Let’s Make Learning Fun!

Photo by Jeremy Alford on Unsplash

Make Learning Fun with We Love to Learn Stations

As parents, we’re sailing in uncharted waters right now, with the social distancing, stay at home requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents are teaching their children academics at home for the first time. All parents are likely getting complaints from their children that they want to play with friends or go do something they aren’t allowed to do because of social distancing. I’m hearing parents say they’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Whether you’re a homeschool family or an emergency distance learning family, having some fresh ideas for making learning fun can help change your children’s attitudes about being stuck at home!

The first idea I want to share will help your children enjoy learning more with the “We Love to Learn Stations”.

We Love to Learn Stations

In the dead of winter here in Minnesota, we often have to stay at home because of the weather, our days get long, and kids can become bored. That’s why I typically added a learning station’s day on Fridays to give us all a change of pace.

 This pandemic with the stay at home requirement is the perfect time for you all to try a Learning station day! It only takes a little time to prepare for it, and your kids will LOVE it!  Basically, you’ll set up learning stations throughout your house, and your children will rotate to the various learning stations doing whatever you’ve set up there. (Teams of two work great, but if you don’t have enough children for teams, you’ll need to participate or set up stations that can be done by one child at a time.) You can even use some of the learning resources that you already have, either from your school teacher or your curriculum.

All you need to do is prepare your learning stations, usually the night before. Then start your We Love To Learn Stations Day with explaining the different stations to your children. Set the timer and begin!  (Approximately 15-20 minutes per station)

Prepare the Learning Stations

1. Language arts station (you can have more than one language arts station if you wish or just choose one of these)

  • Phonics game for the pre-readers or early readers (Memory, Go Fish, puzzles or see options in my recommended page.)
  • Grammar game using Mad Libs
  • Write a short creative story alone or with your partner using some story starter ideas if needed. (share your story with family afterward)
  • Audio books with audible.com for listening comprehension (free books available to children during the pandemic!)
  • Spelling game – Make your own using a manila folder! Game instructions.
https://youtu.be/oz9YsJGUrZ8
Make your own basketball spelling game!

2. Reading station

  • Have a basket with library books or topical encyclopedias (Usborne has some great ones) and at this station, they read or look at pictures for 15-20 minutes.
  • Or you can have your child read from the book they’ve been reading already.

3. Math station

  • Play math games together (see my recommended page for ideas on games) – you can use regular board games or dice.
  • If your child likes speed games, do a few speed math worksheets where they time themselves and see how many they can get done in 10 minutes. They can do this twice and see if they can beat their first try. Drill worksheets available HERE.

4. Science station

5. Geography or History station

  • Have a globe or map out. Give your children each a list of places that they need to find on the map and write the longitude and latitude.   Or have separate maps for each child and they can mark the places you’ve listed.
  • Play “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”?   This is a fun game that teaches geography, world cultures and history for children ages 8-12!
  • Set up a project for your children to work on related to the time period they’re studying in history. (e.g. build a teepee if studying American Indians)

6. Music

  • Set up a CD player or have a link ready for your child to listen to a piece of classical music and provide a link or print up a short biography about the composer for them to read while they listen.
  • Set out musical instruments for your children to play with (if you have older children, they could practice their music lesson for this station).
  • Provide resources for your child to make a drum or a guitar using a box, etc.

7. Art

  • Set up an art project for the children to work on.
  • Have pictures of various artist’s work with information about each piece.
  • Set up paints with information about how to mix primary colors to make secondary colors and let them have fun mixing and painting. Here’s a video to help you teach these concepts!

8. Bible

  • Choose a memory verse for all the children to learn and post it on the wall. Have them say it together three times and then write it on a note card. Then have them use one of the following games to practice:
  •  Write each word of the verse on a separate index card and mix the cards up – have your child unscramble the words to make the verse. (Include the verse address on a card, i.e. ‘Galatians 5:22-23’.)
  • Use a dry erase board and write out the verse. Read the verse through together a few times, then erase one word. Read the verse again saying the right word for the erased word. Take turns erasing words, saying the right words for each erased word as you recite the verse. Eventually you should have nothing on the board and be saying the verse from memory.
  • Play Sword Drill with SALVATION verses. (For children who can read well and know their Bible a bit.  You’ll need to help with this one) Using the list below, have each child hold a closed Bible above his or her head. Dad or Mom calls out the first reference twice and then says, “Swords ready…Go!” and the children try to be the first one to find and read the verse out loud. (If you have an only child, make the clock the thing to beat.) You may challenge your children to figure out what the common theme of all the verses is. You may also give a prize to the winner, if you wish, but everyone gets the benefit of knowing his or her way around the Bible better and of hearing God’s Word. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17.
  • Key Word: Salvation
  • Exodus 15:2
  • I Samuel 2:1
  • Psalm 27:1
  • Luke 2:30
  • Acts 4:12
  • Romans 1:16
  • Ephesians 1:13
  • Ephesians 6:17
  • Psalm 18:2
  • Isaiah 12:2

*These memory games and the Bible game were taken from Growing the Fruit of the Spirit, a wonderful family Bible study guide for children of all ages, available on my store page or on Amazon.

Growing the Fruit of the Spirit A family Bible study guide for children of all ages.

8. Create your own station to help your children learn about something they are currently studying in their school lessons!

I hope you enjoy having your We Love to Learn Station Days!  Please comment below with your ideas or let me know how it goes if you give it a try!

10 Tips for Teaching Your Children through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tips for Teaching Your Children through the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are living in unprecedented times, with the Coronovirus pandemic throwing our lives into unexpected turmoil and change. To stop the spread of the virus, almost everything is cancelled. Suddenly schools, restaurants, stores, and more are closed for an indefinite amount of time. 

Parents are finding themselves responsible for teaching their children at home for the first time, some while they are still required to work themselves.

If you’re a parent in this situation, I want to encourage you to look at this as a wonderful opportunity to spend time with your children and enjoy learning with them.  Give yourself and your children time to transition, this is a big change for both of you. Talk openly about what’s happening in the world and help your children process their emotions through this.

Realize that you have already been teaching your children so many things! Who taught them to walk, talk, get dressed, and to get along with others, etc.? YOU did!   You’re just adding the academic piece to the picture. You can do this! And there are a lot of resources available to help you!

Here are 10 tips for teaching your children during this time:

1. Focus on developing a learning lifestyle rather than trying to imitate what the public school does. You’re a family, not a classroom of 30 kids, so structured learning times will often be shorter than the eight-hour public school day.  Look for learning opportunities throughout your day and take advantage of them. Listen to your children’s questions and help them find answers – discovery learning like this is one of the best ways for kids to learn. Encourage your children to think of things they want to learn about and then provide the resources for them to do it. Read Charlotte Mason’s approach to learning, it’s relaxed and very effective.

2. Focus on Math and Language arts skills. These are core subjects that your children should continue to work on during the pandemic.  If you plan to have your children return to the public school system once this pandemic ends, teachers are recommending that you follow the Core Standards, especially for these two subjects. 

 If you don’t know your children’s skill level in these two subjects, do an assessment through Let’s Go Learn –  use the family version under retail and do the assessments. This assessment will help you learn what areas your children need extra work in as well as where they have strengths. Focus on helping them retain what they know and continue learning from where they are at. There are many free resources to help you do this (see list below). 

The other subjects are also important, so as you can fit them in, also provide resources for your children to learn science, history, art, music, phy-ed and health. There are resources listed below for these as well.

3. Find ways to make learning fun!  We have a plethora of fun learning opportunities on the web that are free or inexpensive. Use Pinterest or one of the many resources I’ve listed below to help teach your children.

