We received next year’s guide, Preparing Hearts for His Glory, at the end of last week. When your child gets as excited, maybe even more, than you are, about your curriculum, you know you have something fantastic happening in your homeschool. Rose asked to see all the books we’d be using as well as the teacher’s guide. I mentioned already my love of history. Heart of Dakota is helping me pass that love on to my daughters! I can’t say that everything always goes as planned, that my girls love every activity we do, or that I never have to deal with any complaining. That’s life as a teacher, homeschool or otherwise! I can tell you that overall, my girls genuinely enjoy school more often than not. I really can’t take credit for this because I just follow my guides!

This week Rose learned about John Audobon, Louisa May Alcott, and a handful of other authors as children. It is so easy to think of the great minds of our past as always being adults. I’m glad that someone took the time to research and find out some of what they did as children years ago so my daughter could see that she could one day grow up and do great things as well. Rose is getting much quicker at vocabulary now. She has come so far from week one when she looked up her first word in the dictionary.

Rose continues to do well with cursive in A Reason for Handwriting. We had it on hand already and so I went with it this year. She does quite well when copying, but still has a hard time spelling words correctly when she writes in cursive on her own. I’ve been told this is fine and it will come soon. For now if she is going to write something in cursive she tells me what she wants to write and I write it for her first in cursive for her to copy.

I have to confess…we didn’t get to any of the history activities this week which we normally do. Our week was so full with the special services every night. I was planning on playing catch-up on Friday…but then we had a surprise visitor for the day! A sweet family in our church needed childcare for their adorable little boy. We of course jumped at the chance and you can believe this little guy was spoiled rotten by my little girls for the day.

One of the things I like about homeschooling is we are available to help friends out like this. My older girls still did their schoolwork while Grace and I kept an eye on Little Dude. Since Fridays are light anyway they pretty much worked independently. I was so pleased with how well they listened to directions and worked so diligently.

And so another week of our lives comes to an end. It is amazingly easy for moms to feel as if we’re just marking time. Whether we’re stay-at-home moms, working moms, or a little of both Satan has a way of making us feel unsuccessful and not doing anything that will make a difference in the future.

Every once in a while God allows me to get a little glimpse of the truly important roles I fill each day. Rose and Beth both have a love for far away places and foreign languages due much to the passion for missions my husband and I are trying to show them. Beth loves to pretend she is a mommy and today when she had a chance to care for someone younger than her she did her best to entertain and teach.

This week when you feel discouraged for whatever reason, remember that training your kids is an important calling, kingdom work from the ground up.

And finally…just to make you smile…I present for your viewing pleasure Beth’s dramatic reading of My Beautiful Cow.

Week in Review: February 25 – March 1

We had a routine week and things went smoothly. Nothing spectacular happened, but for me that makes a good week. I did finally get around to finishing up a few decorations and photographing our updated schoolroom!

I also had three different reviews from TOS Review Crew to post. We have had so much fun reviewing for the Crew! This week I posted reviews for Lone Star Learning’s Greek and Latin roots cards, Abraham’s Journey (an e-book from Inspiring the American Dream), and Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook from College Common Sense.

We also celebrated my birthday…sort of! I’m a Leap Year kid…yes really! So my sweet family spoiled me for a couple of days with a breakfast of donuts, a Starbucks chai tea latte, an ice cream cake from Marble Slab, lunch at Firehouse, a new patio set, and a pile of sweet homemade birthday cards (personally, my favorite part!).

Now on to our week filled with learning!