  • Play board games with your children (check out my blog posts on using games and my Recommended page for ideas)
  • Read aloud to your children (Read Aloud Revival is a great resource for book ideas)
  • Do virtual field trips via video or on the web
  • Bake together, do fun projects around the house together
  • Be creative, find fun things to do related to your children’s interests. If they’re fascinated with Legos, find some fun things to build on Pinterest (there are some great creative ideas for things to do with kids on Pinterest!) If they love animals, consider getting a new pet and having them help with training and care. Build learning opportunities around their interests.

4. Teach your children life skills. Do your children know how to clean, wash clothes, make food for themselves, etc.? This is a great time to help them develop these skills.  With them home all the time, you’ll need their help in keeping the house clean, and they need to learn these skills. Set up a chore system to keep things running smoothly so you’re not nagging them. This is a great time to do some organizing and teach your children organizational skills. Teach them basic hygiene, how to avoid catching or sharing germs in a pandemic! (Download a free PDF of age appropriate chores)

5. Set up a daily routine. Children need routine and your children will be looking for structure to their day.  Some children may even benefit from having a schedule posted on the wall showing when you will have structured learning times and when they have free time.  Remember to take breaks between any structured learning times.  Children need physical activity to get refocused, especially younger children. (Download a free PDF of a sample schedule)

6. For the working parent. If you’re working full or part-time you can adjust your schedule so you’re teaching your children when you’re free. For the times that you’re working, provide your children with learning opportunities and resources that they can do on their own. Have an hour quiet time each day and have older children help with younger children as needed. Enlist your children’s help with home chores and meal prep/clean up, it helps them build essential life skills and will ease your stress.

7. Create age appropriate learning stations in your home (art, science, math, reading, geography, etc.). Learning stations can be a bin with materials in it, or a specific area of the home with learning materials.  An Art station would have creative arts and crafts materials with idea books or printed guides from Pinterest or the web.   A Reading station would have great literature for them to read.  A Math station would have math games or an IPad with math learning apps, games. A Science station would have materials for them to do an experiment and information on how to do it. A Geography station would include a map of the U.S. or the world, with books about the world and the different areas, or geography games.   Require your children to spend time doing at least 2-3 learning stations a day as well as independent reading and doing some math exercises.

8. Listen to audio books. Listening to books builds literacy skills, listening skills, focusing skills, imagination, and more. Here’s a free app with audio books or access the public library online through the cloudLibrary app.  http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks. Audible stories are also offering free audio books for kids during the pandemic.

9. Encourage a love for learning. Help your children understand the importance of being lifelong learners – there’s always more to learn and it’s to our benefit to keep learning all through our lives! You can be an example to them by showing them that you are still curious and want to learn new things.

10. Seek advice from friends or experts.  Call friends that are in the same boat to see what they’re doing for teaching their children. On Facebook join the group called “Emergency Homeschooling” – there are lots of great ideas there! There are also many other Facebook homeschool groups, just plug in “Homeschool” and join some. Call a homeschool family you know and ask them for advice. I’m also happy to schedule an online meeting with you to help you figure out a plan for your family. Contact me for a consultation

If you’ve got teens at home, check out this post on the 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Homeschooling your Older Student from Crosswalk.

Most importantly, as a Christian, I encourage you to pray for God’s peace, guidance and help during this time as well. You aren’t alone in this. He is there for you if you reach out to Him and pray.

Do you want to learn more about trusting in God?

God loves you and wants a relationship with you – He wants to help you through this stressful time, I encourage you to turn to Him and trust in Him.

Free or Inexpensive Teaching Resources:

All subjects:

Teachers Pay Teachers:   there’s a plethora of free worksheets and teaching resources for many subjects and all grades, many are free.

Kahn Academy   – sign up to access teaching resources for math, science, arts and humanities, computing, ELA, and more.

Free audio books and courses on many subjects at Open Culture

Audible Stories – free audio books

ETap Full curriculum online – free during this crisis

More free resources: http://www.openculture.com/free_k-12_educational_resources

PBS Learning Media – free resources and videos

Academy Adventure

Phonics:

  • Starfall Learn to Read app
  • Abcmouse.com  – an app for reading, math, science, art & colors
  • Phonics free resources: Sound City
  • All About Learning has both a reading and spelling program that are excellent (there is a cost for these) and there are free resources as well.
  • Sight word lists and learning resources at Sight Words.com

Math:

  • Numbers and Math for Kids app by EDUBUZZKIDS (preK-K)
  • Prodigy Math Game app for 1-8 graders
  • Khan Academy

Preschool/Kindergarten unit study curriculum

Five in a Row – a unit study that uses a short children’s picture book as the basis for studying science, history, art, etc.

Science

Social Studies

Art

Music

Physical Education

Could you use help staying organized during this time?

Check out The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner!

This planner has everything you need to manage your home and school well! It guides you through setting up a chore system, meal planning system, goal setting, and has great record keeping documents for homeschooling. Download the digital version for only $18.00!

Please comment below and share any free resources you’ve found! Or feel free to ask questions…

Free Zoom Meeting to learn more about teaching your children at home on March 25th – SIGN UP TODAY!

Join me for a free 45 minute webinar: Making the Most of this Time with Your Children – where I’ll share more helpful insights on how to use this time of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic to help your children learn and grow, and stay sane doing it! Wednesday, March 25th 7:00 p.m. Contact me to sign up!

Another Idea for Homeschool Planning: Loop Scheduling!

Some homeschool days flow just like clockwork and other days unexpected things happen: someone gets hurt, the baby is fussy, a friend calls needing prayer and encouragement. And we end up feeling frustrated and discouraged at the end of the day because we didn’t get all we had planned done. We wonder how other homeschool moms fit everything in. How do they handle the unexpected interruptions? Some homeschool moms are turning to loop scheduling to help them feel less frustrated by the inevitable interruptions in their homeschool day.

 What is Loop Scheduling?

Loop Scheduling has become more popular among homeschoolers over the last few years. It’s a variation of scheduling and planning that helps the homeschool parent feel less ‘behind’ or frustrated when life interrupts school and they miss doing a subject that they had planned to teach on a given day. 

A loop schedule is basically a schedule that doesn’t list specific days in which each subject will be taught. Instead, the subjects are listed in the order they will be done and the subjects listed in the loop schedule are taught over the whole week, following the order as listed each day until it’s time to end the school day. Each subject in the loop will likely take 15-60 minutes of the day, depending on the ages of your children and how long you want to work on them. You don’t have to feel pressured to finish the list in one day. (In fact, you shouldn’t finish the list in one day!) The next day, you begin with the subject on the list that follows the one you finished the day before. When the last subject on the list is completed, you start back at the top again and repeat the cycle.

You decide how often you want to teach each subject. (Every day, three times a week, etc.) Subjects that you want to cover daily are not included in the loop schedule, only subjects that you don’t need to do every day go into a loop schedule.

For example, you may wish to teach Bible, Language arts and Math every day. These subjects would be first in your day each school day. Then you would have all other subjects listed in your loop schedule and you would begin the loop subjects once the daily subjects were completed, working through the list until you need to be done for the day. If you wish to have one subject taught a bit more frequently, you’ll list it in the loop more often so that it comes up more often. 

You’ll want to make lesson plans for each subject so as you come to them in the loop you’ll be prepared for what you’re going to teach that day. There’s a sample loop schedule lesson plan and a free loop scheduling lesson planning document to download below.

Different Types of Loop Schedules

You can also make loop schedules for specific subjects. For example, language art has many facets to it, and some of those aspects of language arts don’t need to be taught every day. So you might have your child read every day, but for spelling, writing, literature study, etc. you might create a loop schedule so that you are doing all these other aspects of language arts, but you aren’t specifying which day you’ll be doing them.  You plan for 45 minutes of language arts in a day, and your child does their reading, then they start the loop schedule and get through whatever they can that day. The next day they pick up where they left off on the loop schedule list of studies.

You can do a loop schedule for any subject you wish. For example, for Science, you could loop reading the text, doing an experiment, notebooking, a nature walk, watching a DVD, etc. For History, loop the following: read the text, read a historical fiction book, watch a DVD, work on a timeline, etc.