Little Hands to Heaven: Unit 14

We had so much fun with this unit! All of the girls got involved and really made Grace feel so special. They wholeheartedly participated in each of her drama and Bible activities which not only enhanced her learning, but also built their relationship. On one day Grace pretended to be the king and she told all of their friends (Clifford, Hello Kitty, Minnie Mouse, etc.) what to do…because kings can tell people what to do!
They also marched around following a pretend Ark of the Covenant singing praises to God just like King David did! We didn’t delve into the fact that no one was supposed to actually touch it and so Grace carried it as they marched. 
As always Grace loved all of the book work she completed. It is getting harder and harder to keep her happy during lessons because she cries as soon as her work is completed! She has been talking about wanting to read recently so we may start formal reading lessons soon. Her sisters learned when they were three and a half or four years old so I’m confident she will do great if she’s maintains interest. I’m just going to wait for now, but I’m ready whenever she is! 

Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 20

Beth loves school. She excels in every area and I’m finding it hard to challenge her. She continues to do very well in spelling although she gets frustrated when her letters aren’t exactly like she thinks they should be. Sometimes she likes to decorate her letters which takes a little too much time, but she does a beautiful job. 
She immensely enjoys the dramatic role play in Little Hearts for His Glory and really gets into the acting! One of her favorites this week was acting out the actions of a slave like Saint Patrick would have done in Ireland. I think she was carrying a bucket of water in this picture.
One of her new favorite activities is her weekly word ladders. I purchased this e-book for $1 from Scholastic and I print 1 page a week. She usually does this all at once and is building her critical thinking skills as well as reinforcing spelling. She gets so excited about these simple pages and I love to see her love learning so much. 
Bigger Hearts for His Glory: Unit 22

Rose loves participating with her sisters. At first I wasn’t sure if it was best because I didn’t want to take away from her younger sisters’ learning experience, but she has learned to let them take the lead and be a bit more of a follower rather than always the leader which is also a good lesson. She does a great job reading so I had her read the Bible story again before we did any acting out to remind the girls what we were learning.

Bible memorization has never been difficult for Rose. She easily memorizes long passages and typically has her weekly verses memorized within 2 days. I really appreciate how the Heart of Dakota curriculum gently introduces Bible study to my young girls in a way which feels natural and not forced. Rose is beginning to understand more about the Scriptures she reads and also apply it to her life. She will often quote a verse memorized from her lesson or Awana with appropriate application.

Here is my studious girl taking a grammar test from Rod and Staff. I know testing is controversial in homeschooling circles, but assessment is crucial for my benefit of knowing if they understand the material. It is also good practice for Rose who tends to get nervous about tests. I have more opportunities to tell her I just want her to do her best, not be perfect.

Thanks for stopping in to see about our week! I hope yours went well too!

Week in Review: February 18-22

This was one of the best weeks we’ve had since the craziness that was our Christmas break! I remind the girls frequently to work diligently and Beth has started praying at meals and bed for her and her sisters to work diligently during school. I make sure to take time to praise them when this happens and it’s been neat to see Beth recognize answers to her prayers!

We’ve been busy checking out some great homeschooling products for the Schoolhouse Review Crew and are having so much fun! My daughters are loving all the new areas. This week I posted my review for A+ Tutorsoft math for 1st grade. If you are looking for a computer based math program you really need to check this out! Also don’t forget to check out the other reviews from my Crewmates!

PhotobucketI was trying to figure out why our week went so well. Everyone had good attitudes…the girls worked diligently every day…we completed our work most days before lunch with out a little left after lunch for my oldest daughter to finish a couple of days. I think there were several factors…1. I kept the girls on their chore routines so they started out the day knowing they were going to be held accountable.2. The school room was neat and orderly each day.3. My husband made sure we had family devotions before he left for the church each day.4. My daughters prayed for each other each night (on their own!).5. I spent more time in His Word than I have been.I know the main reasons for our success were the last three. I know centering our family and our day around Christ is going to change the atmosphere in our home and throughout our day. Other things helped of course, but nothing can compare with it. Did my girls still disobey? Yes…Did I still sometimes get frustrated? Yes…Did they bicker with one another? YES…The difference was how quickly our hearts responded to what we were out of step with the Holy Spirit. I’m hoping this lesson will stick with us for a while!Now for the learning of our week!Little Hands to Heaven: Unit 13 (Finally completed!!!!)

Grace had a great time finishing up Unit 13. We started last week, but since I caught their cold from the week before we didn’t quite get through everything like I wanted to. She continues to adore her About 3 books from Rod and Staff. She is about half-way through the B book, although she would happily finish these all up in a week if I let her! I’m still limiting her work to one page a day, but since we’ve always done this she isn’t upset about it like she used to be.We’re also in the process of reviewing one the best preschool math program I have ever seen! I can’t wait to share more about it with you in a few weeks. It has been a perfect addition to my littlest learner who literally cries each day when her lessons are over! It is difficult for her to understand I have to teach her older sisters as well!

The activities in Little Hands really are so much fun for all of us. I love when my older two daughter don’t hesitate to jump right it and play with their younger sister. This has been one of the joys of home learning for our family. It means so much to Grace when her big sisters willingly participate and have fun doing it! I typically have my older girls working independently while I teach Grace first and they often both stop what they are working on the listen in on our stories, say the letter poem, and join in the dramatic play! We read Bible stories last week about the early life of David. We talked about how David and Jonathan were friends and probably shared secrets with one another. The girls really got into this and enjoyed playing Pass the Secret with each other. There was a lot of giggling involved as you can imagine! 

These girls are just such sweet sisters! 

For our letter play this week Grace learned about K. She is so easy to teach because she tends to be a good listener and rarely defiant. This results in very good direction following! She loves gluing things onto her letter of the week and also working with Do-A-Dot markers. There are a number of websites with free printables and since my little girl is so anxious to keep working I try to give her a variety each week. The only trouble with the gluing was she kept wanting to eat all of the Cheerios. She was sweet and shared her Cheerios with her sisters.

Little Hearts for His Glory: Unit 19 (Finished up!)

Beth has been asking recently, “Do we have to do school today?” I reply simply, “Yes.” And then we move on. She doesn’t complain at all, but she still likes to know! I am blessed that my daughters enjoy learning and work well for me most of the time. I typically schedule a break about 9:00 so they can have a snack, but I’ve been careful to watch for cues they need breaks other times as well. Beth especially seems to need more breaks in between her work. I’ve been giving her active ideas, like bouncing 3 times around the house on her bouncy ball. She gets her energy out, has a great time, and doesn’t mind getting back down to business afterwards! One of Beth’s favorite parts this week was her poetry. Each week she has a rhyme which helps her remember a concept from history, learn things like the days of the week, and spiritual truths. This week she learned about the Trinity, not an easy concept for a Kindergartner! She loved the poem though and went around the house saying it even when we weren’t doing lessons. This is a posed picture because during the action shots of her poem she was so active I couldn’t get a picture not blury!Another reason I love learning at home is my little sweeties are not limited in their learning. They can move forward to stay still for as long as they need to. Beth has mastered addition. She doesn’t mind the practice at all, but allowing her to move forward into the 1st grad math material was a fabulous decision. She never misses an answer and she’s excited to be able to move at her own pace, often doing more than one lesson a day. She continues to excel in spelling as well. She loves spelling and I’m so glad since this is not a subject I enjoyed as a child! All About Spelling has really changed how I view this subject. I have become a better speller as well. Beth is halfway through level 1. She’ll continue at her own pace, which is typically one lesson every 1 or 2 weeks. I want to challenge her, but not so fast she can’t master the concepts.

Bigger Hearts for His Glory: Unit 21One of the benefits of my daughters growing up is a result of the training them from preschool to do some work on their own. Now that Rose is now in 2nd grade she is very used to working independently. If she becomes distracted by her sisters she either joins in their learning or asks to move to another room to work. She sets a fabulous example for her younger sisters and knows I will be working with her individually as well. 