You can even create a loop for your housecleaning or meal planning! You can really loop almost anything!!

Here are some documents showing how you organize a loop schedule for school:           

Subjects included in the loop schedule Frequency
Science 2 times
History 3 times
Art 1 time
Geography 3 times
Phy-ed 3 times
Loop (List subjects in order you want to do them)
History
Science
Phy-ed
Geography
Art
History
Phy-ed
Science
Geography (go back to top of loop)

Example of lesson plans for loop schedule:

SUBJECT LESSON PLAN
 History Read chapter 1, add events to timeline
 Science Read about pyramids, learn how they were built,
design
 Phy- Ed Biking
 Geography  Map of Middle East
 Art  Mosaic
 History Read chapter 2, timeline, make pyramid
 Phy-Ed Calisthenics
 Science Read about aqueducts and build one with clay
 Geography Middle east cultural geography
 History  Read chapter 3, timeline, watch DVD on Pharaohs
 Science Learn about rivers, lakes how they are formed
Phy-Ed Trampoline time
 Geography Middle east physical geography

There are pros and cons to this type of scheduling.

Pros Cons
Reduces stress when life is busy Could still lead to not getting subjects done if you’re not diligent to work through the loop
Gives some flexibility to your week The uncertainty of what will be covered each day may cause some anxiety
If your family is really enjoying studying something, you don’t have to rush to the next subject to be sure you finish all Lesson planning could be more challenging when you aren’t sure what day you’ll be doing each plan
The spontaneous child would enjoy this method much more than a rigid schedule Children who like to know the plan for the day would be frust-rated by this

If you’re having trouble with getting everything done each day and are always feeling behind, this approach might be the one for you!

Free Templates to try Loop Scheduling!

Give it a try by downloading these free templates to create your own loop schedule. As always, I encourage you to seek the Lord for wisdom as you plan, He knows what will work best and wants to guide you!

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

For more ideas on loop scheduling, check out this You Tube video, “Quick Start to Loop Scheduling” by Sarah MacKenzie and Pam Barnhill.

Do you need a homeschool planner?

Check out The Homeschool Life: All-in-One Planner for more ideas on planning and scheduling and record-keeping. It’s the only planner you’ll ever need because you get the templates for all consumable documents!

Please comment below if you’ve used this approach and have some advice or ideas for others!

Keep Your Summer Filled with FUN and LEARNING!

Summer is such a great time to relax and have fun together as a family, and to also build deeper relationships with our children! I love this time of year!

I recently heard it said that we only have 18 summers with our children, so we need to make the best of each one of them! They’ll be grown up before we know it, and we don’t want to have regrets about how we spent the time we had with them. Make each summer memorable and make an impact in your children’s lives!

As parents we also want to guard against “summer learning loss” or the “summer slide.” Studies done by the NWEA (a research-based organization that creates assessments for measuring growth and proficiency in children’s learning) show that children in grades 3-7 are losing a sizable percentage of their math and reading skills during the summer months. And the loss increases with age. In 3rd grade students are losing approximately 20-27% of their reading and math skills over the summer, and by 7th grade they’re losing 36-50% of their math and reading skills over the summer months. These studies are certainly motivating to keep our kids working on these skills through the summer months!

How can we make summer fun and yet keep it filled with learning opportunities?  Here are 3 ideas:

Set up a routine for the summer months

Children thrive on routine, even in the summer months. Of course, it can be a more relaxed routine, but a little routine is still very helpful for most kids. You don’t have to have a specific start time for your day (let your kids sleep in if they will!), but having a plan for what you want them to do each day is a great idea and will help them spend their time doing things that matter this summer.

  1. Bible time together

 It’s so important to continue to teach your children about the Lord each day, spending some time together in God’s Word and in prayer as you start or finish your day. Work on building godly character in your children over the summer too. With the extra time you have while school is not in session, you could even take time to memorize some scripture together as a family or enjoy learning more about a specific topic in the Bible like the Fruit of the Spirit. Check out Growing the Fruit of the Spirit
for building godly character and learning more about the Fruit of the Spirit as a family – this includes fun activities for all ages!

2. Read Everyday

  • Read aloud every day to your kids

There are so many benefits to reading aloud to your children!  One of the biggest benefits is that it builds literacy skills in children.  The National Center for Education Statistics found that children whose parents read to them tended to become better readers, and they performed better in school!

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children,” (from a Commission on Reading report) 

Check out my post 7 Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Children to learn more about the many benefits of reading aloud to your kids. 

  • Children who can read should be reading independently every day

The best way to build reading skills is to practice, practice and practice some more! Having your children read for 15-20 minutes a day all year round is a great way to help them increase their reading skills and it will also help them avoid the summer slide in their reading abilities. 

Many libraries have a reading challenge with fun rewards to help motivate children to read over the summer. If your child needs motivation, you can also come up with your own reward system for reading every day…a date with Daddy or Mommy, a fun excursion somewhere or a special treat they would love.   Also, check out Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revival blogs and podcasts to get some ideas of great literature to have your children read

3. Math Minutes!

  • Games are a great way to practice math skills and still make learning fun! There are so many great math games available today. Check out my post Fun Games to Teach and Strengthen Math Skills  for some ideas of great games to try this summer.
  • Baking & crafts can also practice math skills.  Make some cookies and practice fractions or division.  Here’s a fun post on crafts that use math skills from artsycraftymom.
  • Set up a lemonade stand to teach money skills. What neighbor can resist your cute kiddos selling lemonade on the street side? And it’s a great way for the kids to learn money skills and have fun too!

4. Field trip time!

Make a point of planning some fun onsite learning by going on field trips with your children this summer once a week or once a month! So much fun learning happens when we go to places like the zoo, the history museum and so on! Minnesota has an amazing resource in the Minnesota Field Trip and Activity Library – check it out to get some ideas of fun field trips to go on this summer! Your public library might also have a list of fun places to take your children as well.

5. Daily Chores

  • Helping with household chores builds important life skills all children need to develop!  Make a list of things that need to be done to keep each room in your house clean each day and then divide these tasks into daily and weekly chore lists. (Separate them out and make lists for each child with an equal number of chores each day.) Download my free chore chart here to use for this purpose. If you’ve never had your children do chores before, have a family meeting and talk about how important it is for everyone to help with keeping the house clean and about the life skills and the level of responsibility they’ll be developing…the way it’s presented can really make or break how your kids respond to taking on more responsibility! You can make chore time fun by turning on music and even encouraging singing and dancing as they work!

Set goals for what you hope to do this summer

The best way to make sure you accomplish all you hope to over the summer is to set some goals and make a plan for how you’ll actually complete those goals!

Make a list of ideas for the following categories along with which week you want to do each one this summer:

  • Places or people to visit
  • Books you want to read (for yourself, for your kids and for read aloud books)
  • Tasks you want to complete
  • Fun activities you want to do
  • Other things you have to do or events you will attend

Check out this amazing post on from hobbyhelp.com on 60+ Awesome Activities to do with Your Kids for some great ideas to make this summer AWESOME!

The Homeschool Life All-in-One Planner has some great goal setting templates to help you think through goals for each of your children and for the family.

Be intentional about building relationships with your children

Your children will love it if you make a special point of spending one-on-one time with them several times this summer! Weekly or monthly, whatever works for you. This is especially important if you have several children. Sit down with each of your children and make a list of things that they would like to do with you one-on-one and then set some dates to do those things. Here’s a great post from https://www.embracingasimplerlife.com/kid-date-ideas/  on ideas for how to plan dates with your children and make them happen!

I guarantee those parent/child dates will be some of the most memorable moments your children will have this summer! But if you’re not intentional about this, it likely won’t happen, so get something on the calendar and make it happen!

I pray this summer will be one that you’ll look back on and say, “that was one of the best summers yet!”

I’d love to hear your ideas for how to make summer full of fun and learning – please share below!