One of her independent assignments is always handwriting now that she knows how to form her letters. I have been very happy with A Reason for Handwriting because of the short lessons. I’m still trying to decide if we will continue with this next year or just move to copywork once her book is finished. Copywork seems to be the way to go, but we’ll see.

Rose moved forward in Level 3 of All About Spelling and was excited to start using her Silent E detective book. As she finds different words which utilize silent E she places them on the page showing the rule it is following. There are way more silent E rules than I ever knew! We still use the dictation from Heart of Dakota. I am really seeing a difference in Rose’s spelling using both of these methods. 

We did have one activity last week which we didn’t get to in Bigger Hearts about map coordinates. After we completed the activity she asked if she could make her own map of our school room and include coordinates. Of course! What a great way to see how well she mastered this concept. Rose told me the reason it was so easy was from playing Battle Ship. You have to love when learning happens without even realizing it!

We both loved the poem this week called The Land of Counterpane. I love the beautiful poems chosen so carefully for each unit. Rose has begun writing her own poetry and even was chosen for publication! She told me this morning the reason she loves poetry and knows how to write it now is because of studying poetry for lessons. Wow! Thank you once again Heart of Dakota!

A new aspect of homeschool we started this week was literature study. I have been assigning Rose books at her reading level all year, but have chosen to just let her tell me about the story and discuss the aspects of literature like character, setting, and conflict. I felt now it was time for her to begin literature as units. Heart of Dakota has a great literature program, but I chose not to use this for two reasons. The first is my background is in teaching literature. My husband confidently encouraged me to develop my own units because it’s what I know and love! The second reason was cost. I was able to piece together literature units by genre which I’ll be able to reuse with each of my daughters and after this week I am thrilled with the outcome! 

We began with the mystery genre at Rose’s request. She is reading a book she was given for Christmas. I chose her project to be a clue journal where she will record clues from the mystery for each chapter. In addition to the clue journal she is recording vocabulary words she is unfamiliar with and tracking the emotions in each chapter. The last part of her literature study is a page which she will complete for every book she reads which will record all of the basic elements of literature for each novel. We had a really good week. I’m looking forward to next week to be just as much fun!

Cookie Sheet Challenge Volume 1: Review and Giveaway!

I’m so excited for the another week of the Cookie Sheet Challenge! If you missed my first two reviews you can see Volume 2 here and Volume 3 here! These lovely manipulatives are made by Julie at Make, Take, Teach. They are incredibly easy (and cheap!) to put together and will provide endless amounts of educational fun. 
Volume 1 is great for students learning their alphabet, rhyming, and word building. Grace recognizes her letters and can recite them so now we are working on learning more about their order. Beth is working on basic spelling. She is an excellent reader so spelling is the natural next step. Visually seeing the words correct is one of the ways we’re beginning spelling. This Cookie Sheet Challenge is perfect for them both!

One thing I love about the Cookie Sheet Challenge sets is just how simple they are to put together. Print (I like photo paper to get a sturdy, laminated feel), get out your magnetic letters, put it on a cookie sheet and you are ready! This particular set needs a small sized magnetic letter set, so you’ll want to double check that you have those! I happened to have a second set from my sis-in-law since her boys have outgrown the magnetic letter stage. I’m so glad these were small! It took about 10 minutes to print the sheets and everything was ready for my girls!

Grace wanted Beth to help her so on the first sheet, which has all the letters of the alphabet, they worked to see how fast they could match up the letters. The second page for the alphabet has letters missing. This was fabulous for Grace. I haven’t ever tried an activity like this so I wasn’t sure how she would do. First we put all the letters which were listed on the page. Before I even had a chance to explain what to do next she was starting to fill in the missing letters! She didn’t get them all correct, but we’ll keep working at it!
The word building pages are a perfect fit for my Beth. She is doing very well with our spelling curriculum, but I’ve been looking for something to help her think about word building with a more hands-on feel. I particularly liked that Beth practiced matching lower case letters with upper case. You can find lower case magnetic letters, but this is one area she is a little weak in, so this was my preference. 
Also included in the packet are rhyming activities. This is a little beyond where Beth is at and I’m not quite there with Grace, but when I get there these will be great! There are several different rhyming pages along with small pictures to place in the right category. 
Julie, the creator of Make, Take, Teach, has a wonderful store at Teachers Pay Teachers. I’m certain you’ll find something there to catch your eye!
Are you ready to enter the giveaway? Don’t forget to spread the word to your homeschooling and classroom teacher friends! These activities are excellent for either type of learning.
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I received Cookie Sheet Challenge 1 in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received