Finding Joy in Your Homeschool Journey

The holidays are done, and the new year stretches before us. It’s time to begin a new semester of school…and I’m guessing that some of you may not be feeling very excited about getting back into a school schedule again.

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed with the idea of a whole new semester ahead of you. Or there was a difficult subject that you’re not looking forward to teaching again.  Maybe it’s just that the daily school routine has become boring and you need some changes to happen.

Sometimes homeschooling can feel like a lot of work, right? I remember only too well. Other families are sending their kids off on the bus and you’re teaching your kids again AT HOME. And YOU are responsible for what they learn. It can feel like a heavy burden at times, even though it’s what we’ve chosen, right?

So how do you find joy and motivation when you really just want to go back to bed, or go read a good book, or go hang out with a friend instead of doing the “school thing”?

If this is you, let me give you some ideas for how to find JOY IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL JOURNEY AGAIN!

  1. PRAY AND SEEK THE LORD each day! Rest in Him…

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this homeschool thing! God is with you and wants to help you and give you wisdom for every day and every situation as you teach your children. As you begin each day, spend time with God, seeking His strength and asking Him to give you a thankful and joyful attitude.  Many times, when I’m feeling discouraged or unmotivated, I really just need the Lord to help me change my attitude so it’s in line with His will in my life. He can help you get motivated and find joy in each day. He can help you look for things to be thankful for as you go through each day. I remember one year when I was feeling down and discouraged, not really looking forward to each homeschool day. I sought the Lord’s help and He reminded me of the many blessings I had and helped me to look for things to be thankful for each day. He also helped me see that I needed to take better care of myself…more on that shortly.

Remember that your attitude will rub off on your children! If you’re excited about a new day, looking forward to all God is going to teach you, your children will be too! A joyful attitude is infectious!

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

 

  1. REMEMBER IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS!

 

We often get so focused on academics and making sure we’re getting everything accomplished that we forget that one of the most important things about homeschooling is that we’re building relationships:

  • Our children’s relationship with God
  • Our relationship with our children
  • Our children’s relationships with each other
  • Outside relationships with others

Ask the Lord to help you make relationships a priority this semester.

  • Focus on helping your children grow in their faith and in godly character. Check out my blog post on ideas for building your child’s faith: Resources and Ideas for Building Your Child’s Faith. I also have several posts on godly character – just put that phrase in the search box and you’ll find them!
  • Focus on spending quality time enjoying being with your children, playing a game, reading to them, or just snuggling.
  • Focus on helping your children love one another, helping them to develop a deep friendship with their siblings.

You’ll be surprised at what this change of focus will do for your family and your homeschool days!

 

  1. TAKE A LITTLE TIME TO RE-EVALUATE

 

  • Are you possibly struggling with burnout? Do you give so much of yourself that you’re not taking time for yourself and your needs? Homeschool burnout is very real! You need to take care of yourself, get proper rest and exercise and eat well plus allow yourself to enjoy the things you like to do sometimes in order to avoid burning out. That same year when I was so down and discouraged, I realized that I needed to get more regular exercise and so we joined a gym as a family and I found that getting regular exercise was good for me and also for our children! Check out this blog post: “Encouragement for the Burned-out Homeschool Mom” 

 

  • Do you need to consider a change of curriculum? Are you finding you dread a certain subject? Or have you noticed your children seem to complain about doing some subjects? Maybe it’s time for a change of curriculum. Check out cathyduffyreviews.com for new ideas on curriculum and read this post on Choosing Curriculum.
  • Focus on developing a love for learning using delight-directed studies and adding some fun ideas and games into your school day. One year I was just so tired of the “same old, same old” everyday, and so I purchased the book “Ignite the Fire” by Terri Camp. It was so helpful to get me out of the rut we were in! One idea she had was to have the kids each make their own mailbox (decorated shoe box!) and then write letters to each other (creative writing).  The kids loved it!  She has many wonderful ideas to help your children love to learn!

Also check out these blog posts on delight-directed learning, teaching tips and using games to help make learning more fun:

 

 

  • Download my free “Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting PDF” available on the sidebar to help you assess any changes you may wish to make for this second semester.

 

 

  1. BRAINSTORM with your spouse or other homeschool friends on ideas to make this semester better for you and your children…

    so school is something you DO look forward to! I also do homeschool consulting and would love to meet with you to help you think through how you can bring more joy into your homeschool days if this is a struggle for you. For the month of January 2019, I’m offering a 15% discount for consultations as well!

 

  1. RELAX AND ENJOY LEARNING WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

So much learning can happen without textbooks. Allow yourself to relax a bit, to allow some learning to happen naturally as your children ask questions about life and things that happen in their world. That’s called Discovery Learning – and because it’s something they’re interested in, they will be much more attentive as you research together about the topic of interest. Discovery learning provides some of the best learning and often the information you learn through these types of teaching times will be retained better than when you use some fancy lesson plan!

 

  1. EXTEND GRACE…

    to yourself and your children as you get back into the routine of school after a holiday break. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you a week or more to get back into a regular routine with school and life.  REST in the LORD on a daily, moment by moment basis as you teach and have a blessed school year!

Please comment below if you have other ideas that have helped you find joy in your homeschool journey… I’d love to hear your ideas!

*Photo credit  Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

6 Tips for Homeschooling with Confidence

 As I talk with homeschoolers, one of the most frequent questions or concerns that I hear is “I don’t know if I’m doing enough?”  or “What if I’m doing something wrong or not teaching them enough?”

Even though most parents are going above and beyond what they need to do in teaching their children, there’s still this underlying fear that they aren’t doing enough, that somehow their children won’t measure up to other children their age.

“What if we miss teaching them something really important?”

 “What if they don’t do well on their annual achievement test?”

“I’m afraid I can’t do this teaching thing, as well as the public or private schools, do.”

Can you relate to this?

I know I can. Frankly, many homeschoolers struggle with these fears.

We start comparing ourselves to some of our more successful homeschooling friends. Or we even compare our children to children in public school and wonder if our children are missing out on some great educational experience.

We see that the Johnson children are well above average in their math skills, or the Jones children are so well-mannered, just like little adults. How do they do that? And why aren’t our children like this? The comparison cycle begins, and it can really bring us down.

How do we deal with these nagging feelings of insecurity and doubt with homeschooling? The fears that we aren’t doing enough?

How do we stop that irritating comparison game that we all play?

How can we homeschool with confidence and stop feeling inadequate?

 

Six tips to help you homeschool with confidence:

  1. Pray for wisdom, seek God’s guidance, and trust God to direct your decisions.

    This may sound cliché, but ultimately this is the first and most important weapon we have against the fear and doubt that so often plagues us. God promises us that He will give us wisdom when we ask and that He’ll guide us when we seek Him for direction, so we can rest in that promise. If we seek Him, we can trust that what He leads us to do will be enough! Spend time each day seeking God and His direction for your day and your teaching, He is faithful to help you!

 

  1. Focus on discipleship and building godly character first!

    Major on the majors! Helping our children come to know and love the Lord is truly the most important thing we can do as parents. Once they know the Lord, He’ll be working on them, helping them to want to do their best in all they do, including their school work. Praying for and helping your children develop godly character can be one of the most effective ways to have a successful homeschool.  Focusing not only on their character but also helping them to have a godly heart attitude in which they strive to be obedient out of love for you and the Lord is key. As your children grow in their faith, God is at work, helping them to be all they can be.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7: And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Inga Cannon states:

“When exploring God’s requirements for what our young people learn, it is important to establish a Scriptural definition of knowledge. II Peter 1:5–8 provides a clear description for an educational sequence which will honor God:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ ESV

Knowledge, then, is explored information within the boundaries of faith and character development.”

(see my posts on Building Godly Character)

 

  1. Remember that children don’t mature and learn at the same rate, so if your child isn’t up to “speed” so to speak, it may be due to maturity, not a learning disability.

    It’s normal for children to develop at different rates physically. One child might learn to walk at age 9 months while another doesn’t walk until they’re 14 months.  This goes on all through the developmental years, with children learning different large motor skills at different rates, learning to talk at different ages, reaching puberty at different ages, etc.  Just as children develop at different rates, they also learn at different rates. One child may be ready to read at age 4, while another doesn’t learn to read until they’re 10!  Just because they’ve turned 5 doesn’t mean that they’re ready or mature enough to learn to read and do math.  According to Dr. Raymond Moore in his book, Better Late than Early, some children are not ready for formal learning until ages 8-10! Yet our society pushes us to begin teaching children formally at age 5, and many children just aren’t ready. One of our boys struggled to learn to read, we started teaching phonics at age 4, and it wasn’t until he was 9 that the phonetic concepts finally clicked, and he started to read fluently. The amazing thing was that his reading skills were up to his grade level very quickly once he finally “got it”!

    So remember that it’s okay for kids to learn at different rates, there’s no need to become concerned unless you’re seeing signs of a learning disability.  Click HERE to see a list of learning disability signs from the US Dept. of  Health and Human Services.  A great resource if you suspect a learning disability is diannecraft.org.

4. Guard against falling into the comparison game.

Allowing yourself to fall into the comparison game is a sure-fire way to lose confidence in your homeschooling abilities. I’ve seen it happen so often, a young homeschool mom notices that one of her homeschool friends seems to do such fun, creative things to teach her children and she feels inadequate.  I struggled with this way too often in my homeschooling years.

The thing is, you can’t be perfect in all areas, and so you’re almost always going to find someone who does something better than you do. Comparing yourself to others isn’t helpful.

 It’s difficult to completely break the comparison habit, but with God’s help, it’s possible to do it less by remembering that it’s okay to be unique! I want to encourage you to focus on following God’s lead rather than trying to please people.

God chose YOU to raise your children because He knew that with His help, you were the best choice as mom or dad for those children! And you will do things differently than another family might, and that’s OKAY! Be free to live life as God leads you to live it and to educate your children as God leads you to do so.

Pray daily for help to stop comparing yourself to others. Seek the Lord for direction each day and trust Him to guide you. It’s okay to seek advice from others you respect but try not to compare yourself and your homeschool to others.

When you start to feel bad about how you’re doing, ask yourself, “Is this from God or is it because I’m comparing myself again?”

 

  1. Utilize resources and do your best academically.

    There are SO many curriculum options out there to help you teach your children! It can be a bit overwhelming, but options can be a blessing because you can customize your curriculum to fit your needs. Check out cathyduffyreviews.com to get some insights into the various options for curriculum on each subject. I also love to consult with families, helping them find the right fit for curriculum based on their needs as a family and their children’s learning styles. Learn more about a consultation HERE.

Once you have curricula or teaching resources to help you, then you just need to do your best to teach your children, trusting God for guidance on a daily basis.  Follow the teacher’s guides, follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and RELAX! Most homeschool children score between the 65th to the 85th percentile on the annual academic achievement tests.  Go to the National Home Education Research Institute’s webpage to learn more about how homeschoolers are doing.

If you’re concerned about where your child is at academically, here are a couple of resources you can use to verify that you’re on track. (But remember that kids mature at different rates though, so don’t fret if your child isn’t quite up to their grade level – just set some goals to work towards getting them there!). 

What Your Child Needs to Know When by Robin Sampson

World Book also has a free “Typical Course of Study” Guide available.

  1. Use the Homeschooling with Confidence guidebook to make sure you’re doing all that you need to . . . and enjoy the journey!

    Homeschooling with Confidence is a guidebook for homeschoolers who want a bit of accountability and encouragement! Topics include starting off right, planning & scheduling, learning styles, managing your home while homeschooling, avoiding resistance, developing a love or learning, choosing curriculum, discipleship & character training, and wrapping up your school year well.

    You can find this book in my “store” link or click on the title above.

 

Homeschoolers encouraging other homeschoolers is the best way to help you find confidence in your homeschool journey! I’d love to hear your thoughts…please share with others below about how you find confidence as you homeschool! 

50 Great Games to Use for Learning

 

50 Great Games to Use For Learning!

This is the fourth and final post in a series on using games for learning. The first three posts were on the benefits of using games, and then great games to use for teaching language arts and math:

Just a quick review of the benefits of using games for learning from the first post:

  • Games strengthen focus and memory skills
  • Games aid in building fine motor skills for younger children
  • Games help develop socialization skills
  • Games strengthen problem-solving & analytical skills
  • Games help with cognitive growth.
  • Games develop executive functioning skills giving children the ability to accomplish tasks.
  • Games offer the opportunity to build character, helping children learn self-control and good sportsmanship as well as giving them the opportunity to learn to cooperate with others.
  • Games help build close relationships within the family
  • Games often give children a sense of accomplishment.
  • Games are a wonderful way to teach and reinforce information that our children need to learn

The fun thing is that you don’t have to use a game that is classified as “educational” for the game to provide many of these benefits! There are so many games out there that people play just to have fun that ultimately end up benefiting children (and adults too)!

Below you’ll find a list of 50 games that were recommended by myself and other homeschoolers – so they are tried and true! I encourage you to invest in some of these fun games that also just happen to be educational even though they weren’t necessarily designed to be so!

Logic/Strategy Games

  • Rush Hour (ages 8+) helps with critical thinking, reasoning and planning skills, and judgment skills, recommended by vision therapist also
  • Tip Over– (ages 8+) teaches critical thinking, problem-solving and strategy development

  • Clue – (ages 8+) problem-solving skills  
  • Outfoxed – a cooperative game for ages 5+, 2-4 players

 

  • Catan ages 8+, 3-4 players, strategy, problem-solving, planning 

 

  •  Village – ages 12+, great for building planning, strategy skills 

 

  • 7 Wonders – ages 10+, 3-7 players, critical thinking skills, strategy skills 

 

  • Istanbul – ages 10+, critical thinking skills, strategy skills  

 

  • Race to the Treasure – ages 5+, 2-4 players, a cooperative game where players  work together to beat the ogre to the treasure

  • Chess – ages 6+, a classic strategy game

  • Quirkle – ages 6+, sorting, counting, patterns, stacking, spacial recognition, planning, and problem-solving skills. 

 

  • Quixx ages 8+, 2-5 players, reinforces probability, mat, and strategic thinking 

 

  • Carcassone – ages 8+, 2-5 players, strategy, planning skills

  • Goblet Gobblers – ages 5+, 2 players, strategy game 
  • Blokus – ages 7+, 2-4 players, a great strategy game for the whole family 

Geography Games

  • Risk – ages 10+, 2-5 players, strategy skills  

 

  • Ticket to Ride – ages 7+, 2-5 players, fun game for the family, strategy building skills, planning skills (cities are not always in exactly the correct geographical location)

Days of Wonder Ticket To Ride

  • Hit the Habitat Trail – ages 8+, 2-6 players, features the habitats of the world – knowledge cards ask wonderful questions and give the answers too! Wisdom cards tell the hazards to the environment.

Stack the States

 

 

Phy-ed/Break Games

Fitivities – ages 6+, 2-24 players, fitness games for the family or co-op class, great fun!

Bean Bag Toss – Triumph 2-in-1 Three-Hole Bags and Washer Toss Combo with Two Game Platforms Featuring On-Board Scoring, Six Square Toss Bags, and Six Washers

Twister  –  ages 6+, fun team building game. Add a TWIST: using foam circles, write letters or numbers on them, then lay them out on the floor and call out not just the color and whether it’s the right or left hand or right or left foot, but also the letter or number they need to put it on)

Twister Ultimate Game

Other fun educational games or games you can modify to fit your subject learned:

 Memory Game – for all ages, make your own game using index cards. Write words or draw pictures of things you want your kids to memorize, make 2 of every card. You can use this for working on letters, sight words, numbers, addition problems (make one card with an addition problem and another with the answer), etc.  Place all the cards face down on the table, take turns turning over two each, looking for matches. When you get a match, you go again. The person with the most matches at the end of the game wins.