Cookie Sheet Challenge Volume 2: Review and Giveaway!

Having three young girls to teach every day means I have had to train them all from day one to be somewhat independent because I have to work with each of my girls independently. This is not too difficult for Rose (2nd grade) and Beth (kindergartner) but Grace (Pre-K3) is entirely different. She’s in the beginning stages of this training.
You might wonder how this works with one so young. First of all, she sits right beside me while I teach her sisters, but the activities I give her require minimal participation on my part except for showing her how to do the activity. When she was two we used the idea of busy bags, although they weren’t in bags! Now that she has progressed academically far beyond what I expected for her age I’ve had to get a little more creative. Having challenging hands-on-manipulatives are a key element to this training.  
I love the activities made by Julie from Make, Take, & Teach, especially the Cookie Sheet Challenges! The entire Cookie Sheet Challenge series focuses on early literacy and mathematical concepts. I am thrilled to be able to review two of these sets over the next two weeks and giveaway a copy of each to one blessed reader! 
Grace surprised me one day a few months back when she showed me she recognized numbers all the way up to 20! I was expecting to be teaching her this skill, not having her show me she already knew it. Then she proceeded to look at the number and use counters to match the number. What do you do with a three-year-old, or any age, who has already mastered these skills but is still too young to move into other areas of math? Julie has created a wonderful, hands-on manipulative which is challenging my little smarty pants while not delving into some of the more complex areas of math! Cookie Sheet Challenge Volume 2 focuses on number order, recognition, and other early math concepts. 
All you need is provided in the downloadable pdf file available at the Make Take Teach, Teachers Pay Teacher’s store for $5.25. You provide the paper, a printer, magnets, and cookie sheet large enough to place a piece of standard letter sized paper. Full instructions for creating these manipulatives are also included. Rather than gluing magnets to printed numbers, I opted to purchase two packages of magnetic number sets from our local dollar store. I also like using photo paper rather than card stock. The pages last longer and gives a laminated feel without the expense of lamination. 
Grace couldn’t wait to get her hands on these. I had everything sitting in the schoolroom the night before I planned for her to start using them and she begged me to get them out! There are many activities included. The first pages she worked on were number recognition. I like that the words are written under the printed number so she can begin to associate them together. Several pages like this are included in the set with numbers missing so eventually the student is putting in all the numbers!
Another activity that Grace really enjoyed was using counters. Students are intended to find the matching number word for the digit, but since Grace isn’t there yet I just had her match the numbers and count using her star counters. She loved this and counted so well! This is her finished cookie sheet. She’s very proud of herself! 

There are many other activities included to help students learn to count all the way to 100 as well as remembering what numbers come before and after one another. These can be used in so many ways for several different ability levels.

I was snapping pictures while she worked, but except for changing the pages and a simple explanation Grace worked completely on her own. This is an excellent example of how I train them to work on their own. I used to just try to get Grace to play on her own in another room, but that failed miserably! She of course wanted to be with everyone else and like many younger siblings wanted to do school like her big sisters! Manipluatives like these from Make Take Teach have been the answer for how to meet her needs.
Now for one of you to get to win this set! Yay!!!!
(And check back next Monday for another Cookie Sheet Challenge giveaway!!!!)

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I received Cookie Sheet Challenge 2 in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received