Go Fish – for all ages, make this game like the Memory game above (you can use the cards for either of these games). Deal out 7 cards to each player and set the rest of the cards in the middle for a draw pile. Then player #1 asks another player if they have the match to one of their cards. If the player they ask doesn’t have the match, they say “go fish”, and player #1 draws a card from the draw pile. Next player #2 asks another player if they have the match to one of his cards, and if they do, they must give it to player #2. If a match is found, then player #2 goes again until he has to “go fish”.  The play continues on until all the cards are gone, the player with the most matches wins.

Sidewalk chalk – for all ages, use sidewalk chalk to make games on the sidewalk such as hopscotch or to write letters or numbers or draw pictures.

Pictionary – team game, ages 8+, drawing skills, thinking skills

The Game of Life – ages 8+, great game to understand what life is like, full of surprises

Horseopoly – ages 8+, 2-6 players, great for those who love horses

Animal Tracks –  ages 5+, 2 or more players, learn about animal tracks by matching the animal to their tracks

 

 

 

Other Fun Games to Play as a Family…

Bible Trivia – ages 7+, 2-4 players or teams

Pop the Pig – ages 4+, 2-6 players, silly but fun!

Big Bingo Bundle – ages 6+, a fun way to learn core alphabet, number, object, and arithmetic skills. Develops memory, listening, literacy and matching skills.

Skippety – ages 5+, 2-4 players, Skippity is the perfect game to hone player’s tactical maneuvers, strategical planning, and forward thinking. 

Ocean Raiders –  math game for grades 1 and above, addition skills, 2-4 players

Rack-O – ages 8+, 2-4 players

Pit – ages 7+, 3-8 players, a fast-paced, loud game that will thrill the whole family

Winning Moves Games Deluxe Pit

Othello – ages 7+, 2 player, strategy

Rat-a-tat Cat – 2-6 players, children’s card game that helps develop timing and basic mathematical concept and teaches strategy, memory building, and addition.

Taboo – ages 13+, 4+ players, fun word game

Professor Noggins Educational Trivia games – several versions: History of the World, Wonders of Science, Human Body, Insects and Spiders, Wonders of the World, Ancient Civilizations, American Revolutions, Presidents of the US, Civil War, Reptiles and Amphibians, Earth Science, Countries of the World, North American Wildlife, Safari Wildlife, History of Art, Horses, Birds of America, Medieval times. Farm, Baseball, Outer Space, & History of the US

Forbidden Island – ages 10+, 2-4 players, Strategic thinking, problem-solving and cooperation required

Uno game ages 7+, 2-10 players

Battleship – ages 7+, 2 players, strategy game

Battleship Board Game with Planes, Ages 7 and up (Amazon Exclusive)

 

NMBR9 – a fun game for 1-4 players, math skills

Nmbr 9

Azul – a fun game of strategy and planning, ages 8+, 2-4 players

HexHive – ages 8+, single player

Incorporate games into your homeschool days and see your children’s love for learning explode!

Please add a comment below if you have a favorite game you’d like to add to the list!

Tips for Choosing Curriculum to Fit Your Family

For many families, school is done for this year and the summer is in full-force.

It feels so good to wrap up a school year, doesn’t it?

And I love the summer months, such a great time to enjoy the outdoors and family time.

It’s also the perfect time to do some unhurried research and planning for the next school year.

As you contemplate the next school year, it’s helpful to evaluate your last year of school to determine what might need to change for the next year.

Ask yourself what you liked and didn’t like about the previous school year. What seemed to work and what didn’t?  Read my blog post called “It’s Mid-Year Evaluation Time!” for ideas on what to think through as you evaluate your year. (this same information works for the end of the year evaluation.) Download the free “Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting PDF”  to give you direction as you think through last year.

With four children, I found that there were some curriculum changes needed every year.

Choosing curriculum can be such an overwhelming job! There are SO many choices! How do you find the right fit for your children and your family?

There are 6 important things to consider as you choose curriculum:

  1. Your state’s homeschool laws regarding subjects to be taught

  2. The type of program you prefer

  3. The teaching methods you adhere to most

  4. The worldview of the program

  5. Your child’s preferred learning styles

  6. The cost

#1 Your state laws regarding subjects to teach

Go to your state’s homeschool group website to read the laws. In MN, our state organization is MACHE (Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators).  Also, HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) has the laws for every state in the United States listed on their website as well.

#2 Type of program: All-in-One or Individualized

First, determine whether you want an “all-in-one” curriculum that covers all the subjects for each child or if you prefer an individualized program that you put together by buying from a variety of curriculum providers.

The “all-in-one” option provides the full curriculum for each grade level, so you just buy the “package” and you’re set to go. This is an easy way to go because the all-in-one curriculum is typically well-laid out for you and you can be confident you’re not missing anything. It’s also usually the more expensive option.  Some companies that provide the all-in-one programs are Abeka, Bob Jones, Sonlight, Christian Liberty Press, Christian Light, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, Tapestry of Grace, etc. (not an exhaustive list).

To make an individualized program, you research the many curriculum options for each subject and choose the one that fits you and your child the best for each subject.  For example, you might choose Right Start Math, Logic of English, Apologia Science, Beautiful Feet for History, the Picture Smart Bible study, How Great Thou Art (Art curriculum) and the YMCA for physical education. Each subject is purchased from a different curriculum provider (or external class) but all subjects are covered.  This is a great way to go as well. As homeschoolers become more experienced and aware of their children’s needs and their own preferred teaching style they often tend to go with this “build your own” type of program. This is also more cost-effective because you typically can find used curriculum when you buy individual subjects like this. There are some great used curriculum websites and Facebook groups where you can find used curriculum.

No matter which type of program you choose, it’s a great idea to find curricula that will allow you to teach all your children together for as many subjects as possible.  Family learning is much more enjoyable and maximizes your time as the teacher as well.  Children of different ages can learn Bible, science, history, music, art and physical education together.

Because language arts and math follow a specific scope and sequence they typically need to be taught individually to each child. Children of different ages don’t tend to be at the same skill level at the same time for these two subjects. Therefore, you’ll need to buy individual curriculum for each child for math and language arts, but you can buy something that works for the whole family to learn together for all the other subjects. For family learning, I recommend buying curriculum at the level of the oldest child and teaching from that but giving individual assignments to each child based on their skill or age level. Many curricula providers have plans for how to teach multi-age children together for these subjects.

#3 Most Popular Teaching Methods

Textbook Approach

This is a text-based program in which the student typically reads through a textbook, one chapter a week followed by questions and a test. The curriculum provides a teacher’s guide and lesson plans. Curricula using the textbook approach tends to be easy to grade because there are built in tests each week. Many computer-based programs also use the textbook approach because they’re laid out like a textbook with reading material, questions and a test for each section.  If you attended a public school, this approach is typically what is used there.  Some children enjoy this approach, but the hands-on, kinesthetic learner will struggle with this approach.

Some textbooks are written to give a general overview, so they don’t cover the material in as much depth. But others are written by people who are more passionate about a topic and have more depth, such as the Apologia science program.  Math curricula also tend to use the textbook approach.

The textbook approach works well if you want your child to work independently, however it can be used for family learning if you read it aloud to your family and then give assignments based on skill or age level.

We used the textbook approach for science and math for many of our homeschool years and these were some of my favorites: Apologia science and Saxon math.

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day (Young Explorer (Apologia Educational Ministries))

There are a lot of curriculum providers that offer the textbook approach: Abeka, Bob Jones, Christian Light, Masterbooks, Christian Liberty Press, Notgrass History, and more.

Unit Study Approach

This approach has one main theme which is used to study all subjects. For example, if a historical time-period is chosen as the main theme (i.e. The Roman Empire), then all others subjects, such as science, art, Bible, and literature are all based on this theme or topic. You can also use a science theme, a literature theme or a topic-based theme such as Christmas or horses. Most unit studies typically offer hands-on learning, focusing on discovery and multi-sensory learning, and they use living books for reading material.  “Living books” are books written by a person passionate about a topic who has written in an engaging or story-type of manner. Unit study curricula are also well laid out and give clear guidance and ideas for teaching many different ages.

 

This method works great for family learning (rather than individual study) and most children enjoy the hands-on learning and living books that it provides. It works well for teaching multi-age children and is a great approach if you want to do family learning together. The unit study approach also helps students retain what they’re learning because of the interconnection between subjects.

There are a lot of great unit studies available:

One of my favorites for pre-K through 1st grade is “Five in a Row”.

 

Konos was one of the first unit study programs available and is still popular today.  One of my favorite unit studies based on history is “History Revealed” by Diana Waring. You can even create your own unit study with Valerie Bendt’s book “Unit Studies Made Easy”. 

Unit Studies Made Easy by [Bendt, Valerie]

Classical Approach

The “classical” teaching method began in the Middle Ages and was the approach used by some of the greatest minds in history. The goal of the classical approach is to teach people how to learn for themselves. Children learn based on the Trivium, which is Latin for “three roads”. The idea is that the three paths of the Trivium are like three natural stages of development.  These three stages are as follows:

  • Grammar stage: ages birth through 11 when children are like sponges, able to learn and memorize easily. Classical educators believe kids are hard-wired to memorize at this age and recommend a consistent amount of time each day to memorize the core body of knowledge (15-20 min. a day). This is when they learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic.  They believe the key to memorization is repetition and they use songs and games to memorize, so it’s not boring.   We naturally teach kids to memorize the ABC’s before reading – likewise, classical educators teach them the ABC’s or building blocks for the other subjects as well.
  • Dialectic or Logic stage: ages 11-14, or middle school age when children question everything. They take the facts they learned and question them as they begin to use what they’ve learned. This is typically a time of deep analysis. Classical educators believe that kids are hard-wired at during these ages to try to understand “why”. This leads them to analyze, argue and try to persuade others to their viewpoint.
  • Rhetoric stage: ages 14-16 years is the time when students take what they’ve learned and use and apply it, also giving an explanation for what they’ve learned. They may lead discussions, do research papers, give speeches or do debates for the purpose of sharing with others what they’ve come to learn.

This approach is considered academically rigorous and Latin is often learned, but not required. It has a strong reading program and classical literature is recommended.  This approach works well with multi-age children as well, and family learning is incorporated.  This is a logic-based program and critical thinking is a key component. To learn more about this approach I recommend reading “The Well-Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer & Jessica Wise.

There are homeschool co-ops that have formed throughout the US and in other countries using this approach called “Classical Conversations”. If you choose this approach, you may wish to find a group in your area.

 

Charlotte Mason Approach

This approach was developed by Charlotte Mason, an educator in England in the 1800’s. She believed that it’s important for kids to learn about nature and journal about it. She also said that children learn best from real life situations and that they need time to play and create.  She emphasized art, music, poetry, and nature study. Reading aloud from “living books” is an essential component of this approach.  For language arts, she recommended using copy work and dictation for writing, spelling, and grammar. The Bible is the primary source of knowledge and truth and memory work is important. Narration, or the retelling of facts and information, is used to determine what the child has learned. Finally, habit training (or character training) is also a key component to this program.  This approach works well for family-based learning and multi-age teaching. Most learning styles enjoy this approach. To learn more about this approach, I recommend reading “A Charlotte Mason Education” by Catherine Levison.

There are websites online that help you navigate the Charlotte Mason approach (amblesideonline.org and simplycharlottemason.com). There are also Facebook groups for parents who practice this method.

 

These are some of the most popular approaches today. Most homeschoolers end up using a mix of these approaches, or the eclectic approach. I encourage you to learn more about these approaches and give the one that appeals to you the most a try.

Delight-directed studies

No matter which approaches you choose, I recommend incorporating delight-directed studies. Basically, look for areas of interest that your children have, things they “delight” in, and provide the resources for them to learn more about that topic. You can use delight-directed studies to help your children learn to research, write and generally build confidence in their ability to learn and be successful. To learn more, read my post, “Ignite the Joy of Learning in Your Children.”

 

#4 Worldview of curriculum

As you choose curricula, take note of the author’s worldview. Are they Christian? Do they adhere to the same beliefs as you do? This will be important to consider as you choose curricula as the author’s worldview will come out somewhere in the curriculum.

#5 Your child’s preferred learning styles

You don’t need to try to find curriculum for each child that fits their preferred learning styles, but it can be helpful to understand the way they learn best and try to find curricula that will complement that, especially in the subject areas that they find difficult.  Check out my post on learning styles “Understand How Your Child Learns” to learn more about them or get the book “The Way They Learn” by Cynthia Tobias to learn even more about this topic! I’ve also written an informal learning style evaluation you can do with your child that you can download: “Informal Learning Style Evaluation”

#6 Cost

For most people, cost is a factor to consider. Today many families are spending anywhere from $600-900 per child on homeschool curriculum! You don’t need to spend that much, in fact, some families are able to homeschool nearly for free by using free online curriculum or borrowing curriculum. Check out the public library for resources to teach from, especially in the elementary years.  Don’t forget to look on Facebook used curriculum groups or online used curriculum sites to find what you need.

If you have preschool children or early elementary age children, you can use the library for most of the books you teach from, there are so many good children’s books that teach science, art, music, and history, you don’t need to go out and buy expensive curriculum in the early years! One of my favorite ways to teach music in early elementary was to get CD’s from the library of music by different composers and then I’d check out a book about that composer and we’d learn about the composer while we listened to their music.

Choosing curriculum doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task! Remember also that if you choose curricula that you don’t end up liking, you can always resell it and get something different.  You aren’t married to that curriculum for life!

If you change curriculum for math or language arts, remember that those subjects follow a specific scope and sequence, so you’ll want to be sure that the new curriculum you choose covers whatever the next book would have covered in the curriculum you’re getting rid of. (check the table of contents)

I also recommend going to www.cathyduffyreviews. com to read reviews written by a Christian veteran homeschooler. I know you’ll find her website an amazing help in your curriculum search! 

Most importantly, seek the Lord for guidance as you choose curriculum.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)  He cares about you and your family and He knows what would work best, so ask Him for guidance and He will provide it!

Do you have any questions or insights about choosing curricula that you’d like to share? Please comment below!

Fun Games to Teach and Strengthen Math Skills

I love springtime and the culmination of another school year. It’s one of my favorite times of the year! It’s a time of finishing curriculum, feeling a sense of accomplishment plus anticipation for a fun summer ahead!

Unfortunately, along with the fun of summer activities and relaxation comes the possibility of losing some of the hard-earned knowledge that our kids have studied so hard to obtain over the last school year. What can we do to help them retain what they’ve learned without having them frustrated that they aren’t getting a break from school work?

We can PLAY GAMES with them!

There are so many educational games that are a lot of fun and your child won’t even realize that they’re technically doing math or language arts, or whatever skill the game is helping them learn. Games are great for strengthening skills and knowledge of various subjects.  In fact, you shouldn’t save games for just the summer months, they’re a great way to teach and reinforce skills for any time of the year!

Games have many benefits beyond just teaching and reinforcing skills. They strengthen focus and memory skills, build motor skills for younger children, build socialization skills, problem-solving skills, analytical skills, and they also help with cognitive growth.

They improve executive functioning skills giving children the ability to accomplish tasks.

Games offer the opportunity to build character, helping children learn self-control and good sportsmanship as well as giving them the opportunity to learn to cooperate with others.

Games help build close relationships within the family, which is one of my favorite benefits! I love seeing kids play games together – you can almost see the wheels turning in their brains as they contemplate their next move. It’s a great way for kids to bond with their siblings!

Math tends to be a subject that requires continual reinforcement of skills in order to retain what was learned.

It’s frustrating to have to review a whole month in the fall just to get your kids back to where they were in their math knowledge at the end of the previous school year. But if you play math games with your kids all through the summer, they likely will retain much more of what was learned, and it will give you something fun to do on a summer day as well.

With the help of some Facebook friends (thank you to those who contributed!), I’ve compiled a list of great math games to help build and reinforce math skills for your kids over the summer. The games listed have been tried by me or another homeschool mom who recommended them, and they are “favorites”! (This list may contain some affiliate links)

Math Games

Early Math Skill Games:

  • Candyland  This classicis fors  for ages 3-6 and helps teach colors as well as building fine motor skills for little ones. It’s a great introduction to games!
  • Chutes & Ladders  Another classic game for preschoolers up to age 7 that helps children learn to play games while building basic counting skills. 
  • Snakes & Ladders  Another classic game for kids that helps reinforce counting and numbers learning. For ages 6+. this version is magnetic so it’s great for on the go learning! 
  • Hungry Hungry Hippos  Another great preschool to early elementary age game that’s wild and crazy but helps kids learn to count!

Elementary math skills:

Math Marks the Spot:  for ages 5+ to teach number recognition, colors, adding and subtraction

  • Snap-it Up Math  In this fast-paced game, players pick and pass numbers as fast as they can, using adding and subtracting as they do. Great for ages 6+.
  • Sum Swamp Addition & Subtraction  Imagine hiking through a swampy path using math skills such as adding and subtracting to find your way! Great for ages 5+.
  • Roll-a-dollar (money game)  Using die with coin amounts on them you shake and try to earn a dollar!   Player shakes 4 dice at a time, and they get 2 rolls per turn –  if  they don’t reach a dollar, no points earned. One point for every time you reach a dollar on a turn. 20 points wins! You can also use the die to match what’s on the die with actual money to learn money value. 
  • Dino Math Tracks If you have a child that loves dinosaurs, this game is for you! It teaches place value, counting, addition, and subtraction for children ages 6+.
  • Smath  Playing crossword with numbers for ages 6+.  Great for learning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. 
  • Uno  Earn points from others players when you go out first. Teaches matching, colors, numbers and strategy for ages 7+.
  • Skip-O  One of my all-time favorites because I played it with my grandma, teaches number order and strategy, for ages 7+.
  • NMBR9 (ages 8+ – strengthens adding, multiplication skills, plus critical thinking skills & spatial recognition)          

 

 

  • Math War (deck of cards without face cards, each layer turns over 2 cards, adds them together, whoever has highest points gets all the cards for that round)

 

  • Dominoes (child makes up problems as they put the dominoes together) Double Six Professional Dominoes - White with Black Dots, Case Color May Very
  • Right Start Math – A math curriculum for the hands on learner that has a wide variety of games

 

 

 

  • Dragonwood a game with dice for ages 8+ a fun way to practice basic math skills

 

  • Sushi-go  A fun game for 8+-year-olds that reinforces probability, strategic thinking, and visual discrimination

Act Your Wage (Dave Ramsey) – a great way to teach your kids money management and budgeting for ages 10+.

Online Math games:

There are more great math games out there, and you can make your own math games too! I’ll keep a list on my resource page of these games and add to it as I find new games to suggest!

Use games this summer to help reinforce math concepts learned and have a great summer!

 

 

 

 

 

12 Amazing Benefits of Teaching With Games

Over the years that we homeschooled, we played a lot of educational games to help our children learn. Phonics games, math games, geography games, strategy games, you name it, we probably played it!

Our children really enjoyed learning through games! Even now that our children are adults, when we get together as a family, we often play games as a fun activity to enjoy together. Games are great for building relationships within the family!


There are so many important benefits that children gain from playing games. Of course, educational games build specific skills based on the focus of the game (phonics, math, etc.), but I believe games also build other skills that make them highly valuable to include in your homeschool days.


1. Games strengthen focus and memory skills

Playing games improves focus and lengthens a child’s attention span. Games often require memorization or remembering what others have played, so games can help with memory as well. Game playing improves working memory also, which is when the brain holds new information for short-term use to accomplish something. Working memory is an important area to develop and game playing is a fun way to do it!

2. Games build motor skills in the early years for younger children

Fine motor skills with hand/eye coordination are developed with many board games. Some games also help with gross motor skills, such as Twister, and more active learning games.

3. Games build socialization skills

Interacting and getting along with others in a competitive environment is a valuable skill to learn. Games also build the character qualities of respect & cooperation. Occasional conflicts are inevitable in game playing as well, and so there is an opportunity to help build conflict resolution skills too!

4. Games can improve executive functioning skills

Executive functioning skills help us accomplish tasks from beginning to end. We use executive functioning skills all throughout our day as we do our chores, plan our day, organize our room or desk, etc. Specifically, kids learn to plan, organize, manage their time, focus, persevere, have self-control, and be flexible while playing games. All important skills for daily life!


5. Games provide hands-on, active learning opportunities

Many children learn best if they can actively participate in what they’re learning. Games provide a fun way to have hands-on learning opportunities.

6. Games often give a sense of accomplishment

As your child strategizes, plans their moves, and ultimately is successful in a game, they feel a sense of accomplishment, which also builds self-confidence. One of the children I tutored in reading was struggling so much with reading and was very discouraged when I first started working with him. We used phonics games as part of our tutoring time, and he truly excelled at games! Soon his confidence was built enough that reading became more enjoyable. I believe that playing games was a big part of how he became a better reader. (Along with prayer and study as well!)

7. Games offer an opportunity to build problem-solving and analytical skills

Most games require players to strategize and analyze what the best move will be. These problem-solving skills are essential in real life as your child becomes an adult, and games are a fun way to build these skills.

8. Along the same lines, games provide an opportunity for cognitive growth

Having to recall rules, strategize, make decisions, etc. all help with cognitive growth. Each of these skills helps to improve language learning, information processing, perceptual skills and other aspects of brain development. Learning to question, discover, reflect, evaluate, strategize and find solutions will help children’s brains develop well and can lead them to be life-long learners.

9. Games help children learn good sportsmanship (how to lose with grace)

This is something that’s hard to teach, but if you play enough games, and emphasize the importance of being a good loser (someone is going to lose, right?), you’ll help your child be able to handle losing well.

This skill can carry over into real life when your child finds themselves in a situation where things don’t go their way. They learn to accept that life may not always allow them to “win”. They also learn the importance of honesty or not cheating, which is another important character quality we want to develop in our kids.


10. Games are wonderful for helping your child develop self-control

It’s not easy to wait your turn in the middle of an exciting game, but this is important as you play a game! Self-control is developed as you learn to wait your turn, sit semi-still,😊 and stay focused until the end of the game.

11. As I mentioned at the beginning, games can also teach knowledge of a specific subject

If you’re trying to teach a phonics concept, you can use a game! Or math concept, or help your child learn about the United States geography, you can use a game! There are games for almost every subject we need to teach as homeschoolers. In fact, did you know that there are people who consider themselves “Game schoolers”? It’s true! Check it out on Facebook. You too can become a “Game schooler”!

Using games to practice important skills learned or to review information learned in a specific subject is one of the best ways to reinforce what was learned and help the information to stick!

My next few blog posts will give lists of games for the various subjects with information on what other skills they build as well.

12. Games help build relationships in your family and they make learning fun!

Incorporate games into your homeschool life on a daily basis and you’ll see your children’s love for learning grow in leaps and bounds!


STAY TUNED… Following this post will be a series of blog posts with games for the various subjects we typically teach including information on what skills the game will build in your children!

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If you have a favorite game that you want to share with others, please share below and I’ll include it in the next few blogs as well! Or if you have a story of how games helped your child learn, I’d love to hear about it!